Best Parks for Epic Hiking in North America

Best Parks for Epic Hiking in North America

by Dan Thompson

Have itching feet and cannot wait to lace up your boots and go on a hiking adventure? This article was written especially for the condition you are experiencing; here is a list of some of the most epic hiking spots in North America.

Canadian Rockies

Jasper National Park and Banff National Park are pure mountain jewels when it comes to scenery. It is hard to even describe the rocky and snowy peaks, glacial lakes and rich forests that change their colors every season. The hiking is plentiful and spectacular with options for all preferences, levels of fitness and experience.

Some good day hike routes include Cavell Meadows Trail, Bald Hills and the Cottonwood Creek/Pyramid Lake Loop. All of these options are 5-10 km in distance and easily be done in an afternoon by reasonably fit parties. If you are seeking a bit of more challenge, try the Skyline trail. It’s a 1-3 day hike, covering 42 km. You’ll spend quite a lot of time at relatively high elevation (up to 2510 m) and will get to experience some wild Canadian beauty. Be aware of the wildlife in the National Park, and act accordingly; grizzly bears and grey wolves can be spotted in the area. Don’t forget to carry bear spray and ideally travel with a friend or a few.

Yellowstone National Park

The First National Park in the US established in 1872, Yellowstone is a land of true wilderness. The accessible trails and close-to-road scenic sights, however, are very popular tourist attractions making them rather busy (resulting in even occasional traffic jams). Go to Yellowstone to see wildlife such as grizzlies, wolves, and bison, observe geothermal marvels and listen to exciting park rangers’ stories about the wonders of the park. Be careful, when wandering around the geothermal areas, and stick to the trails, as it is easy to fall into hidden hot springs and acid pools.

If you are seeking for a day hike, try the Lava Creek trail. It’s a 15 km round-trip; a steep scenic canyon is the highlight of the trip.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is one of the oldest National Parks in the country (and the world) and home to such famous rock landmarks as the El Capitan and the Half Dome, making it a rock-climbers’ mecca. In addition to these spectacular granite walls, Yosemite is rich with beautiful forests, waterfalls, pristine rivers, meadows and inspiring hiking trails for all levels if ability. It’s a prime hiking location even for the pickiest of adventurers.

One of my favorite hiking day trips in Yosemite is the climb up to the Glacier Point. From the valley take the Four Mile Trail that takes countless switchbacks to some of the most scenic spots in the valley. It’s ¬8km to the top (making it 16km return), but almost 1 km in elevation gain, making it a rather strenuous experience. The views are breath-taking, and while you can take a bus/car up the glacier point, I suggest you committing to the hike – earn the views with your sweat.

If you are not good with long climbs, how about the Cook’s Meadow Loop? It’s 1.6 km and completely flat, making it suitable for hikers of all ability, including young families.

Mount Rainier National Park

Mount Rainer is legendary for its mountaineering history and magnificent views. Go on a hike there to explore its countless trails, peaks and immerse yourself in vibrant colors of alpine flowers; maybe you will even encounter some marmots and deer playing in the paradise meadows. Mount Rainier National Park is also a dark sky spot, where people come for stargazing and meteor-shower experiences.

A truly beautiful day hike option is the Glacier Basin Trail. It’s just over 10 km in length through divine meadows, surrounded by majestic glaciers and occasional mountain goats.

Rocky Mountain National Park

This Colorado adventure-land is packed with trails, climbs, peaks, forests – you name it! Some of the best hiking options include Mt Ida and Hallett peak; both above 12,000 ft., these routes will reward you with magnificent views all the way, with minimal exposure to steep drops. If you are hoping to visit some alpine lakes, do visit the Chasm and Emerald lakes that are considered some of the most scenic in the area.

Moab Hiking

If you’re looking for exceptional hiking, Moab is the place for you. It’s a land of deserts and colorful rock sculptures, renowned for its rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking. The two best well-known areas include the Arches National Park and the Dead Horse Point State Park.

One of the most famous hiking routes in Moab includes the Hidden Valley trail, Fisher Towers Trail and Corona Arch. They all range between 5-10 km and you will be able to find some of those famous images Moab is so famous about. Sandstone towers and arches are the key sights in all the locations.

West Coast of Canada

British Columbia and other areas of Western Canada are just packed with outdoors’ options and some of the most inspiring and accessible hiking in North America and probably – the entire planet. Visit Squamish and Whistler and enjoy their countless mountain and forest hiking routes.

Amongst the well know (and the most scenic) routes in Squamish are the Chief summit climbs and the Sea-to-Sky hike. The Chief is the El Capitan of Canada – massive granite wall, the town is humbly clustered around. It’s mainly known for its rock-climbing, with countless of world-class routes on it and in the broader area. However, luckily it is also accessible to hikers. There are three peaks you can hike up to, each steep climb up technical trails and series of stairs up to bold granite mountain-heads. The first peak is by far the easiest to reach; however, it gets slippery, when wet and snowy (so watch your step and choose appropriate footwear). If you are quick, you can get up and down the peak in an hour, but I would suggest embracing the views.

The Sea-to-Sky hike is longer (¬15km return), more challenging, but, in my opinion, more satisfying. The hiking on it is a bit slower than on the Chief, making you fully embrace the nature and take your time. When it snows, the route becomes very tricky, as the trail disappears under the snow cover, making for very slow progress. I would not recommend hiking it in snow and heavy rain unless you have a lot of experience and you know exactly what you are doing. There is also a gondola ride available (if you cannot make the climb, or feel like skipping the descent part).

The Grand Canyon

It is very long and incredibly scenic. Very few people actually hiked the entire length of the Grand Canyon. Maybe it’s the challenge for you?

Gear and Final thoughts

Hiking, especially in mountains, is a serious endeavor, requiring proper preparation. Always check the weather, know the route and objectively assess your abilities. Always take an insulating layer, even if it’s warm and sunny, and carry an emergency kit, such as a first aid kit and a space blanket. If you are planning a more remote or off-trail route, having some sort of GPS is a great idea.

Some of these areas have active wild animal activity, hence take necessary precautions and consult rangers for any risks.

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