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There’s nothing like getting lost, meeting a rutting moose, or walking the precipice of a steep, narrow ridge–the void yawning below–to make you feel alive outdoors. We can’t help with the first two, but the high-wire hikes described below should get you plenty stoked about the third. Just remember: Sticky soles are a good thing.
Vermilion Cliffs, AZ
Catch an edge in the high desert
Don’t let the California condors recently reintroduced here monopolize the bird’s-eye views. Too many folks gawk at this 293,000-acre national monument’s key geologic feature–a 30-mile long, 3,000-foot-high sheer sandstone escarpment–from below. Hike to the trailless top of the blood-red precipice for plane-window vantages of the sprawling Colorado Plateau (including the pastel Painted Desert); the Grand Canyon; and Escalante Country’s monoliths. Bring water and binocs (20 raptor species nest here) for the 13-mile hike (requires a car shuttle) from One Toe Ridge east to Soap Creek Pasture. Use routefinding skills for drainages and piñon-juniper flats and the unsigned, 4WD access roads.
Vermilion Cliffs Bar and Grill’s epic views go with 150 kinds of beer. (928) 355-2231
From US 89, go W on US 89A, then N on House Rock Road. Turn E on BLM 1017 and S on BLM 1108. (435) 688-3200
Monroe Skyline, VT
Touch the sky on six summits
This high ramble rolls across the roof of Vermont, linking many of the Green Mountains’ high points. The 11.6-mile Long Trail traverse from Lincoln Gap to Appalachian Gap crosses the bald crest of Mt. Abraham, an isolated alpine zone where rare Bigelow’s sedge and diapensia crowd between the rocks. The panorama from the platform atop 3,972-foot Lincoln Peak deserves a Howard Dean-style primal scream; the view extends along the spine of the Greens and across to the Adirondacks and Whites. The route crosses six summits, but with a modest 2,520-foot vertical gain. You’ll also ramble classic boreal forest, peek over precarious rocky perches into the Mad River Valley far below, and slip through a natural cave.
The Wind Down
Gulp down free samples of Karamel Sutra at the end of the Ben and Jerry’s factory tour in Waterbury. (802) 244-8687
In Warren, follow Lincoln Gap Road to the Long Trail North trailhead.
Mt. Sopris, CO
Climb past countless couloirs
The way Sopris dominates the west side of the Roaring Fork River Valley, you expect a formidable, maybe technical, slog. But the trek over its two false summits and its twin 12,953-foot peaks is as much dramatic ridge walk as vertical climb. The tightrope begins 4 miles in, above the Thomas Lakes, and officially ends 2.5 miles–and countless cirques that plummet 1,500 feet on either side–later, atop the east peak. Walk the remaining .7 mile to the west peak while ogling the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness and the Rockies ranges beyond. With most of the gangplank hiking above 11,000 feet–some sections as narrow as 6 feet across–you won’t have much trouble keeping your mind sharp.
The Wind Down
Soak up the world’s largest hot springs, in Glenwood. www.hotspringspool.com
From Carbondale, go S on CO 133; turn left onto Prince Creek Road. Bear right toward Dinkle Lake and the trailhead. (970) 925-3445