Idaho’s Sawtooth Range, the Rockies, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Whitney are sky-high choices.
Perhaps the West’s most aptly named mountains are Idaho’s Sawtooths. Take in their jagged peaks from Hell Roaring Lake (pictured), 15 miles south of Stanley and a three-hour drive from Boise.To reach the lake,take Highway 75 to the Decker Flat Road turnoff, park at the lower trailhead,and enjoy a mostly flat 5.2-mile hike. The view appears as you step from the forested valley—“as if someone has pulled back the curtains,” says Scott Marchant, author of The Day Hiker’s Guide to Stanley, Idaho. (208) 774-3000, www.fs.usda.gov/sawtooth.
There’s nowhere higher in the lower 48 states than Mount Whitney in California’s eastern Sierra Nevada. For a peak view (and a wilderness permit), swing by the Eastern Sierra InterAgency Visitor Center at the junction of Highways 395 and 136 south of Lone Pine, Calif. (760) 876-6222, www.fs.usda.gov/inyo/.
Mount St. Helens
Dramatic is too mild a term for the Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, site of the nation’s most disruptive eruption (May 18, 1980). Get a view just five miles from the crater at Johnston Ridge Observatory at the end of Highway 504 east of Castle Rock, Wash. (360)274-2140, www.fs.usda.gov/giffordpinchot.
Waterton Lakes National Park
The Rockies rise abruptly from lush grassland at Waterton Lakes National Park in the southwest corner of Alberta, Canada. Enjoy a 360-degree view of mountains, prairie, lakes, and even Montana’s Glacier National Park from a hill capped by the Prince of Wales Hotel, built in 1927. (403) 859-5133, pc.gc.ca/pn-np/ab/waterton/index.aspx.
Photography by Chad Case
This article was first published in July 2010. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.