Where Solitude Rules - More Tips and Tricks

Alternative routes, where to find solitude in the Lower 48, and avoiding the crowds in America's most crowded park
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Alternative routes, where to find solitude in the Lower 48, and avoiding the crowds in America's most crowded park

Peak Detours

You won't find total isolation on these über-popular summits, but you can still capture some quiet time by taking alternate routes to the top.

Mt. Monadnock, NH

This 3,165-foot peak has been called the most-climbed mountain in the Western Hemisphere, with more than 100,000 ascents a year. Lose the crowds on the north or east slopes; the four-mile Pumpelly Trail climbs the northeast ridge from Dublin Lake. Info (603) 532-8862

Grays Peak and Torreys Peak, CO

With summit routes starting just a few miles off I-70, these are two of Colorado's busiest Fourteeners. Hike the southern routes–Chihuahua Gulch (2.5 miles) or Horseshoe Basin (4.5 miles)–to find elbowroom. Info (303) 567-3000

Grand Teton, WY

Most Grand Teton climbs start at the Lower Saddle at 11,640 feet. Instead of marching up Garnet Canyon with the masses, approach the Lower Saddle via remote Dartmouth Basin to the west. With a very early start the next day, you can summit from a high camp at 9,600 feet. Infonps.gov/grte

Half Dome, CA

Solid on 5.7? The Snake Dike on Half Dome's southwest shoulder is an extraordinary adventure, with mostly easy climbing up a ladderlike cleft that splits a sea of polished granite. To go with a guide, contact Yosemite Mountaineering School (209-372-8344). Info nps.gov/yose

Mt. Si, WA

Local hikers flock to this Seattle standby, but the crowds thin out on the 3.5-mile Old Si Trail from Little Si trailhead, just across the Snoqualmie River from North Bend Way. Info (360) 825-1631

Clingmans Dome, NC

You'll be hard-pressed to find solitude on the East's second-highest mountain in the warmer months, but the paved road up the peak is closed for winter. When US 441 is open (call 865-436-1200, ext. 631, for conditions), you can ski-tour seven miles from Newfound Gap to the 6,643-foot summit. Infonps.gov/grsm

Alone in the Great Smoky Mountains If you can avoid the crowds in America's busiest national park, you can do it anywhere. Members of the 900 Miler Club–people who've trekked every trail in the park–offer these tips:

  • Hike on weekdays. Avoid holidays and never visit during spring break.
  • Go in the off-season. The Smokies empty out in winter.
  • Hike farther. You don't even need to go much farther. Crowds diminish dramatically three to five miles beyond any trailhead.
  • Choose trails with no bridges, like the Eagle Creek Trail. Frequent fords of streams and creeks keep traffic low.
  • Stay off the Appalachian Trail from spring through fall, and avoid Newfound Gap, Clingmans Dome, Laurel Falls, and Cades Cove.
  • Start on the North Carolina side. Trails here tend to be less crowded than those beginning at Tennessee trailheads.
  • Go by boat. The hassle of crossing Fontana Lake limits the masses.
  • Try this 900-Miler favorite: Connect the lush Hazel Creek Trail to 5,607-foot Silers Bald for a 14.7-mile weekend.

GO WHERE OTHERS DON'T

Find solitude in the least visited national parks in the Lower 48.

*2008 recreation visitors