Not-So-Hidden Treasures: Remarkable Hikes All Across the U.S.
We call them our national treasures – our prized gems! These natural, cultural, and historical sites are our inheritance and they exist for you to explore and understand the power of these places. There are more than 400 national parks with more than 18,000 miles of trails all across the United States – some are probably closer to you than you think! To get you started, check out these nine unique trails that will inspire you to go out on your own #FindYourPark / #EncuentraTuParque adventure.
CANYON DE CHELLY NATIONAL MONUMENT
Hike: White House Ruin
Distance: 2.5 Miles
Unique within the National Park System, all 84,000 acres of Canyon De Chelly National Monument is on the Navajo Nation. Managed in partnership with the Navajo Nation, this special place preserves the important archeological resources and stories of this land and its people. In addition to breathtaking colorful sheer cliffs, the park offers a wild landscape and bounty of extraordinary items including distinctive architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery.
One of the best ways to learn about Navajo culture and history is by heading out on a moderate self-guided hike to White House Ruin. There are plenty of ways to enjoy the park from spectacular scenic drives to free ranger-led programs during the summertime.
CRATERS OF THE MOON NATIONAL MONUMENT & PRESERVE
Hike: Wilderness Trail
Distance: 8 Miles
To say Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve is huge is quite an understatement! With a span of over 1,100 square miles, it is roughly the size of Rhode Island, and its young lava flows can be seen clearly even from space.
Be sure to pack your camera as this tumultuous volcanic destination is a great place for wildlife viewing and nature photography. The best way to explore the park is to hike the Broken Top Loop to Buffalo Cave before venturing onto the designated Wilderness Trail. Camping is available at Echo Crater to make the most of your crater adventure.
TALLGRASS PRAIRIE NATIONAL PRESERVE
Hike: Southwind Nature Trail
Distance: 1.75 Miles
Get your ranch-hat on for Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve where you can find over 500 species of plants, nearly 150 species of birds, 39 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 31 species of mammals, including one of the last remaining bison herds.
You could spend hours exploring the preserve’s many hiking trails, but the Southwind Nature Trail is one not to be missed! Witness the sweeping majesty of the tallgrass prairie as you make your way out to a still-intact, a one-room schoolhouse built in 1882. Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is only one of the many great national parks in Kansas and is a reason why we call this area of the country, the heartland.
CAPE COD NATIONAL SEASHORE
Hike: Great Island Trail
Distance: 6 Miles
Surf’s up at Cape Cod National Seashore which is comprised of 40 miles of pristine, sandy shoreline offering fun, beginner surfing destinations along the way. Remember to bring your wetsuit – the water gets chilly!
You can venture down David Thoreau’s famous shore-side route along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean in Massachusetts. While on the Great Island Trail, you can explore the dunes, pine forests, and tide pools.
THEODORE ROOSEVELT NATIONAL PARK
Hike: Maah Daah Hey Trail
Distance: 14.2 Miles
Theodore Roosevelt National Park is named for American president Teddy Roosevelt who once remarked, “I never would have been president if it had not been for my experiences in North Dakota.” This 70,000-acre national park is located in the heart of the colorful North Dakota badlands and is home to a variety of plants and animals.
At 96 miles, the Maah Daah Hey Trail connects all three units (South Unit, North Unit, and Elkhorn Ranch Unit) of the park and is quite a feat in its entirety! Get your heart pumping on a 7.1-mile (one-way) section of the trail for a solid single day hike that delivers everything the full trail is known for, including frequent prairie dog, bison, and feral horse sightings. This is the perfect park to escape to all-year-round with a wealth of diverse activities from ranger-led talks and hikes to snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.
NEW RIVER GORGE NATIONAL RIVER
Hike: Endless Wall Trail
Distance: 2.7 Miles
New River Gorge National River will quickly become one of your favorite places to visit with its rich cultural and natural history but also its endless recreational opportunities. To take in the scenic beauty of the park, you (and your kids) can go out on an easy 2.7-mile loop – the Endless Wall Trail features great views of one of the oldest rivers on the continent, ironically named the New River. If you’re lucky you may catch a glimpse of some of the thousands of rock climbers who take on the vertical sandstone walls that rim the gorge!
From mountain biking to whitewater rafting, New River Gorge National River’s natural features make it an ideal site for outdoor sports, including tackling any of its over 1,400 established rock climbs. The park also hosts a program called Get Active in the Park where you can learn the sport or hobby of your choice and ultimately teach free classes to the public in the park – now, doing what you love can also do good!
SITKA NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK
Hike: Totem Trail
Distance: 1.6 Miles
Alaska’s oldest national park, Sitka National Historical Park is a place rich in history having been established in 1910 to commemorate the 1804 Battle of Sitka. You can tour the original battle site or hike your way through the temperate rain forest (that’s right, a rain forest in Alaska!) featuring Southeast Alaska totem poles interspersed throughout.
There is even a trail dedicated to these totem poles, Totem Trail, where you can learn about their rich cultural history while you stroll through towering Sitka spruce trees and enjoy sweeping vistas of the calm waters of Sitka Sound.
BIG CYPRESS NATIONAL PRESERVE
Hike: Nobles Grade
Distance: 8 Miles
Big Cypress National Preserve is the first national preserve in the entire National Park System and protects over 700,000 acres of the Big Cypress Swamp that is home to a hotbed of biological diversity. Get your boots on because this park is a recreational paradise! From wildlife walks to kayak trips, campfire programs, bike rides and more – this is a must-visit destination.
You can explore a more off-the-beaten-track part of the park by taking Nobles Grade trail to hike through the surrounding swamp – be sure to stay on the trail to protect the resource and to stay dry! Complete your trip with visits to nearby Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park, they’ll be sure to impress you too.
JOHN DAY FOSSIL BEDS NATIONAL MONUMENT
Hike: Blue Basin Overlook Trail
Distance: 3.3 Miles
If you’re looking for a not-your-average park, John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is for you! Not only is the scenery breathtaking, but its basin is a well-preserved fossil record of more than 40 million years of plants and animals. To say this place is world-renowned is an understatement because it is out of this world.
Get the best view in the park by heading out on the Blue Basin Overlook Trail, which will lead you to the most spectacular overlook with the surrounding blue-green rock formations as a backdrop. With over 600 feet of elevation gain, this is a moderate to strenuous hike, but once you get there, you’ll be thankful you made the trip. If you love this wondrous park, be sure to check out these other out-of-this-world destinations.
Don’t stop here! To hike your way across each of the fifty states, see L.L.Bean’s complete guide showcasing one hike in each state that flies under the radar and is a true gem. Don’t forget to share your story along the way by tagging #FindYourPark and #EncuentraTuParque!