3 Exhilarating Scrambles in the United States

Mastered walking? Time to use your hands as well as your feet on these adventurous day trips.

Photo: Omer Salom on Unsplash

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  • Distance: 4 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain: 2,700 feet

Extreme exposure and nearly 2,700 feet of elevation gain earn Lady Mountain a spot on our list. You’ll need to navigate up three separate two-story-tall faces on preexisting anchors (up to 5.6 difficulty) in the first mile on this 4-mile out-and-back to the top of one of Zion Canyon’s grandest towers. To get there, take the Middle Emerald Pools Trail .3 mile to the “Rockfalls” information sign; turn west and ascend the mountain slope on an unmarked path to the first climbing section. Recommended gear Climbing gear, including 120 feet of rope Contactnps.gov/zion

(2) Rock Rooms on Elk Mountain, Wichita Mountains Wilderness, Oklahoma

  • Distance: 3 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain: 600 feet

No, the mile-long scramble that gains 1,000 feet isn’t why this hike makes the list. Nor is it the 30-foot-tall, elevator-shaft entry into the belly of the Wichita Mountains. Rather, it’s the underground maze over and under boulders through the cave-like Rock Rooms. (You don’t need rope or technical skills for this trip.) Begin this 3-mile loop on the Elk Mountain Trail as you navigate 1.1 miles over scree to the mountaintop. Find the near-vertical entry into the Rock Rooms on the west side of the summit, and then use ledges to maneuver down the narrow, boulder-clogged chute. At the bottom, follow the openings through the various Rock Rooms. Crawl through the final tunnel to reach daylight and Charon’s Garden Trail, which loops 1.5 miles back to the trailhead. Recommended gear Headlamp and helmet Contactbit.do/WichitaWild

(3) The Labyrinth, Mohonk Preserve, New York

  • Distance: 9 miles
  • Time: 1 day
  • Elevation gain: 400 feet

Check off the best scramble in the Tri-State area on this 9-mile out-and-back. Less of a “trail” than a rocky jungle-gym, this route will force you to squeeze, duck, crawl, and climb class 3 across the Labyrinth. Do it the cheaper way ($12, compared to $26) by starting at Undercliff Road. Near mile 2.5, take Old Minnewaska Carriage Road 1.5 miles to the Mountain House property. From here, it’s a .5-mile scramble on the topsy-turvy Labyrinth. Use fixed ladders in spots and, ultimately, exit via a .1-mile-long shimmy through the Lemon Squeeze. Atop 1,617-foot Skylight Mountain, take in views of the Hudson Valley before taking Sky Top Road back to the Mountain House. Note: This one is popular; we recommend visiting in the early morning on a weekday to secure some solitude. Recommended gear Sticky shoes Contactmohonkpreserve.org

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