From sand to snow and everything in between.
By Traveling Lamas Guest Writer Maliya Badruddin
From sand to snow, these ten United States hikes are going above and below (literally) to offer beginner and advanced hikers alike an unforgettable experience. While each trail brings its own unique adventure, we can say with certainty that they all offer jaw-dropping, panoramic views making the trek more than worth it.
Siyeh Pass Loop, Glacier National Park, Montana
In Montana’s majestic Glacier National Park, the out-and-back Siyeh Pass Loop awards hikers with breathtaking views of the surrounding alpine mountains, meadows and glaciers – including Matahpi Peak, Heavy Runner Mountain, and Piegan Mountain. This adventurous 10 mile trail extends from Siyeh Bend to Sunrift Gorge, reaching an elevation of 8,000 feet above sea level.
Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
Did someone say EXTREME hiking? If you like to live life on the edge (literally), you’ll love the steep, narrow and adrenaline-inducing challenge that is Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah. Not for the faint of heart (or faint of heights!) this 4.4 mile out-and-back trail winds through Zion’s main red rock canyon, ending at Angels’ Landing – a towering 1,488-foot rock formation yielding 360 degree views. While most of the trail is paved and well-maintained, be prepared for the last 1/2 mile – a sharp, narrow sandstone ridge lined with anchored support chains to grip for added safety. Our advice? Hold on tight and don’t look down.
Vernal and Nevada Falls via The Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite’s signature hike, take your pick of embarking on a moderate 3-mile roundtrip journey to Vernal Falls, or 7 miles roundtrip to Nevada Falls. Either way, you’ll be rewarded with unforgettable views scattered the whole way through, including a bridge overlook, the falls themselves, and this striking view of Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap and the back of Half Dome from the Muir Trail return segment. Not technically part of the Mist Trail, to catch this stunner you’ll need to go about a half mile out of your way via the merged John Muir Trail, which you can then take back to the trailhead.
Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii
Explore the coastline made famous from such films as King Kong (1976), Jurassic Park and The Descendants by embarking on the winding, 11-mile Kalalau Trail on Kauai’s famed Nāpali coast. Take in extraordinary panoramas of the surrounding lush vegetation, plunging sea cliffs and sparkling ocean below as you navigate your way through the trail’s numerous ridges and valleys. Starting in Ke’e Beach, take a day trip to reach the white-sand Hanakapiai Beach or consider an overnight to reach the trail’s end at Kalalau Valley and Beach.
Harding Icefield Trail, Alaska
Get ready for endless views of glaciers, snow and sky stretching over the horizon on this spectacular day hike located near Lowell Point, Alaska (a few hundred miles south of Anchorage). The challenging 8.2 mile roundtrip hike starts on the valley floor, ascending through cottonwood and alder forests, heather-filled meadows and more to yield sweeping views of the majestic Icefield below. Hikers gain about 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile, not to mention face sudden temperature changes (and maybe even a black bear sighting), so be sure to be well-prepared before embarking on this other-worldly adventure.
South Ridge Trail Loop, Cadillac Mountain, Maine
Located on Mount Desert Island in Maine’s Acadia National Park, this moderately strenuous 7.7 mile loop trail traverses Cadillac Mountain, the tallest mountain on the eastern seaboard of the United States – also the first place to view the sunrise in the U.S. during fall and winter. Take in views of surrounding wildlife while gradually ascending the 1,582-foot summit, but not before a brief descent to The Featherbed, a small pond where you can enjoy a quick break. Once at the top, you’ll be privy to stunning views of the park’s forests, glacial lakes and more, including the Porcupine Islands dotting the coast of Bar Harbor.
Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls Trail, Havasupai Indian Reservation, Arizona
Home to the Havasupai Indians, Havasu Canyon is a scenic paradise located on the western edge of the Grand Canyon’s south rim, reachable only by helicopter, hiring a pack mule, or hiking a steep, 10 miles (each way) from Hualapai Hilltop. It’s crowning jewel? Havasu and Mooney Falls, with their pristine, 72-degree year round swimming holes and campground – a welcome reward for those willing to put in the effort through this challenging trek recommended for very experienced hikers only. Expect numerous switchbacks on your descent to the canyon floor, where you’ll be met with temps upwards of 100 degrees or more from May to September. Not part of Grand Canyon National Park, all reservations, permits and activity in Havasu are directly managed by the Havasupai tribe – and are required. Repeat: you cannot just show up. If you want to experience this remote paradise any time soon, you better book well in advance – reservations can fill up a full year out!
Overlook Mountain, Eastern Catskills, New York
Photo via @travelinglamas
This 5 mile up-and-back hike may seem like an endless journey on the way up, but the views at the top are well worth it once you reach the summit. You know you’re getting close once you reach the ruins of the Overlook Mountain House, a 1930s hotel that never finished completion. Once at the top, you can climb a Fire Tower to the reward of breathtaking, 360-degree views, and/or you can head over to the nearby cliff overlook for equally stunning vistas. Set aside at least 3 hours and warning! A difficult hike already in good weather, this becomes a much more difficult climb in snow. Appropriate attire and hiking boots are a must if you want to make it to the top amongst the elements.
Pacific Crest Trail, California, Oregon and Washington
Talk about a trek – stretching a whopping 2,650 miles in its entirety, thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) from the Mexican to Canadian borders is a lifelong dream of many die-hard hikers. Known as the “Wild effect”, hiker traffic on the PCT has surged tenfold since the publishing of Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 bestselling memoir chronicling her journey on the epic trail, followed by the film version starring Reese Witherspoon in 2014. Before the book was published, about 300 people per year would take out permits to attempt the hike. Now, numbers range from 1,600 – 3,000 people/year and climbing. Taking most hikers four to five months to complete (with a recommended April start to avoid snow), the trek begins through the Mojave Desert and ends in the mountains of British Columbia’s E.C. Manning Provincial Park. In between? A series of extreme adventures including a climb up the Sierra Nevada’s 13,153-foot Forester Pass and exploring the Cascade volcanoes via Northern California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park.
Haleakala Summit Trails, Maui, Hawaii
Photo via @travelinglamas
Claiming the title of the world’s largest dormant volcano, the summit of Haleakala on Maui offers breathtaking panoramic views at a soaring 10,023 feet. And with over 30 miles of trails ranging in difficulty from 10-minute strolls to multi-day overnight adventures, the summit trails at Haleakala National Park offer something for everyone. For those looking for a jaw-dropping view, wake up early to catch the epic Haleakala sunrise, then climb up the short Pa Kaoao Trail (less than a 1/2 mile roundtrip) for 360 degree panoramas at one of the highest vantage points in the park. For the more adventurous, take the challenging Keoneheehee (Sliding Sands) Trail to descend 4 miles to the valley floor – where you can turn around and take the trail back out or press on to the Kapalaoa or Paliku cabins and campsites. Whichever trail you choose, expect an unforgettable experience marked by otherworldly landscapes and of course, Haleakala’s world-famous sunrises and sunsets.