by Tom Bastek
Last updated: 8:00 AM ET, Sat July 25, 2015
Photo courtesy of trailwiki.org. All photos courtesy of each individual park unless otherwise noted.
This past week the guys over at Indefinitely Wild put out a great piece about them hiking what they called "The hardest hike in America." That hike was the Sierra High Route, with over 200 miles of off-trail hiking.
Which got us thinking, what if we wanted to hike, but maybe not over historically difficult terrain? If you're like us, and want to take in a hike while taking it easy, here are a few choices that will break you in without breaking you.
Tundra Communities Trail - Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado - 1.2 miles
If you want to really have your breath taken away, head to Colorado. It isn't the scenery that is going to do it either, it is the elevation. You are at an altitude of 12,236 feet and have about 35 percent of the air you normally have at sea level. You will probably be winded just from the walk from the parking lot to the trail head. The good news is that there are plenty of interpretive displays along the paved route, which affords you the time to catch your breath.
Rocky Point Nature Trail - Glacier National Park, Montana - 1.9 miles
Photo courtesy of glacierguides.com.
Rocky Point sits on the western shore of Lake McDonald, and the hike is a relatively flat course with only about 350 feet in elevation change. The hike takes you through the rebirth of the forest from the Robert Fire in 2003 which scorched about 40,000 acres of the park. The walk down to the shore of the lake is beautiful and the views are stunning. The quick loop can be done even with stops in about an hour.
Laurel Falls - Great Smokey Mountains National Park, Tennessee - 2.3 miles
This is literally one of the easiest hikes in the Smokey Mountains and therefore also one of the most popular. Parking at the trailhead is sometimes kind of hectic, so bear that in mind and maybe pick a weekday or early morning hike. In order to halt problems with erosion, the trail was paved in 1963, making the hike much easier. The waterfall is 80 feet tall and makes for a great photo opportunity, so bring along your camera. The falls are captured best in the morning hours for those who want to get some really professional photos.
Glacier Point - Yosemite National Park, California - 1 mile
Photo courtesy of yosemitehikes.com.
Featuring probably some of the best views in California, the trail is open year round. You will, however, need cross country skis to get to it in the winter, as they do not plow Glacier Point Road. This place gets crowded during the summer so think about visiting early in the morning. For the best photo shots, get there for sunset and if you would like to see the falls flowing at their fastest, shoot for the spring. There are bathrooms, food lockers, a gift shop and cafeteria on premise.
Appalachian Trail - Shenandoah National Park, Virginia - 100 miles
If you are up to doing a full vacation of hiking, but still want to keep it fairly light in terms of difficulty, hike the Appalachian Trail in Shenandoah National Park. This roughly ten-day hike runs along Skyline Drive and gives you some of the best views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley. Highlights included Big Meadows Lodge and staying overnight in a hut. There are plenty of nearby shops and hundreds of miles of additional trails if you should feel the need to make a month of it.
Where is your favorite place to hike? Drop me a line in the comments below.
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