Peak Experience

The Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire is brief, but beautiful.

Imagine walking 2,175 miles - over mountains, across farmland, through forests and along city streets - all the way from Georgia to Maine.Forester Benton MacKaye imagined such a "grand trail" back in 1921 as a way to get city-dwellers out into Nature and not too many years later it was done. The first end-to-end hike of the Appalachian Trail happened in 1936. Thousands of people would follow.

The AT, as hikers call it, cuts east-west across the middle of New Hampshire, starting in Hanover and ending 161 miles later at the Maine-N.H. line east of Berlin. It goes over Mt. Pierce, shown here, but the toughest part of the trail is Mt. Washington at 6,288 feet. Rob Burbank, of the Appalachian Mountain Club, says, "New Hampshire offers some of the most challenging terrain on the AT, but also some of the greatest views."

It's not just all views, though - getting close to Nature also means bad weather, black bears, mosquitoes and more. "You have to be prepared," Burbank says. The AMC, which maintains close to 90 miles of the trail, and the Dartmouth Outing Club, which maintains the rest, both have maps, guidebooks and survival information.

AT hikers can take advantage of the eight AMC "huts" (cabins, really) that dot the trail, a day's hike apart. Take note, though - some of the higher huts close in September, others in October. Only three, ones at lower elevations, are open during the winter and only then with "self-service," which translates to "you're on your own." The best - and safest - hiking is spring through early fall.

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