Having visited close to half of our 59 parks over a long career in the outdoors, this hiker heartily agrees, noting there’s so much more to be seen and experienced.
From the frigid 20,320-foot summit of Denali in the Alaskan wilderness to the baking salt flats of Badwater at 248 feet below sea level at Death Valley in California, from the spewing rivers of molten rock at Kilauea volcano in Hawaii to the pink Cadillac granite sea cliffs of Acadia, our national parks showcase incredible landscapes.
One of the best ways to enjoy the beauty of national parks is on foot, alone perhaps but even better in the company of family and friends. A new book, “The National Parks Coast to Coast: 100 Best Hikes” will help you do just that with a little something for everyone, from easy day hikes to multiday backpacking treks.
Authored by Ted Alvarez, Backpacker Magazine’s Northwest field editor, the book is a treasure trove of information for exploring the top trails at national parks around the country, from marquee locales to obscure spots. Full of stunning images, this great reference guide is worthy of a prominent spot on your coffee table.
Each of the 100 hikes includes a thorough introduction plus key trip details like mileage, difficulty rating, time required, park contact information, driving directions and GPS coordinates for the trailhead. A color topographic map illustrates waypoints and directions, campsites, viewpoints and other features along the trail.
Sprinkled throughout are vignettes with good advice for hikers, from how to take better sunset photos, to packing ultralight and staying hydrated, to dealing with blisters, to safety in bear country and how to read a topo map, and much more. A series of ranger profiles highlight the men and women who staff our parks in their iconic gray and green uniforms and Smokey Bear hats, offering them a chance to share their favorite hikes.
Beginning with Maine’s beloved Acadia and its magnificent coastal and mountain terrain, and ending with the towering canyons and river gorges of Zion in southwestern Utah, “The National Parks Coast to Coast: 100 Best Hikes” takes readers on an amazing geographical journey, one that will no doubt fan the flames of your imagination and possibly have you reordering your life’s priorities.
Thumbing through the pages was a pleasant trip back in time for me, to Mount Rainier and Yosemite, the Smokies and Shenandoah, Death Valley and Joshua Tree, Isle Royale, Grand Canyon and Big Bend. I realized anew the places I’ve yet to explore, like Denali, Glacier and Yellowstone. I want to walk the Maah Daah Hey Trail in North Dakota, traverse the Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming and negotiate the desert peaks of Great Basin in Nevada. That’s the problem with books like this: too many trails and never enough time.
“Selecting the 100 best hikes in places as astonishingly diverse and mind-meltingly beautiful as our national parks is pretty ridiculous,” admits Alvarez. “My hope is that you’ll try a few of these and be so inspired you’ll make your own definitive list. What are you waiting for? Go.”
I couldn’t agree more. Get a copy for yourself and maybe several more for the hiking friends. Then get down to serious scheming, planning and list-making for a getaway, a grand adventure to the trails of a national park (or two or three) near or far for some precious time in those wild and wonderful places that uniquely capture America’s natural heritage. Go.
Carey Kish of Mount Desert Island is editor of the AMC Maine Mountain Guide and author of AMC’s Best Day Hikes Along the Maine Coast. Follow more of Carey’s adventures at