The Best National Parks for Long Hikes

Here’s my typical disclaimer for my National Park lists. I’m sure there are plenty of other National Parks that are great for long hikes, but I’ve only been to twenty National Parks so far, so I have to base my list on them. So, if you disagree with me, please tell me your favorite parks for long hikes. As far as the distance I have in mind for these “long hikes” I’m thinking of trails more than five miles long. I have not backpacked in any National Parks, so I can’t say much on overnight hikes besides what I’ve read and heard from others. Without further ado, here’s my short list:

 

  • Glacier National Park, Montana. This National Park is basically paradise for hikers. There are certainly some great short hikes in the park, but the best trails (in my opinion) are the longer ones. Several of my all-time favorite trails are located in Glacier. The Grinnell Glacier Trail in the Many Glacier area of the park is my number one. The Highline Trail, Siyeh Pass Trail, and Hidden Lake Trail (to the lakeshore) are a few other awesome hikes. If I had a wish list of trails to hike there would be a few more from Glacier on it. First off, I’d have the Dawson Pass and Pitamakan Pass Loop and Iceberg Lake Trail atop that list. I’d also like to hike to Cracker Lake, Apgar Lookout, Piegan Pass, Gunsight Lake, and Swiftcurrent Pass. Clearly, I need to spend a lot more time in Glacier National Park.
  • Yosemite National Park, California. I haven’t done quite as much hiking in Yosemite as I have in Glacier, but I’ve done enough to know it’s home to some amazing trails. Like in Glacier, there are more hikes that I would like to explore here. I’ve hiked the Mist Trail to Nevada Fall and to the summit of Half Dome (which was ridiculously difficult). I’ve heard that the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls is a great one. I’d like to spend some more time in the Tuolumne Meadows area and hike to Cathedral Lakes and Mono Pass. Lastly I’d like to try the Panorama Trail that descends from Glacier Point to Yosemite Valley.
  • Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. One of the best things about Grand Teton National Park is that no matter where you go inside the park you’ll surely have a great view of the Teton Range. Hiking into the mountains can provide awesome close-up views and incredible experiences. I hiked the Cascade Canyon Trail to the Forks of Cascade Canyon, but you can continue much farther. I also hiked along the shore of Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point another time. There are plenty of great backpacking opportunities in the park as well as other long day hikes. The Amphitheater Lake hike is one trail I’d really like to hike. I regret hiking a couple of shorter hikes instead of that one on my last trip to the park. I’ve read about great hikes through Garnet Canyon, Death Canyon, Paintbrush Canyon, and of course the world famous Teton Crest Trail.
  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. I think it should go without saying that the Grand Canyon is home to same amazing long distance trails. I hiked down the Bright Angel Trail to Plateau Point as a long day hike, but have never made it down to the Colorado River. I also went down the South Kaibab Trail for a few miles another time. I’ve hiked a few meandering miles along the south rim of the canyon as well. That was very nice, but I definitely recommend hiking down into the canyon, even if it’s only a short distance. One day I’d like to return and make it down to the river. There are multiple trails that descend deep into the canyon. The Bright Angel Trail and South Kaibab Trail are definitely the two most popular options. The Hermit Trail, Tonto Trail, and Grandview Trail are other options.

I think that’s a pretty good short list of National Parks that offer great long trails. There are certainly many other National Parks that boast awesome long hikes, but I can definitely recommend these ones.

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4 thoughts on “The Best National Parks for Long Hikes

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  1. Glacier NP wins in my opinion too. For the parks I had visited, I would add Rocky Mountain NP to this list. For a place or an area that is not national park that is wonderful for long day hikes, the top of my list would be the Eastern Sierra from the Lake Tahoe Area in the north to the Bishop Area in the south. You have to make it to the Eastern Sierra.

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    1. I’ve only had a brief stop at Lake Tahoe and I can’t remember where on the lake it was. I’ve actually been to Rocky Mountain NP three times, but stayed with friends each time and was only in the park for a few hours each time.

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