There's so much more to the USA than big city lights, even though they're pretty awesome! Take a drive into the wilderness of the USA and you'll be greeted by Mother Nature in all her glory and what a show she'll put on. My favourite way to explore is hiking the awesome trails in some of the worlds best national parks. Even if hiking isn't usually your bag, you have to give it go, trust me!
Zion, Utah – The Narrows (9.4 miles/15.1 km)
There are not many trails in the world where the actual path is the river itself. On this hike hidden deep within Zion canyon, the Virgin River is the trail. This hike is one best done early in the morning to avoid the throngs of people who clog up the river later in the day. While it is a popular hike, it still requires a good level of fitness as you walk up stream against the current. As you walk further into the canyon, the walls narrow and the water level increases making swimming necessary to cross certain sections. For this hike, its smart to rent sturdy water shoes as well as a stick to provide balance while walking across the rocky, riverbed. The hike is an in and out hike, meaning you can stop wherever you want and go back out the same way. On a steamy summer afternoon in Zion, there isn't a cooler place to be than walking in Virgin River between the narrow red canyon walls.
Arches, Utah – Devils Garden (7.2 miles/11.6 km)
Tucked far back into Arches National Park, you'll find one of my favourite hikes, leading you to eight different and incredible natural arches. This hike isn't so much a hike as it is an adventure. Once you leave the maintained trail behind at Landscape Arch, you embark on an off-the-beaten-path feeling hike that leaves you scampering up and around boulders, along narrow sandstone fins and across deep ridges. The trail branches off many times, with each section ending in a new arch to explore. You must pay close attention to the piles of rocks, or cairns, marking the trail, which only adds to the adventure. In the summer, this area can be sweltering and avoiding the crowds on this one makes the experience even more magical, so it's best to begin just before sunrise.
Yosemite, California – Four Mile Trail (9.6 miles/15.5 km)
As with most hikes in Yosemite Valley, you start hiking uphill along the granite cliffs very quickly. The elevation gain on this trail is 3,200 ft/975 m which makes it quite challenging. But it is so worth it. After the miles of seemingly endless switchbacks, the views of the valley unfold beneath you. Close to the top, the trail leads you under the welcome shade of ponderosa pines, until it spits you out at the very top. Glacier Point. My absolute favourite view anywhere in the USA. It is breathtaking looking straight across at the wonderfully beautiful Half Dome with its streaking granite colours blending into the clouds and blue sky. I can only describe it as epic. The second best part, after the view, is knowing you earned this view while watching the lazy tourists who drove up here in their cars.
Yellowstone, Wyoming – Bunsen Peak (4.2 miles/6.7 km)
This hike is little sign posted and reached by a small parking lot right off the road as you're driving north to Mammoth. I like this hike because it can be done at any time of the day and always has a good chance of seeing wildlife, including bears. The trail is classed as moderate and begins by meandering through a meadow, filled with wildflowers in springtime, and climbs up into forest via a series of switchbacks. As you ascend, the views of the Gallatin Mountain Range and Yellowstone River Valley only improve with each step. In the early spring, the top of the trail will be snow packed and require some fun scrambling towards the end. On the summit the panoramic views of the park are remarkable.
Grand Tetons, Wyoming – Inspiration Point (7.2 miles/11.5 km)
The Grand Tetons are among the most impressive and inspiring of any mountain range I've ever seen. Any hike in this park will be amazing, but this one is a great. An easily accessible hike around scenic Jenny Lake with an option of taking a boat across the lake, cutting the hike time in half, should that be more your cup of tea. If you're going to take the boat, it's around $9 one-way and I would start with that first. Once you're on the other side of the lake, you have the option to add a bit more challenge and distance to your hike by going further up along to the Horse Trail and into Cascade Canyon where moose like to hang out. Then head back down the Jenny Lake Loop Trail, which'll take you back around the lake to the beginning.