Dayhike: Blackrock Summit,Virginia
While there’s only .5 mile of hiking and 30 feet of class 2+ scrambling up mismatched boulders to reach Blackrock’s 3,160-foot summit, the views from the top of this talus slope will make you feel as if you’ve summited the Matterhorn. The vista includes a long stretch of the Shenandoah Valley flanked by the likes of Rockytop Ridge, Lewis Peak, and Massanutten Mountain. Once you’ve downclimbed (also a cinch), turn this one into a loop (maximizing your odds of spotting one of the resident black bears) by swinging around to the back of the talus slope and following the Trayfoot Mountain Trail .6 mile back to the parking lot.
Trailhead 38.2230, -78.7333 Get here Follow Skyline to the parking lot at milepost 84.8 Permit None
Overnight: Black Top Mesa, Arizona
Waking up to a bird’s-eye view of the very best of the Superstitions—Weavers Needle, Battleship Mountain, Geronimo Head, and Black Mesa Mountain spread out in a semi-circle from north to south—will make the frontcountry feel farther away than it is. (The petroglyphs in the area add to the immersive feeling.) Given that, it’s easy to forget that most of the 5.7-mile hike in was a breeze through wild oats and all manner of cacti from the Dutchman trailhead, though the final gain of 1,000 feet in a mile is likely to stick in your memory. Camp in an impacted spot near the summit and rest assured that backcountry depth is more a feeling than a distance.
Trailhead 33.4801, -111.4431 Get here Follow State Route 88 to the turn for Service Road 78 and follow it to the end. Permit None
Dayhike: North Schell Peak, Nevada
Don’t worry when the track fades. As far as off-trail navigation goes, this is as straightforward as it gets. Sure, the old roadbed climbing up through a grove of aspens and bristlecone pines at the start of this 6-mile route peters out when you get above treeline, but the basin’s miles-long views ensure that the gentle, 3,000-foot ascent along the ridgeline is easy enough to follow. From Schell’s 11,883-foot summit, experience what peakbaggers call “ultra-prominence” as you stare down the 5,403 feet to the valley below. In the distance, 13,159-foot Wheeler Peak looms, but with a measly 3,409 feet of prominence, we think you’ll agree the real bragging rights are right where you are.
Trailhead 39.4003, -114.6273 Get here From US 93 north, turn onto State Route 486 and then left onto Forest Road 425. Follow the dirt road to the campground trailhead Permit None
Dayhike: Grays Peak, Colorado
Summiting your first Colorado Fourteener is a rite of passage for any peakbagger. Kick off your list with 14,278-foot Grays Peak—though it’s the tallest point on the Continental Divide, it’s a class 1, non-technical ascent and is the easiest Fourtneer that doesn’t have an automobile road. You’ll still face a 3,000-foot climb over 2.6 miles, and you’ll share the trail with the locals—mountain goats, basking marmots, and squeaking pikas—on the final mile of scree to the summit. There, views stretch far and wide, from 14,115-foot Pikes Peak to the south to 14,258-foot Longs Peak’s summit block to the north. Make it a two-fer by adding on 14,275-foot Torreys Peak, just a half-mile away over some light class 2 climbing. Then, get to planning the rest of your list.
Trailhead 39.6590, -105.7851 Get here Take Exit 221 off of I-70 and follow Stevens Gulch Road to the trailhead Permit None
Dayhike: Mt. Mitchell, North Carolina
Good news: The highest peak east of the Mississippi River is also the easiest one to bag on this list. Follow an avenue of spruce along the ADA-accessible .2-mile Summit Trail to a stone ramp ending at a short turret. Just like that, you’re standing at the top of 6,684-foot Mt. Mitchell and the start of the Black Mountains. Turn in all directions to spot 6,647-foot Mt. Craig draped in Fraser firs to the north and the craggy stone summit of Mt. Hawksbill to the east. To the south is the rest of the billion-year-old Black Mountains—Mt. Gibbes and Clingmans Dome and The Pinnacle—bending around a valley. Take your time letting your gaze find that faraway glimpse of the Great Smoky Mountains to the west: After all, the short hike here means you can spend as long with the views as you like.
Trailhead 35.7664, -82.2653 Get here Follow the Blue Ridge Parkway to mile marker #355, turn left and follow NC 128 to the parking lot Permit None
Overnight: Guadalupe Peak, Texas
Bagging a “sky island” is easier than it sounds on this 8.4-mile overnight. As you hike up the gently graded Guadalupe Peak trail, you’ll rise from a desert of prickly pear and juniper to a forest of Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, where elk and grey fox patrol the understory. It’s about 10 degrees cooler up here, too. Spend your first night at the Guadalupe Peak campground (just three miles from the trailhead) admiring the Milky Way as it spins through the night sky amid the howls of coyotes and the call of the western screech owl. Begin your ascent of the final mile before dawn to hit the six-foot-tall pyramid that marks the summit of 8,750-foot Guadalupe Peak—the highest point in Texas—then watch peregrine falcons swoop as the sunrise lights up the desert before retracing your steps.
Trailhead 31.8966, -104.8281 Get here Drive east on US 62 from El Paso to reach the park Permit Free, five sites available, first come first served
Overnight: Mt. Adams, Washington
Time to add bagging a volcano to your bucket list. While the likes of 14,411-foot Mt. Rainier and 11,250-foot Mt. Hood require the full kit and caboodle to safely ascend, beginning mountaineers can tackle 12,281-foot Mt. Adams with little more than low-key traction devices and an ice axe. But you’ll still need to climb up 6,700 feet over 12 miles—that’s why we recommend pitching your tent at the so-called Lunch Counter above Crescent Glacier. Get up before dawn the next morning (before the high-altitude sun softens the snow) to finish the strenuous climb up Suksdorf Ridge to the summit. Pick out the other stars of the Cascade Range on the horizon—Rainier and Baker to the north, Mt. St. Helens to the west, Hood to the south—and know the experience you’ve gained will translate perfectly to those loftier heights in the viewshed.
Trailhead 46.1359, -121.4976 Get here Take a right on Forest Road 23 from Mt. Adams Road. Turn left on Forest Road 80, then right on Forest Road 8040 and follow until you reach the trailhead at the Cold Spring Camp area Permit $15 Cascade Volcano Pass required
Multiday: San Jacinto Peak, California
While some might prefer the thigh-busting 21-mile Cactus to Clouds Trail, you could also let the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway do most of the hard work. You didn’t think we were going to tell you to hike the whole way to the summit, did you? From Mountain Station at 8,516 feet, it’s a leisurely 2-mile stroll past lodgepole and Jeffrey pines to basecamp at Round Valley. Summit 10,834-foot San Jacinto on the second day during a 9-mile out-and-back with views of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel ranges to the north, Mt. Palomar to the south, Palm Springs to the east, and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Toast your success at the tram lounge after retracing your steps to the trailhead on the final morning.
Trailhead 33.8131, -116.6387 Get here Turn off California 111 onto the Tramway Road. Follow it to the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and take the tram to the top Permit $5, advance reservations available
Dayhike: Dune Climb, Michigan
Due to the shifting footing, you might have to summit this one more than once before you can stand at the top. From the parking lot at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, crane your head skyward along the 260-foot-tall dune to watch children and adults alike moving in slow motion up the sliding sand of a 45-degree slope (a small plateau at the halfway point breaks up the slog). At the top, you’ll enjoy views of nearby Glen Lake (following the trail on the other side leads to Lake Michigan) while the wind whips even more sand from the high glacial plateau down to the dunes, burying junipers and cottonwoods and moving the entire dune two feet to the east per year. Once the climbers catch their breath, it’s time for the descent—running, screaming, tumbling—back down to the parking lot. Your turn.
Trailhead 44.8825, -86.0422 Get here From Highway 22, turn off on 109 and follow the road to the parking lot on the western side to the road Permit None
Multiday: East Temple Peak, Wyoming
There is a gentler way up 12,605-foot East Temple Peak than that imposing climbing wall on the northeast side. To find it for yourself, set up a basecamp 7 miles from the Big Sandy Trailhead near Deep Lake. After watching faraway peaks reflect off the surface the next morning, make the trek to Temple Pass to start the rock-strewn ascent on the southwest side that turns into light, class 2 scrambling as you near the summit—a route as straightforward as you’ll find in the Winds. Once there, you can shimmy out onto a granite prow for a straight-shot look 2,000 feet down to the nameless lake you started at.
Trailhead 42.6884, -109.2700 Get here From State Highway 353, follow county and forest service roads 30 miles to the trailhead Permit None
Dayhike: Hurricane Hill, Washington
The views begin right from the trailhead. While marmots scurry across the paved 1.6-mile Hurricane Hill Trail (the first .6 of which meet ADA accessibility standards), enjoy the full expanse of the Olympic Mountains’ Bailey Range to your left. Veer north past deer languidly browsing the open fields and ascend 650 feet. At the 5,757-foot summit, the views explode in all directions. Peer down into the Elwha River Valley to the west before turning to the north and gazing out toward the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Look up to spy the Coast Mountains of British Columbia beckoning in the far distance and even Mt. Baker—the nearest of the Cascade volcanoes—out to the east. Now that’s a view.
Trailhead 47.9763, -123.5175 Get here From 101, take a left onto Race Road and then right onto Hurricane Ridge Road. Follow the road past the visitor center to reach the trailhead Permit None
Overnight: Mt. Pierce, New Hampshire
Get deep-wilderness rewards without the long-haul loads on this hut-served sojourn to the roof of the Northeast. Mizpah Hut, tucked away among the red spruce and yellow birch of the Presidentials en route to the summit of Mt. Pierce, is one of our favorite places to explore without a pack. And while the 1-mile hike up to the 4,312-foot summit at sunrise offers up views of Mts. Washington and Eisenhower, plus the Ammonoosuc Ravine, we’ll admit the toughest part of this climb might be getting back on trail after watching the warblers from the hut’s south-facing windows, exploring the library on the second floor, or chowing down on the family-style meals served up by the croo (how locals refer to the hut staffers).
Trailhead 44.2389, -71.41138 Get here Turn off of Route 302 onto the Mt. Clinton Road to reach the parking lot in .2 mile Permit $120 per person, reservations required
Multiday: Big Slide, New York
With so many routes in the Adirondacks touting their type-2 fun bona fides, we appreciate that this trip to 4,239-foot Big Slide is anything but. Plan to camp at the Howard Lean-to, 3 miles in along the gentle incline of the John Brooks Trail. The next day, it’s only another 2 miles up the Slide Mountain Brook Trail to some of the best views in the High Peaks: Algonquin, Armstrong, Saddleback, Giant, and more. (The final push does get a little hairy, with two sets of wooden ladders up unlikely looking stone slabs, but it wouldn’t be the ‘Dacks without that.) When the day hikers start death marching in from the rollercoaster approach via the Brothers, you know it’s time to head back down—there’s another night of falling asleep to the babble of the nearby brook to enjoy.
Trailhead 44.1890, -73.8161 Get here From SR 73, turn west onto Adirondack Street and follow the road straight to the trailhead Permit none
Overnight: Gregory Bald, Tennessee/North Carolina
Sure, you could tackle 4,949-foot Gregory Bald in a lightning round out-and-back dayhike, but you’d miss the chance to explore the wild maze of decades-old azaleas growing up to 8 feet tall—bursts of red, pure whites streaked with pale pinks, orange-gold blends, and soft yellows interspersed with dark fuschias—blooming mid- to late-June along the Gregory Bald Trail. Then there’s that summit panorama: Cades Cove’s lush valley to the north, the blue reflection of Fontana Lake to the south, and the unmistakable outline of Clingmans Dome to the east. Fortunately, Camp 13 is just on the other side of the summit, perfectly positioned to break up the 6.2-mile, 3,000-foot climb along the trail and turn it into a low-key overnight.
Trailhead 35.5430, -83,8944 Get here Drive south on Forge Creek Road until you reach the turnoff for the parking area Permit $4 per person permit required, max. 8 people per group, online reservations available