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Backpacker Magazine – October 2011

Perfect 10: North America's 10 Most Memorable Hikes

Ten trails. Ten unmatched miles each. Get maximum bang for each boot step on hikes that our most-traveled contributors call their all-time favorites.

by: BACKPACKER Contributors and Editors

The Lost Coast, Sinkyone Wilderness SP
Photo by BP1011PERFECT_Callaert_S75ElkLostCoast_445x260.jpg
The Lost Coast, Sinkyone Wilderness SP
Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta
The Jewels Route, Grand Canyon NP
The Jewels Route, Grand Canyon NP
Mt. Eielson, Denali National Park
Mt. Eielson, Denali National Park
Titcomb Basin Trail, Wind River Range, WY
Titcomb Basin Trail, Wind River Range, WY

Take it With You
>>Download a printable PDF for every Perfect 10 Trip

MY 10
BACKPACKER asked some of the top personalities in the outdoor industry about their favorite slice of wilderness. Below are their picks.

Andrew Skurka
>Ten Mile Range in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains

Joe Horiskey
Longtime guide on Mt. Rainier
> East Fork Quinault River Trail to Enchanted Valley in Olympic National Park

Brett Dennen
Rock star, camp counselor
> Pacific Crest Trail running 10 miles south from Sonora Pass

Jon Jarvis
Director of the National Park Service
> The Pacific Crest Trail from Rainy Pass, over McAlester Pass, and into Stehekin Valley. “You can hear Julie Andrews. These are the American Alps.”

Gary Erickson and Kit Crawford
Married co-CEOs of Clif Bar & Company
> Lyell Canyon Trail out of Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite

Tyler Stableford
Adventure photographer
> Franconia Ridge Trail loop in NH, up Falling Waters and down the Bridle Path

John Gans
Executive Director, NOLS
> Ice Lakes, Deep Creek Lakes, and Echo Lakes in the Wind River Range, WY

Les Stroud
Filmmaker and survivalist
> West Coast Trail in Vancouver, from Pachena Bay to Valencia Bluffs

Wayne Gregory
Founder of Gregory Packs
> North from Agnew Meadows, past 1000 Island Lake and over toward Lyell in the High Sierra

David Startzell
Executive Director of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
> The AT from TN 143 to US 19E: “It’s 15 miles, but it’s so much fun, it feels like 10.”

Justin Lichter
>The 10 miles surrounding Cataract Pass in the Canadian Rockies

Dana Watts
Executive Director, Leave No Trace
> Mesa Trail, Boulder, CO
Perfect 10 Titcomb Basin Trail, Wind River Range
Head to Wyoming to trek beneath North America’s most beautiful alpine ridge.
—Mark Jenkins

MAYBE I SHOULDN’T ADMIT THIS, but … I don’t like trees. After hiking a few fabled sections of the Appalachian Trail and not once getting a decent panorama—just buggy, in-your-face leaves—I gave up green tunnels. Give me rock, ice, and skies as big and fickle as my imagination—brilliant blue in the morning, billowing black by afternoon.

If you want to see earth like this, buck naked but for the skimpiest bikini of alpine flowers, there’s no better place than the Titcomb Basin Trail in the Wind River Range of north-central Wyoming. But you’re going to have to pay for it. It’s a 12-mile slog uphill to reach Titcomb Basin. Starting at the 8,800-foot Elkhart Park trailhead just above Fremont Lake on the west side of the range, you march through scraggly pine forests and humpy rock outcrops for 11 miles to reach the south end of Island Lake, hook onto the Indian Pass Trail for one mile, then camp at any of the three major Titcomb Lakes. I’ve skied it and hiked it and postholed it, and it’s a bloody long day any way you split it. But once you’re there—as long as you’ve had the good sense to go before or after July, when the hypertrophic mosquitoes plunder the place—the 10,500-foot Titcomb Basin is peerless.

Titcomb Basin (pronounced tit-come and named after brothers Charles and Harold, who explored the area in 1901) is a classic U-shaped, glacierbulldozed valley. Hiking north from the southernmost Titcomb Lake, you pass through teal-green tundra with one of the most stunning ridge crests in the United States high above you. I’ve hiked trails from Tibet to Timbuktu and found nothing more gorgeous. Fremont Peak, with its multiple faces and gendarmes, is a Picasso of an attractive but dangerous woman; then Mt. Sacagawea, with her long, dark, sadly beautiful face; then the punk-rock coiffure of Mt. Helen. To the west are the Titcomb Needles, the Great Needle, The Buttress. After four miles, the official trail ends and you’re on your own. The balance of your 10 miles comes in above-treeline, off-trail striding and scrambling that will spoil you forever. Hop boulders and skip through flowering meadows for a few more miles until you find yourself encircled by granite and glaciers, an orgy of mountains. Now climb one of the peaks. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a technical ascent or a hike. You’ll get the view of a lifetime. What’s more perfect than that?

PERFECT 10 Titcomb Lakes Trail past Titcomb Lakes into Titcomb Basin
DO IT From US 191 in Pinedale, head east on Fremont Lake Rd. to Skyline Dr. which leads 11.6 miles to the trailhead. Then link Pole Creek, Seneca Lake, Indian Pass, and Titcomb Lake Trails.
MAP Bridger Teton National Forest: Pinedale Ranger District ($17,
GUIDEBOOK Bridger Teton National Forest: Pinedale Ranger District ($17, CONTACT (307) 367-4326;

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Reader Rating: -


Star Star Star Star Star
Jun 12, 2014

YES! I sadly live on the east coast now, and I always say the exact thing: too many trees! But no one ever agrees with me. Trees are nice, but there needs to be a changes to the scenery. Trees here, meadow there, rocks here, snow there. Variety. West is best. I've yet to make it out to Wyoming, but sounds like the place to be.

Nov 27, 2011

I just hikes it in Aug, awesome trail, but the Elliot river crossing is officialy closed, the high route mentioned is doable but hazardous, and at the White river the trail ends at a dropoff, you need to bushwack down hill about 150 feet, but the trail is not flagged. Still: awesome campsites, awesome views, and few hikers. definate 10.

Nov 17, 2011

Maybe a little dated. Along the east side of Mt. Hood the trail was wrecked by an avalanche several years ago and you will have to drop down very low or risk a high route to bypass it. Then, last summer, there was a large fire on the NNW side that burned a lot of the route.
This is not to say that it's still not a great trail, because it is. Just wanted to pass this on. Although the NNW side was closed as of the fall of 2011 and I don't know the plans for 2012.

Nov 17, 2011

I hiked through here a couple years ago and had an great time. We parked at Scales which is down a long bumpy dirt road. My pontiac Vibe barely made it through some parts. Got there at Midnight and hiked for hours under a full moon with no flashlight. The balds make for spectacular views. We only ran into people on the AT.


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