The leaves are turning, the air is crisp, time to dust off your hiking boots and head for the trails! A hike is a great way to incorporate healthy activity into an otherwise leisurely day and here in the US there are a bunch of awe-inspiring National Parks that offer trails for everyone.
Whether you’re a seasoned trekker who can tackle a multi-day excursion, or just looking for a day’s climb along beautiful trails, there’s a hike on this list from National Geographic that will be perfect for you. All twenty trails in their lineup are worthy of a bucket list, but to start, here are five terrific ones:
Perfect to visit year-round, the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Combination Trail in Bryce Canyon National Park looks absolutely amazing! It’s about three miles round-trip making this a perfect hike to explore in a day. There will be lots to see whenever you start your trek—the rocks shimmer all shades of red at dawn, and at night you can rent telescopes for stargazing. Marvel fans, be sure to look out for Thor’s Hammer.
Nearly three thousand miles from Bryce Canyon you’ll find a completely different, but equally beautiful aesthetic. East Coasters should definitely check out Acadia National Park and make a point to peruse the Sargent Mountain Loop. Plan for a sweet ascent, starting at Jordan Pond House and climbing 1,100+ feet up to Sargent Mountain.
If you’re heading west between April and October, make sure to put Yosemite National Park on your list, and plan on tackling Half Dome! It’s a toughie—17.2 miles (with a 4,800 foot climb!) and super challenging, but it can be done in a day. The only thing better than the view at the top will be your feeling of satisfaction and the thrill of accomplishing this beast! Don’t want to do the entire hike in one day? There’s a campsite about halfway up in Little Yosemite Valley where you can rest up for the big climb.
If you’re looking for a day hike that will take you up some of the tallest mountains is the East, turn your attention to the Appalachians. By visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and climbing Mount LeConte you’ll be tackling a “sixer”—the peak of LeConte has an elevation of 6,593 feet! This 10.4 mile trek set among hardwood and balsam trees is best between March and October, so now’s the time!
Saving the best for last: the Wonderland Trail at Mount Rainier National Park is one of the most magnificent excursions imaginable. The complete Wonderland Trail is a stunning 93 miles long, with a total elevation gain of over 20,000 feet; experts say it takes a minimum of 10 days to tackle the whole loop. There are crazy hard ascents followed by breathtaking views, so your strong legs won’t tire in vain. Don’t feel like spending all of your PTO on one trip? Choose a moderate trek from one of nine trailheads.
The best vacations are the most memorable ones, and while who you’re with matters the most, where you are is also important. So why not choose somewhere stunningly beautiful, surrounded by nature, where you can breathe in the freshest of air? Take a hike and get moving in the great outdoors!