Yosemite Park’s 10 Best Hikes

Picture alpine meadows, high altitude lakes, and granite domes; this is Yosemite National Park, the second oldest national park in the U.S and one of the most beautiful places on our planet. Nearly four million people visit this park a year and although many come to see the most popular attractions such as Half Dome and Yosemite Falls, there is so much more to discover. Hiking through the park is the only way to discover the magic of it, and here are the park’s best hikes.

10. Gaylor Lakes

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It is one of the most overlooked hikes in Yosemite and easy enough for both beginners and families to hike, something hard to come by in this incredible national park. It takes anywhere from 2-5 hours depending on how much exploring you do and only has one real steep climb at the beginning. From the trailhead, hikers will climb steadily to a ridge with views of the high Sierra including Mt. Dana and Dana Meadows with its scattered ponds, offering some of the best high-country views off of Tioga Road.

The Gaylor Lakes valley actually contains five picturesque lakes and lends the feeling of a prehistoric time and one almost expects to see dinosaurs roaming through it. Hikers won’t have to contend with crowds here either as even during the busy season hikers are spread out.

9. Cathedral Lakes

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The Cathedral Lakes trail is one of the most popular hikes along Tioga Road although compared to Yosemite Valley, it is serene and uncrowded. It is a 7 or 8-mile round trip depending on whether you want to visit both the lower and upper lake. The trek is a hard 8 miles as the hike starts at 8,600ft, offering some serious altitude, and climbs over 1,000ft in the first mile.

What hikers will be rewarded with though are stunning views, shimmering waters backdropped by the iconic spire of Cathedral Peak. Hikers can explore the granite slopes, meadows, and peaks that surround the lakes. Make sure to look at the lower lake’s southwest side as the granite drops steeply away and offers views of Tenaya Lake, with its bright blue water shimmering in the distance.

8. Panorama Trail

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This hike actually loses 2,800 feet in elevation, which makes a lot of people think that it is an easy hike but they would be wrong. This 8.5-mile one-way hike challenges hikers with its 800 ft of switchbacks and plenty of difficult small steps, but the views are well worth it. Everywhere you turn on this hike offers incredible views and includes Half Dome, Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, Illilouette Falls, Yosemite Falls, and the entire Valley.

There is an awesome unmarked detour to Panorama Point, take the trail that is about half a mile after you cross the bridge over Illilouette Creek, and prepare yourself for panoramic views ranging from Glacier Point to the Royal Arches, North Dome, and the back of Half Dome. If you can handle the up and downs and don’t mind catching a shuttle at the end; this is one unforgettable hike.

7. Vernal & Nevada Falls

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If waterfalls are what you are after, this day hike is the perfect choice for you. Vernal and Nevada Falls are two of the most spectacular waterfalls in the park and hikers will get a glimpse of the famous Yosemite Falls in the distance. The loop is started by hiking up the steep granite steps that makeup Mist Trail and then proceeding down the John Muir Trail which lends spectacular views of both falls.

The granite slab located on top of Nevada Falls is the perfect place to picnic and snap amazing photos. Do this hike in the springtime when the water is flowing fast and it is less crowded than in the summer. Make sure to bring plenty of water, snacks, and decent hiking shoes. If you do hike in the summer make sure to head out early to avoid the afternoon heat and throngs of people.

6. Glen Aulin

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This is another hiking trail that offers spectacular waterfall views and the trick here is the further you go along the trail, the more waterfalls you actually see. The trail starts by descending down the Tuolumne River for about 5 miles in which you will cross Tuolumne Falls and White Cascade, as well as numerous pools that branch off from the trail. In June and July, White Cascade is an incredible place to take a swim so make sure you have your bathing suit.

If you feel like making this 10-mile hike into a 16-mile hike make sure you keep heading on and you will hit California Falls, LeConte Falls, and Waterwheel Falls. That is a total of five waterfalls in 16 miles! The Glen Aulin campsite is where you will turn around to keep the hike at 10 miles and beware that the last mile before the campsite is a deep descend and it’s helpful to have trekking poles.

5. Clouds Rest

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For those hikers who want to experience Half Dome but don’t want to fight the crowds or are unsuccessful in getting a permit; the hike to Clouds Rest is perfect. Hiking this trail you actually get to look down on Half Dome and get a 360-degree view of Yosemite Valley. Round trip is just over 14 miles and hikers should be experienced to make it to the top and back down.

The hike starts at picturesque Tenaya Lake and ends with some easy rock scrambling before reaching Clouds Rest, where you should have your camera ready to snap some unbelievable photos. Keep your eyes peeled for the climbers attached to the cables on Half Dome and realize that you have a better view. This awesome hike is a well-kept secret amongst many and arguably provides the best views of the valley.

4. Mono Pass

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This hike takes place at a high altitude and if you are coming from sea level it is recommended you take a few days to acclimatize before attempting this hike. The hike starts at 9,700ft and ends at 10,599 ft; lung-busting heights if you aren’t used to them. The first part of the trail leads you through beautiful streams, alpine meadows, and glacier domes.

The latter half of the hike will be through barren, rocky landscapes; making you appreciate how high you really are. Hiking Mono Pass is an 8-mile trek and in early summer the creeks are often overflowing with water making them hard to pass without getting wet. Prepare yourself for stunning views of the massive Mono Lake, 4000ft below you, when you reach Summit Lake and Sardine Lake. A real mix of ridges, forest trails, and rocky landscapes makes this one awesome hike.

3. North Dome

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If you are looking for another way to view Half Dome that is less crowded, there is yet another option for you. North Dome is an 8.8-mile round trip that offers unparalleled views of Half Dome as well as the peak of Clouds Rest. Although the hike up isn’t the most scenic in the park, it is the view from the top that draws hikers here. In fact, the only crowded part of this hike is at the top as people are unable to tear themselves away.

If you feel like hiking another mile or so make sure to check out the detour to Indian Rock Arch, a natural granite arch about 15 feet high. You will want to give yourself 4-6 hours to do the round trip hike and make sure to bring a pair of binoculars if you want to view the teeny tiny people making their way up Half Dome.

2. Tueeulala & Wapama Falls

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There are few hikes in this park that bring you so close to a giant cascading waterfall than this one. In springtime is when you will find the falls at their mightiest but beware that the trail is sometimes closed as the water actually roars over the bridges. This is a great hike for hikers with little experience as it features easy up and down terrain rather than the steep terrain that a lot of the park features.

On the way to Wapama Falls, you will pass Tueeulala Falls which spring spectacularly from the cliffs from more than 1000ft above the trail. Over the entirety of the hike, Hetch Hetchy Dome and Kolana Rock will loom over you, Kolana Rock’s north face being the nesting site for peregrine falcons. If you want to take the kids along for this hike make sure you are prepared with lots of water, snacks, sunscreen, and enough time as it’s not as easy as one may think.

1. Half Dome

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It wouldn’t be a list of hikes in Yosemite Park if we didn’t include this one. Although we have given you many more options to experience the views you get from Half Dome, there is truly something magical about actually hiking it. Hiking this glacier dome isn’t easy though as permits are now required and the cable route to the summit is only open from May to October. It is a big 14-mile round trip hike that first takes you along the Mist Trail and then up to the 8,842ft summit.

Steel cables are in place to help hikers up the final 600ft and many times this part takes a long time due to crowds and lineups. If you are jittery and nervous expect to move up very slowly. The summit is a whopping 5 acres and mostly flat, giving 360-degree views of the valley. If you are heading down the glacier on the same day make sure to watch as the sun sets quickly and you won’t want to walk in the dark.

The 15 Best Volcanoes Hikes in the World

What does it take to climb a volcano? In some cases it takes permits purchased months in advance, technical climbing skills and a paid guide. In other cases one can simply drive right into the volcano, or spend an hour hiking up a moderate hill to reach the top. How about the best volcanoes to hike, how do you determine that? We looked at hundreds of volcanoes and determined the 15 best hikes to take based on a number of factors including ease of access, views from the top, lava activity and the reward factor. From around the world, here are our top 15 choices for the best volcano hikes in the world.

15. Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

This long but challenging hike takes trekkers through scenic landscapes including snow, ice and ash from the most recent eruptions. The trek starts at sea level and goes all the way to the top through a crevasse riddled glacier and finally to the summit where you can view an enormous crater that was left by past eruptions. Glacier equipment such as crampons are required as you literally will be climbing on ice. If you happen to reach the top on a clear day, expect unbelievable views of half the entire island including glaciers, more volcanoes and the Vestmannaeyjar islands. April to September is the time to go and if you are feeling extra adventurous it is possible to ski back down. The climb can take eight to 10 hours and although challenging, you will certainly feel on top of the world on this glacier volcano.

Eyjafjallajokull, Iceland

14. Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

Arenal was one of the most active volcanoes from about 1968 to 2010 and since then has slowed down but this volcano still is known to spit out ash and sometimes even lava. It is classic in shape, being tall and symmetrical and there is no worry about being cold up here. Climbing to the summit of this volcano is actually both illegal and very dangerous, but luckily there are a few worthwhile hikes that are totally legal and still get you up on the mountain. The main trial inside the park is about 5 km in length and takes you through the rain forest with several opportunities to view the peak. Expect lots of wildlife including toucans and monkeys along with explosions from the peak. Expect to hike over old lava flows and hit many viewing areas where you can actually hear the volcano breathing, which is really quite impressive.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

13. Mount Fuji, Japan

It is the highest volcano and highest peak in Japan where tourists and locals’ alike swarm to climb this volcano, known as one of the three Holy Mountains. More than 200,000 people a year to be exact. The last eruption of Mount Fuji occurred in 1707 and spread ash as far as what is now Tokyo forming a new crater on the east flank. July to September is the official climbing season where trails and mountain facilities are open. The most popular way to climb this volcano is to climb halfway up to one of the huts, take a break and set off again in the night, reaching the summit for sunrise. Worshipping the sun from the top of Japan’s highest peak creates something of a spiritual experience, no matter if you are religious or not. Avoiding the crowds is not possible on this mountain and some trekkers believe that climbing amongst so many like minded people just adds to the overall experience.

Mount Fuji 1

12. Mount Etna, Sicily

The largest active volcano in Europe, Etna soars into the sky often surrounded by mist and steam. Mount Etna is special in that it has this unique relationship with the people that live as the foot of it. They believe that Etna gives them fertile ground by spitting out lava and respect must be granted as it can also take away life. This volcano can be climbed year round and does not require any sort of permit or guide, but it is recommended to be informed about the activity status as it sometimes shuts down to hikers. It has recently come to the attention of many trekkers that the actual summit is unavailable to anyone who doesn’t have a guide, but that fact is up for debate. Plan on seeing solidified rivers of lava, views of the sea and the mainland, provided the top isn’t covered in clouds.

Mount Etna

11. Pacaya, Guatemala

You aren’t allowed quite to the top of this volcano but it should be on your list of things to climb for a number of reasons. First up, this trek can be done in half a day, which makes it perfect for someone on a time crunch. Secondly, not only are you climbing on an active volcano but you can actually see a second active volcano nearby and a third that is now a crater lake. The trek begins through lush green foliage and views are of surrounding fields and hills. The trail eventually turns into lava rock and dust, becoming really slippery. This is when it pays to have a walking stick. At the “top” the lava is literally running underneath you and it becomes clear as to why you need shoes with really good soles, they will literally melt. Marshmallows and hot dogs are routinely busted out and cooked over the lava.

Pacaya Volcano

10. Mount Vesuvius, Italy

This volcano is known worldwide as being responsible for covering the city of Pompeii with a blanket of ash in 79 A.D., which in turn preserved it until the re-discovery of it in the 1700’s. Since that time this volcano has blew its top more than 30 times throughout history and most recently in 1944. The climb to the summit is the easiest climb on this list and only takes about 30 minutes. It is best done in hiking shoes or running shoes and there is no need to carry any gear with you. What awaits visitors at the top is a stunning panorama of the city, islands and part of the Apennine Mountains. Admission to the volcano actually includes a guided tour of the crater at the top which many climbers are unaware of. You won’t find any spewing lava here but steam is often seen coming out of the crater. On a sunny day expect to see views out to the bay of Naples. If you are wanting to climb a famous volcano and don’t want to worry about tackling snow, steep ridges or carrying gear; this is the one for you.

Mount Vesuvius

9. Pinatubo, Philippines

This active volcano is actually located on the island of Luzon in the Philippines and last erupted in 1991, producing one of the most violent eruptions of the 20th century. As of now the volcano is quite quiet and it is the perfect time to summit and enjoy the blue green crater lake that didn’t exist 30 years ago. January is the best time to go as temperatures are at the coolest and the lake color at its finest. The one day trek is actually quite easy as a 4X4 will take you part of the way. The trek is done within a few hours at a moderate incline. If one desires it is actually possible to pitch a tent at the summit and spend the night, an outhouse is even provided at the top. Hikers will make their way up the path, passing sandy cliffs along the way as well as small tribes of indigenous people.

Pinatubo, Philliphines

8. Kilauea, Hawaii

Located on the Big Island, Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano and one of the most easily accessible. In the 20th century alone this volcano has erupted on 45 separate occasions with the most recent eruption beginning in 1983. To date this eruption continues and has spewed over 32 billion cubic yards of lava, forever changing the landscape. You can actually drive into this volcano, but hiking throughout is most recommended as it’s one of the only places on earth you can literally walk through an active volcano. Walking around Crater Rim Drive is one of the most popular activities as you can witness lava oozing out of it, witness steam vents and walk across the land that is only a few days old. There are numerous hiking trails throughout and although one can’t plan a visit around when and where to see the lava, helpful guides at the visitors center will point you in the right direction.

Mount Kilauea

7. Mount Stromboli, Aeolian Islands

Hiking up this volcano is only permitted with a guide and there is a strict limit on how many people are allowed to visit the crater each day, thus make sure to book your trip in advance. The trip to the top isn’t for the faint of heart and will take anywhere from two to four hours to reach the summit. The most popular time to reach the top is at nighttime and thus more tours leave around 4 pm. A gentle incline awaits hikers at first, taking you through lush vegetation. It quickly becomes steeper and one should expect to walk through volcanic sand that is strewn with black rocks. There are actually three craters at the top that billow out steam and smoke, making strange gurgling sounds. The light show at the top is what everyone waits for though as the craters explode with red fiery sparks, shooting high into the air.

Mount Stromboli

6. Mount Bromo, Indonesia

Indonesia is home to over 100 active volcanoes and daily earthquakes, making it a popular place for adrenaline junkies and hikers alike. Although Mount Bromo isn’t the tallest of the active volcanoes in Indonesia, it is the most visited and is quite easily accessible. The volcano has a constant stream of white smoke coming out of it, reminding visitors that it could explode at any time. Getting to the summit is easy without a guide and is best done in time to see the sunrise, meaning a 3 am wake up call is necessary. The well-defined path up should only take you an hour or so. An interesting fact about this volcano is that the Tengger people believe that in order to appease the Gods here they must offer food and money to them by throwing it into the crater of the volcano during the annual Kasada festival.

Mount Bromo, Indonesia

5. Cotopaxi, Ecuador

It is the second highest peak in Ecuador, lovely looking with its white snow and cone shape. This trek is not for inexperienced hikers though as it is more of a mountain climb than just a hike up the side. In the 18th and 19th century this volcano had a violent spell but now it is mostly just a plume of steam that comes out the top and melts its glacier surroundings. To get here most climbers take a 4X4 up to the border of the national park. They then climb with their guide up to a mountain hut and spend the night, summiting the next morning. It is currently illegal to climb to the summit without a guide and recent signs of eruption have limited the climbing that is allowed. If you have the chance though, summiting the world’s third highest active volcano is certainly something to put on the bucket list.

Cotopaxi, Ecuador

4. Mont Pelee, Martinique

In 1902 this dramatic volcano erupted and destroyed the entire town of St. Pierre killing about 30,000 people. Luckily since then you can climb this volcano without worries and without tourists at every bend in the trail. Being an integral part of France, visitors climbing here face no red tape or fees but will need some French to get by as English is not widely spoken. Because of the immense vegetation on the island there are three established routes that trekkers can take. The most popular of these is the Aileron Route as it is a well-constructed and wonderfully varied trail. Climbing before dawn is recommended as the clouds roll in day after day just after dawn and prohibit hikers from the magical views that await. Gorgeous lush green vegetation, flowering plants and jagged peaks surprise visitors along the way of this volcano that really looks nothing like the grey, lava strewn volcanoes you are used to.

Mount Pelee, France

3. Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

Nicaragua is full of volcanoes, both dormant and active and it can be hard to choose which one to climb but we highly suggest heading to Telica. The majority of the way up tends to be flat, through farm lands and over dirt roads. It is only the last hour or two where you finally start to hike to the top. The best season for climbing this mountain is up for debate as the dry season tends to be hot whereas the rainy season can make the lava harder to witness. Camping at the top of Telica is one of the most popular trips to do as seeing the lava at night is something special and the sunrise in the morning is truly spectacular. The lava is below the crater rim at a depth of about 120 meters and visitors should expect to have to lie down on their stomachs to look into the crater.

Telica Volcano, Nicaragua

2. Mount Aso, Japan

It is Japan’s largest active volcano and climbing it is certainly an adventure that should be on the top of your bucket list. There are three trails you can use to get up to the summit, with one of them not actually leading up to the volcano (hint: do not take the left trail). The hike itself can take anywhere from an hour or three depending on which trail and how many stops you take along the way. There are actually five separate volcanic peaks here and Mt. Nakadake is the most active spewing a constant stream of sulfuric gas from its peak. If you are feeling really lazy and still want to get to the top of the volcano, there is a choice of two cable cars that will get you there.

Mount Aso, Japan

1. Mount St Helens, United States

It is mandatory to have a permit to hike this active volcano, no matter what time of year and there are only a number of permits that are handed out each year if you want to make it to the top of the crater. Although it is not a technical climb it is strenuous and presents hazards such as ice, loose boulders and fast-changing weather. The scene at the top is what people climb for an it has been described as ‘surreal, unbelievable and awe-inspiring’. A huge crater with a dome that grows in size each year and has a horseshoe glacier around it, not to mention incredible views of Mount Adams, Mount Hood and Mount Rainier, as well as the blue green hills that surround them are all sights to take in from the top. This is truly one of the best volcano hikes in the world and must be at the top of your list to climb.

Mount St Helens, US

The 10 Best Day Hikes in America

Whatever your experience or location, in America there are so many hikes that you’ll always be faced with a tough choice as to which one you want to tackle.  From swamps in the south to canyons in the west, via the spectacular southern monoliths, giving a definitive list of the best hikes in the country is, quite possibly, an impossible task.  Here’s a few that, given the chance, you definitely should not miss.

1. Letchworth State Park, New York

The park is known  as ‘The Grand Canyon on the East’, and for good reason, as the Genesee River snakes and tumbles its way down the gorge it has cut through the beautiful surrounding forest.  An excellent day hike for all experience levels will take you about 11 km through the canyon past the lower, middle and upper falls, with plenty of places to stop along the way to take in the views, picnic and learn about the history of the Genesee valley area.  If you don’t want to stop at hiking, other activities are readily available, including white water rafting, and snow tubing in the winter.  The park has many campgrounds for overnight visitors.

Letchworth State Park

2. Border Route Trail, Minnesota

The clue’s in the name as the trail hugs the border between Minnesota and Ontario, following the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW).  The trail is 65 miles long in all, so unless you’re planning on an impromptu ironman triathlon, taking on the whole thing in a day is probably out of the question.  The Border Route can be accessed by connecting trails though, making a day hike possible along the rugged ridges and cliffs that it follows, which give way to stunning views over the surrounding wilderness.  Be sure to plan ahead and grab the Border Route Trail guide and map before you head off.

Border Route Trail

3. Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park’s landscape is a mix of steep sided eroded hills and canyons – where it gets its name – and expansive grass lands, so the trails and hikes here are really as difficult as you want them to be, and there are plenty to take on in a day.  The Castle Trail is a great day hike at 16 km round trip, and passes along some of the badlands formations along the way.  If you’re not looking for anything too strenuous the Door and Fossil Exhibit boardwalk trails give you great views, as well as information about the history and wildlife of the park without too much physical work.  The Ben Reifel Visitor Center has all the information you need before heading out.

Badlands National Park

4. Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm, Washington

The landscape this stunning trail meanders through is somewhat of an anomaly.  When you stop and take in the surrounding scenes you’ll be met with nothing but beautiful, quintessentially rugged mountainous splendour, which doesn’t match the perch you inhabit.  The striking greenery of the trail is made possible through a number of factors and makes for some of the most breathtaking terrain you’re likely to see.  Highlights include the sudden view of Doubtful Lake, with Sahale glacier and mountain climbing high into the background, as well as world class camping at the glacier terminus.  And a good chance of spying a bear.  The hike is a 12 mile round trip and isn’t a casual affair, so be sure to plan ahead, and take all the correct supplies and permits.

Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm

5. Enchanted Valley, Washington

A round trip hike through the famous valley is over 20 miles in total, and is definitely one to take on when time isn’t an issue.  Great day hikes are a possibility though, such as the Graves Creek to Pony Bridge track, which follows a section of the East Fork of the Quinault River through a deep channel to the Bridge.  The walk takes you through imposingly high trees, through a canyon and onto views off the bridge of the river and falls way below.  In winter stay sharp as huge elk herds mass in the area.

Enchanted Valley Washington

6. Lassen Volcanic National Park, California

This Northern Californian park is dominated by Lassen Peak, one of the world’s largest plug dome volcanoes, and attracts close to half a million visitors annually. Lassen Volcanic National Park features a range of contrasting scenery, from towering lava peaks to colourful wildflower valleys, joined by rich coniferous woodland. There are a number of great day hikes to take on throughout the park, at varying levels of difficulty, and some of the best are in the Warner Valley Area, which is alive with geothermal activity. The Devil’s Kitchen and Terminal Geyser trails are a manageable distance and take hikers through a maze of bubbling mud-holes and steaming vents.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

7. Palo Duro Canyon, Texas

Around 25 miles southwest of Amarillo lies the second largest canyon in the US, Palo Duro, carved into the landscape by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River.  One of the best and most travelled trails in the park is the Lighthouse trail which leads to the eponymous rock formation, just over 5 miles round trip.  You can couple this with a wander along some of the shorter, easy trails scattered through the canyon; the Paeso Del Rio and Pioneer Nature Trail give you staggering views of the surrounding landscape, as well as a peak into the past, passing by cowboy hideouts dating back to the 19th century.  Due to the climate be sure to plan ahead and take a lot of water.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Texas

8. Congaree, South Carolina

Most of the trails at Congaree National Park lie beneath some of the oldest woodland in the US, which includes some incredible pines.  Trails start and spread out from a centralized boardwalk loop separated into two sections – the low boardwalk sits just above the swampy forest floor, while the elevated portion creeps higher through the massive ancient trees.  A variety of trails spiral off into the park, the longest being the King Snake Trail (11 miles one direction) which dives deepest into the surrounding wilderness, increasing your chances of catching a glimpse of the abundant local wildlife.  Lookout for deer, wild pigs and turkeys, and a bobcat if you’re lucky.  Check trail conditions ahead of time as a lot of the park is submerged outside of summer months.

Congaree National Park, South Carolina

9. Angels Landing, Zion Canyon, Utah

Along with a map and food and water, a head for heights is a definite prerequisite for this famous hike.  The trail is about 5 miles round trip and the first section to the foot of the mountain is an easy amble alongside the Virgin River, before the track steepens and starts to hairpin its way up the steep slope.  Before you take on the final ascent, rest at Scout Lookout and take in the amazing views down Zion Canyon.  The last half mile is an intense hike along a narrow ridge, with drops of around 1000m on either side.  Anchored chains are in place for grip at points along the way.  The views from the summit are like nothing else you’ll ever witness, as the sheer red cliffs give way to the meandering river over a kilometre below.

Zion Canyon

10. The Franconia Ridge, New Hampshire

This popular 9 mile loop traverses the three peaks of Mount Lincoln, Mount Lafayette and Little Haystack, and is manageable in a day.  The loop consists of a number of trails, including the Falling Water, Greenleaf and Fraconia Ridge trails, and as the names suggest the scenery on show is gorgeous.  The peaks of the mountains and connecting ridge are pretty exposed making for stunning, uninterrupted views, as well as changeable conditions and cold winds outside summertime, so be sure to pack for all eventualities.  For possibly the best experience take a winter hike, with all the right planning and gear of course.

Franconia Notch Ridge Trail #2