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May 2005

America’s Hardest Dayhikes

Push yourself on any of these challenging hikes

7. Grand Canyon South Rim to North Rim

74 Miles: 21 Elevation Change: 10,500 feet X Factor: Dehydrating heat

For sheer majesty, this beauty takes the cake. But there’s nothing pretty about the prospect of a 5,800-foot climb out in the afternoon sun, which can bring triple-digit temps as early as May. So strap on a headlamp and head for the depths of Bright Angel Canyon before dawn; you’ll be perfectly positioned for one of the world’s most colorful sunrises-and for a midmorning river crossing to start up the other side. Your best bet is to go in early spring or mid-autumn; there may be snow on the rims and temp swings of up to 40 degrees, but you’ll avoid the scalding heat that makes dehydration a real risk here. The South Kaibab Trail drops 7 stunning miles and 4,700 feet from the South Rim to the Colorado River; the 14 miles up the North Kaibab Trail are less steep (and less crowded) but beyond epic in duration. Locals ID dayhikers who pull off this feat by their gimpy gait; they call it the "Grand Canyon Shuffle."Contact: Grand Canyon National Park, (928) 638-7888;

8. Enchantment Lakes Traverse
Cascade Range, WA

71 Miles: 18 Elevation Change: 11,000 feet X Factor: Sketchy footing up high

When you eyeball the route over 7,800-foot Aasgard Pass into the massive cliffs hemming in Colchuck Lake, you’ll know why this hike made the list: The loose, primitive footpath climbs a ridiculously steep 2,200 feet in three-quarters of a mile. (Try not to contemplate just how far you’d tumble if you slipped.) And after the 4,600-foot climb from the Colchuck Lake-Stuart Lake trailhead beats you silly, the 6,500-foot drop to the Snow Creek trailhead delivers a knee-jarring coup de gráce. Focus instead on the Eden of wildflowers, gnarled trees, glaciers, and mountain goats. Contact: Wenatchee National Forest, (509) 548-6977;

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