Hiking in the winter can be magical, but for most people, the arrival of spring is an outdoor-lover’s dream. Wildflowers begin showing their beautiful faces, snow melts away to expose lush expanses of meadow, and water runoff contributes to powerful rivers and waterfalls. In short, spring is a time of energy and rejuvenation. What better time to go for a hike? That said, it can be tough to know where to go. Read on for some of the best spring hikes in the United States. Perhaps you will find a new favorite on the list!
Waihe’e Ridge Trail
Really, is there a bad time to visit Hawaii? We’re going with no. However, spring is the perfect time to tackle Maui’s Waihe’e Ridge Trail. Located in Mauna Kahalawai (or the West Maui Mountains), this seemingly inauspicious trail begins with a dull roar as you cross through a cattle gate and jaunt up a concrete road. Don’t let that deter you, as the excitement quickly starts as the trail abruptly starts climbing — and it’s steep! But the juice is worth the squeeze: catch a peek of Makamakaole Falls from the top of the incline, along with stunning views of valley. While you can hike this trail year round, spring is the perfect season since it is green and lush with cooler temperatures.
If You Go:
Location: Maui, Hawaii Difficulty: Moderate Length: 5 miles RT Elevation Gain: 1500 feet Best Month to Visit: May Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park
If you’re afraid of heights, Angel’s Landing may not be the best choice for you, but if you think you’ve got what it takes, this classic hike in Zion National Park is a must-do for your spring bucket list. The first two miles of trail are smooth and well-maintained as the switchbacks (known as Walter’s Wiggles) climb steeply towards the sky. The last half-mile becomes more daunting as hikers will encounter exposure and steep drop-offs while using bolted chains to guide the way toward the pinnacle of the hike. But, the views of Zion Canyon are unparalleled, and there is no better time to tackle this hike than in the spring when there are fewer people in the park (it’s a relative zoo in the summer). Pro tip: Consider packing some micro-spikes, as ice and snow may linger on the trail, causing the final couple hundred yards to be dangerous.
If You Go:
Location: Zion National Peak near Hurricane, Utah Difficulty: Difficult Length: 5 miles RT Elevation Gain: 1600 feet Best Month to Visit: Late April-Early May to avoid the crowds Dog Friendly: No
Upper Yosemite Falls
This iconic hike should be on everybody’s life list, but if you have your druthers, we’d recommend hitting it up before the summer hordes descend upon Yosemite National Park and the waterfall is roaring with glacial runoff. Yosemite Falls is divided into three sections: the lower, the middle, and the upper falls. The lower falls is the most popular since it is the easiest to access, but the crowds fade as you continue to climb toward the tip-top of the falls. Once you arrive, the 360-degree views are unbelievable, and there is a good chance you’ll have some solitude if you visit in the spring months.
If You Go:
Location: Yosemite National Park, California Difficulty: Difficult Length: 7.6 miles RT (from Lower Yosemite Falls Trailhead) Elevation Gain: 2600 feet Best Month to Visit: May Dog Friendly: No
New Hance Loop
Admittedly, you will definitely need to tackle this as a multi-night backpacking trip rather than an absurdly long day hike, but the extra effort is more than worth it as you explore a part of the Grand Canyon that very few people see. The New Hance Loop explores the famous “Red Canyon,” a section of the Grand Canyon that is less popular and wilder than other more traveled areas. Along the way, you’ll descend into the canyon, hit up the Cave of the Domes, and spend the night by the Colorado River. It’s a truly spectacular adventure, and you really should make the trek in the spring when the Arizona temps are cooler, more manageable, and much safer for hikers.
If You Go:
Location: Grand Canyon National Park near Flagstaff, Arizona Difficulty: Extreme Length: 20 miles Elevation Gain: 4300 feet of gain, 4900 feet of loss Best Month to Visit: April Dog Friendly: No
Echo Lakes Trail
This family-friendly trail sees lots of traffic in the summer months, but the early-season wildflowers and minimal crowds make it a much better option for late spring. Located near Lake Tahoe, the Echo Lakes Trail can be as easy or as tough as you want. It’s a fairly mellow two-hour jaunt up to the lakes, which may be a beautiful adventure in its own right. Or, if you are looking for something more adventurous, peak-baggers can merely look at the initial mileage as a warmup to the multitude of peaks surrounding the lakes. Either way, the wildflowers are off the hook in the spring, so be sure to bring your camera, some snacks, and plenty of spare time to sit and stare at your beautiful surroundings.
If You Go:
Location: Lake Tahoe, California Difficulty: Easy-Moderate Length: 5 miles RT Elevation Gain: 500 feet Best Month to Visit: April-May Dog Friendly: Yes, on leash
Lumpy Ridge to Gem Point
Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the most visited parks in the system, but this lesser known hike will make you feel like you have the entire place to yourself! Rocky Mountain National Park hangs onto snow for quite a while, thanks to the high elevation, but this particular hike melts early, making it a great option for a spring hike. The trail itself is mellow and perfect for families as it steadily climbs up to the small-yet-picturesque Gem Lake. If you have the gumption, catch sunrise at the lake and then scramble up the boulders surrounding the water for awe-inspiring views of Estes Park and Longs Peak.
If You Go:
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park near Estes Park, Colorado Difficulty: Easy Length: 3.8 miles RT Elevation Gain: 950 feet Best Month to Visit: May Dog Friendly: No
Porters Creek Trail
If colorful wildflowers are your jam, this famous trail is going to make you a very, very happy hiker. This heavily wooded trail jaunts alongside Porters Creek and is arguably the best place in the Smokies to see blooming violets and white trilliums. Even better? History buffs will love the historical sites that dot the trailside. In the first mile, hikers can check out ruins from an old settlement and a cemetery, and at the one-mile mark, you can opt to take the short trail spur to a Historic Farm Site and a cantilevered barn from 1875.
If You Go:
Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park near Gatlinburg, Tennessee Difficulty: Easy Length: 4 miles RT Elevation Gain: 1500 feet Best Month to Visit: April Dog Friendly: No