Hiking is one of the most accessible ways to get into nature in an intimate way.
It’s slow. It gives us time to experience our surroundings as we go. We can hear the sounds, smell the smells, stop and look around us. We can catch hidden beauty—wildflowers…wildlife…cool rocks…streams.
It’s also a wonderful way to see magnificent vistas—mountaintops…waterfalls…canyons…seasides.
There are so many great hiking blogs and websites out there that go into much more detail than we do here.
What we do on Active Outdoor Women is highlight specific trails we’ve hiked that we love and recommend. We’ll give some details and show photos that ‘ll inspire you to try them yourself.
Looking for a specific trail or park? Go over to the Search bar and type it in.
What We Look for in a Great Hiking Trail
Here are some of the things we look for in a hiking trail:
Beauty means different things to different people. It can mean mountains or prairies, forests or water, dry or wet, even hot or cold.
My personal favorite trails are those that give us great views the whole way, or at least multiple times. It’s also wonderful when we can find smaller examples of beauty along the way, too—like blooming wildflowers or plenty of birds.
Challenging but Not Impossible
I’m in my 50s—I want to be able to walk the next day 🙂
The young’uns can handle more than we older ones can these days, but I think most of us still enjoy a challenge. Give us some ups and downs, maybe even some climbs—especially if we’re rewarded with a grand view.
We’ll take some creeks, bridges and even snow—but maybe not life-threatening danger.
It’s amazing to hike a trail that’s different from what we’re used to. We have forests, lakes and rivers here in Minnesota, so for us it’s cool to hike in places like the Badlands or Bighorn Canyon that looks, feels and smells so different.
And it’s cool to hike familiar places that are special to our own area, too—and especially to bring others with us who haven’t seen their uniqueness.
Accessible and Well-Marked
We want to be able to find the trailhead and not worry about getting lost, although we’re willing to ask for help and do a little digging. We’ve had to backtrack a time or two and have still fully enjoyed the trail.
If the trail isn’t well-marked then it’s great to have a good map!
Not Too Crowded
The secret we’ve found is even at the most popular hiking destinations, most people only go so far. Push past that a little and you’re free and clear of the crowds.
But we don’t mind fighting through crowds for some special, spectacular views—especially if we had to travel a ways to get there.
An example of that is the brink of the Lower Falls at Yellowstone Grand Canyon. It’s too amazing to be scared away by the crowds. But there’s another hike in the same area that brings you to a phenomenal view of the falls that only a handful of others were on.
What’s On Your Hiking Trails To-Do List?
Don’t forget you’re likely to have some great hikes in your own area. Start there and find out what you’ve been missing out on!
There are so many wonderful opportunities out there. There are the mega-trails like the Appalachian Trail in the east, the Pacific Crest Trail in the west, the Continental Divide Trail down through the Rockies—each 2,000-3,000 miles plus.
There are shorter-but-still-long trails like the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota and the John Muir Trail in California, each over 200 miles.
We don’t need to through-hike these to enjoy ourselves and get a ton out of our experiences. Take a short segment that looks promising and go for it. Check out your closest national park or state parks.
All we really need are a decent pair of shoes and we’re good to go. No expensive equipment necessary.
(This post was first published March 2015)
You’ll like these, too…
- 3 Incredibly Scenic Hikes You’ll Want to Try (reader picks)
- The Many Health Benefits of Walking
- Here are a bunch of posts about hiking…
Sharon is the founder and publisher of Active Outdoor Women. She loves getting outside in beautiful places to hike, paddle, camp, snowshoe, ski, ride—and encouraging others to come along! Besides maintaining AOW and her other website, Twin Cities Outdoors, Sharon writes and designs websites, newsletters, blogs, emails, books and other marketing tools for clients.