National Trails Day: 15 spectacular hikes around the USA

June 6th is National Trails Day, so we thought we’d take a look at 15 trails throughout the USA that provide spectacular views as the reward. Want to find something near you? Click here to find an event, or simply get outside and take a hike!

One hundred and twenty five miles of trails weave through Acadia National Park in Maine, many of which were initially established by Native Americans and early settlers, and then made into trails in the early 1900s. The Bubbles Divide Trail (or Bubble Rock Trail) winds through mixed forest with views of Jordan Pond and Bubble Rock; Bubble Pond is a further from Jordan Pond.

The “Grand Canyon of the East,” Letchworth State Park in Genesee Falls in New York’s Finger Lakes region has 66 miles of marked trails ripe for exploration, the Genesee River roaring through a gorge to create three waterfalls. (The park was also named the USA TODAY Readers’ Choice Award for Best State Park in the United States for 2015).

On a clear day along the Appalachian Trail near Roanoke, Va., you can easily see the Southern Shenandoah Valley from McAfee Knob, one of the most photographed spots on the Appalachian Trail; closer in you’ll find stunning views of the Catawba Valley. The hike is about six miles long roundtrip and affords 270-degree views, as well as a downhill return.

In North Carolina’s Smoky Mountains, the five-mile hike at Purchase Knob can be done in about four hours, but that depends on how much time you take to stop and simply gaze at the beauty that surrounds you. A comprehensive guide map points out those must-stop spots.

Blackwater Falls State Park in West Virginia has more than 20 miles of hiking trails, and along the way you’re sure to spot the falls for which the park is named, not to mention the water that flows through an eight-mile long gorge. The Lindy Run Trail is just over a mile long yet provides spectacular, sweeping mountain views.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan has 13 trails with nearly 100 miles ripe for exploration. Follow the 2.8-mile Sleeping Bear Point Trail for dramatic views over Lake Michigan.

Be sure to take water with you when hiking in Saguaro National Park outside of Tucson – it gets hot in the Arizona desert any time of year. Once in the park, Douglas Spring Trail is an easier six-mile, round-trip hike that ends at a – surprise! – waterfall (seasonally).

Elsewhere in Arizona, the easy, one-hour Brins Mesa Trail in Sedona’s Coconino National Forest starts just outside of town and leads hikers to wide open spaces to really soak in the majesty of the red rock formations that crop up throughout the area, including Chimney Rock and Coffee Pot Rock.

Getting to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park, Utah, is not for the faint of heart. Most of the three-mile round-trip hike is on wide paths, but as you get closer, the path gets more narrow and the last 200 yards or so is along a rock ledge. The views at the other end more than make up for that lasts harrowing bit, however.

Hiking in the Virgin River’s 65-or-so-degree water, stepping through and on slippery rocks in a current is more than challenging, but The Narrows in Zion National Park provides stunning surrounds. Rock walls tower overhead a thousand feet, and whether you hike for an hour or the entire 10-mile roundtrip, the views are stunning both going and coming.

Probably one of the most iconic hikes in all of the USA is Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. The work is hard – 14 to 16 miles roundtrip – and you’ll climb up, up, up 4,800 feet, but is it ever worth the effort. Along the way, stop for views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap and finally, panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra.

The majesty of Olympic National Park in Washington instantly surrounds you upon passing into the park, and beautiful spots are bountiful and accessible. For a different sense of beauty, hike the Hoh River Trail to “One Square Inch,” possibly the quietest spot in all of the USA. Once there, sit, close your eyes and let the silence wash over you.

Denali National Park in Alaska doesn’t have many maintained trails, so it’s pretty much hike where you like. However, if a trail’s what you’re looking for, make sure and hike Horseshoe Lake Trail. The three-mile roundtrip trail is developed most of the way with panoramic views of the Nenana River.

On the Hawaiian Island of Lana’i, the hike to Pu’u Pehe, or Sweetheart Rock, is a popular spot to watch the sun rise over the island. Leaving from the Four Seasons Resort Lanai at Manele Bay, a quick 20-minute hike up the rocky cliffs ends in this sweet spot, also perfect for watching the sun set at the end of the day.

Instead of hopping on a mule for the descent along Moloka’i’s sea cliffs – the world’s tallest at 3,600-3,900 feet – lace up your hiking shoes and hoof it instead. At the bottom, a quiet beach awaits, and a bit farther afield, Kalaupapa National Historic Park.

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