The Best Hiking Trails in National Parks Across the US

Best Hiking Trails in National Parks

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There are 63 national parks in the US, offering countless miles of trails. You have many choices to explore our parks. To make it easier, we’ve picked out 20 top day hikes. These paths let you see the best of our country.

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Going on a hike lets you enjoy America’s natural beauty up close. You can see the snowy peaks of Mount Rainier or Zion’s amazing canyons. Each park has trails for all kinds of hikers.

Get your hiking boots ready. You’re about to see some incredible sights. Whether you like a good challenge or a gentle walk, our national parks have trails that will amaze you.

Now, let’s explore some of the top hiking trails you should definitely check out:

Skyline Trail – Mount Rainier National Park

The Skyline Trail is among the top day hikes at Mount Rainier National Park. It’s a 5.5-mile loop that takes you close to the iconic Mount Rainier. This hike is unforgettable, promising jaw-dropping views and encounters with one of the park’s main attractions.

Trail Details

Trail Length Elevation Gain Season for Hiking Dog Friendly Pass Required Trail Type Difficulty Level
5.5 miles 1,700 feet Mid-July to September/October No America the Beautiful Interagency Pass or $30 entrance fee Loop Moderate / Hard

Planning to hike the Skyline Trail? Consider these key points. The loop is 5.5 miles with a moderate to hard rating. You’ll climb 1,700 feet and the best time to visit is from mid-July to October. Keep in mind, pets are not allowed. This rule helps protect the park’s nature. Also, stay on the marked trails to keep it beautiful for future visitors.

Exploring Mount Rainier National Park

The park has more than 260 miles of hiking trails. With so much to explore, it’s a hiker’s paradise. For a better experience, keep your group under 12. This reduces the impact on the trails for others.

At the trailheads, parking can get full fast. Be ready to change your plan and try another trail if the main one is crowded. Always stick to the marked trails. This is not just a rule; it helps protect the stunning wildflower meadows, the lake shores, and the streams.

Besides the famous Skyline Trail, there are other family-friendly hikes in the park. Areas like Paradise and Sunrise offer easy and scenic walks. Examples include the Nisqually Vista Trail and Trail of the Shadows. These different trails also vary in length and the time needed to hike them.

Remember, not feeding the animals is important for wildlife and visitor safety. It helps prevent accidents and keeps the park’s animals wild. Enjoy the park responsibly, and it will be a wonderful experience for all.

Angels Landing – Zion National Park

Angels Landing is a thrilling hike in Zion National Park. It’s 5.4 miles round trip and is quite strenuous. You will see stunning views and experience thrilling heights. The journey itself is an adventure that captures hikers’ hearts.

The hike starts with a difficult climb, including 21 switchbacks. But, as you climb, the breathtaking scenery makes it all worth it. The most challenging part is the 500-foot push to the top. The view from there is a panorama that will amaze you.

Important Information

Before you start your adventure, there are some important things to know:

  • Distance: 5.4 miles round-trip
  • Hiking Time: 2-4 hours
  • Best Season: Early spring to middle autumn
  • Hiking Permit: Required beginning April 1, 2022
  • Shuttle Stop: The Grotto
  • Recommended Times to Hike: Early March, mid-November, sunrise, sunset
  • Hazard: Cliff exposure; slippery and dangerous when wet – not recommended for young children

Angels Landing is not an easy hike. It demands endurance, preparation, and caution. Here’s how to stay safe:

  • Always check the weather before starting your hike. Avoid rain and thunderstorms.
  • Take a gallon of water per person per day to stay hydrated.
  • Wear boots with good support that you’ve already broken in.
  • Make sure to have a printed or digital copy of your permit from
  • Water is only available at The Grotto, so carry enough for your whole hike.
  • Stay informed about trail or park closures for maintenance or emergencies.
  • Use the official website for the latest news.

Permit Information

To access Angels Landing, you need a permit. Apply in an online lottery from January 3, 2022. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Permit Application Window: From 12:01 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mountain Time (MT)
  • Permit Program Dates: March 1 to May 31, June 1 to August 31, September 1 to November 30, and December 1 to February 28, 2025
  • Permit Cost: $6 for up to 6 people (non-refundable)
  • Trail Closure for Maintenance: April 1 to April 4, 2024
  • Lottery Opening and Closing Times: 8 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. MT for the specified dates
  • Refund Policy: Permit fees are non-refundable for day-before lottery permits. Seasonal lottery permits can be canceled for a full refund of the $3 per person fee up to two days before the hike.

Planning and preparing are crucial for Angels Landing. Secure your permit and know the safety rules. This will lead to a rewarding adventure with incredible views and lasting memories.

Grinnell Glacier – Glacier National Park

Discover the stunning beauty of Glacier National Park with the Grinnell Glacier hike. This 10.6-mile path leads through beautiful alpine scenes. You will see waterfalls and lakes with emerald green waters.

Look out for the park’s wildlife as you walk. It’s common to see mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and maybe a grizzly bear.

You can make the hike shorter by taking a boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. This option cuts the hike down to 7.2 miles. The boat rides take 10 minutes for Swiftcurrent Lake and 12 minutes for Lake Josephine.

The best times for this hike are from mid-June to September. This is when the weather is good and the trail is at its best.

Ticket Options and Tips

For a guided experience, there are boat shuttle tickets available. You can select from various options, such as a roundtrip or a guided hike.

It’s best to buy your tickets early, especially during crowded times.

The first boat from Many Glacier Hotel leaves at 8:30 am. Starting early lets you enjoy a peaceful hike.

Don’t forget to bring food, water, sunscreen, and bear spray. These items are important for your safety and comfort.

Trail Information

Distance Elevation Gain Length of Time Highest Elevation
10.6 miles 1600 feet 5 to 7 hours 6515 feet
Roundtrip Length Total Elevation Gain Avg. Elev Gain / Mile Trail Difficulty Rating
7.6 miles 1840 feet 484 feet 11.28 (strenuous)

This data tells you about the hike’s length, elevation gain, and difficulty. Getting ready is key to having a great time and staying safe.

Grinnell Glacier is more than just a pretty hike. Discovered in 1885, George Bird Grinnell noted the glacier was melting. Its area has shrunk from 710 acres in 1850 to less than 200 acres in 2005.

Explore Grinnell Glacier for amazing views and to learn about climate change. This hike will leave you with wonderful memories and a new understanding of our planet’s future.

Devils Garden Trail – Arches National Park

The Devils Garden Trail at Arches National Park is a favorite spot for nature lovers and thrill-seekers. This 7.8-mile loop shows off eight amazing arches. It promises a memorable adventure, perfect for both pros and beginners.

This trail is famous for its stunning landscapes. You’ll see big sandstone rocks, walk narrow paths, and see erosion at work. It’s a chance to see the special geology of Arches National Park up close.

The longest arch in North America, Landscape Arch, is a must-see here. It stretches 306 feet long and is very narrow in some parts, making it truly special.

The trail has different paths for various hiking abilities. Families might like the easier parts, while thrill-seekers might prefer the harder Double O Arch. The Primitive Trail offers even more adventure, with rock scrambling and route finding.

Different hikes on this trail have varying lengths. The easier walk to Landscape Arch takes about an hour. A harder hike to Double O Arch takes 2-2.5 hours. The longest trek to Dark Angel is around 5.9 miles, taking around 3.5 hours.

The recommended guidelines for hiking the Devils Garden Trail include:

  • Bringing 2-3 liters of water per person for the entire loop to stay hydrated
  • Applying sunscreen due to the limited shade along the trail
  • Using GPS or map cache as the cellular signal is weak in the area

Devils Garden Trail - Arches National Park

Devils Garden campground welcomes those wanting a longer stay. March through October, you need reservations. In the winter, it’s first-come, first-served.

Remember not to walk or climb on any arches here. By being careful, we help keep this beautiful place safe and preserved.

Half Dome – Yosemite National Park

Prepare for an unforgettable journey in Yosemite National Park, among the USA’s most dramatic parks. The hike to Half Dome is both challenging and rewarding.

This adventure includes a 14 to 16-mile hike, leading you through beautiful trails, past stunning waterfalls, and under cooling forests. It’s the perfect mix of nature’s beauty and physical effort.

Conquering the Summit

The top experience of this hike is climbing the iconic Half Dome cables. It’s a thrilling climb that rewards you with stunning views of Yosemite National Park. This climb needs strength, agility, and a brave heart.

A Natural Wonder

The top of Half Dome gives a special view of the Yosemite Valley. It’s cooler here than in the valley, so dress warmly. This extra effort will make your experience even better.

Permits and Precautions

Because of its fame and to protect Half Dome, only a limited number of hikers can access the cables each day. A lottery system gives out about 50 permits every day.

Plan ahead as only 29% obtain permits through the pre-season lottery. Choosing weekdays increases your chances.

High altitudes may cause sickness, leading to headaches and nausea. If you feel unwell, go down immediately and get help if needed.

Watch out for bears in the Wilderness. Store your food right and avoid feeding any wildlife. Failing to comply could lead to a $5,000 fine.

Exploring Alternatives

Can’t do the Half Dome hike or no permits? Yosemite has other great hikes like Clouds Rest, North Dome, and Sentinel Dome. They offer awesome views and do not require a permit.

Ready your boots for the unforgettable adventure to Half Dome. The journey is tough, but the moments and views are worth it.

Sky Pond – Rocky Mountain National Park

Discover the stunning Rocky Mountain National Park through the Sky Pond hike. This 9.5-mile trail leads you through beautiful sites. You’ll see waterfalls, alpine lakes, and amazing mountain scenes.

Starting at 9,240 feet, you’ll hike to Sky Pond’s highest point at 10,880 feet. There’s a 1,640-foot climb up. The total climb is 2,125 feet.

Plan for 4 to 6 hours to finish the hike. It depends on how fast you walk and how much time you spend enjoying the views. The best time to go is from June to September, when the trail is clear of snow. Remember, you need a park permit to hike from late May to early October.

You can park more easily at a big lot. But, it does add 0.4 miles extra to your hike.

Altitude caution: This hike is quite difficult, especially if it’s your first time at a high altitude. Prepare yourself well. Acclimate to the air and know what you’re in for.

Get ready for the hike with some key items. You’ll need strong hiking shoes and maybe poles for balance. Don’t forget lots of water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, shades, and a camera to snap the views.

Trail Statistics:

Distance Elevation Gain Highest Elevation Length of Time Best Time to Hike
9.5 miles out-and-back 1,640 feet 10,880 feet 4 to 6 hours June through September

Take on the Sky Pond hike in the Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll see some of the best natural sights, like alpine lakes and waterfalls. It’s a journey through a stunning national park that you won’t forget.

Sky Pond - Rocky Mountain National Park

Queen’s Garden & Navajo Loop Trail – Bryce Canyon National Park

Explore Bryce Canyon National Park through the must-do Queen’s Garden & Navajo Loop Trail. This 2.75-mile loop blends two famous trails, inviting you to experience the park’s breathtaking scenery up close.

This trail highlights Bryce Canyon’s iconic hoodoos, canyons, and pine forests. Every step offers sweeping views. It’s a journey you won’t forget.

Choose either Sunrise Point or Sunset Point to start your adventure. Both offer spectacular views. Following the designated route clockwise takes you through the park’s beauty.

The hike presents two loop sides. Two Bridges, open all year, lets you enjoy unique scenery each season. Wall Street may close in cold, wet weather, keeping hikers safe.

Hiking here is of moderate difficulty. Bryce Canyon’s high elevation can cause altitude sickness. Always wear sturdy, supportive boots, crucial in icy conditions.

Good shoes help prevent accidents. Walking clockwise also cuts risks, especially on the steep Navajo side.

Hikers usually finish in 2 to 3 hours, with a 620-foot climb. Enjoy the park’s geological wonders and diverse plant and animal life on this captivating hike.

To ensure a great hike, know your limits, stay hydrated, and watch out for lightning. It’s a real risk in this stunning yet hazardous environment.

Remember to respect nature by staying on paths. Pets are limited to certain areas, and Emotional Support Animals have similar rules. Ensure your safety and nature’s preservation.

The Queen’s Garden & Navajo Loop Trail offers a memorable nature experience. Dress appropriately, heed safety advice, and enjoy Bryce Canyon’s astonishing views.


Trail Details Queen’s Garden & Navajo Loop Trail
Distance 2.75 miles
Difficulty Moderate
Total Ascent 620 feet
Hiking Time 2-3 hours


The United States boasts 58 national parks with amazing hiking trails for everyone. You can explore the high peaks of Mount Rainier or the famous arches in Arches National Park. These trails provide beautiful views and unforgettable adventures for any hiker.

Whether you’re up for a tough trek or want something easy for the family, there’s a trail waiting for you. They vary in difficulty and are designed for different levels of experience.

Prioritizing safety when hiking is a must. Make sure you carry the 10 Essentials to be prepared and safe. It’s advisable to speak with a medical expert if you have health concerns. They can help you understand any risks before you hit the trail.

Hiking with others is safer than going alone. Those in the group should match the pace of the slowest member. This keeps everyone together and safe. If you’re hiking at high altitudes, like 8,000 feet, be aware of altitude sickness. It can be serious. Gradually getting used to the altitude helps prevent health issues.

Now, get ready with your hiking gear and friends. Explore the beauty of national parks by walking. You might enjoy the family-friendly Main Loop Trail at Bandelier National Monument or the challenging Hoodoo Trail in Banff National Park. Make unforgettable memories on routes like the Broken Arch Loop in Arches National Park or the Trail of Cedars in Glacier National Park.

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