It's always exciting to get a walking stick, and there's no better way to try out your new gear than to head out on a hike. Whether you live in an urban or rural area, there's a trail awaiting you. If you're looking for a big adventure with your new walking stick, though, it pays to head out on an iconic hike. Here are four of the most beautiful and enjoyable hikes in the United States.
Yosemite Valley Floor Loop Trail
This gorgeous loop trail in the western Yosemite Valley is a must-see for hikers who are visiting the iconic national park in California. This looping trail features moderate terrain that's perfect for hikers of many experience levels. You'll get plenty of use out of your walking stick, but you don't have to worry about aggressive inclines or downhill stretches on this well-maintained length of the trail. We do recommend bringing a fold-able hiking stick along, which can be stored in your backpack.
As you follow the loop, you'll pass by some of Yosemite's most beloved sites. You'll start at Lower Yosemite Falls and then will continue on to breathtaking views of the Three Brothers, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, Cathedral Rocks, and Sentinel Rock. Cross the Merced River and you'll encounter meadows offset by the striking walls of granite for which the park is famous. The trail is open year-round, but it can be challenging in the winter.
The full loop is 11.5 miles long and takes most folks between five and seven hours to hike. If you're in for a shorter adventure, you can take a 7.2 mile half loop that will allow you to see some of Yosemite's best sites but won't keep you out all day. You can expect to complete the half loop in three to four hours, which makes it a great way to spend an afternoon in the park. Both options offer plenty of solitude and the opportunity to see wildlife too.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail
Known as the Footpath for the People, the Appalachian Trail (AT) runs more than 2,180 miles through the mountain range of the same name. Of course, there's no need to tackle the trail's whole distance at once. You can explore it from any starting point you like. The AT runs between Maine and Georgia, and it's completely free to use too.
Experienced hikers may want to head out for a backpacking week or weekend along the trail. There are shelters scattered along the AT, but it's important to check with the National Park Service before you head out as they are sometimes closed due to bear activity. While there are no visitor centers along the trail itself, you will find one center located in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
If you're not ready to hike miles and miles down the AT, head out to Monson, Maine to tackle a smaller section of the trail. Known as the 100-mile wilderness, the trail immediately out of Monson offers the best of the AT without the inconvenience of being too far from a city. For those who are dedicated to hiking the entire AT, Monson is a necessary stopover where you can replenish supplies and rest your walking stick for a few hours.
The Jay Peak Long Trail
Grab your trekking poles, a challenge awaits! Considered America's oldest long-distance hiking trail, this gorgeous pathway is located on Jay Peak in Vermont. The long trail runs a full 270 miles from the southern end of Vermont up to the Canadian border. There are challenging sections along the trail, but those who are willing to make the whole trek are rewarded stunning views from the summit of Jay Peak. Overnight shelter is available for those who want to make the entire hike from Jay Pass to the summit.
If you're looking for a more casual hike, consider taking in just the Jay Peak portion of the trail. You'll enjoy the pleasant forest scenery and great vistas from the mountain itself. This hike from Jay Pass to Jay Peak is about 1.6 miles and takes most hikers about an hour-and-a-half to complete. Since the trail is located high in the mountains of Vermont, it's important to pay close attention to weather conditions before heading out. During the winter, snow and ice can make the summit impassable. Thankfully, you can still head down the nearby ski path if you want to see the splendor of this area in the winter.
Located between Keene, New York, and Lake Placid, Cascade Mountain is one of the 46 highest mountains in the Adirondacks. While the trail may seem intimidating at first, Cascade Mountain is considered a great starting place for those who want to learn to tackle high peaks. The trail is well maintained and well-marked, and you'll find plenty of use for your new walking stick as you make your way up and down the stone staircases found along the route.
While there's no charge for hiking the trail, you'll need to fill out the visitor's register and may be asked to take a day pass before you head up the mountain. There are great photo opportunities along the trail, which makes it a favorite among outdoor photographers. The Cascade Mountain trail begins off Route 73 about 9 miles from Lake Placid. It runs for 2.4 miles, and you'll ascend nearly 1,950 feet before you reach the summit of Cascade Mountain. The trail is considered moderate-to-strenuous and is not ideal for those who are new to exploring the outdoors.
Of course, it's essential to plan thoroughly before you head out on any hike with your new walking stick. Check the weather in the area where you'll be, and make sure that you've packed clothing and gear that will keep you comfortable no matter what comes. It's also important to pack plenty of water and to let friends or family know where you'll be heading before you leave. It's essential to have fun too. Tackle only those trails that you know you're physically ready for but don't be afraid to set goals and dream big for the future too.