Posted in Bucket List
February 21, 2022
by Sarah McCosham
During these uncertain times, please keep safety in mind and consider adding destinations to your bucket list to visit at a later date.
Burroughs Mountain Hike – Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Burroughs Mountain Trail, Washington 98304, USA
Mount Rainier National Park is Washington’s most famous national park and home to the state’s most (in)famous active volcano. Hiking opportunities abound in this national park, but we’re partial to the Burroughs Mountain Trail. At over 7,800 feet, Burroughs Mountain sets right up against the northeastern face of Mount Rainier, adjacent to Winthrop Glacier, and offers the most extraordinary view of Washington’s largest volcano. Mount Rainier rises 14,410 feet above sea level straight into the clouds — and this hike, a loop trail that’s nearly 10 miles long — is *the* best way to experience this commanding, intimidating, wholly grand natural wonder.
Canyon to Rim Loop – Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, OR 97760, USA
A place of sublime and awe-inspiring splendor, Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park is truly remarkable. Competitive climbers come from all over the world to scale its towering buttes, but some of the park’s most breathtaking vistas are actually found on the trails. The Canyon to Rim Loop, for example, is a loop trail that’s just over three miles long. Due to the elevation gain, this trek is rated as moderate — and your knees and leg muscles will quickly remind you that even though you’re not rock climbing, you’re definitely still
climbing. The payoff, however, is well-worth any weary limbs: from your perch, you’ll see for miles and miles, enjoying 360-degree panoramas that feature some of the park’s most celebrated wildlife, including blue heron and cougars.
Grinnell Glacier Trail – Glacier National Park, Montana
Grinnell Glacier Trail, Montana 59417, USA
Montana is known as the “Treasure State,” and anyone who has visited Glacier National Park knows how fitting this nickname is. Within Glacier, there are some truly bucket-list-level hikes; more than a dozen trails options ranging in length and difficulty. But ask any outdoor enthusiast or explorer, and they’ll tell you that the Grinnell Glacier Trail is *the* trail to tackle. At 11 miles long, it’s certainly challenging, with elevation gain, rocky terrain, and other elements adding to its difficulty. But for those willing to train and plan for such a challenge, the rewards are abundant. The Grinnell Glacier is a real-life wonder, and this trail offers the most sweeping, superlative vistas of this breathtaking treasure.
Half Dome Day Hike – Yosemite National Park, California
Half Dome, California, USA
Yosemite National Park is a bucket-list destination for many, with waterfall chasers flocking to this national park to admire the largest waterfall in North America — and perhaps even catch a glimpse of its rare and resplendent firefall. But the park’s unique rock formations are equally splendiferous; the Yosemite Valley is home to the Half Dome, a monolith believed to have once been a massive, unified rock dome. At some point in its geological history, the dome split in half, leaving the iconic shape we see today. Half or whole, it’s impressive, and something you can admire while on the Half Dome Day Hike. You’ll want to set aside more than a half day for this trek, however, as it’s roughly 15 miles long.
Point Lobos Loop Trail – Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California
Point Lobos, California 93923, USA
Point Lobos is pure NorCal vibes; a coastal stretch where land and sea meet in the most marvelous and mesmerizing marriage. The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California’s picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea has more than a dozen trails for visitors to explore, and the eponymous five-mile Point Lobos Loop Trail is the most delightful way to experience this picture-perfect place. This scenic, well-marked loop boasts breathtaking views of the lush forest preserve and picturesque Pacific Ocean. Dedicated to protecting and preserving the wondrous wilds of the Northern California coast, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a place of pristine and untouched natural beauty.
South Rim Trail – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
South Rim Trail, Rim Trail, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023, USA
The Grand Canyon is one of the largest and longest canyons on Earth, and one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. A playground for outdoor enthusiasts, the Grand Canyon can be explored in myriad ways: you can drive up to scenic viewpoints, explore on a helicopter tour, whitewater raft down the Colorado River, or even walk out onto a glass bridge. But in our opinion, the best way to experience this world wonder is the simplest: on foot, along one of the park’s numerous trails. The South Rim Trail stretches 13 miles along the rim of the Grand Canyon, and offers some of the most epic panoramas of the park. If you’re looking for spectacular, jaw-dropping views, this is the way. What’s more, the trail offers several shuttle stops along the trail, making this bucket-list-worthy adventure accessible for all explorers.
Rim Trail – Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Rim Trail, Utah 84764, USA
The Rim Trail at Bryce Canyon National Park takes you to some of the most magical overlooks in the celebrated national park. At more than 10 miles round trip, it’s not a short hike; however, there are smaller increments you may choose to complete if you don’t want (or are unable) to complete the full hike. This trail follows the rim of Fairyland Canyon and Bryce Canyon, providing sweeping panoramas of *the*
grand canyon and iconic hoodoos of the park. In fact, Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world — and you can marvel at these natural wonders whilst hiking the Rim Trail.
Santa Elena Canyon Trail – Big Bend National Park, Texas
Santa Elena Canyon Road, Santa Elena Canyon Rd, Texas 79834, USA
Everything’s bigger in Texas, including the Lone Star State’s national parks. Big Bend National Park, for example, is over 800,000 acres, making it one of the 20 largest national parks in the Lower 48. However, you don’t need to be a *big* hiker to experience the best of this picturesque place. Clocking in at 1.5 miles, the Santa Elena Canyon Trail is short in length, but big in beauty. Santa Elena Canyon, a majestic limestone grotto nestled in the park, is one of the most splendid wonders in the country. Traversing through the heart of the eponymous canyon, this trail offers hikers of all abilities the opportunity to immerse themselves in its splendor… and it’s an opportunity you shouldn’t pass up.
Stephens Gap – Alabama
Stephens Gap, Alabama 35776, USA
Alabama is often overlooked in terms of bucket-list-worthy adventures, which is a travesty, as the Heart of Dixie is home to some of the country’s most incredible wonders. Stephens Gap is one of them. Located in Jackson County, Stephens Gap is a 150-foot cave that features a stunning waterfall. It may look like an intimidating spot for a hike, but the trek is actually quite accessible. Just two-miles round trip, there is a well-marked path to the eponymous
, a 143-foot chasm that’s one of the South’s most amazing caves — and also one of the most photographed in the country.
Please note: Stephens Gap is located on private property, but you can still visit by requesting a (free) permit
Porcupine Mountains Escarpment Trail – Michigan
Porcupine Mountains, Carp Lake Township, MI 49953, USA
The Porcupine Mountains are #PureMichigan splendor: Lake of the Clouds is nestled within these marvelous mountains, and the Carp River runs through the landscape, creating a sublime scene that is breathtakingly beautiful. Regarded as one of the Great Lakes State’s most wondrous areas, this region is rife with hiking opportunities. At just four miles long, the Escarpment Trail is not only incredibly accessible, it also offers some of the most breathtaking fall foliage views in the country.
Cumberland Falls via Eagle Falls Trail – Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Kentucky
Cumberland Falls, Kentucky 42634, USA
With 17 miles of hiking trails, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park is a hiker’s paradise. The trails explore some of the park’s most scenic spots, including, of course, the eponymous Cumberland Falls. The Cumberland Falls via Eagle Falls Trail is a 1.8-mile loop trail that’s rated as moderate; the most challenging aspect of the trail is its myriad staircases. It’s well-worth the effort, however, as the trail leads to two of the state’s most stunning waterfalls: Eagle Falls and Cumberland Falls, the latter of which is called “The Niagara of the South.”
Charlies Bunion Hike – Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Charlies Bunion, Tennessee 37738, USA
There’s nothing more wholly wonderful than a day spent amidst the beauty of the Smokies. The country’s most-visited national park, the Great Smoky Mountains span half a million acres across eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, offering a near-endless list of bucket-list-worthy hiking adventures. The Charlies Bunion Hike is a perennial favorite; this eight-mile round-trip hike leads to a rocky, treeless summit that affords 360-degree panoramas of the celebrated range, and is definitely one of the best vistas in the entire park.
Appalachian Trail – Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA
Few places in the country are as breathtakingly beautiful as Shenandoah National Park. With stunning and radiant scenery, Shenandoah offers some of the best outdoor recreation in the U.S., including access to the world-famous Appalachian Trail. However, due to the convenience of Skyline Drive, many visitors treat Shenandoah as a “drive-through” park, which is an absolute travesty. Of course, Shenandoah’s roadside overlooks are sublime — but the park is so much more. Nearly all the hiking trails in Shenandoah National Park branch off of this road; for instance, the acclaimed Appalachian Trail runs parallel to Skyline Drive, and there are several access points off the road for those wishing to experience this bucket-list-worthy hike.
Billy Goat Trail – Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland
Billy Goat Trail Section A, Potomac, MD 20854, USA
Billy Goat Trail is an accessible four-mile hike located mere minutes from Washington, D.C., but it feels a worlds away from our nation’s bustling hub. Along the Billy Goat Trail, hikers can revel in the resplendence of the raging Potomac River and marvel at the gorgeous grandeur of Great Falls. The hike is incredibly popular, however, so plan on visiting early in the day in order to beat the crowds.
Maryland Heights Trail – Harpers Ferry, Maryland (and West Virginia)
Maryland Heights Trailhead, 489-551 Harpers Ferry Rd, Knoxville, MD 21758, USA
Harpers Ferry is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers in West Virginia, Virginia, and Maryland, and it’s truly a vision. This mountain town is famous around the nation for immense natural beauty — and historic significance. It’s the mid-point of the Appalachian Trail. It’s a National Historical Park. It witnessed several key events in the Civil War. It was visited and admired by several of the Founding Fathers… the list goes on (and on). And while you can get an excellent feel for the area by strolling through the cobblestone streets of Lower Town, the best way to experience Harpers Ferry is to venture across the state border (and the Potomac River) into Maryland. From the vantage of the Overlook Cliff (accessible off the Maryland Heights Trail), you can enjoy a bird’s-eye view of Harpers Ferry that’s absolutely, positively bucket-list worthy.
Cadillac North Ridge Trail – Acadia National Park, Maine
Cadillac North Ridge Trail, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA
There’s a place that’s quite literally at the edge of the country, where you can be the first to experience the birth of a new day. Located in incredible Acadia National Park, Cadillac Mountain is a vision. The rocky features of the summit and the absolutely incredible views from the top are just a few of the reasons it’s regarded as the beautiful attraction in the country. The summit of the 1,529-foot mountain is accessible year-round, and is reached via the eponymous North Ridge Trail. Each season offers a different experience, from fall foliage to spring greenery and everything in between, making the rather steep ascent of the four-mile trek well-worth the effort (and tired muscles).
Nugget Falls Trail – Tongass National Forest, Alaska
Nugget Falls Trail, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
For those making the once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Last Frontier, Tongass National Forest is a bucket-list must. This area is a nature-lover’s paradise, teeming with wildlife, mountains, forests, waterfalls, rivers, caves, and even Alaska’s very own “swamps,” known as muskegs. Tongass National Forest is home to more than 700 miles of trails, in fact, making it a must-visit destination for hikers of all abilities. The Nugget Falls Trail is perhaps the best all-around trek in the park, packing incredible waterfall and glacial views in a straightforward, two-mile hike.
Lace up your boots and get ready for a soul-filling, scenic adventure when you tackle these iconic hiking trails in the U.S. Awe and wonder await.
Address: Billy Goat Trail Section A, Potomac, MD 20854, USA
Address: Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, USA
Address: Burroughs Mountain Trail, Washington 98304, USA
Address: Smith Rock State Park, Terrebonne, OR 97760, USA
Address: Charlies Bunion, Tennessee 37738, USA
Address: Nugget Falls Trail, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
Address: South Rim Trail, Rim Trail, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023, USA
Address: Cadillac North Ridge Trail, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA
Address: Cumberland Falls, Kentucky 42634, USA
Address: Grinnell Glacier Trail, Montana 59417, USA
Address: Rim Trail, Utah 84764, USA
Address: Point Lobos, California 93923, USA
Address: Half Dome, California, USA
Address: Maryland Heights Trailhead, 489-551 Harpers Ferry Rd, Knoxville, MD 21758, USA
Address: Porcupine Mountains, Carp Lake Township, MI 49953, USA
Address: Santa Elena Canyon Road, Santa Elena Canyon Rd, Texas 79834, USA
Address: Stephens Gap, Alabama 35776, USA