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Jonathan Stull | 08.03.2017

Scattered throughout the western United States are rugged peaks unlike anywhere else in the country (Alaska notwithstanding). Some of us are called by the unconquered peak, the rough and rugged ascent from camp to high country, and while we can’t provide you the reason to go, we can give you the means. Below you will find every hike Outdoor Project has to offer west of the Mississippi that is less than 21 miles long and with more than 3,000 feet in net elevation gain. Included here are hikes that range from rocky summit slogs that turn your calves into rubber with a steady and unrelenting ascent to the coastal traverse that undulates like a roller coaster for miles and miles. With few exceptions, they are the hardest hikes that you can theoretically complete in a single day.

About that theory: When attempting hikes like these, keep a couple of things in mind.

  1. Over-prepare. While it will weigh you down, bring all the water you think you’ll need, at least three liters. Water is the most important, but you’ll need calories, too. Bring dense, lightweight foods: nuts, dense grains, fat-rich foods, and so on. Bring an extra store of food to keep in the car upon your return, and while you're at it, a change of clothes. Also, elevation gain of this kind typically, though not always, means the potential for rapid weather changes at high elevations. Bring appropriate and lightweight layers.
  2. Know your limits. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Find a steady pace that you can maintain over the course of several miles and several thousand feet of elevation gain. Early on, intervals are the best way to gauge your pace. Hike for 20 minutes and check your energy level. Repeat several times to find the optimal pace. Keep in mind a course for success, and cut yourself some slack. When things get especially hard, count your steps to 100 and break. If things get really hard, crawl on your hands and knees.

Just kidding. Unless you're at the Pearly Gates. In which case you'll have an ice axe. And it'll be more of an all-over burn.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a fun challenge, but sometimes the best advice is to let it go. Don’t be afraid to turn back if you need to.

Climb on.

Montana

Nevada

Wyoming

Arizona

Utah

Idaho

Colorado

Oregon

Washington

California

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