Looking for the hike of a lifetime? You’ll find them in some of the world’s best national parks in the United States. There are trails winding through magical slot canyons, viewpoints over stunning landscapes, and nature walks dotted with incredible wildlife. But with 62 national parks in the US, all with their own amazing hikes, where do you start? We’ve rounded up 7 of the most iconic national park hikes to inspire you. So lace up your shoes, grab your pedometer and start racking up the most scenic 10,000 steps you’ve ever done in a day.
1. Delicate Arch Trail, Arches National Park
Arches National Park in Utah is peppered with spectacular natural sandstone shapes, moulded by Mother Nature’s magic touch with wind and rain. You can see the most famous arch in the park (it’s even on Utah licence plates), on the Delicate Arch Trail. This strenuous hike takes you on a 146-metre climb up a steep slope. But it’s all worth it once you arrive at Delicate Arch and look out over the beautiful viewpoint.
It’s best seen during the golden hours just after sunrise or before sunset when the light bounces off the rocks to create a magical colour. The hike is a 4.8-kilometre round trip, so be sure to bring at least one litre of water per person as you get in a good chunk of your 10,000 steps for the day. If you just can’t get enough, you can continue your exploration with walks to Double Arch, Turret Arch and Landscape Arch.
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2. Antelope Canyon Trail, Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park
Antelope Canyon has got to be one of the best hikes in the world. It’s certainly one of the most photographed! This spectacular slot canyon is near Page, Arizona and you’ll likely recognise the extraordinary sculptures and swirls of colour. It’s a natural masterpiece, with whirling rocks and light beams shooting through cracks to illuminate the canyon in shades of red, pink and orange.
The area has been split into the Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon and the Upper Antelope Canyon Trail is the more accessible of the two. This trail is 10.5 kilometres and appropriate for all skill levels, with no climbing required. It also has more beams of light radiating from the top of the canyon.
The best time to witness this phenomenon is from late March to late September, with the summer serving up more light beams. Due to its spiritual significance, Antelope Canyon is a Navajo Tribal Park, and visitors cannot enter without a tour guide present.
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3. Horseshoe Bend Trail, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Horseshoe Bend is one of the world’s most famous natural wonders and you can’t miss walking the 2.5-kilometre trail to see it. Suitable for all skill levels, this hike will take you along the flowing Colorado River. You’ll see how it has carved through red sandstone to form the amazing Horseshoe Bend.
This trail is also located near Page, Arizona, so you could do both the Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend trails in one day, if you really want to get in your 10,000 steps for the day! Save the Horseshoe Bend trail for last though, as it’s most stunning at sunset with the red rock formations glowing in the golden light.
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4. Watchman Trail, Zion National Park
Zion National Park in Utah is one of the best places for hiking in the whole country. It’s filled with gorgeous scenery including towering cliffs, stunning slot canyons and extraordinary monoliths carved out over millions of years from the bright orange sandstone.
There are many trails to choose from, including Watchman Trail, Angel’s Landing, Hidden Canyon, Observation Point and the Narrows. If you’ve got a full day of freedom to explore Zion, we suggest taking on multiple hikes and watch your 10,000 steps rack up for the day.
The trails range from easy to strenuous, and you might like to start with the Watchman Trail, a five-kilometre trail that is ideal for all skill levels. The Hidden Canyon Trail is also five kilometres and rated as moderate. This one features a waterfall and plenty of great bird watching. See if you can spot the resident Bald eagles, California condors and Peregrine falcons!
If you’re up for a challenge, take on the strenuous eight-kilometre Angel’s Landing hike. It may be steep, but your reward will be amazing views over the Zion Canyon’s ancient rock layers.
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5. Panorama Trail, Kodachrome Basin State Park
Journey along Highway 12, or the “All American Road”, one of the most scenic highways in the US. You’ll arrive at Kodachrome Basin State Park where monolithic stone spires tower over the landscape. There are several hikes to choose from and you can select the trail that best suits your skill level.
We love the Panorama Trail, an easy 4.8-kilometre loop that shows off the dramatic landscapes and pretty wildflowers. You can extend this to a 9.5-kilometre loop if you’re looking to hit 10,000 steps in one super scenic hike.
There’s also the 2.2-kilometre Angel’s Palace Trail. This easy hike is just as dreamy as its name, with stunning rock spires, bird watching and wildflowers galore.
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6. Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
Home to a series of amphitheatre shaped canyons filled with striking red and orange hoodoos, Bryce Canyon National Park is unmissable for hiking. You’ll need at least one full free day to explore these iconic landscapes and you can select from dozens of hikes that best suit you.
Wander into the mysterious hoodoos and beyond. Or venture up to scenic viewpoints to admire the rusty red limestone spires that reach to the sky. Keep your eyes open, as there’s always a chance you’ll spot wildlife. This includes endangered species like the California condor, the Utah prairie dog, and the southwestern willow flycatcher.
For short, easy trails, we love the 1.7-kilometre Sunset to Sunrise Point, where you can see wildlife among the gorgeous scenery. There’s also the moderate, 4.6-kilometre Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail with beautiful views and short rock tunnels.
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7. Grand View Point Overlook, Canyonlands National Park
If you’re heading into canyon country, you can’t miss hiking the Grand View Point Overlook trail in Canyonlands National Park. This 2.9-kilometre trail is suitable for all skill levels and has excellent bird-watching and spectacular canyon landscapes.
Want to smash out your 10,000 steps for the day? You can combine this hike with the Whale Rock and Green River Overlook. Both offer unforgettable views so don’t forget your camera!
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What are the best hikes you’ve ever done? Let us know in the comments below!