Of all the modes of travel available to us today, the oldest is still the best for experiencing the wonders of our world.
Whether you prefer a brisk walk, a casual saunter, a stroll, a trudge or a canter — here are our choices for the best spots to employ your walkin’ shoes!
10. Killarney Park, Ontario, Canada
Thanks to the efforts of several of Canada’s most famous artists, Killarney’s jack pine ridges, clear lakes and quartz hills survive for your walking pleasure.
Calling themselves the Group of Seven, they approached the government, demanding that the area be designated as protected parkland.
Four hiking trails including the picturesque Granite Ridge Trail give visitors unparalleled access to La Cloche Mountains, Georgian Bay and the spectacular beauty immortalized by the iconic paintings of Group of Seven members Lawren Harris, A.J. Casson and A.Y. Jackson.
9. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Hiking into the canyon offers some of the most spectacular vistas available on the planet.
But you should be aware of a one very important thing first. Remember it’s a round trip.
Hikers who explore into the canyon can find themselves exhausted before facing the ascent back to the rim.
Starting your hike with a brutal downhill descent makes the Grand Canyon hike different from any other and can challenge even experienced hikers who aren’t used to it.
It’s also vital to carry plenty of water with you, especially during the summer months.
Walking tours include the Rim Trail, which runs west from the Pipe Creek viewpoint for about 8 miles of paved road, followed by 7 miles unpaved to Hermit's Rest.
Mather Point, the first view most people reach when entering from the South Entrance, is a popular place to begin.
8. Columbia River Gorge, Washington and Oregon
The rainfall in the great Northwest has its detractors, but the spectacular results of it are very evident here. America’s second largest river and overwhelmingly beautiful waterfalls are sights that no hiker could ever forget.
Angel’s Rest, Dog Mountain and Mount Defiance highlight plenty of trails available for all hiking levels along this 80 mile long canyon. But there are hundreds of trails in all areas of the gorge, so make sure you check all possibilities.
7. Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee and North Carolina
When a place has “great” in its name you expect a lot — and for the walking man or woman, the Great Smoky Mountains deliver.
Being located relatively south makes it it’s easier to hike year-round here than in most other mountain ranges in the United States.
It’s not rugged like the Rocky Mountain or Glacier National Park, but there are incredible sights to be seen ... clear streams and rushing waterfalls, and plenty of forest and wildlife opportunities.
Choosing a trail may be the hardest part, as the Smokies are massive, with over 800 miles of trails — so the choices seem never-ending.
6. Glacier National Park, Montana
You’ll find a regular hiker’s heaven here, with more than 730 miles of marked trails. In fact, more than half of the people who enter the park are there to set off on foot and explore.
The park gets its name from the huge glaciers that helped to shape the park’s rock formations 10,000 years ago. But if you want to see glaciers there as you walk the park, you’d better hurry …
In 1850, the park had 150 glaciers, but today there are only 26 remaining. Because of climate change, those are predicted to be gone by the year 2020.
5. Appalachian Trail, East Coast United States
Now, this one is a little different.
For one thing, the exact length of the trail changes over time as trails are modified or added.
The total length is approximately 2,200 miles, as it passes through the states of Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
So you can pick it up wherever you like.
It’s best to either head to the area closest to you, or really do your research and pick out the parts of the trail that will satisfy what is that you are looking for out of a good hike.
Another oddity: The majority of the trail is in wilderness, although some portions traverse towns, roads and cross rivers.
4. Pisgah National Forest, Brevard, North Carolina
You know you’re in for a treat when a place is called “The Land of Waterfalls.”
There are hundreds of miles of gorgeous singletrack trails in the dark depths of Pisgah that lead to gorgeous views of those natural wonders.
And the experience is rewarding just about any time of the year. The seasons orchestrate entirely different vistas for the hiker who craves an intimate relationship with the natural wonders here.
Three long-distance recreational trails — the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, the Shut-In Trail, and the Art Loeb Trail — are part of an attempt to connect as many trail systems and natural scenic areas as possible for the greater enjoyment of hikers of all levels.
3. Ixtacimhuatl, (Just East of) Mexico City, Mexico
Hike a volcano!
If that sounds like a good idea to you (and trust us, it doesn’t to everyone), then the twin volcanoes, Popocatepetl and Ixtacimhuatl are just what you’re looking for.
Actually, it’s that second one you’ll be walking on.
You see, the 5,452-meter-high Popocatepetl (commonly known as Popo) was a very popular hiking location, but...
... then it ruined everything by awakening from its 192-year slumber in 1994 and spewing lava all over the place. Now that’s closed, but go ahead ... try the “sister” volcano.
2. Arches National Park, Moab, Utah
Ever done a desert hike?
Well, maybe it’s about time you did. And if you decide to go that way Arches National Park is the gold standard.
The iconic red rocks and more than 2,000 precarious sandstone arches are other-worldly, and there’s no better way to see them than to walk them.
Many trails are great for beginners, and there are (as you would expect) plenty for hard-core hikers, too.
Then there is the Devil’s Garden Trail ... the longest one in Arches at seven miles, which takes you past eight arches.
Finally, the must-see attraction is the world-famous Delicate Arch. View it from a lookout point near a parking lot, or better yet, see it up close by taking a short hike to its base.
1. John Muir Trail, Yosemite National Park, California
It’s 215 miles. It runs through the Sierra Nevada Range. It starts in Yosemite National Park and ends at Mount Whitney (elevation: 14,505 feet), which just happens to be the highest point in the continental United States.
So what else?
Okay, how about giant sequoias, granite cliffs, and waterfalls? What more do you need?
Well, there’s also this: serious hikers will scoff at you if you have never done the John Muir Trail.