Your Health

Hiking for exercise: Some of our favorite trails

July 2, 2018 — Tamara Castellano

Hiking is a great way to exercise without feeling like you’re exercising. With beautiful scenery and an endless list of great hikes around the U.S. to choose from, hiking can be a great way to get your heart rate going without even realizing it. If you’ve never hiked before, or you’re not sure where to start, consider that there are 58 national parks and more than 6,000 state parks. You can access trail maps for nearly every park online. The maps generally include how long the hike is, the level of difficulty and where you can take in a view or stop for lunch.  Here is a list of some of our favorite hikes.

Buckskin Gulch, Kanab, UT

If you live out west—or are planning a trip to Utah—Buckskin Gulch is a must.  It consistently makes the list of top hikes in the U.S. and is considered to be one of the longest slot canyon’s in the world, running 15 miles long with walls that tower as high as 500 feet in some places. As with any slot canyon hike, it’s critical to check the weather; flash flooding in slot canyons is common and can be dangerous.  Aside from the stunning scenery, there is a variety of terrain, including some pools (less than 3 feet deep) and scrambling over boulders in spots, but most of the trail is flat.  The full hike through Buckskin is 23.6 miles, but you can shorten it by hiking to different points along the way.

For more information on Buckskin Gulch, visit the Outdoor Project.

Alum Cave, Great Smokey Mountains National Park, TN, NC

The Alum Cave trail is one of the most popular in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.  This trail has a little something for everyone—soaring mountain views, cool streams and awe-inspiring rock formations.  Doing the full hike will give you some serious bragging rights (and steps).  The full trail is 11 miles and gains roughly 1,200 feet in elevation.  Plan to spend the entire day in the park if you want to do the full trail.  There is also a historic significance to this trail; Alum Cave was mined for epsom salts in the mid-1800’s.

For more information on Alum Cave, visit

Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, CO

Another national park gem is the Emerald Lake trail, located in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The hike is 3.6 miles long and has a very modest elevation gain of just 650 feet.  What makes this hike so special is the three stunning lakes and the abundance of wild life.  The first lake you’ll see is Nymph Lake, which is the smallest of the three and usually covered by lily pads.  The appropriately named Dream Lake is next and boasts amazing views of Hallett Peak.  Last, but certainly not least, you’ll come upon Emerald Lake, named for the color of the water that is fed by a glacier.

For more information on Emerald Lake, visit Hikespeak.

Gorham Mountain, Acadia National Park, ME

Located southwest of Bar Harbor, ME, sits Acadia National Park and the Gorham Mountain trail.   This 2 mile, family-friendly hike is famous for its sweeping ocean views—and if you hike it at the right time, you’ll see the equally famous Maine blueberry bushes along the way.  The trail intersects with several other trails, including the Bowl trail and Ocean Path so you can make this hike longer by combining them.  The trail is open from spring to fall.

For more information on Gorham Mountain, visit Maine Trail Finder.

Mooney Falls, Grand Canyon, AZ

The 200-foot Mooney Falls will literally take your breath away.  While you’ve likely seen pictures of this iconic waterfall, it’s hard to describe what it’s like to experience it in person.  Mooney Falls is the tallest of five waterfalls in the Grand Canyon.  The hike to Mooney Falls—a walk really—is through the Havasupai campground. The climb down to the bottom of the falls, however, is not for the faint-of-heart.  You will have to descend 200 feet down a series of chains, ladders and bolts, but the turquoise water at the base is worth the payoff.

For more information on Mooney Falls, visit Waterfalls of the Grand Canyon

Scott’s Bluff North Overlook Trail, Scottsbluff, NE

Fact:  Between 1841 and 1869, more than 350,000 people passed through Scott’s Bluff, making this trail one of the most historic and well-traveled on our list. The trail is located within the Scott’s Bluff National Monument and offers spectacular views of the North Platte River valley.  This is a short hike—just a half mile long—and is paved the entire way.  As bonus, dogs are allowed on leash. Within the national monument, there is also a South Overlook trail so if you’re feeling adventurous, try them both.

For more information about the North Overlook Trail, visit

Topics: Your Health

Written by

Tamara Castellano

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