Buckskin Gulch—Kanab, Utah from Summer Day Hikes

Summer Day Hikes

Buckskin Gulch—Kanab, Utah

Flickr/Len Hardy

If slot canyons are your thing, Buckskin Gulch is your hike. The 13-mile corridor through bright red sandstone is so narrow, hikers must remove their packs to squeeze through some sections—Wire Pass, the first two miles of the hike, is only two feet wide. Follow the gulch through its claustrophobia-inducing twists until it intersects with the Paria River Canyon, where you can hire a shuttle to ferry you back to your car.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: April-June or September-October (summer brings flash flood danger)
blm.gov
—Amy Reinink

North Country Scenic Trail—Mesick, Mich.

Flickr/jimflix!

The North Country National Scenic Trail is a bit of an unsung hero in the thru-hiking world. Twice the size of the Appalachian Trail, it stretches from New York to North Dakota and stakes its claim as the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. In Michigan near Mesick, the NCST traces some of the wildest, most beautiful parks and forest the Great North has to offer. Start at the Marilla Trailhead and hike 20 brisk miles to High Bridge for scenery, solitude and a great stretch of tree-lined climbs through the Huron-Manistee National Forests. Several trailheads in between allow for shorter options.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Year-round, but early fall is best for mild temps and changing leaves
northcountrytrail.org
Caitlin Giddings

Ice Age Trail—Baraboo, Wis.

Flickr/llona L

Plenty of day hikes offer a window to the past, but how many look back to the time of wooly mammoths and sabertooth tigers? The 1,200-mile Ice Age trail follows the outline of a former glacier that receded from Wisconsin more than 10,000 years ago. Hike the Baraboo Hills section just south of Baraboo, Wisconsin, which follows the bluffs above Devil’s Lake. It’s a beautiful trek through natural history that boasts diverse fauna, prehistoric geology and more than its share of glacial oddities.
Difficulty: Moderate, depending on length
When to go: Year-round
iceagetrail.org
Caitlin Giddings

Angel's Landing—Zion National Park, Utah

Flickr/Kwong Yee Cheng

This 4.4-mile roundtrip climbs 1,500 feet, and takes hikers up one of Zion's trademark sandstone cliffs to a stunning summit on a narrow fin with stomach-turning drop-offs on either side (chain handrails provide some, but not much, extra stability—hikers have actually fallen to their death here). Start at the shuttle stop for the Grotto picnic area in Zion Canyon, and take the West Rim Trail, which starts broad and paved. A series of 21 switchbacks called Walter's Wiggles take hikers up to Refrigerator Canyon. Stop at Scout Lookout for views of Zion Canyon if you're scared of heights—the last half-mile is where it gets hairy.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Year-round, but it's especially refreshing on summer mornings (the heat can become oppressive in the afternoon).
nps.gov/zion
—Amy Reinink

Marmot Pass—Olympic National Forest, Wash.

Flickr/Bob Pearson

In the book Day Hiking: Olympic Peninsula, author Craig Romano quips that if "for some terrible reason you are only allowed one hike in the Olympics in your lifetime, this should be it," referring to the 5.3-mile hike to 6,000-foot Marmot Pass. The hike wends through roughly two miles of towering, moss-covered cedars, hemlocks and firs along the Big Quilcene River before heading uphill through meadows full of wildflowers and marmot burrows. The summit offers views of Mount Hood, Puget Sound and the Cascades in the distance, not to mention Olympic summits such as Mystery and Deception. Find it in the Quilcene Ranger District of Olympic National Forest.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Summer offers the best chance of sunshine
wta.org
—Amy Reinink

Honey Creek Loop—Oneida, Tenn.

Flickr/Michael Hicks

Contrary to its name, the Honey Creek Loop is the most challenging trail in the area, but it’s well 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.
Difficulty: Challenging
When to go: Summer-fall
nps.gov
—Diana Gerstacker

Trail of Ten Falls—Silver Falls State Park, Ore.

Flickr/Gregory Han

This 8.7-mile trail delivers exactly what it promises, with four of its namesake 10 waterfalls towering more than 100 feet above the trail. The loop trail travels through Silver Creek Canyon in Silver Falls State Park, and provides hikers with nonstop views of the falls, plus bright-green moss, rushing creeks and forests of old-growth cedar, fir and hemlock.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Year-round
oregonstateparks.org
—Amy Reinink

Art Loeb Trail—Pisgah National Forest, N.C.

Flickr/Vicki Devine

Shining Rock Wilderness off the Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular Asheville escape for good reason—6,000-plus-foot peaks offer amazing views of blooming rhododendron and laurels for miles. Scramble up the steep rise to the 6,214-foot Black Balsam Knob for a quick survey of the scene, then continue up the rugged trail to the quartzite peak of Shining Rock for a 10-mile loop. Wild blueberries are everywhere in August.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Summer
localhikes.com
Caitlin Giddings

Delicate Arch—Arches National Park, Utah

Flickr/Julian Fong

View what might be the world's most famous natural arch on this easy, 1.5-mile trail from Wolfe Ranch to the iconic, 65-foot Delicate Arch. Hikers start on a wide, flat trail that leads to the base of a steep sandstone slope. Then, they hike up the slope, known as "slickrock," following a series of cairns to the less-famous Frame Arch (literally used as a frame through which to photograph Delicate Arch) before arriving at Delicate Arch. The hike also offers sweeping views of Arches National Park, with its characteristic sandstone formations and, in the distance, the snowy La Sal Mountains.
Difficulty: Easy-moderate, depending on skill level
When to go: Year-round, but avoid summer afternoons
nps.gov/arch
—Amy Reinink

Ozark Highlands Trail—White Rock Mountain, Ark.

Flickr/trekker314

Arkansas isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you consider top-notch backpacking destinations, but the Ozarks definitely deserve some top-ten list credit for long treks like this 14-miler (turning back at Cherry Bend) through lush, dogwood-studded forests with quiet trailside camping. Prepare for moderate climbs and a gorgeous view from the top of White Rock Mountain. Go in November to see the leaves changing color, or soak in the swimming holes and waterfalls during the heat of summer.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Late fall is the time for leaves and mild temps, but summer delivers cool swimming holes and refreshing waterfalls.
ozarkhighlandstrail.com
Caitlin Giddings

Ouzel Falls Trail—Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo.

Flickr/Becky Lai

This easy, 5.5-mile roundtrip hike from the Wild Basin Trailhead skirts past multiple waterfalls, including Copeland Falls and Calypso Cascades, on its way to Ouzel Falls. You'll hear Ouzel Falls before you see it—this waterfall positively roars. Watch for the falls' namesake bird, the ouzel, which plunges into the water below the falls.
Difficulty: Easy
When to go: Summer
nps.gov/romo
—Amy Reinink

Sal Hollow Trail—Mammoth Cave National Park, Ky.

Flickr/John Schuster

Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world, with more than 370 miles of known subterranean passages. Although the cool underground labyrinths are the park’s obvious draw, the above-ground trails are well worth exploring for the sinkholes, springs and wildflowers. The 16.6-mile roundtrip Sal Hollow connects singletrack and fire roads for a moderate trek past the mouth of cave entrances. There’s a lot to explore, including plenty of options to connect to other trails or take a wild cave tour that involves rock-climbing and army-crawling through keyhole spaces.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Year-round
nps.gov/maca
Caitlin Giddings


Neahkahnie Mountain—Arch Cape, Ore.

Flickr/Sea turtle

This 5.4-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 1,450 feet, but must-see views of the Pacific make the effort more than worthwhile.
Difficulty: Moderate-challenging
When to go: Year-round
portlandhikersfieldguide.org
—Diana Gerstacker

Tall Trees Grove—Redwoods National Park, Calif.

Flickr/Justin Kern

Traipse through a grove of ancient, towering redwood trees up to 360 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter on this easy, 4-mile trail. Get to the Thomas H. Kuchel Visitor Center early—the National Park Service only issues permits on a first-come, first-served basis to 50 cars per day, locking the gate to the rest of the masses.
Difficulty: Easy
When to go: Year-round
nps.gov/redw
—Amy Reinink

Slide Mountain—Catskill Mountains, N.Y.

Wikipedia.org

This short-but-scrappy 6.7-mile loop of the highest peak in the Catskills is an eternal favorite for killer autumn foliage and breathtaking views of 33 (out of a possible 34) other peaks. Come in from the east up the Curtis Ormsbee Trail for over 3,000 feet of climbing over Cornell Mountain and Wittenberg Mountain, which add together to produce one of the more brutal treks in the Catskills. Of course, it goes without saying that when it comes to hiking, rewarding and brutal go hand-in-hand.
Difficulty: Strenuous
When to go: April-October
nynjtc.org
Caitlin Giddings


Beacon Heights—Linville, N.C.

Flickr/BlueRidgeKitties

A trail that offers big rewards but requires little effort, after a short hike (less than one mile) to the summit of Beacon Heights you’ll be greeted by breathtaking views of Grandfather Mountain, MacRae Peak, and Rough Ridge Overlook. On especially clear days you may even be able to catch glimpses of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail also provides access to longer hikes like the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail that leads to Price Lake and the Mountains to the Sea Trail, which stretches all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Difficulty: Easy
When to go: Year-round
Blueridgencguide.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

Lost Coast Trail—Northern Calif.

Flickr/Scrubhiker US Cdyer

If the romance of the name "Lost Coast" isn't enough to lure you on this classic Northern California beach hike, the promise of ancient redwoods, black-sand beaches, sea cliffs and creek crossings should be. The trek starts at Shelter Cove, which is near—well, nothing, hence the name Lost Coast—and proceeds north to Mattole. The full point-to-point hike is 24 miles, so day-hikers may want to experience the beauty in smaller doses.
Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous, depending on how much you bite off
When to go: Year-round
redwoods.info
—Amy Reinink

Lower Great Range Loop—Adirondack Mountains, N.Y.

Flickr/Adam Riquier

Trace the Great Range’s ridgeline on a magical journey past 150-foot waterfalls, open summits and multiple challenging peaks. Don’t be fooled by the “lower” qualifier of this “Lower Great Range Loop”—it’s still an epic, 14- to 17-mile trek over 4,000-plus-foot mountains with tellingly imaginative names like Wolfjaw and Little Nippletop. Get an early start from the St. Huberts Trailhead, and follow the West River Trail and Gothics-Armstrong Trail for a full day of dramatic, panoramic views. This is one of the best hiking areas in the Adirondacks, so there are plenty of more manageable options, including a 9-mile roundtrip on the West River Trail along the East Branch Ausable River to glimmering, glacier-carved Lower Ausable Lake.
Difficulty: Strenuous; moderate to Ausable Lake
When to go: Summer to early fall
visitadirondacks.com
Caitlin Giddings

Long Trail, Jay Peak Long Trail North—Jay, Vt.

Flickr/Scott McCracken

The “footpath in the wilderness” was established in the early 1900s, making it the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. The whole of the trail spans from Massachusetts to the Canadian border, but trail expert Philip Werner suggests the Jay Peak section to hikers looking for the best sample. At a short 3.5 miles, with a rise of 1,680 feet, the Jay Peak section is certainly manageable in a day. It’s also rugged enough to keep any hiker interested, but accommodating of beginners.
Difficulty: Easy-moderate, depending on skill level
When to go: Summer to early fall
Jayvt.com
—Diana Gerstacker

Superior Hiking Trail—Minn.

Flickr/Phil

The 296-mile Superior Hiking Trail follows the ridgeline over Lake Superior, through old-growth forests and stunning views of the St. Louis River and Superior’s north shore. Famous for its maple-and-pine beauty and carefully maintained paths, day sections of the trail rank as moderately difficult and are easy to break up from 75 different access points. Watch out for moose, black bears and other wildlife waltzing across the trail into the majestic Superior wilderness.
Difficulty: Varies
When to go: Late summer is best
shta.org
—Caitlin Giddings


Upper Dewey Lake—Skagway, Alaska

Flickr/Peter Stevens

Bypass cruise-ship tourists on this tough 6-miler, a favorite of Skagway locals and area park rangers. Hikers ascend 3,100 feet from Lower Dewey Lake to Upper Dewey Lake via switchbacks, footbridges and muskeg meadows along Dewey Creek, and are rewarded with views of nearby Mount Harding and downtown Skagway below, not to mention the crystal-clear lake itself.
Difficulty: Strenuous
When to go: Summer
skagwayrecreation.org
Amy Reinink

Mt. Tammany—Worthington State Forest, N.J.

Flickr/sirraychen

This New Jersey mountain overlooks the Delaware Water Gap, providing spectacular views and a variety of trail options, all within eagle-watching territory. The main loop makes for a great day hike at only 3.5 miles long, but what it lacks in distance, it makes up for in pitch—1,250 feet of climbing. Hikers should take the Red Dot trail for the accent and the Blue-blazed trail coming back down, as the latter is less steep.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Summer to early fall
nps.gov
—Diana Gerstacker

Conundrum Hot Springs—Aspen, Colo.

Flickr/Greg Headley

If you've ever wished for a hot tub to massage your sore muscles post-hike, head to Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen, Colorado, where an 8.5-mile hike through the Maroon Bells–Snowmass Wilderness area leads to 102-degree natural springs. Masochists can spend a short while enjoying views of 14,265-foot Castle Peak before heading back downhill, but you'll likely want to spend the night at one of 16 primitive campsites nearby. Then again, since views often include peeks at nude swimmers (bathing suits are definitely optional), you may prefer to make this a day hike.
Difficulty: Strenuous
When to go: July-October
colorado.com
—Amy Reinink

White Cap Mountain and Gulf Hagas—Maine

Flickr/cataloft

Here’s another great section-hike on the Appalachian Trail, but this 11-miler will make even the most creature comfort-loving of thru-hike skeptics consider quitting their jobs to tackle the whole thing. At 3,644 feet, White Cap Mountain is the highest peak in the area and offers Appalachian Trail voyagers a glimpse of Mount Katahdin—the northern-bound finish line of a months-long journey. It’s a tough climb, but the reward is the chance to swim in Cooper Brook Falls and take in the rugged Maine wilderness from high above. For a shorter, 7-mile segment of the trail, tackle Gulf Hagas, which passes a series of breathtaking gorge waterfalls that feel like they’re a million miles from civilization.
Difficulty: Strenuous for 11 miles/moderate for 7 miles
When to go: Summer
outdoors.org
—Caitlin Giddings

Kalalau Trail—Na Pali, Hawaii

Flickr/Paul Bica

Trace the rugged coastline of a secluded section of the Hawaiian island of Kauai on this narrow 11-mile trail, which leads from Ke'e Beach to Kalalau Beach. Part of the Hawaii State Parks system, Na Pali—"the cliffs" in Hawaiian—is aptly named, as it treks over high cliffs above the turquoise Pacific surf below. Don't let the coastal location fool you—this is a rigorous trek with some steep ascents and descents, thanks to rolling hills.
Difficulty: Strenuous
When to go: Year-round
hawaiistateparks.org
—Amy Reinink

Grinnell Glacier Trail—Glacier National Park, Mont.

Flickr/Katie Brady

The trail to Grinnell Glacier traces the shores of glittering blue Lake Josephine, ringed by shadows of dark mountain peaks before ascending into those peaks on a narrow, rocky trail. Stands of fragrant pines and ever-changing views of the surrounding peaks and the lake below make the climb worthwhile. Six miles and 1,600 feet after beginning, hikers arrive at Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier, which sit at the base of the continental divide.
Difficulty: Strenuous
When to go: Late summer or early fall; the trail isn't free of snow until mid-August
nps.gov/glac
—Amy Reinink

Chimney Top—Petersburg, W.Va.

Wikipedia.org

The aptly named Chimney Top is a striking rock structure presiding over hickory-oak forestland and West Virginia countryside. You’ll gain 1,700 feet of elevation on your way up the 2.9-mile (one way) North Fork Mountain trail, but rewards come in the form of 360 views from multiple vista points and the chance to spot a peregrine falcon on its morning commute. Getting to the very top of the peak will require a small amount of rock-climbing skills, but you can take in the rock formations on Chimney Top without too much scrambling. Bring a camera—and lots of water.
Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous
When to go: April-November
trails.com
Caitlin Giddings

Camel's Hump—Green Mountains, Vt.

Flickr/bgblogging

The view from Camel’s Hump, the state’s third-highest mountain, is unsullied by cell towers, ski lifts and other standard manmade distractions, which is a surprisingly rare treat for a Vermont hike. There are a number of trailheads around the mountain, and all offer a chance to rock-hop your way to the 4,083-foot open summit. Our favorite is the 6.8-mile roundtrip route on the Monroe Trail. Expect steep climbs and exceptional views of endangered alpine vegetation.
Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous
When to go: All summer is great, but fall is best.
summitpost.org
—Caitlin Giddings

Old Rag Mountain—Shenandoah National Park, Va.

Flickr/Ryan Somma

Just because this trail is one of the more popular hiking destinations in the U.S. doesn’t mean it’s an easy ascent. In fact, the National Park Service says it’s one of Shenandoah’s most dangerous hikes. The Old Rag route is widely considered a classic hike and is known for attracting crowds of climbers during the peak summer seasons. Aptly named for its rugged terrain strewn with boulder fields and bare rocks, the trail is 8 miles round-trip. Ensure a safe trek by taking a look at the NPS safety guidelinesbefore attempting this climb.
Difficulty: Moderate-strenuous
When to go: Summer-fall
nps.gov
—Katie Rosenbrock

Torreya Challenge Loop—Bristol, Fla.

Flickr/johnandmary_F.

Although it’s mostly flat, this 7-mile loop around Florida’s Torreya State Park is still considered a moderate-level hike. This trek through a marshy forest terrain will take you across several ridges and deep gorges. The trail is accessible year-round and offers access to several camping areas, too.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Year-round
alltrails.com
—Katie Rosenbrock

Glen Alpine Trail—South Lake Tahoe, Calif.

Flickr/Steve Dunleavy

Named “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 the waterfalls will be strongest and most spectacular in spring due to winter runoff.
Difficulty: Moderate
When to go: Spring-fall
fs.usda.gov
—Diana Gerstacker