|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – September 2005
You can only get so far off the grid in a single day - that is, unless you take a shortcut into the mountains. Many ski resorts, including the three premier sites mentioned below, open a lift or two in summer and fall, offering an express route to places high and wild. There's no other way to get this deep into the woods this fast.
Tag three peaks before lunch
The threat of lightning makes Rockies summits dicey in late summer. That's the beauty of Breck's Colorado SuperChair: It shaves off 1,279 feet of vertical, allowing you to shoehorn in a 12-mile loop across the Tenmile Range's jagged ramparts.
From the lift, climb open tundra slopes to 12,987-foot Peak 8, then head north to bag two more 12,000-footers, Peaks 7 and 6. The informal path's slopes are carpeted with delicate pink moss campion and laven-der alpine forget-me-nots, so step carefully until you hit the Colorado Trail and head down the eastern flanks of Peaks 5, 4, and 3. Ogle a half-dozen Fourteeners from the windswept crest, and close the loop via the rolling Peaks Trail. No thunderclouds? Do the lift again for a retro run down the alpine slide.
Sip a handcrafted small-batch concoction at Breckenridge Brewery & Pub, then pile on beer-battered fish and chips. www.breckbrew.com
From I-70 in Frisco, take CO 9 south and follow signs to Peak 8 base. Tickets are $5; lift opens at 9 a.m. (970) 453-5000
Squaw Valley, CA
Hit the Sierra's upper chutes
Squaw's famed rocky chutes are arguably the birthplace of free riding. But you don't have to mimic all those hairball hucksters to see the resort's upper flanks in summer. Climb 1,815 vertical feet in Squaw's cable car and step off on a 7.3-mile trek that first leads to Emigrant Pass, a route flush with views of dazzling-blue Lake Tahoe.
Follow the Pacific Crest Trail 900 vertical feet up to 9,006-foot Granite Chief for a picnic overlooking the rugged canyons traversed by hardcores in the Western States Endurance Run, America's first 100-mile trail race. Pass on those antics for now; instead, trek to a junction near Mountain Meadow Lake, then descend the flower-strewn granite benches and wooded hillsides above Squaw Creek to your car.
Grab some handholds and a smoothie (one at a time, please) at the Headwall Café, which sports a 45-foot outdoor wall (530-583-7673) in the Cable Car base station.
From I-80, take CA 89 south. Turn onto Squaw Valley Road and drive 2.2 miles. Tickets are $19; www.squaw.com
Wildcat Mountain, NH
Take the high way through the whites
As every Yankee skier knows, Wildcat hogs all the schussing views of the Presidential Range; it's just 5 air miles away across Pinkham Notch. Wildcat's gondola zips 2,112 vertical feet to the ridgecrest, where the Wildcat Ridge Trail (part of the AT) heads east to Wildcat's 4,422-foot summit, mixing in some ledge scrambling en route.
From there, it's literally all downhill - clambering over the region's ubiquitous steps, including wooden logs bolted to rock. You'll hike back down the ridge past the lift, crossing four subpeaks with long views to Tuckerman and Huntington Ravines, where snow lingers into midsummer. Then walk the Lost Pond Trail to Pinkham Notch Camp and follow the Crew Cut Trail back to Wildcat's base, a total of about 9 miles.
Stay the night at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Carter Notch Hut (603-466-2727), 1.1 miles beyond Wildcat's summit. Climb Carter Dome (4,832 feet) on day 2.
From I-93, take NH 113 east, then pick up NH 16 north to reach Wildcat's base. Tickets are $10; (603) 466-3326