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Whether you’re a hiking novice who prefers flat terrain and short distances or an adventurous spirit who craves a lengthy vertical challenge, there are endless trails throughout the United States that offer a chance to experience the best of what Mother Nature has to offer. Here are five favorite hikes for every skill level.

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For wildlife and breathtaking scenery: Tomales Point Trail, Point Reyes National Seashore, CA

Just under 25 miles from San Francisco, the stunning Point Reyes National Seashore is an ideal spot for a quick respite from urban life. And the Tomales Trail offers a little bit of everything you might want along its 9.4 miles: sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean on one side, and the residents of the Tule Elk Preserve—herds of them relaxing and grazing just feet from the path—on the other. The first mile is a popular spot to watch breathtaking sunsets “into” the ocean, and there are many points along the trail where turnarounds are easy.


STAY: San Francisco Proper Hotel


For hikers who want to accomplish something before breakfast: Diamond Head Summit, Honolulu, HI

A must-do on the lists of many Honolulu visitors, the 1.6-mile round-trip hike to the summit of this volcanic crater can be completed in under two hours. Starting the trek when the trail opens at 6am is a popular choice to beat the heat, and even at that hour, the steep, paved path can get crowded quickly. But the payoff at 560 feet is a postcard-worthy panoramic view of Oahu’s southeastern shoreline that might include humpback whales during winter months.

SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate

STAY: Surfjack Hotel and Swim Club


For an iconic trail with nonstop views: Highline Trail, Glacier National Park, West  Glacier, MT

This often-crowded 11.4-mile trail is popular for good reason: Though parts of it are steep and not for those with a fear of heights, the path is mostly flat and clearly marked, and climbs gradually along the Continental Divide to offer incomparable views of the famous Garden Wall. Expect to see endless mountain peaks, fields of wildflowers, a few waterfalls and maybe even some bighorn sheep.

SKILL LEVEL: Intermediate

STAY: Under Canvas Glacier


For thrill seekers short on time: Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park, Mount Desert Island, ME

Overlook of Sand Beach from the Beehive Trail on Mount Desert Island in Acadia NP in late October

You get a lot of bang for your buck on this short-but-super-intense 0.8-mile trail that’s pretty much a straight vertical ascent to the summit. After a heart-in-your-mouth climb using all of your muscle groups to traverse boulders, ladders, iron rungs and exposed cliffs, you’re rewarded at 520 feet with jaw-dropping views of Sand Beach, Frenchman Bay and the coast. Descend using the forest path on the Bowl Trail (by comparison, a delightfully quick and easy—though rocky—path).


STAY: Bar Harbor Grand Hotel


For would-be time-travelers up for a challenge: Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, AK

Well-traveled hikers often cite this 8.2-mile round-trip trek about 125 miles south of Anchorage as the hike of their lifetime. Starting on the valley floor of Exit Glacier, the views shift from lush forests and fields of wildflowers to jaw-dropping, far-as-the-eye-can see views of the stark Icefield, providing a glimpse into how things likely looked during the Ice Age. The steep terrain means hikers gain about 1,000 feet of elevation with every mile, and bears and mountain goats are frequently sighted. The National Park Service recommends Marmot Meadows (1.4 miles) and Top of the Cliff (2.4 miles) as scenic spots for breaks or as turn-around points for shorter hikes.


STAY: Kenai Fjords Wilderness Lodge



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