Hiking is one of the easiest and best ways to explore your surroundings. If you’re itching to get out on the trail, here’s a list of 5 of the best hiking trails in the US to try.
1. Point Lobos State Reserve, on the California coast, has several trails that are all worth seeing, and you can do most of them in a day if you’re dedicated. Lovers of Point Lobos consider it the “crown jewel” of California state parks, and once you’ve visited, it’s easy to see why. You can find many different types of scenery here, including peaceful ocean views, crashing waves, wildflower-covered meadows and tree-lined paths. Be on the lookout for sunning sea lions, otters, deer and numerous species of birds.
2. Hiking the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia is a dream for many serious hikers. If you don’t have the time or the stamina to do the whole thing, though, you can tackle it in sections. For a lovely day hike, start at Newfound Gap and make your way to Clingman’s Dome, the highest point in the Smoky Mountains, just less than 8 miles one way. Make your way through old growth forest and watch for black bears. At Clingman’s Gap, head up the steep paved path to the observation tower for a view of the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, you can see 100 miles in all directions from this point. Air pollution often limits visibility, but it is always stunning.
3. To visit beautiful rainforests without international travel, head to the Pacific Northwest and hike the Salmon River Trail in Mt. Hood National Forest, Oregon. This moderate-level trail is about 8 miles long and takes you along the river through lush green forests, across a stream and onto rocky ledges with gorgeous views.
4. For an otherworldly experience, head to Utah’s magical rock formations. Hike the Peekaboo-Queens Garden Loop in Bryce Canyon National Park to get your fill of hoodoo viewing – that’s the official name for the tall pink and orange rock spires. This hike is a combination of the Navajo Loop Trail, Peekaboo loop and Queens Garden and provides wonderful desert scenery for the 5.5 mile trip.
5. Glacier National Park in Montana is perfect for the wilderness lover who can’t get to Alaska just yet. Try the 7.6-mile roundtrip Grinnell Glacier Trail to take in rivers of ice. This trail is strenuous and is best for more experienced hikers. Keep watch for bighorn sheep and mountain goats on this trail, and also be aware that you’re in grizzly territory. For a unique hike, cut about 3.5 miles off your trek by taking a shuttle boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. You’ll see three glaciers on this hike as well as a majestic view of Grinnell Lake and Lake Josephine. When you reach Grinnell Glacier, you can walk out onto it, but don’t go far and watch carefully for dangerous crevasses.
On hikes of any length and difficulty level, be sure to come prepared. Bring water, insect repellant, sun protection and appropriate clothing and gear. Dress in layers and wear closed-toe shoes with ankle support and a shoe insole that provides the necessary support and cushioning. It’s also important to let someone know where you’re headed and when to expect you back in case of emergency.
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