Done In a Day: The Day­hiker’s Triple Crown

Dream­ing about knock­ing off the Pa­cific Crest, Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide, and Ap­palachian Trails but can’t spare 18 months? Tar­get these per­fect day- size sec­tions. BY JACKIE MONTALVO

Backpacker - - CONTENTS -

We break the AT, CDT, and PCT into the best bite-size chunks.

Sno­qualmie Pass to Ken­dall Kat­walk Pa­cific Crest Trail MT. BAKER-SNO­QUALMIE NA­TIONAL FOR­EST, WASH­ING­TON

Get a side of ver­tigo with your day­hike when you tackle the Ken­dall Kat­walk. In­stead of rout­ing the long path around 5,784-foot Ken­dall Peak, trail work­ers dy­na­mited the Pa­cific Crest Trail into it. Here, near mile 2,414, the PCT thins to 5 feet wide as it hugs the gran­ite face with 800-foot drop-offs to the west. From 3,022-foot Sno­qualmie Pass, pick up the PCT and head 6 miles north, al­ter­nat­ing through shady old-growth and open talus, to reach the Kat­walk. (Time it for late sum­mer when the columbine, phlox, and pen­ste­mon are in full bloom in Ken­dall Gar­dens near mile 4.7.) Tip­toe across the ledge and scan west­ward for a bird’s-eye vista of the Alpine Lakes Wilder­ness and its col­lec­tion of cliffs and spires. On a clear day, Rainier steals the hori­zon 45 miles south. Re­trace your steps to turn it into an 12.2-mile outand-back, or con­tinue 1.1 miles to Ridge Lake to spend the night (first-come, first-serve). Note: Snow can per­sist year­round. Con­tact bit.do/ken­dall-kat­walk

Cot­ton­wood Pass to Mir­ror Lake Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide Trail GUNNISON NA­TIONAL FOR­EST, COLORADO

Trace the crest of Amer­ica’s back­bone for 3,100 miles and you can ex­pect huge views, huge el­e­va­tion change, and huge fauna—which is why we love this 9-mile sam­pler. It guar­an­tees the first two and all but prom­ises glimpses of the lat­ter. Start just west of 12,126-foot Cot­ton­wood Pass on the Tim­ber­line Trail (#414), fol­low­ing the Con­ti­nen­tal Di­vide south. Me­an­der through mixed pine and as­pen woods (the lat­ter turn the third week of Septem­ber) with peek­a­boo vis­tas east to the Col­le­giates, in­clud­ing Four­teen­ers Yale and Prince­ton. Keep an eye out for moose in the clear­ings and keep a map at the ready: In true CDT fash­ion, mul­ti­ple junc­tions are un­marked. Near mile 4, be­gin a 3-mile climb, gain­ing 2,500 feet, to the west shoul­der of 13,095foot Mt. Kreutzer where views open west all the way to Crested Butte. From there, coast 2 miles to Mir­ror Lake and your shut­tle car. Do it right: Grab a camp­ing spot for $12/night at Mir­ror Lake (site # 9 is the best for seclu­sion and lake­front vis­tas). Con­tact fs.usda.gov/gmug

Cat Rocks and Nu­clear Lake Loop Ap­palachian Trail WEST MOUN­TAIN STATE FOR­EST, NEW YORK

Don’t let the name fool you. Our sta­ble of thru-hik­ers agree: Nu­clear Lake is, hands down, the pret­ti­est pool on the 2,189-mile Ap­palachian Trail. Nu­clear boasts 55 acres of clear wa­ter ringed by grassy mead­ows, minty win­ter­greens, and div­ing boul­ders. Find it just be­fore the New York-Con­necti­cut state line near AT mile 1,445. Best way to get there: Make it the cen­ter­piece of an 11.6-mile lol­lipop-loop from the Metro-North Ap­palachian trail­head in Pawl­ing. Pass the AT’s largest blazed tree—the Dover Oak—near mile 2.6 be­fore climb­ing the east­ern shoul­der of 1,470foot West Moun­tain. Take the short de­tour to the Cat Rocks out­crop­ping near mile 3 for a view of the sprawl­ing Har­lem Val­ley, then hit Nu­clear Lake near mile 5 (sorry, no camp­ing here). Snake coun­ter­clock­wise around the pool. Am­phibi­ous hik­ers can swim to the is­land off the south­ern banks be­fore link­ing up with the yel­low-blazed Nu­clear Lake Loop to cir­cle back to the AT. Con­tact nyn­jtc.org

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