Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so we can't go wrong with these off-the-beaten path wonders. If you see only two or three, you've seen this country at its most delightful.
1. Big Sur, California.
Be awed by an 80-foot-high waterfall. Take the Ewoldsen Trail, a five-mile loop hike along the McWay Creek, from the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Gaze at ancient redwoods and out over rugged boulders, across the big, blue Pacific.
2. Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania: West Rim Trail.
This 30-mile loop is a fantastic 2-and-a-half day advanced beginner's backpacking trip. Pine Creek Outfitters is your base. See the most beautiful features of the mid-Atlantic—clean, crisp, and perfect in early autumn.
3. West Maroon Trail, Aspen, Colorado.
This 10-mile walk is arguably the prettiest segment of the 27-mile Four Pass Loop, a challenging backpacking trip with a rewarding view of the Rocky Mountains. From a rich glacial valley, ascend to Maroon Pass, and be dazzled by Crested Butte. In summer, the wildflowers are heavenly.
4. Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska.
This trail offers advanced trekkers magnificent views of the Harding Icefield. It's eight miles and will take most of the day to complete, out and back. Shorter scenic alternatives include a three-mile trip to Marmot Meadows and back, or a five-mile trip to Top of the Cliffs and back.
5. Acadia National Park, Maine.
Visit the highest place (and the first sunrise) along the North Atlantic coast. The Beehive Loop Trail is a mile and a half round-trip journey, but quite the rugged one, featuring steep inclines and sharp ledges through rocks and foliage. This one is famously beautiful and popular. Rise early for it!
6. Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington.
With 17 miles of rainforest to explore, and Tom Creek and Happy Four Shelter to check out along your way, you might spot bears on the Hoh River Trail. All scented food must be secured 24/7. The rainforest vistas, the glacier-fed waterfalls...there is nothing like the Olympic Wilderness.
7. Templeton Trail, Coconino National Forest, Arizona.
See the red rocks of Sedona! Here is a 7-mile, gentle trail with an unforgettable view of Cathedral Rock. Meander from the Baldwin Trailhead and over the Bell Rock Pathway. Then, H.T. Trail offers spectacular sights: the Courthouse Butte and the famous Two Nuns rock formation.
8. Awa'awapuhi Trail, Koke'e State Park, Hawaii.
Behold Na Pali's striking cliffs from Awa'awapuhi Trail, down deep in the island forest. This is a strenuous hike, with awe-inspiring views over the Pacific Ocean. It's best experienced in the clear Hawaii morning.
9. Mount Healy Overlook, Denali National Park, Alaska.
This is a challenging and gorgeous hike up to the Mount Healy Overlook. It will take 4 hours to do the five-and-a-half-mile loop. The overlook offers stunning vistas of Denali's haunting tundra landscapes—and, if you're lucky, the sight of a wolf family.
10. Grinnell Glacier Trail, Montana.
This is an all-day walk, up to ten miles, to and from the Grinnell Glacier viewpoint. Without doubt, Glacier National Park offers some of the most beautiful hikes you will ever experience. There's the gorgeous Grinnell Falls, and lots of animals to see, too.
11. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming.
The Cascade Canyon Trail is a 14-mile loop: a full day of stunning views from Jenny Lake to Hurricane Pass. The pines, the peaks, and the flowing river are a joy to the eyes and the soul.
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