HALF MOON BAY, Calif., April 20, 2012—Hikers have a wealth of opportunities across the United States for ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Whether it’s a daylong outing, or a multi-day trek, U.S. National Parks offer a variety of trail choices. Why not take advantage of some of the best during National Park Week?
From April 21 to 29, all 397 of U.S. National Parks offer free admission, giving everyone a chance to access 84 million acres of the world’s most beautiful scenery, cultural treasures and historic landmarks, all without reaching for their wallets.
There are plenty of hiking opportunities in national parks across the country, but here are a few to get you inspired:
Yosemite National Park: Upper Yosemite Fall
This 7-mile roundtrip hike takes in the upper fall, lower fall and middle cascade that combined make the tallest waterfall (2,425 feet) in North America. The trail was completed in 1877. The dozens of switchbacks of Upper Yosemite Fall trail lead to the Columbia Rock Overlook. Continuing on to the top of the trail allows you a view from the top of Upper Yosemite Fall.
Grand Canyon National Park: Bright Angel Trail
The Bright Angel Trail dips below the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, and can be as long as a 12-mile round trip hike, or less, depending on when you decide to turn back. Switchbacks start the descent below the rim, and the trail leads across the Upper Tonto Platform, through Indian Garden and down to the Colorado River.
Yellowstone National Park: Pebble Creek Trail
The country’s first national park, Yellowstone National Park is more than Old Faithful. Get an eyeful of breathtaking views on the 12-mile Pebble Creek Trail. Wildflowers, big wildlife, creek crossings, a glacial-cut valley and views of 10,000-foot peaks are just some of the trail’s treats.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Appalachian Trail
Considered “America’s most-visited national park,” the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an ideal place to hike along the Appalachian Trail. The entire trail is 2,181 miles and runs through 14 states, but if you’re not planning to hike the whole thing, try any segment of the 70 miles that wind through this park. If you’ll be headed out for longer than a day, be sure to follow backcountry safety tips.
Acadia National Park: Precipice Trail
The Precipice Trail is the most well-known and challenging trail in Acadia National Park. The 1.6-mile trail has a nearly 1,000-foot vertical climb on Champlain Mountain, with iron rungs and ladders on exposed cliffs. This trail is the perfect challenge for those who lack a fear of heights and are physically fit.
Can’t make it outdoors during National Park Week? More fee-free days in 2012 are: June 9, Sept. 29 and Nov. 10-12.
Jill K. Robinson is an award-winning journalist and adventure seeker. Follow her adventures on dangerjillrobinson.com and Twitter @dangerjr. Jill is an avid kayaker and owner of Half Moon Bay Kayak Company.