5 Breathtaking Multi-day Treks to Do in National Parks This Summer
Jul 05, 2018 04:42AM ● Published by Editor
Whether you're craving a weeklong escape into the wilderness or just a couple of days of nonstop adventure, our national parks have got you covered. Backpacking is a wonderful way to discover the scenery and drama that can be found within our nation's parks — with landscapes ranging from craggy peaks to remote island getaways. Here are five breathtaking multiday hikes to do in national parks this summer.
1. Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park
The Grand Teton National Park's popularity is far overshadowed by its more famous neighbor, Yellowstone National Park, which lies just a few miles north. However, the hiking routes in Grand Teton National Park, including the Teton Crest Trail, are regarded by many travel publications as the best anywhere in the country. Not only is the scenery breathtaking, but you can also expect to see a variety of wildlife, with wolves, moose, elk, black and grizzly bears all sighted frequently.
There are numerous trailheads that join the Teton Crest Trail at various points, including Granite Canyon, Cascade Canyon, or Paintbrush Canyon. This means distances and difficulty can differ, with some sections even requiring the use of an ice ax before August. Whichever route you choose, you're in for a wild ride, as the Teton Crest Trail covers many of the park's ridges. From these vantage points, you'll get spectacular panoramic views of granite peaks, vast canyons, and vibrant meadows packed full of colorful summer blossoms.
Difficulty: Medium to hard
Distance: 35-45 miles dependent on route
Days to Complete: 4-7
Permit Information: Permits are required for any overnight trip in the Grand Teton National Park and can be extremely competitive to secure. You can only apply in advance for backcountry reservations for the summer season between the first Wednesday in January and May 15 via the Recreation.gov site with a $45 processing fee. There are walk-in permits available one day before the start of a backcountry trip for $25, but these are on a first-come-first-serve basis, so it pays to have a plan B if you choose this option.
2. Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park
The incomparable Mount Rainier is truly an awesome sight. Rising up to a dizzying 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier is actually an active volcano. And the snow-capped peak of Emmons Glacier has the largest surface area than any other glacier in the 48 contiguous states. Note, however, that it may be very difficult to get a reservation for the 2018 season.
The Wonderland Trail circumnavigates the entirety of this iconic mountain, so you'll have it in your sights for the whole hike. But while there are continuous views of Mount Rainier, this is the only constant to expect along the way. The scenery changes and shifts at every turn, with the path made up of ascents up to ridges followed by descents into valleys, repeatedly revealing new backdrops. Rivers, lakes, glaciers, alpine meadows, lowland forests, and waterfalls appear as if from nowhere and the sunrises and sunsets which give the mountain and surrounding scenery a pink and red hue are simply stunning.
Distance: 93 miles
Days to Complete: 10-14, according to the National Park Service
Permit Required: A wilderness permit is necessary for all overnight stays in Mount Rainier National Park, and you must also book all of your campsites in advance. This means that you need to plan your route carefully according to your fitness levels and allocated time. Reservations are extremely competitive and a $20 reservation fee is charged regardless of whether your application is granted or not. Applications are open from March 15 until they are all gone. There are walk-in permits available, but these are difficult to make work due to the campsite booking requirement. (See also: 7 Best Free Treks in the World)
3. Half Dome Hike in Yosemite National Park
The Half Dome Hike is a full-on adventure that will allow you to scale well over 8,000 feet. Not only do you reach knee-knocking altitudes, but the final portion of the ascent is up the infamous Half Dome Cables, which enable you to scale the steep cliff face. As if this isn't enough excitement, the views of the park from the peak are astonishing.
The hike up Half Dome itself can be completed in a single session, so the bulk of the work will need to be done on the second day, lasting anywhere up to 14 hours. However, by turning it into a two-day hike, you get a nice walk to the Little Yosemite Valley campground on day one, which takes you past the wonderful Vernal and Nevada waterfalls.
Distance: 16 miles
Days to Complete: 2
Permit Required: You will need to apply for a half dome permit with your wilderness permit in order to do the two-day hike. These are in short supply, with only 300 permits in total being issued for each day and only 75 of these to overnight backpackers. Fifty of these are allotted by reservation via a lottery system which you can apply for up to 169 days in advance, with the other 25 available a day in advance on a first-come-first-serve basis. Confirmed reservations cost $5 plus $5 per person in the group. (See also: 9 Travel Destinations for Introverts)
4. Greenstone Ridge Trail in Isle Royale National Park
The only way to reach Isle Royale is by boat or seaplane, and on the island itself there are no roads and no wheeled vehicles allowed. Located in the colossal Lake Superior, Isle Royale is truly one of the most remote national parks in the U.S., making it the perfect place to escape from it all. Generally hikers walk east to west and pick up a return ferry at the end of their journey.
The 42-mile Greenstone Ridge Trail runs the entire length of the island, allowing you to get the full effect of the tranquillity this hideaway provides. The forested ridge runs like a backbone through the heart of the island, with the elevation giving you great views along the way of the island as well as the surrounding lake. There are significant populations of gray wolves and moose, and while sightings aren't extremely common, it's a brilliant place to look out for them.
Difficulty: Easy to medium
Distance: 42 miles
Days to Complete: 3 to 5
Permit Required: Entrance to the park costs $7 per person per day, and permits are necessary for all multiday hikes, though they are free of charge. The parkrun ferry to the island costs $70 per person one-way during the peak summer months and should be reserved in advance.
5. Redwood Creek Trail in Redwood National Park
Redwood National Park is most noted for containing the tallest trees on the planet, so the appeal to walking among these ancient giants is clear.
The full out and back hike from the Redwood Creek trailhead runs along a number of moderate ridges that skirt the creek. Though there are few old redwoods along this particular trail, you will get to gaze upon miles of untouched forest. There's dispersed camping allowed along the six miles of the creekbed.
The typical second day activity is to search for the world's tallest tree, the 379-foot Hyperion in the Tall Trees Grove, although your chances of finding it are probably slim. The tree is not officially marked for protection reasons and any available information is contradictory at best. However, the rest of the remarkable forest should help to counter any lingering disappointment on your route back.
Distance: 16 miles
Days to Complete: 2
Permit Required: Redwood National Park is free to visit, but even though it’s free, permits are still required for any overnight stays in backcountry camps. Campsites have a fee of $35 per night and should be booked in advance, particularly during the peak summer months.