10 Challenging Hikes At America’s Top National Parks

10 Challenging Hikes- Angels Landing, Zion NP.

Challenge yourself on one of these strenuous and breath-gasping day hikes in the top ten most visited National Parks

Angels Landing is a short but strenuous hike in Zion National Park.
Angels Landing is a short but strenuous hike in Zion that offers a physical challenge. Photo by Dan Sanchez

National Parks get lots of visitors, but if you want to avoid the common tourist jaunts and challenge yourself on a difficult but rewarding day hike, check out our list of tough trails at the top ten most visited National Parks.

According to the NPS, these 10 National Parks are typically the most visited. But the trails we selected are not always the most popular with tourists and visitors due to their length and climb in elevation. If you’re willing to take them on, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views and a challenging experience that fresh air junkies can appreciate.

Great Smokey Mountains National ParkRamsey Cascades Trail. An eight mile round trip strenuous hike that climbs over 2,000 ft. in elevation. Offers a spectatular view of the tallest waterfall in the park. Park visits in 2009: (9,491,437).

Grand Canyon National Park : South Kaibab Trail. A steep six mile round trip at the canyon’s South Rim. Offers great views of the park in a well-maintained trail. Trailhead elevation is 7,200 feet. Water is available only at the trailhead. Park visits in 2009: (4,348,049).

Yosemite National Park: Upper Yosemite Falls. A  7.2 mile round trip day hike that climbs up to 2,700 ft. in elevation in a short but steep hike. While other hikers will be clawing to get a day permit for Half Dome, you’ll be enjoying shaded views of the park that are not often seen. Park visits in 2009: (3,737,472).

Yellowstone National Park: Mt. Washburn Trail. This six mile round trip trail takes you up to the top of Mt. Washburn at 10,423 ft. It offers a beautiful panoramic view of the park and the Grand Tetons that most visitors seldom see. Park visits in 2009: (3,295,187).

Olympic National ParkPyramid Peak Trail.  A seven mile round trip hike that gains 2,350 ft. in elevation from dense rain forest to the summit of Pyramid Peak. The hike offers a great way to experience old growth forest and has a panoramic view of Lake Crescent at the top. Park visits in 2009: (3,276,459).

Upper Yostmite falls
The Upper Yosemite Falls hike is one of the most challenging in this popular park. Photo NPS

Rocky Mountain National Park: Chasm Lake Trail.  This 8.4 mile hike is strenuous but offers some of the best views of the park. The trail rises 2,360 ft. in elevation where you’ll see wildflowers and get the best view of Longs Peak. Park visits in 2009: (2,822,325).

Zion National Park: Angels Landing. One of our personal favorites as it is only 2.5 miles round trip, but it rises 1500 ft. in elevation. The trail is paved till you get to Scouts Lookout, where you ascend another 500 ft. up a steep, narrow ridge with chains to Angles Landing. Wear good, sticky shoes. Park visitors in 2009: (2,735,402)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park: Buckeye Trail-Station Road Bridge to Jaite. Although this seven mile trail doesn’t offer much in elevation, only a 200 ft. gain, it is rated as a difficult trail that extends through a large section of the park with scenic views along the way. Park visitors in 2009: (2,589,288)

Grand Teton National Park: Monogram Lake Trail. This incredibly scenic 10-mile round trip hike climbs to 5,400 ft. It offers spectacular wildlife and plant-life along subalpine meadows and alpine glaciation before reaching Monogram Lake.  Park visits in 20090: (2,580,081).

Acadia National Park: Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail. This strenuous 7.4 mile round trip trail starts in the forest area and rises 3,100 ft. up a gentle ascent on granite. It’s the longest trail in the park and offers some of the best open vistas and chances to see eagles flying overhead. Park visits in 2009: (2,227,698).

For more information on these trails and any of the National Parks listed, visit www.nps.gov.

By Dan Sanchez

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