One of the best things in life for me personally is the ongoing opportunity to explore and share the natural wonders of our one home earth planet with fellow travelers and adventurers.
Some of the hikes I am about to share have been favorites for years, but others I have come to know and love more recently through friends and colleagues who have in turn shared some of their favorite trails.
Please always remember, though, that hiking is definitely a proceed at your own risk type of activity. Consider your current health and fitness level, as well as your physical challenges and limitations, and be forthright with others in your hiking party.
Check on local weather and trail conditions, and check in with the land agency managing the place where you are considering hiking, too. Bring a first aid kit, be prepared, and most importantly, be flexible and willing to forgo or change your plans based on what unfolds on your hiking adventure. Thanks for also practicing Leave No Trace Principles-in sum, leave only footprints, and take only pictures.
Here are a few selected national parks and hiking trails to consider to get you started:
In Yellowstone National Park:
Beaver Ponds Loop Trail near Mammoth Hot Springs is a five-mile meander that takes you through a variety of habitats and a proliferation of wildflowers during the warmer months. This trail is best done early in the day, or in very late afternoon once it’s started to cool down. You can also hike to the Beaver Ponds and then return the same route if you end up hiking mid-day, as that way you will have more shade on your return hike as compared to hiking through open meadows with very little shade if you were to do the complete 5-mile loop. This is a classic “Northern Range” Yellowstone hike with good opportunity to see lots of wildlife, including bears, so be very bear aware of course!
Storm Point Trail east of Fishing Bridge is a wonderful, fairly flat three-mile loop leading you to well named Storm Point overlooking Yellowstone Lake, which is the largest high elevation lake in the U.S. From the actual Storm Point you can look across (on a clear day) to the Red Mountains to the south, to the Absaroka Range to the west, and on super clear days you can even see the Teton Range from here. Marmots are busy hanging out on sunny rocks during the summer months, and hikers often see bison. ground squirrels, rabbits and lots of waterfowl. If you’re looking for a short hike by Yellowstone Lake with a real wilderness feel, this might be a good fit for you!
In Grand Teton National Park:
The Phelps Lake Trail is a beauty and is about a three-mile loop altogether. Consider getting dropped off at the Laurance S.Rockefeller Preserve to get started, as the parking lot here is small and often fills up by late morning. You can increase your distance about a mile by following the trail around Phelps Lake, which is often a very nice temperature to swim in during the hotter summer months of July and August. When the timing is right, there may even be huckleberries to pick and savor! The Rockefeller Preserve is about 4 1/2 miles north of Teton Village..
The Bradley and Taggart Lakes Trails offer options for doing loop hikes totaling about four miles in either direction. If you decide to visit Taggart Lake itself, you’ll be adding another mile to your itinerary, but it is also a gorgeous lake and well worth the effort. The trailhead for these two hikes is about 2 1/2 miles north of the Moose Visitor Center.
In Glacier National Park:
Near Logan Pass, two awesome hikes include the Highline Trail on the north side of the road, and the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail on the south side.
The Highline Trail climbs steadily in elevation and is a fairly narrow trail at times. There are steep drop-offs in places so if heights are an issue for you, consider taking the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail instead. Nonetheless, the Highline Trail gives you a more immediate and palpable sense of what Glacier’s backcountry feels like as it’s not as crowded as the Hidden Lake Overlook Trail. The views along the Highline Trail are rewarding and expansive in all directions, but if this is your first time on this particular trail, I’d highly recommend just going in a mile or two then returning to the trailhead the same way you came from (back to Logan Pass and the Visitor Center there).
The Hidden Lake Overview Trail is one of the most amazingly beautiful short hikes you could ever do in the Lower 48 U.S. states, but because of this you might be sharing the trail with quite a few nature lovers. It’s about 1 1/2 miles each way to the overlook, and about a 500 foot elevation gain to boot. If you want to continue down to Hidden Lake, add another three miles to your total trek, plus about an 800 foot elevation drop and then gain as you head hack to the overlook. Regardless of how far you travel, you’ll be rewarded by stunning views. Maybe some bighorn sheep and/or mountain goats might be grazing nearly, marmot chirps and cries will echo off canyon walls, and amazing summer wildflowers will bless your path. Please, though, do not feed any of the begging rodents that may approach you on this trail.
Both the Highline and the Hidden Lake Overview trails are close by the Logan Pass Visitor Center on Going-to-the-Sun Highway in Glacier National Park. I highly recommend taking the free Glacier National Park shuttle buses once you have paid admission to visit the park. That way you’ll miss out on combat parking in the small parking lots and have more time to enjoy all of Glacier in its glory, as the buses make frequent drop-offs and pick-ups at the Logan Visitor Center and other popular park locations.
YOU CAN ALSO GET MORE INFO HERE:
Yellowstone National Park:
Grand Teton National Park:
Glacier National Park:
P.S. I’d love to hear what are some of your favorite hiking trails in these or other national parks, and also receive feedback after the fact if you decide to hike any of these suggested trails. Thanks! As the weather cools somewhat I’ll suggest some hikes in other national parks.