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April 2003

The Wild List: A Guide To The Best Outdoor Spots

A definitive guide to the hottest, sweetest, looniest, and most colorful spots in the great outdoors.

Best Place To Grab A Beer

Northern Lights Saloon, Polebridge, MT

It’s an age-old tradition: Hustle from trailhead to bar and hoist a cold one before the sweat dries. We did just that after a glorious trek through Glacier National Park, collapsing on the grass outside this weathered saloon, which sits so close to the northwest edge of the park it feels like the wilderness itself is on tap. Before we could quaff our first pint, a grizzly emerged from the woods and loped within yards of our table. The log cabin is as wild inside as out, and the North Fork of the Flathead is close enough for a pre-dinner dip (did we mention gourmet food?). Our conclusion: In a barroom brawl, we’ll take this pub against all comers. Bears or no bears.

Most Remote Wilderness In The Lower 48

Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, ID

Silence like this doesn’t hit you over the head; it caresses you until you notice it. But if you visit the Frank’s 2.3 million acres of mountains and deep canyons, we promise you’ll take notice. Its trailheads are hours away from any city, meaning few people and no urban lights to diffuse the heart-rending proliferation of stars. Out on the trail, we’ve gone days in absolute solitude, so certainly alone that every step seems momentous.

Top Spot To Muss Your Hair

Mt. Washington, NH

No place on Earth can match the usual bluster atop Washington. If a world record wind speed (231 miles per hour) doesn’t convince you, consider that the summit sees hurricane-force gusts more than 100 days a year. Visit in winter for the ultimate bouffant.

Ultimate Raingear Testing

Hoh River Valley, WA

“Hoh” means “fast-moving water”–a tribute to the frothy river that tears down Washington’s Mt. Olympus and sends spray up this sopping coastal valley. The moniker also fits the storm season, October through March, when more than 100 inches of horizontal rain and snow blast the towering Douglas firs and hemlocks and inundate the giant slugs, Hoh’s fat, pale denizens of the moist. If your gear can make it there, it can make it anywhere.

Sweetest Sunset

Grand Canyon, AZ

Honestly, you can’t go wrong anywhere in this grand theater when the sun dips low. But our favorite seat in the house is Yuma Point: a mezzanine-level peninsula where you can perch on a slickrock tip and get a front-row seat for one of the great backcountry shows on Earth. Bring a comfy camp chair and a mug of good wine, and be prepared for the price of admission: a 5-mile hike down the south rim’s Hermit and Boucher Trails.

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