10 Must-Do National Park Hikes

When searching for the best hiking trails, look no further than our very own national parks. The parks strewn across the United States feature hikes that travel through slot canyons, between giant trees, along wild coasts and up to stunning overlooks. Here are just 10 of the best national park hikes.

1. The Narrows - Zion National Park


Zion National Park

The Narrows is a slot canyon hike that follows the Virgin River rather than a traditional trail. In other words, you will get wet. This hike can only be done in the summer or early fall when the river is low. The full hike is 16 miles, but there are places you can exit along the canyon to shorten the distance.

2. Half Dome (via Mist Trail) - Yosemite National Park


National Park Hikes Yosemite

One of Yosemite's most popular and gnarly day hikes, Half Dome is one you can't miss. But to get to the panoramic views at the top, you need to be lucky enough to score a permit. Once you have access to this 7 mile (one way) hike, it takes you past beautiful waterfalls all the way to the top of one of the most recognized features in the park. Think twice if you're afraid of heights; the end of this climb features a rock slab ascent guided by a series of cables.

3. Sky Pond - Rocky Mountain National Park


SkyPond2

This 4.5 mile (one way) hike in Rocky Mountain National Park follows the crowds to Alberta Falls before breaking away from the pack. In addition to one of the park's most popular waterfalls, hikers can admire a beautiful alpine lake known as The Loch along this trail. The hike ends with a leg-burning climb and short, all-hands-on-deck scramble to Lake of Glass, another beautiful alpine lake with views of The Sharkstooth, Taylor Peak and Powell Peak. Sky Pond lies just beyond this stopping point.

4. Ozette Loop - Olympic National Park


best national park hikes

If you want to kick the classic walk along the beach up a notch, try the Ozette Trail in Olympic National Park. This 9.2 mile loop follows boardwalks through cedar and hemlock forests and along some of Washington's most natural coastlines. Hikers can enjoy petroglyphs, marine wildlife and rugged ocean views along this trail.

5. Observation Point Loop - Yellowstone National Park


National Park Hikes Yellowstone

What this 2.3 mile loop hike lacks in length, it makes up for in views. The trail begins near Old Faithful and climbs to give hikers a view of this thermal feature from a higher vantage point. The trail continues along to Solitary Geyser before making its way back to Old Faithful.

6. Iceberg Lake - Glacier National Park


best national park hikes

This hike is a nearly 5 mile (one way) trip to one of Glacier's most beautiful alpine lakes. The trail varies between panoramic views and trekking through thick, pine forests, ultimately taking hikers to a pristine alpine lake. Ice chunks are frequently seen floating atop the lake, making its name very appropriate.

7. Gregory Bald - Great Smoky Mountains National Park


best national park hikes

If you love wildflowers, this 5.5 miles (one way) hike is a must-do in June. wild Azaleas bloom at the trail's summit every summer, making it even more breathtaking. The steep ascent to this grassy meadow is well worth the effort, with views of Cades Cove, Rich Mountain, Clingmans Dome and Thunderhead Mountain on a clear day.

8. Hart Tree/Redwood Creek Loop - Kings Canyon National Park


best national park hikes

Escape the crowds and explore the world's largest grove of giant sequoias: Redwood Mountain Grove. This area has a number of trails that can be combined to create loops. The 8 mile Hart Tree/Redwood Creek loop takes hikers past (and through!) a number of famous giants, including the Log Cabin, a cabin build in a hollowed out sequoia tree.

9. South Kaibab Trail - Grand Canyon National Park


South Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon National Park

This steep trail offers some of the most outstanding views in Grand Canyon National Park. This trail descends for 3 miles, taking hikers to Ooh Ah Point for a panoramic view of the canyon. Be sure to pack plenty of water; the hike back up to the trailhead is a sun-soaked workout.

10. Gorham Mountain/Ocean Path Loop - Acadia National Park


best national park hikes

This 3 mile loop gives hikers stunning ocean views as they trek to the top of Gorham Mountain. The summit offers stunning panoramic views of some of Acadia National Park's most popular features. Follow Ocean Path Trail to make your way back down to Sand Beach, where you can spend time relaxing before taking on your next hike.

With so many amazing trails to explore, it's hard to even scratch the surface of national park hikes. Which would you add to our list?
posted by
Lauren Seidl
Blogger at Sierra Trading Post
Lauren enjoys hiking, camping, climbing and exploring the outdoors. She's always up for trying something new, especially if it involves getting outside. When Lauren isn't out finding adventures in her home state of Colorado, she can be found writing as Sierra Trading Post's blogger.
Share
Join the Conversation
Name
Comment