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Last year, almost an exact year, I did a post on my favorite hikes in national parks. Well, in the time that’s passed, I’ve gone to new parks and I’ve gone back to a lot of parks.
I’ve done a lot of new hikes in these visits and decided to share 10 more of my favorite hikes in national parks. I would say they’re the best national park hikes, but I haven’t been to a lot of parks, so I’ll say they’re the best national park hike so far. Just note, this is still only from parks that I’ve been to myself. So, let’s get into it!
National Park Goodies
- If you’re planning to visit three or more national parks within a year from your trip, definitely get the America the Beautiful pass. It will save you money in the long run if you’re going to more than three parks in a year. Buy the pass here.
- If you’re planning on doing a lot of hiking on your trip, or even at home, check out AllTrails! This is my favorite app to find, keep track of, and track my hiking activity. And it’s FREE! Sign up here.
- This Ultimate National Park Planning Bundle is a must-have. You get two ebooks and a planner, saving 50% by getting them as a bundle! If you want all the details, this is the bundle for you. Buy the Ultimate bundle here.
- This National Park Planner (one of the ebooks from the bundle above) is perfect if you just want some guidance in your planning. Buy the planner here.
- Get yourself a National Park journal for all of the NPS sites (400+!) to keep track of your travels!
- Consider reading some of these books set in national parks before your big trip, on your adventure, or once you get home to take you back to the parks until next time.
Park: Canyonlands, Utah
Length (roundtrip): 0.7 miles
Overview: This is an iconic hike in Canyonlands National Park. Most people go for sunrise, but no matter what time of day you go, the views are going to be pretty fabulous. It’s a nice short hike taking only about half an hour to do the whole thing if you don’t spend a lot of time at the arch itself.
It can get pretty busy here, so don’t plan to have it to yourself, unless you visit in the winter, then your chances are better. This is a must-do during a trip to Canyonlands and Moab.
Length (roundtrip): 1 mile
Overview: If you’re short on time and horribly afraid of heights, but want a view similar to Angel’s Landing, this is a good hike for you. It’s pretty short and can be done in with a limited amount of time. It takes you up above the canyon pictured above to an overlook. The overlook is the road you (most likely) just drove up in Echo Canyon.
If you look off to the left, you can see the window holes from the tunnel in the canyon wall. If you look to the right, and look very closely, you might be able to see some bighorn sheep. Keep an eye out for their little white butts!
Length (roundtrip): 1.3 miles (longer if combined with Queen’s Garden)
Difficulty: Mostly Moderate
Overview: Navajo Loop combined with the Queen’s Garden trail is the must-do hike in Bryce Canyon. If you can only do one hike there, this should be the one. If you’re limited on time, just do Navajo Loop without the Queen’s Garden.
This trail takes you down into the canyon (which isn’t actually a canyon, it’s an amphitheater) so you’re walking among the hoodoos, those weird formations. The end is the tougher part since you’re going up a pretty steep trail to get back out of the canyon. This is just an awesome hike and it shouldn’t have taken me three visits to do it.
Park: Great Basin, Nevada
Length (roundtrip): 2.7 miles
Overview: After my visit this summer, Great Basin made it into my favorite national parks. I knew nothing about it until I was there, except that it had a few alpine lakes. The first day we were there, this was the first trail we did, and we actually combined it with the one below.
It’s a great hike that isn’t too long, but isn’t too short, either. It takes you around the front base of Wheeler Peak, the highest peak in Nevada, through pine forests to two alpine lakes that, even in June, we pretty much had to ourselves. Depending on when you go, even in June, the trail can still be a little snowy, which was kind of cool.
Park: Great Basin, Nevada
Length (roundtrip): 2.8 miles
Overview: This trail can be done on its own, or in combination with the Alpine Lake Loop. I would recommend combining it with the loop if you’re already doing that one, otherwise, you would have to do some backtracking up the end of the trail to get to the Bristlecones. It’s worth the detour, and you can even see a glacier at the top of the trail near the bristlecone grove.
This trail had more snow on it and was quite a bit steeper with 1,000 feet of elevation gain. It’s worth it to see some of the oldest living things on Earth, over 5,000 years old. The trail wanders between the trees a bit and you can either head back down the way you came, or continue up a little ways to see a glacier which you might as well do while you’re already there!
Park: Congaree, South Carolina
Length (roundtrip): 2.4 miles
Overview: This is a great way to get a taste of what Congaree has to offer. If you’re only passing through and don’t have tons of time, definitely do the boardwalk loop. It’s super easy and very flat. There are a few other trails that intersect with it that I’m sure are just as cool, but there’s just something about being on a boardwalk.
Keep an eye out for all kind of bug and little creatures. At the overlook by the lake, you might even be able to spot some turtles and fish in the water below. You’re surrounded by cyrpess trees and tons of old growth trees with spiders weaveing their webs between.
This is an awesome, easy hike and a great alternative if you aren’t able to spend time kayaking or canoeing, which I would highly recommend you do if you can. I know I plan to next time!
Park: Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
Length (roundtrip): Short – There is no official length on these
Overview: As you drive through the Smokies, you’ll notice little signs directing you to “quiet walkways” off the main roads and parking areas. I’m counting them as hikes because it’s still a great way to get out and moving around. They are pretty short and don’t really lead anywhere, but tend to be next to creeks and the river.
They’re nice, peaceful walks and they weren’t crowded at all, even in the busy days of fall. If you want to get away from the crowds, like Clingman’s Dome, I would definitely recommend finding yourself a quiet walkway.
Park: Zion, Utah
Length (roundtrip): 5 miles
Overview: This was my first taste of Kolob Canyons in Zion and I loved it! It’s definitely one of my favorite hikes in the park and it doesn’t see near as many visitors as the main Zion Canyon. It’s about a half hour from Cedar City and 45 minutes from the main area.
This is a nice, pretty easy trail wandering along the creek, frequently crossing over it. There are two little cabins along the trail, too. At the end of the trail is an alcove hanging garden thing. The trail takes you further into the canyon and it can get pretty chilly back there in the winter later in the day, so be prepared for that if you go then. If you can only do one trail in the Kolob area, I’d do this one.
Park: Zion, Utah
Length (roundtrip): 2.4 miles
Overview: Like Canyon Overlook, this could be another intro to Angel’s Landing, not for the view, but for the exposed cliffs and chains along the trail. This trail starts at the Weeping Rock stop, the same as Observation Point, and takes you up a set of pretty solid switchbacks. Those are the difficult part.
Once you’re at the top it pretty much evens out. There is a little more up and down, but it’s pretty easy. This is where you go around the edge of the cliff on a ledge that’s maybe two feet wide and kind of rocky (pictured above) before going around another cliff that’s less rocky but more exposed.
That one has a chain to help you get around. After that, you head into Hidden Canyon and have to do a little rock scrambling to get to the very end. It makes you feel a little more adventurous and is a totally different experience than the other hikes in Zion.
Length (roundtrip): 3 miles
Overview: This was the first hike on my last list, but I did it again my last visit to Arches and I still loved it. I had a heck of a time getting up the slick rock, having to stop a couple times, but I made it. Once you get to the top of it, it’s so much easier.
I will say, this isn’t the most enjoyable hike, but there’s something about getting to the top of the slick rock, making your way up, and going around the corner getting your first glimpse of the arch. And the 200 other people admiring the icon of Utah. Don’t get me wrong, it’s on here for a reason.
I love the arch, but it’s soooo crowded here. You have to be patient and quick to get pictures of it without people. The best time is when people are switching out from getting their picture taken under it. Or go at sunrise.
Length (One Way): 5.5 miles + 3 miles to the trailhead
Difficulty: Mostly Moderate
Sulphur Creek is the desert version of the narrows. That probably puts a picture in your head of the narrows in Zion, but more desert-y, but it’s still pretty different and if those are your expectations, you should change them. The trailhead is across the street from the Chimney Rock parking area.
It starts out following a wash and you walk along the bottom of the Goosenecks. After a while, you come to the confluence where you’ll go to the left and start walking along the creek to continue the trail, which is really a route.
From here you just follow the creek until you get to the visitor center. There are three waterfalls, not too big, that you have to kind of scramble down around. They aren’t super tough to get around, but if you’re not used to rock scrambling it might be a little tougher.
The only downside of this hike is that it’s one way and you have to either walk back to your car (three miles), hitchhike, or have a second car or bike for one person to get the car to pick you back up. It’s still totally worth doing even though you’ll probably be exhausted after. You won’t see many people, even in the middle of summer.
Well, now that you’ve read this, are you already planning your next national park trip? I feel like I’m always planning one or looking forward to one.
Have you done any of these hikes? Which ones? What is your favorite national park hike? What hikes can’t I miss on future national park trips?