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5 Bucket Lists Hikes in the U.S.

5 Bucket Lists Hikes in the U.S.

Anyone who is serious about hiking has most likely put together a list of some of the places they most want to see.  Picturesque mountain ranges, scenic rivers, and uninhabited islands set in the midst of expansive lakes all call to us. 

Luckily, all of the above scenery is available for anyone to visit and explore in multiple locations all across the expanse of the continental United States.  Even better news is that you don’t need to make expensive and difficult reservations or be required to travel to only one distinct place to witness the grandeur of nature. 

This list contains five unique options found across the U.S. with all the above scenery and much more.  And better yet, each entry in this list is actually a national park which makes visiting entirely possible and totally affordable.  

Acadia National Park – Maine

  • Size: 47,000 acres
  • Length/Number of Trails: 120 miles total
  • Trail Difficulty: Novice to Expert
  • Notable Landmarks: Cadillac Mountain, Carriage Road, and Sand Beach
  • Camping?: 2 options within the park and multiple outside
  • Nearby Towns: Bar Harbor, ME
  • Best time of Year: late summer – early fall
  • Landscape features: Mountains, lakes, ocean coastline, forest

In the northern reaches of Maine sits Acadia National Park.  The park itself consists of over 120 miles of trails spread across an expanse of 47, 000 acres. 

Acadia has something for everyone in regards to the versatility of trail designs.  Even if you have never taken a step you’d consider hiking, Acadia has a trail for you.  Everybody from novice to the highly experienced has a hiking option to both challenge and excite you with its striking scenery. 

Acadia is in close proximity to Bar Harbor, Maine.  This well known town offers all the high end amenities that benefit someone looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life while also wanting lobster bisque at dinner. 

If you are planning a trip to Acadia National Park, consider taking a stroll along Carriage Road or a dip in the ocean at the popular Sand Beach.  Both options offer any visitor the chance to see the true beauty and expanse of this notable park tucked away deep within the Northeastern reaches the U.S. 

Shenandoah National Park – Virginia

  • Size: 200,000 acres
  • Length/Number of Trails: 500 miles of trails including 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail
  • Trail Difficulty: Varies from easy to highly strenuous
  • Notable Landmarks: Skyline Drive, Old Rag Mountain, Hawksbill Mountain
  • Camping?: Five options
  • Nearby Towns: 75 miles from Washington D.C.
  • Best time of Year: Fall for foliage, Spring for waterfalls
  • Landscape features: Deep forests, waterfalls, lakes

Found right in the heartland of the Appalachian Mountain Range can be found Shenandoah National Park.  Believe it or not, this park is reachable from our nation’s capital in just a few hours drive!

What you will find in Shenandoah is hundreds of miles of trails that provide a scenic views of some of the park’s most notable landmarks. 

When making the trip, consider what you most want to see.  While mountains like Hawksbill and Old Rag are a consistent presence in the park, know that the time of year you visit will determine what you see. 

Want rushing waterfalls?  Visit after the snows melt in spring. 

Have a fascination for the variety of colors nature provides?  Go in the fall to see as the leaves change from bright green to deep red.

Yosemite National Park – California

  • Size: 1,200 miles
  • Length/Number of Trails: 800 miles of trails
  • Trail Difficulty: Easy to Strenuous
  • Notable Landmarks: Glacier Point, Tunnel View, and El Capitan
  • Camping?: 13 options
  • Nearby Towns: Mammoth Lakes, CA
  • Best time of Year: Late May to early June for waterfalls, late October for leaves
  • Landscape features: valleys, high mountains, ancient forests, meadows, waterfalls

One of our nation’s most famous parks is Yosemite National Park in California.  Its vast expanse gives any hiker over 800 miles of trails to choose from and is reachable from multiple areas. 

Yosemite is also home to some of the nation’s most famous landmarks.  El Capitan and Glacier Point are among some of the most serious mountaineering adventures to be found around the world and both call Yosemite National Park home. 

Make sure to stop by Mammoth Lake to fuel up and make sure you have everything you need prior to hitting the trail.  Be aware that the park offers multiple options throughout the year for scenic viewing depending on what you are interested in. 

Grand Teton National Park – Wyoming

  • Size: 484 square miles
  • Length/Number of Trails: Over 200 miles of trails
  • Trail Difficulty: Everything from easy to overly difficult
  • Notable Landmarks: Jenny Lake Trail, Colter Bay, Paintbrush Cascade Canyon Loop Trail
  • Camping?: Six Options
  • Nearby Towns: Jackson WY and Driggs, ID
  • Best time of Year: Mid-June – Autumn months
  • Landscape features: High peaks and deep valleys, many alpine lakes and rivers, prolific prairies

Wyoming is home to some of the most famous national parks in America.  While Yellowstone National Park, our nation’s first dedicated park, garners extensive media coverage, there is another close by that offers just as many adventures.  

Grand Teton National Park is loaded with high peaks and deep valleys giving any visitor the option to see everything they may desire in a scenic hike.  The park has over 200 miles of dedicated trails, among them the famous Jenny Lake Trail and the Paintbrush Cascade Canyon Loop Trail.

From the variety of high peaks and the deep alpine lakes, Grand Teton National Park has a plethora of viewing options for every visitor no matter the time of year or their experience level. 

Isle Royale National Park – Michigan

  • Size: 571, 790 acres
  • Length/Number of Trails: 165 miles of trails
  • Trail Difficulty: Ranges from easy to difficult
  • Notable Landmarks: Scoville Point, Rock Harbor, Rock Island Lighthouse
  • Camping?: 36 Total
  • Nearby Towns: Copper Harbor, MI and Grand Portage, MN
  • Best time of Year: Late Summer
  • Landscape features: many inland lakes and rivers, archipelago of rocky islands surrounding, island in the middle of Lake Superior

One of the least visited parks in our nation is the Isle Royale National Park in Michigan.  The park itself is an uninhabited island and sits deep within Lake Superior and is only accessible by watercraft. 

This solitary park is enormous in size and expansive in scope and the variety of scenery it provides.  A notable fact concerning this park is the fact that no wheeled vehicles are allowed on the island, let along anything with a motor. 

From the rocky archipelago that surrounds portions of the island to the picturesque image of the lighthouse on Rock Island, Isle Royale has all that any adventure could hope to witness.

To add further credence to the value of visiting Isle Royale National Park, be aware that this park has the most return visitors of all the national parks across America.  That fact alone means that there must be something to this park that gives it such a high value among its many visitors. 


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