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Northbound thruhikers flock like pilgrims to the serrated granite ridge of Maine’s 5,267-foot highpoint and the AT ’s terminus in Baxter State Park. Skip the beard and go straight for the hero shot: Start at Katahdin Stream Campground and climb 4.9 miles (oneway) using handrails to reach tundralike flats and the summit. Trip ID34983
Tillotson to Journey’s End(Long Trail) (Print & Go)
The final 21 miles of Vermont’s Long Trail are every bit as scrambly as the previous ones—but with an extra shot of solitude. On this point-to-point that ends at the Canadian border, you’ll scramble and climb up 3,858-foot Jay Peak to earn 100-mile views over Vermont’s green folds, rocky cliffs, and bald tops. backpacker.com/longtrailendTrip ID434870
Appalachian Trail (The View)
Mt. Adams to Mt. Madison
This 9.2-mile sneak route on the Airline Trail hits one of the AT ’s best views in New Hampshire but avoids the ant paths. Clamber the last .5 mile over fridge-size boulders to 5,774-foot Adams, then traverse a mile to Madison’s 5,367-foot summit for an eyeful of the Whites. Trip ID1036333
Finger Lakes Trail (Reader Hike of the Month)
Letchworth State Park
This 13.1-mile lasso loop along upstate’s lake-to-lake trail winds through hardwoods, over creeks, and to views of Genesee River carving the “Grand Canyon of the East.” Reader Steffan Fay advises hiking it in spring to avoid crowds, and taking all the side trails to see the best over-gorge views. Trip ID1036362
Falls Trail Loop (Natural Wonder)
For watery rewards, there are few hikes in the East that pack more waterfalls (21 of them) into such a short distance (6.2 miles) than this lollipop loop in eastern PA’s Ricketts Glen State Park. Take the Ganoga Glen Trail along West Kitchen Creek to 94-foot Ganoga Falls, and continue passing from pool to cascade again and again. Trip ID14047
SEE THIS NOW
MOUNTAIN LAUREL BLOOM
Catoctin Mountain Park, MD
Payoff Just 55 miles from D.C., the misty second-growth forests of Catoctin Mountain Park harbor 25 miles of trails and more than 1,000 species of animals and plants. Trailside thickets of mountain laurel can make a spring hike here feel like moving through an enchanted world of pink-and-white petals.
Time Highs in the 70s and lows in the 50s herald spring in the Appalachians: Mountain laurel—a showy (and poisonous) shrub related to blueberries and cranberries—blooms in May, decorating the forest with clusters of inch-wide blossoms. The glow of golden spicebush, buttery tulip poplars, and snowy flowering dogwood also paints the hillsides.
Place From the visitor center, climb 600 feet through an oak/hickory forest to 1,499-foot Thurmont Vista. Tunnel through dense laurel along the mile-long ridge toward Wolf Rock, a 30-foot, 500-millionyear-old quartzite crag. Picnic at Chimney Rock at mile 3.2 for the route’s best views, then complete the 5.3-mile loop. nps.gov/cato