When the summer heat finally breaks (one day soon?) and cooler weather sets in, you'll probably want to spend as much time outside as you can. In between your apple picking and leaf-raking, why not make the most of the crisp autumn weather by embarking on a scenic day hike?
Whether you're an avid hiker or a total rookie (raises hand awkwardly), there are wonderful and accessible hiking trails across the U.S. that will get your heart pumping, all while providing breathtaking panoramic views worthy of Instagram. So go ahead—discover the beauty our country has to offer with these eight bucket-list day hikes.
1. Devils Garden Trail in Utah
Distance: 6.8 miles | Level: Easy/Moderate
Nature is so cool, isn't it? The Devils Garden Trail in Arches National Park showcases some of Mother Nature’s finest work, including several magnificent natural arches. To hike the whole trail is close to seven miles, but the path is wide and paved, making for easy walking. What’s cool about this hike is you can also pick and choose your own journey, creating a shorter hike to see just a few arches if you’re not feeling up to the whole thing.
2. Hoh River Trail in Washington
Distance: 6.2 miles | Level: Easy/Moderate
Hold up—a rainforest? In America? You might have to see the Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park to believe it. Luckily, the Hoh River Trail will lead you through the heart of this fascinating ecosystem, which is home to many animals, including elk! It’s about six miles through the rainforest, but if you want a longer journey, the trail stretches on for 17 more miles, leading you up to Glacier Meadows.
3. Tallulah Gorge North and South Rim Trails in Georgia
Distance: 2.5 miles | Level: Easy
Experience the beauty of the south in Tallulah Gorge State Park, which surrounds the 1,000-foot deep Tallulah Gorge formed by the Tallulah River. The North and South Rim Trail is an easy 2.5-mile hike that will reward you with several stunning overlooks where you can take in the scenery. Along the way, you’ll get to cross the swinging bridge, which is a popular spot for photoshoots and even the occasional proposal.
4. Precipice Trail in Maine
View this post on Instagram
For your marine biologist gone "awry" -- aka homesick for the mountains -- Acadia is truly a dream come true. While I wholeheartedly embrace and cherish my undergraduate career, I've started to gravitate toward the broader field of environmental science/education. I'm realizing more and more that I don't want to have to choose between the two. I need both the mountains and the sea to feel complete and I'm going to find a way to make it happen.
Distance: 3.2 miles | Level: Difficult
This trail may be short, but it’s probably the most challenging adventure on this list. The Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park is anything BUT a walk in the park—it winds over boulder formations and along steep cliffs, forcing you to climb iron ladders at a few points. It’s definitely a challenge, but the resulting views at the top of Mount Champlain are simply unparalleled. This hike is doable without any special equipment, but it’s not recommended for children or anyone who’s afraid of heights.
5. Saint Mary’s Glacier in Colorado
Distance: 1.5 miles | Level: Easy/Moderate
You don’t have to trek up to Alaska to see a glacier! Saint Mary’s Glacier is a popular destination outside of Denver, and it’s easily accessible via a short hike. The Saint Mary’s Glacier Hike is less than a mile in each direction, but it’s a somewhat steep and rocky path, made more challenging by the altitude of more than 10,000 feet. The glacier is covered in snow year-round, and there’s a small lake at its base that’s perfect for a swim in the summer.
6. Harney Peak Trail in South Dakota
Distance: 7 miles | Level: Easy/Moderate
Trek to the highest point in South Dakota on the Harney Peak Trail. The seven-mile route will lead you up to the beautiful Black Elk Peak (formerly known as Harney Peak), where you can see the stone fire lookout tower built in the 1930s. The majority of this trail is easygoing, but the path gets more strenuous as you reach the top, so pack plenty of water and snacks for energy.
7. Lighthouse Trail in Texas
Distance: 6 miles | Level: Easy/Moderate
Why is there a lighthouse in the middle of Texas? Well, it’s not a real lighthouse, just a towering rock formation in the middle of the Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The Lighthouse Trail is the most popular route through the park, measuring about six miles round-trip and leading you right to the 300-foot high “lighthouse.”
8. Mist Trail in California
Distance: 5.4 miles | Level: Moderate/Difficult
Here’s one instance where TLC was wrong. You should definitely go chasing waterfalls along the Mist Trail in Yosemite, which will lead you to the top of Nevada Falls. Take your time on this hike, as there are several steep, rocky areas along the way. Plus, you’ll want to savor the stunning views of the waterfalls, which throw off rainbows on sunny days!
Road Trip to Vermont, Anyone?
What's your favorite day hike? Share your tips with us below!