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20 Best National Park Day Hikes

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, and Great Smoky Mountains do not but Glacier, Rocky Mountains, and Arches do.

Related: Best National Parks to Visit

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 affect 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 blogger community.

adidas has an amazing line of outdoor apparel and trail shoes that we recently got to test.

adidas Terrex is built for outdoorsy people like us and has so much incredible outdoor wear and rugged hiking shoes perfect for hitting the trails from Arches to Acadia.

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 is 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

Pitmakin-Dawson Pass Hike, Glacier National Park
Full of fall colors down low, and epic views of high, Pitamakin Pass is a no-brainer for the most adventurous folks. Photo credit: 10adventures.com

When it comes to national park day hikes, this is one of the best because it is gorgeous, not crowded, and not too strenuous (at least for us).

Our entire family agreed that while the Highline Trail is nice, it isn’t worth dealing with crowds. 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 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 are 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

Grand Teton to Yellowstone to Glacier National Parks Road Trip Grand Prismatic

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 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

Grand Teton to Yellowstone to Glacier NP Road Trip Guidebook

3 | Best Hike in Grand Teton National Park

Cascade Canyon views, Grand Teton national park, Wyoming

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

Odessa Lake, Best Day Hikes from Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park + Camping Tips
Isabelle taking in the views at Odessa Lake

While Sky Pond, Mills, 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 are 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

Colorado River Grand Canyon
The Colorado River, the most emerald green water you’ll ever see

While some people like to hike the Grand Canyon from the North Rim to the 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

Best Hikes in the World- The Subway

I know everyone says the Narrows is the best but I still prefer The Subway because it has route finding, short rappels, and the 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

Fairyland Loop, Bryce Canyon
These views on Fairyland Loop make it one of the coolest hikes you’ll ever experience

Our favorite hike in Bryce Canyon is the Fairyland Loop hike. This 8-mile hike weaves in and 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 with unique views of Arches National Park.

Advanced reservations are 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

Photo credit TheOutbound.com

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 unique and bucket list worthy.

Related Blog: Road Trip Olympic to North Cascades to Mount Rainier National Park

10 | Best Hike in Mount Rainier

Glacier Overlook, Skyline Trail, Paradise, Mount Rainier National Park

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 the Sunrise side of Mount Rainier are epic too and I’d start with Mount Fremont Lookout Trail via Frozen Lake Trail.

Related Blog: Best Hikes in Mt Rainier

11 | Best Hike in Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake, US & Canada road trip
It’s great when we find short hikes that the family can do together

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

Best Hikes in the World- Yosemite

Half Dome should 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 thorough hike starting on the Four Mile Trail and finishing on the Mist Trail.

Related Blog: Best Day Hike In Yosemite That Doesn’t Require A Permit

13 | Best Hike in Denali National Park

Eilson Alpine Trail, Denali National Park, Hiking and Camping, Alaska
Off-trail hiking is wildly adventurous but also quite un-appealing if you enjoy getting to an epic destination

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

Beehive Trail Acadia, Best East Coast Hikes
Photo by Johnie Gall via AdventureSportsNetwork.com

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 involve 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

Mount LeConte via Bullhead Trail
Fall colors near Rainbow Falls on the trail to Mt LeConte

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

Artists Pallette, Death Valley
This is the magic of Death Valley

Death Valley is a very casual hiking destination with no 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.

Related: Southern California Itinerary to Visit Mountains, Desert, & Beach

18 | Best Hike in Kenai Fjords National Park

Exit Glacier, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, Kenai Peninsula

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.

Related: Amazing Things To Do on the Kenai Peninsula

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 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.

Related: Best Campgrounds Hawaii

20 | Best Hike in North Cascades National Park

This was a hard toss-up because there are so many epic hikes in North Cascade National Park. Most people only explore the area around Newhalem but there are much better hikes in the Boston Basin and Mt Baker areas of North Cascades National Park. If you only had time to go to one area, I’d chose Mt Baker because it is less crowded.

There are 3 epic hikes that start from Mt Baker Ski Area. We did Ptarmigan Ridge, Chain Lakes Loop, and Lake Ann. All 3 are great but if you only have time for one, do Ptarmigan Ridge. It is relatively easy and takes you up close to the beautiful snow-covered Mt Baker.

Related: Best Hikes in North Cascades

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 Bucket List Hikes in the US or these:

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