North America’s national parks and national monuments offer a treasure trove of wonders just waiting to be discovered on your next hiking adventure. Here are some of the best trails across the USA and Canada to add to your trekking bucket list:
Getting up early to hike to watch the sunrise over the dormant Haleakalā volcano is a truly special experience. The tallest point of the volcano, whose name means ‘house of the sun’, sits at more than 10,000ft above sea level and is visible from most parts of the island of Maui. The summit area has around 30 miles of hiking trails, ranging from 10 minutes to multi-day trips. The park is also home to more endangered species than any other in the National Park Service, including blooming ahinahina (silversword) and nēnē (Hawaiian goose). Stop by a visitor center before your hike to discuss your plans - the weather can be severe, changeable and unpredictable here.
See the fossils of everything from fish scales to dinosaur bones while hiking the 1.2-mile Fossil Discovery Trail in the Utah section of Dinosaur National Monument. The Fremont people, who lived in this area around a thousand years ago, also left evidence of their presence in the Cub Creek area, where you can also see petroglyphs (patterns chipped or carved into the rock) and pictographs (patterns painted on the rock). A highlight from more recent times is the Josie Bassett Morris Ranch, where a woman lived independently for 50 years from 1914. Unlike many national park areas, off trail hiking is permitted in Dinosaur National Monument.
Hike along the rim or descend into the canyon to soak up the scenery of one of the world’s most impressive geological wonders. There are numerous trails to choose from. One of the most popular hikes is the The Bright Angel Trail, a steep, well maintained trail that begins just west of Bright Angel Lodge and offers round trips of up to 12 miles. The views are simply incredible. Remember it will probably take you twice as long to walk back up as it does down, so allow plenty of time and don’t attempt to hike from the rim to the river and back in one day, especially from May to September when it is very hot.
Thundering waterfalls, towering granite mountains, canyons, beautiful lakes and wildflowers combine to make Yosemite National Park one of North America’s most rewarding hiking destinations. The Yosemite Valley offers some of the park’s most impressive sights. Rising nearly 5,000ft above the valley floor, Half Dome is its most famous landmark. The two-mile round trip walk from shuttle stop 17 to Mirror Lake is the ideal place to see the staggering rock formation from up close. Other highlights include Cathedral Rocks and Spires and The Three Brothers, which is made up of Eagle Peak (the uppermost ‘brother’), and Middle and Lower Brothers.
With the largest collection of hoodoos (irregular columns of rock) on the planet, Bryce Canyon National Park offers a wonderful landscape for walking. The Rim Walk is a one-mile round trip offering great views from along the edge of the cliff above the main amphitheater, while the moderately-rated 1.3-mile Navajo Loop descends more than 500ft from Sunset Point and takes you between sheer cliffs and past Douglas fir trees, with great views of the towering rock pinnacle known as Thor’s Hammer and Silent City, where the rocks resemble towers, buildings and temples.
The alpine scenery offered in this national park in the heart of the Canadian Rockies is nothing short of breathtaking, with snow-capped mountains, glaciers, rivers, lakes and meadows filled with wildflowers. There’s more than 1,000 miles of trails throughout the park, with many easily accessible from the town of Banff and the village of Lake Louise. Stroll along the shore of Lake Louise or Moraine Lake, alongside the Bow River or trek to Consolation Lakes for outstanding vistas.
Hike along coastal trails, through forests, past lakes and besides mountains at this national park which boasts the highest rocky headlands along the Atlantic coast. Primarily on Maine’s Mount Desert Island, it has 158 miles of hiking trails and seven peaks above 1,000ft, including the highest point on the US east coast, Cadillac Mountain. Keep an eye out for wildlife such as moose, bear, whales and seabirds as a bonus.
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