California, Utah, Nevada, and Wyoming’s wildernesses know first-hand what it means to endure the trials of time, offering a variety of hiking routes for older adventurers that range from literal walks in the park to challenges that will make you feel more alive than you’ve ever felt.
And that’s without requiring state-of-the-art hiking gear or scrambling over boulders in the most extreme of environments.
Ready your hiking boots, pack a day bag, and give those calves a stretch. National park tours for seniors are anything but stationary when you tackle these top ten scenic hikes for travellers over 50.
Big Baldy Trail, Kings Canyon National Park
Don’t let the name fool you; Big Baldy Trail is more moderate than difficult and there’s only a 182m elevation gain. At that elevation, though, you’re treated to an impressive view overlooking Kings Canyon and the Great Western Divide. The contrasting green forests and granite rocks will leave you weak-kneed.
Stumped for which trail to tackle? Big Stump Trail is quick, easy, and features the Mark Twain Tree.
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Congress Trail, Sequoia National Park
This paved hiking path around giant sequoia trees is one of the most popular scenic hikes in the park for a reason. Consider it a must for first-time visits, especially if you want ample time to study every tiny detail of these 3,000-year-old trees. The elevation gain hardly exceeds 60m, making it an easy trail that will likely lead to your new favorite vacation photos.
Already got a selfie with the General Sherman Tree? Make an about-face to the Tokopah Falls Trail for an easy stroll to the eponymous falls.
Lyell Canyon Trail, Yosemite National Park
To be fair, you could lace up your boots and hike all 340km of the John Muir Trail if you chose, but we feel like the Lyell Canyon Trail in Yellowstone National Park shows some of the best views. Rafferty Creek is such a spectacular place to sit peacefully with your thoughts, musing about the ways the forest hues of brown, black, and green are reflected brilliantly on the Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River.
Experience it on: California’s Great National Parks tour
Queen’s Garden Trail & Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is hard to beak for scenic hikes. Of all the iconic hoodoos in the park, the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop combined trail take you to two of the best: Queen Victoria and Thor’s hammer. As you descend on this hoodoo-filled hike, colorful limestone walls grow beside you, cradling you on your journey into the Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre. Watch your footing, but also watch for Douglas fir sightings in the switchbacks.
Need something easier? Opt for either of the trails as a single hike.
Delicate Arch Trail, Arches National Park
Of all the scenic hikes in Arches National Park, this is one of our absolute favourites. While it might not be the top choice on national park tours for seniors, a seasoned hiker should be able to manage with ample water and proper attire. The popular Delicate Arch Trail leans towards the strenuous side and rewards only those who finish the jaunt with close-up views of the rust-colored Arch. And, oh, is it worth it.
Prefer DIY to following the herd? The Devil’s Garden Trail has multiple hikes from short to strenuous that you can stitch together at will.
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Sulphur Creek, Capitol Reef National Park
To do it solo or with a partner would be intrepid, but Sulphur Creek is not as imposing with a little planning and the perfect hiking companions. Venturing into this deep canyon within Capitol Reef National Park follows a stream, so you will certainly get wet. But a little moisture is worth the stunning waterfalls you’ll find. If you don’t want any scrambling or downclimbs in your journey, you can opt to hike a short section downstream to one of the gently cascading falls.
Don’t want to get wet? The easy (dry) stroll along the Fremont River Trail offers steep climbs to panoramas.
Let us introduce you to Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks. Crisscross the state, hike to your fill, and explore the vast natural beauty Utah has to offer on this 10-day tour.
Skull Rock Trail, Joshua Tree National Park
Experience the rush of endorphins and have your own transformative experience in Joshua Tree National Park on the Skull Rock Trail, one of the park’s most scenic hikes. It’s a dirt loop trail that’ll have your toes dancing around Mojave mixed scrub and undisturbed patches of sand. Many of your fellow hikers will give a smile or a nod to the lavender, yellow, and tickled pink flowers lining the landscape; but because you did your homework, you’ll find a new appreciation for the diverse flowers of the cacti that surround the stoic Skull Rock.
Visiting outside of summer? Let the cooler temperatures power a more moderate out-and-back hike through Lost Horse Mine.
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Darwin Falls Trail, Death Valley National Park
Waterfalls in Death Valley — the hottest, driest, lowest national park in the country? You’d better believe it. The Darwin Falls Trail is a full-blown oasis in the Mojave Desert and a shocking contrast to the bare rock faces and rippled sand dunes found throughout Death Valley. We consider this one special hike that a national park tour for seniors should include. The tranquility of Darwin Falls will make you appreciate the silence of the sand dune in a new way.
Were you expecting a more desolate destination? Desolation Canyon delivers and requires a small amount of rock scrambling.
If you need some R&R in between hikes, join our America’s Great Desert National Parks tour. Spend a few nights by the pool in Palm Springs and a few hours exploring Calico Ghost Town.
Aspen Ridge-Boulder Ridge, Grand Teton National Park
Get an early start if you plan on hiking the Aspen Ridge-Boulder Ridge Trail in Grand Teton National Park. Although the spry and speedy can complete it in three hours, you can easily spend more than five wandering the lush aspen groves and hopping across the boulder fields. The earlier you arrive at Phelps Lake, the better chance you have of watching trout jump from the same crystal waters that bear, elk, and moose sip from. Even without wildlife, watching the playful yellow-flowered meadows transition into Death Canyon’s serious gray slate is just as inspiring.
Short on time? You can still find great views of Phelps Lake via the shorter Phelps Lake Overlook or Lake Creek-Woodland Trail Loop
Pelican Valley Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Welcome to grizzly country. Yellowstone National Park’s Pelican Valley Trail takes you into a prime grizzly bear habitat. The hike itself is far from strenuous, with the majority of it traipsing across flat meadows. It’s important to remain on the path, not venturing into the jade green brush or calm cobalt waters. Even not in bear season, this mix of forests, mountains, and hydrothermal grounds can be hazardous and fragile.
Prefer the highlights? You can see Old Faithful, the Great Dome, and other iconic landmarks of Yellowstone and Grand Teton on our National Park Wonders tour. One of the best national park tours for seniors, this 9-day adventure takes you through the American frontier from Jackson, Wyoming, to Rapid City, South Dakota.