Spectacular Summer Hikes

Updated: Apr. 23, 2021

Discover America’s natural beauty by hitting one (or more!) of these trails this summer.

Queens Garden/Navajo Loop

Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
When to go: Year-round
Distance: 3.1 Miles

It’s hard to imagine more spectacular scenery packed into three short miles. This hike takes you past scores of the park’s trademark rock formations, called hoodoos. You’ll pass one of the park’s most iconic hoodoos, Thor’s Hammer, on your way. If the moon is full, try hiking the trail at night. While in most rural areas of the US only 2,500 stars can be seen on a clear night, Bryce Canyon is so dark you can count up to 7,500. The visitors’ center offers tours of the night sky and provides telescopes.

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Sunset Ridge Trail

Mt. Mansfield, Vermont
When to go: June-October
Distance: 6.8 miles

Conquer Vermont’s tallest peak in a moderately challenging day hike. When seen from the East or West, the 4,393-foot Mt. Mansfield resembles the profile of a face. Several trails crisscross the mountain, but the Sunset Ridge Trail is the most popular. Pass gravity-defying Cantilever Rock and two tunnels formed by enormous glaciers on the ascent to the summit. See Alpine tundra preserved since the Ice Ages. Above the tree line, you’ll be treated to views of Camels Hump, the Green Mountains, and the Adirondacks. Merge with the Appalachian Trail on the ridge, and then wander across bedrock to reach The Chin, the true summit.

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Teton Crest Trail

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
When to go: Mid-July to Mid-September
Distance: 36.7 Miles, 6 Days

Those seeking the adventure of a multi-day backpacking trip should try the signature hike of Grand Teton National Park. The trail weaves its way along the interior spine of the Teton range, joining high divides and passes and offering glimpses of alpine lakes and the iconic craggy summits. Along the way, you’ll probably mingle with a few American bison, marmots, moose, pronghorn, wapiti (elk), or mule deer. The hiking season is also wildflower season, meaning you’ll be walking through stunning carpets of lupine and mountain bluebells. At Fox Creek Pass you get sweeping views of Jackson Hole in Wyoming and Teton Valley in Idaho. And starting in Hurricane Pass, every view for several miles frames the three Tetons in all their glory. Caution: black and grizzly bears love this hike too.

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Hidden Lake Nature Trail

Hidden Lake Nature Trail
Glacier National Park, Montana
When to go: May-September
Distance: 1.5 miles to 6 miles

This hike is great for families with kids or those looking for a more leisurely walk. It begins at the popular Logan Pass, some 18 miles from the Saint Mary Entrance to Glacier National Park. Follow the boardwalk up through the wildflower-speckled meadow behind the visitor center to reach an overlook of Hidden Lake at 1.5 miles. Some hikers stop here. From the overlook, the trail descends, sometimes steeply, 700 feet to the shore of Hidden Lake at 3 miles.

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Sargent Mountain Loop

Acadia National Park, Maine
When to go: May to October
Distance: 5.5 Miles

Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi, offers scores of spectacular hikes around its granite peaks. One of the most thrilling is this moderate hike on a loop that rises from the park’s Jordan Pond House (elevation 200 feet), to the wild summit of Sargent Mountain (1,373 feet). En route you skirt Jordan Cliffs and East Cliffs by way of carved steps and fortuitously placed iron rungs, making the hike possible, though not easy. The payoff is a three-coastline view of Mount Desert Island and an inland vista that extends to distant Baxter Peak and Katahdin. Cool off with a dip in Sargent Pond on your way down from the mountain.

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Kalalau Trail

Kauai, Hawaii
When to go: Year-round, but summer is best
Distance: 11 miles

Take a break from lounging on the beach and hike along the Na Pali coast of Kauai. The trail is the only land access to this part of the scenic, rugged coastline. Its oft-harrowing switchbacks cross above towering sea cliffs and through five valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach. This difficult excursion is not for the weak-kneed; it takes most fit backpackers a full day to traverse.

Learn more about the Kalalau Trail

Plus: 21 Essential Hiking Tips

Sources: National Geographic, Daily Beast, Backpacker.com

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest