America’s best hiking trails
Zion National Park

America’s best hiking trails

Studies have long proven the health benefits of exercising outdoors. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, you can combine exercise with exploring America’s beauty in its national parks.

Even better, veterans get free entrance to U.S. national parks. An annual Military Lifetime Pass provides free access to more than 2,000 federal recreation areas, including national parks, wildlife refuges and forests. Apply for your pass online at for a $10 processing fee, or for free in person at federal recreation sites that issue passes. Then lace up your hiking shoes, research your destination and go explore.

Here are some of the nation’s top hiking trails:
Acadia National Park, Maine. This park boasts beautiful coastal views and diverse trails. Jordan Pond Path is a 3.1-mile loop that is not only relatively flat, but offers plenty of opportunities to spot wildlife.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota. The Badlands have unique canyon and prairie landscapes. Notch Trail is a 1.5-mile out-and-back trail. Considered a moderately challenging hike, it takes an average of 34 minutes to complete.

Big Bend National Park, Texas. Located along the Texas-Mexico border, these backpacking trails are packed with distinctive plants and wildlife. Check out the stunning views from Emory Peak and take
a dip in the natural hot springs right next to the Rio Grande.

Everglades National Park, Florida. Anhinga Trail offers great wildlife viewing of birds and alligators. The mostly paved trail follows a 1.5-mile loop with zero elevation gain, making it an easy walking excursion.

Glacier National Park, Montana. This park has some of America’s most epic alpine lake scenery. The Highline Trail in the Rocky Mountains climbs to Grinnell Glacier Overlook, where the jaw-dropping turquoise blue waters of ancient glaciers meet the mountains.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee. Get a taste of the Appalachians with a hike from Newfound Gap to Charlies Bunion, which offers views of the entire park. There is even a short but steep hike to the top of Clingmans Dome, the Smokies’ highest peak.

Maroon Bells, Colorado. You can take a shuttle from the base of Aspen Highlands to the trailhead at Maroon Lake and then to the trailhead of this scenic loop, which is 2 miles long with a 160-foot elevation gain. Though the trail is relatively flat, you’ll be surrounded by breathtaking mountain views.

Yosemite National Park, California. For experienced hikers, the famous Half Dome day hike promises a wilderness adventure with a striking 4,800-foot elevation gain, usually taking 10 to 12 hours to complete.

Zion National Park, Utah Zion. offers impressive red sandstone cliffs, arches and trails for all experience levels. Head to the Upper Emerald Pool Trail for a moderate hike that leads to sparkling waterfalls and dramatic views of Zion Canyon.

Army veteran Jennifer Campbell is a certified personal trainer with a master’s degree in nutrition education. She is past commander of the California American Legion’s 24th District and Hollywood Post 43.