By James Gorman

GPS: 44°23'N 71°12'W

Hiking, as our friends in New Zealand and the Alps have shown us, can be a civilized affair, with trekking infrastructure that affords sturdy abodes, comfy beds, and a fireside cocktail at day’s end. The best American knockoff of this strategy? The “Presi Traverse,” a hut-to-hut rite of passage that crosses Mount Washington and the rest of the Presidential Range in the White Mountains. Eight full-service refuges run by the Appalachian Mountain Club dot this 19.8-mile (31.9-kilometer) high route (season starts early June), freeing hikers from having to haul heavy camping gear and making side trips to the summits of the Northeast’s biggest mountains a breeze. (Adams, not touristy Washington, wins most ballots for favorite peak.) Lakes of the Clouds is the highest and largest hut on the trip, sleeping 90 in coed bunkrooms. Hope for clear weather, when views can extend to the Atlantic Ocean and up into Canada. But when a summer thunderstorm crashes these heights with special violence, be thankful for a warm refuge and a picture window to the show.

Vitals: Appalachian Mountain Club; $213; www.outdoors.org/lodging/huts

Originally published in the April 2008 edition of National Geographic Adventure


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