One of the best ways to appreciate our natural surroundings is during a hike. Whether you do a light, family-friendly jaunt or a dauntingly steep, miles-long trek, the options are endless. From the obvious physical benefits to the mental boost you get from being outdoors, hiking is an easy way to get moving as you explore new places. Sure it can be work getting to the good spots, but that just makes the views all the more rewarding. Whether you’re on the east coast, west coast, or somewhere in between, you’ll find thrilling views worth the climb. Throw on some sneakers or hiking boots, grab a hat, stash a few necessities in your backpack—water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray—and you’re ready to start hiking.
Here are six of our favorites:
Cascade Canyon Trail, Wyoming
Considered one of the best hikes within Grand Teton National Park, Cascade Canyon Trail offers a moderate climb for maximum rewards. With glacial-cut granite shaping the many waterfalls, rugged canyon lining both sides of the trail, and wildflowers peeking out from around every corner, there are endless spectacles along the route. The trail’s crown jewel is the panoramic views from Inspiration Point, where you’ll gaze upon the deep blue Jenny Lake and the surrounding giant Teton Mountains.
Templeton Trail, Arizona
Most people instantly think of the Grand Canyon when it comes to Arizona hiking, however the Templeton Trail at the base of Sedona’s Cathedral Rock is spectacular in its own right. An easy seven mail trail ideal for all skill levels and ages, you’ll experience the region’s famous red rocks and have opportunities to veer off to view additional rock formations including Two Nuns and Courthouse Butte. There aren’t many shady areas, so hats, sunscreen, and water are essential. And we recommend making this a spring or fall hike.
Sunrise Rim Trail, Washington
A small section of the 93-mile Wonderland Trail, Sunrise Rim delivers a great day hike within Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park. With the towering, snowcapped mountain as a backdrop, the five mile loop can be a leisurely walk or strenuous hike, depending on how you choose to hike. In the mid-summer months you’ll be greeted with a rainbow of wildflowers and the possibility of sighting a wild marmot. If you’ve got little ones in tow, consider the even shorter three-mile stroll to Yakima Park and the Emmons Overlook.
Acadia National Park, MaineThanks to its coastal cliffs, rocky beaches, and evergreen woodlands, Acadia has gained the reputation of being one of the best National Parks to experience. This Maine must-see offers over 159 miles of hiking trails at varying experience levels and even the shorter, easier treks deliver magnificent scenes of the Atlantic Ocean. While you’re there don’t miss out on the panoramic views of Cadillac Mountain (accessible by car), as well as a local whale-watching tour at nearby Bar Harbor.
Max Patch, North Carolina
Nestled along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, Max Patch is one of the shortest hikes on our list at a little over one mile each way, and is a major landmark long the 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail—one of the longest in the world. Max Patch is a part of the area’s Bald Mountains, which essentially means at the top there are very few trees to hide your gorgeous view of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Watkins Glen, New York
Part of New York’s Finger Lakes region known for its incredible gorges and waterfalls, Watkins Glen State Park is a little more than four hours away from both New York City and Philadelphia. A perfect hike for families, offers over 19 waterfalls along one short trail—including some you can walk under. There are also high rock walls, massive gorges, rock tunnels, and a stone bridge, making it a must-experience for all ages.