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Presidential Traverse, New Hampshire
The hike: Even the toughest hikers are often humbled by the Presidential Traverse, a 17- to 24-mile track (depending on which route you follow) that strings together the seven summits named for U.S. presidents in New Hampshire's White Mountains. The trail may lie in quaint New England, but wild weather, long uphill stretches, and tricky granite scrambling earns you serious bragging rights.
Peak experience: Resting at the top of 6,288-foot Mount Washington (New England's highest peak) to take in the incomparable vista and imagine what a 231-mph gust feels like. Recorded here in 1934, the blast of wind remains the world record-holder.
Need a shortcut?: Follow the 8.4-mile (round trip) route up Tuckerman's Ravine to and from Mount Washington's summit.
Base camp: The Appalachian Mountain Club runs a series of basic huts (bunks with mattresses; hearty breakfasts and dinners; unparalleled views of the Whites) spaced one day's hike apart. But you have to be ready to wrangle for one of the coveted spots (average nightly rate $94 for non-club members). Day trippers should book a room at the Mount Washington Resort. Presidents have strolled this grande dame's high-ceilinged spaces, although blistered hikers will likely be more interested in the new spa (doubles from $199).
When to go: In the summer and fall, midweek is your best chance for nabbing a night in an AMC hut.