The Best American Day Hikes

If you like to hike as much as we do, you know nothing beats exploring new nooks and crannies on foot with your nothing but your supplies on your back. Here’s 5 of America’s top hikes to add to your bucket list of upcoming adventures. To see the whole list, check out the awesome website for all things outdoor, Adventure Journal (http://www.adventure-journal.com/2012/07/the-list-11-best-american-day-hike…)

1. Chesler Park Loop, Canyonlands National Park, Needles District, Utah
This loop in Canyonlands’ Needles District is a full-value 11 miles of desert: You’ll tiptoe past cryptobiotic soil, across slickrock, dip down and into a couple washes, and into Chesler Park, a flat meadow surrounded by “needles,” the red-and-white striped pinnacles up to 100 feet tall. You’ll also get to experience the Joint Trail, a short section that’s just like a slot canyon — sheer vertical walls 20- to 40-feet high, as straight as a hallway, pinching down to less than three feet wide in some spots. You’re not in an actual slot canyon, just the space between giant boulders that somehow lie parallel to each other for about a quarter-mile. And you may have a hard time resisting the urge to chimney your way up between the walls. http://www.nps.gov/cany/planyourvisit/needles.htm

2. Half Dome Cables Route, Yosemite National Park, California
Don’t hate this hike because it’s popular. So are the Beatles and that doesn’t make them less awesome. Yes, it’s famous. Yes, in 2011, Yosemite issued all the permits for May and June weekends in just five minutes. In 2012, the park did a permit lottery instead, which means it’s basically the Black Friday $2 Wal-Mart waffle maker of dayhikes. Except, you know, it’s absolutely mind-blowing. The stout 16.5-mile round trip hike (via the Mist Trail) hike leads to the cables up Half Dome’s back side, where you’ll take in a view of the entire Yosemite Valley, and head over to stand on top of the Visor, the granite perch sticking out into the abyss over Half Dome’s Northwest Face. http://www.nps.gov/yose/index.htm

3. Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
One thousand-plus feet of thrilling exposure on a fin jutting into the middle of the red sandstone cathedral of Zion Canyon — and it’s only two miles from the trailhead. The Angel’s Landing Trail (photo, above) is a kind-of via ferrata in that you’ll hang onto log chains bolted to the rock on this route’s most-dangerous sections (hikers have fallen and died here). This might be as close as most of us get to climbing one of Zion’s big walls, minus all the technical rock gear and the portaledge. www.nps.gov/zion

4. Presidential Traverse, Presidential Range, New Hampshire
The only thing prouder than tackling the dozen-plus peaks of the Presidential Range in a day — at minimum 20 miles with 8,500 feet of elevation gain — is doing it over two or three days in the winter. But if winter suffering isn’t your thing, find a stable weather day in the summer or early fall and bounce along the ridge high above New Hampshire on whatever variation you choose — south to north, vice versa, summiting all the peaks in the range, or summiting just the peaks named after presidents. Any way you do it, it’s one of the biggest hiking days you can have in New England — in both views and exertion. http://www.summitpost.org/the-presidential-traverse/796154

5. Glacier Gorge trail to Mills Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Maybe the fastest and mellowest way into Colorado’s alpine scenery, this 2.8-mile stroll only gains 700 feet on its way into the aptly named Glacier Gorge. Mountainsides sweep thousands of feet down to the series of lakes at the bottom of the U-shaped gorge, and the first, Mills Lake, may be the best place for lunch in the entire park. Walk onto the rock peninsula that pops out into the middle of the lake for the best view. The trail continues another 2.2 miles all the way back to Black Lake if you feel up for another 700 feet of elevation gain and the weather is stable. www.nps.gov/romo

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