The Most Epic American Day Hikes

By The Editors of The ActiveTimes
7/26/2013 9:24:11 AM

Some views are worth suffering for.

Well, maybe not suffering suffering, but you're definitely not going to stand atop some of the most awe-inspiring vistas in North America without scrambling, climbing and sweating for it.

For those who light up at the word "rugged," we put together a list of 20 epic day hikes in the United States and Canada. Some of these trails gain thousands of feet of elevation and others stretch for 20 miles or more-and some do both.

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But the rewards of scrapping up mountainsides, blazing through switchbacks in the Arizona desert and pushing on those extra few miles are truly special. You can experience the Grand Canyon from both rims, skinny dip in a secluded hot spring in the Colorado Rockies, and see the Catskills' autumn foliage in all directions.

And huffing and puffing aside, you only have to invest a day (or two) to get the most out of these trails.

You may want to bring camping gear on some of these hikes, though. A few stretch the definition of day hike-unless you're a speed demon or masochist, that is-and aren't any less amazing at a slower pace.

Click through to see our list of 20 epic American day hikes.

This story was reported by Amy Reinink and Caitlin Giddings.

Credit: Flickr/patrickhashley

Lower Great Range Loop-Adirondack Mountains, New York

Trace the Great Range's ridgeline on a magical journey past 150-foot waterfalls, open summits and multiple challenging peaks. Don't be fooled by the "lower" qualifier of this "Lower Great Range Loop"-it's still an epic, 14- to 17-mile trek over 4,000-plus-foot mountains with tellingly imaginative names like Wolfjaw and Little Nippletop. Get an early start from the St. Huberts Trailhead, and follow the West River Trail and Gothics-Armstrong Trail for a full day of dramatic, panoramic views. This is one of the best hiking areas in the Adirondacks, so there are plenty of more manageable options, including a 9-mile roundtrip on the West River Trail along the East Branch Ausable River to glimmering, glacier-carved Lower Ausable Lake.

Difficulty: Strenuous; Moderate to Ausable Lake

When to go: Summer to early fall

-Caitlin Giddings

Credit: Shutterstock

Kalalau Trail-Na Pali, Hawaii

Trace the rugged coastline of a secluded section of the Hawaiian island of Kauai on this narrow 11-mile trail, which leads from Ke'e Beach to Kalalau Beach. Part of the Hawaii State Parks system, Na Pali-"the cliffs" in Hawaiian-is aptly named, as it treks over high cliffs above the turquoise Pacific surf below. Don't let the coastal location fool you-this is a rigorous trek with some steep ascents and descents, thanks to rolling hills.

Difficulty: Strenuous

When to go: Year-round

-Amy Reinink

Credit: Shuttterstock

Grinnell Glacier Trail-Glacier National Park, Montana

The trail to Grinnell Glacier traces the shores of glittering blue Lake Josephine, ringed by shadows of dark mountain peaks before ascending into those peaks on a narrow, rocky trail. Stands of fragrant pines and ever-changing views of the surrounding peaks and the lake below make the climb worthwhile. Six miles and 1,600 feet after beginning, hikers arrive at Upper Grinnell Lake and Grinnell Glacier, which sit at the base of the continental divide.

Difficulty: Strenuous

When to go: Late summer or early fall; the trail isn't free of snow until mid-August

-Amy Reinink

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