13 Best Hikes in Forests and National Parks in Western US
One of the greatest things about the US is how there are so many natural wonders and it is safe to say that we can go hiking in every city and state in this beautiful country. There really is no excuse why we cannot go out and immerse ourselves in the beauty of nature.
The western US has a varied landscape with the deserts in the Southwest, the tropics in Hawaii, and gorgeous forests up the Pacific Northwest. One of the longest treks along the West Coast is the Pacific Crest Trail, which starts at the Washington-British Columbia border and ends at the US-Mexico border. If you have heard of the book Wild is also a movie starring Reese Withespoon, this is the trail that she was on. Needless to say, if you are looking for an epic hiking trip, this is one to consider!
Don’t worry, we narrowed down the list of amazing parks and mountains to just a couple. We asked women travel bloggers what is the best hike they have done in their state and we tucked in a couple of Explorer Chick trip recommendations too. This list will make you want to throw on your boots and get out there!
The Best Hikes in the West
1. Logan Pass Trail in Glacier National Park, Montana
Recommended by Rebecca of Whatever Packs Your Bag
The best time to visit is during the summer, as the pass is closed in the winter, and because the wildflowers along the trails are beautiful.
The full hike all the way to the lake is 5.3 miles, and although rated moderate it has a steep climb, and it is at a high elevation to start with. The hiking trail begins paved, then switches to a boardwalk, and then switches to a combo of gravel and slushy snow. It is a great way to see a lot of animals including mountain goats at the lake overlook but closes frequently due to bear activity, so make sure you are aware of your surroundings, and follow the signs. Allot at least 4 hours to make the hike and enjoy the views.
The top tip for this hike is to coat yourself in bug spray, as in the evening it can get incredibly buggy, something that seems strange when standing in the snow.
If you are thinking of going to Glacier National Park with your family, you can easily find things to do that everyone will enjoy!
2. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Explorer Chick’s 7-day Best of Yellowstone Tour and Grand Teton Hiking adventure goes deeper into the park to see erupting geysers, deep gorges, amazing overviews, and horseback riding the backcountry. From the Jenny Lake hike to the steamy hot springs, this region has plenty of awe-inspiring experiences that you’ll remember for a lifetime. In fact, Yellowstone is so chock full of rad experiences that we wrote an entire post about top things to do in Yellowstone National Park. And wanna know a secret? The best time to visit is before Memorial Day weekend, before the crowds flood the place.
3. Scotchman Peak in Clark Fork, Idaho
Recommended by Christina of Live A Wilder Life
Idaho has countless hikes that offer some of the best hiking in the country. Scotchman Peak in Clark Fork near the resort town Sandpoint, Idaho, is at the top of the list for amazing hikes in the Gem State. If you’re visiting the area, it’s one of the best things to do in Sandpoint for adventure seekers. It’s a long trail with an 8.7 mile out and back hike that has an elevation gain of 3,364 feet. The reward for all that work is a million-dollar view of Northern Idaho and Lake Pend Oreille.
An added bonus? The herd of wild mountain goats that live at the top of the mountain.
The hike is accessible from March to October. While it’s a challenging hike, it is a popular one, so arrive early if you are looking for solitude. Bring plenty of water and layers because it can be cold and windy at the top.
4. Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Recommended by Meg of Fox in the Forest
One of the great lake hikes in Colorado is at Emerald Lake in the Rocky Mountain National Park. It is one of the easiest hikes, but worth a day trip because it is filled with breathtaking landscapes and Instagram-worthy vistas. Since it is so accessible, expect it to be crowded at all hours of the day. If you can, try to do a sunrise hike for that magical mountain scenery without the crowds.
5. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
A trip to the Grand Canyon is a bucket list item for its sheer beauty and luckily for us there are a dizzying amount of amazing trails that we can take to see its astounding beauty. EC has got you covered with our Grand Canyon Backpacking Weekend.
Going on an all-girls trip and roughing it in the backcountry is just the right amount of going outside your comfort zone. Since we cover all of your travel details and you will be with an expert guide, you can truly enjoy the rugged beauty and red rock walls of the Grand Canyon.
Try these other outdoor adventures in Arizona:
- Check out these 7 Grand Canyon hiking trails for your next hiking trip
- There are tons of roadside attractions to see in Arizona that are just a drive from the Grand Canyon
6. Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico
Recommended by Samantha of Seeing Sam
Bandelier National Monument in Los Alamos, New Mexico, has over 70 miles of walking and hiking trails weaving through ancient ruins and incredible vistas. The popular Pueblo Loop Trail, open year-round, is an easy paved 1.4 miles getting you up close and personal to some fantastic archeological wonders.
For even more excitement, combine the Pueblo Loop Trail with the Alcove House Trail for an easy 2.6-mile hike to an ancient Alcove House reached by climbing stairs and four wooden ladders. The views from the ceremonial house are beautiful. It’s a unique experience you will be glad to have!
Plan to spend a few hours exploring the ruins and the peaceful surroundings. It is a short hike, so packs aren’t necessary. However, bring water and plan to start before 9 am or after 4 pm to avoid the crowds.
7. Utah National Parks, Utah
Go on an ultimate road trip with EC’s Utah National Parks Road Trip and Hiking adventure to visit Utah’s national parks in one go! Some of our best female hiking guides will show you their favorite routes and secret spots. Days will be spent in Bryce Canyon National Park, Arches National Park, Canyonlands, and Zion National Park. And you’ll be able to relax under the stars at night glamping in tents and yurts.
Try these other outdoor adventures in Utah:
- Try your hand a beginner-friendly canyoneering and hiking on our Zion and Bryce Canyon trip
- Angels Landing: The Scariest Hike You’ll Never Forget
- Come with us and hike our favorite desert trails in Canyonlands and Arches National Parks
8. Silver Falls State Park, Oregon
Recommended by Val of Voyages with Val
The Trail of Ten Falls in Silver Falls State Park is one of the best hikes in Oregon. Oregon is known for its waterfalls and Silver Falls State Park has some of the best. You can see 10 amazing waterfalls on this 7.4 mile, moderate hike. While all the falls are something special, North Falls and South Falls are two of the best in the park, and the trail leads right behind them!
If you complete the full trail, it can take several hours depending on your hiking speed, but if you don’t have time for the full 7.4 miles, there are several smaller loops you can take and still see plenty of waterfalls. I love to hike this trail, and it’s one of the few trails I’ve hiked multiple times because the falls are always changing!
In Spring, the falls are at their peak flow, and in the Fall the leaves in the area change to brilliant colors. Top Tip – visit on a weekday in Spring to avoid crowds and see the falls at their best!
Check out what else to do in Oregon:
9. Yosemite National Park, California
Spend a couple of days in Yosemite’s backcountry with fellow Explorer Chicks. If you have wanted to conquer the famous cables of Half Dome now is your chance to do it! After a weekend of challenging hikes and views of Mt. Starr King, Half Dome, Nevada Falls, and Illilouette Falls you will have too many drool-worthy pictures to post on Instagram!
Check out what else to do in California:
- These are just a couple of the best Instagram spots in Yosemite
- Explore the Californian dessert at the iconic Death Valley National Park
- Check out these Californian hidden gems and get off the beaten track
- Learn how to sign up for the Half Dome lottery, so you can win the pass to hike the iconic landmark
10. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Recommended by Val Pope of Voyages with Val
The popular Skyline Trail in Mount Rainier National Park has panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains and can be conquered by even novice hikers. The best time to visit is at sunrise for the amazing setting and to beat the crowds.
One of the best ways to see the national parks on the West Coast is to take a road trip! After Mount Rainier, check out Seattle and drive down the coast to San Francisco to see the rugged beauty of the West Coast.
You can easily visit Portland or Seattle on a trip to the national park. Make a plan to try the exceptional food in Portland or the local breweries of Seattle to make your road trip even more amazing.
Try these other outdoor adventures in Washington:
11. Black Canyon, Nevada
There is so much more to Nevada than the Las Vegas Strip! For a nature-filled Vegas experience go on a trip with us to where we will go rock climbing on the sandstone walls of Red Rock Canyon. Then we’ll go kayaking by the Hoover Dam and learn all about this man-made marvel and we’ll continue on the Colorado River to see slot canyons and natural hot springs. This is a different kind of Vegas trip!
12. Diamond Head State Park, Hawaii
Recommended by Jiayo Wang from The Diary of a Nomad
The Diamond Head Crater hike awards hikers with a gorgeous view of the Waikiki Coast and its clearwater beaches. The hike can be a bit challenging with steep and rocky terrain. But it is something different to do while visiting Honolulu. Pro tip – do the hike first thing in the morning to avoid the heat and humidity!
13. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska
America’s largest national park offers volcanic and glaciers and we have a 7-day trip where you can also go ice climbing and sea kayaking at the Prince William Sound. Plenty of hiking and trekking will be done up the alpine tarns of the Talkeetna Mountains and glaciers. Plus, a scenic ride in a bush plane over the Wrangell Mountains will give you a bird’s eye view of the United Nations World Heritage Site. When hunger hits, check out the local cuisine and food scene of Anchorage.
Try these other outdoor adventures in Alaska:
- Explorer Chick recommends these 7 trails for the best hiking in Alaska, no matter the season.
- Read about one of our trips to Lake Clark National Park
These are just a handful of great hikes. There are a lot more wonderful national parks to visit on the West Coast. Are any of these on your bucket list? What are your recommendations for national parks to visit in the spring or any season? Let us know where you are itching to go to in the Explorer Chick Facebook Group!
Read More About Our National Parks
- 10 Best National Parks for Wildlife Lovers to Explore ASAP
- Where to Spot the Dreamiest Blooms This Wildflower Season
- Your Ultimate U.S. National Parks Bucket List
- Best Places To Travel In May In The USA
- Best Time To Visit Grand Canyon, According to Tour Guides
- Guide to Driving From Zion to Bryce Canyon National Parks
- Banff Hikes: 8 Best Hikes in Banff National Park
- Training to Hike the Grand Canyon: Gear, Tips, and Exercises