Picking this epic list back up for 5 more breathtaking views and hikes – check out my top 5 here.
Its incredible what nature can create. More than 2,000 red sandstone arches are said to be found in this park, and although I only saw a couple dozens, these are the other bizarre geological formations make this park a natural wonderland. Two hikes that are absolute must dos: the 3-mile / 2-hour Delicate Arch hike, and the 8-mile / 4-hour Devil’s Garden hike through Landscape Arch to Double-O Arch (including a detour to get behind Partition Arch).
The Windows section was closed for road construction when I visited, but I’ve heard great things about it too. And there are a few other viewpoints that are worth stopping by: Park Avenue, Balance Rock, Fiery Furnace,… We had such a blast hiking Arches with my baby niece 🙂
7- Horseshoe Bend
Probably the highest return on investment on this list. Horseshoe Bend is precisely that, a simple meander of the Colorado River… except that its flawless shape, and the stark contrast between its vermillion cliffs and the blue river and sky make it picture-perfect. A 15 min walk with no access fee, and you find yourself in one of the most spectacular landscapes on earth.
Yosemite is the perfect valley, with thick green forest and the bottom, granite towers on the sides, and waterfalls everywhere. My must do hike here is a 13-mile / 8-hour loop combining some of the most popular trails: up the Four-Mile trail from the valley to Glacier Point (the view from up there are ridiculous: Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, Half Dome), then Panorama trail to Nevada Fall, and down through Vernal Fall on the Mist trail back to the valley (and to a shuttle back to your car).
Lots to do and see in this park, but the crowds and traffic jams always leave me with a bittersweet memory. I’ll keep coming back though, like for the Half Dome hike I hope to finally get in this year.
Despite being a rather small park, Zion packs two of the coolest hikes ever: 5-mile / 4.5-hour Angels’ Landing, which offers epic aerial views of the whole valley and some via ferrata stretches not recommended for those who have issues with heights, and 9-mile / 6-hour The Narrows, where you hike up a canyon with turquoise water reaching anywhere from your ankles to your waist. You must rent canyoneering boots in town and check the weather conditions (rain makes this trail very dangerous).
Any list that has Canyonlands as the #10, must be a hell of a list. The neighbor to Arches, offers some spectacular landscapes but less on the hiking front. In all fairness, I’ve only explored the Island in the Sky section, so can’t speak to The Needles. Definitely worth it are the Mesa Arch, and the Grand View Point, especially if you catch it in a day with low clouds.
The good news is, you can combine all these parks I an epic 3-week roadtrip… and even check out some other cool sites on the way: Monument Valley or Death Valley, Mammoth Lakes, etc. Maybe even some of the parks I haven’t yet explored myself, like Grand Teton, Crater Lake, Glacier National Park or the Rockies.
And for those who have maxed out on the West Coast, I would recommend a few other places nearby: the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the Big Island (to get really close to flowing lava!), the Waimea Canyon and the Kalalau Trail in Kauai, Denali in Alaska (particularly in the winter to chase Northern Lights), and the unbelievable lakes of Banff in Canada.