For many people, hiking is something they enjoy, but the stunning, yet strenuous, hikes that last for multiple days and cover extreme elevation changes are not accessible to everyone. Spending time in nature is a great goal, but it’s difficult to know exactly what the best hiking trip is. In order for you to avoid overexerting yourself, here’s a list of eight easy hikes throughout the United States that are perfect for the casual hiker! Pick one that’s easy for you to get to.
The C&O Canal – Spanning from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, MD
Extending more than 184 miles, the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal began in the early 1800’s to facilitate transport of goods (such as coal mined from the Allegheny Mountains) throughout the Potomac River Valley, and on to the nation’s capital. In those days, goods moved on barges, drawn by mules that trod the canal’s towpath. While westward expansion and technological advances eventually made the canal obsolete, today the canal is both a National Park and national treasure. Explore this canal’s important role in the history of America while hiking and strolling on all, or sections, of the well maintained original towpath.
Wissahickon Valley Park – Philadelphia, PA
This park can easily be reached from Philadelphia by the SEPTA train line and has a variety of paths that make for leisurely hikes. There are huge sycamores that make it seem impossible to actually be only a few miles away from one of the largest cities in the country.
Old Rag Mountain – Shenandoah National Park, VA
The most popular hike in Shenandoah, Old Rag is more strenuous than others on this list, but the view is spectacular. The circuit is about 9 miles for the complete hike, which includes several “scrambles” over rock faces rather than a trail. If you aren’t prepared for the physical work of the full hike, there are beautiful vistas along the entire trail enough to make it worthwhile to walk even a partial section. Though traditionally most hike the loop clockwise, the difficult rock scramble begins around mile 3. If you’d like to hike as much of this famous trail as possible without navigating the rock faces, consider hiking the trail counterclockwise for more trail before turning around.
Lost Coast – Big Sur, CA
The entire trail is a whopping 24 miles, but casual hikers can choose to hike a shorter part of the trail and won’t miss out on any of the awesome views. You’ll get to see some of the incredible cliffs that make up the California coastline, as well as black sand beaches and the towering redwoods.
Lamar Valley Trail – Yellowstone, MT
This trail meanders through gorgeous meadows in Yellowstone, offering you a chance to spot the variety of wild animals that call the national park home. You’ll likely see elk, buffalo, and maybe even some bears or wolves! Amethyst Mountain also looks over a section of the trail, so you’ll enjoy that view as well.
Coastal Prairie Trail – Everglades, FL
Luckily, you won’t encounter any climbing on this trail, but you don’t have to sacrifice gorgeous views for the smooth hike. You’ll travel through mangrove forests and see dozens of beautiful birds and other wildlife, then end your hike at a natural beach before you turn around. Enjoying beauty can exact a price; be sure to bring plenty of mosquito repellant!
Wild Basin Trailhead – Rocky Mountains National Park, CO
If you enjoy waterfalls, then this is the hike for you. It’s a relatively easy hike that can certainly be done in a day. You’ll be able to see quite a few waterfalls and end at the incredible Ouzel Falls, named after a species of bird that lives in the area. The roar of the falls will create a truly memorable experience.
Tall Trees Trail – Eastsound, WA
This trail only admits around 50 hikers a day, so plan to get there early for a permit. You can meander through the beautiful redwood groves and spend time gazing in awe at the nearly 400 foot tall trees that have stood for thousands of years.