Day Hikes
November 6, 2017 5:49 AM   Subscribe

I did some amazing day hiking in Zion National Park last summer. I want more of this. I have two requirements: Relatively easy to get to and a diverse range of hikes. I am in Austin TX and will fly anywhere in North America. Where do I go?
posted by jasondigitized to Travel & Transportation (16 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I love Canyonlands National Park. It is also in Utah, although a tad more difficult to get to than Zion, insofar as it's farther from a major airport -- your best bets are probably Grand Junction or Salt Lake City airports.

However, it's got a great diversity of landscapes -- the four districts of the park (Islands in the Sky, the Maze, the Needles, and the rivers) could almost be four different national parks in and of themselves.I did the Needles and the Druid Arch hike and it remains in my top 5 hikes scenic-wise of my life.

My only caveat is that if you want to do day hikes in Canyonlands that I strongly recommend you go in the spring or fall. I went in July and it was 90° by 9 am and near 100° for most of the afternoon. (We backpacked in to avoid daylight hiking.)
posted by andrewesque at 6:27 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Superior Hiking Trail is gorgeous.
posted by jillithd at 6:29 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's so much available in the US alone. What sorts of things are you interested in? If canyons and desert, stay in the Southwest. Glaciers and mountains? Check out Rainier NP, Glacier NP, or Jasper and Banff in Alberta, Canada.

In the Northeast we have Acadia National Park, which has small but amazing mountains right on the coast of Maine. There's a good mix of steep (straight up cliffs with some iron rungs and ladders to help you) and gentle. There's also the White Mountains in New Hampshire for some rugged New England hiking. Ditto Vermont, though it's a bit more rugged there.
posted by bondcliff at 6:43 AM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

Fly to SeaTac International Airport, rent a car, and drive to the Olympic National Park Visitors Center in Port Angeles, WA, where Rangers can help you choose the best day hikes. Of the ones I did, I strongly recommend everything at Ho Rainforest, and Ozette - but really pretty much anything will be amazing there.
posted by timdiggerm at 6:49 AM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'm not much of a hiker so maybe someone else has a better lead, but L.A. has so, so many areas to explore, including Angeles National Park.

The 50 Essential Hiking Trails in Los Angeles

There are also a ton of places once you get out of the area.
posted by Room 641-A at 6:51 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I’ll put in a third recommendation for the PNW. Flying to SeaTac will get you close to both Olympic and Mt. Rainier National Parks, recommended above, as well as North Cascades National Park and the rest of the Olympic and Cascade ranges. The caveat is that peak time (pun accepted but not intended) for all of them is July through September—the North Cascades Highway is closed for half the year or more and, depending on elevation all across the Cascades and Olympics, some of the trails don’t melt out until August. Some of Olympic is the exception since the coast and rainforest are low-elevation, but your enjoyment in the off-season will depend on how much you can tolerate rain. Lots and lots of rain. There are two great resources for PNW hiking: the Washington Trails Association and NW Hikers. The WTA has a great hike finder and trip reports and focuses mostly on day hikers; NW Hikers is more backpacking-oriented. If you do come up here, MeMail me and I’ll be happy to share specific hikes.

Given all of the above though, I’ve also been dying to go to Big Bend NP, which is driving distance from Austin. It’s definitely more wild than Zion with less tourist infrastructure, but to me that’s a feature, not a bug.
posted by Special Agent Dale Cooper at 7:18 AM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Some of my favorite hikes are in Supai, around the Grand Canyon area in Arizona. If you want to make a real experience of it, get ready to fight for a permit to camp there come Feb 1st. Best dates to camp are in shoulder months--April/September/October--it can get brutally hot in the summer. But then you have the hike down into the canyon (with the sight of blue green waterfalls as a reward), and one of my favorite hikes ever: the hike from campsite to Beaver Falls. You could also keep going until you reach the Colorado River.

You can go in reverse, too, working your way up from the Colorado River...but I have no experience with that. Just some utterly beautiful hikes in that general area though!
posted by sprezzy at 7:20 AM on November 6, 2017

Super easy, amazing day hiking? I think that's pretty much the requirement of every US National Park. Depending on what "easy to get to" means, try heading to Arches National Park, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon.
posted by salvia at 7:21 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Similar to LA, but San Diego has a lot of diversity and great hiking (though most of it isn't as spectacular as the national parks, obviously). Beaches, coastal bluffs and canyons, oak forests, chapparel, pine trees, lakes, meadows, desert . Anza Borrego State Park is the biggest state park in the continental US and has high and low desert, badlands, palm oases, wind and mud caves, and slot canyons. There's not a lot of high elevation in the county itself, but San Jacinto, San Gorgonio, and Mt. Baldy are all within a couple hurs' drive and have day hiking options (these should also be day-hikeable from LA). If you come out to southern California, you should also spend a couple of days in Joshua Tree -- it's a little too far from LA or SD to get there, hike, and back in a day, but it's well worth the trip.

Afoot and Afield: San Diego County (affectionately referred to as "the hiking bible")
Hiking SD County
Modern Hiker (mostly LA with some SD mixed in)
San Diego Habitats (a brief sampling of the types of environments you'll find around here)
posted by natabat at 7:40 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm assuming you've done Enchanted Rock. If so, did you go spelunking?
posted by Jacen at 9:29 AM on November 6, 2017

Anywhere in North America? Welcome to Alaska! It’s easy-peasy to be amazed even in Chugach State Park, which surrounds Anchorage. The Crow Pass Crossing is really something.
posted by kerf at 9:30 AM on November 6, 2017

Good thing about SoCal is that San Diego and LA are just 2-3 hours apart.
posted by Room 641-A at 9:45 AM on November 6, 2017

I too love Zion and would agree with people that most National Parks provide this kind of experience (but not all). As for something that isn't in the West or Far East, let me suggest Great Smoky National Park. To visit you'd fly into Knoxville, TN or Asheville, NC.
posted by mmascolino at 12:03 PM on November 6, 2017

I am in Austin TX

Then go to Big Bend.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 12:14 PM on November 6, 2017

Taos, New Mexico

Down to 5XXX ft ASL, riparian: Wild Rivers Recreation Area
Up to 13,100 ft ASL, alpine: Wheeler Peak

And much in between.
posted by falsedmitri at 5:54 PM on November 6, 2017

Nearby-ish to Zion is Bryce Canyon, another great place for a memorable day hike.
posted by Miko at 6:20 PM on November 6, 2017

« Older Voting on school bonds   |   How to start over when your career dreams die Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.