Plan your next hike at one of these mountains

- Larry Bleiberg Special to USA TODAY

For the ultimate outdoors experience, set your sights high, says Tim Palmer, author of “America’s Great Mountain Trails.” The volume, part coffee table book, part guide, covers 100 trails and recently won a National Outdoors Book Award. Palmer shares some favorites paths with USA TODAY.

Old Rag Mountain, Virginia

This Shenandoah National Park trail offers hikers a scenic climb through dense Appalachia­n forest, ending with a boulder scramble to views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. “It’s the greatest mountain hiking within easy reach of Washington, D.C, and the East Coast,” Palmer says. He suggests visiting on weekdays to avoid crowds. ● More informatio­n:

Highline Trail, Montana

Palmer has high praise for this Glacier National Park trail, calling it “an American masterpiec­e of mountain hiking.” The out-and-back trek climbs above timberline. “You walk across this cliff face with spectacula­r views into this immense U-shaped alpine canyon,” he says. ● More informatio­n:

Marin Headlands, California

From downtown San Francisco you can literally walk to this network of hiking trails at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. The green space is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Palmer particular­ly loves visiting in spring, when the meadows are green and flowery. “While the rest of the country’s locked up in winter, you get this breath of springtime,” he says. “It is one of the real highlights of mountain recreation terrain, right next to a major metropolit­an area.” ● More informatio­n:

Algonquin Peak, New York

The Adirondack­s were one of the first areas in the country to attract outdoor vacationer­s, Palmer says. “The trails there have been hiked for centuries.” But this outing near Lake Placid still delivers, reaching the top of New York’s second-highest mountain. “You start out in the forest and end up above tree line. It’s a big climb with a long view across an ocean of peaks.” ● More informatio­n: visitadiro­

Flattop Mountain, Colorado

This popular Rocky Mountain National Park hike offers a workout, gaining more than 1,200 feet over a 9-mile round trip that crosses the Continenta­l Divide. The trail’s easily reached by park shuttle bus, and hikers are rewarded with scenic mountain meadows. “It has this wonderful combinatio­n of being accessible and really spectacula­r,” Palmer says. “You get these awesome views of the Front Range of the Colorado Rockies and these peaks leading out to the distance.” ● More informatio­n: romo_flattopmou­ntain.htm

Humbug Mountain, Oregon

This southeast Oregon peak is among the state’s tallest, rising directly from the ocean, which rewards visitors with dramatic Pacific views. Palmer, who lives in the region, says the state park trail offers old-growth forest scenery and a good mountain hike. The area doesn’t get a lot of snow, making it possible to climb in all seasons. ● More informatio­n: index.cfm?do=park.profile&parkId=40

Mount Katahdin, Maine

Best known as the northern terminus of the Appalachia­n Trail, this Baxter State Park hike still rewards day trippers. “It’s the only mountain in the East that really evokes the spectacula­r mountain scenery of the West,” Palmer says. The 10-mile round trip hike to the more-than-5,000-foot summit can be done in a day, but it’s also a popular overnight trip. ● More informatio­n: baxterstat­

Wheeler Peak, New Mexico

The highest peak in New Mexico dominates the Sangre de Cristo range near Taos. Hikers on the 8-mile out-and-back trail through Carson National Forest sometimes see bighorn sheep. “It’s a long walk above timberline with spectacula­r views to the very southern end of the Rocky Mountain range,” Palmer says. ● More informatio­n:

Youghioghe­ny Loop, Pennsylvan­ia

Whitewater rafters know the challengin­g rapids on the Youghioghe­ny River, but the area is also ideal for hiking, Palmer says. The flat, scenic trail cuts through western Pennsylvan­ia’s Ohiopyle State Park. “There are waterfalls and rapids and trees that have been growing for 100 years and longer. “It’s one of these great hikes that most people can do.” ● More informatio­n: /OhiopyleSt­atePark/Pages/default.aspx

Mount Rainier, Washington

Palmer calls this Pacific Northwest national park an American classic. It’s the highest peak in the Cascades, and often seen from Seattle, 60 miles to the south. “It’s a big godlike mountain looming over the city.” He suggests hiking through its high-country meadows and even up to the headwalls of glaciers. But don’t plan to reach the peak without extensive experience and preparatio­n. “It’s a very serious mountainee­ring event.”

● More informatio­n:

 ?? PHOTOS PROVDED BY TIM PALMER ?? Old Rag Mountain trail in Shenandoah National Park, Va.
PHOTOS PROVDED BY TIM PALMER Old Rag Mountain trail in Shenandoah National Park, Va.
 ??  ?? The Flattop Mountain hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
The Flattop Mountain hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
 ??  ?? Highline Trail in Montana’s Glacier National Park.
Highline Trail in Montana’s Glacier National Park.
 ??  ?? Mount Katahdin, Maine, in Baxter State Park.
Mount Katahdin, Maine, in Baxter State Park.

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