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Backpacker Magazine – June 2001

Mountains: The World At Your Feet

High above the trees you'll find the hike of your dreams: a ridgeline trail where your only companion is an occasional mountain goat.

by: Mike Lanza

Razor's Edge  Higher Risk

Mt. Katahdin
Baxter State Park, Maine

Scampering over three rock buttresses known as the Cathedrals and the mile-long Knife Edge, this 9.3-mile hike across Maine's highest peak may be the airiest in the Northeast. The route follows trails all the way: the Chimney Pond, Cathedral, Saddle, Knife Edge, and Helon Taylor Trails. More information: Baxter State Park, (207) 723-5140. New England Hiking, by Michael Lanza (Avalon Travel Publishing; $18.95). Baxter State Park and Katahdin map (DeLorme, 800-452-5931;; $4.95).

Mt. Jefferson
Presidential Range, New Hampshire

The Castle Trail rises above dense forest and traverses a series of three "castles," or rocky towers, along a narrow, quarter-mile section of the Castellated Ridge on the way to Jefferson's summit. More information: Appalachian Mountain Club, (603) 466-2721; White Mountain Guide: Hiking Trails in the White Mountain National Forest, edited by Gene Daniell and Jon Burroughs (Appalachian Mountain Club, 800-262-4455; $21.95). New England Hiking, by Michael Lanza (Avalon Travel Publishing; $18.95).

Lone Eagle Peak
Indian Peaks Wilderness, Colorado

The nontechnical south ridge of this 11,920-footer narrows to just a few feet wide, with precipitous drop-offs and spine-tingling views of Colorado's rugged Front Range. From Monarch Lake, the Cascade Creek Trail leads 9 miles to Crater Lake, at 10,500 feet; scramble to the ridge and then to the summit. More information: Boulder Ranger District, Arapaho National Forest, (303) 444-6600; Guide to the Colorado Mountains, edited by Randy Jacobs with Robert M. Ormes (Colorado Mountain Club Press, 303-279-3080; $18.95).

Capitol Peak
Elk Mountains, Colorado

A 100-foot-long, exposed knife-edge is the highlight of more than a mile of serious scrambling along the northeast ridge of Capitol Peak. If that's not enough, feast your eyes on the panoramic view of the incomparable Elk range, with a half-dozen 14,000-foot peaks. From the Capitol Creek trailhead, go 13 miles by trail to Capitol Lake, then 4 miles off trail. More information: Aspen Ranger District, White River National Forest, (970) 925-3445; Colorado's Fourteeners: From Hikes to Climbs, by Gerry Roach (Fulcrum Publishing, 800-992-2908; $18.95). Maroon Bells, Redstone, Marble #128 map (Trails Illustrated, 800-962-1643;; $9.95).

Clouds Rest
Yosemite National Park, California

The final 300 yards of trail over the northeast ridge of Clouds Rest get mighty skinny, with drop-offs of 1,000 feet on one side, 4,500 feet on the other, and a sea of Sierra Nevada rising in every direction. It's 7 miles from the Tenaya Lake trailhead, with several multiday loops possible. More information: Yosemite National Park, (209) 372-0200; Yosemite National Park: A Natural-History Guide to Yosemite and Its Trails, by Jeffrey P. Schaffer (Wilderness Press, 800-443-7227; $18.95). Yosemite National Park #206 map (Trails Illustrated, 800-962-1643;; $9.95).

Pigeon Spire
Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia

The west ridge is a wildly exposed and incredibly scenic rock climb or scramble. Along the way, you'll straddle the granite crest, your feet dangling a couple thousand feet off the ground. Technical climbing skills and gear required. More information: British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks, (250) 422-4200; Bugaboo Rock: A Climber's Guide, by Randall Green and Joe Bensen (The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453; $16.95). Canadian National Topographic System maps Howser Creek (82K/10) and Bugaboo Creek (82K/15; Centre for Topographic Information, 800-465-6277; http://maps.; CDN $9.95 each).

Mt. Pugh
North Cascades, Washington

A maintained trail ascends nearly 4 miles to Stujack Pass, and then it's an airy scramble for 1.5 miles to Pugh's 7,201-foot summit. Your reward is sweeping views of the serrated and glaciated North Cascades. More information: Darrington Ranger District, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, (360) 436-1155; 100 Classic Hikes in Washington: North Cascades, Olympics, Mt. Rainier & South Cascades, Alpine Lakes, Glacier Peak, by Ira Spring and Harvey Manning (The Mountaineers, 800-553-4453; $19.95). Sloan Peak #111 map (Green Trails, 206-546-6277;; $3.60 each).

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