6. Glacier National Park
Montana’s Glacier National Park is a true hiker’s paradise, with more than 730 miles (1,174 kilometers) of marked trails within its boundaries. It’s such a popular hiking destination that more than half of the people who enter the park are there to set off on foot and explore. The park and its trails are known for impressive mountain peaks, isolated alpine lakes and no shortage of wildlife. The park gets its name from the huge glaciers that helped to shape the park’s rock formations 10,000 years ago. In 1850, the park had 150 glaciers, but today there are only 26 remaining. Because of climate change, those are predicted to be gone by the year 2020 [source: NPS.gov].
Like most of our national parks, you’ll need a backcountry permit to hike overnight in Glacier, but you don’t need to plan a year in advance like the more popular Grand Canyon and Yosemite. Another consideration for hiking in Glacier is the snow line. By mid-June you can hike the lower elevations with no fear, but you’ll have to wait until late July for the snow to melt in the higher elevations.
5. John Muir Trail
John Muir was a legendary naturalist and founder of the conservation organization The Sierra Club, a conservation organization. At age 26, Muir came to San Francisco and looking for “any place that is wild,” eventually ending up in Yosemite. He protested the human impact on what he considered to be the most beautiful land in all of the United States and was instrumental in its inclusion as a national park.
Ten years after his death, the state of California appropriated $10,000 to begin the construction of the John Muir Trail. After 23 years, the result was a 211-mile (339-kilometer) Crest-Parallel trail. This means that instead of the typical crest to valley hike, most of the trail lies in the high elevation. In fact, aside from the beginning of the hike in Yosemite, the trail fails to go below 8,000 feet (2,438 kilometers). As a result, hikers that brave the trail through the Sierra Mountain Range are treated to hundreds of mountain lakes, canyons, granite cliffs and peaks as high as 14,000 feet (4.62 kilometers). The hiking season generally runs from June to September because of the snow in upper elevations.