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May 2005

America’s Hardest Dayhikes

Push yourself on any of these challenging hikes

9. Paintbrush Canyon-Cascade Canyon Loop
Grand Teton National Park, WY

66 Miles: 19 Elevation Change: 8,000 feet X Factor: The occasional ultramarathoner passing you

Why does the 4,000-foot climb from String Lake up Paintbrush Canyon seem to last longer than Paris Hilton’s overextended 15 minutes of fame? There’s no shade, and the climb stretches endlessly out over 8 miles. Start before dawn to beat the high-altitude sun-and to get over 10,700-foot Paintbrush Divide before early afternoon, the witching hour for the Tetons’ infamous thunderstorms. At the pass, drink in views up and down the range, but don’t celebrate yet: 11 long miles down Cascade Canyon await. Contact: Grand Teton National Park, (307) 739-3300;

10. Bigelow Range Traverse
64 Miles: 17 Elevation Change: 10,000 feet X Factor: Black flies with attitude

You’ll be tempted to run this northbound traverse of the AT from ME 27/16-not because you’re feeling jaunty, but to escape the Maine woods’ infamous black flies. But the relentlessly steep and rocky trail along long, forested ridges discourages any such fantasies. The trail gets ruthless on the fierce half-mile climb to 3,331-foot South Horn, the ridges are waterless, and the summits windy and exposed. But the wild-north panoramas stretch all the way to Mt. Washington. Contact: Appalachian Trail Conference, (304) 535-6331;

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