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Best Places to Hike in North America
If North America's snowcapped peaks, jagged cliffs, towering volcanoes and old-growth forests are calling your name, then there's no time like the present to grab your boots and hit the trails. Editors at U.S. News considered expert opinions, as well as traveler votes, to determine the best hiking destinations across the continent. Use this list to plan your next outdoor excursion, and cast your vote below to help decide next year's list.
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Glacier National Park offers more than 700 miles of hiking trails that crisscross the northern Montana park's roughly 1 million acres of wilderness. Keep an eye out for the bears, beavers and bighorn sheep that populate the park while you trek up, across and around its towering mountains and freshwater streams. You'll find trails that appeal to everyone, including several that are wheelchair accessible. Before starting your journey, stop by a visitor center or ranger station to plan the perfect adventure.
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Most travelers flock to the Yosemite Valley area of Yosemite National Park to trek some of the park's most popular trails. Though you may have to rub elbows with other hikers as you traverse world-renowned paths like the daunting Half Dome Trail, you'll be rewarded with stunning vistas. For a less-crowded atmosphere and gorgeous views of kaleidoscopic wildflowers, timeworn sequoias and jaw-dropping rock formations, consider hiking quieter routes like the Four Mile Trail and the Swinging Bridge Trail. You'll have about 800 miles of trails to choose from in this nearly 750,000-acre park in central California.
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Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho is a hiker's paradise, with approximately 1,000 miles of hiking trails across more than 2.2 million acres. These trails include 15-plus miles of boardwalk, which travelers can use to reach thermal attractions like Old Faithful and Mammoth Hot Springs. Other popular routes include those found in the Canyon Village and Lake Village areas. Backcountry trails provide a more solitary experience, though visitors may encounter moose, wolves and grizzly bears, among other animal species. For optimal conditions, visit during the summer or fall. Just remember to avoid straying from Yellowstone's marked trails.
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Sandstone cliffs with varying shades of red tower over visitors at Zion National Park. Three areas house this Utah national park's trails and attractions: Zion Canyon, the Kolob Canyons and the Zion Wilderness. The Kolob Canyons and Zion Wilderness sections appeal to explorers due to their group size limits and primitive amenities. Meanwhile, Zion Canyon is the easiest to reach thanks to its shuttle service to multiple trailheads, including the famous and challenging Narrows. Keep in mind, though, that the shuttle only runs from spring to fall.
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Even for seasoned hikers, the combination of this Arizona national park's immense size and its unique climate make for an unforgettable adventure. The Grand Canyon's rims provide trails with varying degrees of difficulty and panoramic views. You'll find frequented routes like the Bright Angel Trail and the Rim Trail along the canyon's South Rim. If you're looking to avoid the crowds, head to the North Rim to trek paths like the challenging North Kaibab Trail. No matter which trails you plan on exploring, you'll want to set aside several days and map out your visit ahead of time.
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The largest national park in the Canadian Rockies, Jasper National Park boasts an extensive network of trails. These well-marked routes mean that visitors can explore most of this Alberta park's nearly 3 million acres while catching glimpses of wild animals like moose, elk, deer and mountain goats. The trails here are categorized as easy, moderate or difficult, which allows adventurers to avoid hikes that are outside of their comfort zones. A couple of popular hiking areas include the narrow Maligne Canyon and around downtown Jasper.
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Banff, Alberta, is renowned for its many hiking areas, which feature more than 1,000 miles of maintained trails. No matter which of the trails you choose to traverse, you'll be rewarded with striking Rocky Mountain vistas. You'll also discover azure lakes and dense forests filled with pine and spruce trees. Catch a glimpse of the hoodoo formations (thin spires of rock) while walking along the Tunnel Mountain Trail. Or, take in Banff National Park's glaciers from the Plain of Six Glaciers Trail.
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The Teton Range creates the backbone of Grand Teton National Park, and hikers here can count on one-of-a-kind views while weaving up and around the peaks. The park, which sits in Wyoming's Jackson Hole valley, caters to every level of hiker with its more than 200 miles of trails. While you traverse the trails, keep your eyes peeled for grazing bison and soaring bald eagles. Also remember to pack bear spray since black and grizzly bears are frequently spotted here. For the best hiking conditions, arrive between mid-May and late September.
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While some of this eastern Utah national park's rock formations are visible from the road, hiking gives you ample opportunities to admire them. Some easy routes include a loop around Balanced Rock and a short trek to Double Arch, the tallest arch in the park. Meanwhile, those looking for a challenge can hike difficult trails to must-see sights like the Fiery Furnace and Delicate Arch. As a high desert, Arches National Park is prone to extreme temperature fluctuations, so research any potential routes and pack adequate gear before embarking.
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Olympic National Park draws avid hikers from around the world to its 600-plus miles of top-notch trails on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Take your time hiking through the park's old-growth rainforests, across its glacier-capped mountains and along its more than 70-mile-long coast. During your journey, you may catch a glimpse of threatened or endangered wildlife like northern spotted owls and blue whales. To familiarize yourself with the park's ecology while enjoying an easy hike, trek the Hoh Rain Forest's Hall of Mosses Trail.
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Kluane National Park and Reserve#11 in Best Places to Hike in North America
Adventurers who make the trek to Kluane National Park and Reserve in the southwest corner of Canada's Yukon are bound to have unforgettable hiking experiences. The easiest routes yield impressive views of the area's rock glaciers and lakes, while the more difficult trails have hikers traversing alpine passes. Some paths even boast jaw-dropping views of North America's highest peak and largest ice field. Keep in mind, grizzly bears call Kluane National Park home, so travelers should pack bear spray and read up on bear deterrent tactics prior to arriving.
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The 165-mile Tahoe Rim Trail circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, while its spur trails offer day-hikers an array of panoramic views. Start by trekking a half-mile to the summit of Eagle Rock to catch a sunrise before beginning a more challenging hike, such as the Mount Tallac Trail. Be sure to visit when the weather is warm, since winter in Lake Tahoe is reserved more for snowshoeing and skiing. Also, remember that the trails surrounding Lake Tahoe are divided between California and Nevada, so rules regarding pets, food and campfires may vary.
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Known for its unparalleled natural beauty, this 90-mile stretch of California coastline is home to 10 state parks. The local favorite, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, offers seven distinct trails that weave through picturesque locations, though three are currently closed due to damage sustained from wildfires. Meanwhile, the 4,800-acre Andrew Molera State Park provides even more trails in a relatively undeveloped setting, satisfying hiking enthusiasts and anyone searching for unique photo ops. Although California boasts relatively comfortable temps year-round, to avoid road closures and abbreviated business hours, visit between June and October.
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Travelers who want to conquer a 14er (a peak higher than 14,000 above sea level) should head to Telluride, Colorado. Located in a box canyon within the Rocky Mountains, this small town offers all kinds of trails, from manageable to challenging. The out and back Bear Creek Trail, which winds hikers past various water features in the Uncompahgre National Forest, is a popular easy to moderate option. Hiking conditions in Telluride are at their best between May and early October, but for extra gorgeous scenery (think: gushing waterfalls or blooming wildflowers), arrive in June or July.
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The Big Island of Hawaii's variety of landscapes makes hiking here a unique experience. Begin your expedition across this roughly 2.5 million-acre island with a route that overlooks one of its two active volcanoes. The Kilauea Iki Trail, which travels more than 2 miles through a dense rainforest to a hardened lava lake, provides incredible volcano vistas. If you'd rather hike along the beach, try trekking to Makalawena beach in Kekaha Kai State Park.
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