We asked Heather Sable, editor of American Hiker, for the paths that get her psyched to lace up. Line up those vacation days now!
Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Forest, Virginia
Distance: 7 miles
What to expect: This loop will have you shimmying under boulders, inching through crevices, and scrambling over rock fields to see panoramic views of the hilltops. Plan for a full day and aim to start before 8 a.m. to avoid crowds.
Yellow Rock Trail in Devil's Den State Park, Arkansas
Distance: 3 miles
What to expect: Be prepared for a steep climb in the first mile; then the trail flattens out and winds through the thickly wooded Ozark Mountains. You'll want to gaze at the lush green rolling hills from the overlook at Yellow Rock bluff. (Drop a vehicle at the end of this one-way route, unless you want to double back.)
Crater Lake Trail by the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness Reserve, Colorado
Distance: 4 miles
What to expect: This out-and-back trek meanders over a well-traveled valley trail and slowly gains elevation. It tops out at 10,350 feet and the edge of the much-photographed Crater Lake, surrounded on three sides by the snowcapped Maroon Bells mountains. Don't forget your camera and swimsuit!
Angel's Landing in Zion National Park, Utah
Distance: 5 miles
What to expect: This popular, thrilling out-and-back trail begins on a flat path and eventually narrows to a knife edge with sheer drops on both sides. At some points you'll grip chains to pull yourself up the steep route, but you'll be rewarded with a spectacular bird's-eye view of the red rock formations—and a huge sense of accomplishment!
The California Coastal Trail at Lands End in Golden Gate National Recreation Area, California
Distance: 2.6 miles
What to expect: This flat, out-and-back trail winds along the cliffs of San Francisco Bay and allows you to keep the Pacific Ocean and Golden Gate Bridge in your sights. Leave time to check out the historic landmarks near the path, like the remains of three shipwrecks from the 1920s.
Burroughs Mountain Loop in Mount Rainier, Washington
Distance: 5 miles out and back
What to expect: You'll traipse through every type of wilderness—meadows, dense forests, and tundra—to get to a lookout point that offers a glimpse of the Emmons Glacier. You'll top out on a plateau that has Mount Rainer as its backdrop.