The United States is home to some of the most stunning landscapes in the world, but you don’t need to hit the trail for days or weeks on end to experience these amazing views. In no particular order, here are the six best day hikes in the U.S. National Parks.
Zion National Park, Utah
This 5-mile roundtrip hike may be one of the most stunning in all the country. At Zion National Park, you’ll find a trail that was once at sea level 270 million years ago. While anyone with moderate physical conditioning can complete the hike, the trail can be challenging for those with a fear of heights. Chains bolted directly into the cliff provide secure handholds to navigate, as some sections of the trail are only a few feet wide with drastic drop-offs of over a thousand feet to the floor below.
Bright Angel Trail
Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Bright Angel Trail is perhaps the premier hiking route within Grand Canyon National Park. Hiking from the rim to the river (and back) can be both exhilarating and challenging. With summertime temperatures reaching well over 110 degrees Fahrenheit the climb back up from the river can be a suffer-fest. Make sure to carry ample water to compensate for the heat and exertion of ascending more than 4,300 vertical feet in less than 10 miles.
Acadia National Park, Maine
This trail is the most well-known and challenging hike in Acadia National Park. A nearly 1,000-foot vertical route up the granite face of Champlain Mountain, this route is not for the faint of heart and is best suited for experienced hikers. Check with the NPS ahead of time for accessibility as the mountain is a nesting site for peregrine falcons and is subject to being closed during nesting season, which can run from late spring through mid-August.
Video by Anthony J. Bopp and Francheska Miranda, Courtesy of NPS.
Glacier National Park, Montana
The trailhead for the Highline is situated right across from the Going-to-the-Sun Road at the Logan Pass Visitor Center. While the drive through Glacier National Park may be one of the most spectacular drives in the nation, you would be missing out to not park the car and take this 11.4 point-to-point trail. The trail parallels the Garden Wall and provides views of the Grinnell Glacier before arriving at the Granite Park Chalet (where one can purchase snacks and water) before descending the final stretch to the Loop where a park shuttle can take you back to the visitor center and your car. Aside from stunning views, the opportunity to see some of the park’s iconic wildlife are also possible along the route.
Arches National Park, Utah
Though just over eight miles, the entire Devils Garden trail offers a spectacular opportunity to see numerous geologic wonders as well as multiple of the Arches National Park’s namesake formations. The trailhead is located at the end of the park’s main road and the hike to Landscape Arch, the longest arch in the park, is just 1.5 miles from the trailhead. While most visitors to the park turn around here, there is so much more to see and enjoy in this painted landscape.
Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
The largest sand dune in the United States is situated amidst a backdrop of 14,000-foot peaks. It takes five hours roundtrip to complete the six-mile loop to the top of the 755-foot tall Star Dune. The hike can be challenging as you are walking up and down the sand. However, once you reach the top, the view is spectacular and worth every grueling step.