Rejoice: unlike our Stone Age descendants, you can hike just because you like the feeling of standing victorious atop a summit, not because you need to hunt or find shelter from a toothy predator.
Modern day hikers have the luxury of picking and choosing their journey based on what tickles their fancy – and whether you get your kicks from menacing switchbacks, lookouts in the clouds, or outcrops where you can hang out with hawks, we’ve got the hike for you.
Angels Landing, Zion National Park
If vertigo is a non-issue, then the five-mile hike to Angels Landing is a must-do. You’ll start out from the Grotto Trailhead and head towards Refrigerator Canyon, a shaded spot where cool breezes provide brief relief from the bright Utah sun. Then, you’ll make your way to Walter's Wiggles, a stunning series of switchbacks that lead you to Scouts Ridge.
From Scouts Ridge, you’ll conquer Hogsback, an ultra narrow pass where you’ll hold onto chains bolted into the stone to keep you from slip-sliding right over the cliff’s edge (the faint of heart need not look down). Finally, you'll arrive at Angels Landing Summit, where against all odds, trees sprout from the slope to provide relief at the end of this adrenaline-pumping hike.
Appalachian Trail to Cloudland Trail, Roan Mountain State Park
Nestled on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee, the “mountain” part of Roan Mountain State Park is debatable. It’s actually a super short (about 5 miles) range called a massif, noted for its abundance of balds, or treeless mountaintops, that offer the type of sublime, make-you-feel-small views that many hikers seek.
Start off on the section of the famous Appalachian Trail that begins at Carvers Gap, where you’ll hike across a series of balds before crossing state lines to connect to the Cloudland Trail. After passing through breathtaking fields of wild rhododendrons, you’ll summit the Roan High Bluff, where you’ll find the clouds either draping over the landscape below or greeting you upfront and personally at the lookout, depending on the weather.
Red Dot to Blue Trail, Mount Tammany
Hike this short but steep trail on the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and you’ll be rewarded not only with views, but with the chance to catch sight of eagles and hawks surfing the wind around its peak. Come prepared for a work out though: in a short 1.5 mile hike and rock scramble, you’ll rise an impressive 1,250 feet on the Red Dot before reaching an outcrop with views of the gap and nearby Mount Minsi (which, if you’re looking to punish yourself, you can climb in the same day).
Return on the Blue Trail, which is slightly less steep but equally as rocky. The awe-inspiring views on this trail make it one of the most popular in the Garden State, so come expecting fellow nature-lovers, not privacy.
So strap on your hiking boots and hit the trail – summer’s going fast!
Header via Flickr / Loren Kerns
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