THE BLOG
08/27/2015 02:49 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

The 43 Best Hidden Hikes In The U.S.

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Read the full list on Greatist.

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. If you like the feel of going where (almost) no man has gone before, or if you're looking for a little peace and solitude, we've got the solution -- actually, 43 of them.

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These "hidden" trails either are physically hard to find or not many people know they exist. Newbie hikers can take a stab at some of the strolls up to a mile long, 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.


West

Location: Soldotna, AK

Length: 1.5 miles

Skill level: easy

OK, so the first part of this trail isn't so spectacular. But 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 relatively easy, family-friendly hike, and there are a bunch of fishing spots around the creek. Looking for more adventure? Start on one of the longer trails off Skillak Lake Road.

Location: Custer County, ID

Length: 32.5 miles

Skill level: difficult

The Sawtooth Mountains usually steal the spotlight, but this lesser-known range offers equal opportunities for scenic long-distance treks. Forty years ago, a proposal to create a national park where the mountains currently stand failed. Today, it's a place for ambitious hikers to catch a glimpse of the animal kingdom, including elk, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, black bears, and gray wolves.

Location: Enterprise, OR

Length: 41 miles

Skill level: difficult

Beat the heat and hike by a serene lake surrounded by Indian paintbrush, sego lilies, and bluebell flowers (they bloom in July). Most hikers visit the Wonderland Trail, so leave the masses behind and check out the 5,000-foot tall granite peaks that dot this hike hidden in Oregon"s largest wilderness.

Location: Seattle, WA

Length: 0.7 miles

Skill level: moderate

The name "Squak Mountain" comes from the sound of the herons that visit here during the spring and fall. Any time of year, it's a great place to bring the fam and even the dog for an afternoon of peace, solitude, and the chance to take in the beauty of the natural landscape.

Location: Kailua, HI

Length: 3 miles

Skill level: difficult

This spectacular hike was relatively unknown until it made The New York Times a few years ago -- for good reason. The trip involves climbing three separate peaks, but most hikers just do the highest peak, totaling 1,643 feet. The chance to peer down through the clouds at the very top makes the whole trip up worth it.

Location: Orange County, CA

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.

Location: Sedona, AZ

Length: 4.5 miles

Skill level: moderate

Ditch the daily grind and 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.

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Southwest

Location: Jackson, WY

Length: 30.5 miles

Skill level: difficult

This trail starts at Death Canyon Trailhead in Grand Teton National Park. Sure, the name sounds scary, but starting from Death Canyon is actually a great way to beat the crowds and still snag spectacular views of the Teton spires below. Elk and moose will make up most of your companions on this journey, which features canyons, mountains, and hosts of wildflowers.

Location: Golden, CO

Length: 4.9 miles

Skill level: moderate

There's never a dull moment on this five-mile stretch that features trails, forests, and meadows. There will likely be some heavy breathing on the hike up to the loop, but once you get there it's an easy stroll with breathtaking views on both sides. Those craving more adventure after the hike ends can continue on to (possibly more well-known) trails in Golden Gate Canyon and Eldorado Canyon State Parks.

Location: Catron County, NM

Length: 35 miles

Skill level: difficult

Set aside a few days to make this challenging trek. Some of the main attractions include hoodoos (tall columns of rocks), a 700-year-old cliff dwelling, and a hot spring.

Location: Springdale, UT

Length: 47 miles

Skill level: difficult

A perfect paradise for painters and photographers, this trail in Zion National Park features the orange and red Kolob Canyons and some labyrinth side canyons made of white and red sandstone. The views from the top of canyon walls make the whole experience thrilling, and the best part is waking up early to watch light spread over the land.

Photo: allglacier.com

Location: Kalispell, MT

Length: 92 miles

Skill level: difficult

Hike this less-trodden trail (part of Glacier National Park) in one long trip, or break it up into smaller treks. Either way, it's a great chance to camp at a site surrounded by waterfalls and spot some wildlife. But beware: Bears have been known to make an appearance on the trail. Bonus: The park offers a free shuttle service, allowing you to resupply after 65 miles (and even grab a burger if you're so inclined).

Location: Medora, ND

Length: 1.5 miles

Skill level: moderate

Everyone's heard of Teddy Roosevelt, but his namesake park is less commonly known. Hikers on the Caprock Coulee Trail wend their way through badlands terrain, through water gulches, and up hills, until they arrive to a grassy butte where they can marvel at the spectacular views before making their way back down.

Location: Atoka, OK

Length: 23 miles (total)

Skill level: moderate

These trails are designated a "quiet-water zone," and visitors need a (free) permit to hike, mountain bike, or horseback ride there. The trail system is also home to a bunch of wildlife, so expect some four-legged company on your journey even if humans are few and far between.

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Location: Rapid City, SD

Length: 20 miles

Skill level: difficult

There aren't actually any trails in the Badlands' Sage Creek Unit, so hikers need to develop a good sense of direction before trekking along this three-day loop. The key is to make like the animals, following a bison path to another area where deer, antelope, and raptors like to play. Summer's the perfect time to visit to experience the almost other-worldly terrain. And for a more romantic experience, visit in June when flowers bloom or in August to see the Perseid meteor shower.

Location: Culberson County, TX

Length: 24.1 miles

Skill level: difficult

This trail, part of Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas, keeps hikers on their toes, winding through terrain as varied as desert lands, canyons, and mountains. Camp overnight and snag a sunset view of the highest peaks in the McKittrick Ridge. Only problem: There's no water available, so backpackers have to lug their own.

Midwest

Location: Overland Park, KS

Length: 17 miles

Skill level: moderate

Hikers, bikers, joggers, and dog walkers are all welcome on this flat, paved trail. Veteran hikers say the path feels more woodsy than urban, and it's generally pretty empty, especially on weekdays. The trail also connects to parks with ball fields, tennis courts, and playgrounds.

Location: Vermilion County, IL

Length: 1.5 miles (combined with Fox River Trail)

Skill level: difficult

The Big Woods Trail slinks through American Indian trails and the ravine system, and ends with a photo op at the observation tower. It's one of the many paths in Forest Glen Preserve, which includes other routes for backpackers, day-hikers, and those with handicaps.

Location: Chesterton, IN

Length: 2.4 miles

Skill level: moderate

Apparently even Indiana natives aren't so familiar with this trail nestled among farm fields. Fishing aficionados can check out the Little Calumet River; everyone else can take in the beautiful wildflowers and watch the great blue herons feeding in their natural habitat.

Location: Cerro Gordo County, IA

Length: 7.5 miles

Skill level: moderate

This isn't only for hikers: Bike, drive, canoe, or horseback ride your way through limestone bluffs, dense woods, meadows, and ponds while viewing all sorts of wildlife. And don't forget the turkey sandwiches: There's a picnic area along the way.

Location: International Falls, MN

Length: 2.5 miles

Skill level: moderate

Wind your way through this rocky trail, part of Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota. But don't look down at your feet the whole time -- the majestic forest surrounding you is beautiful. Return in the winter for snowshoeing!

Location: Baraboo, WI

Length: 1,000 miles

Skill level: difficult

Every step forward is a trip back in time on this trail, where visitors can learn about how the Ice Age shaped the natural landscape. Of course, it's possible (and probably advisable) to hike only a portion of the super-long route along Wisconsin's glacial landscapes.

Location: Sullivan, MO

Length: 8.5 miles

Skill level: moderate

Deer, turkey, and squirrels, oh my! Furry and feathered friends will likely be the only company we'll have on the longest hike in Meramec State Park. It's a sightseer's paradise, complete with dramatic caves, springs, buffs, glades, and rock ledges. Choose to hike the whole thing in one day or stay overnight at one of the backpacking camps along the well-maintained trail.

Read the full list on Greatist.

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Originally posted June 2013. Updated August 2015.

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