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Summer trips get all the hype. Sure, the weather’s great and school is out, but you don’t have to wait until June, July, or August for a hike worth remembering all year. Our editors are making the most of the final weeks of spring by finding adventure everywhere from their very own backyard to a wedding weekend abroad.
Appalachian Trail, Pennsylvania
I haven’t set foot on the Appalachian Trail in a long time—I left New England for the Rocky Mountains 12 years ago, and while I’ve hiked all over the western U.S. since then, I rarely make my way back east. This month is an exception: I have a family wedding in Pennsylvania, and in between the ceremonies and family events, I’m going to steal one, precious day on America’s favorite trail. The plan: Hike the 13.5 mile stretch from PA 309 to Lehigh Gap, following thickly-forested ridges and hopping boulder fields all the way to the Lehigh River. Rocksylvania isn’t necessarily the best-loved stretch of the AT (hint: the reason why is in the nickname) but after a long layoff, I’ll be glad just to be back. —Adam Roy, Executive Editor, Backpacker
Camino de Ronda, Spain
Spring is not only the start of hiking season, but also the start of wedding season. What better way to make the most of destination wedding travel than by sneaking in a bit of hiking? When I fly to Barcelona to celebrate an old friend’s nuptials this month, I’m also setting aside a day or two to explore sections of this path along the Costa Brava. While it’ll be too early in the season to explore the high peaks of the Pyrenees, it’s the perfect time of year for coastal hiking. I expect to traverse dirt and cobblestone to take in seacliffs, turquoise coves, and local food in villages along the way. It’ll be a good chance to break in my hiking shoes—the next wedding is in Colorado. —Zoe Gates, Senior Editor, Backpacker
Two Harbors, Catalina Island, California
To say Southern California has been dry over the last few years is an understatement. But nothing better exemplifies the sharp contrast between the previous dry, drought-season in the urban sprawl of L.A. and the suddenly-gorgeous, nearby rain-fed green wilderness than Catalina Island. Located a quick hour ferry ride from the largest port in the world in one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country, hikers who head to Catalina will be shocked to find miles of pristine singletrack winding through steep canyons and across expansive ridges with 360-degree ocean views—better in 2023 for the record-setting rains the area has received.
For the most stark city vs. wild experience, I’ll take the ferry to Two Harbors (not Avalon, sorry), and do sections of the Trans Catalina Trail. Camping? I’ll do my best to score one of the eight coveted primitive camping sites at the beachfront Parson’s Landing, roughly a two-hour hike from Two Harbors. I’ll be sure to hurry, however, as the soaring flora will likely crisp up quickly in the early summer heat. —Chris Foster, Editor-In-Chief, Triathlete
Flatiron, Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction, Arizona
There’s a small window in spring where the wildflowers bloom in Arizona. It usually opens just before the heat really arrives (around here, it never truly goes away) and that window is everything I love about living in the desert. To take it all in, one must hike to the top of the Flatiron trail, a steep climb that starts with a romp through the wildflowers, slices through sheer stone cliffs, and ends with a scramble to the top. It can’t be done in the heat, unless you want to learn firsthand how much a heatstroke rescue costs, so locals often squeeze in their Flatiron ascent each spring for the best views of Phoenix and the surrounding desert. Bonus points if you take your tent and make an overnight of it at the top, especially during a full moon. —Susan Lacke, Senior Editor, Triathlete
Appalachian Trail, Massachusetts
Seems like weddings—and escaping weddings—are a theme here. Two friends of mine are getting married on my birthday, in early May, just a few miles from my parents’ home in Western Massachusetts. For years, I’ve wanted to run the Taconic Ridge—a 15.6 mile section of the Appalachian Trail that stretches from Salisbury, Connecticut, to Egremont, Massachusetts. I’ve hiked most of it in smaller sections, yet I’ve never done the whole thing, and I figure that if I’m doomed to stutter through a wedding speech on my birthday, I should reward myself with a peaceful morning of scrub oaks, mountain laurel, and beautiful views of the Southern Berkshires in spring. (Full disclosure: I’ll probably go for it two days before the wedding because there’s a damn good chance I’ll (a) epic and (b) be unable to walk afterward … I’ve never run 15 mountainous miles before.) —Steven Potter, Digital Editor, Climbing
Mushroom Rock, Carbondale, Colorado
Honestly, I am looking forward to the trail that is in my backyard, up the Red Hill across from the town of Carbondale. I have done this trail dozens—no, hundreds—of times; I watch the seasons change from there, catch up with friends, take visitors and family. I’ve seen wildfires burn for months, or storms move in, and many from our town hiked up it for the solar eclipse. The terrain is sub-alpine with red dirt and rocks, and through pinyon-juniper forest. I tried to go a week or two ago, and it’s still too muddy. In season, it’s a short, nice burn you can do as part of daily life, in an hour and a half, and it has a beginning and a clear end, a lookout point for one of the best views in the Roaring Fork Valley: out at Mt. Sopris and up both the Roaring Fork and Crystal rivers. You can see the two rivers’ convergence from there as well. —Alison Osius, Senior Editor, Outside Travel
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California
This winter, I made some lofty spring hiking plans to ascend from Cactus to Clouds and hike from Rim to Rim, but I didn’t expect that the large snowpack this year would put both trips to a halt. Although I’m disappointed, I’m still looking forward to some late-spring hiking because these rainclouds have silver linings: lush, green trails lined with eye-catching flowers. Although we’re reaching the tail end of wildflower season, there are still a few trails in Southern California with flowers holding on. Deep in an Instagram rabbit hole, I found the Upper Cabin Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains, and there are still thousands of flowers blooming. In a week, I’ll break up my drive home from (you guessed it) a wedding by spending a couple hours moseying up and down steep cliffs surrounded by blue lupines, orange and yellow poppies, bush sunflower, coastal lotus, and more. —Emma Veidt, Assistant Editor, Backpacker