I think growing up in the mountains of West Virginia sparked my love of hiking. I’ve hiked through numerous state parks in West Virginia from the southern tip to the northern tip and up through the panhandle, beginning when I was a kid and going through my college years. Since then, I’ve hiked all over the United States and developed a true love for our country’s national parks. I’ve also been fortunate enough to hike in the eastern parts as well as western parts of the Canadian mountains, the Alps in Europe, and even some places where most people don’t immediately think of hiking like Greece and the Caribbean. If there are trails that can safely be hiked through, I’ll find them!
Here, I’ll break down some of my favorite places to hike by country, beginning with the United States.
Utah has so many wonderful national and state parks and although I haven’t been to all of them, I’ve loved the ones I have been to, including Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park. A tip is to go during the off-season like winter when it’s not only less crowded but perhaps even more beautiful with the snow against the red rocks and hoodoos.
There are also many national and state parks in Colorado. Some of my favorite places to hike in Colorado include Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National Park and Boulder. Even though many people head to Colorado during the winter to ski, hiking in Colorado during the summer months is also becoming more and more common. Try going in the fall when the Aspen trees are changing colors to their gorgeous golden glow.
Maine has some great places to hike, including my favorites Acadia National Park and Camden Hills State Park, plus almost 20 other state parks. https://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm. Boston Logan Airport is about a 4 1/2 hour drive from Acadia National Park if you drive it straight there, but there are so many fun places to stop along the way, I found that a better option for me. Some options of places to stop include Kennebunkport and the surrounding little towns, Portland (a foodie destination), Rockland and Camden, ultimately making your way to Mt. Desert, where Acadia National Park is.
I’d be remiss to not mention Grand Canyon National Park. There are many options for hiking here including North Rim and South Rim day hikes plus extended hikes and rim-to-rim hikes. If you plan on hiking down into the canyon, it’s steep and gets extremely hot in the summer months so plan accordingly with plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, and start early in the day so you have enough time to get back up the canyon. Actually, no matter what season, you should always do those things.
Glacier National Park is the most popular place for hiking in Montana but it’s by no means the only option. Other great options are in Flathead National Forest, Lewis and Clark National Forest, Bitterroot National Forest, Kootenai National Forest, Lolo National Forest, and Custer-Gallatin National Forest. https://www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm. If you have the time, you can also continue driving north from Glacier National Park to Banff National Park in Canada, combining the two places into one spectacular road trip. That’s what I did, and I thought the scenery just kept getting better the further north I went (and it was pretty great in Montana!). See my paragraph on Banff below under the section on Canada.
The northwestern coast of Kauai is absolutely filled with stunning places to hike including Waimea Canyon State Park, Puu Ka Pele Forest Preserve, Na Pali-Kona Forest Preserve, Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, and Nu’alolo Kai State Park. The Big Island has Waipi‘o Valley, Pu‘uhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here is my recent post on Kauai and information about hiking there.
South Dakota is a state that’s also filled with natural beauty and has many hiking options. Some of my favorite places to hike include Badlands National Park and Black Hills National Forest plus so much more that you can read here: Memorials, National and State Parks, and Wild West. The vast majority of hiking lies in the western part of the state so Rapid City is a good place to stay and you can do day-trips from here.
Even though Wyoming is the least-populated state in the United States, it has some of the most wild beauty I’ve ever seen (perhaps that’s why there’s so much wild beauty, come to think of it). Of course there’s the ever-popular Yellowstone National Park with so many trail options you could never hike them all in a typical vacation plus there’s nearby Grand Teton National Park as well. I would devote as much time as possible in your itinerary for Yellowstone and choose one or two central areas you want to explore; don’t bother trying to see the entire park in a week because it’s just too enormous. Grand Teton National Park deserves at least a few days to really get out there and explore it, with five days being even better if you plan on spending time on the water. I highly recommend standup paddle boarding here, as it doesn’t get much better for scenery and SUP.
Countries Outside the United States
I was primarily in the Salzburg Region of Austria, not to be confused with the city of Salzburg, which is only a small portion of the region. Within the Salzburg Region, you can hike all of or part of the Pinzgauer Spaziergang route in the Zell am See-Kaprun region for great views of the area. The entire route takes most people 5-6 hours to hike. For something a little different and especially if you have kids, the Wild Animal Park Preserve in Kitzbuhel has around 200 animals with the Tyrolean Alps as your backdrop. St. Johann is the site of the beginning of the Eagle Walk, a 280 km trek broken into 24 stages. I also highly recommend hiking in Liechtensteinklamm, a gorge with waterfalls and a river.
Hiking may not be the first thing you think of when you think of Greece, but there are some fantastic options for hiking on the island of Crete. Lefka Ori, or the White Mountains has peaks over 6500 feet and is the most popular place to hike in Crete. There are also two gorges you can hike through, the popular Samariá Gorge and the much less frequented and more lush and forested Richtis Gorge. Although there are numerous organized tours through Samariá Gorge, you can easily hike it on your own. Just be prepared for a long day since it takes most people 5-7 hours to hike the entire trail. Richtis Gorge is close to the tiny village of Exo Mouliana (about a 15 minute drive from Sitia on eastern Crete). The trail goes through a canyon on an easy, well-marked path going past crumbling ruins, spectacular untouched forests, and several waterfalls before finishing at an often-deserted beach. See my post on Crete here: Planning to Visit Greece? Consider Going to Crete for Beautiful Beaches, Incredible Hiking, and Less Crowds.
Banff National Park is in the Alberta Province of Canada, on the western side of the country with the Canadian Rockies running through it. This is a family-friendly park with options ranging from easy walks around a lake, ski lifts and gondolas if you want to skip the uphill (or downhill) trek, or strenuous and longer hikes. Healy Pass, Citadel Pass, and Harvey Pass are all long trails around 12-13 miles but they’re also some of the most scenic trails in the park. You can always hike a portion of the trails if you can’t or don’t want to devote an entire day to hiking each of them. Lake Minnewanka Lakeside Hike and Banff Bow River to Bow Falls to Banff Springs Hike are two family-friendly easy hikes with water views. Johnston Canyon and Ink Pots Hike is a popular trail that winds its way through the canyon, past two sets of waterfalls, before arriving at the Ink Pots, mineral springs that bubble up in a picturesque meadow.
I was only on the North Island of New Zealand, so I can only speak of my experience there, although I have no doubt there are also wonderful hiking trails on the South Island as well. The Tongariro Crossing in Tongariro National Park is the most popular day hike on the North Island and is around 12 miles long. I only hiked a portion of it since I didn’t have an entire day to devote to it. Along the way you can see famous landmarks such as Devil’s Staircase, the three Emerald Lakes, the Red Crater, Mount Tongariro, and Mount Ngauruhoe. Mount Maunganui Summit gives you big bang for your effort, with some amazing views of Tauranga and the beach below for a short but steep hike uphill. Cathedral Cove is one of the many picturesque spots on the island and an easy walk in the Coromandel Peninsula. Te Werahi Beach Track is at Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of New Zealand where you get great views of Te Werahi Beach, ultimately reaching the Cape Reinga Lighthouse. Near the town of Rotorua you can stroll through towering California Redwoods in the Whakarewarewa Forest, known locally as ‘The Redwoods.’
Of course Peru has Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan citadel high in the Andes Mountains, and there are several options for reaching the ruins. I chose to take the Lares Trek with https://www.alpacaexpeditions.com/ and the journey along the way to Machu Picchu is an experience I will never forget. It truly exceeded my expectations (and I had pretty high expectations going into it). Besides this trek, I also hiked Rainbow Mountain and even did a day-trip on my own to the ruins on the outskirts of Cusco. One thing I learned about Peru is believe the hype. Machu Picchu is one of the most-visited places in the world for a reason.
There are so many more places where I’ve been hiking and have been in awe of my surroundings but this is just the tip of the iceberg. What about you? What are some of your favorite places you’ve hiked?