The days are starting to get warmer. The heavy winter clothes have been put away. It’s time to get outside and connect with nature. One of the best ways to do this is to go hiking with your family or friends. There are thousands of great hiking spots in the United States, but we want to take a look at just a few of the greatest places to hike in the United States.
Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)
While the Grand Canyon looks spectacular from the rim, if you are going to visit Grand Canyon National Park, it’s worth experiencing the site on a deeper level. Because the Grand Canyon can get hot, especially during summer, it is important to make sure that you have enough water and that you have brought along appropriate attire, including sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
It is also important to be smart when it comes to the expected temperatures for the day. Summer highs can reach 120 degrees or higher, making it dangerous to go for a hike. If that happens, for your own safety, postpone or cancel your hike. With that in mind, while the Grand Canyon has a lot of hikes, here are a few you may want to experience:
Bright Angel Point Trail (North Rim)
At about a half mile roundtrip, this paved trail, which gives you a breathtaking view of the canyon, is a good choice for those who want a great hiking experience in a short time. It generally takes about half an hour to complete the hike.
South Kaibab Trail (South Rim)
This trail offers three stopping points: Ooh-Aah Point, Cedar Ridge, and Skeleton Point with Skeleton Point at 6 miles roundtrip being the longest hike. The views are beautiful, but the hike can get a bit steep at points.
Havasupai Indian Reservation (South Rim)
Before attempting this hike, make sure that you are in good physical shape and that you have enough food and other supplies. This is not a day hike. You will be camping and will need to make reservations. While you can hike in one day, spend the night, and then hike out the next day, it is best to give yourself three days for the trip. Your destination is a remote village eight miles below the rim of the canyon. This hike will give you a real opportunity to experience nature and appreciate it.
Olympic National Park (Washington)
Olympic National Park offers nearly a million acres of picturesque nature. From beautiful, tall trees to snowy mountains and gorgeous coastlines, this national park in northwestern Washington is a great place to travel. While you can enjoy the beautiful sites and get a glimpse of the some of the area’s wildlife from your vehicle, getting out and hiking some of the trails is the key to really connecting with nature. Olympic National Park’s trails can be divided into three categories: the coast, the valleys, and the mountains.
Oil City Trail (The Coast)
If you are looking for an easy short coastal walk, this .8-mile beach walk might be a great option. The terrain is flat. You can enjoy both sea and forest views. Sightings of bald eagles and other birds are common. You may even see a few seals, whales, or other ocean animals.
Hoh River Trail (The Valleys)
While this trail is 17.4 miles one way, you do not need to need to take the whole trail to experience the beauty of the area. Hoh River Trail is pretty flat for the first 13 miles, making it a good hike for beginners. The latter part of the trail is a bit steeper and is more appropriate for more experienced hikers. Hikers who decide to take the whole trail will experience an elevation change from 600 feet to 4,300 feet. Along the trail, you will see beautiful mossy trees and the Hoh River. You may also encounter some wildlife.
If you are planning on doing the whole trail, make reservations and be sure to only camp in designated areas. Bringing along an extra pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes and a couple extra pairs of socks is also a good idea, especially for those planning on doing all (or at least most) of the trail. At about the 8-mile mark, the trail crosses the river, and there are also several small streams along the way.
High Divide Loop (The Mountains)
Many of Olympic National Park’s mountain trails are primitive, making them difficult to climb, but High Divide Loop is well-maintained. Because this is a mountain trail, you will see a rise in elevation of just over 3,000 feet. This looped trail is 18.2 miles total, so you will likely need to get a camping permit. Along the trail, you will see Mount Olympus and other peaks. You may also see wildlife, such as elk, bears, and deer. Be cautious and respectful of these animals. Because of the high elevation of the trail, there may be snow or ice on the trail until early to mid-July. Be aware of that when planning your hike.
Appalachian Trail (Eastern United States)
The Appalachian Trail extends over 2,000 miles through fourteen states from Maine to Georgia. While some people are dedicated enough to travel the whole trail, many people do not have the time or physical ability to hike the whole trail since a thru-hike typically takes 5-7 months. Still, there are many opportunities to hike smaller portions of the Appalachian Trail.
14 State Challenge
No, the 14 State Challenge is not one specific trail, but it is a fun way to experience the diversity of the trail. The idea is that you hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail in each of the fourteen states that the trail passes through. One great thing about this option is that you can spread out your hiking experience. Pick one or two states to visit each week. Since many of the suggested hikes are two miles or less, you might even be able to sneak in more than that some weeks. If you are willing to travel to each of the states, you can likely complete the 14 State Challenge in one summer.
Little and Big Niagara Falls (Maine)
At about two and a half miles, this is a fun hike if you want to enjoy a bit of history. If you hike the whole trail, you can see both the Little Niagara Falls and the Big Niagara Falls. From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, logs were floated downstream along the nearby river, and some of the equipment needed to get the logs over the falls is also still visible. There is little elevation change, so this is probably a good hike to enjoy with your family even if you have small children.
Washington Monument State Park (Maryland)
If you are looking for a short hike along the Appalachian Trail, this is a good option. While you can continue along the trail for longer, the trip from the parking lot to the monument is only .4 miles. There is a gentle incline at the beginning of the hike, but overall it is a pretty easy hike. During your trip to see the monument, the first one in the country dedicated to George Washington, you may see some wildlife, including migrating birds.
Clingmans Dome (Tennessee and North Carolina)
Climbing Clingmans Dome is a unique experience. First of all, at 6,643 feet, it is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail. Clingmans Dome is also located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and is the highest point in the park. It is actually the third highest peak east of the Mississippi, behind Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Craig, both in North Carolina.
This half-mile hike is a bit steep, but it is worth it. The observation tower at the top of Clingmans Dome offers 360-degree views, which includes mountains and beautiful trees. On a clear day, you can see over 100 miles. Unfortunately, air pollution generally limits visibility to about 20 miles. Another great thing about Clingmans Dome is that it lies on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, so if you are going for the 14 State Challenge, you can cover two states with this short hike. There are also several longer nearby trails in the area if you are looking to experience a bit more of the Appalachian Trail.
Even though it is a short hike to Clingmans Dome, it is important to make sure that you are prepared for the weather. Temperatures are typically 10-20 degrees cooler than they are in the valley below. Dressing in layers, even for a summer visit, is a good idea. Because Clingmans Dome sunsets are such a breathtaking site, you might want to plan your hike for a little later in the day so you can see one for yourself.
Of course, these are just some of the greatest places to hike in the United States, and the list may not include some of your favorite hikes. We encourage you to tell your family and friends about your favorite hikes and maybe find a hike or two to add to your list of favorites.