Who doesn't love the idea of hiking? Walking around in nature, eating granola, the whole thing sounds really nice... in theory. If you're not used to getting outside, though, the best way to entice yourself to complete a hike is to choose a trail that's really worth the effort. If a trail doesn't have mind-blowing views, or a waterfall along the way, or even like, a really cool rock, is it even worth the effort? If you won't get out of bed and hit the trail for less than a million dollars, then these are the million dollar hikes actually worth getting out of bed for.
You've probably seen pictures of the amazing turquoise water of Grinnell Lake in Glacier National Park, but even the most stunning photos don't do justice to the experience of actually seeing it in person and realizing that it really is that shade of blue in real life. And, if that still isn't awesome enough for you, you can chill out (literally) on Grinnell glacier, which feeds the lake and helps give it that lovely hue, since the trail passes it. The hike is about 3 miles out and another 3 miles back, making it a quick half-day hike.
Oneonta Gorge is probably one of the few trails in the US that is also (at times) a river. Yes, you will get soaked... but it's so worth it. As you make your way through the gorge, you'll see rare mosses and ferns that don't grow anywhere else in the world (the emerald green against the basalt walls of the gorge is striking) and several waterfalls (four, to be exact). I'd say that's pretty well worth the effort!
Potato Chip Rock is great for those who are not above going on a hike for an insane photo op... plus sitting on the edge of this thin rock will test your mettle. It's along the Mount Woodson Trail, which is lovely and very well kept (albeit pretty mountainous). Since it's a pretty famous spot, you'll probably encounter others who want their picture taken, so get there early to avoid the crowds. Feeling nervous about stepping onto the perilous ledge? Just tell yourself that you've already hiked out to it, so you might as well!
Observation Point is definitely not the most famous hike in Zion National Park (that title goes to Angels Landing) but this hike is a little easier, and a lot prettier. While the 8-mile round-trip hike is mostly uphill, the switchbacks are less steep, and you'll be rewarded with a sweeping view all across Zion. Seriously, you'll feel like you're king of the park.
With 15 miles of trail to choose from, Garden of the Gods is full of things to see and do. Many of the rock formations have names, like Balanced Rock and the Kissing Camels, so grab a map at the visitor center and spot as many as you can. The orangey red sandstone formations make for some pretty striking photographs as well. Oh, and if you're into climbing, this is a great place to hit the rocks!
Hike to The Window in Big Bend National Park... and bring your camera, because it's kind of beautiful. The trail starts at the Chisos Basin Campground, and it ends at the rock formation that perfectly frames a breathtaking view of Big Bend and its special brand of Texan desert scenery. Plus, check it out at night for stellar stargazing... since the park is so remote and less crowded, it has some of the darkest skies in America!
Whitaker Point: Sure, the main attraction here is the Hawksbill Crag (one of the best places in Arkansas to get kissed!) and while it is utterly awe-inspiring (it's just as perfect as it seems) the trail along the way is nice, too. In the spring and summer, it's overflowing with wildflowers and lush greenery. There are plenty of places along the way to stop and take in the views, too!
Fall Creek Falls State Park has more than a few waterfalls, but the one for which the park is named is one of the tallest in the Eastern US... and if you're willing to put in the effort to hike down to the base, you can swim below it. On the way to Fall Creek Falls, you pass by other swimming holes and waterfalls you can slide down. Bring a towel, a bathing suit, water shoes, and an inner tube, and enjoy the natural fun here!
Old Rag Mountain is a favorite hike in Virginia. For most of this classic Shenandoah National Park hike, it's a normal uphill trek. At the end, you get some bouldering and scrambling, which is always fun, and the view from the top... breathtaking. It's not terribly difficult, and it's a pretty popular hike, but that's because it's not too challenging, and the scenery is stunning. It's about 9 miles, round trip, but try and plan it so you can watch the sun set from the top... or go in the autumn to check out the fall foliage!
If you know about hiking, then you know that the one-mile Mahoosuc Notch stretch of the Appalachian Trail is known as the "Killer Mile". And I'm telling you to hike it. The reason it's so tough is because the trail is covered in massive rocks and boulders that you get to climb over and under... so I like to think of it more as a fun challenge than a pain in the butt. Plus, the rocks are all covered in moss and the Mahoosuc Range is totally gorgeous (especially in the fall!) so it really feels like you're in Lord of the Rings or something.
So what are you waiting for, ya couch potato? Get out there and hit the trails!