Some views are worth suffering for.
Well, maybe not suffering suffering, but you’re definitely not going to stand atop some of the most awe-inspiring vistas in North America without scrambling, climbing and sweating for it.
For those who light up at the word “rugged,” we put together a list of 20 epic day hikes in the United States and Canada. Some of these trails gain thousands of feet of elevation and others stretch for 20 miles or more—and some do both.
But the rewards of scrapping up mountainsides, blazing through switchbacks in the Arizona desert and pushing on those extra few miles are truly special. You can experience the Grand Canyon from both rims, skinny dip in a secluded hot spring in the Colorado Rockies, and see the Catskills’ autumn foliage in all directions.
And huffing and puffing aside, you only have to invest a day (or two) to get the most out of these trails.
You may want to bring camping gear on some of these hikes, though. A few stretch the definition of day hike—unless you’re a speed demon or masochist, that is—and aren’t any less amazing at a slower pace.
This story was reported by Amy Reinink and Caitlin Giddings.