Recently I read an article about easy hikes.  Some easy hikes are wonderful.  For example, the Rim Trail on the South side of the Grand Canyon is accessible and spectacular, and you don’t need to travel far for a big payoff.  My blog mostly features hikes requiring more planning and exertion, and therefore are likely to be less crowded.  Some are, in fact, pretty difficult.  If you like Type 2 Fun, read on!

Our son Matt, ahead of us as usual on Mount Marcy, NY

At 6288 feet, Mount Washington is the highest point in New Hampshire and one of the tallest in the eastern US.  The approach via Tuckerman Ravine is 7.6 miles one way with 4255 feet of elevation gain, definitely a serious effort.  To make matters worse, the mountain weather features ridiculous winds and unexpected temperature changes.  My friends and I climbed it once in our twenties on a 70 degree day in August.  The parking lot had a blackboard saying that the summit was in the 30s and windy.  We didn’t take it seriously enough.  After clearing treeline, we came to a sign warning us about the “worst weather in the world” shortly beyond that point.  “Uh huh”, we said before venturing into an exposed boulder field.  The wind blows tiny ice particles so hard that there are icicles growing sideways off of the rocks. Fortunately, the summit features a visitor center with a cafeteria for the people who drive there.  We got a hot meal and then paid too much for a bus ride back down.

Decades later, I returned with Marcy to attempt it again from the other side, going up via the Ammonoosuc Trail and down via the Jewell Trail.  This time we were fortunate to have pretty gentle weather and good visibility.  Still, a 15 mile hike with a lot of elevation is a rough day and my normally healthy knee started to really bother me on the descent.  I limped the last few miles in a lot of pain, but a couple of days’ rest cured it.

Having said all that, Mount Washington is a beautiful mountain and definitely worth it if you prepare properly.

Hikers having lunch before attempting Katahdin’s “Knife Edge” Trail. It gets worse.

Two similar hikes (with better weather) were Maine’s Katahdin and New York’s Mount Marcy. For a real challenge, Katahdin has a trail called the “Knife Edge” which will terrify those who dislike the idea of falling off mountains. We reached the summit by a different path and looked at the Knife Edge. That trail would have taken us miles from where we wanted to be, and the sheer drop on both sides is frankly not my thing. We went back the “easy” way. All of these mountains are briefly featured in my State High Points post.

Not your usual Grand Canyon picture

Another of my hardest hikes ever is from the bottom of the Grand Canyon to the top. The picture above shows a small portion of the Bright Angel Trail near the river. These steep switchbacks represent only a few hundred feet of the nearly a mile of elevation gain in the hike. (More details in this series.) The Grand Canyon is a popular destination of course, but the crowds thin out as you get further down from the rim.

And then there’s Canyonlands.

Because of our son’s college location and schedule, we found ourselves in the Utah parks in August. Summer hiking in a remote place like the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park introduces a different difficulty. We took two different 10+ mile hikes in this area: Squaw Canyon / Big Spring Canyon and Chesler Park / The Joint , and we felt like we had walked twice the actual distance. Water is scarce here, and sunshine plentiful. We had to carry a heavy load of water to stay hydrated. The amazing landscapes made up for the discomfort. Mostly.

I can think of a few more of our most difficult hikes, but this is a good sample of our proudest. What are some of yours?