The US National Parks have some of the most gorgeous hikes. Whether you like hiking mountains, deserts, or forests, these 20 best national park day hikes have it all. One big factor in how we chose the best national park hikes was crowds. We love epic views but sometimes the crowd factor can make a beautiful hike not so fun.
In this blog, we mention the more popular hike but also give you our recommendation for the National Park hikes that are awesome and less crowded.
Sometimes you have to choose the most popular hike because it is hands down the best. If so, try to travel to these National Parks in their off-season. for example, try visiting Glacier National Park in September instead of July and August.
Note that many National Parks now require advanced entrance ticket reservations. As of now, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Great Smoky Mountains do not but Glacier, Rocky Mountain, and Arches do.
What to Wear for the Best National Park Day Hikes
There’s no one size fits all for what to wear to hike in the national parks.
Depending on the ecosystem and the time of year really affects what layers you’ll need. However, when it comes to hiking there are some absolute necessities you will always need.
No matter what hike you choose, you’ll need trail shoes and layers.
That’s why we were super excited when adidas reached out to collaborate with us and be a part of the adidas bloggers community.
adidas has an amazing line of outdoor apparel and trail shoes that we recently got to test.
We are personally huge fans of wearing a more lightweight trail running style shoe which is why we love the versatile and weatherproof styles of TERREX hiking shoes.
The TERREX Swift R3 Goretex hiking shoes are our personal favorite. The low profile, wide toe-box, waterproof material, and good traction make them great for the more strenuous hikes we recommend in this blog.
If you’re looking for a bit more ankle support and cushioning beneath your soles, the TERREX Free Hiker GORE-TEX 2.0 are an amazing hybrid shoe. They are a cool mix between a trail runner and a hiking boot that gives you the support of a boot without the heavy weight. They’re extremely comfortable, have high traction, and come in a variety of different stylish colors.
Don’t forget to gear up with the right layers too. Whenever we hike, we always carry a lightweight insulation layer like the TERREX Tech Fleece hiking jacket plus an insulated jacket.
Depending on the desert or mountain conditions, there are great TERREX hiking shorts and pants that fit each person’s preferred style.
Hiking in the spring? Be sure to also add a waterproof shell layer like the stylish and insulating TERREX XPLORIC RAIN.RDY jacket to be prepared for any storm.
1 | Best Hikes in Glacier National Park
When it comes to national park day hikes, this is one of the best because it was gorgeous, not crowded, and not too strenuous (at least for our us).
Our entire family agreed that while the Highline Trail is nice, it isn’t worth dealing with crowds. And while we also loved all three lake hikes in Many Glacier– Cracker Lake, Iceberg Lake, and Grinnell Glacier, we thought the Dawson Pass & Pitamakan Pass Loop was the best hike in Glacier National Park.
This hike is almost 19 miles long but it really is only hard for two and a half miles and the views all along the ridge from Dawson to Pitamakan passes mixed in with how few people you encounter make this our top pick.
Advanced reservations required to enter Glacier from May 26 – September 10 (6 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
Related Blog: Best Hikes in Glacier NP
2 | Best Hike in Yellowstone National Park
Tbh, we don’t love the hiking in Yellowstone (too flat) but… if you want to call it a hike, the short trek out to see Grand Prismatic at sunrise, before the crowds, is amazing.
If you make it to Yellowstone, you really have to hike the West Thumb Geyser Basin Trail because the colors of the pools are so pretty and Old Faithful Geyser Loop because how often do you get to walk by so many geysers at once?!
I know Mount Washburn is popular but the views don’t seem to be as appealing as these other hikes we’ve done in Wyoming and Montana so we haven’t tried it yet.
Related Blog: One Day Guide to Yellowstone
3 | Best Hike in Grand Teton National Park
We’ve done most of the hikes in the Grand Tetons and Paintbrush Canyon Divide to Cascade Canyon is our top pick because Middle Teton is so painful with all the boulder hopping and Delta Lake, while gorgeous, isn’t as impressive as the waterfalls you see in Cascade Canyon.
If doing all of Paintbrush Canyon and Cascade Canyon is too much for you, then just doing cascade Canyon is highly recommended.
To make it even easier, you can ride the boat across Jenny Lake and then hike Cascade Canyon.
Related Blog: Best Hikes in Grand Teton NP
4 | Best Hike in Rocky Mountain National Park
While Sky Pond, Mills, and Black Lake, and Chasm Lake are all gorgeous our top pick for Rocky Mountain NP is the Odessa Lake to Lake Helene through hike because it’s less crowded. We haven’t done Longs Peak yet, which is on many people’s top 10, but we plan to climb it instead of hiking it.
Advanced reservations required to enter Rocky Mountain from May 26 – October 22 (5 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
Related Blog: Best Hikes in Rocky Mountain NP
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5 | Best Hike in Grand Canyon National Park
While some people like to hike the Grand Canyon from North Rim to South Rim, this takes a lot of time to shuttle cars.
An equally great way to hike Rim to Rim is to start at Kaibab Trailhead, hike down to the river near Phantom Ranch, and back up Bright Angel Trail. You still get to see the striated colors of the canyon from different angles and get great views of the teal green river.
If you can time this one with good weather & enough daylight, it is a great day hike and much easier than I thought it would be.
Related Blog: How To Hike The Grand Canyon Rim to River to Rim
6 | Best Hike in Zion National Park
I know everyone says the Narrows is the best but I still prefer The Subway because it has route finding, short rappels, and the freezing cold pools you have to swim across. Angel’s Landing is also a great hike however, the crowd factor makes it not so fun.
Related Blog: Best Hikes in Zion NP
7 | Best Hike in Bryce Canyon National Park
Our favorite hike in Bryce Canyon is the Fairyland Loop hike. This 8-mile hike weaves in an out of the hoodoos and takes you down deep into the canyon as well as up on the ridges where you get expansive views of all of Bryce.
Related Blog: Ultimate Travel Guide To Bryce Canyon
8 | Best Hike in Arches National Park
While most people queue up for Delicate Arch, we prefer the adventurous trail and more secluded Double O Arch. It gets you away from the crowds and provides you unique views of Arches National Park.
Advanced reservations required to enter Arches from April 1 – October 31 (7 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
Related Blog: Zion to Bryce to Arches Road Trip Itinerary
9 | Best Hike in Olympic National Park
While Hurricane Hill via Hurricane Ridge is an awesome hike, the more epic choice is to summit Mount Storm King which gives you panoramic views. If the use of ropes intimidates you, the easy, yet lush, Hall of Mosses Trail and hike to Marymere Falls are really unique and bucket list worthy.
10 | Best Hike in Mount Rainier
This one is hard to narrow down. If you want views of Mount Rainier without the crowds, then head up Pinnacle Peak. However, Skyline Trail to Panorama Point, while crowded, is a must do and allows you to get up close and personal with the volcano.
If you have time, the hikes over on Sunrise side of Mount Rainier are really epic too and I’d start off with Mount Fremont Lookout Trail via Frozen Lake Trail.
Related Blog: Best Hikes in Mt Rainier
11 | Best Hike in Crater Lake National Park
Garfield Peak is the winner here. It’s a relatively short but steep hike from the lodge to the peak and provides incredible views of the lake.
Related Blog: 10 Things To Do in Oregon
12 | Best Hike in Yosemite National Park
Half Dome should definitely be considered the best hike in Yosemite, but if going through the trouble of getting a sought after permit isn’t appealing to you (us too) then the runner up hike is Panorama Point as a through hike starting on the Four Mile Trail and finishing on the Mist Trail.
13 | Best Hike in Denali National Park
We thought the impressive views of Denali from the Eilson Alpine Trail were fantastic! The only bummer is that the road to get here was closed last year.
Related Blog: Ultimate Guide to Denali National Park
14 | Best Hike in Badlands National Park
The Notch Trail is not what I would define as epic, although none of the hikes in the Badlands were epic in my opinion. Getting to climb a ladder for one section of this hike though makes it a little more exciting.
Related Blog: Best Hikes in the Black Hills of South Dakota
15 | Best Hike in Acadia National Park
Did you say a hike with iron rungs and ladders, plus some boulder scrambling? I’m in! And it’s in a National Park? Pinch me, I’m dreaming!
Precipice, Orange and Black and Champlain North Ridge Trail Loop involves iron rungs and ladders, granite stairs, sheer cliffs, and some boulder scrambling. How Exciting! But please note: Descending the Precipice Trail is dangerous and not advised.
Related Blog: Best East Coast Hikes
16 | Best Hike in Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Finding trails that are uncrowded in Great Smoky Mountain National Park is hard, however, Mount LeConte via Bullhead Trail achieved this. It’s a nice trek through the forest and provides 360-degree views of the national park.
17 | Best Hike in Death Valley National Park
Death Valley is a very casual hiking destination with no really big or epic hikes, however, there is a lot to explore. Artist’s Drive is what we’d consider the best national park hike in Death Valley. This is the famously colorful hillside that you’ve probably seen on Instagram a thousand times. Though the colors in this photo are not what it exactly looks like in reality, the oxidation of the metals does stand out, especially after rain and closer to sunrise/sunset.
There’s not one established trail here. You can hike through the hills for half a mile or more to explore the landscape.
Our second pick is Zabriskie Point. At .6 miles, it barely qualifies as a hike but the sunrise and sunset views are pretty spectacular.
18 | Best Hike in Kenai Fjords National Park
Kenai Fjords is one of the most unique national parks and easily one of the most incredible places in the world. Much of Kenai Fjords is accessed by water but there is 1 incredible hike accessed from the mainland side of Alaska that will blow you away: the Exit Glacier. The Exit Glacier is a massive, stark glacier flow that you can up close and personal with on The Harding Icefield Trail, or HIT as the rangers call it.
The entire trail is 8 miles long and gains more than 3,000 feet of elevation but it’s common to turn around at mile 4 and mile 6 viewpoints.
19 | Best Hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
If there’s one hike you must do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, it’s the Kīlauea Iki Trail. The Kīlauea Iki trail starts in the lush rainforest before descending down into the crater. The cool part of this hike is traveling in the expansive crater basin and walking along a floor of solidified lava. After crossing the valley, there is a steep hill completing the 4-mile loop. Check the trail conditions at the National Park website before you go.
That’s a wrap for now! As we travel more we will continue to update this blog with more of the best national park hikes. Be sure to also check out our Best Day Hikes in the World, Best Day Hikes in the US (that are not national parks), or search by city or state:
- Best Hikes Idaho
- Best Hikes Washington & Oregon
- Best Hikes Black Hills, South Dakota
- Best Hikes Wyoming
- Best Hikes St George, Utah