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Western Exposure
Andrew Skurka has walked more of the American West than nearly any other human being. Who better to dish up five great spots from the Sierra to the Rockies?

1) Vidal Valley, CA: The Mojave Desert at its most extreme. "In such a harsh environment," Skurka says, "you appreciate any life you find, from coyotes and lizards to wild burros."

2) Glenn Pass, CA: Smack in the middle of the John Muir Trail's most rugged stretch of the Sierra. Hiking near the 11,978-foot (3,651-meter) saddle in mid-May, Skurka went five and a half days without seeing a soul.

3) Three Sisters Wilderness, OR: Home to the most surreal lava fields in the Northwest. For eight miles (13 kilometers) of the PCT, broken plains of cooled magma sit hemmed in by 10,000-foot (3,048-meter) volcanoes. "When I was there," Skurka says, "the clouds were casting the coolest shadows on the surrounding mountains."

4) Red Conglomerate Peaks, MT/ID: Huge Western views. "Looking east into Montana [from the Continental Divide Trail], it's all vast, open, green pasture," Skurka says. "Looking west into Idaho, it's just endless mountains."

5) San Juan Mountains, CO: Alpine hiking from San Luis Peak to the Rio Grande. "With volcanic red rock, elk, moose, and bears, and about 300 miles (483 kilometers) of ridge walking, this part of the CDT should get just as many hikers as the John Muir Trail," Skurka says. Instead it sees a precious, glorious few.

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