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Where to Go Camping When You Want To...

You’ve made new friends and double-dated a few times, but the connection still feels strained. One suggestion: Climb a mountain. Take your crew to the Presidentials, the New Hampshire mountain range with the best alpine hiking east of the Mississippi. Seven commanders-in-chief are represented, although you’ll want to plan your trip around Madison, Jefferson, and Washington. Once you break the tree line, the New England forest recedes and you enter a barren, ethereal moonscape with views of Maine, Vermont, Quebec, and even New York State. While the hiking is strenuous, the planning is not. Rent backpacks for $30 each at Eastern Mountain Sports (591 Broadway; 212-966-8730), and reserve bunks at one of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s surprisingly comfy yet still hard-core White Mountain Huts (starting at $94 per adult; 603-466-2727), which offer breakfast, dinner, board games, and a friendly staff of granola youngsters. What you sacrifice in privacy you make up in camaraderie—with not only your newly affirmed New York friends but also the occasional Appalachian Trail hiker on his way from Maine to Georgia.

People. Too many of them. In your face. If you long to be alone—really seriously alone, like Homer in that Simpsons episode where he goes on a psychedelic vision quest in the desert—you can do so with surprising ease on a weekend camping trip in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park. Fly jetBlue direct to Tucson on a Friday evening, rent a car, and stay at the Tanque Verde Ranch (starting at $240; 520-296-6275), fifteen miles from the airport on the park outskirts. The next morning, pick up a camping permit and a trail map at the visitors’ center, fill more water bottles than you think you’ll need, and head for the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail. The hike begins in a John Ford–esque swath of desert, amid prickly pear, agave, and one of the country’s densest concentrations of saguaro cactus. The route climbs steadily into the Rincon Mountains, transitioning from arid desert to the cooler, pine-shaded heights of Juniper Basin, where camping is allowed. Admire a panoramic view of the Tucson Valley ringed by the Santa Catalina and Santa Rita mountain ranges; sip whiskey from a flask and hum the Bonanza theme song. There won’t be anyone around to annoy, and you’ve got until Sunday night to catch the red-eye home.


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