With warmer weather just around the corner, it’s time to lace up those boots and explore Mother Nature’s best hiking trails. Our ultimate hike list is packed with stunning locations that are guaranteed to wow. From volcanoes to forest castles to waterfalls, we’ve got the perfect adventure for you.
1. Think Lights, Camera, Action! with a hike to the Hollywood sign.
Get ready for your close up with Los Angeles’s most iconic sign when you take a hike up into the Hollywood Hills. For a kid-friendly trek, start at the Charlie Turner Trailhead and hike the Mt Hollywood Trail to get an amazing view of those 45-foot high letters.
Hit the trail: hollywoodsign.org/hiking-to-the-sign/
2. Hike to Vikingsholm Castle in Emerald Bay, Tahoe.
Send yourself back in time with a jaunt through the forest that ends at the door of a real castle. Built over 80 years ago, at the bottom of Emerald Bay State Park, Vikingsholm is an architectural wonder that will impress hikers of all ages. The trail is a straight shot down the mountain with a steep return trek and is probably best for older kids and/or kids in backpacks.
Hit the trail: vikingsholm.com
3. Get a taste of history on Mt. Rushmore’s Presidential Trail.
And you thought it was all about the scenery. Add an exciting historical spot to your family hike and you’ll be rewarded with a double dose of “America is awesome” from your crew. The Presidential Trail is a short 0.6-mile loop, so it’s manageable for little legs, and they’ll love getting to see the monument from all different angles.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/moru/index.htm
4. Hike the Haleakala Crater on Maui.
When you get right down to it, hiking into a volcano with your mini-me is as cool as it sounds. The views are unforgettable and finding one that’s hike-able usually means an awesome family vacay is in progress. Exploring this one is as close as you’ll get to walking on the moon without blasting off. #winning
Hit the trail: nps.gov/hale/index.htm
5. Go behind a waterfall at Silver Falls State Park.
Finding a gorgeous waterfall on a hike feels like finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. You'll hit the jackpot at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon, where an incredible forest treats you to waterfalls galore. Although the 7.2 mile Trail of Ten Falls is a bit much for younger kids, there are still plenty of falls to be seen on a variety of shorter trails that are just as captivating.
Hit the trail: oregonstateparks.org
6. Trek through Joshua Tree National Park.
With a lack of noticeable landmarks, desert hiking takes a little navigation know-how and a sense of adventure. Be sure to pack plenty of water and slather your little trail guides with sunscreen for this one. Then watch for cairns to find your way from one view to the next. It will be as inspiring to your tiny hikers as it was to U2.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/jotr/index.htm
7. Hike the Hoh Rainforest on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington.
Pull on your rain boots and pack a slicker for this wet and woodsy walk among the trees. Nothing beats a rainforest hike on a sweltering summer day when quiet shade and mossy trees mean refuge from the sun’s rays.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/visiting-the-hoh.htm
8. Enjoy amazing views hiking Maroon Bells in Aspen, Colorado.
Hiking’s all about the journey, not the destination (or so you thought). But sometimes it really should be about the destination. Especially when there’s a stunning view that goes with it. You get two views for the price of one when you catch the mountain reflected in the lake below.
9. Hike in the Grand Canyon.
Easy hike in, tough hike out. When it comes to canyons, the Grand Canyon wins every time. Canyon hiking is the antithesis of other hiking experiences, so be sure to spend time above and in the canyon to get the full effect. You’ll find plenty of trails that showcase the canyon without being too difficult for your smallest hikers.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/grca/index.htm
10. Hike through Muir Woods National Forest in Mill Valley, California.
Hiking through a redwood forest is the quintessential forest hike for a reason: Being dwarfed by massive old-growth trees helps to put it all in perspective. Plus, it helps you get a kid’s eye view of things.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/muwo/index.htm
11. Explore Crater Lake in Oregon.
Scoop the loop around a local lake with your little ranger. Most lakeside hikes are simple and flat, which make them great for kids. Crater Lake is the bluest lake in the world and definitely worth a visit.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/crla/index.htm
12. Climb to the Statue of Liberty's crown.
City monuments, skyscrapers and even steep thoroughfares make for great urban climbs. The views from Lady Liberty’s crown are definitely worth it, but plan ahead! Tickets need to be purchased in advance, and kids must be at least four feet tall to go all the way up.
Hit the trail (stairs): nps.gov/stli/planyourvisit/visit-the-crown.htm
13. Hike an interstate trail, like the Pacific Crest.
Even if you don’t cross from one state to the next on your trip, hiking an interstate trail is always a blast. Spotting backpackers making their way across the country on foot is nothing short of inspiring, and boy, do they have stories to share!
Hit the trail: fs.usda.gov/pct/
14. See snow in the summer at Mt. Rainier National Park.
This seasonal twist is a pure delight to kids who were just wearing shorts and swimming in the pool a few hours earlier. Altitude is key to finding snow on a hot summer day, so plan for lots of up, up, up along the way. But once you get there, it’s way worth it. And a snowball is a must.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/mora/index.htm
15. Hike the beach at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.
Beaches aren’t just for umbrellas and floaties anymore. With wide-open views and lots of rolling hills to tackle, sand dunes make for some of the best warm weather hiking around. Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore along Lake Michigan has amazing beach hikes and killer views to boot.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/indu/index.htm
16. Enjoy the view from Makapu'u Lighthouse Trail on Oahu.
This scenic 1.5-mile trail is paved, meaning you can take that stroller along! You’ll be rewarded with ocean views, and maybe even a whale sighting, depending on the season. If you and your crew are early birds, the morning sunrise from this spot can’t be beaten.
17. Head to the shores of La Push, Washington.
The Pacific coast is a natural playground. With driftwood, tide pools and sea stacks to explore, this Washington beach trail is a favorite of kids and families. Want to make a camping weekend out of it? You’ll find beach camping and a few sites in the forest so you can stay and play even longer.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/olym/planyourvisit/second-beach-trail.htm
18. Explore a cedar forest at Glacier National Park.
You could spend days adventuring in Glacier National Park, but a hike definitely needs to be on your to-do list. The easy Trail of the Cedars loop is perfect for the smallest hikers. Marvel at the gigantic trees, find a waterfall and enjoy the flora and fauna. For a more challenging hike, you can continue on to the Avalanche Lake trail, or finish the loop and set off on the next adventure.
Hit the trail: visitmt.com/trail-of-the-cedars
19. Take an urban hike over the Hudson River.
You don’t always have to wander to the woods for a great hike. Take advantage of the best of what cities have to offer a fun urban hike. This former double track railroad bridge is now an enormous pedestrian walkway spanning the Hudson River. The Walkway Over the Hudson Loop Trail takes you over two bridges and through nine “Discovery Zones,” so you can make a day of it. Want to try some more urban hikes? We’ve got ideas for you.
Hit the trail: walkway.org
20. Catch a glimpse of wildflowers in North Carolina.
Sometimes you just have to stop and smell the flowers. Lucky for you, there are wildflowers a-plenty along the colorful Max Patch Mountain trail in North Carolina. With such a picturesque mountaintop scene, don’t be surprised if you’re inspired to throw your arms wide, spin around and start singing, Sound of Music-style.
21. Discover a secret disappearing trail to Bar Island in Maine.
Kids will love this “magical” Bar Harbor trail that appears and disappears. Low tide reveals a walkable sandbar that takes you to the island to explore. The path is only there for a few hours, so be sure to check tide times and take a watch so you can cross back in plenty of time!
Hit the trail: barharbormaine.gov
22. Find foliage in Pennsylvania.
Incredible canyon views, overlooks and hiking trails await in the Keystone State’s Pine Creek Gorge, known as Pennsylvania's Grand Canyon. The Overlook Trail is an easy 0.6-mile hike that’s great for families with small kids and has sights that will totally impress.
Hit the trail: pacanyon.com
23. See wildlife in the Everglades.
Spotting wildlife on a hike is always a thrill, and you won’t be disappointed on the Anhinga Trail in Florida. Egrets, turtles, birds and even a gator or two might make an appearance along this spot in Everglades National Park. Paved paths and boardwalks make this one easy.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/ever/planyourvisit/anhinga-trail
24. Experience enchantment in Texas.
This natural area in Texas is extremely popular, and it’s easy to see why. The park has over 400 archaeological sites, and the large pink dome-shaped granite rock is steeped in history and legends. The Summit Trail will treat you to the outstanding scenery. Although it’s short, the trail is steep in some places, so might be better for older kids.
Hit the trail: tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/enchanted-rock
25. Hike the surreal landscape of the Badlands.
The spectacular terrain inside Badlands National Park is unlike anything else you’ve seen. The easy Fossil Exhibit Trail stays along a boardwalk and has exhibits of creatures that once roamed the area.
Hit the trail: nps.gov/badl/planyourvisit/hiking
—Anna Doogan, Gabby Cullen and Allison Sutcliffe