The American West is a hiker's paradise—an expansive place, characterized by long, open vistas, high deserts and rugged mountain ranges. Where the East is lush forests and rich farmland punctuated by green, rolling hills, the West tends to be drier and more vertical—much more vertical. First you hit the Rockies, a 3,000-plus-mile mountain range that forms the backbone of the continent, from northern Canada down to New Mexico. Farther west is California's Sierra Nevada, the volcanic Cascades and the Pacific Coast Range, among others.
Still, there’s more to this incredible landscape than just mountains. Depending on where you look, you can find countless other natural treasures—vast swaths of desert home to ancient Joshua trees, geysers that spout boiling water into the sky or grizzly bears wandering through wildflower meadows.
Yes, the Wild West still exists today in its massive outdoor playgrounds. We've scoured the landscape (no small task!) to bring you some of its best single-day hikes, each of which as singular as the West itself. Among them are an otherworldly 13-mile slot canyon hike in southern Utah's canyon country, a rugged walk along Kauai's lush Na Pali Coast and an incredibly steep, decidedly urban hike that rises nearly 3,000 feet above Vancouver.
Ready to hit the trail? Make sure you bring ample food and water, a paper map, your cell phone (if there’s service), sun and bug protection, a first aid kit and—of course—a camera. You’ll definitely want photos for bragging rights when you're finished with these Western gems.
Amy Reinink reported for this slideshow.