a. Laurel Highlands, Pennsylvania
From afar, these western-Pennsylvania highlands look like wimpy rows of 3,200-foot mountainettes. From the saddle of a road bike, they are impossibly steep hills that inflict a crippling lactic burn. Spend a weekend conquering two 75-mile rides on quiet country roads too skinny for centerlines, muscling your way up 12,000 vertical feet on a dozen hills, some as steep as 15 percent. From the town of Ligonier, an hour southwest of Pittsburgh, you'll spin past dairy farms and knock out no fewer than six 500-foot climbs before finally wobbling back to town to cool your quads in a rustic cabin overlooking Mill Run Creek. Set out again in the morning for another 75 miles and another half-dozen climbs. YOU DID WHAT? Release the brakes and you'll top 60 miles per hour on the two-mile descent off Chestnut Ridge. DETAILS: Laurel Highlands Cycling Tours offers custom weekend packages for about $375 per person; 724-261-7797, www.lhct-cycling.com.
b. Mount Jefferson, Oregon
Here's a little 10,495-foot secret: About two and a half hours southeast of Portland, in the shadow of Mount Hood, sits Oregon's second-highest volcano, Mount Jefferson. One of the state's most remote wilderness peaksit's an eight-mile hike to the baseJefferson is still within reach for time-strapped mountaineers, offering five glaciers, airy ridges, and sections of vertical rock that make the climbing far more thrilling than the standard slog up Mount Rainier. Set out early to make camp at 7,800 feet on a rocky bench overlooking the Jefferson Park glacier; the next morning's alpine start puts you on slopes that gradually increase to 65 degrees or more, as you traverse the gaping bergschrund to the bottom of the summit pinnacle. From there, you'll have three to four pitches of 5.5-rated rock climbing to the top. YOU DID WHAT? Go ahead and snap your glory shot, but don't jump for joy on the summit: It's barely wide enough for one person. DETAILS: Timberline Mountain Guides runs three-day trips for $600 a person; 541-312-9242, www.timberlinemtguides.com.
c. The Crestones, Colorado
Seventy-five miles southwest of Colorado Springs, the Sangre de Cristos boil up into arguably the state's most impressiveand technically challenging14,000-foot peaks. Your mission: Climb the daunting 14,191-foot Crestone Needle and 14,294-foot Crestone Peak in one day, via a classic mountaineering traverse. Set out from the South Colony Lake Trailhead, about ten miles southwest of Westcliffe, for a two-mile tromp to your backcountry camp near the South Colony Lakes. (If you don't have a 4x4, you'll have to park at the lower trailhead, for a five-mile approach.) Get an early start on the Class III scramble to the Needle's summit, then downclimb 500 feet along Class IV rock (rappel it to be safe) and work your way up another couloir to the summit of Crestone. YOU DID WHAT? On Sunday, hike 14,064-foot Humboldt Peak, about a mile northeast of the lakes, for a trio of fourteeners in one weekend. DETAILS: Pick up a copy of Gerry Roach's Colorado's Fourteeners (Fulcrum, $20) for maps and route descriptions. San Isabel National Forest, 719-553-1400, www.fs.fed.us/r2/psicc.