Epic National Park Hikes for Everyone
For the FamilyQueens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon 1 of 10
The 1.8 mile hike starts at Sunrise Point and is relatively easy with minimal elevation gain. Unique, towering rock formations, known as hoodoos, pepper the side of the trail, creating a spectacle unlike any other. Their rugged exterior, red hue and unusual size will surely impress children and adults, alike.
For the FamilyEmerald Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park 2 of 10
Sub-alpine terrain and mountain lakes dot the landscape on this 1.8-mile out-and-back hike through the Tyndall Gorge. The alpine scenery, contrasted by bright blue skies, creates the perfect family photo op for this year's holiday cards. As you pass by Bear Lake, Nymph Lake and Dream Lake, look for the wildflowers that grow in the summer. Be sure to look up for views of Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain.
For the FamilyHeron Pond/Swan Lake Trail, Grand Teton National Park 3 of 10
This 3-mile loop leads hikers to one of the most tranquil and scenic spots in the entire park, according to Matt Jaffe of Hiking.About.com. Weave through lodgepole pine forests as you make your way to the final destination, Heron Pond. As if out of a storybook, the water is filled with lily pads, with the rugged peak of Mount Moran in the distance.
For Intermediate HikersSouth Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park: 4 of 10
This popular national park hiking spot is often spilling over with visitors trying to hike their way through the canyon. So, instead of hiking along the popular Bright Angel Trail, for example, try the South Kaibab Trail—a scenic, ridgeline hike that turns into a backpacking trip if you continue along the switchbacks and take the steep descent down to the river. If it's your first canyon hike, or you just want to take a day trip, avoid an overnight stay and turn around at Cedar Ridge, which makes for a strenuous 3-mile round-trip hike.
For Intermediate HikersGrinnell Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park 5 of 10
Considered one of the most scenic trails in the entire park, this hike weaves past clear blue lakes, with an ever-present view of towering mountain peaks in the distance. After 2 miles of flat trail, you begin a slow and steady incline for the remaining 3.5 miles. Your first stop is at Upper Grinnell Lake, which you can see down below as you continue upward. The last .2 miles are the steepest, but reward you with views of the Grinnell Glacier.
For Intermediate HikersChilnualna Falls Trail, Yostemite National Park 6 of 10
The Misty Trail in this national park is well known for its two waterfalls, but Chilnualna has three falls and fewer hikers; EveryTrail.com calls it a "well-kept secret." The 8.4-mile round trip is a slow and steady strenuous climb to the top, which starts with a series of cascades on the side of the trail. Be wary of slippery rocks as you trek through this area. Most of the trail winds through a thick forest, until you reach the top where you can see Chilnualna Falls, with view of Wawona Valley far below.
For an Overnight TripGuadalupe Peak Trail, Guadalupe Mountains National Park 7 of 10
Climb to the "Top of the Texas." This 8,751-foot climb can take up to eight hours to complete and it's steep almost the entire way. The most difficult section falls within the first mile and a half—immediately following is your reward: easier trails and a shady area of white pine trees. The backcountry campsite is at the first summit overlook, but the final summit is just a few switchbacks away.
For an Overnight TripWest Rim Trail, Zion National Park 8 of 10
For great scenic view points and a strenuous two-day hike, head to Zion National Park. The west Rim Trail, 16-miles long, connects Lava Point with the main canyon. There are a number of backpacking campsites along the way that offer stunning sunset and sunrise views from your tent. You do need a backpacking permit to stay overnight, so plan ahead.
For an Overnight TripThree Lakes Trail, Olympic National Park 9 of 10
Weave through a thick forest of towering trees and mountain shrubbery on this 6.9-mile trail, which you can extend when you hop on the Skyline Primitive Trail. Backpackers in Olympic National Forest are treated to over 1,000 trailside campsites throughout the park, making a tough overnight hike easier. Obtain a permit at South Shore Lake Quinault Ranger Station before heading out.