Yosemite National Park
Located in Northern California, Yosemite National Park is hands down one of the most beautiful national parks I have ever visited in the United States. With its fantastic peaks, beautiful mixture of meadows and mountains, world renowned climbing spots, and so many amazing, famous hikes, it, like almost every other national park, is unmatched in its beauty. I thought I’d share some of my favorite hiking spots spots if you want to explore Yosemite.
#1 Dog Lake
Distance: 2.8 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 750 feet
While there’s nothing about the lake that overtly screams “dog”, it’s a simple hike that leads to a beautiful hidden lake tucked away in the mountains. If you’re traveling with kids that “refuse” to be carried, this is a great hike for you. And here’s a tip from someone who learned the hard way, hike in boots or closed toed shoes. Teva’s Flatform Universal sandals are definitely the move when you wanna look cute, but not the move for this hike. Let’s just say there are quite a few feet washing stations located throughout Yosemite National Park for a reason.
#2 Lemberts Dome
Distance: 2.8 miles (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 900 feet
Why hike Lemberts Dome instead of hiking to the top of Half Dome? Well first of all, you don’t need a permit to get to the summit. Second, it boasts some of the most spectacular views IN THE PARK! With 360° views, it’s unmatched. There’s two ways to get to the top, 1. You can take the hiking trail, 2. You can climb. Trust me when I say, it’s worth whichever option you decide to do.
Yellowstone National Park
This expansive park spans over three states-Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho-and is our nation’s first national park! Yup! Established in 1872, Yellowstone marked the first of many historical acts to preserve some of our nation’s most treasured lands. With valleys, river, canyons, hot springs, colorful basins, and so much more, there’s not a single day you’ll spend in this park where you'll be bored.
#1 Dunraven Pass - Mount Washburn
Distance: 6.4 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 feet
The trail of up to the start of the hike is closed right now due to road issues, but let me tell you, when they open back up and you get the chance to peak this incredible mountain, it’s one heck of a hike. This one may be something the kiddos should sit out if they get worn out easily, but if you take breaks and take your time, you can accomplish this hike in 3-6 hours. No matter how long it takes, it’s definitely an all day activity, but the view from the top is worth it.
#2 Upper Geyser Basin Trail (Loop)
Distance: 3 miles
Elevation Gain: 50 feet
Take this hike to check out the highest concentration of geysers in the WORLD! For most of the hydrothermal pool hikes, Yellowstone National Park has created these super cool boardwalks that weave you in and out of the diamond, ruby, sapphire, and many more colored pools that are located in the park. Remember to tell the kids that Yellowstone is located on top of one of the largest volcanoes in the world! Which is why you’ll see so many geysers and basins, cause all that heat has got to go somewhere…
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Did you think we wouldn’t include this park? Of course we would! I mean it is a spectacular park and deserves a bit of attention. If you’ve visited a number of national parks across the country, you wouldn’t be surprised that most parks require an entrance fee. Not GSM, they’re free and, as of right now, they intend to stay strictly donation based. Known by the Cherokee as “Shaconage”, or “The Land of Blue smoke, it has some of the oldest mountains in the world, is the most visited park, and boasts more than 800 miles of hiking trails. My favorite fact about GSM is that it’s the Salamander Capital of the World! So keep an eye out when you’re traversing the almost 3,000 miles of streams, you might find a slimy friend hiding in the mud. FYI, don't move the stones! Salamanders lay their eggs under there!
#1 Cades Cove Loop
Distance: 10.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 734 feet
I have personally hiked, biked, and driven this loop MANY times. It’s worth it. It’s so much fun and can be worth the exhaustion it brings. Kid friendly, bike friendly, all kinds of friendly, take this loop and have a blast.
#2 Clingmans Dome
Distance: 1 mile (round trip)
Elevation Gain: 332 feet
Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the entire park. Breathtaking views are the reason you want to get to the top. The entire trail is paved which makes it stroller friendly! Take in the sunrise at this spot and be blown away. You won’t regret it. Trust me.
So armed with a little bit more info, get out there and explore this amazing planet we've got! If you have any more questions or want to chat a little bit more about your adventures, stop by Mountain High Outfitters and talk to our experienced associates to find out their advice for you! Plus, you can snag all the important gear you need for your trip!