Hiking perennially ranks as one of America’s most popular summer pastimes—and for good reason. It is an activity that just about everyone can participate in, regardless of age or experience, and doesn’t require a whole lot of expensive gear to get started. In fact, if you are relatively fit and can walk while carrying a moderate amount of supplies (chiefly water and first-aid basics), then you can enjoy the scenic natural beauty found in abundance at these top U.S. hiking destinations.
Grand Canyon National Park
The Grand Canyon boasts 15 official trails leading from either the North or South rim into the park’s depths. But if you want to attempt a descent, you’ll need a permit (and a bit of luck) to do so. That’s because the Park Service issues only 13,000 hiking permits per year, fulfilling less than 50% of the more than 30,000 requests received.
Yosemite National Park
With more than 800 miles of hiking trails, Yosemite can serve as your favorite vacation destination for many years to come. First-timers are recommended to remain in the Yosemite Valley portion of the park, which features Half Dome, El Capitan, waterfalls, and plenty of wildlife.
The Appalachian Trail
Spanning 14 states, six national parks, and eight national forests, the Appalachian Trail is one of the most flexible hiking options listed here. You can choose to tackle as long or as short a portion of the 2,178-mile trail as you like, or even take several weeks to traverse the entire distance—which many people have likened to a spiritual journey.
Glacier National Park
This oft-overlooked treasure is situated in northern Montana near the Canadian border and offers visitors a wide variety of prime hiking terrain ranging from verdant meadows to crystal-clear lakes, towering mountain peaks, and, of course, expansive glaciers. But be forewarned: many of the popular areas of Glacier National Park are covered in snow until late July or early August, so it might be necessary to pack some Yaktrax spikeless ice cleats even for summer outings.
Denali National Park
Experienced hikers that want a truly unique adventure should make it a point to visit Denali National Park in Alaska. Trails are concentrated near the park entrance only, so anything beyond that will basically yield a wilderness experience. Mount McKinley, glaciers, miles of unobstructed views, and peaceful solitude are just a few of the reasons to go.