We all know the feeling. You’re breathing deeply, the air is crisp and you’re deeply fantasizing about that trail mix in your daypack. Hiking makes us feel alive. We’re able to admire our planet and take a break from our hectic day-to-day.
At Backroads we’re lucky to admire the world from a wide range of elevations. I’ve surveyed the Backroads Trip Leader community and reflected on my own hiking memories to pick seven of the most breathtaking hikes in the United States. Each of these trails offers that “pinch me” scenery and an unforgettable challenge. Plan one a year or one a month! But don’t go without seeing these iconic vistas.
1. Angels Landing
Where: Zion National Park, Utah
Distance: 5.2 miles round-trip
Angels landing got its name in 1916 when a group of four hikers were exploring the area and caught sight of a large monolith. One of the hikers exclaimed, “Wow, only an angel could land on that thing!” and the name stuck. This hike is one of the most thrilling and infamous in the country: a nightmare for those afraid of heights and an irresistible challenge for thrill-seekers. The last half-mile is the trickiest, or should I say “angel accessible only.” The path narrows to only several feet wide with two dizzying, 1,000-foot drop-offs on each side. Hikers keep their balance with anchored chains and nervous optimism. So what’s the reward for nearly scaling a mountain in the desert heat? A 360-degree view of Zion National Park and all its splendor. Vibrant red rocks, deep carved canyons and jagged peaks as far as the eye can see. You’ll think you’ve gone to heaven…