If you find yourself in such a pinch and you need to prioritize the best trails, here are five we recommend adding to your bucket list.
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Tower Trail - Devils Tower National Monument1 of 6
Rising above the scenic Belle Fourche River Valley is one of the most striking formations in North America—so striking and foreboding, in fact, that early settlers began calling it "Devils Tower," and the name stuck.
From the visitors center in the shadow of the tower begins Tower Trail, an aptly named 1.3-mile loop around its namesake. From the trail, take in dramatic views of the surrounding valley. Take a moment to stop and have lunch while watching the light reflect off the snaking Belle Fourche River far below. As you make your way around the loop, be sure to keep an eye out for tiny dots making their ascent to the summit of the tower—those are climbers.
Obstruction Point to Moose Lake - Olympic National Park2 of 6
Beginning high above the lush valleys and forests of Olympic National Park, this 4.2-mile trail will take you through some of the region's most stunning views. After gearing up and setting off from the Obstruction Point Trailhead, don't forget to stop and say hello to the Olympic Marmots, who make their homes throughout the surrounding areas and are found nowhere else in the world.
As you meander along ridgelines and down weaving trails, stop and take in the spectacular array of wildflowers that make these verdant valleys some of the most magnificent in the national park system. Greeted by the sound of cascading waters spilling into the placid Grand Lake, you'll think you've found paradise. After another half mile of vibrant wildflowers you'll find the shimmering waters of Moose Lake—the veritable crown jewel of the Olympics. Set against a backdrop of towering black-shale peaks, alpine forest and wildflower meadows, Moose Lake draws backcountry trekkers from across the globe to spend a tranquil night in this alpine paradise.
The Bowl/Champlain South Ridge Trail - Acadia National Park3 of 6
Starting at the Bowl Trailhead across from Sand Beach, this 2.5-mile (one-way) hike is particularly beautiful on crisp autumn days in Maine's Acadia National Park. After strolling for a mile through the park's dense forests on sporadically exposed granite, you'll reach The Bowl. This spectacular glacier-carved pond, nestled between the Beehive and Champlain Mountain, is a perfect spot to have lunch.
Next, take a left to walk along the rim of the pond and slowly make your way toward Champlain Mountain. Bring your camera on a calm day in the fall and capture the stunning colors of the forest reflected in the still waters. Another mile and a half up the smooth granite outcroppings to Champlain Mountain reveals a commanding view of the Atlantic Ocean and The Bowl down below. Be sure to pause at the summit and soak in the breathtaking colors of fall surrounding you on Mount Desert Island.
Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail - Redwood National Park4 of 6
This short one-mile loop through one of the most magnificent groves of Redwoods on the planet is nothing short of awe-inspiring. President Nixon struggled to describe it when he remarked at the dedication, "To stand here in this grove of redwoods, to realize what a few moments of solitude in this magnificent place can mean…and then that renewal that comes from it."
Something about the giant trees that inhabit this grove, the eldest of which is more than 2,500 years old, makes it a magical place. The grove's unusually high elevation often places it among the clouds, creating an almost mystical hike amidst dense fog and towering giants.
The Narrows - Zion National Park5 of 6
As the Virgin River winds and carves its way through Zion Canyon, it reaches a point known simply as The Narrows. True to its name, the breadth between canyon walls shrinks to mere feet in some places on this 3.6-mile stretch of the river.
The striking turquoise water set against the brilliant vermillion cliffs of Zion Canyon make for an inspiring walk, and occasional wade. In the fall, the vibrant yellows of the cottonwoods along the banks add to the natural splendor.