Here they are: GP’s best day hikes, as told by our readers. All of the words and images below are straight from your submissions to our GP best hikes competition. We edited and condensed as necessary (some of you really like to type) and shot for widest possible range of locations and types of stories. What we were left with is a diverse hodgepodge of outdoor activity, organized from west to east, starting with Hawaii in the Pacific and ending with St. John in the Atlantic. Without further ado: 15 favorite hiking destinations, as told by GP readers, for GP readers.

HIKING-PROMO-650X100

Hawaii

Trails and Leis

Kalalau Trail

How Long: 22 miles in its entirety
Found In: Kauai, Hawaii
Which Is: The opening to Jurassic Park
Reader Story: Here are a few shots from a recent day hike I did on the Kalalau Trail along the Napali Coast in Kauai, Hawaii. Hope one of them might make the cut. Enjoy.
– A.J. Bertone

Alaska

Never mapped to modern standards

Reed Lakes Day Hike

How Long: 8 miles
Found In: Hatcher Pass, Palmer, Alaska
Which Is: 56 miles north of Anchorage
Reader Story: I can’t tell you how many good memories are attached to this hike. My dad and I talked about a lot of different things on this trail while I was growing up. It was where, I realized later in life, I did most of my learning. Now, having grown up, I still enjoy this hike for not only the beautiful scenery but those memories that come back to me as I head up the trail. I love going first thing in the morning, which in an Alaskan summer is pretty early! There’s no people — just me, some songbirds, and the parky squirrels.
– Benjamin Mulligan

Alaska-Reader-Hikes-Gear-Patrol

Upper American river to float plane take-out

How Long: 2 miles
Found In: Katmai National Park, Alaska
Which Is: Southwest of Anchorage
Reader Story: The attached photo is of father Dunham, wearing waders with a fly rod in hand, on the 2-mile trek between the Upper American River and the float plane take-out in Katmai National Park, Alaska.
– Ryan Jewett

Washington

The Evergreen State

Ape Cave & Various

How Long: 2.6 miles for Ape Cave
Found In: Mt. Saint Helens State Park, Cougar, WA
Which Is: 90 minutes north of Portland; 3 hours south of Seattle
Reader Story: I’m submitting Mt. Saint Helens State Park as one of the best day hike locations in the country. It’s a decently short drive from Portland and Seattle, and is an amazing cross between Rocky Mountain National Park and Volcanoes National Park. It has rugged mountains with the novelty of its volcanic history. The place is seriously amazing, and it’s a mystery to me why it’s not a National Park yet.

I have attached pictures from three different hikes. The cave one is from a trail called Ape Caves. It’s an underground hike that takes you over a mile underground in a lava tube on Mount Saint Helens. The picture with the drawbridge is a hike through a valley that was cleared out by landslides during the eruption, which cleared away the dirt that buried a lava rock valley. The other pictures are from a hike that follows a river that runs off the mountains. It has some of the coolest lush green trails and amazing waterfalls.
– Andrew Roberson

California

The Golden State

Young Lakes

How Long: 16.4 miles
Found In: Yosemite National Park, California
Which Is: 4.5 hours east of San Francisco
Reader Story: This was my first hike out west and it left a lasting impression on me. I set out from Tuolumne Meadows with four friends early in the morning. It was a lovely June weekday, so there weren’t all that many people on the trail, and nobody after passing the cutoff to Lembert Dome. We stopped and ate lunch on a giant granite boulder while watching the sun glint off the white peaks of the Sierra to the southwest. The noble Cathedral Peak stood guard over its shorter cousins, Cockscomb and Unicorn Peak, to the east.

After lunch, we set off for the summit of Ragged Peak. Small, gnarled conifers, stunted by the harshness of the conditions — hot sun during the summer, strong winds, and icy cold during the winter — dotted the slope. We reached the summit, climbed around one of the spires and chimneyed up to the apex, no more than a square meter in size. Below us, the Sierra lay in all its resplendent beauty. To the northeast, we could see the three tiered Young Lakes, their deep blue reflecting the brilliant, cloudless cyan sky, contrasting the pale white of the granite peaks behind them. We carefully made our way down from the peak and then to the col, which led to the lakes themselves. Loose talus and scree gave way beneath our feet so we plunge-stepped our way down the slope, shouting with exuberance. We made our way down to the lakes.

Tired after our hike, we decided to take a dip. This was short lived, as the glacial-fed lakes still had snow around them, but the dive in invigorated us like nothing else. Every cell in our bodies seemed to be, for that one moment, completely alive. A few nips of whiskey and we were ready to head back. We filled our water bottles from the glacial melt. The water was cold, crisp, and clean. I have never had water more delicious. Our route back followed a different section of trail to the meadows. This one passed through Lodgepole pine stands, sentinels of the forest, as we rapidly descended. Finally, we reached our car in the late evening just as the sun began to set, the alpenglow alighting the mountains in pastels of orange and pink.
– Tomasz Falkowski

Learn More: Here (Yosemite National Park)

John Muir Trail and Pacific Crest Trail

How Long: Various, readers did 55 and 34 miles respectively
Found In: Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, California
Which Is: 2 hours northeast of Fresno, CA
Reader Stories: Better late than never. I’m writing this quick while I’m at work. I got back last week from hiking in the Ansel Adams Wilderness with a friend of mine. We spent four days and 55 miles hiking the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail. We came across a bear standing on its hind legs staring at us at night on the trail (didn’t take pictures of that, sorry); our gear broke left and right (including my pack, bladder, and water filter); a pack of coyotes surrounded our tent hollering; there were tons of lakes and plenty of great views. Great trip. We wish it could have been longer. I shot all these photographs on my grandfather’s Minolta SRT Super 35mm and developed them at my place when I got back. (So the color you see is the color you get, except for some scratch cleanup.)
– Toma Bowen

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to spend a few weeks on the John Muir Trail, going from north to south. To me, the trail that runs from Tuolumne Meadow to Red’s Meadow is one that should not be passed up by any self-respecting Gear Patrol reader.

At 34 miles, it is a bit long for a day hike, but I was passed by a group of ultra runners completing it in one day. For most people, this would be a weekend trip, and an amazing one at that, granted you can snag a permit for the backcountry.

Our photos are of the entire trip; they start at the Tuolumne Meadows trailhead. If anyone at Gear Patrol or GP readers take on this trail, make sure you finish up by 6 pm so that you can grab an incredible patty melt (we talked about it throughout the trip) from the Mule House Cafe and a sixer of Double Nut Brown to wash it down.
– Leon Dagdagan

Nevada

More than Vegas

Mt-Charleston-Reader-Hikes-Gear-Patrol

Near Mount Charleston

How Long: Unknown
Found In: Las Vegas, Nevada
Which Is: 30 minutes off the Strip
Reader Story: I hope you like the picture of our Australian Shepherd taking in the sights. This is an unmarked trail near Mount Charleston in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was a refuge for my dogs, my wife and me, during the crazy hot Nevada summers. Hard to contemplate photographing this only 30 minutes from the Strip. Our latest spots include Taos and Red River in New Mexico; the military keeps us on the move. Thanks.
– Brad Dellolacono, Weapons and Tactics Instructor Pilot at USAF

Colorado

Rocky Mountains and Big Rivers

Sand-Ramp-Reader-Hikes-Gear-Patrol

Sand Ramp Trail

How Long: 11 miles
Found In: Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, Mosca, CO
Which Is: 4 hours south of Denver
Reader Story: Hello. I know your website is mostly for guys but I still think it’s full of good stuff and I check it regularly. (I have a slight gear obsession.) Anyways, I was recently reading about your recommended best hikes and thought I’d contribute a bit. As someone who led trail crews for three years, most of the pictures of me on trails are of me holding hand tools or chainsaws and this picture is no different (I’m the one in front of the group).

I’ve been fortunate enough to get paid to hike and work in some of the coolest places, but there are a few hikes that really stood out for me. One of these is the Sand Ramp Trail in Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in Colorado, which is where this picture was taken. Hiking on sand is a great workout, and the views of the San Luis Valley formed by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and San Juan Mountains are truly stunning.
– Laura Fremgen, Wildland Firefighter at Red River Fire Chasers

Ute-Trail-Reader-Hikes-Gear-Patrol

Ute Trail

How Long: 4 miles
Found In: Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO
Which Is: 70 minutes south of Denver
Reader’s Story: This is a relaxed, scenic day hike. The place tends to fill up, so an early start is best!
– Leah Sorensen

Prev Page