Most Amazing Places For Hiking In The National Parks

The national parks, "America's best idea," are celebrating a centennial this year. Many people, experienced mountaineers or just enthusiasts, are honoring the anniversary by travelling to and exploring all 59 parks.

Spending time in the wilderness is one of the best ways to cope better with stress, feel happier and have more self-esteem, according to science. Going on a hiking trip is one of the best ways to reconnect with nature.

But where?

It depends on the level of your hiking skills, what you want to see along the trail and how much time you've got. The astonishing places on the following list, from California to Maine, have been selected based on those criteria.

1. Teton Crest Trail

The Teton Crest Trail is the highlight hike of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Explore the glorious Teton Range, witness the high divides and passes, majestic alpine lakes, and stunning views at the legendary rocky peaks. The best time to go is between July and September when you'll see all kinds of colors, flowers and wildlife. There are plenty of campsites in case you decide to take a break along the 37mile-trail.

2. Outer Mountain Loop

This 30-mile route at Big Bend National Park, Texas is for at least mid-level hikers. It's strenuous and there are significant elevation changes and primitive trail. The time to try it out is between October and May; it gets too hot in the summer. The loop is Big Bend's signature multi-day backpacking trip and includes a wide variety of habitats and scenery including, the piñon/juniper/oak woodlands of the Chisos, and stark, rugged desert in one of the most wild and remote corners of the country, according to NPS.

3. Navajo Loop Combination Trail

Anywhere you turn along this hiking route you will see stunning views of the Bryce Canyon National Park. It's simply unique and it has everything – green pines, redrock hoodoos, various terrains for all kinds of adventurous enthusiasts. You can do the hike at night, which is an especially good idea if there is a full moon. Other awesome places for hiking in the park are the Rim Trail, Mossy Cave Trail, Fairyland Loop Trail and Peekaboo Trail.  

4. Precipice Trail

The trail is very popular on the East Coast but it's also one of the most dangerous in Acadia National Park. It's not technically difficult but the steep drops and open cliffs make the walk very tricky. Don't ever take your hands off the metal rungs. Stone steps, iron-rung ladders and steep slopes will take you up a sheer cliff face to the summit of Champlain Mountain. These walls were shaped 18,000 years ago when glaciers carved out the granite mountainside.

5. Half Dome Hike

Yosemite is one of the most visited and popular national parks in the U.S. An iconic feature is its granite monolith of Half Dome. Standing nearly 8,800 feet above sea level, whether you ascent up the cables or admire it from afar, Half Dome is an experience you'll never forget. There are steel cables to hang on to but rain makes it a very slick climb. The Panorama Loop is another popular and stunning hiking route. Along the trail you will get to see iconic spots like the Half Dome, Mist and Vernal Falls, Illouette Falls, and Glacier Point. Another favorite is Taft Point, offering the most spectacular views of the park.

6. Harding Icefield Trail

Everything in the Kenai Fjords National Park in general is amazing to explore because of the remoteness of the park. Hiking the Hardin Icefield Trail you will feel like you have gone back in time to the Ice Age. As NPS describes it, "the trail winds through cottonwood and alder forests, passes though heather filled meadows and ultimately climbs well above tree line to a breath-taking view of the Icefield." At the top you will see a horizon of ice and snow that stretches as far as the eye can see. This is not an easy hike. You will gain about 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile. If this is too much for you, there are several short day hikes on the valley floor.

7. Angel’s Landing

This is one of the most famous and thrilling hikes in the U.S., certain in the Zion National Park. However, it's not recommended for people who are afraid of heights. The very narrow trail in Zion's main red rock canyon will definitely test your physical limits. Be prepared for dizzying drop-offs and deep crater views. Don't forget to ascend Walter's Wiggles along the way. Easy hikes in this stunning park include the Grotto Trail, Riverside Walk and the Pa'rus Trail. Make sure you also try the Sand Bench Trail, Canyon Overlook Trail and, the most famous and dangerous one, The Narrows.

8. Mooney Falls

The Rim Trail may the most famous hike in the Grand Canyon National Park but Mooney Falls should be right up there. You will be descending through caves, down ladders and rocks until you get to the shoulder of a cliff looking at the almighty 200-foot waterfall. Continue going down to see deep pools, creeks, and green grape vines. Other awesome places to hike in the Grand Canyon are the Bright Angel Trail, which is quite dangerous, the Hermit Trail and the Grandview Trail, which is very, very steep.

9. The Highline Trail

It's impossible to pick where to hike if you are in the Glacier National Park. If you have the time, you should try seeing all of it. But if you don't, consider hiking this stunning high-country route. It's fairly easy because it's mostly flat but the views of the rigged summits, icy pastures and grizzly territories are stunning and unique every step of the way. Don't miss the opportunity to see the gorgeous Grinell Lake and hike along the Iceberg Lake Trail.

10. Ryan Mountain

This is probably the very best place where you can see most of Joshua Tree National Park, which is awesome for camping too. It's an easy trail, even though there is plenty of rugged and uneven ground, but it's mostly one path going straight up the mountain. The descend is gradual so you can focus on the inspiring views surrounding you. The park has two nearby campgrounds, in case you decide you like the park too much and want to stay for longer. Other trails for awesome day hikes are the Lost Palm Oasis and Mastodon Peak.

11. Trail of the Sequoias

The Sequoia National Park is one of the most amazing places you can go hiking if you want to feel like you're in the middle of a lavish forest with massive green trees surrounding you. The Trail of Sequoias is the ideal place to get as close as possible to these giants. Yet, there is an amazing feeling of solitude along the trail. Don't miss the famous 2,200 year old giant sequoia tree – General Sherman, with an estimated volume of more than 52,000 cubic feet, making it the largest in the world. Hiking near Grant Grove Village and to Cedar Grove is also exceptional.

12. High Peaks Loop

The Condor Gulch to High Peaks Loop in Pinnacles National Park will take you through the heart of the pinnacles and along the steep and narrow section of the High Peaks Trail. You'll get a clear view of the rock spires and crags and might even see a few climbers attempting one of the many routes in the park. The park, a 26,000 acre treasure, is full of caves, lakes, California Condors, and bizarre rocky formations, making for an amazing hiking trip.

13. The Devil’s Garden

The Arches National Park is certainly one of the most beautiful parks in the country, especially in the winter or early spring when it's not too crowded. The Devil's Garden is right by the outdoor recreation Mecca of Moab. This is the longest and most jagged hiking route in the Arches, but it's completely maintained. Go all the way and you'll pass eight huge arches and a towering monolith. You'll also see the gorgeous snow-capped La Sal Mountains. Other awesome hiking routes include the Tower Arch, the Broken Arch Loop and Park Avenue.

14. Mount Herard

Mount Herard at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve in Colorado is climbed less often than it's higher neighbors to the north – the Crestone Group, perhaps due to a 10 mile round trip with over 3,700 feet of elevation gain, according to SummitPost. When you make it to the top though, you will be awarded by the outstanding vistas of the dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Range. It'll feel as if the entire state is unfolding beneath you.

15. Sheep Mountain Table

Hiking along the Sheep Mountain Table at Badlands National Park – also spectacular for stargazing – in South Dakota allows you to get a different perspective of the humungous Badland ridge. If you're lucky, you can see herds of buffaloes and pronghorns. On the south end, you will walk along cedars and will see the valley floor which is about 300 feet below.