Almost everyone knows about the Appalachian Trail, Glacier National Park and the Pecos Wilderness, but for anyone who loves blue sky, great scenery and a good workout, there are dozens of other opportunities to hit the trail.
State and National Parks are, of course, a great resource, and almost all feature well-marked paths, scenic beauty, picnic areas and campgrounds for those who are interested in more than just day trips. Overnight camping in State & National Parks brings memories of fun, play and great meals cooked in simmering camp cooking pots over crackling campfires.
Adventurers have long touted the natural beauty of both Alaska and Hawaii, and that isn’t in dispute. But for residents of the Continental United States, there are closer-to-home options, some even located in big city locales, parks and other areas. Here are a handful of choices for vacations, with hiking trails that don’t require “expert” status:
Acadia National Park
Many folks think that going to Maine is close to going to heaven—there’s more than enough sea and sand to go around; there are also lakes and streams, meandering hills, and even ski slopes. But it’s Acadia National Park that ties it all together in one package. Jordan Pond Path is a favorite of young and old alike, particularly in late summer and early fall when the foliage adds spectacular color to the rocks and streams, the mountains, and the wildlife. Dogs on leash are allowed and the 3.2-mile hike is only moderately strenuous. A great place to stop, build a campfire and have a cup of freshly brewed campfire coffee.
Tennessee’s Great Smokies
There’s little not to love about the Great Smoky Mountains. Mountain lore, music, food, and history are abundant. Take a “path less traveled”, get your hiking gear and go hike the more-than-four-mile Kephart Prong Trail that winds through towering timbers and crosses the river several times via rustic footbridges. The enchantment is real: Named for American travel writer Horace Kephart, the trail passes remnants of a depression-era CCC camp, as well as a former WPA fish hatchery. It’s also a great place to stop, make a campfire and cook a great outdoor meal!
Walk the High Line in New York
Planning a vacation in New York City? There’s no reason not to go hiking as well! The city is not all skyscrapers, traffic and Broadway plays. Take the family to High Line Park. Explore unique features along a section of former elevated track; there’s the two-block-long Chelsea Thicket, along with a three-block stretch known as the Flyover. There are viewing stations and special events, picnic areas and photo ops. There’s even a silicone-coated play area known as the Pershing Square Beams; kids will love it. The High Line is not a typical walking path, but it’s spectacular!
Los Penasquitos Canyon Trail
Hike (or Ride) into 7,000 years of history along a seven-mile trail not far from San Diego. It’s the perfect location for an outdoor adventure suitable for active adults and children, dogs, wheelchair-bound people, cyclists and hikers. It’s flat—and can be hot in the summer—but the natural terrain trail stretches out along the “little cliffs,” passing by an old adobe house, a waterfall, and diverse green areas. The bonus? It’s a favorite for horseback riders!
Great Sand Dunes
Explore a Colorado dune field—30 square miles of sand dunes—for an experience that ranks high on the adventure list. There are five dunes that reach 700 feet or more in height. They are “real” inland sand dunes, and Medano Creek runs along the base as a sort of beach playground. Nearby are other attractions, including the Montville Nature Trail, a green escape from summer heat, and Mosca Pass Trail, which winds through the lower Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Though there are many more trails and hikes in America, these are some of the more moderate and easy trails for everyone.