Want to turn your trek from a walk in the park to a walk on the wild side? You can experience the adventurous vistas of US national parks while testing your hiking skills. The following hikes are equal parts vigorous and rewarding. If the flat ground is more your style, then these avenues are not for you. But if you’re passionate about adrenaline and aren’t afraid of a challenge, read on.
Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park
Most travelers admire the views from nearby Skyline Drive, which runs through Shenandoah National Park in Virginia (114 kilometers from Washington, DC). Little do they know that better ideas await them on foot – if they dare.
Old Rag Mountain is the most famous hike in Shenandoah for good reason. Once you reach the summit, you have a clear 360-degree view of the park. The round trip of 14.48 km takes seven to eight hours from start to finish. Be prepared for precarious shuffles with rock scrambles, tight squeaks, steep hills, and cliff sides. But the visuals make it worthwhile. Local Tip: Arrive before 8 a.m. to beat the crowds.
Half Dome Hike in Yosemite National Park
Not only do you need to grab security cables, but also hold a trail access permit for the Half Dome hike in Yosemite National Park, California. There is a great demand for this increase.
From 22.5 to 25.7 kilometers round trip, Half Dome is no easy climb. In the final section, cables lead the way to help hikers without climbing equipment reach the top of the steep cliff.
You can complete the hike in a day if you start early, and the portion views from the summit of Half Dome make the hike a worthwhile challenge. To hike Half Dome, you can apply for an advance permit throughout the month of March, before the start of the hiking season. From this pool of applications, the park will randomly provide access to 300 hikers per day. You can also try to get a permit on the day of your hike, but there are no guarantees.
Angels Landing Trail in Zion National Park
Don’t let the well-maintained paths fool you at the start of this hike—Angels Landing in Utah’s Zion National Park is strictly for those with a taste for adventure.
In short, the ascent of Angels Landing presents a challenge. The 8-kilometer round-trip hike offers stunning expanses and reaches the rough end of steep, sheer drops with chain grips to aid those striving for the summit. The view from the 454-meter rock formation makes it worth the detour.
Alum Cave in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Found within Great Smoky Mountains National Park in eastern Tennessee, Alum Cave is a “rock shelter” rather than an actual cave, so no worries for the claustrophobic. This 7-km round-trip trail will take your breath away with its views and steep climbs.
Hikers begin by climbing a rock ladder (with the help of hand cables) to reach Arch Rock. Then, the trail hits its way with about 1.5 kilometers of solid rock climbs. Those with extra energy can continue from Alum Cave to Mount Leconte, the third highest peak in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Grandview Trail in Grand Canyon National Park
The Grandview Trail is renowned as one of the most difficult hikes in Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park, with short shadows, steep climbs, rough trails, and lots of trails. It is only recommended for experienced desert hikers. But as its name implies, this hike of up to 10.3 kilometers (round trip) also offers sweeping views of the canyon and the Colorado River.
So do the less intimidating option, though, the 9.6-kilometer round-trip South Kaibab Trail. The climb remains steep, but the trail remains better. No matter what route you choose, avoid the brutal summer months unless you’re comfortable losing the sweat of a lifetime on a one-day hike.
- Skyline Drive (Link)
- Old Rag Mountain (Link)
- Hiking Half Dome (Link)
- Angel’s Landing Trail (Link)
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Link)
- Alum Cave (Link)
- Grandview Trail (Link)