A Year's Worth of Trails to Hike in the National Parks

Plan to take a walk in the woods in 2011. Bob Mishak photo.

Hiking a trail is one of the best ways to enjoy national parks. Trails lead you out into nature, get you some exercise, and quite often showcase some gorgeous vistas. Here's a look back at some of the great trails we've mentioned on the Traveler during the past 12 months.

Trails I've Hiked

* Queen's Garden-Navajo Loop At Bryce Canyon National Park

If you visit Bryce Canyon National Park in winter, and there is snow on the ground and blue sky overhead, the one hike you must take is the Queen's Garden-Navajo Loop Trail.

* The Bloody Angle At Fredericksburg-Spotsylvania National Military Park

From his cabin, Willis Landram had a front-row perch to one of the bloodiest days of the Civil War. Today, a trail leads you across the landscape now recalled as the "Bloody Angle" at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

* Deep Creek/Martins Gap/Indian Creek Look in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

This low-altitude hike in the Deep Creek section of Great Smoky Mountains National Park can be done any time of the year, but it shines in the fall when trees change color along the creek. The loop is also popular in winter once snow and ice close sections of the park that are much higher.

* Hidden Lake Overlook in Glacier National Park

Just getting out of your rig in the parking lot atop Logan Pass in Glacier National Park offers spectacular views, but with a little effort and perhaps two hours of time you'll be searching for a word to amplify "spectacular."

* Anthony Creek Trail to Spence Field in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

As with so many of the footpaths in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Anthony Creek Trail doesn’t hesitate much before pulling you up into that landscape.

* The Windows Section of Arches National Park

You don't need to be a long-distance hiker to tackle what arguably is not just the shortest but also the most impressive hike at Arches National Park. A comfortable pair of shoes, a bottle of water, and perhaps 90 minutes of your time will be enough to explore the Windows Section of the park.

* Arches National Park's Primitive Trail, Via Landscape and Double O Arches

There might be no finer time to hike in Arches National Park than early mornings, when the soft light of the rising sun glints off the red-rock and the spindly Utah junipers and waves of fins cast long shadows.

* Canyonlands National Park's Elephant Hill Trail

Without a doubt, there is no better time to hike in Utah's canyon country than spring. In Canyonlands National Park on the Elephant Hill Trail mid-May blends on one palette the reds, yellows, golds, and whites of wildflowers against a redrock backdrop daubed with cream and buff.

* Acadia National Park's South Ridge of Cadillac Mountain

Any visit to Acadia National Park should involve a walk in the woods. Whether you're just looking for a short lake-side stroll or a more demanding trek up the Precipice Trail, there are options for most visitors. Perhaps my favorite hike in the park is the 7.4-mile-long roundtrip up the South Ridge of Cadillac Mountain.

* Douglas Spring to Bridal Wreath Falls, Saguaro National Park

For a quick, relatively easy, immersion into Saguaro National Park, the Douglas Spring Trail in the Cactus Forest of the park's Rincon Mountain District is hard to beat.

* Yellowstone National Park's Observation Point Trail

Often over-looked, perhaps because of its short distance or the many other opportunities to be found in the Upper Geyser Basin of Yellowstone National Park, the Observation Point Trail offers a quick, low-effort hike that rewards you with a grand view of the Old Faithful Geyser.

Easy Park Hikes

* Big Thicket National Preserve

The Big Thicket National Preserve in southeast Texas has been called the "Biological Crossroads of North America," and some easy hikes in the park offer plenty of interesting sights. Just watch your step—it's a place where carnivorous plants catch their own lunch

* Boreal Forest Trail in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park in Alaska—the largest area in the National Park System—is primarily a park for a superlative backcountry experience, but if your only chance to sample this amazing area is a stop at the park's excellent visitor center, you should also allow time for an easy hike on the Boreal Forest Trail.

* Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site

Small historical parks are often overlooked as possible locations for easy park hikes, and that's a shame, because many of them offer some fine opportunities. That's definitely the case at Carl Sandburg Home National Historical Site in North Carolina, which includes both an easy hike or two plus just a little exercise on a nice network of trails.

* The Window View Trail at Big Bend National Park

Sometimes a short, easy hike is just what you need for a nice change of pace during a park visit. The Window View Trail at Big Bend National Park is a great leg-stretcher to begin or end your day, and it has a bonus—an outstanding view, especially at sunset.

* Badlands National Park

Sometimes a short, easy hike is just what you need for a nice change of pace during a park visit. Here's a pair of suggestions for a visit to Badlands National Park that offer fine views of the classic scenery that gives the park its name.

* Lily Lake Trail at Rocky Mountain National Park

Sometimes a short, easy hike is just what you need for a nice change of pace during a park visit. Here's a suggestion for a visit to Rocky Mountain National Park—and an alternative to the justly-popular Bear Lake Trail.

* Forest Loop Trail in Glacier Bay National Park

Sometimes a short, easy hike is just what you need for a nice change of pace during a park visit. Here's a suggestion for a trip to Glacier Bay National Park.

Comments

Your picks for Arches and Canyonlands are right on. I'll add Upheaval Dome (Canyonlands Island Distric) and Fiery Furnace (Arches) to your list. Upheaval Dome is a mystery to geologists: salt dome or meteor crater? Fiery Furnace is actually the coolest place in Arches due to its depth inside sandstone fins that shade and protect hikers from the brutal southwest sun.