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The Adirondacks' Unheralded Low-Country
Adirondack Park, New York | Day-Long
It's not easy to select a single hike inside the six-million-acre (2,428,112-hectare) Adirondack Park (www.adk.com), especially with 2,000 miles (3,219 kilometers) of trails to choose from. But if you're seeking alone time, the High Falls Loop, inside the Adirondack lowlands' Five Ponds Wilderness Area, is a standout. The wilderness's 107,230 acres (43,394 hectares)are so secluded that many of them remain trailless, and they contain something the often crowded highlands don't: a large, contiguous virgin forest. On the 15-mile (24-kilometer) High Falls Loop, you'll gawk at never harvested groves of hundred-foot-tall spruce, pine, maple, and fir trees. The loop begins near the tiny hamlet of Wanakena and winds along the brook troutpacked Oswegatchie River, so make sure to pack your fly rod. High Falls itself, a stepping 21-foot (6-meter)waterfall, is the turnaround point and a fantastic spot for a picnic lunch.
Or try a fuel-smart family road trip in the Adirondacks >>
Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia | Overnight
Expect system-shocking solitude on Cumberland Island, Georgia's southernmost barrier island. Despite its proximity to metro Jacksonville, Florida (pop. 1.3 million), only 40,000 people venture onto the island's 50 miles (80.5 kilometers)of trails each year. Overnight visitors must secure permits ($6; www.nps.gov/cuis) and pack in all gear and food via the 45-minute ferry ride from the mainland. But upon arriving at the island's Dengeness Dock, the effort is abundantly rewarded: Just one road traverses Cumberland, and an intricate trail network explores 36,415 acres (14,737 hectares) of preserved saltwater marshes, mossy maritime forests, flowing tidal creeks, and white-sand beaches. Wandering among them, you'll be outnumbered by resident herds of wild horses, thousands of shorebirds, and nesting loggerhead turtles. Set up camp at one of the five sites and prepare your grub on the beach as the sun sets over the Intercoastal Waterway.
Undiscovered Long Trail
Green Mountains, Vermont | Overnight
Vermont's venerable Long Trail, the oldest long-distance footpath in the country and purported inspiration for the Appalachian Trail, is legendary. And rightfully so: It stretches 270 miles (434.5 kilometers) across the state, from the southern border to Canada, summiting five of the Green Mountains' 4,000-footers (1,219-meters) and offering 70 overnight shelters. But the trail's greatest attribute—that it's perfect for overnight escapes—is also its most underappreciated. Take, for example, the crowd-free Lincoln Mountain section, an 11-mile (13-kilometer) ridgeline hike that begins at Lincoln Gap near Warren and travels over six peaks before ending at Appalachian Gap outside Waitsfield. "It's a great alternative hike to the much busier Camel's Hump and Mount Mansfield," says Jennifer Karson, communications director of the Green Mountain Club(www.greenmountainclub.com). "And because you are at a high altitude the entire time, you really do feel like you're touching the sky." Above-the-treetops highlights include 4,006-foot (122-meter) Mount Abraham and 4,083-foot (1,244--meter) Mount Ellen, both of which provide supreme views of the foliage-draped ridgeline.
Pick up our August 2006 issue for America's best hikes and drives, including 11 undiscovered trails and four energy-smart road trips; Africa's top safaris; and a border odyssey along the Devil's Highway by writer Tim Cahill.
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