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Readers’ Choice Awards 2009

Discover the best hike in every state, as voted by BACKPACKER readers. Plus: your essential gear, most desirable tentmate, worst-ever adventure movie, and our picks for the best reader-submitted photos.

We asked you to rank your favorite hikes in all 50 states and you delivered. Here, see the winners and download the hikes for yourself to trail-blaze a new hike or revisit an old one.

Alaska See glaciers on a Harding Icefield Trail eight-miler in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Alabama Cool off in waterfalls on the Land Trust Loop near Monte Sano Mountain.
Arkansas Traverse massive limestone bluffs and deep, secluded hollows on the Ozarks’ Buffalo River Trail.
Arizona Discover Grand Canyon solitude and red-rock splendor in Thunder Canyon.

Pacific Crest Trail
The best hike in the Golden State may just be the best hike in the whole country.

In the 209 miles from Kennedy Meadows in Sequoia National Forest to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, the PCT passes through three national parks, ascends numerous high passes with heavenly views, bisects two stunning wilderness areas–and never crosses a single road. En route you’ll also find countless alpine meadows, granite-lined cirques with life-list campsites, and lake after lake after lake. Not to mention the opportunity to detour up Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48 (for beta on climbing the stunning and crowd-free Mountaineer’s Route, see page 32). Farther north, you’ll cross 13,153-foot Forester Pass, the highest point on the entire PCT, and hike by such deep-Sierra icons as the Ritter Range, Evolution Valley, and Yosemite’s Lyell Fork. See more photos and download a map and tracklog at

Snowmass Mountain
Bag an easy fourteener and enjoy a perfect glissade on this weekend hike in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

To call this 20.8-mile loop one of the most spectacular routes in all of the Rockies is not hyperbole. Which is why it’s also one of the most crowded come July. The secret is to go in June, when the campsites at trout-filled Snowmass Lake are readily available and acres of snow still span the east-facing basin between 14,092-foot Snowmass Mountain and 13,841-foot Hagerman Peak. It’s like climbing a big glacier in the Alps–without the crevasse danger. Wait until the morning sun softens the snow and you won’t even need crampons to reach the granite peak. Best part: the glissade. In good conditions, you can slide more than 1.5 miles and nearly 3,000 vertical feet. See photos and download a map and tracklog at

Connecticut Hike 15.9 miles of the rugged Appalachian Trail.
Delaware Sorry, friends, your best hike is in Virginia.
Florida Sublime beaches highlight this three-day hike in the Everglades
Georgia See five waterfalls in 10.8 miles on the Panther Creek Trail.

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