The 20 Hiking Trails Every American Hiker Must Try

A great list contributed by Harriet Gordon, who runs a site to help people research Human Services careers. Clearly, Harriet likes to hike too!
Whether you are looking to have an adventurous weekend or cross something off of your bucket list, nature is, and probably should be, involved. One of the best ways to get back to it is to go on a hike. With literally thousands of trails taking anywhere from hours to months to complete, it can all be somewhat to very confusing. With little money and less time at stake for most hikers, what is the best way to get the biggest bang for your buck/minute?
No matter what your skill level, there are loads of options in the below 20 hiking trails every American hiker must try. With entries from local national parks to ancient cities overseas, there is something for every budget and sensibility. Be sure and read up more before actually heading out, as some of these trails are expert only, but be ready to wear out your favorite pair hiking boots in no time.
The American Hiking Trails Every American Hiker Must Try
Stay in the 50 states for these impressive hiking trails.

    1. 1.

Appalachian Trail

A constantly popular trail, it offers unparalleled opportunities to explore, experience, and connect with nature. From the Highlands of Roan in Tennessee to the strenuous trek up Katahdin in Maine, there’s a hike available for every level of experience. With loads of trails to choose from, visitors can do them in an afternoon, weekend, or even season. Simply visit the site to begin planning your hike and get loads more information.
2. Kalalau Trail
Who says hiking is all forests and mountains? In this must see Hawaiian trail, hikers go from beach to beach. Trails of two to five miles offer cliffs, valleys, waterfalls, streams, and other breathtaking views. There are even hunting options for those who enjoy archery.
3. Glacier Gorge
If the beach is too warm for you, click here. Part of the Rocky Mountain National Park, mountains, waterfalls, wildflowers, and more await you on this hike. The park also has loads of other trails to choose from including everything from the easy to vertical climbs. You can also choose trails by season and check out the webcams.
4. Zion Hiking
Get an up close look at the narrows of the American Southwest on these hikes. The diverse trek through Zion’s premier canyon is one of the most touted and breathtaking adventures in the United States. It greets hikers with hanging gardens, trickling water threads, sandy perches, and much more. The national park website has much more on lodging, camping, and anything else you may want to do there.
5. Wrangell St. Elias National Park
Why let Sarah Palin have all the fun? This Alaskan national park is six times the size of Yellowstone, has some of the tallest mountains in the world, and is home to many glaciers. Literally go off the beaten path through dense brush, steep slopes, glacial streams, and more. The park is also home to 14,185 square miles of designated wilderness, more than any other unit within the National Park Service system.
6. Continental Divide Trail
Got some time to kill and countryside to see? Then check out this trail that goes from the Southern part of New Mexico all the way through Montana and into Canada. Over 3,100 miles long, there is no need to do the entire thing at once. The site offers hiking and other related adventures by state.
7. John Muir Trail
The trail starts in America’s Yosemite National Park and continues 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness. It then extends to Sequoia National Park, King’s Canyon National Park, and ends at the highest peak in continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,496 feet. The 30 day hike is not for beginners, but those who are brave enough to take it on will see mountains, lakes, snow, sun, and everything in between.
8. Napa Valley Hiking
Where can you hike and drink on the same trip? With a tour of California’s wine country. The best hiking trial is Bothe–Napa Valley State Park. Rising from the valley floor to about 2,000 feet elevation, this outstanding park is fully developed along one side, wild and rugged on the other. There is also loads of wine country to explore.
The Mountain Hiking Trails Every American Hiker Must Try
Hiking, climbing, and the ultimate outdoor experiences combine on these hiking trails.

    1. 9.

Mount Everest

The highest mountain in the world, it stands at 29,028 feet high. Located in Khumbu, Nepal, there are many hikes around the base of the mountain that do not require the risk or steep price tag. Visits on the base trail can include Kathmandu, Phakding, Namche Bazaar, and others. Recommended times of visit include from the beginning of March to mid-May and again from the beginning of September to mid-November.
10. Tour du Mont Blanc
How can you see France, Italy, and Switzerland all at once? By taking on this hiking trail. Called “one of the most exciting long distance wilderness walks in Europe,” the trip takes about eleven days. Highlights of the trail include staying in refuges, alpine climbs, and stunning views. This site has loads more on everything you will need.
11. Mount Kilimanjaro
Kilimanjaro is one of the world’s most accessible high summits at 19,336 feet. Most hikers can reach the crater rim with little more than a walking stick, proper clothing, and determination. For those with more experience, there is Uhuru Point, the actual summit on the lip of the crater. Located in Tanzania, there are six hiking trails and mountain routes. They also offer day or overnight hikes on the Shira plateau as well as trout fishing.
12. Monte Fitz Roy
Located in Argentina, Fitz Roy is at the northern tip of gorgeous Parque Nacional Los Glaciers. It is part of Hielo Sur, the largest icecap not in a polar region. Standout features of the hike include jagged mountain views, suitable for hikers of different experience, no need to filter water, and its inexpensiveness. This site has more on when and where to go, as well as what to see while you are there.
13. Silverton Mountain
Why just hike a mountain when you can also ski down it? Located in Colorado, this mountain offers amazing skiing opportunities, including a cross of heli-skiing experience, snow cat skiing, and resort skiing. There are no groomed runs, no cut trails, just loads of nature’s finest black diamond skiing in the U.S.A. Three to six runs a day are offered to visitors, along with other outdoor activities.
14. North Island
Does the idea of dormant mountains bore you? Then check out this hike located in New Zealand. Walk through fascinating volcanic landscape while touring the famous Tongariro Crossing. There is also the Waitomo caves, lakes, and loads more on the local Maori culture. Although this site offers a five day hike, there are also many other ways to see it.
15. Tiger Leaping Gorge
The Tiger Leaping Gorge trek, or Pinyin: Hu Tiao Xia, is near Lijiang in Yunnan and one of the finest treks through some of the most naturally beautiful and diverse landscapes China has to offer. The hiking trail runs high on the northern side of the gorge passing through quiet villages, shady forest, a blustery precipice, and farmland. The trail can be spread out for two days and there are also options for more adventurous hikers.
The Other Hiking Trails Every American Hiker Must Try
Get the best of the rest in hiking in these must see trails.

    1. 16.

West Coast Trail

Often a top choice for hikers, this trail is located in British Columbia, Canada. It stands out for its rain forests, rugged coastlines, and dramatic mountain peaks. Other highlights include cross boulders, logs over rivers, waterfall hikes, whale watching, and even shipwrecks and other historical sites. It is over 75 miles long and part of the Pacific Rim National Park. Open from May 1st to September 30th, make your arrangements now.
17. The Great Wildebeest Migration
Sick of hiking with humans? Then stop here on a hike that encompasses the remote and rarely visited corners of Kenya as you follow the great wildebeest migration. Hike northern Kenya’s incredibly dramatic landscapes which include river beds, lush green forests, and mountain glades. Four wheel game driving is also part of the trip.
18. Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
Also known as the Camino Inca, this hiking trail every American must try includes three overlapping routes: Mollepata, Classic, and One Day. Located in the Andes mountain range, the trail passes through several types of environments including cloud forest and alpine tundra. Settlements, tunnels, and many Incan ruins are located along the trail before ending the terminus at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu mountain.
19. Torres Del Paine Circuit
Check out this hiking trail for “the best view you’ve ever seen,” according to Backpacker Magazine. The 52-mile, ten day loop sits 1,500 miles south of Santiago and encircles the 8,000 to 10,000-foot granite monoliths of rock above glacial lakes studded with icebergs. Exotic wildlife, late sunsets, and much more await hikers on this trail.
20. Haute Route
Also known as the High Route, this trail runs from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. First discovered in the mid-19th century, hikers and cross country skiers have been visiting this 180 kilometer trail ever since. It contains valleys, lakes, and glaciers, along with top notch food and cultural interests. It also offers frequent stops to eat and rest, help keeping packs light and the trip easier.
If you need more help in narrowing down the 20 hiking trails every American must try, visit a site like Backpacker Magazine. They feature loads of expert reviews of top hiking destinations both locally and abroad. The community also chimes in with their top choices, picks, recommendations, hiking tips, and much more. You can also stop to blog about your latest hike.
This post The 20 Hiking Trails Every American Hiker Must Try is written by Harriet Gordon, who writes on human services degree blog.

Outdoor Afro Cheers on Barbara Hillary

The First African-American Woman on Record to Reach North and South Poles!

Outdoor Afro fans learned about Barbara Hillary back in 2009, she not only survived lung cancer, but also took on a trek hardly imaginable to most to the North Pole on skis at age 75!
Here is our Talk Tuesday Blog Talk Radio interview with Hillary from July, 2009 where she humorously shared how it is possible and necessary to live up to ones potential:

Not willing to remain still, this month the venerable Hillary started on another trek, this time to the South Pole.
See the Expenews feed for futher details and to read the rollercoaster of events leading to her journey.
Outdoor Afro wishes Ms. Hillary the best of luck for a safe trip, and recognize the inspiration she is to us all!
Learn more about Barbara Hillary, including booking information for speaking engagements by visiting her website.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day: Not What it Used to Be

It’s important to remember that Martin Luther King Jr. led a movement that was results driven with little rest toward a vision of equality and justice to benefit everyoneIn the spirit of King’s work, celebrating his birthday as a day of service to address the practical, environmental, and spiritual needs of our community makes every bit of sense.
In 1994, Congress designated Martin Luther King Jr. Day as a National Day of Service to recognize the legacy of King in a new and active way. It is often referred to as “a day on, not a day off,” and organizations around the country have since lead efforts on the Holiday to help Americans transform their communities for the better.
While we have had nearly two decades of service emphasis on his birthday recognition, it is only in more recent years that this thrust has gained enough public momentum to resonate with a critical mass. No longer can people dismiss the day as a “black holiday” – as a commitment to bettering our communities must be a universal value.

2010 was my very first day of official MLK Day of Service with my children, where we took part in a local coastal clean-up effort in Oakland, California with dozens of committed folks of all colors in pouring rain. I finished the day cold and tired, yet grateful to know my young children will grow up with the value of service intertwined with the King Holiday, and I am now glad for the ways Outdoor Afro can encourage this vision for others.
I urge you to find ways to get involved if you have never done so before.  There are ways for all interests and abilities to take part.  If you already have plans, then consider getting your children, neighbors, and other loved ones into the mix.
You’ll be glad for the ways you can make a difference.
Learn more about opportunities in your community!

Every Child Should…


Discover California’s Past

Splash in the water

Play in a safe place

Camp under the stars

Explore nature

Learn to swim

Play on a team

Follow a trail

Catch a fish

Celebrate their heritage

According to the California Roundtable on Recreation and Tourism, “Numerous studies document that children who do these things are healthier, do better in school, have better social skills and self-image, and lead more fulfilled lives.”
In 2011, please join Outdoor Afro in helping all children, no matter what state they live in and their adult caregivers, exercise these rights through activities such as camping, hiking, biking, birding, and other outdoor activities in both structured and unstructured ways.
Each month, Outdoor Afro will focus on a different aspect of these opportunities.  I encourage you to share your photos and videos that show how you connect with nature and community and can inspire others.
In what ways will you commit to helping a child in your life connect with the outdoors?

January’s Bird of the Month

By Douglas “Birdman” Gray, Outdoor Afro Contributor
While I love birds and birding, if I’m honest with myself, I find that I’m a bit jealous of birds sometimes. The reason for my jealousy is the fact that, “Birds have wings…and tend to use them.”
On occasion, I have wished for the ability to spread my wings and fly away somewhere. Somewhere warm, cozy, and with beautiful scenery. During this time of the year, I’d like to take flight from Indiana and its Midwestern winters and fly south. Southern Texas and other parts of the American Southwest are very appealing right now. Central and South America would also be on my short list of places to take flight about now.
All this brings me to the Bird of the Month, the Vermillion Flycatcher.

I’ve seen more Vermillion Flycatchers this year than I ever have before, but I’ve never seen one in Indiana. That’s why I watched with excitement as folks were reporting seeing this flycatcher in Marshall County, Indiana. I’m sure I would have “chased” this bird myself, like so many others, if I hadn’t seen plenty of these birds earlier in the year. (So this is actually my first BOTM in which I didn’t actually see the bird with my own eyes. But the bird in the accompanying photo is the actual bird seen. Thanks Rob Ripma!)
Flycatchers are an interesting group of birds. What I find most interesting about them is just how uninteresting they can appear. They are usually drab, dull, and dry. Well that’s usually the state of “most” flycatchers. There are many flycatchers that show up in Indiana, and “most” are so drab, so dull, and so dry that it’s very challenging telling them all apart. Giving them all separate names may seem to be a bit of a waste to some. Flycatchers can be almost impossible to differentiate, even amongst the most expert of birders. (The most reliable way to tell them apart is by their singing.)
OK, let me make a full circle and get back to the Bird of the Month. The male Vermillion Flycatcher is one of the few striking flycatchers. It’s one of the dazzling exceptions in the world of flycatchers. Out of the typical drab, dull, and dry world of most flycatchers comes this strikingly brilliant, scarlet red bird. While this bird is a very rare visitor to Indiana, reading the stirring and exciting words of folks seeing this bird for the first time made me glad that “Birds have wings…and tend to use them.”
I don’t know why this bird ended up in Indiana. I hope the bird was able to use the same wings that got it here, to safely return to where it came from. Maybe it was from Southern Texas or some other part of the American Southwest. Maybe it was from Central America or even South America. Places I’d rather be right now. I just wish I had wings to do what it did. (Strange enough, I’ll be birding in Duluth in a few weeks. Maybe this bird and I have more in common than I suspect.)

Douglas “Birdman” Gray has been birding almost all of his life. He grew up on a family farm near Clarksville, Tennessee, where they grew crops ranging from apricots to wheat, and most things in between. They also raised chickens, guineas, pigs, horses, and a cow named…….Apples. Doug’s grandfather identified the birds they would see daily on the farm.

Doug now resides in Indianapolis and works in Parenteral Engineering with Eli Lilly and Company. Most of his current birding takes place in Indiana, with a concentration on Central Indiana, where he leads bird walks for “Backyard Birds”. Doug can be reached at 317-255-7333.