A long distance hiking path is typically defined as anything that takes longer than one or two days to complete. Well, what if we took that idea one (to five million) steps further and proposed a list of 10 of the world’s most epic long distance backpacking trips longer than 500-miles? Sure, we’d leave off quite a few amazing hikes across the globe, but we’d be left with a list of some of the most insanely beautiful, geographically intoxicating, culturally stimulating, and physically demanding treks this planet has to offer.

Note: We’re not responsible for any ensuing desire for adventure or debilitating sense of wanderlust.

1. Appalachian Trail

First, one that you’ve all probably heard of: the Appalachian Trail. The AT is a classic American walk in the woods, stretching 2,185 miles from lowly old Springer Mountain in Georgia to the grandiose summit of Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Along the way, hikers pass through 14 states, 8 National Forests, 2 National Parks, and countless rural resupply points. This ancient mountain range, once the size of the Himalayas, has since been weathered and whittled down over time. But hiking the entire route is still equivalent to summiting Everest 16 times; so don’t underestimate this sleeping giant.

2. Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is 2,663 miles of diverse and epic hiking, which begins in the desert and follows the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges through California, Oregon, and Washington. It passes through some of this country’s most spectacular parks and wilderness areas, including Yosemite, John Muir, Crater Lake, and Goat Rocks. The trail itself is graded for horses, meaning that hikers can typically bag high mileage days. But lack of water and infrequent resupply points pose their own set of inherent challenges.

3. Continental Divide Trail

The Continental Divide Trail is a transcontinental route, which stretches 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada along the craggy spine of the Rocky Mountains. While technically considered only about 70% complete, there are still a handful of hearty adventurers who set out each year to conquer what many consider to be the toughest leg of the US Hiking Triple Crown (the other two legs being the AT and the PCT). The CDT is a rugged trek with high elevations, exposure to the elements, and wildlife hazards, yet the wild western landscapes are truly jaw dropping.

4. Greater Patagonian Trail

This trail is so underdeveloped, isolated, rigorous, and remote that only a few hikers have ever attempted it, never mind completed it. Requiring just as much orienteering, map reading, and logistical planning as actual physical endurance and hiking, this roughly 800 mile route, comprised of horse trails, local paths, country roads, and even pack-raft river sections, traverses the Patagonian Andes along the border of Chile and Argentina. It is an unofficial route in its early infancy, but the pristine natural beauty of this region will surely attract intrepid backpackers in the years to come.

5. Grand Italian Trail

For a whopping 3,832 miles, the Sentiero Italia (or Grand Italian Trail) extends from the Northeastern port town of Trieste, into the Alps, and all the way down the Apennine spine of the Italian peninsula, before island hopping to Sicily and then Sardinia. The subalpine scenery along much of this route is simply spectacular, featuring jagged peaks, glacial tarns, and gouged out valleys. Add to that the bonus of quaint hamlets and ancient Roman history, and you’ve got yourself a bella formula. Oh, and of course, carbo-loading will never be a problem.

6. Wales Coast Path

Officially established in 2012 as the world’s only footpath to cover an entire country’s coastline, the Wales Coast Path is an 870-mile trek that combines some of the UK’s most romantic aspects. As it snakes its way up the shore, along coastal cliffs and verdant hillsides, past medieval castles, and through sleepy seaside towns, hikers get to experience the magic of this area in a truly intimate way. Just imagine wrapping up a rain-soaked 20-mile day with a bowl of warm lamb stew and a porter at a small local pub.

7. Nepal’s Great Himalaya Trail

One of the only officially documented sections of the proposed Great Himalaya Trail, the GHT High Route in Nepal is a roughly 1050 mile trek scaling the world’s highest peaks from the eastern edge of the country to the western border with Tibet. Hiking this trail is a demanding adventure requiring mountaineering experience and roughly five months of time, but the rewards of passing through rarely visited villages, reaching some of the planet’s highest altitudes, and sleeping under unfathomably starry skies makes it an unforgettable experience.

8. Great Wall of China

Didn’t expect this one, did you? Sure, the Great Wall of China has sections that are jam-packed with khaki-clad tourists, but this celebrated structure also has some very remote sections with rarely seen beauty, including deserts, mountains, bamboo forests, and more. Government restrictions, time requirements, extreme weather conditions, and the sheer enormity of this 5,500-mile trek across China makes a thru-hike an extremely obstacle-laden adventure, but if the Mongols and other nomadic tribes could overcome their barrier to entry, so can you.

9. Tokai Nature Trail

Japan is increasingly becoming a world-class place to recreate. With its mountainous terrain, powder-packed ski destinations, and unprecedented biodiversity, it’s only natural that there should be a long distance trail. And the Tokai Nature Trail fits the bill. Running 1,054 miles from Tokyo to Osaka, this generally level and easy footpath takes hikers past iconic Mt. Fuji, through Imperial gardens with cherry blossoms and Japanese maples, and along fertile hillsides, lush wetlands, and hollowed out river canyons.

10. Te Araroa

Ah, the Te Araroa Trail (Maori for the Long Pathway). Obviously, any long distance footpath that’s located in New Zealand is always going to make the list — especially one that so fully encompasses the diverse natural beauty of both islands. Beginning at Cape Reinga in the north and winding 1,864 miles to Stirling Point in the south, this trail almost has too much to savor. Beaches lined with seals and penguins, impossibly lush rainforests, frequently active volcanoes, precipitous mountains, and electric blue glacial lakes. To coin a local Kiwi phrase, this trail is truly “Sweet As!”

Written by Ry Glover for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by David Evans

Skywalker Couloir

Mid- to late spring is prime time for Colorado’s snowy couloirs (“couloir” is a term of French origin that refers to the deep, often steep gullies that cut into a mountain). While avalanche danger isn’t completely gone, the warmer conditions and prolonged sun exposure in spring stabilizes snow fields, making them much less likely to slide. When conditions are at their best, climbers are treated to literally thousands of vertical feet of accommodating snow, perfect for kicking in crampons, thus creating a personal staircase to the summit. And for lower-angle couloirs, the heat of the afternoon sun can soften conditions enough to enjoy an exciting glissade (sliding on your butt) down the length of the gully.

If the prospect of challenging these ephemeral snow lines appeals to you, read on to learn how to get started in this exciting method of scaling the mountains.

1. Take a class on snow climbing.

Dead Dog Couloir Torreys Peak
A climber nearing the end of the Dead Dog Couloir on Torreys Peak.

James Dziezynski

Not to sound like a crummy commercial, but solid knowledge is a critical part of snow climbing. Doing it right will improve your decision-making and help keep you safer in the process. Despite being a rather straightforward sport, the gear, techniques, and ability to read snow are all important aspects of a successful adventure. Both the Colorado Mountain School and Colorado Mountain Club offer excellent, affordable classes. Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills remains the benchmark publication for those looking to read up on mountaineering skills.

2. Master the self-arrest.

Using an ice axe (more on those below) to stop a fall is the single most important skill to master for climbing snow couloirs. Stopping a slide with confidence will give climbers an edge in nearly every terrain and situation. Make sure you are using the correct hand position so that you can roll over into the snow and drive the pick in while kicking your feet. Sounds easy? Try it when you are sliding headfirst on your back with a heavy pack or desperately trying to to catch a crampon spike—or worst of all, trying to stop on hard snow or ice. Practice makes perfect: St. Marys Glacier has a year-round snowfield that is a great place to practice self arresting.

3. Start very early.

Snow couloirs are not for the lazy. You should plan to be at the base of your gully before sunrise, which often means either camping out or starting your hike in pre-dawn (also known as the “alpine start”). Early morning snow tends to be firm and consistent, whereas mid-morning and afternoon snow can turn into a slushy mess. Add to that the inevitable thunderstorms that brew daily in the mountains after noon, and you have all the more reason to get out early.

4. Know the forecast.

When aiming for a snow climb, you’ll need to know the normal forecast conditions: rain, lightning, and snow. With snow climbs, however, you want to pay attention to the overnight lows to gauge how well consolidated the morning snow will be, as well as wind conditions. Winds can form dangerous cornices that can break into a couloir as well as amplify avalanche conditions (which are still a slight but possible danger). It’s also good to factor the forecast into your descent. Some couloirs you head back down, while other mountains offer easy walk-offs.

5. Learn to place gear.

Not all snow climbs require ropes and protection, especially those at a slope of 40 degrees or less. But steeper climbs, mixed terrain, and hard snow can all warrant placing protective pieces and using a rope. Some climbs will have placements for traditional rock climbing gear, but in many cases you’ll be placing snow pickets and snow flukes, which are buried in the snow. Besides gear, it’s also worth knowing how to build a safe snow bollard, which is a natural anchor made by looping a rope around a round of carved-out snow.

6. Get comfortable with your crampons.

Approaching the Juliet Couloir on Mount Neva.
Approaching the Juliet Couloir on Mount Neva.

James Dziezynski

Crampons are essential to maintaining good grip in the snow, and let's face it: Walking around with sharp metal spikes on your feet is a pretty cool feeling. But crampons are also good at shredding your pants and getting caught and twisting your legs in all sorts of unfortunate angles. And more than one climber has kicked a front point directly into the rope. Learning to use your crampons is key to efficient climbing and this includes being able to put them on and take them off without taking too long—the last place you want to be fumbling with metal spikes is when a lightning storm is closing in.

7. Glissade like a pro.

Not all snow climbs are suited for glissading but when they are, it’s a ton of fun. Using your ice axe as a rudder, a controlled slide can make hundreds of feet of descent go by in seconds. Make sure the slope isn’t too steep, there is a safe run out, and you (and your partners) are in control. Glissading is also a great reason to buy snow pants with a reinforced butt, as spring corn snow can shred nylon (and your skin) with ease.

8. Sometimes, no rope is better.

As mentioned, lesser-angle couloirs can be safer and quicker without a rope. While climbers should be proficient with ropes, it’s also good to know when to leave them in your pack and head up unencumbered. The best conditions for no rope climbing, besides low angle slopes, are soft snow that is easy to self arrest in or shorter, less demanding couloirs.

9. Know the difference between axes.

Snow axes aren’t to be confused with ice axes. Ice axes are shorter, usually curved tools that are used in technical, vertical ice climbing. Snow axes are designed for travel on snow, across glaciers, and couloir climbs—in other words, all-around mountaineering. The length and weight of your snow axe is important (you can learn more about axes here ). One common mistake in Colorado is purchasing a snow axe of the correct length that is superlight or has a small pick and adze. While these axes are good in some applications, they can be too light and flimsy to really bite into snow during a self-arrest. Consider purchasing a snow axe that is burly enough to really grip in a pinch.

10. Pick a good place to start.

An inviting line on the Goatfinger Couloir on Mount Edwards.
An inviting line on the Goatfinger Couloir on Mount Edwards.

James Dziezynski

One of the best books for snow climbs is Dave Cooper’s Colorado Snow Climbs . If you’re looking for some of the better beginner routes (which are still serious undertakings), consider the Queen’s Way Couloir on Apache Peak (Indian Peaks), the Crooked Couloir on Mount Audubon (Indian Peaks), Edwardian Couloir on Mount Edwards (Front Range), or Lost Rat Couloir on Grays Peak (Front Range). For intermediate climbs, consider the Dragon’s Tail on Flattop Mountain (Rocky Mountain National Park, Front Range), Skywalker Couloir on South Arapahoe Peak (Indian Peaks), Dead Dog on Torreys Peak (Front Range), or the Juliet Couloir on Mount Neva (Indian Peaks).

Written by James Dziezynski for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by James Dziezynski

Columbine, by D•CURVE Optics

We’re fortunate to live in a small mountain town that boasts awesome hiking trails out our back door, and a 7-mile paved trail along the river that’s perfect for a mellow bike ride. So it’s not unusual for my husband and me to spend time in both places — on the same day.

I’m somewhat of a minimalist, so I look for outdoor gear that can take me seamlessly from one activity to the next. The good (and bad) news is that there’s a lot to choose from these days. To make it easier, I’ve come up with 3 cross-over essentials, whether I’m in my hiking boots or on my bicycle. Here they are:

1. Healthy snacks

OK, you’re probably thinking, “Healthy snacks aren’t gear.” But if you’re prone to low-blood sugar like I am, you don’t underestimate the importance of having some noshing goodies on hand. There are a lot of energy food and drinks branded separately for cyclists and for hikers. But I’ve found that my essential healthy snacks for both activities can be broken down into to what I like to eat, what’s easy to carry in my pack (see #2), and what won’t melt in the hot sun. My current go-to snacks include raw almonds, dried apricots, and BoBo’s oat bars.

2. Hydration pack

In addition to being preoccupied by food, I am a water-drinking junkie. So it’s super important to make sure I have enough of the precious liquid close at hand during all my outdoor activities. Although my bicycle is equipped with a couple of water bottle cages, I prefer using a small backpack with a bladder. It’s much easier to drink from, plus it gives me a place to store the ever-important snacks (see #1). As for the cross-over piece, a good hydration pack will work just as well for a short day hike. I really love my small hydration pack from Osprey.

3. Sunglasses

No matter the activity, you can’t beat a good pair of shades. It can be hard to choose the right ones because there are so many options, but I have a checklist here, too. First, I prefer polarized sunglasses because of the reduced glare and enhanced visibility they provide. Next, I look for a style that will sit comfortably below my brimmed bicycle helmet and the various ball caps I wear hiking. And finally, I like a pair that is stylish enough to wear post-hiking or biking. My current faves are the Columbine from D·CURVE Optics because they fit all three criteria.

What outdoor activities do you participate in and what’s your favorite cross-over gear? We’d love to know. Please share your thoughts and comments below.

20180117_Desert Runners Movie

In the dead of winter, the desire to get outside can be tempered by sub-zero temperatures and the lure of a cozy couch. But there’s no better cure for stoking your adrenaline and getting after it—no matter how chilly it is—than being inspired by others doing just that. To that end, here are our picks for 10 gripping, critically acclaimed outdoor documentaries that each tell a remarkable story about the outdoors and the adventurers, athletes, and environmental icons who run, climb, race, and row their way to glory (most can be streamed on Amazon, Netflix, or Hulu). Grab the popcorn and get ready to get inspired (and then outside).

1. Desert Runners

Desert Runners, which was released in 2013, follows a group of amateur runners as they attempt to complete the 4 Deserts race series, one of the most difficult endurance series in the world, in one year. The races take place over the course of 155 grueling miles in the Gobi, Sahara, and Atacama deserts, with the final race in Antarctica. Runners compete over the course of several consecutive days, sleeping at designated camps and slogging on the next day. You’ll have a newfound appreciation for gear like gaiters that keep sand out of shoes and feel intensely connected to the featured runners.

2. Unbranded

Wild mustangs have become a political and social symbol of land management in the American West. To call attention to their treatment and management, as well as the future of the public lands where they roam, four college buddies adopted and trained 16 wild mustangs from a BLM adoption program, before packing them across 3,000 miles of public land from Mexico to Canada. Their ambitious quest is documented in this compelling 2015 film which is beautifully filmed across stunning landscapes and highlights the important narrative of how government is working to manage wild horse populations, shrinking public lands, and seasonal livestock grazing.

3. 180 Degrees South

Patagonia founder Yvonne Chouinard has been a prominent figure in the outdoor industry since the company’s inception and is seeing renewed relevance with his public disapproval of today’s political climate. Which makes it an excellent time to revisit this 2010 film, which follows adventurer Jeff Johnson as he retraces the 1968 journey to Patagonia of Chouinard and conservationist and outdoorsman Doug Tompkins. Chouinard’s tale is told through scenes of his initial inspiration, and the environmental story is more relevant than ever. More than the history of a company and entrepreneur, the film weaves modern-day adventure with Chouinard’s rise to become a prolific and important environmental advocate.

4. Maidentrip

By the time she was 16, Dutch high school student Laura Dekker had become the youngest person to sail around the world alone, completing the journey over the course of 17 months. The feat is mindboggling, but the real joy is watching Dekker’s transformation—a time-lapse coming-of-age on a 38-foot boat. The 2013 film also covers the drama unfolding in her native Netherlands as the media labeled her delusional, and the government took partial custody in an attempt to prevent the trip.

5. Valley Uprising

Valley Uprising, which was released in 2014, spans the 60-year history of climbing in Yosemite. Anyone familiar with the history of climbing will love seeing icons like Royal Robbins, Lynn Hill, Alex Honnold, Dean Potter, and the other colorful characters who pioneered the scaling of Yosemite’s big walls, and then took it to the next level. The film focuses on the three generations of counter-culture outdoorsmen who set up camp in the Valley and, much to the dismay of law enforcement, transformed the big wall landscape into what it is today.

6. Meru

World-famous photographer Jimmy Chin’s compelling film, which won the coveted U.S. Documentary Audience Award at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, tells the story of climbers Conrad Anker, Renan Ozturk, and Chin as the trio attempts the first ascent of Meru’s notorious “Shark’s Fin.” After a failed attempt in 2008, the three men are determined to return and conquer this peak, and the film delves into the near obsession the world’s most elite mountaineers face as they tackle these death-defying expeditions.

7. The Barkley Marathons: The Race That Eats its Young

Starting out as a backwoods run loosely based on the 1977 escape of James Earl Ray from a state penitentiary, this now-famous race fills its 40 slots within a day of registration opening. Boasting only 20 finishers in the first 25 years, the race consists of five loops totaling (supposedly) 100 miles through the woods of Pennsylvania. The course is so challenging that racers are given a 60-hour deadline, and each loop has more than 10,000 feet of elevation gain. The documentary, which came out in 2015, is a hysterical peek into the grueling absurdity of the race and the dedication of the joyfully suffering runners.

8. Finding Traction

Released in 2014, Finding Traction follows this ultrarunner as she sets out to break the speed record on Vermont’s 273-mile Long Trail. The effort is grueling to watch as the cameras capture the highs and lows of this extreme endurance undertaking. The Long Trail is brutal at any pace, with exposed peaks, roots and boulders strewn across the trail, and sections so steep they require ladders. Kimball is an inspiration, as are her efforts to help women assume their equal place in professional sports across the board.

9. Under an Arctic Sky

Think surfing was limited to coasts lined with palm trees and warm sandy beaches? This 2017 film follows six intrepid (insane?) surfers as they travel to the northern coast of Iceland in the middle of winter in search of perfect waves. This region sees only three hours of daylight during the winter months, which would make for enough of a story, until the worst storm in 25 years hits and turns their excursion life-threatening.

10. Made to Be Broken

In 2016, Karl Meltzer broke the supported Appalachian Trail speed record after making it from Maine to Georgia on foot in under 46 days. This 2017 documentary follows Meltzer on his 2,189-mile journey, and he’s a real kick to watch. A superb athlete who doesn’t take himself too seriously, Meltzer is entertaining and self-deprecating—and falls down a lot. Red Bull, which produced this film, did a phenomenal job telling the story of this personable, quirky, and altogether astounding athlete from start to finish.

Written by RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Desert Runners Movie

20170427 Hungover Hiking 0030

I haven’t even put my truck into park before Derek swings the door open and jumps out. He post-holes his way through knee-deep snow over to the tree line and doubles over, retching into the pines. The trailhead hurl has become something of a tradition for Derek. The rest of us barely acknowledge it. We’re dealing with our own demons.

As I see it, this problem begins at home. Specifically, the distance between home and the trailhead. We live in Chicago, and that means driving great distances to get to our destinations for any true wilderness trip. We can’t just gear up after breakfast and be on the trail by 10AM.

The nearest wilderness area is 6 hours away.

Getting to the backcountry requires driving up and finding local accommodations the night before. That means there’s time to kill that evening, and the default method for the killing of said time is… to drink.

Among our group of friends, the “Hike-In Hangover” has become as much a part of our wilderness adventures as GoreTex or freeze-dried food. Whether we killed a growler of Founders around a campfire the night before a Manistee River paddling trip, or bar-crawled our way through Marquette, Michigan the night before snowshoeing into the Ottawa National Forest, it’s inevitable that most of us will wake up that first morning with some degree of regret. Sure, we still want to get close to nature—even if this sometimes means lying down on the cool ground and staying very, very still.

The Hike-in Hangover seems to get worse with age. And since simply “making better choices” is not in the cards, I will instead take a mature, scientific approach to this problem.

I’ve tapped the expertise of two qualified experts in the field: My friend and long-time drinking buddy, Dr. Michael Sullivan MD—a family practitioner and avid outdoorsman living in Watertown, Wisconsin; and Morgan Delaney—a fellow backcountry enthusiast and professional bartender at Spotted Bear Spirits, a community-minded craft distillery in Whitefish, Montana. Their shared wisdom might just be the tonic we’re all looking for.

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Bleary-eyed hiking in the North Carolina High Country.

Evan Castellano

Plenty has been written about hangover remedies. But, specifically for the outdoor adventurer, is there an approach that you’d recommend?

Dr. Mike: “As a physician, I obviously must warn against excessive alcohol consumption. Men should keep intake to 2 drinks daily. Women should keep this to 1.5 servings daily. The best approach to hiking with a hangover is avoiding a hangover in the first place.”

Bartender Morgan: “Chasing every drink with a tall glass of water – it won't kill your buzz, but it will make you a happier, more hydrated skier the next day.”

Are sports drinks any better than just drinking water?

Dr. Mike: “Water is always a good choice. Sports drinks can be better when you plan to be active, since you’ve depleted not only calories, but electrolytes.”

Bartender Morgan: “Sports drinks have a lot of sugar, so I find it is best to chase them with water. And then a shot of bourbon.” 

What about coffee?

Dr. Mike: “If you regularly consume coffee, skipping it may add to your hangover symptoms, like headache and shakes. However, I’d recommend consuming only a cup or two. Since coffee is irritating to the stomach and dehydrates, try to avoid.”

Bartender Morgan: “In the backcountry, coffee can be a blessing and a curse. It helps get camp broken down quickly, and gets you on the trail… But it is a diuretic.”

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Did someone in this photo just make a beer toot? It's likely. Very, very likely.

Evan Castellano

Do bready carbs help soak up alcohol?

Dr. Mike: “Carbohydrates do not ‘soak up’ the alcohol. But carbs are a good source of fast calories, and their bland nature tends to be easy on the gut. Since we are calorie deprived and our stomach is inflamed, carbs are typically a good choice for the day after.”

Bartender Morgan: “Whip me up some biscuits and gravy, flap jacks, eggs, and a side of bacon. But don't expect me to go anywhere the rest of the day.”

That’s the perfect segue into the ‘greasy food’ approach? A good idea before hiking or paddling with a hangover?

Dr. Mike: “The scientific answer is no. Going back to the idea of alcohol causing inflammation and irritation in the stomach, greasy foods are not recommended for a hangover, especially if you’re planning a 6-hour canoe or kayak trip. Let alone the availability of reliable facilities!”

Bartender Morgan: “Again, you want to be mindful of the weight you are carrying with you, be it on your back or in your bowels.  Once you hit the trails, dehydration and a heavy belly will make for a slow hiker.”

What about pain meds?

Dr. Mike: “In general, it is okay to take OTC pain relievers, but it’s important to avoid acetaminophen, as this is broken down by the liver and potentially toxic. Not a good idea considering you’ve just stressed your liver with alcohol.”

Bartender Morgan: “The best medicines to carry are Aspirin and, for those living in states where it's legal, cannabis.”

A big thing now is Pedialyte. Thoughts?

Dr. Mike: “Pedialyte is along the same lines as sports drinks. It has sugar and electrolytes which, again, you are depleted of. But I would strongly question a person who would bring Pedialyte on a backpacking or kayaking trip.”

Bartender Morgan: “Pedialyte is best utilized for the really bad hangovers. But in that case… The Baby's Alright cocktail: 1. Fill your cup with a handful of that slushy Spring alpine snow… 2. 2-3oz Pedialyte 3. 1oz vodka 4. Seltzer water or Ginger brew. If you have a water filter and/or trust your water source, that will work fine as well. Add a tab of Alka-Seltzer for carbonation.”

Does vomiting that morning help or hurt with a hangover?

Dr. Mike: “Vomiting only helps you if you feel nauseous and need to get it out. This occurs because of inflammation in the stomach, and high acid content. While it may temporarily make you feel better, it won’t speed things up. Do not induce vomiting. If nature takes its course, so be it.”

Bartender Morgan: “Vomiting the morning after is never a good sign. If you're going to hurl, do it the night before and then drink a lot of water.” 

Let’s pause here for a moment, because this brings up an interesting question. If—like us—you are a proponent of Leave No Trace ethics, then what exactly are the Leave No Trace guidelines for puking in the pines? Horking in the hills? Barfing in the bush? It’s not a situation we plan for, but it is human waste after all. So, I contacted Katie Keller, a Leave No Trace Master Educator based in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

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According to Leave No Trace principles, this would be an incredibly inappropriate place to hurl.

Liz Fieser

What are the Leave No Trace guidelines for upchucking?

Katie Keller, LNT Master Educator: “The principles behind ‘Dispose of Waste Properly’ with Leave No Trace still apply. If you have enough time, dig a cat hole 6-8 inches deep, that is at least 200 feet from all water sources, trails, and campgrounds. Or, if you have access to a bag or container, you could pack it out until you can properly dispose of it. Make sure that your disposal method is compatible with where you are. It is always a good idea to read Leave No Trace information related to specific ecosystems before you go.”

Turns out Derek has been doing it wrong for years. Words to ralph by, thanks Katie. Now, back to our interviews.

What about exercise? Sweating it out?

Dr. Mike: “Most of the data actually discourages exercise due to the fact that you are dehydrated, calorie depleted, and your GI system is inflamed. If you do exercise then you should overhydrate to compensate not only for your initial fluid depletion, but to account for fluid loss due to activity. Get calories as well.”

Bartender Morgan: “Extreme dehydration from a mix of outdoor activities and a night of drinking can cause substantial mental and physical fatigue, leading to poor decision making, injury, or worse…a Trump presidency.”

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When you've reached the headache stage of the Hike-in Hangover, you know you're in trouble.

Evan Castellano

Does the temperature outside affect a hangover?

Dr. Mike: “The hotter it is, the more fluid you’ll lose. But be very careful in the winter as well. Our bodies don’t always give the same signs of dehydration in winter. You may not feel as thirsty, or sweat as much, but you’re still losing fluids.”

Bartender Morgan: “I've drunk during the summer in the desert and I've drunk in the winter above the tree-line. I prefer the latter, as the cold does seem to have anti-inflammatory effects. And being out in the dry, hot sun while hungover is not my idea of a good time.”

So, there we have it. Thanks to Dr. Mike and Bartender Morgan we can now approach our next backcountry bender with some degree of knowledge and preparedness. Fluids and calories: good. Acetaminophen and bacon sandwiches: bad. The only thing left to do is to field-test what we’ve learned. Whitefish, Montana is only 25 hours from Chicago. Last call at Spotted Bear is at 8PM. I sense a plan coming together.

Written by Patrick Burke for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Evan Castellano

20180215_kilimanjaro

The planet is crisscrossed with epic trails, from the Alps to the Andes. There are snowy summit trips for fleet-footed peak-baggers, long and leisurely rambles for wildlife lovers, and everything in between. While the options are almost infinite, here are a few epic hikes to add to that ever-expanding life list.

1. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

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Dette er soloppgangen vi fikk i det vi passerte Stella Point på vei til Kilimanjaro i forgårs 13.02.18…😍 Da er vi ca 40 minutter fra Afrikas tak, og det er tungt for folk flest å bare finne fram kameraet… Heldigvis har jeg for vane å fange disse magiske øyeblikkene, så minnene blir foreviget og kanskje havner i en ramme…👍 Dette bildet er rett fra kameraet mitt, helt uten noe form for filter eller justering…👍 Er det rart rart jeg driver med dette? Ps. Ny tur på gang 18.juli og 2.januar😉 . #eventyrturer #kilimanjaro #mountain #mountainlovers #mountainlocals #thegreatoutdoors #mittfriluftsliv #friluftsliv #utemagasinet #hektapåtur #fjelltid #utno #liveterbestute #dreamchasersnature #welcometonature #exploringglobe #properadventure #nature #discoverer #dreambig #earthpix #7summits #turistforeningen #tanzania #africa #machame #machameroute #stellapoint

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One of the planet’s Seven Summits, 19,341-foot Kilimanjaro is the highest freestanding mountain on Earth—and Africa’s loftiest peak. Despite the distinction, the glaciated summit is accessible courtesy of a number of a non-technical routes, leading climbers through five distinctly different climate zones. On the path to Uhuru Peak, trekkers traverse a lowland rainforest inhabited by colobus and blue monkeys, ascend the scrubby montane moorland of the Shira Plateau, cross hulking glaciers, and catch glimpses of the megafauna-loaded grasslands of Kenya’s Amboseli National Park. At basecamp, vividly colored tents dot an unearthly moonscape, and climbers rest in the shadow of toothy 16,893-foot Mawenzi.

2. Table Mountain, South Africa

While the flat-topped mesa soaring above Cape Town is accessible by cable-car, the climb to the apex of 3,569-foot Table Mountain is one of the planet’s most spectacular treks—and a must-do for a visit to this dynamic city. Routes to the top of the 500 million-year-old massif treat ascending climbers to panoramic vistas of the pointed peaks of the Twelve Apostles, the azure water of Camps Bay, knobby Lion’s Head, and Cape Town’s bustling City Bowl. There are plenty of half-day routes to the mesa’s highest point, Maclear’s Beacon, including the three-hour slog through Skeleton Gorge, allowing hikers to encounter Cape dwarf chameleons, stealthy caracals, and vibrantly colored sunbirds. The climb can also be done as a multi-day trip along the Cape of Good Hope Trail or the Hoerikwaggo Trail, beginning at Cape Point.

3. Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand

Meaning "the long pathway," in Maori, New Zealand’s 1,864-mile Te Araroa Trail is the Kiwi version of America’s Appalachian Trail. Bookended by the Pacific Ocean, between Cape Regina and Bluff, the route runs through the heart of New Zealand, traversing both North and South islands and leading backpackers through a staggering diversity of landscapes: sun-drenched coastlines, subtropical rainforests, snow-dusted alpine passes, and river-braided glacial valleys. The epic trek also showcases many of New Zealand’s geological gems, including the Southern Alps, famed backdrop for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and the still-active Tongariro volcano.

4. Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

Besides Everest, the most idolized Himalayan foray is Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit. The nearly 130-mile route horseshoes the Annapurna range’s sea of glaciated summits, capped by 26,545-foot Annapurna I. The high-altitude tour takes hardy trekkers through highlands terraced with rice paddies, across surging whitewater rivers, through shadowy rhododendron forests, over otherworldly mountain passes, and past Buddhist gompas and Hindu shrines. While backpackers on the circuit must tackle challenges like 17,768-foot Thorung La, the route is dotted with cozy tea houses affording creature comforts like brief but heavenly hot showers and steaming plates of dal bhat, a traditional meal of steamed rice and cooked lentil soup.

5. John Muir Trail, California

Named for legendary naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, the John Muir Trail strings together two of California’s most spectacular natural wonders: the Yosemite Valley and 14,496-foot Mount Whitney, the highest point in the continental United States. Tracing the spine of the High Sierra, the 211-mile route moseys through three national parks and two federally designated wildernesses, leading hikers through a landscape of high peaks and passes, glassy alpine lakes, and sun-drenched mountain meadows. The trail skirts Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, and showcases natural wonders like the Devil’s Postpile National Monument and Evolution Basin in Kings Canyon National Park. Plus, hikers have ample opportunity to encounter black bears, mule deer, and curious marmots along the route.

6. Four Pass Loop, Colorado

The most photographed spot in Colorado, the snow-stripped twin peaks of the Maroon Bells are best celebrated on the epic Four Pass Loop through the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness. The aptly amed 26-mile circuit begins at turquoise-toned Maroon Lake, just west of Aspen, and takes backpackers over four alpine passes each higher than 12,000 feet, across airy meadows dusted with wildflowers, through spruce forests and copses of white-barked aspen, and past backcountry waterfalls and peak-framed lakes. Besides the Maroon Bells, the Elk Mountains sampler also provides trekkers the chance to gape at a handful of celestial fourteeners, including Pyramid Peak and Snowmass Mountain.

7. Beara Way, Ireland

Ringing Ireland’s wind-pummeled Beara Peninsula, a 48-mile sliver of land bisected by the Caha and Slieve Miskish mountains, the Beara Way provides a quintessential taste of the Emerald Isle and forms part of Ireland’s longest hiking trail, the Beara-Breifne Way. The 122-mile trek cobbles together bucolic country lanes, highland tracks, and ancient roads, offering a glimpse of the peninsula’s colorful past. Following the path taken by Beara’s last chieftain, Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare, as he fled hotly pursuing Elizabethan troops in 1603, the Beara Way takes trekkers past Neolithic and Bronze Age sites, through charming towns, and over craggy highlands. Fortunately, the lung-taxing climbs and knee-grating descents are greeted with panoramic vistas of the rugged coastline, including the shimmering waters of Bantry Bay, staging point for Theobald Wolfe Tone’s infamous but ill-fated 1786 rebellion.

8. Cotopaxi, Ecuador

One of the peaks in Ecuador’s Avenue of Volcanoes, 19,347-foot Cotopaxi soars above the high Andean páramo of Cotopaxi National Park. Although the peak is the second highest in Ecuador—and one of the loftiest active volcanoes on the planet—Cotopaxi is scalable without prior mountaineering experience. Ropes, crampons, and ice axes are required to reach the snow-capped pinnacle, but with the help of local guides (and after a quick hands-on introduction to mountaineering), the crater-pocked peak is reachable for most reasonably fit trekkers. Along the way to the summit, hikers have the chance to spot wild horses, llamas, and spectacled bears (the ursine species credited with inspiring the fictional character Paddington).

9. Inca Trail, Peru

The most celebrated trek in South America, this Andean excursion takes hikers from the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, the stone-hewn urban center crafted by the Incas during the 15th century, a World Heritage site since 1983. Along the way to Machu Picchu, the 24-mile trek follows paths forged by the Incas more than 500 years ago, meandering through cloud forests studded with 300 types of orchids, over three cloud-shrouded mountain passes, and past pre-Columbian ruins. Stashed away at 7,972 feet, the Historic Sanctuary of Machu Picchu is also a biodiversity hotspot, serving as an ecological corridor linking the Andes, Sacred Valley, and Amazon, and affording trekkers the opportunity to spot 370 different types of bird, including mammoth Andean condors.

10. Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia

Soaring above other peaks in Malaysian Borneo’s Crocker Range, 13,435-foot Mount Kinabalu is the loftiest summit in Southeast Asia. Gunung Kinabalu, as the peak is known in Malay, is also the country’s first World Heritage site, a global hotspot for flora and fauna. The mountain’s ecosystems harbor more than 5,000 types of plants, over 300 species of birds, and 100 different mammals. Along the path to the granite-tipped summit, which typically takes two to three days round-trip, lush lowland rainforests give way to cloud-bathed montane and coniferous forests, providing the chance to spot orangutans, Bornean gibbons, and long-tailed Bornean Treepies. The mountain’s six different vegetation zones also support a thousand different orchids and five endemic species of carnivorous pitcher plants, including the largest on earth, Nepenthes rajah.

11. Tour du Mont Blanc, Western Europe

While scaling 15,781-foot Mont Blanc requires extensive mountaineering knowhow, more casual hikers can still get an eyeful of Western Europe’s loftiest summit from three different countries—France, Italy, and Switzerland—on the Tour du Mont Blanc. The 105-mile route rings the entire snow-frosted massif, traipsing over seven alpine passes, past storybook alpine hamlets, along colossal glaciers, and through wildflower-freckled meadows. Besides the spellbinding scenery, the Tour du Mont Blanc also provides a snapshot of regional culture, taking hikers through historic locales like medieval Courmayeur. Best of all, while physically taxing, the route is scattered with cozy alpine huts, affording plenty of opportunity to swap freeze-dried fare for fondue.

12. Torres del Paine Circuit, Patagonia, Chile

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The classic Torres shot #TorresDelPaineCircuit

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Towering above the guanaco-grazed steppes of Chilean Patagonia, the trio of granite pillars dubbed Torres del Paine comprise one of the most iconic massifs on earth. The blue-hued granite cathedral tops out at 10,656 feet and crowns Torres del Paine National Park, a former sheep estancia declared a World Heritage site in 1978. Backpackers can gape at the granite monoliths from every angle imaginable along on a circuit trek on the national park’s non-technical trails. The more heavily trafficked ‘W’ configuration can be done in less than four days, while the more extensive ‘O’ circuit, takes about a week. Despite the rugged landscape of glaciated granite peaks, raging rivers, and iceberg-strewn alpine lakes, the Torres del Paine circuit can be done without forgoing creature comforts by cobbling together a route linking the park’s cozy refugios.

13. Kalalau Trail, Hawaii

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Take me to the mountaintop #kalalautrail #napalicoast #kauai

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Showcasing Kauai’s rugged Nā Pali Coast, where fluted mountains meld into the glistening Pacific Ocean, the Kalalau Trail is among the most spectacular coastal treks on earth. But, the 11-mile trek is no walk on the beach. Between Ke’e Beach and Kalalau Beach, the trail winds through five different valleys, across more than a half-dozen streams, and along precipitous cliff sides, including a vertiginous stretch aptly dubbed Crawler’s Ledge, for the hikers duly daunted by the 500-foot drop. Grit and determination are mandatory, but trekkers are rewarded with jaw-dropping views of the Pacific and gems like the 300-foot Hanakapi’ai Waterfall. While the 22-mile out-and-back trip can be done in a day, the route is scattered with stunning camping spots, like the area near 1,400-foot Hanakoa Falls, about halfway through the trek.

14. Mount Fuji, Japan

Located southwest of Tokyo, the solitary summit of 12,388-foot Mount Fuji is one of the planet’s most recognizable peaks. Dormant for just over 300 years, the snow-dusted stratovolcano has served as an artistic muse for centuries, revered as one of Japan’s Three Holy Mountains. Religious pilgrims have been scaling the sacred mountain since ancient times, and the climb remains exceedingly popular. Climbing season for Mount Fuji only runs from the beginning of July to the end of August, but more than 300,000 trekkers make the approximately six-hour trip every year. While there are celestial views on the way to the summit, the trek has the distinction of being one of the few climbs on the planet that is more cultural experience than wilderness excursion. Each of the four routes to the top offers mountain huts peddling food and drinks, and there is even a post office at the summit where you can drop a postcard to a lucky recipient.

15. Sunshine Coast Trail, British Columbia

Rambling along the wild Sunshine Coast in southwest British Columbia, the Sunshine Coast Trail is a less-frequented alternative to the West Coast Trail. Built entirely by volunteers and maintained by the non-profit Powell River Parks and Wilderness Society, the 112-mile trail ambles from Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay, taking trekkers through old growth rainforests roamed by black bears, grey wolves, and cougars. Wildlife watchers also have the chance to spot the blubbery bodies of Stellar sea lions and harbor seals along coastal stretches of the trail, and the route’s highest point—4,821-foot Mount Troutbridge—is a hotspot for seafaring marbled murrelets. Best of all, the Sunshine Coast Trail is Canada’s only free hut-to-hut track, with no reservations or permits required.

Written by Malee Baker Oot for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Stig Nygaard

coral-1

Nobody needs to explain to kids why Kanab’s Coral Pink Sand Dunes are a wonderland. To them, it’s one hundred percent self-explanatory: gigantic sandy hills are a blast to run up and somersault down. You can catch the bug too, of course—add and ATV, mountain bike, or hiking shoes to the mix, along with nice cameras to catch some mind-blowing shots of a glowing desert studded with little wildflowers and determined junipers, and you’re guaranteed to be hooked.

Beyond the normal din of giggling kids and vrooming ATVs bustling over the sand, these dunes bear a special draw for ski and snowboard enthusiasts too. You can bring your own skis or board, or rent a special sandboard from a local company.

If you are a snow-starved skier or boarder, this is serious fun in the summer months. It is a total joy to carve big smooth turns down a balmy-warm desert hill on a July morning. While it’s not exactly the same quality of turns as snow skiing, the activity bears more than a novelty factor—its skiing/boarding in a comfy dry, warm environment, which will deeply appeal to you if you are cold-adverse.

Here’s the down-low on how to do it and what you need. If you’ve never skied or boarded before, this might be a funky way to learn. (But never fear: you can always snag a simple sled instead.) If you’re already a competent skier or boarder, get ready for a total ball.

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Pick a line and go for it!

Mfairlady

How to Get to the Park

The Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park lies 30 minutes outside Kanab, UT. The drive to get there is nearly as pretty as the park itself. You’ll drive about seven and a half miles north on highway 89, then turn left onto Hancock Road, which you’ll continue on for nine and a half miles until you get to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes road at the entrance of the park. You’re now just a hop and a skip away from the Arizona border. Toasty territory.

The Dunes

Once you’re inside the park, prepare for your jaw to drop. It contains 3,730 acres of rolling sand dunes that have ammassed over thousands of years. Geographically this spot is perfectly situated to have gathered all these little sand grains blown in the wind from surrounding sandstone formations.

The park contains trails and nature walks aplenty, so if you don’t want to propel yourself down a hill, there are still entertainment options aplenty.

What to Bring for Sand Shredding

For gear, option one is to rent a $20 sandboard at the park; it rides like a snowboard but with simple bindings you can just slip your feet into—no special boots necessary. This is good and bad: it’s highly convenient but if you’re an experienced rider, you’ll notice you’re sacrificing the level of precision and control you’re used to with snowboard boots and bindings.

Option two is to bring your own (old!) skis or board, with bindings and boots you don’t mind getting a lot of sand in. (Let us repeat: bring an old setup that’s ready to be sacrificed to the rock gods.) Sand will trainwreck your bases and get lodged in your bindings, but this approach will give you a fairly normal skiing or snowboarding sensation.

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In lieu of a ski lift, ATVs will have to do.

Mfairlady

You can even rent a sand sled (also $20) if you don’t feel super confident with your carving skills—also, a great option for kiddos and newbies.

Whatever setup you ride on, you clearly don’t need to bother with snow clothes—but long pants and a long-sleeved t-shirt will feel nicer if you fall. Goggles can be a pleasant touch to keep the wind out of your eyes. (‘Round these parts, wind comes with sand, free of charge.) If you have poles with larger powder baskets, those will feel better in the sand than race-type pole baskets.

Don’t bother with a bunny hill grade; you need a steeper hill to get going, as your ski bases were designed for a snow surface, not sand. You’ll probably find it helps to keep your weight shifted back as you would when powder skiing.

You’ll get a great workout hiking and riding down the dunes, so be sure to wear comfortable clothes and bring tons of water. If you’re riding in proper boots, you might want to strap them on your pack for your walk up the dunes—it’s a little more comfy that way. And obviously, avoiding the hottest part of the day will make the experience about 1,000% more fun.

So hike up, let ‘er rip, and enjoy an incredibly special, unseasonal sensation of carving down a hill, hollering with joy—and soaking in the sun.

Written by RootsRated for Utah Office of Tourism and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Mfairlady

20170504_Colorado_Trail_IMG_2936

Day 3 – 2:00pm – Below Georgia Pass

I’m worried about the next pass. Thunderstorms loom over the mountains that line the horizon in every direction. The thin trail winds between wildflowers and grass. I’m atop a small hill, looking over the enormous prairie that sits between mountain ranges. Soaring 14,000-foot mountains tower before me. After two days of biking through lodgepole pine forests and aspen groves, the mountains seem enormously far away. But in the next ten miles I’ll need to climb above treeline to cross between two distant peaks. It will be the first time I’ve been above treeline with a bicycle.

I lose myself staring across the prairie until a crack of thunder reminds me I need to find shelter. I drop down the tight singletrack, riding through sudden hail and rain. The storm is ferocious, drenching me almost immediately. The trail is suddenly a small creek. Once I’m in the forest again, I jump off my bike and pull it beneath a pine tree. I pitch my tarp and wait out the storm.

The Basics

A technical, rocky, and fog-shrouded summit along the Colorado Trail—expect it all!
    Richard Forbes
A technical, rocky, and fog-shrouded summit along the Colorado Trail—expect it all!
Richard Forbes

The Colorado Trail (CT) stretches over 486-miles between Denver and Durango and encompasses a landscape home to everything from high elevations and exposed summits, to alpine meadows studded with wildflowers, to dense spruce forests and raging waterfalls.

I think everyone who loves the outdoors should do the Colorado Trail. I don’t think everyone should bike it.

Anyone who has biked the CT knows one thing: it was not designed to be biked. Sure, it’s possible to get a bike from Denver to Durango (or the reverse) using the Colorado Trail, but you will not be riding the bike the whole way. Instead, you’ll be pulling, pushing, cajoling, and carrying it. In fact, you’re not even allowed to bike the entire 486-miles of the CT, because bikes can’t enter the six wilderness areas located along the trail. Instead, you’ll have to go around them using forest roads, and depending on your choices, you might bike closer to 500-miles before you’re finished.

With that said, the Colorado Trail is perfect. It is one of the best bikepacking trips in the United States. It is certainly the best for its combination of high altitude, length, and technicality. On the CT, I found 3,000-foot descents, incredible solitude, and the most beautiful views imaginable. The CT changed everything about how and why I bike. Here are some things that might be helpful to know if you’re interested in bikepacking this legendary route.

The Gear

Spruce sap dripping over CT signage. 
    Richard Forbes
Spruce sap dripping over CT signage.
Richard Forbes

If you’re going to bike the Colorado Trail, you ought to have some backcountry experience under your belt already. I’m not going to provide a complete gear list, but I’ll suggest some general ideas.

Go Light: If you aren’t already into ultralighting, you don’t need to change your whole setup, but certainly prioritize lighter gear, because there’s roughly 70-80 thousand feet of vertical gain and loss along this trail. Try leaving the stove and only bring cold food—you won’t miss the extra weight, fuel management, or long cooking times. And I’d highly recommend a tarp and/or bivy sack instead of a tent.

The Bike: Bring what you’re comfortable on. The trail ranges from beautiful flow trails and thin alpine tracks through tundra, to brutally difficult trails littered with babyheads (term for baby-head-sized rocks). You won’t be able to ride the whole trail due to a variety of un-bikeable barriers, but different types of bikes will definitely change your experience. You can do it with a rigid, hardtail, or full suspension, and I have friends who’ve used each on the trail. I chose to ride my hardtail, so it was neither light on uphills nor comfortable on downhills. Instead, it split the difference and made everything equally uncomfortable.

Bike Repair: You’ll be fine if you don’t know anything about bike repair. I knew next to nothing before I started my trip, and I learned as I went. Get ready to get to know some bike mechanics. I learned almost everything I know now from standing in the corner of bike shops watching mechanics and asking questions. There are great bike shops along the eastern half of the trail (which means hopefully you’ll know what you’re doing by the western half).

You can’t prepare for every possible eventuality, so be ready to walk your bike out if anything catastrophic happens. My rear derailleur snapped off midway through one particular segment, and I was forced to walk and coast on my bike for 30 miles to the nearest bike shop. A broken bike is a great excuse to get a huge dinner in town.

Rigging your Bike: Put as much as you can onto your bike. It will handle strangely, but it’s far better than having that weight on your back (where it will slowly crush your will to continue). I used a 14-liter seat bag combined with a 40-liter pack. My base weight (without food or water) was roughly 13 lbs, not counting the bike.

If I did it again, I’d use a frame bag, handlebar bag, and seat bag, and only keep snacks and water in a light daypack. While there are a variety of bikepacking gear designers, I’d highly recommend Revelate Designs.

Layers: Layers are the only way to prepare for the enormous range of temperatures you’ll experience. I brought only one “change” of clothes, but I had five layers for my top half and four for my bottom half. You’ll want, at the very least, a light base layering system, a puffy top, and a solid rain shell. I also highly recommend cheap rain pants, as they’re so terrible at breathing that they’re perfect for keeping your legs warm in windy conditions.

A thin slice of the CT stretching into the ethereal glow created by fog and sun. 
    Richard Forbes
A thin slice of the CT stretching into the ethereal glow created by fog and sun.
Richard Forbes

I find the Colorado Trail in my dorm room, in a coffee table book my roommate brings home. I spend late nights daydreaming through the pictures and researching specifics. I’m certain I want to bike the trail, even though I’ve only been seriously mountain biking for a few months. I want to go farther and faster than I can on foot and to spend as much time as possible on a bike. I want a goal that I’m not sure I can complete.

On July 12th, 2013, my brother and I start the trail. He’s on foot, and I leave him behind immediately. I cruise up the dirt road for six miles. After all the anticipation and planning, I’m finally on the trail. My bike is heavy, but the road is gently graded, and I feel great…. Until the road ends.

A thin track climbs up into the forest, clearly marked by a CT trail blaze. I stand up on my bike, cranking as hard as I can. The pack sits heavy and sweaty on my back. I’m panting, glad that no one’s around to see me. Just minutes before, I’d felt so proud of myself, cruising past day hikers, my stuffed bags showing how badass I thought I was. And now I can’t even climb my first real hill.

Exhausted, I spill off the side of my bike, barely landing on my feet, and I immediately drop my pack and sit on a log. I’d been training for two months with a pack, but I’d only just gotten the seatbag, and my bike consequently handles completely differently. This is going to be impossible, I think, and I repeat this mantra in my head endlessly over the next 17 days.

The Trail

It may be a bluebird day now—but 3:00pm thunderstorms along the CT are incredibly common, and you do not want to be stuck in one.
    Richard Forbes
It may be a bluebird day now—but 3:00pm thunderstorms along the CT are incredibly common, and you do not want to be stuck in one.
Richard Forbes

The trail can be ridden in either direction (Denver to Durango or the reverse). Due to acclimatization and trail intensity, I believe it is far better to bike from Denver to Durango. Staying on the trail is not hard. The CT is extremely well marked. If you are confident with backcountry navigation, you do not need more than the Colorado Trail Databook. If you’re a bit shaky on navigation, you can buy detailed maps for the entire trail or bring a GPS.

The hard part is actually riding the trail. While the terrain is extremely varied, it is typically loose, techy, and has an incredible amount of elevation gain and loss. One particularly gruesome segment has six 12,000-foot passes in a row. Which leads us to the next section:

Timing: The Colorado Trail is all about timing. There are three main variables you need to juggle: Snow, Water, and Thunderstorms. You’ll have to decide which to prioritize. For me, I chose to start in mid-July to make sure there would be as much water as possible.

Snow: Snow on the trail is a real issue. While the elevation range is from 5,500 to 13,200 feet, the average elevation is just over 10,300 feet. So, for eight months out of the year, there’s significant snow on the trail. The trail typically clears in early to mid-July and is doable through early October—though if you wait this late, you’ll almost certainly see heavy snow in the San Juan Mountains.

Water: If you’ve ever carried over 4 liters of water, you’ll know that water availability is essential. The amount of water near the trail varies through the season, due to snowmelt and rainfall (more on this in a second). July typically has the most accessible water, and during my July thru-bike the longest section without reliable water was around 25 miles. Water availability typically falls off after July, so if you’re biking in September or October, seasonal springs may be dry. Of course, water in Colorado is incredibly difficult to predict, so nothing is guaranteed.

Thunderstorms: Colorado has a monsoon season, which means through July and early August, there are almost always thunderstorms every day between noon and 3pm. You do not want to be at high altitudes during these storms. These storms make alpine passes extremely stressful. The monsoon season usually ends by mid-August, and September typically has perfect weather.

Weather: Prepare for every weather event. You will experience temperatures from 20° to 90° (F) as well as snow, sleet, sun, rain, fog, thunder, lightning, and high winds. The biggest issue is thunderstorms. They’re inevitable, regardless of when you’re on the trail. And they must be taken seriously. Nothing else on the trail is as dangerous as a high altitude thunderstorm. Do not take them lightly. Remember that you are riding on a large chunk of metal, and try to avoid being above treeline in the afternoon.

However, at some point you will almost certainly get caught above treeline in a thunderstorm, so stay calm and find shelter or get to a lower altitude as fast as possible.

A wonderfully smooth stretch of singletrack slithering through a spruce forest. 
    Richard Forbes
A wonderfully smooth stretch of singletrack slithering through a spruce forest.
Richard Forbes

Pace: Biking the trail can take between 4 and 20 days. The record is 4 days 4 hours and 17 minutes, during the Colorado Trail Race (during which riders bike through storms and darkness to compete in a race with no prizes). If you’re sane, it’ll probably take you between 15 and 20 days, if you’re averaging 25-35 miles per day, though backpackers regularly take upwards of 30 days, so it really depends on how long you want to be out there.

Food: You will not be able to eat enough food on the trail. In towns, it’s not uncommon to eat three dinners in a row, and it’s a constant struggle to eat enough on the trail. I didn’t bring a stove, so I ate an incredible amount of summer sausage, cheese, and pita bread, supplemented with vegetables and snack bars. It’s not hard to restock on food, though some people (mainly hikers) choose to do food drops. I don’t think this is necessary, as wilderness areas force bikers to go through more towns. Biking, you’ll go through five towns on the trail and you’ll come near at least four others.

The People: There won’t be many other bikers, but every day you’ll pass hikers, whether they’re just out for a dayhike or doing the whole CT. I met some amazing people along the trail, and I often camped near others to swap stories and to hear about the trail ahead. There are a number of Trail Angels who provide food stashes and transportation to trail towns, and rumors about these Trail Angels often stretch a hundred miles in either direction along the trail. I don’t know if the legendary Trail Angel named Apple is still around, but he used to give out root beer floats at random trailheads. It was incredible.

A microcosm of summer weather in Colorado. 
    Richard Forbes
A microcosm of summer weather in Colorado.
Richard Forbes

I finish the trail after 17 days. My legs are covered with cuts, my bike is scarred and barely hanging together, and I’m filled with more joy than I’ve ever felt before. I’d ridden through fields of wildflowers, run out of food twice, and fallen off my bike countless times. I’d slept in a new place every night, and fallen wholly in love with Colorado.

Thinking back on that trip, the trail taught me so much. I learned how to handle the immensity of being alone in the backcountry, how to ride (pull, push, cajole, and carry) my bike through some of the most technical terrain Colorado has to offer, and why I, personally, need to spend as much time as possible in the backcountry.

The hardest part of the trail was finishing. After 17 days, I never wanted it to end. But while every trail comes to an end, there will always be another adventure just around the next bend.

Day 3 – 4:00pm – Below Georgia Pass

Explosions in the sky along the Colorado Trail.
    Richard Forbes
Explosions in the sky along the Colorado Trail.
Richard Forbes

The sky is clearing and everything feels washed and clean. Hail lies piled in the hollows between tree roots. I’m warm, huddled in my sleeping bag. I can’t decide if I should camp or attempt the pass. I’m only three days in, but something is already pulling me along. As in all decisions on the trail, I’m alone, which is both paralyzing and freeing. A shaft of sunlight reaches through the clouds and pine branches, and I decide that’s enough of a reason to hope the storms are finished for the day. I pack my bags for the pass.

Four hours later, I’m in dense fog at 12,000 feet. I can see the trail in front of me but not much more. I’m above treeline. The fog built slowly, almost imperceptibly, until now it’s almost complete. I can’t even tell if I’m at the top of the pass. I keep struggling on. The light is changing color, growing warmer. I realize I’m inside a sunset. A cairn looms out of the fog, marking the top of the pass, and suddenly the fog rips away in front of me. Peaks line the horizon as far as I can see, and the sun is enormous and orange. For the second time today, I lose myself in the mountains. The growing chill reminds me that night is almost here. I bike down below treeline in the gathering darkness and find a small campsite. I rig my tarp between two trees, eat a quick meal, and fall asleep already dreaming about the next day ahead.

Written by Richard Forbes for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Richard Forbes

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From the Smokies to the Rockies, and the Everglades to the highest point in Maine—and everywhere in between—the United States is full of world-class hikes. Whether you’re a hardcore peak bagger, out for an ambitious day hike, or are obsessed with the panoramic views for your Instagram feed, there’s always something thrilling to lace your hiking boots up for. Here, we tapped RootsRated editors for intel on some of the best hikes in the United States. Use them as inspiration for your next outing—or as a reason to plan a trip.

Teton Crest Trail, Wyoming

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The Teton Crest Trail epitomizes the splendor of the West.

John Strother

There are a lot of really great hikes on this list, but Wyoming’s Teton Crest Trail might just take the cake as being the most epic. For 35-45 miles (depending on your route), this slender singletrack path cuts a dwarfed, serpentine figure as it slices through the heart of one of America’s most stunning mountain ranges, linking together its very best features along the way. Over the course of two to five days, hikers will pass through wildflower-filled meadows, over airy mountain passes, past glacially-fed tarns, and across expansive basins that swallow up hikers and spit them out as tiny, inconsequential specks against the jagged backdrop of the Tetons. In short, this trail will skew your perception of what constitutes a bucket-list worthy hike. Pro tip: Permits are hard to come by, but because the trail weaves in and out of national parklands and national forestlands, if you camp in national forest designated areas, obtaining a permit isn’t necessary.

Roan Mountain, Tennessee

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The 14-mile traverse of the Roan Mountain Highlands is one of the best hikes in the Southeast.

Joe Giordano, mods made

Ask any Southeastern backpacker what the best overnight trek in the region is, and the majority will tell you: the 14-mile traverse of East Tennessee’s Roan Mountain Highlands via the Appalachian Trail is a true standout. Not only is it home to one of the most unique shelters on the entire A.T. (the Overmountain Shelter, better known as "the barn" because it’s, well, a two-story barn), but it also offers up some of the best grassy “bald” hiking in America. Think of it almost like the Southeast’s version of ridgeline hiking: You’re above the trees, surrounded by a sea of billowing grasses in the foreground and a sea of bluish-gray mountains sprawling into every direction in the background, with nothing in the way to obstruct these views. The only downside? Cameras rarely do Roan justice.

Buckskin Gulch, Utah

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Buckskin Gulch highlights the beauty of slot canyon hiking in Utah—just make sure to do your homework before venturing out.

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In a region as labyrinthine and loaded with slot canyons as Southern Utah, it’s difficult to say that Buckskin Gulch is the definitive best slot canyon hike in the region. But it’s certainly the longest and the deepest … and, yeah, probably the best, too. For 13 miles, these narrows snake through a mazy tunnel of towering red rock walls, often no more than a wingspan’s width apart and so tall that they block out sunlight. Some hikers choose to link up with nearby Paria Canyon for an overnight 20-mile trip, but for day hikers, it’s just as rewarding to park at the Wire Pass Trailhead and embark on an out-and-back distance of your choosing. The important things to remember with this hike are largely water-related: First, flash floods are a very real threat, so be sure to check the forecast and plan accordingly. Second, bring more water than you want to carry; the dehydration creeps up quick in the desert.

Mount Katahdin, Maine

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A lucky hiker summits Mount Katahdin, the tallest mountain Maine, on a rare day without fog.

Foxcroft Academy

The tallest mountain in Maine and the North Star, northern terminus of the famed Appalachian Trail, Mount Katahdin is truly legendary. It juts upward out of the sprawling expanse of lakes, ponds, and deep woods that define Baxter State Park and towers over the land with a commanding presence. The most iconic way to reach the summit is via the vertiginous spine of the 1-mile Knife’s Edge Trail. Along its impossibly narrow and serrated saddle, hikers scramble from Pamola Peak across Chimney Peak to South Peak and finally to the 5,267-foot summit of Katahdin. Once the (likely fog-shrouded) summit photos have been snapped, a roughly 5-mile descent via the Appalachian Trail will take hikers back to the Katahdin Stream Campground trailhead 4,100 feet below.

Grayson Highlands, Virginia

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Wild ponies will be your companions on a hike in the Grayson Highlands of Virginia.

Virginia State Parks

In a word, the Grayson Highlands of Virginia are breathtaking. In 19 words, they are an almost make-believe land of high mountain meadows, 5,000-foot peaks, thick rhododendron tunnels, and mystical wild ponies. Like most state parks, there’s a large variety of activities to pick from (camping, bouldering, fishing, and horseback riding), but arguably the best way to get a comprehensive taste of the park’s character in a condensed snapshot is to hike the 8.5-mile out-and-back to the summit of Virginia’s highest point: Mount Rogers. The route starts out from the Massie Gap parking area along the Rhododendron Trail. It links with the Appalachian Trail, traveling through grassy pastures sprinkled with boulder outcroppings, and then eventually connects to the Mount Rogers Spur Trail, which twists through a lush, mossy forest to the summit.

Clouds Rest, California

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Clouds Rest backs up its dreamy name with views to go along with it.

John Strother

The 14.2-mile round-trip hike to the Clouds Rest summit offers an exceptional taste of what Yosemite National Park is all about. As you’re standing atop its 9,926-foot perch, high above Yosemite Valley from a less-witnessed vantage point than the famous Half Dome buttress, with a giant sea of granite and coniferous pines and sequoias below, it’s hard to feel anything but utter awe and respect for your surroundings. The trailhead is located in the northeast corner of the park. From here, it’s a 7-mile mostly uphill trek whose elevation chart vaguely resembles a healthy year in the stock market—a few spikes up steep ridges here, a few dips into gullies there, but with a pretty consistent uphill hockey stick growth toward the summit. What the chart won’t illustrate, however, are all the glorious intangibles along the way—babbling snowmelt streams, sequoias so stout you’d need a group of five to fully hug them, ever-expanding panoramas as you ascend, the tranquillity at the summit, and of course, the icy plunge in Tenaya Lake as a refreshing reward once you return to the trailhead.

Wheeler Peak, New Mexico

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Wheeler Peak will challenge your quads, but the panoramic views at the summit make it worth it.

Jake Wheeler

It’s weird to think that the tallest peak in New Mexico would be overshadowed by anything within the immediate vicinity. But with Southern Colorado’s Great Sand Dunes National Park some two hours to the north, and the cultural hotspot of Taos about 45 minutes to the south, that’s kind of what happens to Wheeler Peak. Don’t let this lack of regional recognition fool you, though: The 8.2-mile round-trip hike to this lofty summit in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains is one of the best in New Mexico and a true lesson in uphill slogging. Averaging about 800 vertical feet per mile, this trail takes hikers through lung-expanding evergreen forests and then up lung-crushing climbs above treeline. What you’ll remember other than the impressive summit panorama will be the near endless collection of switchbacks that seem to pinball you back and forth, side to side, and up-and-up through a seemingly infinite sea of scree. Patience—and quad-strength—are both virtues on this hike.

Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee

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Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a thru-hiker, the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is an unforgettable hike.

Kevin Stewart Photography

For Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, the 72 miles of the A.T. within the Smokies represent one of the most revered sections of the entire 2,200 mile route. For long-weekend backpackers, this stretch represents one of the most efficient and spectacular ways to get an intimate taste of America’s most visited national park. Whichever way you slice it, the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is a spectacular hiking experience teeming with old-growth forests, incredible biodiversity, challenging climbs, sprawling mountain vistas, and a booming population of fearless and curious black bears. You can’t go wrong with any day hike section you choose along this route, but to really maximize the experience, a 4-5 day excursion that covers the entire 72 miles is your best bet. Overnight permits are required, so make sure you plan in advance.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

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You’ll almost certainly be in a long line waiting to officially hike Half Dome. And yes, it’s worth it.

John Strother

You don’t need climbing skill or equipment to scale Yosemite’s iconic Half Dome. Using steel cable handrails, hikers can ascend 400 feet up the backside of this granite monolith to reach its summit of 8,840 feet, with panoramic views of the Sierra Mountains in all directions. From the Yosemite Valley floor, Half Dome is a strenuous, 12- to 14-mile round-trip hike. Break up the journey by hiking 4.7 miles to Little Yosemite Valley to camp. Then, hike 3.5 miles to Half Dome and hit the cables early before they’re super crowded. Usually, the cables are accessible May through October, and permits are limited, so set a reminder to snag one as soon as they open on March 1. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water and bring sturdy gloves.

Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon National Park

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The 41.4-mile Rae Lakes Loop is a popular hike in the High Sierras, with stellar lake views.

Kirk Y.

The 41.4-mile Rae Lakes Loop showcases some of the most stunning scenery in the High Sierra. Beginning at 5,041 feet in a forest of pines, cedars, and cottonwoods, the trek requires nearly 7,000 of climbing for hikers to visit emerald meadows and cobalt lakes surrounded by mammoth granite towers. While the hike includes the heart-pounding, 2.1-mile ascent of Glen Pass at 11,998 feet, grades are generally moderate and water is plentiful along the way. To avoid several intense climbs, do this hike clockwise. Due to high demand for permits, book as early as possible to March 1, when permits are released, and hike in May to avoid summer crowds.

Appalachian Trail, Georgia section hike

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The Georgia section of the AT stretches for nearly 80 miles and is an eye-opener for many would-be hikers about the challenge ahead.

Alan Cressler

Northbound AT thru-hikers begin their 2,200-mile journey in Georgia, where the trail climbs high, exceeding 4,000 feet of elevation, to offer epic views from rock outcrops and sublime walks through emerald forests of rhododendron, mountain laurel and moss-covered boulders. Stretching 78.6 miles, the Georgia portion of the AT is not only beautiful but also challenging, with steep, rugged terrain that strains less-seasoned hikers and causes some to abandon their dreams of hiking to Maine. If a thru-hike is a little too ambitious for you, the Georgia AT includes many access points, so several day hikes and short trips are possible. If you begin at Neels Gap you can visit the Mountain Crossings gear store to mingle with thru-hikers and see the only point where the AT passes through a manmade structure. From there, make the steep climb to the summit of Blood Mountain to explore a unique stone trail shelter and enjoy a remarkable view of Appalachian ridges rolling to the horizon.

Florida National Scenic Trail

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The Florida National Scenic Trail runs from the state’s Panhandle through its southern reaches.

National Forests in Florida

One of the most iconic trails in the Southeast, this 1,300-mile route stretches from the state’s Panhandle all the way to Big Cypress National Preserve at the southern end of the state. But you don’t have to tackle the whole thing to savor some of its highlights, from serene marshland to spectacular wildlife viewing. Take your pick from a number of excellent section hikes: A few recommended routes include the 11-mile stretch from Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs, one of the trail’s oldest sections, and hikes around Hopkins Prairie, where you’re likely to see sandhill cranes and eagles. Campgrounds, both primitive and traditional, are interspersed along the way, so you can easily turn your day hike into an overnighter.

The Dipsea Trail, Marin County, California

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The Dipsea Trail in Marin County, north of San Francisco, is home to the oldest trail run in the country.

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Don’t let this trail’s whimsical name fool you: The approximately 7-mile stretch is a doozy, with nearly 688 steps—in the first mile—and long uphill stretches for nearly 2,000 feet in total elevation gain. Even so, doing the Dipsea is a must for any Bay Area hiker or active-minded visitor, with forests that look like they’re lifted from a fairytale book, flowy single-track through majestic redwoods, and a finish at the Pacific Ocean. The trail is also home to one of the most infamous trail races in the country (and the oldest): The Dipsea Race, which has drawn hardy runners to battle its roots, ruts, and other ankle-twisting obstacles since 1905. Whether you run it or hike it, you must do it.

Skyline-to-the-Sea Trail, Santa Cruz, California

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The Skyline-to-the-Sea trail is net downhill, making for an especially rewarding finish at the Pacific Ocean.

Miguel Vieira

You can hike its sections separately, but to really experience the essence of this 31-mile trek, one of the best in the San Francisco Bay Area (if not all of California), it’s best to make a true adventure of it, with two overnighters on trailside campgrounds. Built over seven years by a local nonprofit, the trail treats hikers to roaring waterfalls and towering coastal redwoods and passes through two excellent state parks, Castle Rock and Big Basin, before culminating at the Pacific Ocean. Another big plus? With a start in the Santa Cruz Mountains, the trail is all net downhill. No surprise, then, that reservations fill up fast, so plan ahead and be patient—it’s well worth the effort.

Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail, New Hampshire

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This eight-mile round-trip hike to the summit of Mount Washington is a year-round favorite in New England.

Annes Travels

The iconic 6,288-foot Mount Washington in the White Mountains is a challenging and worthy summit, especially in the winter. While many are drawn to its eastern slopes to ski Tuckeman’s Ravine, a select few hike the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail on the western side to the mountain’s peak. This demanding, approximately eight-mile round-trip route challenges hikers with steep and exposed sections, icy scrambles, and the threat of erratic weather and strong winds. But the stunning views, frozen waterfalls, and exhilaration of standing atop New England’s highest peak make the cold toes, burning lungs, and treacherous trek worth it.

Longs Peak, Colorado

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Navigating the famous boulder field is just one part of the adventure of this iconic Rockies hike.

Katie Dills

Longs Peak’s 14,255-foot summit looms over Colorado’s northern Front Range, a mountainous beacon summoning the adventurous. A journey to the top of Longs is a truly epic undertaking—even for fit hikers. The standard ascent route via the Keyhole is a 15-mile outing with more than 5,500 feet of elevation gain and is usually done in a single 10-to-14-hour push. Most begin in the darkness around 2 am, catching the sunrise above treeline about five miles in at the famous boulder field. Crossing through the Keyhole dramatically changes the character of the hike from a steady, class-2 cruise to a wild, exposed, class-3 scramble along well-marked ledges. A tough push up a loose gully called "The Trough" grinds up to 14,000 feet, where there is still work to do. A steep scramble through the “Home Stretch” exits atop the surprisingly flat, broad summit block. After all that work, there’s still the challenge of getting down safely. Big, bold, and tough, Longs is one of the most amazing adventures in the Rocky Mountains.

Mount Frissell, Connecticut/Massachusetts

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Mount Frissell is one of the most stunning hikes in New York’s Taconic Mountains.

Morrowlong

At 2,454 feet, Mount Frissell stands in the heart of southern New England and New York’s rolling Taconic Mountains. When the full force of the changing seasons paints the trees in hues of red, yellow, and orange, this hike makes a strong case as the most beautiful in the region. A modest, 1-mile trail start from Mount Riga Road in Massachusetts and gently climbs through scrub oak to the summit of 2,289-foot Round Mountain before continuing to the top of Mount Frissell. Unlike most hikes, however, you’ll get the best views beyond the summit. Passing into Connecticut, hikers come across the highest point in Connecticut at 2,380 feet on the south slopes of Mount Frissell—keep going! At 0.5 miles past the highpoint pin is the Connecticut-New York-Massachusetts tri-point marker, and roughly another mile past that are the panoramic views of rolling farmland and distant Appalachian mountains from 2,311-foot Brace Mountain. Return the way you came for excellent views of neighboring mountain domes to the north.

Peak One, Colorado

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The challenging hike to the summit of Colorado’s Peak One includes spectacular views.

Todd Powell/ Frisco

At 12,933 feet, Peak One is more than 1,400 feet lower than Colorado’s highest peak, but what it lacks in elevation it makes up for in unmatched views. Access is easy, with the trailhead located right off highway I-70. Hikers climb past the ruins of an old mining town before breaking treeline. A class-2+ ridgewalk reveals the depth and beauty of Colorado’s high country. Dillon Reservoir sits at the foot of the peak to the east, where the mighty Front Range 14ers stand in the distance. The northern views are dominated by the mysterious and challenging Gore Range, while far-off Sawatch Range mountains decorate the western horizon. A fun, brief scramble ascends the summit. Turn around at that point for an 8-mile out-and-back with more than 3,000 feet of elevation gain—or keep traversing along the Tenmile Range to Tenmile Mountain and beyond. Hiking from Peak One to Peak Ten is one of Colorado’s big point-to-point testpiece adventures.

Humphreys Peak, Arizona

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Arizona’s highest point, Humphreys Peak boasts fascinating history along with its views.

Coconino National Forest

The highest point in Arizona, 12,633-foot Humphreys Peak is an ambitious peak to bag, with an impressive history to ponder as you conquer it. Geologists speculate this strato-volcano once stood much higher until it experienced a Mount St. Helens-style eruption that resulted in its trademark bowl and diminished height. The Arizona Snowbowl ski area is set on the flanks of the peaks San Francisco Peaks, of which Humphreys is the tallest. A hike to the top travels through pine forests and out of treeline along a well-maintained trail through chunky volcanic rock. Admire the power that shook the land as you take the final steps to the airy summit, where views span out into the lowlands that transform into far-off deserts and canyons. It’s about nine miles round-trip, with 3,000 feet of elevation from the standard route on the Humphreys Peak Trail.

Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royale National Park

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Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royale National Park.

Ben W

Located on an island in Lake Superior that’s 45 miles long and just nine miles wide, this national park is so remote you’ll have to take a ferry or seaplane to access it. But once you do, you’ll have your pick of 165 miles of hiking trails that cover spectacular terrain, including the ruins of an old copper mine and a lighthouse that dates back to the late 1800s. Many hikers flock to the Greenstone Ridge Trail, which runs along the spine of the island, but the Minong Trail is a 52-mile trek that’s slightly harder, but with far fewer people and just as stunning views, wildflowers, and up-and-close wildlife viewing. Choose from several out-and-back routes, or make it a point-to-point overnight trip (there are 36 first-come, first-serve campgrounds) and you just might catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.

Written by RootsRated for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Jake Wheeler

tim-mossholder-160547-unsplash

When it comes to two-wheeled adventuring, sometimes self-guided exploration is part of the thrill. Other times, you’d rather leave the wayfaring to an experienced guide so you can focus on soaking up the scenery as well as the eats (and drinks) along the route.

Whether you’re a hardcore cyclist looking to press your daily mileage or just out for a Sunday cruise with plenty of stops for Instagram photos, there’s an offering that’s just your speed. In recent years, operators have expanded their offerings to include a wide range of interest and skill levels, from ambitious tours of California’s coast and wine regions, to food-centric cruises to Denver’s food halls, to historic rides through Maine’s lighthouses—and everywhere in between. In honor of National Bike Month in May, here are 10 of the best bike tours in the U.S.

1. Denver for Fantastic Food Halls

Denver has become a food-hall capital as of late, thanks to five destinations dotting the Mile High City and its suburbs with a mouthwatering array of restaurants and artisanal food shops. Take a bite out of all five spots over 10 miles of urban road riding, from Avanti Food and Beverage in the LoHi neighborhood to Stanley Marketplace in Aurora, home to 50 local businesses housed in a former airplane hangar in Aurora. Get rolling at The Source, a hotel/market hall hybrid in a former iron foundry with 25 indie food vendors and bike rentals.

2. Albuquerque for Chiles

This kicky little veggie, whether in its red, green, chopped, and sauced forms, is ubiquitous in New Mexico. The crop is the basis of the state’s signature regional cuisine—and one of Albuquerque’s most popular outings from Routes Bicycle Tours. The 10-to-12-mile tour cruises along the Rio Grande’s cottonwood forests to six of the city’s top foodie hotspots, like Golden Crown Panaderia for green chile bread, and Pop Fizz, home to red chile chocolate popsicles.

3. Austin for Live Music

During Austin's thriving festivals—and there are plenty of them—ditch the car and make like the locals, opting for a bike instead, which gets you past the inevitably snarled traffic to the stage way faster. And you’re sure to stumble across live music venues on the Austin Icons tour offered by Austin Bike Tours and Rentals. The two-hour outing pedals past Sholtz’s Beer Garden, the oldest operating business in Texas that’s had a grand influence on local culture and music.

4. Santa Barbara, California for Beaches and Wine

It’s hard to decide which is more relaxing: the beach or wine country. But California Bicycle Tours’ multi-day rides from Southern California up the Central Coast promise the best of both. Riders pedal along scenic coastlines, past quaint seaside towns, and along the scenic vines of Santa Barbara’s wine country. Tours vary based on itinerary; however, they cover 22 to 40 miles per day, so they’re better suited to riders who are accustomed to being in the saddle.

5. Los Angeles for Tacos

La La Land’s taco scene is spicy, and an outing from LA Cycle Tours wraps up some of the city’s best known and off-the-beaten-path spots. The nine-mile tour through several L.A. neighborhoods and past historic sites helps justify that extra side of guacamole.

6. Portland, Oregon, for Craft Beer

Portland has earned the nickname "Beervana" for good reason—it’s home to more than 70 breweries, at last count. Get a sampling of what’s on tap with Pedal Bike Tours, which guides thirsty riders along the five-to seven-mile route past 11 of the city’s sudsy spots and inside a handful of them to see the brewing process and—of course—taste.

7. New Orleans for Cuisine

You probably won’t come close to pedaling off the calories you consume, but who doesn’t come to the Big Easy to overindulge a bit? The Confederacy of Cruisers’ New Orleans Culinary Bike Tour itinerary changes with the seasons, but you can expect a sampling of NOLA classics like gumbo, po’boys, crawfish, Cajun pork boudin, and jambalaya, as well as a few off-the-tourist-track surprises from the city’s Italian and African influences. This caloric cruise follows six- to 10-mile routes (but don’t count on your pedaling to offset the feast).

8. Atlanta for Neighborhood Gems

The Atlanta Beltline will ultimately encircle A-Town, connecting 45 in-town neighborhoods along trails built on former railroad corridors. That neighborly spirit prevails on free weekly tours, organized by the Atlanta Beltline Partnership. Saturday morning rides follow the 16-mile Eastside Trail or the 11-mile Westside Trail; routes alternate each weekend.

9. Oak Park, Illinois, for Architecture

Architecture aficionados will find their match in the summer tours (June through September) of the world’s largest collection of buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. The outing begins and ends at the iconic architect’s home and studio, and cruises through a picturesque neighborhood filled with 21 Wright-designed structures.

10. Portland, Maine, for Lighthouses and Lobster Rolls

Summer Feet Cycling’s Lighthouse Bike Tour follows the scenic shores of Casco Bay by bike to five of the state’s picturesque lighthouses, with guides sharing Portland’s history along the way. along the 10- to 12-mile tour, you’ll work up an appetite for lunch, which features the city’s best lobster roll. Or, for the foodie-centric cyclists who prefer their tour with more lobster rolls than lighthouses, Summer Feet also has an offering exclusively devoted to taste testing one of New England’s signature dishes.

Written by Ashley M. Biggers for RootsRated and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Tim Mossholder