by Chris Santella

Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $24.95, 224 pages

It seems like everybody’s got a “Bucket List” these days – a list of things they’d like to accomplish before they die. Chris Santella’s Fifty Places To Hike Before You Die, the latest in the popular “Fifty Places” series, will grab the attention of outdoor enthusiasts with a diverse list of must-see places to hike. Hiking aficionados will need to save up their nickels and dimes, because Santella’s beautifully crafted tome ventures far beyond the backyard and touches down in exotic locales around the globe.

From Maine to Morocco and Texas to Tibet, Fifty Places To Hike Before You Die is a smorgasbord of global tastes. While few people will ever conquer more than a handful of these hikes in their lifetimes, that isn’t really the point – the stunning photos and detailed descriptions of these places are enough to transport the reader to each and every far-flung locale. Some are leisurely strolls – a brisk walk along Italy’s Amalfi Coast is more an excuse for a steaming hot bowl of scialatielli pasta and a tour of the Basque countryside in France is likely to reward you with vistas dotted with sheep rather than snowcapped mountain peaks. Others are strenuous treks not for the faint of heart; Lunana, an isolated valley in north-central Bhutan, is described as “the most remote place in the most remote place…closed off on all sides by high mountain passes.” The Lunana Snowman Trek described by Santella is a 150-mile, month-long excursion at 13,000 feet and higher.

Santella’s dialogue is sharp and crisp, his attention to detail remarkable. He covers not only the trail conditions themselves, but touches on local lore, legend, and cuisine. Each hike comes recommended by an individual who has traversed it before, and Santella draws on those first-hand experiences to craft more than just a hiking guide – Fifty Places turns into a personal travelogue crammed with the sights, sounds, and experiences that will immerse armchair travelers into a world of hidden gems, and prepare anybody planning to venture forth into these destinations with the knowledge necessary to make the trip safe and memorable.

Reviewed by Mark Petruska