Courtesy of Thea Gavin
Grand Canyon North Kaibab Trail
The North Rim of the Grand Canyon is higher, cooler and harder to reach than the more-popular South Rim. As a result, the trail from it into the Grand Canyon is longer and lonelier. That’s what makes so great. The 1.5-mile (2.4-kilometer) hike to Coconino Overlook or 4-mile (6.5-km) round trip to Supai Tunnel can give you a special feel for the Grand Canyon. Hiking all the way to Roaring Springs and back is tough, a full-day round-trip march of 9.4 miles (15 km) down 3,050 feet (930 meters). It’s rough, but nothing compared to the round trip to the Colorado River, which is 28 miles (45 km), with a descent and climb of almost 6,000 feet (1,800 meters). Those attempting this in a day are likely to go home in a body bag. Get all the facts from the Grand Canyon National Park.
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Tired of vegging out on the beach? Try this 11-mile (18-km) trail that leads you through five remote, lush valleys from Ke'e Beach to Kalalau Beach. The trail is virtually never level and skims the tops of sheer sea cliffs, which have earned it a reputation for being one of the most terrifying trails in the world. For a strong backpacker the trail will take all day. Lots of info at KalalauTrail.com.
U.S. Forest Service
This 1,200-mile (1,900-km) trail runs from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean. It’s considered one of the most scenic trails in the world and crosses three National Parks and seven National Forests. And like other long trails, it can be explored in short segments. The view-packed track includes the Rocky Mountains, Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Olympic Mountains and Wilderness Coast. Take your pick. The adventure begins with a visit to the website of the Pacific Northwest Trail Association .
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This is perhaps the most popular mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has no less than five very different trails to choose from. So you want waterfalls? Try the Rainbow Falls Trail or the Trillium Gap Trail. Want to get away from it all? Take the lonely Bullhead Trail. Want to meet other hikers? That would be the Alum Cave trail, the most popular in the park. Want elevation? Then it’s The Boulevard Trail, which never drops below 5,500 feet (1,676 meters). The same trails can have dramatically different attractions in different seasons, as leafy scenes turn into vistas when leaves fall from the trees. Get all the details from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
California State Parks
A good hike should offer a good view at some point along the trail and the Tahoe Rim Trail accomplished this to an extreme with hyperventilating views from every angle of the world famous Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada. The 165-mile (266-km) trail follows the ridges of the Tahoe Basin, ranging in elevation from 6,240 feet to 10,338 feet (3,151 meters). The peak seasons are July through September. Everything you need to know can be learned from the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.
This is a long, long trail that wends through the rugged remote alpine country of Victoria, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory, including some of Australia's finest national parks. The 400-mile (650-kilometer) trail climbs the highest mountains in the country, through plains and gum forests with some of the world’s tallest trees. But it’s a remote trail. You can hop onto the track at many places between Walhalla and Canberra in the Baw Baw, Alpine, Kosciuszko and Namadgi national parks that feature shorter segments of the trail. Take your first steps at the Australian Alps Walking Track website.
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This trail is more of a stream, so if you like dry feet, forget it. The Zion Narrows trail is largely in the narrow canyon of the Virgin River in the upper reaches of Zion Canyon. It’s a real treat in the hot summer months of the often hyperarid lands of southern Utah. The hike can be tailored to suite any level of hiker. The trail is the Virgin River. Most people walk in from the lower end, going a ways in then turning back. More determined hikers start at the top and do the entire 16 miles (26 km) as a long day hike or an overnight backpack. Start wading in at Utah.com.
Courtesy of the U.S. National Park Service
Get lost in America’s largest national park, the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in southeastern Alaska. Glaciers, mountain lakes and fantastic wildlife are at your fingertips here, and you don’t even need to follow a trail. But there are some great trail routes, especially that to the Donoho Lakes Glacier. If you are not familiar with the Alaskan wilderness, you might look into a guided multi-day backpacking trip from a tour company. Plan on five days of hiking for the Donoho Lakes Glacier. Everything to get started is available from the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park website.