10 Great Pleasure Hikes in the U.S.A.
Hiking is one outdoor activity that just about anyone old enough to walk can enjoy. Some trails, however, are more challenging than others.
If you’re new to the world of hiking—or are a seasoned pro hoping to introduce the younger generation to the joys of walking in the woods—here are ten great places to start, from Florida to Washington State.
Lace up your boots and get going:
> Hoh Rain Forest (Washington)
The Hoh Rain Forest, part of Olympic National Park, includes several accessible nature hikes. To explore this enchanted land, try the Hall of Mosses Trail (0.75 mile) and the Spruce Nature Trail (1.25 miles). Look for Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and huge western cedar as you wander through moss-draped maples and conifers in this temperate forest that receives up to 14 feet of rain each year.
> Sky Meadows State Park (Virginia)
Located just an hour’s drive west of Washington, D.C., this is a lovely park in Virginia with views of the Blue Ridge mountains. Take a short day hike on one of Sky Meadows’s many nature trails, including a 2.4-mile section of the legendary Appalachian Trail. Settle in with a picnic and enjoy expansive views of the rolling farmland.
> Muir Woods National Monument (California)
Located just north of the Golden Gate, this park offers a wonderful array of loop hikes through California’s giant coastal redwoods. While adults savor the cool shade and well-marked trails, kids search for clues to the Muir Woods Quest. Before long, the spirited hike will have the entire family discussing boles, hollows, and old-growth forests.
> Smoky Mountain National Park (Tennessee)
This Tennessee park contains the world’s best example of temperate deciduous forest. Quarter-mile paths, called quiet walkways, stem from the park’s roadway. Any one of them offers access to silent wonders. Near Sugarlands Visitors Center is the Chimney Tops Trail, a lovely four-mile hike through old-growth forest up to sheer cliffs.
> Ohio & Erie Canal Trail (Ohio)
Popular with local and visiting families, this historic trail in Ohio has many points of access. Try the 4.3-mile Boston Store to Station Road Bridge section, which includes the historic Boston Store, several canal locks, and the Station Road Bridge, constructed in the early 1880s. This park is not far from the big cities of Akron and Cleveland.
> Illinois & Michigan Canal (Illinois)
Less than an hour’s drive outside Chicago, near the town of Channahon, is a lovely hike from Lock #6 past Lock #7 to McKinley Woods. Features include a restored lock tender’s house, leafy trees, and the Des Plains River.
> Aspen Center for Environmental Studies (Colorado)
Wander into this lovely Colorado nature center, say hello to animals on the ranch farm tour, and sign up little ones for nature classes, where they can hike the beautiful Hallam Lake Trail. The whole family will enjoy the popular, paved Rio Grande Trail nearby, which follows the twisting Roaring Fork River.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
> Columbia River Gorge (Oregon)
Great hiking trails abound around the Columbia River. Located 45 minutes outside of Portland, Horsetail Falls Trail is a 2.7-mile loop that’s a wonderful adventure for families with active kids (as always, exercise caution and keep an eye out for steep drops). The trail offers unforgettable views of three waterfalls: Horsetail, Ponytail, and Oneonta.
> Big Shoals State Park (Florida)
Located along the Suwannee River and the site of Florida’s largest white-water rapids, this park offers 28 miles of trails with beautiful scenic views from the riverside bluffs. A popular trail is the 3.4-mile paved Woodpecker Trail.
> Will Rogers Historic State Park (California)
Amble through this beautiful park located in the Pacific Palisades neighborhood of Los Angeles. This famous actor’s 186-acre ranch offers a moderate 2.2-mile loop starting at the tennis courts and ending with beautiful views of Santa Monica at Inspiration Point. Tour the stables and have a picnic on the polo fields.
This piece was adapted from the National Geographic book, The 10 Best of Everything: Families.