Whether you find your heaven in Southern California living the beach lifestyle or the wide-open fields of Iowa that are perfect for skydiving landings, there comes a time when you need to get away. After all, staying in one place too long breeds complacency, and how can you possibly find inspiration once that takes hold? When thinking of where to get away to, keep these mountains in mind. If you're truly looking for heaven, the top of a mountain is about as close as you can get on two feet.
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Looking for a bit of danger without going all in and climbing Everest? Then Mount Kilimanjaro might just have your number on it. Around 1,000 people are evacuated from Africa's highest mountain each year, but this is often due to altitude sickness. With that being said, make sure this isn't your first shot at mountain climbing. After all, you wouldn't paddle out into the ocean during El Nino to learn to surf, would you? Actually, don't answer that. (Liability issues and whatnot….)
At 19,340 feet, Uhuru is the highest point on Kilimanjaro. Once at the top, you'll see the beautiful African landscape surrounding you and likely be taken aback by just how flat the mountaintop is. And as it turns out, there are several routes to venture up. You can even take in some exotic wildlife by going the Machame Route. Oh, and did we mention that Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano? Because Kilimanjaro is a dormant volcano.
Longs Peak, Colorado
Maybe traveling to Tanzania isn't in the cards right now, or maybe you're just starting out in the mountain climbing game. Either way, Longs Peak offers your summit escape without leaving the country. This mountain is so iconic that it's even featured on Colorado's state quarter. Which begs to question why California doesn't have a 40-foot wave on its coin, but that's not why we're here today.
If you're just starting out, the Keyhole Route of Longs Peak sees the most use, but if you're experienced and looking for a challenge, don't dismiss this summit just yet. When taking chances is your thing, there are plenty of narrow ledges, rock scrambles and steep faces. And if your sense of exploration involves a bit more speed than mountain climbing can provide, pack your skis or snowboard. There's a nice seven-mile descent down Keplingers Couloir.
Mount Rainier, Washington
For those with little mountaineering experience who still want to feel adrenaline pump through their veins atop a summit, Mount Rainier is the place to go. It's the tallest mountain in the Cascade Range, but this might not be what fuels the simultaneous surge of excitement and fear that runs down your spine. As it turns out, Rainier is an active volcano, and if you ask experts around the world, it's one of the most dangerous on earth. Where in California are you going to find that kind of excitement?
Keep in mind, though, that it's not one of the most dangerous summits—just one of the most dangerous volcanoes. In fact, beginners make the climb every year. The crevices, however, still present a danger to those who aren't paying attention. If anything will grab your attention, though, it'll be one of the high-frequency earthquakes you might encounter along the way. Those who have lived near the San Andreas Fault for any amount of time, though, will probably find this to be a cake walk.
Iztaccíhuatl and Cilaltépetl, Mexico
Mexico has long been a destination for Americans who want to get out of the country without necessarily having to leave the continent. For mountain lovers, Iztaccíhuatl and Cilaltépetl offer another excuse to visit our neighbor to the south. You'll have to pass the American border by about 800 miles, but once you reach Iztaccíhuatl and Cilaltépetl, at heights of 17,159 and 18,406 feet, respectively, it will have been worth the trip.
The best part about these mountains is that you're essentially getting double the fun. Honestly, you wouldn't just surf one wave and then be done, would you? These mountains—which are also volcanoes—are close enough in proximity that you could climb both before heading back to the beach lifestyle you've grown accustomed to. And since Cilaltépetl is the tallest mountain in all of Mexico, you're going to catch some views that put many in America to shame. Point of this lesson: take your iPhone with you.
If you could climb any mountain in the world, which would it be? Do the volcanoes seem a bit too extreme for you? Let us know in the comments and your favorite treks might end up in our next article!