It happens every year—we anticipate the beautiful summer weather, all of the activities we can finally do outside and then, before we know it, summer is over. Our window of opportunity for surfing, sunbathing and summer hiking has come to an abrupt close.
While there’s nothing you can do to actually lengthen the summer season you can either move somewhere with a more hike-friendly climate or you can enjoy your time in the sun while it’s here.
Assuming you’re staying put, you might be tempted (as we are) to head out on a week-long backpacking trip to conquer one of the major interstate trails. Though that sounds like the ultimate adventure, limited time left in the summer and a tough work schedule might disqualify that as a realistic option. For those who can’t enjoy an extended trek on the trails, there is the perfect short-term escape: the day hike.
The day hike is a weekend treasure, a chance to get outside and catch your breath before another week at the office. They are an opportunity to stretch your legs and break a sweat with the added benefit of going home to your own hot shower and your own comfy bed. Day hikes give you the opportunity to get out there without 20 lbs. of extra gear for cooking, sleeping and setting up camp. Simply put, even if you’d rather be out on the trail for days on end, day hikes have their own set of benefits.
We’ve put together a list of perfect summer day hikes from all over the country to help you get out and enjoy whatever sunshine and pristine weather we have left. From Washington to Florida and Maine to Hawaii, these day hikes rival week-long hikes. The day hikes on our list will help you make the most of your time out on the trail.
Follow the Sal Hollow Trail in Kentucky along the outskirts of the longest cave system in the world, trek behind waterfalls on the Ouzel Falls Trail in Colorado or hike Buckskin Gulch in Utah for tight squeezes between canyon walls. The excitement and adventure of hiking isn’t limited to experts who can afford to take a week and go backpacking. With a little planning and just one free day, you can enjoy some of the best trails in the U.S.
Editor's Note: Additional writing and reporting by Caitlin Giddings, Amy Reinink and Katie Rosenbrock.