Your Summer Outdoor Bucket List

March 16, 2016
Summer Bucket List: Mount Washington
Dorothy RiddleClimbing Mount Washington? Make this the year you check it off of your summer outdoor bucket list.

With summer fast approaching, it’s time to plan your next adventure. Why not go big and commit to one of these seven trips that are probably already on your bucket list? Because one person’s epic adventure might be another person’s day hike, we’ve sorted these trips by duration. Whether you have a weekend, a week, or longer, find a cure for your wanderlust below.

1 DAY: CLIMB MOUNT WASHINGTON  |  White Mountain National Forest, N.H.
It’s the highest peak in New England, home to some of the worst weather in the world, and yet it’s reachable by foot, automobile, and train. Hikers can follow multiple trails to Mount Washington’s summit, from all directions: from Pinkham Notch to the east, up through Ammonoosuc Ravine to the west, via the dramatic Great Gulf Trail from the north, or along the Appalachian Trail from the north or south. For one of the most popular routes, take the Tuckerman Ravine Trail up from Pinkham Notch. You’ll have spectacular views from the floor of the ravine and all the way to the summit. Keep an eye out for rare wildflowers. The ravine and trail are named for Edward Tuckerman, a botanist who studied the flora here nearly two centuries ago. For variety, descend via the Lion Head Trail, with a possible detour into the Alpine Garden. Lion Head rejoins the Tuckerman Ravine Trail near Hermit Lake Shelter. This is a steep, strenuous hike, so make sure to check weather conditions before departing. Because the ravine can hold snow late into the spring, you’ll also want to make sure the trail is clear.
Distance: 8.4 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Day Hikes in the White Mountains, 3rd ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online

2 DAYS: BACKPACK ON THE BEACH  |  Assateague Island National Seashore, Md.
Sand, ocean breezes, wild horses: Assateague Island National Seashore is a backpacking adventure like no other. The sand and the breeze are self-explanatory; the horses—well, they descended from domesticated animals and now about 150 of them roam Assateague freely. The island itself offers a striking contrast. There’s the quiet bay side of forest and salt marsh, where the horses often graze, and then there’s the bustling seashore. The beach near the park’s entrance is packed with sunbathers in warm weather, and further out, trucks with over-sand permits line up for miles. The sight of backpackers tromping through the surf past four-by-fours is a bit surreal, but once you get beyond the fray, you’ll have reached the most remote portion of this long barrier island. Aim for one of the three outermost campsites, situated near the Maryland-Virginia border—there’s no camping on the Virginia side—some 10 to 12 miles from the parking lot. Backcountry permits must be purchased at the ranger station before you begin your hike; plan for an early start to get the site you want. Download the backcountry camping brochure for more details.
Distance: 20 to 24 miles round trip
Info: AMC’s Best Backpacking in the Mid-Atlantic (AMC Books); Assateague Island National Seashore

3 DAYS: HIKE THE PEMI LOOP  |  Pemigewasset Wilderness, N.H.
Would you prefer to spend your days in the alpine zone and your nights nestled under the shelter of trees? The iconic 30-mile Pemigewasset Loop will take you over eight (or more, with some short detours) 4,000-footers in some of the most rugged terrain in the White Mountains. Start at the Lincoln Woods Visitor Center and follow a clockwise route. Highlights include Franconia Ridge early on followed by a trek over Bondcliff and down into the Wilderness toward the journey’s end. You can break the trip up in a variety of ways, with overnight options including Liberty Springs Tentsite, Greenleaf Hut, Garfield Ridge Campsite, Galehead Hut, Guyot Campsite, and Franconia Brook Tentsite. A variation on this plan includes a descent into the Pemi Wilderness for a night at Thirteen Falls Tentsite. Or you could try to tackle the entire thing in one day. The fastest known time for completing the loop is an astounding 6 hours and 10 minutes.
Distance: 30.5 miles
Info: White Mountain Guide, 29th ed. (AMC Books); White Mountain Guide Online

4 DAYS: LIVE ON THE WATER  |  Saranac Lake to Tupper Lake, N.Y.
If watching the sun set behind high mountain peaks and waking up to the calling of loons is more your style, the rivers and lakes of the Adirondacks are calling your name. There’s no finer place in the region for a multiday quiet-water paddling escape than the southern end of the Northern Forest Canoe Trail. Put in on Saranac Lake and set a course for Tupper Lake, 40 miles to the southwest. More than 80 remote campsites and plentiful fish will keep you occupied as many days as you wish. Reserve sites through the Saranac Lake Island Campground then start exploring the shores and islands of Lower, Middle, and Saranac lakes, up the Raquette River, and into Tupper Lake. St. Regis Canoe Outfitters will drop you at the put-in and shuttle your car to the end of the line, 40 miles and three portages away.
Distance: 40 miles one way
Info: Quiet Water New York, 2nd ed. (AMC Books); Saranac Lake Islands Campground; St. Regis Canoe Outfitters; Northern Forest Canoe Trail; Rite of Passage (AMC Outdoors feature story)

5 DAYS: BIKE THE MID-ATLANTIC  |  Pittsburgh, Pa., to Washington, D.C.
As rail trails go, the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP) is pretty epic, running from Pittsburgh, Pa., to Cumberland, Md.—a 150-mile route. In Cumberland, the trail connects to the C&O Canal Towpath, which travels another 185 miles to Washington, D.C. With Amtrak now allowing bikes on its Capitol Limited line between Washington and Chicago, a multiday ride is easier than ever. The staff at GAP recommends a five-day itinerary, starting at the GAP’s western terminus in downtown Pittsburgh:

  • Day 1: Pittsburgh to West Newton, Pa. (35 miles)
  • Day 2: West Newton to Confluence, Pa. (51 miles)
  • Day 3: Confluence, Pa., to Cumberland, Md. This stretch passes over viaducts and bridges and through four old railway tunnels, crossing the Eastern Continental Divide and the Mason Dixon Line. (62 miles, including a 22-mile descent into Cumberland)
  • Day 4: Take Amtrak from Cumberland, Md., to Harpers Ferry, W.V., and enjoy a day off, exploring the area.
  • Day 5: Harpers Ferry, W.V. to Washington, D.C. (60 miles)

Bike-friendly hotels and bed-and-breakfasts are available in towns along the trail. The GAP sells a detailed guidebook, including maps and recommended businesses along the route ($10).
Distance: 208 miles one way
Info: Great Allegheny Passage; Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historic Park; Amtrak’s bike policy

6 DAYS: PADDLE THE ALLAGASH  |  Piscataquis and Aroostook Counties, Maine
Navigating northern Maine’s Allagash Wilderness Waterway is one of the most remote experiences you can have in the Northeast. This protected corridor winds from the northwestern corner of Baxter State Park up to the confluence of the Allagash and St. John rivers, near the U.S.–Canada border. Along the way you’re more likely to encounter moose and loons than humans. Multiple put-ins and dozens of remote campsites mean you can plan as short or as long a journey as you’d like; for the entire 92-mile waterway, plan on seven to 10 days. For a six day, 80-mile trip, put in at Indian Stream and paddle to its end, at Allagash Village. Campsites are available on a first-come, first-served basis, and local outfitters offer guide and shuttle services. Maine’s Bureau of Parks and Lands publishes a brochure on the waterway.
Distance: 80 miles one way
Info: Allagash Wilderness Waterway; Northern Forest Canoe Trail; Protecting the Allagash Waterway (AMC Outdoors story)

7+ DAYS: HIKE THE 100-MILE WILDERNESS  |  Monson to Baxter State Park, Maine
The northern end of the Appalachian Trail is also one of the famed route’s most remote and rugged sections—and one of its most spectacular. But first things first: This isn’t a one-week excursion. It’s best to plan at least 10 days. Once you depart Monson, Maine, and begin hiking northbound, you won’t see many signs of civilization beyond the occasional logging road. What you will see are some of Maine’s finest ponds and lakes and, perhaps, a healthy dose of wildlife. The culmination of this adventure is, of course, summiting Katahdin in the heart of Baxter State Park. There’s no more epic climb in our region.
Distance: 124.5 miles one way
Info: Maine Mountain Guide, 10th ed. (AMC Books); How to Climb Katahdin (AMC Outdoors video); Baxter State Park; Appalachian Trail Conservancy


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Marc Chalufour

Marc Chalufour, a former senior editor of AMC Outdoors, contributes to the trail-running blog Running Wild.