National Take a Hike Day: 20 Great American Hikes

Posted by Amanda Oppold on November 17, 2013 at 3:12:09 PM EST | Post a Comment

At some point, November 17 came to be known as National Take a Hike day. While we're not sure if that refers to telling some to "get lost" or actually getting off the couch to explore our country, we're going with the latter (although feel free to tell someone off and then take a cathartic hike). We sifted through some incredible American hikes to bring you the best, organized by region. Get out there before winter truly takes hold, we guarantee there's something worth seeing in your neck of the woods.

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The Pacific Coast (CA, WA, OR)

Offering a wide variety of natural beauty from the warm desert of Joshua Tree National Park in California to mountain vistas in Washington's Olympic National Park, the Pacific Coast has trails for any skill level. For a more urban hike, try the Batteries to Bluffs Trail in San Francisco that will afford hikers a short excursion with hard-to-beat views of the Golden Gate Bridge and a chance to relax on Marshall Beach. For a more challenging and secluded hike, try the Eagle Creek and Tunnel Falls 12-mile trail in Fort Rains, Wash. Not far from Portland, this trail will take you along basalt cliffs where you'll want to utilize the bolted cable on the cliff. You'll be rewarded with five waterfalls, including one you can pass behind.

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Noncontiguous (AK, HI)

As America's two wildly different outcroppings, Hawaii and Alaska don't share much in terms of environment. However, they both do offer outstanding sights and excellent outdoor adventures. Try the Thunder Bird Falls Trail in Alaska's Chugach State Park for an easy 2-mile climb for great views of the waterfall, which often freezes in the winter creating gorgeous ice sculptures. For a unique Hawaiian experience challenge yourself to climb the 3,922 steps of the Ha'iku Stairs or "Stairway to Heaven," for panoramic views and undeniable bragging rights.

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Mountain States (CO, ID, MT, NV, UT, WY)

Home to great expanses of plains, mountains, and forests, these open states offer some of America's most spectacular wonders. Idaho, home to the lower 48 states' largest amount of national forest, has plentiful hiking options including Sawtooth and Alpine Lakes trails, near Stanley, Idaho, which traverse forest, alpine meadows, and beautiful mountain lakes. Or check out the notable Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah and complete the Queens Garden/Navajo Loop Combination Trail. During the 3-mile hike you'll get to see the canyon's most unique geology like sandstone spires, rococo hoodoos, and the iconic Thor's Hammer.

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The Southwest (AZ, NM, OK, TX)

The main attraction in the southwest is undoubtedly the Grand Canyon. For a challenging and heart-stopping hike try the difficult Nankoweap Trail. The 11-mile excursion will have you traversing narrow outcroppings over 500-foot drops to go from the rim of the canyon to the Colorado River. Texas offers its own daring heights at Guadalupe Peak "the top of Texas." During the 4-mile hike up you'll cover 3,000 vertical feet to reach the summit topped with a stainless steel pyramid.

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The Heartland (ND, SD, NE, KS, MN, IA, MS)

Cold temperatures have already started seeping into the northern heartland, but that's no reason to stay inside. Minnesota's Gooseberry Falls State Park has a variety of scenic trails with waterfalls, Lake Superior views, and winter trails for cross county skiing, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and hiking. Missouri's Colosseum Trail in Ha Ha Tonka State Park is a short hike with cool features like a natural bridge and large sinkhole called the Colosseum.

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The Midwest (MI, IL, OH, WI, IN)

Impressive Lake Michigan creates exciting opportunities for hiking in the Midwest. Warren Dunes State Park in Michigan offers a fun challenge climbing up and running down the large smooth sand dunes that line the Lake Michigan shoreline only a couple hours from Chicago. For interesting geography, rock formations, and tumbling waterfalls a visit to Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio is perfect. The Ash Cave Trail is one of the most popular hikes taking hikers into the recessed cave behind the waterfall.

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The Southeast (AR, MS, LA, AL, SC, GA, FL)

Home to exciting wildlife like alligators and herons and tropical plants the Southeast can be a unique hiking region. The Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge near Hilton Head Island, SC, has trails through forest, bogs, and salt marshes that support a wide diversity of wildlife. Florida's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary has a meandering 2.25-mile boardwalk to take you through a varied wilderness that is home to extensive wildlife.

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The Appalachian Highlands (KY, NC, TN, VA, WV)

The scenic heights of the Appalachian Mountains and the breathtaking Shenandoah Valley are both features of this American region. Check out Shenandoah National Park's moderate White Oak Canyon Trail in Virginia, which is accessible year-round and includes six major waterfalls, multiple cascades, and wooden footbridges. Exploring Pilot Mountain State Park in North Carolina offers hikers of any experience a great outing. Circle the unique pinnacle on the easy Jomeokee Trail. Best of all there's not really a bad time to go; exploring in the fall lends excellent foliage viewing while early winter outings give wide-open vistas.

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The Mid-Atlantic States (DE, MD, NJ, PA, NY)

Even New Yorkers can find a way to fit in some hiking with the Manitou Point Nature Preserve accessible via the Metro-North Hudson Line. The preserve has four miles of trails along the Hudson River through forest and a tidal marsh. Washington D.C. dwellers can check out the Bull Run Regional Park for more than just scenic hiking. The park also has a public shooting center and disc golf course.

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New England (CT, ME, MA, NH, VT, RI)

Famous for its outstanding fall foliage and New Hampshire's impressive White Mountains, hiking here is beautiful and practically boundless. For a strenuous hike check out the Mahoosuc Notch Trail in Maine. This hike covers part of the Appalachian Trail and takes you through a rugged mile-long stretch of granite boulders you must carefully clamber over. Connecticut's Indian Council Caves Trail leads hikers through hidden caves, abandoned homesteads, and through forests featuring an extremely old white oak, during the 4.5-mile trek.

Photo Credits: Golden Gate Bridge via Oizhi He/Dreamstime.com; Chugach Forest via Amilevin/Dreamstime.com; Bryce Canyon via Daria Angelova/Dreamstime.com; Grand Canyon via Oleksandr Buzko/Dreamstime.com; Gooseberry Falls via Ken Wolter/Dreamstime.com; Florida swamp via Wsroberts/Dreamstimes.com; Warren Dunes via Jerryb8/Dreamstime.com; Pilot Mountain via Norbert Rehm/Dreamstime.com; Bull Run bluebells via Cyandyke/Dreamstime.com; White Mountains via John Anderson/Dreamstime.com

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