Getting out of your normal routine and being in nature is special. It can bring the family together, cleanse the soul, and have you feeling that you have accomplished something that gives you a sense of well-being.
It is nowadays quite easy to find information on the internet about great local hikes, but at times, the information you get is not what you want and need, even with all the digging around.
Fortunately, I have spent a fair amount of time doing the kind of research that is needed, and I am happy to share these resources so that your hikes can be the perfect ones that you want.
Purchase a Recreational Atlas or a Detailed Topographical Map
It is always a good thing to have on hand a recreational atlas or up-to-date topographical map of your state.
It will be of great help when you move out of cell phone range, and also provide you with an overview of the land ownership, the parks in the area, the trails, as well as backroads made of gravel that you may have to take so that you can get to the trailheads.
It is a great tool for getting a general overview of the wilderness areas, regional parks, and more, which will then provide you with recreational opportunities.
Visit Your Local Visitor Center or Chamber of Commerce
You are often left wondering about the hiking trails that are near to you and fit for your level of fitness. It is a question, a good one, that both your Chamber of Commerce and the local Visitor Center should have answers for. Normally, these establishments are not ones that you will have noticed, but in all probability, your town should have one or both.
They are where you can source maps and a look into the recreational opportunities in your area, with personal advice on the best trails for hiking. They will have maps that will direct you to every park and trailhead, and the latest information on the conditions of the trail, and the park or trial that may suit your particular needs.
Get to Your Nearest State or Regional Park and Ask the Staff There for Advice and Maps on Local Trails
Your reliable recreational atlas should have already helped you to zero in on the park where you would like to go hiking, and if you want accurate information you can get it from the park visitor center.
You can even pick up a trail map there, and get all the scoop from the staff at the park about the conditions on the trail today.
Visitor Center staff and Park Rangers will always have up-to-date information about swollen rivers, muddy trails, and trails that the park has closed.
Google Search: “Hiking Trails Near [Your Location].”
Go to Google and use the search term “hiking trails near [your location]”, so that you can find the best hiking trails that are near to where you are.
This search may take you to local websites that will have articles in local publications about the best day hikes in your area, as well as a curated list of trails.
Use page one of the Google results so that you can then sift through the best options and find the best trails in your area.
Hiking Trail Apps
It is always good to have something free, but you are more likely to get what you pay for or do not pay for. There are free hiking apps that also have paid versions and upgrades that can provide you with more features and details.
You can find free hiking apps that have loads of information about trails. You will find many such apps, but here is a list of my favorites.
This is a free app that is user-driven and has more than fifty thousand trails selected and organized by its over four million users. The location of your phone can get you the trails that are nearest to you, and I was shown 250 trails near to me.
Each hike will have its topographical map, photos, elevation profiles, reviews, and comments. This app has a premium paid edition that can provide you with additional features.
REI Co-op, an outdoor retailer, has a free, user-driven app that offers more than 37,000 trails.
Locate enjoyable hikes near you by simply inputting your location. All trails include details on elevation profiles, topo maps, trail gradients, reviews, photos, nearby trails, and hiker comments.
There is also a companion app from REI that shows various hiking opportunities at National Monuments and REI National Parks. There are over 5,000 hikes to choose from.
This is a free app that uses maps from users, tourism agencies, and major outdoor brands. It has the same features as the apps above.
What is unique about this app that it has an augmented reality feature, Skyline, that uses the camera on your phone and allows you to label geographic features even while you are hiking. Isn’t that cool?
Websites to Find Hiking Trails
Many websites have mobile apps, but they are not a reliable source for finding hiking trails. I happen to love reading, researching and planning my outdoor adventures, so it is no problem finding the time to explore these websites.
This is an outlet in the media that connects its readers to hiking and other outdoor experiences. Its reviews are not crowdsourced, but rather a collection of trails and activities that are submitted by the local experts on outdoor activities.
Select HIKING or search for other outdoor adventures when you use a search engine, choose your location, and start your search. RootsRated is fairly new, but they are very active in adding new trails, locations, and cities.
This is a site that is for more than just reviews of hotels and bookings. Search for your destination and you can find good information about hiking trails. Many of these popular destinations even have forums with multiple topics.
You will often find hiking trails listed as “Things to do” if any destination that you have searched for is known for outdoor activities. Take the time to read reviews as you will often find some hidden gems that are not listed on destination websites or common trail apps.
This is a robust tool for any kind of outdoor activity.
It is a site you can search for by city, state, zip code, or park to find hiking trails that will be those that are day hikes that are moderately strenuous or those that are overnight backpacking trips.
You can find a recommendation for an appropriate trail depending on your ability and experience level.
The nonprofit Rails to Trails Conservancy provides this website as a free service. You need to be registered to get full access to the features of this site. It is free to register, so that is not a worry.
Their database of trails has more than 30,000 miles of trail maps, itineraries for multiday trail trips, and also gives you the history behind many of the listed trails.
This site, AmericanTrails, features the National Recreational Trails in the United States but also includes a database of some trails in Canada as well as other international locations.
You will find scenic trails, historical trails, rail trails, and community trails that are state-specific. You can also get information about parks and recreation offices, state-wise, as well as the National Park service.
Groups have been formed on Facebook that can be a gold mine of information on hiking trails. Members of these groups post pictures and info on trials, and you can always ask questions or recommendations for trail hiking.
Start your search for these hiking groups (some of them are large) and other general hiking groups that will have members that can give you the needed information for hiking trails in the area you are researching, and there are many of these groups that are specific to certain areas. Join both kinds.
Facebook always notices your search history and activity and will then recommend groups for you.
Pinterest is not just a search engine for recipes and home decor. Many websites and blogs will PIN posts and articles that can help you to zero in on outdoor activities.
Pinterest is easy for you, even if you are new to it. Search for hiking trails and the page will load with pins that will lead to articles that cover hiking trails. The account here is free and once you have joined it, create boards about Hiking trails that will save your favorite pins.
It is a great way to find tips for hiking and trails as well as some websites and awesome blogs that you never knew existed.
Twitter & Instagram for Hikers
These are social media applications that can also get you some details on hikes. Use hashtags on Twitter to get you links and return tweets with information that can be useful.
And if you are a visual person who requires a photo to get convinced. then search on Instagram with the use of hashtags as well.
Youtube for Hikers
Go to Youtube and look for content that is hike-related.
Be careful, however, as content on this site is so good, that if you watch too many videos, you may feel that you have already been on that trail.
But for me, watching videos never spoils a hike, as there is nothing that compares to hiking and seeing things with your own eyes.
Dog-Friendly Hiking Trails
As a hiker, you may like your canine friend to be with you when you are on the trail. Not all trails allow dogs, so it is important to do your research.
The Hiking Project app will note whether a trail allows dogs if that is known. Alltrails app can also list dog-friendly trails for you.
BringFido.com is a website that locates places that you can bring your dog to. Search hiking trails and submit photos and trail info along with ratings if you are a user. This website also has a list of dog-friendly campgrounds.
HikeWithYourDog.com is another website that is dedicated to going on a hike with dogs. It has a lot of articles, guide books as well as trails. There is a group on Facebook with more than 26,000 members called Hiking With Dogs.
American Hiking Trails Sure to Wow
In 1926, part of the rock formation of Angels Landing was altered by cutting into rocks to create a trail. By following the trail to the top of Angels Landing, a beautiful view of Zion Canyon will be accessible.
Many people will be able to reach the top, because the hike is fairly easy and short. There is a bit of a difficulty increase near the end of the hike due to the trail getting steeper. The side drop-offs can also give hikers a fright that might make them turn around.
Keep the following advice in mind: If you have a fear of going to high places, don’t hike on this trail.
Franconia Ridge Loop
Three mountains, Mount Lincoln, Little Haystack, and Mount Lafayette, are hiked through on this particular trail. This one is quite popular, as 700 people pass through it on a daily basis.
In the White Mountains area, this is one of the best-looking hikes around, which explains why so many people come from far and wide to see it. Since it’s close to Boston, those wanting to make a city escape to nature will find it to be the perfect location.
Over the span of 4 miles, there is an increase in elevation of 3,480 feet, meaning that there is some strength needed to deal with it.
Though the hike presents some challenges, it’s worth going through with it. You’ll absolutely love the breathtaking views and waterfalls on the hike.
Sargent Mountain Loop
Various granite peaks can be found in this national park, and views of them can only be accessed by hiking along the Sargent Mountain Loop.
Beginning at Jordan Pond House, which has a 200-foot elevation, hikers can start on the Sargent Mountain Loop and make their way to the summit found on Sargent Mountain, which has a 1,373-foot elevation.
Carved steps with iron rungs make it possible to go around the East and Jordan Cliffs while hiking to reach the top of the trail. For many, the hike would be difficult or nearly impossible without the steps and rungs.
A stunning view of Mount Desert Island, as well as other sights, can be seen from the top. You can cool off for a bit in Sargent Pond when you come back down the trail.
Queens Garden / Navajo Loop
There’s a good chance that you’ve probably seen pictures of Bryce Canyon, even if you’ve never been to it in person. There’s a picturesque quality to Bryce Canyon, and you’ll catch an eyeful of scenery as you hike through the Queens Garden / Navajo Loop, which is only 3 miles long.
Hoodoos, the rock formations of the park, will be seen along with the look, and Thor’s Hammer, which is the most famous hoodoo in the park, can be seen.
You should hike on this trail when a full moon is out if you ever get the chance. Usually, in rural locations across the United States, only 2,500 stars can really be seen when the night is clear, but at Bryce Canyon, as many as 7,500 stars can be seen due to how dark it is.
The hike will look great, no matter the time of day.
Hidden Lake Nature Trail
Families will get a kick out of this trail because of the various difficulty levels it presents. Logan Pass is the start of the trail, and a wonderful view of Hidden Lake can be found after traveling for 1.5 miles.
If you want, you can simply enjoy the view of Hidden Lake from a distance, or you can go to the shore and use the waters to cool off.
There is a steep descent on the trail to reach Hidden Lake, and it’s important to remember while going back to the beginning, you’ll have to hike your way up it.
Pacific Crest Trail
It takes 2,653 miles to travel the entire length of this trail. This can be quite a daunting task, so don’t bother hiking on it unless you’ve taken all of the preparations to make it to the end.
There aren’t many people who can hike 2,653 miles over the span of one trip, so you can try breaking down the journey into smaller trips, which is what most people do.
This hike is worth the hard work that you’ll put into it. Some of the most gorgeous sights in the entire country can only be seen along this hike, and you’ll be among those who see them.
This hike has a lot more hoodoos to see if you’re interested in them.
Caprock canyons and bright clay can be seen along with the hoodoos.
This trip isn’t only worth it for the wonderful views that it provides, as a virtual trip through history is possible through this hike.
The existence of human life as far as 9,000 years into the past can be found in these Colorado mines. While you’re walking on this hike in the present, you’ll certainly be thinking about the people of the past.
Mount Healy Overlook Trail
Those who don’t have a lot of hiking skills or who don’t want to bring a lot of equipment on their trip will love hiking on this trail.
This hike does come with a variety of environments to see. At the start of the Overlook Trail is a dense forest, and descending will bring you to an alpine tundra, which then leads to a lookout where ridges and the glorious valley view can be seen.
You can hike 2 extra miles if you want to make an adventure out of reaching the mountain top. This additional adventure isn’t something the average hiker will want, as there is some difficulty involved.
The Best Hiking Trails in the World
Great Wall of China, Jinshanling section
It can be stressful to walk the Great Wall at Badaling, which is known for crowds of tourists and hawkers that can ruin the entire experience.
One section of the Great Wall, Jinshanling, is located 87 miles northeast from the Beijing area and isn’t as bothersome as the tourist spot, making it the perfect trail for a steep exploration.
Although the Simatai wall route is closed off, you can still enjoy taking the path back and forth, which gives you great views and a hard workout. Transfers and tours can be arranged by hotels in Beijing.
Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain
The Camino, which is also called the Way of St. James, isn’t just one path but many different routes. These pilgrimage paths have one common ending point: Santiago de Compostela, where a shrine to St. James, a famous apostle, is located.
Starting at the French Pyrenees and going across northern Spain, the most popular route of the Camino can be found. There are many luggage transfer and hotel stay locations offered by operators, although you have the option of staying at some of the monasteries through the route.
Pennine Way, United Kingdom
In the United Kingdom, the path that has the most fame is Pennine Way, which starts at the Derbyshire Peak District and goes to the borders of Scotland over the course of 268 miles.
To the east of Manchester are wild moorlands, which lead to Yorkshire Dales, and then the border of the Hadrian’s Wall, which then heads toward Scotland. Three weeks is needed to walk the entire length of this journey.
Those who can deal with the British weather, love to go camping, and love the outdoors will jump at the chance to hike along this trail.
The Basho Wayfarer, Japan
Cities and temples across Japan are connected through a number of trails that have existed for centuries. Matsuo Basho, a Japanese poet, took the same route from this trip more than 300 years ago.
Sendai is the starting point for this trip, which will take six days to complete. From there, the north part of the Tohoku region is traveled and Hiraizumi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site is reached.
The Dewa Kaido path has forests composed of cherry and beech trees, and it can be seen along the journey after heading from Hiraizumi. Next is Natagiri-toge, which is famous for its mountains, and the temple of Yamadera is the finishing point.
Lechweg Trail, Austria and Germany
Fussen, a town in Bavaria, is the beginning location for a route that lasts for nine days. The route goes along the Lechweg river until Vorarlberg, a state in Austrian and the river’s source is reached.
The well known King Ludwig II has castles in Bavaria, Germany that is passed on the trail. A myriad of the clearest lakes in Germany can be seen, and the trail continues to Tiroler Lech National Park, which is full of ibex, uniquely colored turquoise water, and lush meadows that are protected.
The Dingle Way, Ireland
In the southwest part of Ireland, there is a circular path called The Dingle Way that spans the length of 111 miles and offers a beautiful way to see County Kerry.
Tralee is a town that acts as the starting point for the trail, where narrow roads travel in boreens, a clockwise path. Inch Strand offers a large sand view along the way, and near Dingle town clifftops are visible, along Dingle Peninsula’s highest peak, Mount Brandon.
It takes around ten days to get through this trail, and while doing it, travelers can receive accommodation from Ireland Ways.
West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island
There are some great trails that can be found in the wilderness of Canada because of how large it is.
West Coast Trail is a classic trail that goes around the southern part of Vancouver Island and lasts for 47 miles. Sea caves can be reached at Owen Point and Bonilla Point has rich ocean views.
Ladders are scaled, rivers and muddy areas are walked through, and through it all, you can look at the wide-open country while camping.
Space is limited on the trail, so space will have to be reserved beforehand.
The Balkans, Montenegro and Albania
Europe is known for the Alps, but the Balkans’ are a great option for those who want to avoid the crowds there.
One of the best places to see on the trip is Kucki Kom a Montenegro peak located at 2,487 meters. The top will provide a Komovi Mountains viewing location.
Cape to Cape Track, Western Australia
Cape Naturaliste is the start of this trail, and the Cape Leeuwin lighthouse can be found 76 miles later, which is near the southwest part of Australia.
Going alone on this route or going with friends are both options to explore.
There are many signposts on Cape to Cake Track, but guides can help to find more information about the natural scenery.
Percorsi Occitani, Maira Valley, Italy
Going through the Cottian Alps, these paths provide a historic walk.
The Occitan language is spoken by the locals, and Maira Valley is remote enough to be a pure part of Italy.
It takes nine days to go along this trail, and there are many great views along the way.