It's not the hardest peak, but at some time in your life you've got to climb 14,494-foot Mount Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48. Fly to Las Vegas, rent a car for the 250-mile drive, and head through Death Valley (pack lots of water) to Lone Pine, California. Crash at the Mt. Whitney Motel before starting the 11-mile hike on the gentle Mount Whitney Trail. Spend the night at Trail Camp, six miles in. The next day, make your summit pusha 16-mile out-and-back trek that gains 2,500 feet of elevation. Permits for the summer months are available in a February lottery (760-873-2483), but free leftover permits are available the day before and the morning of your climb.
One night at the Mt. Whitney Motel (mtwhitneymotel.com): $79. Gorp, Clif bars, stove fuel, and Alpine Aire camp food: $63. Recovery steaks at the Merry Go Round, on Main Street in Lone Pine (760-876-4115): $44. A night at Caesars Palace (caesarspalace.com), in Vegas, to celebrate: $225. Total: $411.