Sure, hiking the Appalachian Trail is an experience no one ever forgets. But the United States is a pretty big place, with tons of opportunities for hiking and camping in spots that don’t attract millions of tourists every year. For those who like the feel of going where (almost) no man has gone before, or for those looking for a little peace and solitude, we’ve got just the solution.
This list includes 43 trails that are “hidden,” either because they’re physically hard to find or because not many people know they exist. Newbie hikers can take a stab at some of the mile-and-under strolls, while more experienced folks will love the long-distance treks. We’re talking breathtaking views of the sunrise, chilling with local wildlife (please don’t feed the animals!), and the chance to learn more about the natural environment. So lace up those hiking boots, buy a map, and most importantly, pack a sense of adventure.
1. The Walls of Jericho, Huntsville, Alabama Length: 3.5 miles Skill level: Difficult
This trail isn’t too far from Huntsville, but it feels like it’s a world away from the hustle and bustle of the city. So slap on those waterproof boots and prepare to feel the burn as you trek downhill and then all the way back uphill through a muddy trail marked by caves and waterfalls. Legend has it a traveling minister named the hike more than two centuries ago when the nearly 200-foot walls reminded him of a cathedral.
2. Hidden Creek Trail, Soldotna, Alaska Length: 1.5 miles Skill level: Easy
Okay, so the first part of this trail isn’t so spectacular. But hikers say once you get to the loop, you’ll find Hidden Creek (literally hidden in a grassy marsh), glistening Skillak Lake, and a breathtaking view of the Kenai Mountains — no manmade stuff in sight. It’s a pretty family friendly hike, too, since it’s relatively easy and there’s a bunch of fishing spots around the creek. Looking for more adventure? Start on one of the other trails off Skillak Lake Road.
3. Girdner Trail, Sedona, Arizona Length: 4.5 miles Skill level: Moderate
Ditch the daily grind and instead take a tour through Arizona’s amazing natural landscape. Hikers start out passing through lush forests and juniper groves with views of sandstone cliffs, then walk underneath sycamores until they reach a pink-tinged rockscape.
4. Dripping Cave Trail, Orange County, California Length: 0.75 miles Skill level: Easy Take a hike through history on this multi-use route (open to hikers, bikers, and equestrians). The trail passes right by Dripping Cave, an area that was likely used as a refuge for Native American hunter-gathers and as a hideout for the Juan Flores gang of robbers. It’s one small part of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park, a designated wildlife sanctuary that sprawls across 30 miles of trails and features a whole range of endangered animal and plant species.
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