USA TODAY US Edition
51 great hikes
From sinuous, scenic paths to arduous, awe-inspiring treks, the country is ribboned with trails that beckon the casual and stalwart hiker alike. USA TODAY asked local experts to name one great place to hike in each state and the District of Columbia. Here
The Hugh S. Branyon Backcountry Trail runs between Gulf State Park and Orange Beach, Ala., and is a series of flat, paved trails through marshland and forests. They’re handicapped-accessible. Bring binoculars to do some birding. Other wildlife you could spot: alligators, deer or the elusive bobcat.
alapark.com/gulfstate/trails — Recommended by Kim G. Nix, editor, Outdoor
Alaska A short hike in Alaska’s oldest national park on the Sitka National Historical Park Trail spotlights Native American and Russian history. The path winds among finely carved totem poles, towering Sitka Spruce and through Shiskeenue, site of the fort where the Tlingit people weathered a Russian attack in 1804. The trail circles back along the Indian River with views of Sitka Sound.
— Recommended by Andy Hall, publisher of Alaska magazine
RedMountain Trail, 30miles north of Flagstaff, enters a wonderland of cinder hoodoos, slot crevices and small caves. Red Mountain, an orange-red cinder cone, appears as if its eastern flank has been hacked off by a knife, exposing a spectacular amphitheater. The 2.5-mile roundtrip hike is family-friendly, but at 7,000 feet, it’s best from April through October.
www.fs.fed.us/r3/coconino — Recommended by Janet Webb Farnsworth, Arizona-based freelance travel writer
The 233-mile Ozark Highlands Trail runs through some of the most scenic areas of the Arkansas Ozark Mountains and features streams, waterfalls, bluffs and vistas. Numerous access points along this National Recreation Trail make it suitable for everything from a weekend hike to an extended backpacking trip.
— Recommended by John Beneke, Arkansas State Trails coordinator
California Hike up Cinder Cone in Northern California’s Lassen Volcanic National Park and you don’t just feel like you’ve found a place of supernatural beauty, you think you may have landed on another planet. The trail to the top of the eerie brown cone is a tough 2 miles, because you’re hiking on sand and volcanic cinders. But the summit views— of such park landmarks as Lassen Peak and the Fantastic Lava Beds— make all the work
worthwhile. nps.gov/lavo — Recommended by Peter Fish, editor at large,
The popular Maroon Lake Trail near Aspen weaves through aspen groves to Crater Lake, an ice-blue gem. This trailhead is also the starting point for backpacker and day hikes to West Maroon Bell Pass. The trail meanders through forests, across scree fields, over streams and up switchbacks. Outfitters offer multi-day hikes and horseback rides over the pass to Crested Butte.
www.fs.usda.gov/whiteriver — Recommended by Lois Friedland of About.com’s Guide to Adventure Travel and co-author Denver Daytrips iPhone app
Connecticut Spend roughly two hours hiking the loop trail inWeston’s 1,756-acre
Devil’s Den Preserve and you’ll experience a distillation of the state’s woodland beauty. Covering a distance of 3.3 miles, the well-marked route takes you inside a leafy forest to amillpond that was built in the 1700s, throughmarshy patches, over a jumble of mossy boulders and up to rocky outcroppings that offer unmarred country views. nature.org — Recommended by Susan Farewell, Connecticut-based editor in chief of FarewellTravels.com
Delaware The sight and sound ofwater has an unfailing ability to soothe, making the 5-mile hike on the Creek Road and Rocky Run trails of Brandywine Creek State Park a real antidote to workday stress. Starting at Thompsons Bridge, the hike combines an easy ramble along a broad, gravel path skirting the glasslike Brandywine Creek with a more challenging trek on rocky terrain that runs beside — and at one point crosses— a stream. Along the way you’ll enjoy the shade of poplar, birch andmaple trees. destateparks.com/park/ brandywine-creek, — Recommended by Theresa Gawlas Medoff, Delaware-based travel writer District of Columbia
Tree-canopied Rock Creek Park provides a (relatively) temperate summer setting for a rugged constitutional. The country’s largest urban park in the national park system (at more than 1,700 acres) has two main trails for serious hikerswhich incorporate hills, dales, babbling brooks andwaterfalls. Casual hikers, bikers or inline skaters should wander over on weekends, when Beach Drive, the main thoroughfare through the park, is closed to motorized traffic. nps.gov/rocr — Recommended by DC-based travel and TV journalist Laura Powell, who blogs at dailysuitcase.com
Florida Scramble up the bluffs of the Suwannee River past sinkholes, rapids and waterfalls along a 40-mile segment of the Florida Trail that slips in and out of historic White Springs. Towering tupelos shade the footpath as it follows the river’s curves, where sandy beaches provide places to pitch a tent. Narrow, rugged and often a cliff-hanger, the palmettolined trail showcases the karst terrain of Suwannee at its best.
floridatrail.org — Recommended by Sandra Friend, Florida author and host of floridahikes.com Georgia Located on Lookout Mountain, which gives sweeping views of seven states, Cloudland Canyon State Park is sliced down the middle by a dramatic gorge. Hikers can enjoy a picnic at the top (elevation 1,980 feet), then descend hundreds of perilous steps down Waterfalls Trail to the canyon floor (elevation 800 feet), where two waterfalls cascade into clear pools. Cloudland Canyon has fourmore hiking trails, from 2.5 miles through hemlock groves to 6.5 miles along Daniel Creek.
gastateparks.org/CloudlandCanyon — Recommended by Allison Weiss Entrekin, an Atlanta-based travel writer and editor
Hawaii Maui’s natural splendor is best seen from the 2,500-foot peak atop Waihee Ridge Trail, a 5-mile round-trip hike through groves of guava and kukui trees with panoramic views of Wailuku and central Maui, the Kahakuloa slopes and Mount Eke. Go early to avoid cloud cover that may obstruct views. From Kahekili Highway (340), turn up Maluhia Road and drive about a mile. A sign on a fence marks the trail’s start. hawaiitrails.org — Recommended by Catherine Toth, Honolulubased freelance writer who also blogs at thecatdish.com Idaho An easy hike for visitors of all ages and abilities, Tubbs Hill is a landmark in Coeur d’Alene. A 2-mile loop takes walkers on a forested peninsula that extends out into Lake Coeur d’Alene. Wildlife is abundant; you may spot deer, elk, moose, wild turkey and quail. visitidaho.org
— Recommended by Kellie Kluksdal, Idaho Division of Tourism
Illinois Escape the cornfields and flatlands of northern Illinois at Shawnee National Forest, where otherworldly boulders challenge hikers. Here, in Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, the trails are shorter but loaded with incredible views of old-growth forest, and 300 million-year-old rocks to climb. The sandstone has eroded into giant mushroom shapes, slivered canyons andmore. www.fs.fed.us — Recommended by Laurie D. Borman, Illinoisbased travel writer and editor, laurieborman.com
Indiana East of the Nature Center, choose the wide, sandy path to Indiana Dunes
Nature Preserve. Enter black oak and maple forest and find dramatic dune country blowouts amid shifting sand hills. Green grasses and sedge poke up between matted, dry leaves; moss forms a natural carpet. From the crest of high dunes, look out over vast Lake Michigan. in.gov/dnr/ naturepreserve/files/Dunes-color.pdf
— Recommended by Sally McKinney, author of
Iowa Backbone State Park, in the northeast part of the state, gets its name from a rocky ridge called the Devil’s Backbone— which defies any notion that Iowa is all flat cornfields. There isn’t much elevation change, so even casual hikers can enjoy the kneeknocking views across the treetops. Kids, especially, will dig it, though parents will want to hold on to the backs of their shirts as they peer over the edge! iowadnr.gov/parks/ — Recommended by Hannah Agran, assistant
travel editor, Midwest Living
Kansas In the Smoky Hills of central Kansas, the Rocktown Trail makes a 3.5mile loop on the northern edge of theWilson Reservoir. The trail cuts through prairie grasses that bloom with wildflowers and yucca. In dry seasons, the water level can be low enough to explore the bases of the sandstone spires jutting up from the reservoir. In high-water times, they can be explored by kayak or canoe.
travelks.com — Recommended by Michael C. Snell, Kansasbased freelance photographer/writer
Ridge Trail follows the Kentucky border, running through the Cumberland Gap, which Daniel Boone blazed in 1775 to open the wilderness to settlers. East of Middlesboro off of U.S. 25E and U.S. 58 (The Daniel Boone Trail), the trail rises and falls from 2,000 to 2,500 feet in this 16.25-mile stretch from Pinnacle Overlook to Fern Lake Overlook. www.backpackcamp.com/ CumberlandGap.html
— Recommended by Stephen M. Vest, publisher,
Louisiana Six miles of all-weather trails wind up and down ragged ridges and ravines in Port Hudson State Historic Site. Hikers are led through Confederate breastworks at Fort Desperate and awide variety of habitat, from swamp to climax hardwood forest. The short steep uphills and downhills, unusual terrain for Louisiana, challenge flatlanders; pack plenty of water and insect repellent.
www.lastateparks.com. — Recommended by Jack Curry Jr., New Orleans-based writer and blogger (neworleansoutdoorcompanion.blogspot.com)
Maine Few hikes in Maine offer such a rich taste of the North Woods as does the 8.6-mile loop trek through the Gulf
Hagas Gorge, with its series of dramatic tumbling falls, inviting swimming holes, and sheer rock walls overlooking the West Branch of the Pleasant River. A memorable bonus is the path through The Hermitage: towering stands of virgin white pine that accentuate the
silence all around. visitmaine.com
— Recommended by Mel Allen, editor of Yankee Magazine
Maryland The 184.5-mile-long Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park, which hugs the Potomac River, is Maryland’s largest and most visited national park. Tackle the “B” section of the Billy Goat Trail by entering near the Old Angler’s Inn in Potomac. Prepare for a gorgeous walk clambering over stones along the water. nps.gov/choh — Recommended by Dan Patrell, publisher,
Maryland Life magazine Massachusetts
The Blue Hills Reservation, with 7,000 acres, 22 hills and 125 miles of trails that run through Quincy, Dedham, Milton and Randolph offers hikers a different experience each visit, and varied habitats— from forests to meadows, marsh to a bog. Great Blue Hill, at 635 feet, is the highest of the so-called hills and is home to the Blue Hill Observatory, a National Historic Landmark. Hikers are rewarded with fantastic views of Boston from here. mass.gov/dcr/ parks/metroboston/blue.htm — Recommended by Kim Foley MacKinnon, travel writer, now writing a book titled Outdoors
With Kids Boston
Michigan On isolated Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior, every trail is remote. But start with a day hike to Scoville Point. Just north of the Rock Harbor Lodge, the 4.1-mile trail passes along the shoreline and through boreal forest. You have a remote chance of encountering a moose or wolf, both of which exist on this island. The trail takes you past wildflowers and across massive rocks along the pristine lakeshore. On the return, you pass quiet Tobin Harbor, home to loons and their mournful calls. nps.gov/isro
— Recommended by Ellen Creager, travel writer,
Detroit Free Press Minnesota The Superior Hiking Trail follows the high rugged ridge that runs along Lake Superior, the world’s largest freshwater lake. The 240-mile trail, which begins near Duluth and leads to the Canadian border, crawls up craggy hills and plunges into deep stream valleys, with plenty of scenic overlooks along the way. One of the most spectacular (and hilliest) routes begins in Silver Bay and ends 11 miles up the shore on Highway 1.
shta.org — Recommended by St. Paul-based Greg Breining, author of Super Volcano: The Ticking Time Bomb Beneath Yellowstone National Park
Mississippi Off the Natchez Trace Parkway about 20 miles north of Jackson, an easy half-mile hike on the Cypress Swamp Trail takes you through wetlands filled with tupelo and cypress trees. A wooden boardwalk rises above dark waterswhere (if you’re lucky), you might see an alligator resting in the shadows. nps.gov/natr
— Recommended by Southern Living magazine staff
Missouri More than a dozen trails of varying lengths meander through wooded areas and alongside springs and brooks at Ha Ha Tonka State Park in central Missouri. The ruins of a turn-of-the-20th-century castle stand atop a bluff and can be accessed from one trail and viewed from others. mostateparks.com — Recommended by Gary Figgins, editor,
Show-Me Missouri magazine Montana From the summit of the Going-tothe-Sun Road at the 6,646-foot Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, the Highline Trail ambles north through shoulder-deep beargrass, wildflowers and verdant hanging-garden meadows. En route to Granite Park Chalet, 7.6 miles away, hikers might encounter mountain goats, bighorn sheep, elk and the park’s largest carnivore, grizzly bears. The trail usually opens bymid summer. nps.gov/glac — Recommended by Jean Arthur, Montana-based freelance writer
Nebraska At Toadstool Geologic Park in the state’s northwest corner, you’ll swear you’re on the moon. A seaside wetland about 30 million years ago, its bleached and barren rocks show footprints left by ancient horses, camels, tortoises, pigs and rhinos. Carved by the elements, toadstoolshaped rocks line the park’s easy, mile-long interpretative trail. Other than vault toilets, no comforts exist here, 17 miles northwest of Crawford on a gravel road, so remember to bring water. visitnebraska.gov
— Recommended by Mike Whye, author of
Nebraska Simply Beautiful
Nevada The view from atop 10,450-foot Liberty Passmay cause you to rub your eyes in disbelief at the sheer beauty of northeastern Nevada’s pristine RubyMountains. Liberty Pass andmyriad alpine lakes are all within a few miles of the trailhead in Lamoille Canyon. If you have the time— about four days— take in all of the range’swonders along the 37-mile Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail. exploreelko.com — Recommended by Charlie Johnston, associate
editor, Nevada Magazine
New Hampshire Mount Chocorua, in the White Mountain National Forest, is for seasoned family hikers looking to step it up. From its bare, coneshaped 3,500-foot summit, New Hampshire’s glory rolls out below with lakes, rippling mountains and a seemingly endless horizon. The initial gradual ascent along the Champney Brook Trail begins from a trailhead about 10 miles west of Conway on the Kancamagus Highway before a final push around craggy ledges to the glorious summit along the Piper Trail for a 7-plusmile round-trip journey. www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/ white_mountain — Recommended by Marty Basch, author
of The White Mountain Ride Guide New Jersey On ecosystems a transitional in central zone Jersey, between Cheesequake two diverse State geographies Park has in one the of state. themost The park boasts five color-coded trails, including the popular Green Trail. In just 3.5 miles, hikers tackle inclines, see open fields, Atlantic white cedar swamps, marshlands and a 150year-old white pine tree stand. You won’t see that on reality TV! njhiking.com
— Recommended by Drew Anne Scarantino, assistant editor, New Jersey Monthly magazine
New Mexico Combine the ancient (Anasazi culture) with themodern (a roadworthy vehicle) on the 16-mile spine-rattling dirt and gravel road to Chaco Culture National Historic Park. Your reward ismagnificent views of the remains of multistory pre-Columbian communities and cryptic petroglyphs scattered along 6 miles of canyon floors. Hiking trails loop sandstone mesas and probe hundreds of rooms once occupied by this thriving pueblo culture that flourished from the mid-900s to the mid-1100s. nps.gov/chcu
— Recommended by Jan Butchofsky, travel photographer and longtime New Mexico resident
The remote Adirondacks are the state’s top location for hiking, and the southern portion has the best mix of challenges and scenic spots. For an easy route with a great payoff, the trip up Bald Mountain is steep but short (2 miles round trip). The 8.5-mile round trip up Black Mountain near Lake George has a 1,100-foot vertical rise and even more stunning view. Novice hikers can skip the slopes and head to Cascade Lake, an easy 5-mile walk with a waterfall detour. adk.org — Recommended by Neil Schlecht and Jason Clampet, Frommer’s Guides
North Carolina Panoramic views are the exception in East Coast hiking, but on a 2.5mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail north of Roan Mountain, they’re the rule. Starting from Carver’s Gap on the North Carolina/Tennessee line, head north on the AT and in a third of a mile, you’re on top of Round Bald. Continue another halfmile— keeping an eye peeled for the goats that keep the area mowed— and you reach Jane Bald. Amile and a half beyond you summit 6,100-foot Grassy Ridge Bald. On a clear day the three balds offer spectacular, wideopen views. appalachiantrail.org
Recommended by Joe Miller, outdoor adventure writer and author of the GetGoing NC.com and NCHikes.com blogs North Dakota Golden eagles soar on thermal updrafts as mule deer, elk and antelope graze near the Little Missouri River’s muddy waters and coyotes stalk prairie dogs along the Maah Daah Hey Trail. The rugged Badlands challenge hikers to explore rolling grasslands, steep cedar-lined draws and splendid vistas atop towering buttes along this 97-mile trail between the U.S Forest Service CCC Campground south of Watford City and Sully Creek Campground near Medora. Campsites offer respite. mdhta.com
— Recommended by Dawn Faught, North Dakota-based freelance writer and photographer
Ohio One of Ohio’s hiking gems is the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, a 33,000-acre network of scenic trails between Cleveland and Akron. The lush greenwoodlands, laced with ravines, gorges, ledges and meandering streams, offermore than 140 miles of trails . The 1.8-mile Ledges Trail is the most popular, with its rock formations and box canyons. More formidable is the 20-mile-long, fully accessible Ohio& Erie Canal Towpath Trail. nps.gov/cuva — Recommended by Tom and Joanne O’Toole, Ohio-based travel/outdoor journalists
Oklahoma In the southeastern quadrant of the state, Robbers Cave State Park offers 26 miles of hiking trails, including the three-quarter mile Robbers Cave
Trail. Scramble up some smooth rock inclines, check out the cave said to have been used by outlaws Belle Starr and Jesse James, then climb to the caprock for a great view of the park. The trail loops back to the trailhead, taking you by the stone corral where the outlaws hid their
horses. oklahomaparks.com — Recommended by Elaine Warner, Oklahomabased freelance travel writer
Oregon Hikers have pounded a path where the Deschutes National Forest chose not to build one in the central Oregon Cascades west of Bend. Take the trail a half mile from Broken Top trailhead, then follow the boot track through open country north along Soda Creek to the southeast shoulder of Broken Top volcano. The Bend Glacier calves mini-icebergs into silty water of an unnamed lake.
— Recommended by Terry Richard, travel writer,
Pennsylvania The Pine Creek Gorge lives up to its name as Pennsylvania’s Grand Canyon. At about 50miles long and more than 1,000 feet deep, the gorge offers impressive views of the PennsylvaniaWilds region’s wildlife and old-growth forests. The Turkey Path in Leonard Harrison State Park winds pastwaterfalls and other scenic features as it descends a mile to the canyon floor. www.dcnr.state.pa.us
— Recommended by Rebecca Porterfield, Pennsylvania Tourism Department consultant
Rhode Island Imagine a hike along rocky cliffs with the pounding Atlantic on one side and some of the most famous mansions in the world on the other: That’s what you’ll find on the 3.5mile CliffWalk in Newport, unique for being a National Recreation Trail in a National Historic District. Start at Memorial Dive at Easton’s Beach; paved pathways lead pastMarble House with its Chinese Tea House and The Breakers. As you head farther south, you’ll tread the natural rocky coastline on cliffs 70 feet high, so stay on the path! gonewport.com — Recommended by Pamela Thomas, former features editor, Providence Journal
South Carolina Hiking boardwalks through eerie cypress swamps teeming with ’gators and opulent gardens of azaleas, camellias and biblical plants is not your typical walk in the woods. But Magnolia Plantation& Gardens is a journey through South Carolina history in a heavenly setting. Photograph colossal ivory magnolia blossoms on towering trees. Stroll over the red bridge and watch great blue herons gliding like ballerinas. Amble along the serene Ashley River listening to Civil War tales.
magnoliaplantation.com — Recommended by Sharon Spence Lieb, travel columnist, The Globetrotters Features and The Moultrie News South Dakota The Narrows Walking Trail leads to one of the most spectacular and historic views of the Missouri River corridor. Lewis and Clark explored the “big bend” of theMissouri. Steamboat captains invited passengers to disembark, stretch their legs and walk a mile to meet up with the boat after it circled the more than 20-mile bend in the river. The Lower Brule Sioux Tribe recently established a walking path to a summit overlooking “the narrows.” Find it about 4 miles north of the community of Lower Brule. lbst.org — Recommended by Bernie Hunhoff, editor/ publisher, South Dakota Magazine
Tennessee A favorite hike in the 124,000-acre Big South Fork National River and Recreational Area northwest of Knoxville ends at the rustic Charit Creek Lodge. The strenuous, 4.6-mile
Twin Arches Loop Trail features spectacular rock formations, and at trail’s end, you can lunch at the lodge or spend the night. Charit Creek’s two simple cabins and bunk-filled lodge rooms don’t have electricity, but kerosene lanterns and fireflies provide plenty of light. nps.gov/biso
— Recommended by Southern Living magazine staff Texas Guadalupe Mountains National Park lies 110 miles east of El Paso in dusty, sagebrush-barren West Texas. The park offers 80 miles of hiking trails ranging from bunny slopes to tough climbs. One of the most challenging— and rewarding— is the 8.4-mile trek to Guadalupe Peak, at 8,749 feet the highest point in the state. The trail climbs 3,000 feet and is demanding, but there’s no rock climbing and the view from the top is breathtaking. nps.gov/gumo — Recommended by Ken Hoffman, columnist for the Houston Chronicle
Utah The 3-mile round-trip hike to the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park ranks among the world’s best. It’s not just that the improbablelooking sandstone arch is among the most unusual formations anywhere. The hike itself is wonderful. It begins its 480-foot climb at the historic Wolfe Ranch, crosses a wash via a hanging bridge and then climbs up solid sandstone. The reward— the Delicate Arch— is hidden from view until the last possible seconds. nps.gov/arch
— Recommended by Tom Wharton, travel writer for The Salt Lake Tribune
Vermont The Mount Independence State Historic Site, overlooking Lake Champlain in Orwell, contains several miles of secluded hiking trails thatmeander through oldgrowth woodland and open fields. Here, American citizen-soldiers built a fort that was used during the Revolutionary War. Mount Independence, including a museum , has been described as one of the bestpreserved archeological sites of the war. historicvermont.org
— Recommended by Phil Jordan, editor and publisher VERMONT magazine
Virginia Each year, more than 100,000 people scale Old Rag’s summit in the northern end of Shenandoah National Park. It’s one of the few park peaks that is rocky and exposed, affording 360-degree views. The shorter Ridge Trail includes a hair-raising rock scramble near the top. Hike Weakley Hollow Road to the Saddle Trail for a less-crowded approach. Either way, this day hike has earned its reputation as the best-known peak in the state. nps.gov/shen — Recommended by Andy Thompson, Richmond
Times-Dispatch outdoors columnist Washington Even after the annual deluge known as winter and spring, summer’s still time to get your soak on. There’s nowhere on the continent you’ll find more waterfalls than on the one-to two-day, 26-mile backpack trip into Olympic National Park’s Enchanted Valley. The tally? 1,000 cataracts and counting. No joke. olympicpeninsula waterfalltrail.com/enchanted-valley — Recommended by Crai S. Bower, Seattle-based outdoor writer
West Virginia The 78-mile Greenbrier River Trail in southeastern West Virginia is adjacent to theMonongahela National Forest, Seneca State Forest and Watoga State Park. Part of the state’s system of converted rail trails, the packed surface and gentle grade also are popular with bicyclists, cross-country skiers and horseback riders. The trail follows the Greenbrier River, allowing for swimming and fishing, too. www.greenbrierrailtrailstatepark.com
— Recommended by Andrea Bond, West Virginia Division of Tourism
Wisconsin Think of Wisconsin as a mitten, and head to the tip of the thumb. Hop one ferry, then another, to reach Rock Island State Park, where no cars or bikes are allowed. That leaves walking, on 10 miles of trails that pass sandy and stony beaches, dolomite cliffs and clumps of evergreens, a lighthouse and stone water tower. The biggest surprise: sturdy Viking Hall and its massive stone fireplace, walls of windows and hand-carved oak furniture. www.dnr.state.wi.us/org/land/parks/ specific/rockisland — Recommended by Mary Bergin of roadstraveled.com and author of Sidetracked in the Midwest: A Green Guide for Travelers
Wyoming The majority of people who visit Yellowstone National Park never leave developed areas. That leaves wide-open spaces and inspirational points largely unseen. The Mystic Falls Trail, accessed from the Biscuit Basin parking lot, offers views of the Upper Geyser Basin, as well as the 70-foot cascading falls. nps.gov/yell — Recommended by Lori Hogan, Wyoming Office of Tourism