If you’re like me, you love the outdoors, and a good walk. I even love to hike, provided that it’s skewed slightly more towards the “walk” end of the hiking spectrum. Now that it’s spring and the weather is warming up a little, I bet you can’t wait to get outside and enjoy yourself! America has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, and there’s no better way to enjoy much of it than on foot. For these week’s Fantasy Break, we’re exploring five of America’s most beautiful (and accessible) hikes. All of these can be done in a few hours, and by almost everyone! Enjoy, and vote for your favorite in our poll! Better yet, tell us your favorite local trail in the comments.
1. Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, Colorado
Hanging Lake trail is about 3.2 miles of heavily trafficked back trail, which features a lake. It’s also great for birding! This one isn’t necessarily “easy”, but it’s definitely kid-friendly. It takes 2-4 hours to hike because the trail is quite steep, with many rocks and steps. Brave it, though, and find yourself enjoying a breathtaking view of a waterfall and lake! Best used between March and October, although if you’re willing to don Yak Traks and brave a little ice, you could probably do it in winter, too! The “extra mile” hike to the spouting rock is well worth the effort, too.
2. Multnomah Falls, Bridal Veil, Oregon
Multnomah Falls is a 2.2 mile hike that gains 700 feet of elevation. Good thing there are lots of switchbacks! Bring your (leashed) dog and your kids and enjoy the scenery all the way to the top of the trail, which is the top of the massive waterfall. Have you ever stood on top of a waterfall before? It’s pretty spectacular. If you’re feeling ambitious, you can take the 5.4-mile trail up to Wahkeena Falls, for a gain in elevation of 1,600 feet! As Multnomah is a bit of a tourist destination, the path is paved and there’s even a gift shop, but it can be a little crowded; especially on weekends. The trail is a bit steep, but people have been known to be able to do this hike pushing strollers, so no worries! Oregon’s greenery is like no other greenery you’ve ever seen. If you just want to have a good look at a beautiful waterfall and skip the hike, the 350-yards-or-so walk to the bridge has great views, and only takes a few minutes to get to. The main hike can be done in an hour or two.
3. Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park near Bar Harbor, Maine
Logging at 1.6 miles round-trip, Precipice Trail loop offers stunning views of Maine’s rugged coast. This one is a little trickier and not for dogs or small children, as it requires navigating a few hairy spots and is an elevation gain of 1,000 feet in less than a mile. You will need to be able to climb iron bars set into the exposed cliff face (like a ladder), and be comfortable scrambling over a few boulders. If you’re afraid of heights, you should skip this one! There is a handrail, but part of the trail has you hiking right along a cliff’s face. If you’re okay with heights but it sounds too difficult, however, take heart in this review: “Don’t let the descriptions scare you off, just be careful! Our group are all in their late sixties. No probs!” And don’t worry – you don’t have to climb down the same way you came up. If you don’t linger too long over the views, this hike can be done in a little over an hour. But who are we kidding? We’re definitely view-lingerers.
4. The Highline Trail (Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet), Glacier National Park, Montana
Although the Highline Trail is nearly 40 miles in total, this particular section is only 7.6 miles long, and mostly flat! This hike is all about the scenery, and while it’s narrow with some steep dropoffs, it’s less challenging than the other trails in the area – this part is actually rated “easy”, if a bit long. The hike follows the Continental Divide, and you’ll admire the rugged peaks, glacial meadows, and Lake McDonald thousands of feet below. You might even run into a bighorn sheep or a mountain goat on the trail! Glacier Park in total has more than 700 miles of marked trails. Wow!
5. Moore Cove Falls Trail, Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, North Carolina
The Pisgah National Forest spans around 500,000 acres of land, but there are many short and scenic trails along with the great long-distance trails! The Moore Cove Falls trail is the perfect trail to take your kids and (leashed) dogs on. It’s 1.2 miles long and ranked easy, and features a 50-foot waterfall you can walk behind! You can look for gold and picnic under the waterfall, and explore and climb up to the top if you want to increase the level of challenge. One reviewer said that her 2-year old was able to make the hike unassisted after a very short bit of steepness at first, so this trail would be fun for the entire family, from the very young to very old. Road trip, anyone?