America's most breathtaking views aren't reachable by elevators or highway off-ramps. They're hidden at the end of rocky trails, at the bottom of canyons, deep in caves, and even underwater. This means that – if you're willing to put the work in – you won't have to share the vista. Here's where to head if you want to get some serious perspective.
Franconia Ridge, New Hampshire
Many of the peaks in New England are cloaked in a maddening blanket of view-clogging greenery, but there is a notable exception: the White Mountains. These peaks, tucked in northern New Hampshire, are high enough that they experience some of the country's worst weather. This can be tricky for hikers, but great for preventing much of anything from growing. From these islands of rare alpine tundra, you can see unhampered views across one of New England's wildest places. Try the Franconia Ridge Trail, which traces the rim of an ancient caldera and railroads straight over three gloriously tree-free peaks: Lafayette, Lincoln, and Little Haystack. On this nine-mile loop connected by the Falling Waters and Greenleaf trails, you can climb up waterfall-studded staircases to savor the views over the Pemigewasset Wilderness, Mount Washington, and the rest of the Presidential Range. Two suggestions: Don't get caught in a thunderstorm; and, if you have time, add a night to stay in the Appalachian Mountain Club's (AMC) nearby Greenleaf Hut, which is perched at treeline and offers hot meals and warm bunks along with its superb vistas over the Franconia Range.
More information: Nights at Greenleaf run from $124, including meals, and can be booked on the AMC's website.
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