Summertime is marked by long days in the sun, warm fire-side nights and—if you’re like us—some incredible hikes.
There’s nothing more liberating than lacing up your hiking boots and taking on a challenging trail in the height of summer. Heading up to new heights with nothing but a light pack is an incredible feeling, matched only by the breathtaking views from the top. We know that it’s not quite summer yet, but hopefully this sampling of epic trails from around the U.S. will inspire some trips and treks in the coming months.
The definition of rugged beauty, this narrow 11-mile trail will have you trekking the incredible coastline of the Hawaiian island Kauai. Work your way from fine-sand beach to towering bluff and take in the turquoise waters crashing below you. Don’t be fooled, though, just because this hike offers breathtaking beauty in a tropical setting doesn’t mean it is an easy trip. The rolling hills provide a perfect challenge, but at least you can look forward to lounging on a beach at the end.
The most popular hike in Acadia is well liked for good reason. A short 2.2 miles on the North Ridge Trail puts hikers at the top of Cadillac Mountain. Take in views of Bar Harbor and Frenchman Bay from the 1,530-foot-high peak and be among the first to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic. On a clear day, it’s possible to see more than 100 miles, so don’t miss this unbelievable hike (and view).
Easily one of the most scenic and popular trails in the entire country, the 15.2-mile Highline Trail in Glacier National Park offers a challenge and great rewards at every turn. Beautiful vistas, steep drop-offs and a visit to the historic Granite Park Chalet draw many hikers, so don’t expect total solitude. Tackle this trek in one day or stay the night for a trip you won’t soon forget.
Angel’s Landing may have been named for its remote route, but the tough trek is well worth the effort. The trail climbs 1,500 feet, is 4.4 miles round-trip and while that doesn’t sound so tough the narrow fin will surprise even the bravest hiker. Begin by scaling cliffs with the help of chains bolted into rock and reach the best views by negotiating a narrow rock ledge with steep drop-offs on either side. Red rock fans and dare devil hikers won’t be able to pass on this journey.
Named for its tendency to be lost beneath California’s tide or for its exclusion from the Pacific Coast Highway, depending on who you believe, this trail is about as ocean-front as you can get. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful scenery, though, this hike is a tough one. So tough, in fact, that road crews deemed it impassable and refused to build road on these shoreline cliffs. The trail is more than 20 miles, one way, with camping spots throughout, making it the perfect week-long challenge for the extreme hiker.
The Honey Creek Loop is the most challenging trail in the area, but it’s worth the effort. The trail offers a descent into a cliff-enclosed pool, an array of unique rock formations throughout and several creek crossings. For the short five and a half mile hike, experts say you’ll need at least an hour per mile and warn against going after a big storm, as the extra water could make this challenging trail nearly impossible.
This 17.4-mile trail takes hikers through varied terrain and unparalleled natural beauty of Olympic National Park. From rainforest to subalpine meadow, it’s impossible to be bored with the incredible scenery. The trail is like something out of a fairy tale and its fairly easy pitch makes it accessible to almost everyone.
Named for the waterfalls at the mountain’s base, Cascade is one of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, and is said to be the easiest to scale. A great choice for beginners and anyone looking for a stunning view of New York’s Green Mountains and Lake Champlain, the 4.2 mile hike is classified as easy, but the views are hard to come by anywhere else.
A trip to the Grand Canyon is incomplete without a hike and the Bright Angel Trail is an incredible choice. The trail leads hikers from the south rim down to the Colorado River, over the course of 9.5 miles. Access to two campsites means you can stay overnight, but many people chose to continue, taking the South Kaibab Trail back to the rim.
Vast, well-preserved Cohutta wilderness is home to one of the best trails in the Southeast. Jacks River Trail follows its namesake, and crosses occasionally, so don’t count on staying completely dry. The trail offers access to lush greenery, clear swimming holes and ideal camping spots. The full hike is 16.2 miles long, which makes it a perfect weekend hike for those with some hiking experience.
This spectacular view is said to be Colorado’s most photographed mountain landscape, but the hikes are not to be overshadowed. Standing at more than 14,000 feet each, the six peaks draw scores of experienced hikers. With the popularity of the area, you won’t be alone in your adventure, but it’s still worth the trip.
Called “the best day hike in Tahoe,” by Backpacker.com, the Glen Alpine Trail spans 12 miles through western wilderness. The path winds past waterfalls and cashes in on the best part of Tahoe—views of the incredible lake. This difficult trail is best traveled from late spring to fall, but don't expect to see raging waterfalls this year, as the area was starved for snow this winter.
Home to the majority of the world’s geysers, Yellowstone is famous for natural wonders like Old Faithful, but that’s certainly not all the park has to offer. In addition to tons of other geothermal attractions, Yellowstone is currently the only place in the continental U.S. where every species of large native mammal, including the last free-ranging bison herd, still survives. Exceptional wildlife viewing, plenty of geysers and other park splendors are best enjoyed on the Upper Geyser Basin trail.
The Waihee ridgeline is beautiful any time of year but the bright greenery and tropical scenery are perhaps most incredible in the summer. This five mile hike in Maui climbs more than 1,500 feet through lush forest and over a winding ridge—so be sure to bring plenty of water. The beginning of the hike may be a bit brutal but the views of water cascading off Makamaka'ole Falls are amazing and seeing the valley from the farthest peak is incredibly surreal.