Height: 6,102 feet/1,860 meters
Best For: Latter-day Beats
In 1956, Beat icon Jack Kerouac spent two months alone as a fire lookout at the top of Desolation Peak, contemplating the void of impermanence and the joy of being alive while he scanned the surrounding mountains and forests of the Cascades for plumes of smoke. From his 1960 essay "Alone on a Mountaintop": "Sixty three sunsets I saw revolve on that perpendicular hill—mad raging sunsets pouring in sea foams of cloud through unimaginable crags like the crags you grayly drew in pencil as a child, with every rose-tint of hope beyond, making you feel just like them, brilliant and bleak beyond words."
Beyond that legacy, the mountaintop certainly provides one of the best views in the Cascades: The snowcapped peaks of North Cascades National Park rise high on the horizon, with the twin fangs of Hozomeen Mountain jutting up right in front of the lookout and the waters of Lake Ross sitting far below. With 93 percent of the park designated as protected wilderness, this is one of the most remote spots in the lower 48 states.
The Hike: It takes more than a hike to reach this outpost—you'll have to paddle or hire a water taxi (reservations needed) to take you across Lake Ross to reach the trailhead. Once on the trail, it's a 4.8-mile huff to the top through forests and big, open meadows, gaining 4,400 feet of elevation along the way.
At the Top: Kerouac's little pagoda still stands at the summit of Desolation Peak. At times it's locked up, but often an employee is here scanning the horizon. Lucky applicants can still find a job up here doing the same work as Kerouac once did, albeit with a bit more company thanks to it having become a Beat pilgrimage site.