Great American Hikes You Need to Take Before Summer Ends from 20 Great American Hikes You Need to Take Before Summer Ends

20 Great American Hikes You Need to Take Before Summer Ends

Great American Hikes You Need to Take Before Summer Ends

We’re officially at the start of summer, so hopefully this sampling of epic trails from around the U.S. will inspire some trips and treks in the coming months.

Whether you’re a beginner who just got your first pair of trail shoes or a seasoned pro who’s taken on some impressive hikes, this list should offer enough challenge for skilled trekkers and many should be accessible enough for beginners. Before you plan your summer vacations, check out these 20 hikes that are definitely worth your while.

Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop—Grand Teton National Park, Wyo.

One of the most breathtaking hikes in the country, the Paintbrush-Cascade Canyon Loop is about 19 miles long and gains around 4,000 feet of elevation. Certainly not for beginners or those looking for an easy day hike, but if you’re willing to put in the work, the experience and the views are unbelievable. You can camp overnight in either of the canyons and as you descend Cascade it seems as though you’re walking right into the mighty Tetons.

Waihee Ridge Trail—Maui, Hawaii

The Waihee ridgeline is beautiful any time of year but the lush greenery and tropical scenery are perhaps most incredible in the summer. This five mile hike in Maui climbs more than 1,500 feet through 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.

Conundrum Hot Springs—Aspen, Colo.

This legendary Colorado hike comes with a unique reward—a dip in a natural hot springs pool. Starting near Aspen, the eight-and-a-half-mile trail follows Conundrum Creek, gaining 2,500 feet of elevation along the way. Stay overnight in one of the campsites near the hot springs, but be warned if you plan on getting in the water, bathing suits are optional. The hike is challenging for most people, but a dip in the hot water is the perfect remedy for sore muscles.

Neahkahnie Mountain—Arch Cape, Ore.

Set in Oswald West State Park, this 7.6-mile hike on Neahkahnie Mountain is classified as challenging, but it’s also said to be the best way to see the Oregon coast. Total elevation gain is marked at 1,700 feet and the last few feet can be a bit of a scramble, but must-see views of the Pacific make the effort more than worthwhile.

Glen Alpine Trail—Lake Tahoe, Calif.

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.

Jacks River Trail—Epworth, Ga.

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.

Old Rag Mountain—Shenandoah National Park, Va.

One of the toughest trails in this picturesque park, the trek up Old Rag is a classic eight-mile hike that has it all. Panoramic views and a tough rock scramble make it one of the most popular routes in the mid-Atlantic. This day hike is an incredible adventure, but come early as many hikers visit Old Rag in the summer.

Bright Angel Trail—Grand Canyon National Park, Ariz.

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.

Indian Point—Columbia River Gorge, Ore.

Trek through thick forest out onto a spectacular overlook of the Columbia River Gorge on this eight-mile (round trip) hike. The route might sound easy until you consider the elevation gain, 2,400 feet, and the fact that, for the best views, hikers have to scramble up a giant rock and face potentially fatal falls. Reach Indian Point by taking the Gorton Creek Trail and—if you can handle heights—get to the top of Indian Point for an unforgettable view.

Cascade Mountain—Keene, N.Y.

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.

Hoh River Trail—Olympic National Park, Wash.

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.

Honey Creek Loop—Oneida, Tenn.

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.

The Lost Coast—Calif.

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.

Upper Dewey Lake—Skagway, Alaska

There’s some logic in following the locals and Upper Dewey Lake is a favorite hike among those who know the area best. The trail will have you climbing more than 3,000 feet from Lower Dewey Lake to Upper Dewey Lake and it’s no easy trip, but the stellar views of Mount Harding and the alpine lake make your effort worthwhile.

Highline Trail—Glacier National Park, Mont.

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.

North Ridge Trail—Acadia National Park, Maine

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).

Angel’s Landing—Zion National Park, Utah

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.

Kalalau Trail—Kauai, Hawaii

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.

Upper Geyser Basin—Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.

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.

Portage Pass Trail—Whittier, Alaska

Set in the Chugach National Forest, Portage Pass was historically used by Alaska Natives, Russian fur traders, and early settlers, according to the Forest Service and it is now a migration route for birds and a favorite trek for hikers. The reward for this short Alaska hike (four miles round trip) is one you won’t find in the Southern states. The end of the trail offers an up close look at the Portage glacier from the shores of the lake. The best view requires a descent to the shore but even without the trek downhill, the views are spectacular.