A summer outdoors
While COVID-19 has changed much our lives and affected how we live—it can’t change what we love. We love getting out into the great outdoors and enjoying nature for its serenity, beauty, and splendor. America has some of the most diverse and beautiful natural offerings that many are exploring and taking advantage of with the current pandemic. While you may make some of these common coronavirus mistakes, a breathe of fresh air will certainly do you good. What better way to stay safe and stay happy than getting outside?
Though many indoor activities are off the table or somewhat up in the air this summer, these hiking trails and national parks have opened, or are soon to be opening up again, for our hiking, biking, and walking pleasure. Take a look at the best hiking trails in every state and make sure to check the park/trail website for any changes before heading out.
Alabama: Branyon Backcountry Trail
Seven different trails make up the Branyon Backcountry Trail, one of the best hiking trails in the state. It’s a 15+ mile trek along the southern state’s Gulf Coast and is considered a must-do by the Alabama Tourism Board. You’ll travel through cities like Orange Beach, Gulf Shores, and the Gulf State Park, passing a butterfly garden, marshes, swamps, and perhaps even a bobcat or white-tailed deer, too.
Alaska: Winner Creek Trail
This northern state has tons of options for adventurous hikes, especially near glaciers and lakes, but the family-friendly Winner Creek Trail pleases everyone who visits. Located 45 minutes south of Anchorage, the most popular part is Lower Winner Creek, a three-mile walk- and bike-friendly path through Alaska’s rainforest setting. You’ll have to cross a wooden bridge and take a tram (which you pull across yourself) to get over Glacier Creek—a unique, breathtaking experience.
Arizona: South Kaibab Trail
You can’t beat the views and the bucket list experience of the South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, arguably one of the best hiking trails in the country. It starts at Yaki Point on the South Rim, then one mile in, you’ll reach Ooh-Aah Point—perfectly named for how you’ll feel when you check out the canyon around you, according to Matthew Nelson, executive director of the Arizona Trail Association. Go another half-mile and you’ll arrive at a picnic spot called Cedar Ridge. Then, just another 1.5 miles ahead is Skeleton Point, a good turn-around spot for beginners, as the name suggests. If you love to hike, you’ll also want to know these 15 best places to camp in National Parks.
Arkansas: Lost Valley in the Buffalo River Wilderness District
You’ll see tons of pretty sights on the trek through Lost Valley in the Buffalo River Wilderness District, including Eden Falls, a quadruple-tiered waterfall, Cobb Cave, countless wildflowers, and maybe an elk or two. It’s a journey just over two miles round-trip, which means you can bring the entire family with you, plus, the first half-mile is wheelchair accessible.
California: Table Mountain
Some of the best hiking trails in the country fill the Golden State (and some of the most famous ones), as its home to Yosemite National Park, Redwood National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, and Lake Tahoe (to name a few stand-out spots). But for a hidden gem, check out Table Mountain in Butte County, where you get a mix of wildflower super blooms—try to plan a trip for spring when these bright flowers paint the hills—and waterfalls, too. Get inspired by taking a gander at these gorgeous photos of our national parks in full bloom.
Colorado: West Maroon Pass
Spanning from Crested Butte to Aspen for 22 miles, most hikers take the West Maroon Pass as a one-way and either stay overnight at one end or take a shuttle back to the start that same day. According to the tourism board, this trail includes the most photographed peaks in all of Colorado, Maroon Bells.
Connecticut: Hike to Gillette Castle in Gillette Castle State Park
While it is currently closed due to COVID-19 concerns, plans to reopen are still in the works. When it reopens, just visiting Gillette Castle State Park, without doing tons of walking, you’ll see pretty views of the Connecticut River. But follow the 1.3-mile path to the medieval-looking stone castle (open Memorial Day through Labor Day), and you’ll get to see the former home of actor, William Gillette, built between 1914 and 1919. A steam train and riverboat might also pass by as you hang around the area—riding them is on our bucket list for the Nutmeg State.
Delaware: Junction Breakwater and Gordons Pond Trail Loop
Through Cape Henlopen State Park and between Lewes and Rehoboth Beach, the Junction Breakwater and Gordons Pond Trail Loop offers waves, dunes, evergreen forests, and expansive views of the Atlantic Ocean. It has that shoreline feel, with wildlife like osprey, bald eagles, and shorebirds flocking overhead. Consider it the perfect combo of beach time and green space. Check out these other photos that perfectly celebrate our natural world—and what’s at stake.
Florida: Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail
The Florida National Scenic Trail system has tons of top-notch options for some of the best hiking trails in the country. But for a multi-purpose path, check out the Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail, a nearly 50-mile stretch in Pasco and Pinellas counties. It’s recommended by the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy—a non-profit working to creating a country-wide trail from Washington D.C. to Washington State—this rail trail connects parks, coastal towns, and neighborhoods.
Georgia: Tennessee Rock Trail
In the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Black Rock Mountain State Park is the highest in the state and packs trails with flowers, streams, small waterfalls, and forests—along with beautiful views. Be advised that the park may be limiting capacity (first-come, first-served) due to COVID-19 concerns. The Tennessee Rock Trail is a 2.2-mile loop and a moderate-level trek that lets you peep more than 80 miles out on a clear day, featuring North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee all in one view.
Hawaii: Makapuu Lighthouse Trail
Of course, this ocean-view state has some of the most epic hikes in the country thanks to the seriously stunning views you’ll find around every corner. So you really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. But if we had to pick just one, on Hawaii’s most popular island, Oahu, the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail would be it; a moderate two-mile trip, you’ll see incredible sights of the island’s southeastern coastline, including Koko Head, Koko Crater, and, of course, the Makapuu Lighthouse, built in 1909 with an eye-catching red roof. They are currently still limiting some facilities, parking access, and groups of over two people. Take a peek at these photos showing how nature had rebounded during the coronavirus.
Idaho: Fishhook Creek Trail
Located near Stanley, Idaho, and Redfish Lake, the Fishhook Creek Trail is a five-mile roundtrip hike with plenty of spots to stop and take in the beauty of your surroundings. You’ll make your way through sagebrush-lined paths, forests, meadows, and flower patches, reaching a combo view of Fishhook Creek Meadow and Mount Heyburn—the ideal place to park it for a few minutes and just relax.
Illinois: Garden of the Gods
Head six hours south of Chicago and you’ll hit the Shawnee National Park in southern Illinois. Settled between the Ohio River and Mississippi River, opt for the trail to Garden of the Gods. At the peak, you can view awesome sandstone rock formations that stretch for miles. Along the way, you’ll travel through canyons and under green leaf canopies.
Indiana: Knobstone Trail
Knobston, a combo of worn down shale, sandstone, and siltstone, packs this path in abundance, as do lots of forest-filled lands. Indiana’s longest trail, it spreads 60 miles over state park spaces. Pick any spot on the trail to start and end, but the Knobstone Escarpment is one of the most scenic go-tos, as it sits 300 feet above farmland.
Iowa: High Trestle Trail
A part of the Great American Rail Trail, this concrete footpath spans 25 miles in an area north of Des Moines. Its stand-out sight will grant any good Instagrammer the perfect picture: a ½-mile, three-story bridge that features an art installation of geometric shapes and lights that bring it to life at night. The entire trail spreads across five towns and four counties, so you also have plenty of opportunities to take a break and grab some grub along your journey. Just think twice before taking any of these photos in a National Park.
Kansas: Elk River Trail in Elk City
A 15-mile, point-to-point, moderate to difficult hike, the Elk River Trail in Elk City offers waterfalls, rock formations, small caves, limestone bluffs, and ancient trees like oak, sycamore, and hickory. It gets its stamp of difficulty because of the switchbacks that lead to steep climbs (Kansas isn’t all flat after all!). On top of the rock formations, you get a pretty view of Elk City Lake.
Kentucky: The Berea Pinnacles
While the most popular hiking destination in Kentucky is the Natural Bridge hike, the Berea Pinnacles is a can’t-miss path that slips under visitors’ radars. What makes it so great? Well, the lush surroundings for starters, as well as a view of Indian Fort Mountain. You can also choose your distance, but crossing off all lookout points (East Pinnacle, West Pinnacle, Buzzards Roost, and Eagles Nest), makes for a five-mile loop. Discover the hidden gem in your state.
Louisiana: Louisiana State Arboretum
A system of short trails in Ville Platte, this entire collection of footpaths in the Louisiana State Arboretum totals six miles. Founded by the southern state’s first female forester, naturalist, artist and author, Caroline Dormon, the area got an official stamp of approval in 1964. Buzzing with plenty of bird watching, cypress trees, rolling hills and creeks, the Arboretum is right near Chicot State Park (currently closed), which also offers a 19-mile loop if you’re looking for a longer hike.
Maine: Mount Kineo State Park
From the very beginning of this hike, you get a pretty cool and unique experience: to get to Mount Kineo State Park you need to take a shuttle boat from the town of Rockwood. When you get there, you have just over six miles of trails to hike. Choose among four different routes (Indian, Bridle, Carriage, or North) to the summit, where a converted fire tower sits. From the top, you’ll see a range of mountains in all directions, plus Moosehead Lake down below. If you’re wondering about a nature phenomena in your state, see if we can explain it.
Maryland: Appalachian Trail
While the full Appalachian Trail spreads more than 2,000 miles, a 40-mile stretch of it runs across Maryland and it provides some of the best hiking trails for a day-long adventure in the state. Popular routes include Annapolis Rock (at 1,700 feet, it has the highest elevation of the three), Washington Monument, and Weverton Cliffs. You have lots of opportunities for lookout points to catch a glimpse of the greenery around you.
Massachusetts: Mohawk Trail State Forest
Located in Western Mass, the Mohawk Trail State Forest is a popular spot for lots of outdoor activities, hiking in particular, as you stop and take in the woodlands of New England. You have more than 6,000 acres of mountains, gorges, and trees to explore, so the options for which direction you want to go are nearly endless. You can also camp overnight at 56 spots or choose to spend the night at one of six log cabins for rent. Here are 15 more amazing campsites across America that should be on your bucket list.
Michigan: Empire Bluff Trail
If you haven’t seen a Great Lake in your lifetime, now is your chance to check one out and snap a pic. Offering a quick round-trip, on the Empire Bluff Trail (just 1.5 miles), you get a stunning overlook of Lake Michigan. Most of the path is dirt or wood-laden, which makes for easy hiking.
Minnesota: Superior Hiking Trail
A spot also offering a chance to spend time staring at a Great Lake, but this time it’s Superior. With more than 300 miles of trails from Duluth to the Canadian border, you can pick your favorite spot along the Superior Hiking Trail (trailhead parking lots pop up every few miles for a total of 50 entryways). Trek in for a day hike or pack up and spend a few nights along the path—campsites come along every five to eight miles. With either option, you get river, stream, waterfall, and forest scenery.
Mississippi: Longleaf Trace
Winding through woods and wetlands, this rail trail connects to the University of Southern Mississippi, extending from Hattiesburg to Prentiss. Lots of pine trees line the more than 40-mile path, providing soothing scenery along the way. Plenty of towns also line the trail, so you can hop off to grab a bite or do some shopping. At every turn, you’ll see a very quintessential southern setting.
Missouri: Katy Trail State Park
One of the longest rails-to-trails routes in the country, this is the most well-known footpath in Missouri and transverses nearly the length of the state. It runs from Machens just outside of St. Louis to Clinton on the outskirts of Kansas, spanning 237 miles. Take your pick on how long you want to travel through. You can step on a trailhead about every ten miles throughout the path, pausing for a rest at eateries, wineries, and breweries whenever you need a pit stop.
Montana: Blodgett Overlook Trail
Set in Bitterroot National Forest, locals love this hike for its gorgeous view of Blodgett Canyon when you reach the overlook. While the route has some steep climbs, it’s nothing any age or skill level can’t handle. And it’s well worth it to make it to the top for its 360-degrees of picture-perfect sights.
Nebraska: Black Hills Overlook
Both hikers and bikers often hit this trail in Chadron State Park, Nebraska’s oldest state park. At the viewing point, you’ll see grasslands and glimpses of South Dakota, and you also get one of the best panoramas of the north canyon. Head eight miles south of Chadron for a trailhead.
Nevada: South Loop Trail to Charleston Peak
Nevada’s not all about flashy Las Vegas; it has amazing outdoor spaces, too. This path, in particular, located in the Spring Mountains National Recreation area—a place locals call Mount Charleston—is an hour drive northwest of the strip. The hike itself is 8.5 miles to the beautiful sights at the peak, which reaches close to 12,000 feet. To get there, you’ll transverse toward Echo Canyon and over an avalanche chute, as you spot aspen trees, and walk across a meadow. Speaking of nature, check out out how coronavirus is impacting endangered animals.
New Hampshire: White Cross Trail at Mount Monadnock
You’ll likely share this trail with lots of nature lovers leaving from the Monadnock State Park headquarters and trekking to the summit. It’s a 3.8-mile jaunt to the top, requiring a pretty steep climb so feel free to take your time. As you pass wildflowers, you’ll come to the highest point where you can see the state and its rolling hills for miles and miles.
New Jersey: Franklin Parker Preserve in Pine Barrens
Pine Barrens, aka Pinelands, is an enormous area of land, covering 1.1 million acres. The Franklin Parker Preserve takes up 9,700-acres of that space and has four hiking trails covering 21 miles. You’ll find loops that weave around cranberry bogs, passed blueberry fields, and around the homes of Bald Eagles.
New Mexico: Dale Ball Trail System
Not too far from downtown Sante Fe, you’ll find a 22-mile network of trails as part of the Dale Ball Trail System, situated at the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Whether you’re a beginner hiker or advanced in your treks, there’s a route (and view!) for you.
New York: Bear Mountain Loop Trail
Not too far outside the Big Apple, the Bear Mountain Loop Trail is the perfect escape to the woods when you want to trade the tall city skylines with amazing green, tree-stocked views. You’ll head to the top via the Major Welch Trail and wrap around to join the Appalachian Trail. Along the way, notice the Hudson River and Anthony’s Nose across the water, another popular New York hiking spot. Outdoor lovers should also check out our list of the best picnic spots in every state.
North Carolina: Whiteside Mountain Trail
A two-mile loop along the Whiteside Mountain Trail brings you around the Eastern Continental Divide, over rocks nearly 500 million years old. Along the ridgeline, you peep pretty epic views of the Appalachian Mountains, from Georgia to North Carolina. Whiteside has one of the steepest vertical cliffs in the eastern United States, so it’s a good thing there’s a fence at the top so you can still look down over the granite rock face. If you’re lucky, you could also see an endangered species: the peregrine falcon, which sometimes flies overhead or nests on the rock.
North Dakota: Caprock Coulee Nature Trail
This is just 0.8 miles of the Caprock Coulee Nature Trail (1.6 miles round trip), but it’s arguably the best part. That’s because you’ll see a vast amount of badlands (eroded land with little vegetation), while also grabbing a look at wooded areas around Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Other cool nature sightings include prickly pear cactus, petrified wood, and sagebrush.
Ohio: Buckeye Trail
Not every state has a trail that loops around basically the entire region, but Ohio sure does. Spanning 1,444 miles and all four corners, you can start on the Buckeye Trail near Cleveland on a beach on Lake Erie or near Cincinnati overlooking the Ohio River. You can also dip into Cuyahoga Valley National Park. You don’t have to make it all the way around in one fell swoop, rather enjoy a small stretch when you can.
Oklahoma: Oklahoma River Trails
Travel on the Oklahoma River Trails, a lovely paved, tree-lined path through downtown Oklahoma City. Near S. Harvey Avenue, catch a view of the SkyDance Bridge, a unique sight for any hike. Inspired by Oklahoma’s state bird, the scissor-tailed flycatcher, it rises 200 feet and at night, gets adorned in colorful, eye-catching lights. You’ll also want to check out the 20 most beautiful Main Streets across America.
Oregon: Drift Creek Falls
Transverse a suspension bridge 100 feet above a canyon floor, walk through a coastal forest, and view a 75-foot waterfall all on this hike along Drift Creek Falls. Greens like vine maples, huckleberry, and salmonberry bushes graze the trail, winding through the wet Siuslaw National Forest. Speaking of waterfalls, discover the most gorgeous waterfall in your state.
Pennsylvania: Mid State Trail
Named Pennsylvania’s trail of the year in 2019, the Mid State Trail is the state’s longest, covering 327 miles and stretching from the border of New York to the border of Maryland. Mainly on public land, it includes state parks, forests, and plenty of picnic areas.
Rhode Island: East Bay Bike Path
It might say bike in the name, but you can certainly choose to hike this beautiful New England rail trail. Through Bristol and Providence counties, it has a nautical feel, courtesy of the waterfront views and overpasses. The entire path stretches 14 miles. For more fun on two wheels, check out the 13 best bike tours you can take around the country.
South Carolina: Table Rock Mountain
At Table Rock Mountain at Table Rock State Park in Pickens, you’ll find streams, waterfalls, views of Table Rock and Pinnacle Mountains and wildlife galore. Animals in the area include black bears, white-tailed deer, raccoons, gray fox, bobcat, and wild turkey, among others. Choose from six different trails, ranging from 0.6 miles to 3.6 miles from easy to strenuous.
South Dakota: Black Elk Peak in Black Hills National Forest
At the highest point in South Dakota—previously named Harney Peak—you have several trails to test out nearby. The most popular is trail 9, which, according to the Department of Tourism, is an easy to moderate hike that goes for 3.5 miles to the top. There, you’ll see views that span most of the region, with granite formations and forestry in the foreground.
Tennessee: Roan Mountain State Park
Visit the rhododendron gardens here in June, a prime time to stop and stare at the beautiful blooms, and also when the park hosts a fun festival. In the area, you have 12 miles of hiking trails with one of the highest rated being Cloudland Trail, a 2.4-mile trek. It will likely have some foot traffic when you go.
Texas: Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Located in Canyon, Palo Duro is the second largest canyon in the United States, yet somehow not many people visit this gem each year—just 300,000 people check it out, compared to the Grand Canyon’s five million. You have 15 trails to choose from, where you can see the canyon from several different angles. The tourism board suggests the seven-mile stretch of Upper Comanche to cross a river or a three-mile hike on Kiowa Trail for a close-up of the red-hued Permian formation.
Utah: The Living Room Hike
You could visit Zion, Bryce Canyon, or Arches National Parks for some pretty epic hiking in Utah. Or you could get quite the stellar view from this hidden gem, located near Salt Lake City. Ask most locals if they’ve done the Living Room Hike trek, and they’ll likely say yes. It’s short, but steep and offers an expansive view of Salt Lake Valley when you reach the lookout, a spot on the foothills above the Natural History Museum of Utah. The inviting name comes from the rocks on the trail set up as a welcoming seating arrangement—you have our permission to park it and just enjoy the view from your seat.
Vermont: The Long Trail
Running the length of the state, some people hike the entire 272-mile footpath of The Long Trail, while others pick out day hikes, aiming to complete the full length in parts. There are also 166 miles of side trails to choose from if you want even more variety. Following the Green Mountain ridgeline, you will never run out of fresh air and lush green views to capture.
Virginia: Crabtree Falls Trail
Featuring a steep waterfall in Nelson County, not many people know about this stand-out hiking spot, but you should. The falls really are the main attraction, with five big cascades and more smaller ones, and the steepest dropping 1,200 feet. You get a stop-and-spectate point just a hundred feet from the parking lot, but for those who want to travel another three miles to more stunning views of Tye River Valley, that’s always an option. Traveling by RV? Then you won’t want to miss our round-up of the best RV park in every state.
Washington: Hurricane Hill
Off of Hurricane Ridge, a gorgeous mountainous region, Hurricane Hill in Olympic National Park is the perfect starting trail. Though currently closed, some paths are beginning to reopen soon. An easy out and back if you want it, you’ll walk 1.6 total miles, or you can use it as a connection to longer trails. Either way, you get a breathtaking view of the surrounding area, especially if you go for a sunset (highly recommended!). Get inspired by taking a look at these photos of the most spectacular sunset in every state.
West Virginia: Endless Wall Trail
A true stand-out in the Mountain State, the Endless Wall Trail is just over two miles and offers awesome views of a gorge—the name actually comes from the rock cliffs that line it. Hike to Diamond Point for the perfect viewing spot of the cliff along the rim of the gorge. Here, you’ll also have access to rock climbing if you want to add another activity to your day.
Wisconsin: Amnicon Falls State Park
Get a dose of midwest history on the two miles of trails that wind around the Amnicon Falls State Park. The area features natural landscapes, formed from earthquakes that happened half a billion years ago. The River Trail specifically offers mini-pools and waterfalls for watching, too. Definitely make a stop at the Horton Bridge, a covered overpass located at Lower Falls. There’s a selfie stick set up for you downstream from the bridge so you can snap all the photos you want. This isn’t the only place in the United States where you’ll find a natural swimming pool. Here are more of our favorites.
Wyoming: The Continental Divide Trail
In a state that’s home to both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, The Continental Divide Trail in Medicine Bow National Forest stands out for a few reasons. The entire Continental Divide Trail covers more than 3,000 miles and five states, but in Wyoming, you get 550 miles of it from Yellowstone down to Medicine Bow. Along the route, you’ll come across iconic sights like the Wind River Range, Great Divide Basin, and South Pass City. Keep reading to discover the most historic landmark in every state.
Source: Read Full Article