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Ten Famous Hiking Trails


Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Dunes Fields, Colorado

  • One-Way: 6.4 miles
  • When to Go: Year-round
  • Level: Easy

Great Sand DUnes

The United States’ tallest dunes are found tucked against the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in Colorado.

Between the westerly winds and some unique geological circumstances, the main dune field has spread across about 30 square miles, with dune heights reaching above 700 feet. Everyone is welcome to run up the sand dunes and slide or roll down.

Grand Canyon Rim Trail, Maricopa Point to Hermits Rest

  • One-Way: 6.4 miles
  • When to Go: Year-round
  • Level: Easy

Grand Canyon Rim

Everything about this trail is easy. Paved for most of the way with little to no elevation change, and a trailhead accessible by shuttle bus are just the beginning. While the entire length of the trail is what seems to be a daunting 24 mile (39 km) round-trip, shuttle stops along various points allow you to hike as much as you want.

Any section of the Rim Trail serves up jaw-dropping looks into the Grand Canyon, but the unpaved section between Maricopa Point and Hermits Rest is a dirt path and feels more like a genuine hike than its paved sections. Hike it late in the day and watch sunset do a supernova number on the scene.

Upper Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park, California

  • Round-Trip: 7 miles
  • When to Go: Spring through fall (best late spring to early summer)
  • Level: Strenuous

Yellowstone

In Yosemite, it starts with a climb up from the floor of Yosemite Valley right to the top of the tallest cascade in North America, fifth tallest in the world.

You stand where Yosemite Creek plunges off the granite rim of the valley, 2,425 feet above the gawkers clustered at the bottom of the lower fall. Along the way you get a great look at the hard-to-see middle cascade, plus views of the valley that will make you feel like a big-wall rock climber.

Devils Garden Trail to Landscape Arch,
Arches National Park,Utah

  • Round-Trip: 2 miles
  • When to Go: Year-round
  • Level: Easy

Devils Garden

The longest arch in the world, a football field in length, it looks like a red rainbow and seems nearly as delicate—a long, thin section tapers to just six feet thick.

Naturally, it frames a landscape of sandstone hills punctuated by piñon pines and junipers. Arch lovers particularly favor this hike because it passes by two arches before Landscape—Tunnel and Pine Tree. And there's the option of continuing to Devils Garden to see five more for a five-mile round-trip.

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington
 
  • Round-Trip: 6.2 miles
  • When to Go: Year-round
  • Level: Easy

Hoh River

The Hoh Rain Forest on the west side of Olympic National Park preserves one of the finest temperate rain forests in the U.S., a place that gets up to 14 feet of rain a year.

Though it parallels and flirts with the Hoh River, this mostly level trail remains mainly beneath the canopy of massive trees.

Root Glacier Trail, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

 
  • Round-Trip: 4 miles
  • When to Go: Summer
  • Level: Easy

Root Glacier

A visit to Wrangell-St. Elias can be challenging. There are only two roads that go into the park, the Nabesna Road and McCarthy Road. Each of these roads are un-paved gravel roads. However, a journey down them leads you deep into the wilderness.

The primary season for visiting Wrangell-St. Elias is early June through mid-September. Winter arrives early to interior Alaska and by September 15th, available services and facilities are few. There is usually snow on the ground by the end of September. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve has no entrance stations or gates, and never actually closes.

Cascade Canyon Trail to Lake Solitude, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
 
  • Round-Trip: 14.4 miles
  • When to Go: Summer and fall
  • Level: Moderate

Cascade Canyon

Save two miles of hiking by taking the shuttle boat across Jenny Lake and begin your hike from the west shore.

The magnificence of Grand Teton National Park is in full display when you hike west from Jenny Lake up Cascade Canyon. A half mile into the hike is Hidden Falls; a half mile later is Inspiration Point and a wonderful view down to Jenny Lake and the mountains that frame Jackson Hole.

Halemau'u Trail, Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii
  • Round-Trip: 7.4 miles
  • When to Go: Year-round
  • Level: Moderate

Halemau'u Trail

Perhaps you've heard it before, but hiking on the Halemau'u Trail is like hiking on Mars. The otherworldly quality of this dramatic, 1,400-foot plunge to the floor of Haleakalā's crater is part of its thrill.

Before leaving Earth you pass through native scrub forest that looks exactly as it did 2,000 years ago—a rarity in Hawaii, which has been overrun by non-native species. At Crater Rim Overlook, behold a dizzying view across the mountain’s northern slopes to lush sea cliffs far below.

Miners Ridge Loop, Redwood National Park, California
 
  • Round-Trip: 11.6 miles
  • When to Go: Spring through fall
  • Level: Moderate

When you hike in the presence of the world’s tallest living things, a mist rising toward their distant canopy, the forest carpeted in large ferns and redwood clover, it’s easy to get lost in reverie, or
simply awe.

This hike traces ridge after ridge of magnificent 300-foot-tall coast redwoods, yet offers even more. It also does a stint along the coast at Gold Bluff Beach, crosses coastal meadows where Roosevelt elk graze, and passes through Fern Canyon. There you enter a primordial world—a narrow cleft with 30-foot walls draped with giant, ancient fronds, including unusual five-fingered ferns.

Highline Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
 
  • One-Way: 11.5 miles
  • When to Go: Summer
  • Level: Moderate

Highline park

Glacier’s fabled Highline Trail from Logan Pass Visitor Center to the Loop on Going-to-the-Sun Road embodies all the wild, treeless glory of the park’s high country—soaring peaks and ostentatious wildflowers, plus the possibility of spotting mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and bears.

Although the hike follows the course of the Continental Divide, it’s surprisingly easy—mainly because it remains a merciful 2,000 feet beneath the Divide’s serrated summits (and, thanks to the park shuttle, you don’t have to retrace your steps).

Get all the details and directions to all the trails from National Geographic HERE.

Download the iOS app HERE.

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