Best Summer Hiking Vacation Destinations in the U.S.

Hikers looking to wander will find no shortage of great options right here in the U.S.Whether scaling the steppes of the southwest, mountainous regions in the east, tropical climates in Hawaii, or cooler trails in Alaska, a hiking enthusiast has virtually every type of trip they can imagine close to home.


No matter your preferred difficulty setting, this list will help you locate the U.S.’s top hiking vacation spots for the summer. 


Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Discover the awe-inspiring beauty of Great Sand Dunes National Park, a hidden gem nestled amidst towering peaks, wetlands, alpine lakes, and vast grasslands with some terrific hiking spots. Explore the tallest dunes in North America, an iconic feature that sets this park apart. With only half a million visitors each year, which is just a fraction of Rocky Mountain National Park's attendance, you'll find a serene atmosphere with fewer crowds to immerse yourself in nature's wonders. For an unforgettable family vacation, consider camping in the vicinity and make the most of this extraordinary destination.


Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

While you’re in the neighborhood, head over to Great Sand Dunes National Park’s more popular cousin, and learn why people flock to it. This hike may be relatively short and moderate, but it delivers an abundance of natural wonders. Along the way, you'll encounter three picturesque alpine lakes and be treated to breathtaking views. The journey begins with the enchanting Nymph Lake, adorned with lily pads, followed by the aptly named Dream Lake, where Hallett Peak looms majestically in the backdrop. Finally, your destination awaits at the stunning Emerald Lake. With over 300 miles of hiking trails throughout the park, this particular route is ideal for beginners or those seeking a family-friendly excursion. Keep in mind that this popular hike to Emerald Lake spans just over three miles, so arriving early, especially during the summer, is advisable to secure your spot.


Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

From midsummer to mid-September, prepare to be amazed by the stunning natural beauty and abundant wildlife found in this park. Situated near Teton Village, Wyoming, this point-to-point trail spans 39.5 miles, taking an average of 22 hours to complete. Along the way, you'll encounter alpine lakes nestled amidst the majestic Teton Range, picturesque fields adorned with vibrant wildflowers, and a variety of captivating creatures including bison, moose, deer, and other fascinating critters. However, be aware that both black bears and grizzlies also roam these grounds. While this trail attracts backpackers, campers, and hikers alike, there are still opportunities to relish moments of tranquility during quieter periods of the day.


Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Immerse yourself in the scenic wonders of Smith Rock State Park, located in Oregon. Offering a variety of hiking options, ranging from two to seven miles, this park caters to hikers of different skill levels with terrains that range from easy to moderately challenging. To make the most of your visit, the park recommends arriving early in the morning, when you can witness the graceful presence of geese and ducks along the riverbanks. As the day progresses, venture out for the chance to spot a magnificent blue heron peacefully perched on a rock in the river. Embark on the serene Canyon Trail, which takes you past the renowned Rope-de-Dope climbing area and leads you up to the rim, treating you to breathtaking canyon views. Keep your eyes peeled, for you might even catch sight of a bald eagle's nest if you look closely. Smith Rock State Park is a treasure trove of natural beauty and wildlife, inviting you to explore and indulge in its offerings.


Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

Explore the captivating landscapes of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada, where short-distance hikes await. While the trails may not span great lengths, don't underestimate their challenge and allure. Many of the hikes within the area are classified as difficult, demanding several hours to complete even a five-mile trek. Prepare for a rewarding adventure as you traverse the diverse routes while looking out for the enchanting desert wildlife. Lizards, toads, and hawks may grace your path, adding to the allure of this natural wonder. Additionally, be sure not to miss the Petroglyph Wall Trail, spanning a mere 0.20 miles. Despite its brevity, this trail is an absolute must-do, as it unveils remarkable 800-year-old historical rock art, allowing you to connect with the rich heritage of the region. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area promises a memorable experience, offering a blend of natural splendor and cultural significance within its compact yet captivating trails.


Appalachian Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Embark on an epic hiking adventure along the expansive trail spanning up to 71 miles in Tennessee. Conveniently, you can drive directly to the trailhead at Fontana Dam, giving you the flexibility to choose the length of your hike according to your preferences. Whether you opt for a leisurely stroll or a more ambitious trek, the choice is yours. While towns along the trail may be scarce, fear not, as hiking huts are available for overnight stays. However, while these huts provide a convenient resting place, it is advisable to come prepared with a tent as a backup in case all the huts are occupied. Get ready to immerse yourself in the wonders of this Tennessee trail, with options to customize your journey and accommodations along the way.


Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Located in Arizona, Grand Canyon National Park stands as an unrivaled symbol of natural majesty and is widely recognized as one of the most iconic and renowned national parks in the United States. Within its vast expanse, a multitude of hiking opportunities await adventurous souls. From leisurely vista point hikes along the canyon's edge, such as the South Rim Trail, to challenging expert-only treks spanning from rim to rim, there is a trail to suit every level of hiker. Prepare to be entranced by the breathtaking vistas that stretch for miles above the rim, offering awe-inspiring panoramas. However, don't forget to venture down to the base, where the mighty Colorado River roars through the canyon, revealing sights that are truly must-see marvels. Grand Canyon National Park invites you to witness nature's grandeur firsthand, leaving an indelible imprint on your soul.


Billy Goat Trail, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland

Discover the enchanting Billy Goat Trail, a moderate 4.75-mile hike nestled in Maryland, just a stone's throw away from the bustling city of Washington, D.C. This scenic trail offers hikers a chance to immerse themselves in the untamed beauty of the Potomac River and the rugged splendor of Great Falls. As a beloved destination, it is advisable to arrive early to ensure a more peaceful experience away from the crowds. Be advised, it is essential to stay informed about any potential closures. Keep an eye out for updates, as Section A may occasionally be closed due to flooding, while Section B might be temporarily unavailable due to trail damage and erosion. By planning ahead, you can make the most of your journey along the Billy Goat Trail, savoring the serenity and breathtaking vistas it has to offer.

 

Cadillac North Ridge Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine

Recognized as the inaugural eastern U.S. national park, Acadia National Park stands as a testament to the splendor of the region. Within its boundaries, hikers can embark on a range of trails suited for all levels of difficulty, providing diverse perspectives of the majestic bays and enchanting islands dotting the coast of Maine. For an extraordinary experience, consider the Cadillac North Ridge Trail, a 4.4-mile roundtrip journey that offers breathtaking views of Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay, and the Schoodic Peninsula. This trail presents an excellent choice to immerse yourself in the natural wonders of the park while relishing awe-inspiring sights. Acadia National Park beckons with its captivating landscapes, inviting you to explore its array of hiking options while reveling in the beauty of Maine's coastal treasures.

 

These parks offer stunning views and top-quality hiking of varying levels of difficulty, but it’s important to remember to be prepared when embarking upon a hiking adventure. Remember to bring all the supplies you need, including food, water, and emergency supplies. 


And no outdoor excursion is properly prepared for without bathroom solutions. Public restrooms can be tough to find on the trail. Products like Cleanwaste’s Pee-Wee® Unisex Urine Bag, Toilet in a Tube®, or the fully-stocked GO Anywhere Backpack are great alternatives to restrooms and can ensure you’re “going” in an environmentally friendly, sanitary way. Learn more about outdoor bathroom solutions, view the complete catalog, and purchase supplies at cleanwaste.com.


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