5 Amazing National Park Hiking Trails That Should be on Your Bucket List

As the world warms and sunshine returns to the majority of the United States, many of us begin to make summer travel plans. If you're headed for the open road and any number of scenic national parks around the country this year, you're likely on the lookout for tips to make your visit extraordinary. Most visitors to national parks stick to the well traveled routes and short trails, preferring to follow a tour laid out in guide books or the path of least resistance. Unfortunately, this may mean you'll leave some of the most incredible places in the United States without ever having experienced the true spirit of the wilderness that surrounds you and the beauty it offers. Listed below are five incredible hiking experiences in national parks across the country that'll make your summer one to remember. All of these are considered day hikes and none of them require special equipment other than a good set of boots and a sense of adventure.

The Highline Loop, Glacier National Park, Montana
Mountain Goat on side of mountain in Glacier National Park, Montana, United States.Jonathan Eden/Alamy​

This trail is nearly 12 miles of epic grandiosity that'll make your jaw drop. Dotted with wildflowers, sections hug the cliff with sheer drop offs that expose the gorgeous valley below. While not technically difficult, this is a long and narrow trail in sections and not for those who are squeamish about heights. Park at the bottom and take the shuttle up to the top of Logan Pass so you descend the trail to the valley floor rather than having to ascend it, which is vastly more difficult. Be aware that this trail is located off the Going to the Sun Road, so you'll need to check the park's website to find out when it is clear. Some sections of the road are socked in with snow until after the 4th of July.

Mount Katahdin, Baxter State Park, Maine
saddle trail  mt. katahdin ...shutterstock

The Appalachian Trail ends, or depending on your perspective, begins at this peak. Mount Katahdin is just over 5,000 feet and is the highest mountain in Maine. The park that surrounds it allows only a certain number of visitors daily into the park to reduce impact, so reservations are highly recommended. Arrive in the early morning to moose grazing in ponds alongside the access roads and fog rippling all around the base of the mountain. There are several routes you can utilize to summit, so do your research and pick one that is suitable to your skill level. You'll encounter abundant wildlife and a back country populated with eccentric hikers that embody the true experience of the Appalachian.

Tall Trees Grove, Redwood National Park, California
man standing looking at giant...shutterstock

The world's tallest tree resided in this extraordinary grove until the early '90s, when its top had to be cut back due to instability. A nearby tree now holds the title, although its not accessible from this trail. Nevertheless, you'll feel as if you're treading on scared ground the moment you enter this sheltered grove of massive redwoods. This is a four mile trail accessible only on a dirt road that doesn't allow larger vehicles like RVs, so you'll get to enjoy the hushed sway of the trees and the dense solitude of a natural cathedral without the crowds.

Angel's Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
view of zion canyon from angels ...shutterstock

While you do not need equipment for this infamous trail, there are a few hand holds and some nervous edging as you get to the top. So if you struggle with balance issues or fear of heights, this trail is not for you. That being said, climbing Angel's Landing gives you instant hiker's cred. It's a challenging ascent through switchbacks and up a gnarly cliff, surrounded all the while by the beautiful red rocks and high altitude pines that lend Southern Utah such a distinct landscape. Take lots of water, hike in the cooler season and leave as early as possible. Once those red rocks heat up, the trail becomes scorching and since the majority of it is exposed, you'll get little shade and no relief from sunburn.

Lake Solitude, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
Lake Solitude, Grand Teton National ParkM Hedin/Flickr​

Ferry across Jenny Lake and begin your ascent at the feet of some of the most gorgeous mountains the Rockies have to offer. Lake Solitude is ten miles in and well worth the effort. As the surrounding trees thin and the altitude increases, you'll be immersed in meadows of tall grasses and wildflowers. The surrounding peaks stay snow capped most of the summer and feed various mountain lakes like Solitude. These little clusters of incredible emerald green water sit serenely around corners, waiting to surprise hikers. Again, this is a park that stays socked in with snow until the Fourth of July, so check the park website to keep up to date on trail openings and access.

Kaz Weida is a parenting and food blogger who has been hunting down the best Salt Lake City has to offer for the last decade. She speaks fluent sarcasm and has a penchant for all things vintage.

More from this author: