Top 10 National Park Hikes


This is a list of my favorite national park hikes we have done. We have only visited 18 parks out of 59 so far, so I am sure these may change over time. Thanks to Adventures of a Day Hiker for the inspiration. For now here they are!

10. Bright Angel Trail-Grand Canyon National Park

I am sure the Bright Angel Trail will move higher up on my list when we finally get to stay at Phantom Ranch on the floor of the Grand Canyon. We only hiked part of the Bright Angel while we were at the Grand Canyon because we had limited time and a lot to see. Many hikers do a day hike to one of the rest houses or Indian Garden since this can be a tough one to climb back up from. We visited in October and it was still 80 when the sun was out.  The summer can be deadly. Listen to all the warnings and remember you have to go back up! This website and book are great for hikers and visitors. We also loved the South Kaibab Trail, but only got to see a little of it.

9.  The Zion Narrows-Zion National Park

The Narrows is more of a wade through the North Fork of the Zion River than a hike with elevation, but it can be hard on your legs and balance. Most day hikers do the bottom up day hike. You can also camp and get a permit to do the top down to see more of the scenery and canyon. You can rent water shoes, hiking sticks and even waders from shops at the entrance to Zion national Park if the water is cold. The shoes really help with the rocky bottom and give support to your ankles so you do not turn them. The hike is beautiful and unique. There are usually lots of people having fun towards the beginning, but it gets quiet the further you go. The Narrows can be closed from March-May, so check before you plan to go. 

8. Yellowstone Picnic Area Trail-Yellowstone National Park

There are a lot of amazing hikes in Yellowstone National Park, but we have only done a few of them so far. I hope we get to do many more next summer since we hope to work seasonally in Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park! People raved about the Picnic Area hike in Lamar Valley near Roosevelt so we gave it a try. We only saw two or three other hikers the whole time, so I would definitely bring bear spray. It is an easy hike once you make the first initial climb from the parking lot/picnic area. There are lots of sheer drop offs so watch the kids. The views are beautiful and sweeping. We also love Trout Lake, Mystic Falls, Observation Point and the whole Upper Geyser Basin to Biscuit Basin for easy hikes in Yellowstone.  

7. Uncle Tom’s Trail-Yellowstone National Park

While short, Uncle Tom’s Trail packs a punch. It is steep going back up, and many people rush and forget water. Remember, you are already at a high elevation. The views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone on this metal staircase trail are great. You are right next to the Lower Falls. Try to get the rainbow in your pictures. Take your time and enjoy!

6. The Queens Garden Trail-Bryce Canyon National Park

I really felt like I was walking around in a fairy tale when we hiked the Queens Garden Trail in Bryce Canyon. You feel so tiny next to the hoodoos when you actually start walking around next to them. The floor of Bryce Canyon is lush and peaceful. Wall Street is amazing to hike through. We only stayed a night in Bryce Canyon and I can not wait to go back.

5. The Precipice Trail and The Beehive Trail-Acadia National Park

I lumped the Beehive and the Precipice Trails together even though the Beehive is shorter. I loved them both and both have amazing views. The Beehive is easier since it is about half the length of the Precipice. The Precipice is really more of a climbing/bouldering course than a hike. I wore biking/climbing gloves on the Precipice and they really helped with the iron rungs. Some parts were changeling for a short person like me, but several brave kids were doing the hikes. Not for those with a fear of heights! 

4. The Mist Trail-Yosemite National Park

I love Yosemite National Park so much. The valley is amazing. We can not wait to go back and do lots of hiking and exploring. I am hoping we can work a summer/fall season there in 2019. The Mist Trail hike was one of the highlights when we visited in 2015. Craig was wearing sneakers and it was very wet, so we did not get to Nevada Falls. My hiking boots did a great job. I would love to hike to Half Dome while we are working there, but it does scare me a bit! 

3. The Highline Trail-Glacier National  Park

Glacier National Park is a hikers dream. The Highline Trail is a great hike from the Logan Pass area. You must get there early to find a parking spot, or take a shuttle from where you are staying. There are sheer drop offs, but the hike itself is a pretty steady elevation change. We saw waterfalls, mountains, mountain goats and breathtaking views. One of my favorite national park hikes so far.

2. Angels Landing-Zion National Park

I would rank Angels Landing #1 except it was SO CROWDED when we went in October 2015. The temperature was perfect-in the 80’s. You will probably want to get on the West Rim Trail to Angels Landing early so it is still in the shade. The switchbacks are killer. It is even a great hike if you stop at Scout Lookout. The views are incredible. If you are brave try the chain portion. It is short, but if it is crowded be prepared to wait. You may want to check on when the sun will be hitting the canyon for the best light and pictures.

1. Grinnell Glacier-Glacier National Park

Grinnell Glacier is my number one national park hike we have done so far. It is amazing to see the effects of climate change and how the glaciers have shrunk. It was also so nice to hike with a ranger and group of national park fans.The whole hike has stunning views. I can not wait to do this hike again. We hope to work a summer season in Glacier. Maybe in 2020!

Thanks for reading and happy hiking! Follow us on Facebook and Instagram for more pictures.

 

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Angels Landing-Zion National Park

Grotto Bus Stop

One of my favorite hikes on our Grand Circle Road Trip was Angels Landing in Zion National Park. Angels Landing got it’s name in 1916 when Frederick Fisher, exploring Zion with friends, exclaimed, “Only an angel could land on it!” Ten years later two Park Service employees, Thomas Chalmers Vint and Walter Ruesch, planned the construction of the Angels Landing Trail as an extension of the West Rim Trail. The trail was listed on the National Register of Historic places in 1987.

You start out at the Grotto Trailhead. It is about 2.4 miles each way. The trail starts out following the Virgin River and then starts to climb several steep, paved switchbacks. I thought these switchbacks were one of the hardest parts of the trail even though they were paved. Remember, you are gaining 1,488 feet of elevation on this short hike! I was glad we started early in the morning so this part was in the shade. Even in October it was hot in the sun.

bri Trailhead

After the switchbacks, you go over a drainage bridge and through Refrigerator Canyon. It is nice and cool in here and you may hear Ravens calling to each other. Their voices echo against the walls.

Switchbacks

View

Refrigerator Canyon

Next, you reach Walter’s Wiggles a set of 21 switchbacks. Walter’s Wiggles are named for Walter Ruesh, Zion National Park’s first superintendent.  I did not find these as hard as the first long switchbacks.

Walter's Wiggles

At the top of Walter’s Wiggles you will reach Scout Lookout. Some people call this spot “Quitter’s Corner.” I think it is a great hike even if you make it to Scout Lookout. The views along the West Rim Trail are amazing and you should stop here if you are scared of heights or tired! I planned on going to Scout Lookout and checking out the chain portion to Angels Landing to see if I thought I could do it. You can not really see a lot of it from this area though. You can see hikers in the distance. This last 1/2 mile is the actual Angels Landing Trail. We decided to try it!

Scout Lookout

First Set of Chains

The first set of chains is over slickrock and steep. I had a hard time reaching some of the chains because I am short, so you may have to let go here. One nice lady made a bridge for me with her leg so I could reach the next set! There are drop offs here, but nothing like the ridge. I was shaking from adrenaline so we climbed above the trail and took a break. Several other people did too. The chains then go around a corner with a drop off. If it is busy this can be a real pain. On the way back down about 20 of us were waiting for a while and finally one guy told the crowd to hold on for a while so we could all get around them.

After these chains you reach another wide area somewhat smaller than Scout Lookout. There are some good resting and photo areas here.

view

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Then, the chains drop to the left and continue to the narrow (2 feet wide in some spots) ridge. The drop is pretty big and I had to hang on and drop myself down. On the way back, I needed a boost up from Craig. It is really crowded here and some people start to freak out because it is very exposed on both sides. We decided to go a bit further and take a look and some pictures. There were too many nervous people, people with backpacks bumping into others, and even people carrying small scared children! We decided to turn around here and do the rest of Angels Landing when we come back to Zion. Hopefully, much earlier in the morning and not on a holiday weekend! We only had about 10 minutes left to get to the summit, but I am proud of what I did hike.   

Ridge

ALAngels Landing Views

drop

I loved the hike and it is one of my favorites so far. I think about it often and we hope to go back and volunteer in Zion National Park soon. People were very patient, excited and kind along the trail, but I still wish it were less busy. I think with the internet and Instagram and Pinterest, knowledge of these National Park trails has really increased. Many people want to try them! A friend said she went years ago in August and she was one of only a few on the trail. I would visit soon before it becomes a permit hike like Half Dome in Yosemite. 

Grand Circle Road Trip Thoughts

We are back from our 12 night Grand Circle Road trip and it was amazing. The passport has lots of new stamps. We visited 7 National Parks, state parks, NRA’s and National Monuments! 

Some random thoughts…

My top 5 parts of the trip: 

  1. Zion National Park-It looks like what you would imagine the Garden of Eden to look like. I was amazed at how much green and water was in this desert environment.
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park and Scenic Byway 12-Amazing! Like walking and driving in a fairy tale. A photographers dream.
  3. Mesa Verde National Park-Quiet! Intimate. The best service and the best food/restaurant (Metate Room.)  The cliff dwellings are beautiful and so well taken care of.
  4. Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon-Thank you Navajo Nation for sharing these with us. As Craig said “This is a magical place Patricia.”
  5. Grand Canyon National Park-because it is the Grand Canyon! We saw lots of Elk, Mule Deer, Ravens, Mules and a Big Horn Sheep ran through a crowd of tourists! It is so well run and like a small town. There was even a Ringtail Cat at dinner in the El Tovar Dining Room.

I am so grateful Craig and I got to spend our 19th anniversary experiencing the Grand Circle. Our country is so amazing! Get out and see it please. You will not be sorry. There were tons of tourists from China, France, Germany and Spain, but very few Americans. Go Find Your Park!