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Up High Down Below: 3 Top Peaks in the Lower 48

Can't make it to Canada? Try Glacier Peak, Baker Peak, or Catamount Mountain

Glacier Peak, Gallatin National Forest, MT

In Montana’s wild northwest corner, an ancient upward thrust of granite created the state’s tallest range-a series of 12,000-footers that even look down on nearby Glacier National Park. Trees and trail fade away as you grind up a steep grade to Lower Aero Lake, a mile-long alpine gem perched at 9,995 feet amid the wide-open tundra of the Beartooth Plateau. The top-of-the-world feeling-and views of Pilot Peak’s 11,708-foot summit spire-only intensifies as you scramble over boulders near Glacier Peak’s 12,351-foot crest. Panoramic views from the peak take in chunks of Wyoming and Montana, and the ominous serrated profile of 12,799-foot Granite Peak, Montana’s highest, pierces the sky 2 miles to the east.

By The Numbers: 3,602 feet of vertical, 18 miles round-trip from the Fisher Creek trailhead

Contact: (406) 848-7375; www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin

Baker Peak, Great Basin National Park, NV

Step off the trail west of Pyramid Peak, and the Snake Range’s summit ridge opens into a mellow, rocky meadow. Turn north, toward a crest that rises to a series of towers and notches, and the game is on. Nimble hikers can rock-hop a stretch of desk-size talus just below that convoluted ridgetop to reach 12,298-foot Baker Peak’s sparse summit log. On a good day, you can make out snowcaps on the Tushar Mountains 100 miles on; Notch Peak’s cliffy silhouette, 50 miles east, is a familiar landmark.

By The Numbers: 4,367 feet of vertical, 15 miles round-trip from the Baker Creek trailhead

Contact: (775) 234-7331; www.nps.gov/grba

Catamount Mountain, Adirondack Park, NY

Fires in each of the past two centuries burned the sparse life off the summit of this northern Adirondacks peak, leaving behind a bald head of gneiss that lures summertime scramblers. A playful, loose trail includes a near-vertical granite chimney and a succession of blueberry meadows and open rock ledges that ultimately lead to the exposed 3,162-foot crest. During the final, steep half-mile, Whiteface Mountain’s gray summit, 4,867 feet high, appears to the south.

By The Numbers: 1,568 feet of vertical; 4 miles round-trip from the Forestdale Road trailhead

Contact: Adirondack Mountain Club, (518) 668-4447; www.adk.org

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