Wildflowers, long days full of sunshine, and warm evening breezes: Summer time is such a sight to behold. Mother Nature at her best inspires a hiking adventure amongst the trees, along a lake, atop a mountain, or any place where this season of life can fully be embraced.
With all of its wide open spaces and protected lands, America offers seemingly endless trails throughout a diversity of landscapes and ecosystems. From deserts, to rainforests, to Great Lakes, to mountains, it can be a little overwhelming when planning where in America to get out and get hiking. Here’s a list of five hikes in five very different parts of America to travel to that will inspire your next summer hiking adventure.
Hoh River Trail to Five Mile Island- Olympic National Park, Washington
To any outdoor enthusiast, travel to Olympic National Park is like being a little kid set loose in a candy shop. Hikers have a choice of temperate rainforests filled with moss-covered old growth trees, miles of undeveloped coastline hugging the Pacific Ocean, or the snow-capped Olympic Mountains.
This 16km trail through the Hoh River Valley is a great way to experience a part of Olympic NP’s rich, diverse beauty in one peaceful afternoon. It’s a relatively flat trail that begins in the Hall of Mosses in the Hoh Rainforest casually strolls beneath the old growth giants, with views of the sparkling blue, glacier-fed Hoh River.
The trail passes by ferns, giant cedars, spruce, and fir trees, and gently cascading streams and waterfalls with the peaks of the Olympic Mountains popping up along the horizon. This trail could easily be turned into a longer, overnight, hiking adventure by connecting with other trails, or shortened without losing any of its grandeur.
Chapel Basin Loop – Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Perched on the shores of Lake Superior in Michigan’s upper peninsula sits America’s first National Lakeshore. It’s comprised of 25,495ha of beaches, woods, sandstone cliffs, dunes, waterfalls, with stunning displays of spring wildflowers and changing fall foliage.
Pictured Rocks offers 160km of hiking trails and the Chapel Basin Loop is a great introduction to the scenery. This 16km hike begins and ends with two distinctly different waterfalls and winds along the top of the Pictured Rocks cliffs with great views of Grand Portal Point- an arch formed by erosion in sandstone cliffs- and Lovers Leap Arch.
For a little over six kilometers, this trail traces the Lakeshore Trail, a well-known 67km trail that connects the towns of Grand Marais and Munising. Along this stretch are two overnight campgrounds, Mosquito Beach and Chapel Beach, which is great for those wanting to turn their hiking adventure into a multiple day trip.
Castle Trail- Badlands National Park, South Dakota
The Badlands is one of the most unique landscapes in America. It’s a quiet, vast expanse of mixed grass prairie and striped rock formations comprised of millions of years of geologic deposits that have been shaped by erosion over the millennia. This makes it one of the world’s richest fossil beds that gives scientists an important peak into earth’s natural history.
Like most unique landscapes, it’s best seen on foot. The Castle Trail winds hikers for 16km through the prairie and along the base of the steep rock formations. This terrain seems desolate at first, but hundreds of plant species and many animals thrive among the Badlands. Castle Trail offers signs of life like cacti, rattlesnakes, prairie dogs and maybe, just maybe, an elusive bighorn sheep.
Afternoon temperatures can climb, especially during the warmer months, and there is no water along the trail, but the opportunities for peaceful reflection and wildlife viewing far outweighs the cons. A hiking adventure in the Badlands requires a little extra preparation, but the extra effort will be greatly rewarded.
Hunt Trail on Mt. Katahdin – Baxter State Park, Maine
No list of trails would be complete without a challenge for experienced hikers, and this one is definitely it. This trail climbs 1,276m in 8.3km (16.6km round trip) as it scales Mt. Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine.
Baxter State Park is bordered by Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, 35,435ha of protected mountains, woodlands and rivers, making the views from atop Mt. Katahdin pristine. But you have to get there first.
It’s a very strenuous hike. The trail starts in the woods, passes waterfalls, scrambles over boulders above tree line and hugs a sharp ridge up to the summit. But up top, when you’re looking over rolling green mountains covering what feels like the entire state of Maine, you’ll think you’re on top of the world.
Widforss Trail- The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The Grand Canyon is one of the most popular travel destinations, making it a little crowded during peak season. This is especially true on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, which is more accessible from major cities and open year round.
For a quieter visit, the North Rim is a great travel destination. Specifically the Widforss Trail, a relatively casual 16km hike that wanders in and out of the forest with classic jaw-dropping Grand Canyon views. The tributary canyons seen from Widforss trail are more deep and dramatic due the North Rim being high in elevation than the South Rim.
The trail follows the rim for a couple miles, then dips into the forest that’s more damp than those on the South Rim. Stands of blue spruce, ponderosa, and aspen keep the trail shaded for most of its length. It then emerges from the woods at Widforss Point and overlooks Transept Canyon. The trail can be completed in about five hours and is a great way to spend a quiet afternoon in one of America’s most popular travel destinations.
Whether you’re in the mood for canyons in the desert southwest, a seemingly desolate landscape that’s actually teeming with life, or a rainforest nearly dripping with moss, America has a landscape and a hiking adventure to suit any taste. Summer is a glorious season best spent beneath the trees or wandering along a river’s edge, so don’t let summer slip away without getting out on the trail and seeing Mother Nature at her very best.
Check out our Travel Ideas section for more destination ideas to inspire your next hiking adventure!