The Best Peakbagging Dayhikes

Pack long summer days with more summits—and be home for dinner—with these three essential peakbagging missions.
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Pack long summer days with more summits—and be home for dinner—with these three essential peakbagging missions.
Franconia Ridge Loop

From Little Haystack, you’ll be halfway done with the Franconia Ridge Loop in terms of peaks—but just a quarter done in terms of mileage. [Photo by Chris Whiton]

Franconia Ridge Loop, White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

A new take on a classic: Turn this popular lasso loop into a full circle and you’ll get one extra peak—Cannon Mountain—along with Lafayette, Lincoln, Little Haystack, Liberty, and Flume. The price? A monster 20-miler gaining 7,300 feet. Pick up the Greenleaf Trail from the Cannon Mountain Aerial Tramway parking area, and bag 5,260-foot Mt. Lafayette at mile 3.8. Follow Franconia Ridge—knife-edge thin in spots—south to hit 5,089-foot Mt. Lincoln (mile 4.8), and then Little Haystack Mountain (mile 5.5), Mt. Liberty (mile 7.6), and Mt. Flume (mile 8.7), all 4,000-footers. Descend west on the Flume Slide Trail, joining with the Appalachian Trail, to Lonesome Lake. Then, continue north up Cannon Trail to hit 4,100-foot Cannon Mountain near mile 18. Follow the Kinsman Ridge Trail to your car. Contactfs.usda.gov/whitemountain

Lutsen Shuttle Hike, Superior National Forest, Minnesota

Sure, Minnesota’s 1,600-foot Sawtooths are considerably shorter than the other mountains on this list, but none of the others come with views of Lake Superior, the largest of the Great Lakes. Plus, this point-to-point nets you three of the most prominent peaks in the range. Start this 14.5-miler on the Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) from the Lutsen Ski Area Gondola, heading south. Stand atop Moose Mountain near mile 3.3 and Oberg Mountain near mile 6.5. From there, take the .5-mile loop around the mountaintop for views of Superior to the east. Continue south on the SHT to bag Leveaux Mountain at mile 9.5 before strolling the final miles through mixed woods and pastures. Commercial shuttle $15; superiorhikingshuttle.comContactfs.usda.gov/superior

Alphabetizer Loop, Lost Creek Wilderness, Colorado

If you want quantity and quality, leave the Fourteeners to the crowds and hit this 12.2-mile loop that gains 4,000 feet and tops five Twelvers. You’ll get it to yourself, thanks to the Kenosha Mountains’ low profile and some off-trail navigation. At the Long Gulch trailhead, follow the stream (a branch off Rock Creek) 1.7 miles past willows to treeline and then continue to the saddle. From here, it’s easy off-trail nav above timberline across the wide, grassy ridge. Head west on a 1.7-mile spur to bag the two summits unofficially known as X and X Prime. Retrace your steps to the saddle and continue 2.3 miles east to bag Y, Z, and Zephyr. From here, head south 1.2 miles to pick up the Colorado Trail. Follow it 3.2 miles west to your car. Contactbit.do/LostCreekWild