A current phenomenon in hiking is the availability of trails really close to urban centers. Lots of cities have a big push to bring hiking and other recreational opportunities closer to where people live. For many city-dwellers, a stroll through a nearby park will do just fine.
But for those who have discovered the well-earned pleasures of climbing mountains, crossing rivers, traversing canyons, hopping boulders and dodging bears, en route to a particularly spectacular view or awe-inspiring natural wonder, hiking counts as a sacred pastime [Tips for hiking].
And the journey is every bit as important as the destination. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, more than 29 million Americans day-hiked in 2006; that’s nearly 11 percent of population.
The following trips will satisfy any hiker who appreciates the physical, mental and spiritual benefits of a challenging trail.
Mt. Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine
Baxter State Park, a wilderness and forest area of 209,501 acres has 10 campgrounds, located throughout the Park and available for camping from May 15-October 15.
There are 46 mountain peaks and ridges, 18 of which exceed an elevation of 3,000 feet, the highest being Baxter Peak at 5,267 feet.
The views are nothing short of spectacular. Hike in September and October to gaze at brilliant fall foliage.
Coyote Gulch, Escalante Sub district, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area offers unparalleled opportunities for water-based and backcountry recreation in & around Lake Powell. Glen Canyon stretches for hundreds of miles from Page, AZ up to the Moab area near Canyonlands National Park.
Hike 8.4 miles into an ecological orgy where the reservoir once ruled and now slot canyons open with new energy.
Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Naples, Florida
A 2.25-mile raised boardwalk takes visitors through several distinct habitats found within the 11,000-acre Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, including the largest remaining virgin bald cypress forest in North America.
There is tons of wildlife here to see so enjoy!
Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia
With elevations up to 5,089 feet, Grayson Highlands is the loftiest state park in Virginia. From the Pinnacles, Grayson Highlands’ highest point, you’ll find breathtaking views of surrounding mountains, including Mount Rogers (5,729 feet), the tallest peak in Virginia.
The park has nine hiking trails averaging a mile in length. These trails lead to panoramic vistas, scenic waterfalls and a 200 year old pioneer cabin. The park also offers access to the Appalachian Trail and trails in the surrounding Jefferson National Forest.
Lost Coast, King Range National Conservation Area, Northern California
A spectacular meeting of land and sea is certainly the dominant feature of the King Range National Conservation Area.
The King Range contains over 70 miles of hiking trails spanning from the beach to the highest peaks. Most of the upland trails are strenuous due to the steep rugged nature of the area.
From scrambling along wet beach rocks while fighting pelting wind and rain, to climbing, descending, then re-climbing a cumulative 8,000 feet, the daunting 25-mile north Lost Coast Trail will motivate any hiker.
Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, White River National Forest, Colorado
The 181,000 acres of Maroon Bells comprise Colorado’s fourth-largest wilderness area and include more than 100 miles of trails and six peaks over 14,000 feet.
These mountain peaks, two of the most photographed in North America. Valleys in the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness offer an exhilarating mix of aspen groves, flower-speckled meadows, and dark forests of spruce and fir.
Mount St. Helens, Washington
There are many trails in Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument; leading hikers into a variety of diverse landscapes. Crater views, new lakes, ancient lava flows, blown down trees, mud flows and old-growth forest can all be discovered here.
Trails vary in difficulty from short, accessible interpretive loops to longer, steep narrow trails that challenge even experienced hikers. Have fun exploring places like Lava Canyon, the Plains of Abraham, Spirit Lake, Ape Caves, Johnson Ridge, and the Loowit Trail which goes all the way around Mt. St. Helens on 34 miles of backpacking trails.
Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Kauai, Hawaii
The Na Pali Coast is a very special place. The pali, or cliffs, provide a rugged grandeur of deep, narrow valleys ending abruptly at the sea. Waterfalls and swift ?owing streams continue to cut these narrow valleys while the sea carves cliffs at their mouths.
It has 45 miles of trails that can take hikers deep into the park’s rain forests or take them out to the precipitous ridgelines above Waimea Canyon and the Na Pali Coast.
Wrangell St Elias National Park, Kennecott District, Alaska
Yearning to go even deeper into the wild? Wrangell-St. Elias National Park is the largest in the United States – by far. One frequently quoted statistic is that it’s 6 times the size of Yellowstone National Park.
Giant glaciers, abandoned mining sites, icy rivers, waterfalls, spectacular mountain vistas, grizzly bears, 9 of the 16 highest U.S. peaks, and maybe even some auroral displays await.
These hikes range from short nature walks of less than a mile, to strenuous, all-day adventures. Most hikes begin from trail heads on the McCarthy or Nabesna Roads or else from the towns of McCarthy and Kennicott.
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
This is one of the most popular, but strenuous day hikes in Yosemite. The first four miles the trail climbs out of Yosemite Valley and up past Vernal and Nevada Falls towards Little Yosemite Valley Campground.
There are a few different routes to choose from and both will provide stunning views of waterfalls and spectacular views from Yosemite’s most famous landmark. Water is fairly plentiful along the trail, with the last source being a spring along the trail, 1.5 miles from Half Dome.
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