Trails of a Lifetime

June 2, 2009, 10:07 am

There are thousands and thousands of trails in this country beckoning for you to explore them. From Washington to Florida you can find a trail that is perfectly suited for your skill level and level of conditioning, whether you’re a novice or an expert hiker. When planning your next hiking trip consider one of these ten trails that we believe are among the “Trails of a Lifetime.” Ranging from easy to very strenuous these trail offer a walk through history, beautiful views, and challenging obstacles for you to enjoy.

1. The Wonderland Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

            The Wonderland Trail, which is 93 miles long, invites hikers to explore the wonders of Mount Rainier National Park. This popular trail circles the entire mountain and takes about 10-14 days to complete. Most people don’t hike the entire length of the trail, as there are numerous trailheads where you can get off and on. Regardless of what section you hike, you’ll cross subalpine meadows, glacial streams, running rivers, valley forests, and mountain passes. There are several campsites along the way so you can hike several sections of this challenging, yet beautiful trail.

2. Ozette Lake-Cape Alava-Sand Point Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington

Ozette Lake-Cape Alava-Sand Point Trail is a moderate trail extending 9.3 miles in Olympic National Park. This diverse trail features American Indian petroglyphs and artifacts and as well as dramatic ocean views and the park’s iconic sea stacks. Beginning at Ozette Lake, the trail splits in two. One trail leads to Cape Alava while the other ends at Sand Point.  Both trails are hiked along boardwalks that traverse coastal forests and open fields.

3. Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome is a difficult trail and requires significant preparation and planning. Located in the popular Yosemite National Park, this heavily trafficked trail demands that you hike 14-16 miles round trip and ascend 4,800 feet to summit this granite monolith. The hike is not for the faint of heart— to reach summit you must climb two metal cables the last 400 feet. Hikers usually take 10-12 hours to complete the trail and are rewarded with magnificent views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Liberty Cap and panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierra.

4. The Pinnacle, Appalachian Trail, Pennsylvania

The Pinnacle, the high point of the Blue Ridge Mountains, lies along the Pennsylvania stretch of the Appalachian Trail. This moderate trail is 8.5 miles round-trip with an elevation gain of 1,200 feet and is used heavily by hikers throughout the year. Most hikers can complete it in approximately 5 hours. Those that do can expect to take in some of the most spectacular vistas along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania.

5. Mount Marcy, Adirondack State Park, New York

            Mount Marcy, at 5,344 feet above sea level, is the highest point in Adirondack State Park and in all of New York State. Most hikers follow the Van Hoevenberg Trail, which offers the quickest route to the peak. While there are eight other trails that lead to Mount Marcy’s peak, they will take at least two days to complete. Excellent for hiking, climbing, backpacking, camping, and mountaineering, many people flock to Mount Marcy for its great views and famed stature.

6. Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

            Bright Angel Trail is a steep, 19 mile round trip trail in the famed Grand Canyon National Park. The trail begins on the south rim of Grand Canyon and descends 4,380 feet to the Colorado River, passing through numerous switchbacks and crossing several rock layers, caused by the Bright Angel Fault, before arriving at the Indian Garden Campground and Inner Gorge. Take a detour along Plateau Point for a breathtaking overlook into the gorge. This hike takes about two days but delivers spectacular vistas, shade, and rest stops along the way.

7. The Long Trail, Vermont

            The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States and is known as Vermont’s “footpath in the wilderness.” The trail runs the length of the entire state travels, from the foothills of the Green Mountains along the Massachusetts-Vermont state line to the Canadian border. One hundred miles of the 272-mile overlap the Appalachian Trail, Sparsely populated, Vermont and the trail is great for wildlife watching. On your hike you may encounter black bears, raccoons, squirrels and even a moose! Peregrine falcons and hundreds of other bird species inhabit the trail, so you might want to bring a pair of binoculars. Whether you are interested in a day, overnight, or long-distance hike, the Long Trail offers opportunities for everyone.

8. Anhinga Trail, Everglades National Park, Florida

            At only a half-mile long, what the Anhinga Trail lacks in distance, it makes up for in its abundance of wildlife. One of the most popular trails in Everglades National Park , this trail takes approximately 50 minutes to complete and is wheelchair accessible. It traverses through Taylor Slough, a broad shallow river, where you might see alligators, turtle, marsh rabbits and anhingas. A member of the darter family, the anhinga is a water bird, with a body length of 35 in. and a wingspan of 45 in. The anhinga has a very long neck and often times swims with its neck above water. This bird gets it name from the Brazilian Tupi language and means snake bird or devil bird. Herons and egrets and hundreds of other neo-tropical bird species inhabit the area as well. The short distance of this trail allows you take a leisurely stroll, while taking in the abundance of wildlife.

9. Longs Peak Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

            Longs Peak Trail is one of the most strenuous trails in Rocky Mountain National Park. Its distance (16 miles round trip) and high altitude (14,255 feet with an elevation gain of 4,855 feet) demand that you be well prepared before embarking on this hike. As you ascend, the environment changes from montane to sub-alpine, and finally to alpine as you approach the peak. The hardy few that reach its nearly flat summit are rewarded with the incredible views of other “teeners” in every direction. There is Storm Peak to the northwest, Mount Meeker to the southeast, the mountains of the Continental Divide to the west and Wild Basin to the South, and Chasm Lake and Peacock Pool to the North.

10. Door Trail, Badlands National Park, South Dakota

            Door Trail is a .75-mile loop in Badlands National Park  and every geology lover’s dream! The Door Trail concentrates on the geologic history of Badlands National Park. While on the trail you will pass a break in the Badlands Wall known as “The Door”, for which the trail is named. After a hundred yards of paved boardwalk, the trail quickly transforms into the rugged terrain synonymous of the Badlands, with several rock formations. The Badlands can be very difficult to navigate— stay on the trail to avoid getting lost. The trail, which features interpretive points, provides a short, moderately strenuous walk that your entire family will enjoy.