Spring Mountains National Recreation Area, Nevada
THE PITCH More than a mile above the burning sands of Las Vegas, a lush wilderness of tilted limestone peaks stands draped in bristlecone and ponderosa pines: 316,000-acre Spring Mountains National Recreation Area. Settle in at the old Boy Scout camp near Cold Creek. Don't worrythe rugrats are gone and the site is now just a Brigadoon-like clearing with hyaline springs. Check out the views of the Nevada Test Site to the north, and turn in early: Tomorrow you'll hike into the 43,000-acre Mount Charleston Wilderness for a Class 3 scramble up the seldom-climbed 10,744-foot McFarland Peak. Next day, bust out the ropes and choose from several dozen sport routes on Mount Charleston's limestone walls.
BETA Follow U.S. 95 north from Las Vegas; 5.5 miles north of Highway 156, turn left on 202. Head southwest for about 13 miles to the former Cold Creek Ranger Station. The trail starts three miles past it. Camp at the Bonanza Trailhead, an eight-mile hike to McFarland Peak. No fees or permits required. PRIME TIME June-August
RESOURCES For info: Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, 702-515-5400, www.fs.fed.us/htnf.
Twin Lakes, Montana
THE PITCH Say hello to the Crazy Mountains, a 50-mile stretch of 11,000-foot peaks screaming out of the Montana grasslands northeast of Livingston. Take the 2,400-vertical-foot, 3.5-mile hike along Big Timber Creek, which will bring you to four-star open camping at the turquoise Twin Lakes. An exhilarating Class 3 climb awaits on the southern face of 10,795-foot Big Timber Peak. For other tasty nearby summits, parties should check in at the ranger station to find out how to gain access to private land (much of the Crazy Mountains is privately owned).
RESOURCES For info: Gallatin National Forest, Big Timber Ranger Station, 406-932-5155, www.fs.fed.us/r1/gallatin; Barrel Mountaineering in Bozeman, 800-779-7364, www.barrelmountaineering.com.
Buffalo National River, Arkansas
THE PITCH Kyle's Landing, a primitive camping area on the scenic limestone cliffs of the Ozarks' Buffalo National River, is the epicenter of some of the most varied cragging east of the Rockies. Within 45 minutes of your riverside campsite on the western fringes of the Ponca Wilderness, plunder hundreds of sandstone and limestone routes. Check out Cave Creek for the classic Stems and Seeds (5.10), the crags at Sam's Throne (beginner-friendly top ropes to 5.11 crimperfests), and the not-to-be-missed sport climbing in Horseshoe Canyon.
RESOURCES For info: Pack Rat Outdoor Center in Fayetteville, 479-521-6340, www.packrat.biz; Horseshoe Canyon Ranch, 800-480-9635, www.climbhcr.com; Buffalo National River, 870-439-2502, www.nps.gov/buff.
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