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Reader Participation Day: What's Your Favorite National Park Trail?


What's your favorite hike in the National Park System?

What's your favorite trail in the National Park System? That can be a tough question. Some believe hiking the "Narrows" in Zion National Park is as good as it gets. Others might say a multi-day outing on the John Muir Trail through Yosemite National Park down to Devil's Postpile National Monument and on to Sequoia National Park and Mount Whitney is the best there is.

And then, of course, there's the Appalachian Trail, which you can take for more than 2,000 miles while passing through sections of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Shenandoah National Park and Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And there are water trails, as well.

So, what's the answer? What's your favorite trail in the National Park System? Is it a day hike, a long-weekend, or a multi-week trek?


Panorama Trail in Yosemite NP

I've never hiked Panorama Trail, Bill. And I should do that the first chance i get because.....?

I like the Subway in Zion. It requires a bit of map reading and compass work to get to the start of the trail. You then descend into a narrow slot canyon. In part of it, there are two fault lines that run parallel down the middle of the canyon. With the rounded walls carved by eons of water, the place looks like a subway tunnel. It requires a bit of rope work to descend from pool to pool. We found ropes already in place but replaced several that looked too worn for our tastes. This is a day hike with a steep uphill climb to the place where you, of course, have strategically parked your second car so that you can retrieve the first one where you started. Be aware: the water in the pools is cold since they hardly get any sun due to the canyon walls.

I also like the wiilderness beach hike in Olympic. It's the only hike that I've done that the end of the day doesn't trigger your decision to camp. It is the tides since at high tide, it is impossible to hike up and over the headlands. We camped in late afternoon one day and spend the rest of the day beach combing. It's a great hike.

Rick Smith

A nice slow wander through the Grove of the Patriarchs on Mt Rainier. Majestic.

The Queets River Trail in Olympic. Pristine temperate rainforest with truly giant western hemlock, douglas-fir, and sitka spruce trees. The trail is usually deserted and if you do run into someone, you know it's a relatively hardcore outdoor enthusiast because the first 100 yards of the trail is a perilous river crossing....especially on a hot summer day when the glaciers are melting like crazy and the river is over waist-high on your return while it was knee-high on the way in. Not that that ever happened to me and almost killed me or anything... :-)

Aren't we stretching the definition quite a bit by calling the beautiful Zion slot canyons 'trails'? Man made trails have engineered features ranging from tread to large bridges. NPS management consistently confuses upgrading the engineering level with trail maintenance. I'd even include extreme examples of trail engineering like Half Dome and Angel's Landing, but I'm curious where others see the transition to 'non-trail'. Personally, I'd draw the line short of rappeling and swimming icy pools.

Some frontcountry 'Nature Trails' and marine routes with buoys are starting to include electronic components. Are a bunch of GPS coordinates a 'trail'?

Each season on Mt. Rainier, thousands of climbers on the guided 'dog' routes tramp a path in the snow across the glaciers to the summit. In recent years, the guide services have installed aluminum ladders across the worst crevasses. Is the resulting cattle path formed by this conga line a trail?

I'd agree with Rick about the Olympic coast, though. This was considered cross-country by Park management until the early 90's, when many of the headland trails were improved with ladders and fixed ropes. This wild and rugged shoreline remains one of the most beautiful and unique hikes in our National Parks, especially done end to end.

For a short hike, it is hard to beat the Kilauea Iki in Hawaii's Volcano NP. Where else can you descend a volcanic crater rim through a rainforest, cross a crater floor on hard but still steaming (in places) lava and then back up to the top of the crater through more rainforest? There sure aren't any hikes like that available in the continental US.

My all-time favorite hike is hiking up the Zion Narrows to Wall Street. Can't beat that hike on a hot day. Hiking through the crowds, upsteam into a cool, quiet slot canyon with walls so steep you can't see the sun. Wait, I shouldn't advertise this--this is my personal place! Destroy this memo after reading!

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