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Hiking in the United States, Region by Region

The variety of terrain in the US makes for some incredible hiking opportunities John and Jean Strother

The variety of terrain in the United States makes for some incredible and unique hiking opportunities....

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From glaciated peaks and rugged mountains to lush forests, dry deserts, water-carved canyons and rolling green hills, the United States is home to some of the planet’s most spectacular hiking destinations. You could spend your entire life hiking around the country and still barely scratch the surface.

Between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the US has six distinct regions that offer unique hiking experiences for those looking to get outdoors. Here, you’ll find a quick guide that describes the region, what to expect from the weather and the trails, as well as a couple of suggestions for hikes that capture the essence of the area. With any of these treks, it will be important to choose hiking shoes with a decent grip on the sole and that are also breathable. In most cases, you’ll want them to be waterproof, too. Depending on your preference, you may want a lower cut or a higher cut shoe for added ankle stability. The last thing you want to worry about is your feet hurting while you explore these beautiful places, and La Sportiva has you covered.
 

Northeast

 

Acadia National Park bursts into color in the fall

The Nucleo High GTX is ready to handle the varied terrain the NE offers. Photo: Scott Jackson

Mountains with snowy and windy summits can be found in the Northeast, but the majority of the terrain is rolling hills, gorgeous foliage, and carved coastlines. While diverse, the scenery in the Northeast can best be described as a controlled wilderness, thanks to great access to trails.

What to Expect

Brutal in the winters, the best time to explore the hiking trails of the Northeast is during the summer and fall months. In the summer, warm temperatures and long daylight hours are perfect for long days of exploration, while fall foliage makes this a hiker’s paradise in the waning months of the year.

Trails in the Northeast can be rugged, host to some incredible mountains to climb, but they are typically well-maintained. Mountain trails will be steep with switchbacks, while the other areas in the lowlands and along the coast are more mild.

What You’ll Need

To best enjoy the trails of the region, make sure you wear sturdy, waterproof shoes and bring a backpack full of water, food, and a rain jacket in case the weather changes.

La Sportiva Recommends

The Nucleo High GTX gives you ankle support and a sticky sole for those rugged trails. 

The La Sportiva Nucleo GTX Hiking Boot

Photo: Scott Jackson

Classic Hikes

• None of the trails in Maine's Acadia National Park will disappoint, but the three-mile Penobscot Mountain Trail (hard), the 4.7-mile Bubble Trail (moderate), and the scenic 3.4-mile Jordan Pond Full Loop Trail (easy) are great places to start.
• Mount Washington in New Hampshire is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River and north of the Carolinas. The steep, 4.2-mile Tuckerman Ravine Trail is the shortest and most popular way up, but for a path less traveled try the 5.4-mile Boott Spur Trail (which arguably has better views!).
• Franconia Ridge in the White Mountains, also in New Hampshire, is a 9.0-mile route over Mount Lafayette, Mount Lincoln, and Little Haystack. It’s one of the most popular trails in the area and offers breathtaking views of the White Mountains along the way. 

 

Southeast

 

Hike along the iconic Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park Kevin Stewart Photography

The Appalachian Trail offers endless miles of iconic hiking, with access points from Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Photo: Aly Nicklas

Best known for the the Great Smoky Mountains, raging rivers, panoramic bluffs, and wetlands, the Southeast is a fantastic place for adventure year round and is as welcoming as it is beautiful.

What to Expect

Milder winters in most of the Southeast give you the chance for some off-season hiking, while you’ll want to chase the shade and take a dip in one of the many gorgeous swimming holes, in the summer. Hiking the trails of the Southeast will leave you spoiled, as they are well-signed and maintained, making it easy to wander for hours.

What You'll Need

Hiking in the Southeast means you’ll need shoes with good tread. More often than not, you’ll also need some bug spray and long pants/sleeves to protect your extremities from sticker bushes and biting insects, though hiking in the winter is one way to avoid some of these nuisances.

La Sportiva Recommends

The Spire GTX features Gore-tex Surround technology to keep your foot dry while providing optimum breathability for those long hikes on the AT or when you are traipsing through the Everglades.

Classic Hikes

• One of the most beautiful parts of the Appalachian Trail is through Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee, but many other sections can be accessed for day hikes.
• There are several options for hiking through the Everglades in Florida, ranging from easy boardwalks (like the Anhinga Trail) to routes that are no longer maintained.
• The 11-mile Mount Mitchell Trail in North Carolina is a technical trail with plenty of rocks and roots, but you’ll be able to say you climbed the highest mountain east of the Mississippi when you reach the 6,684-foot summit.

 Midwest

 

Head to North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a hike through the badlands Justin Meissen

Head to North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park for a hike through the badlands. Photo: Justin Meissen

Throughout America’s Heartland, inspiring natural wonders are often just a few hours’ drive away from any city. Highlighted by the Great Lakes in the north, a network of caves in Missouri to the south, and rivers, plains, and bluffs in between, the Midwest is a hidden gem when it comes to hiking opportunities.

What to Expect

Hot summers make exploration of forests, waterways, and caves the best way to stay cool, while winters can be quite cold. Spring and fall are the best time for an adventure, offering seasonal waterfalls and gorgeous colors.

Trails in the Midwest are typically well-maintained and easy to follow, with minimal elevation gain. There are some sections of wilderness where trails are remote and slightly harder to follow, but manageable if you stay in popular regions. While you might have some hills to climb, the region is mostly flat, especially compared to those hikes further out west.

What You'll Need

Gear wise, you’ll need shoes that will be good in both dry, rocky terrain as well as wet and muddy areas. The land in the Midwest is quite eclectic so you should come prepared for anything.

La Sportiva Recommends

The Akyra Mountain Running® Shoe is structured and stable, giving you confidence to tackle any conditions you might encounter on the trail.

Classic Hikes

• One of the best trails in the Great Lakes area is the 10.4-mile Chapel Loop at Pictured Rock National Lakeshore in Michigan. Spend the night near the sandstone cliffs at a hike-in campground on the beach.
• The Garden of the Gods in Shawnee Forest in Illinois has 5.5 miles of interconnecting trails to explore the unique geological features that were formed over millions of years.
• This 9.6-mile Petrified Forest Loop in North Dakota is one you won’t forget, winding through the petrified forest, the prairie grasslands, and the famous badlands.
 

Rocky Mountains

 Hike through the pristine wilderness in Wyoming’s Wind River Range John and Jean Strother

Hike through the pristine wilderness in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Photo: John and Jean Strother

Snowcapped most of the year, the Rocky Mountains are where hikers go for a high alpine summer and fall playground. Jagged peaks reflect perfectly off of glacial waters, and below the summits are lush valleys: home to wildlife, geological wonders, and pristine wilderness.

What to Expect

Winters in the Rockies can be brutally cold, but that makes the snow-free months of the summer and early fall more rewarding. For some lower elevation destinations, spring is also an amazing time to explore, as the melting snows engorge rivers and turn waterfalls into raging beauties.

Trails in the Rockies are all across the board, giving you everything from well-marked and maintained trails to boot paths that require navigational skills. Many trails will gain some serious elevation via a series of switchbacks.

What You’ll Need

Gear needed for a Rocky Mountain adventure includes, but is not limited to, sturdy shoes that are good on rock and mud, gaiters for lingering snow, insulating and breathable layers (always layer in the Rockies), and extra food and water to combat fatigue at the higher elevations.

La Sportiva Blade GTX

The Blade GTX: designed for mountain running and fast hiking. Photo: Claudia Ziegler

La Sportiva Recommends

The Blade GTX provides plenty of ankle support, but is also waterproof and breathable. The burly lugs and protective upper make this boot ideal for backpacking and fast hiking across technical backcountry terrain. 

Classic Hikes

• While many people suggest Longs Peak as a first ‘14er’ (hiking to a summit over 14,000 feet) because it’s located in the popular Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, consider Grays and Torreys Peaks in deciding on your first 14er(s). At just 8.5 miles round trip, you can knock out both of them in a single day.
• The 10.7-mile route to Ptarmigan Tunnel and Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park in Montana, is one of the best ways to spot a bear (just keep your distance!). You’ll also have views of nearby peaks, a waterfall, Iceberg Lake, and (of course), the 240-foot Ptarmigan Tunnel, built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the 1930's.
• More than 900 miles cross through the different areas of Yellowstone National Park, giving you plenty of day trip and overnight options. Check out the NPS website for maps and more information.
 Like most national parks, Grand Teton National Park has many miles of trails to choose from. A couple that give you the best ‘Grand Teton Experience’ include the challenging hikes to Garnet Canyon, Amphitheater Lake, or Lake Solitude.
 

Southwest


 Don’t just park and take photos—go for a walk along the Grand Canyon

Don’t just park and take photos—go for a walk along the Grand Canyon. Photo: Grand Canyon National Park

With canyons, arches, ancient trees, and majestic mountain ranges, the great American Desert and the California Coast help to make the American Southwest one of the more unique areas to explore in the country. This area includes the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Death Valley, the natural wonders of Utah and several more of the nation’s most pristine and beautiful national parks.

What to Expect

Mostly dry and extremely hot during the summer, the majority of the American Southwest can be explored year round, with the spring and fall months being ideal. Higher elevations will get some snow during the winter months, but the majority of the lower elevations of the southwest will be remain snow-free.

Hiking around the Southwest is fantastic, as most of the trails are incredibly well-marked and maintained. Depending on the region, serious elevation might be encountered, but the switchbacks and trail infrastructure help you do so with relative ease. While some wilderness trails may be tough to follow, the majority of hiking in the region is accessible without needing route finding skills.

What You'll Need

What you need depends on the region. In the desert, you’ll need cool clothes during the day and warm clothes at night, as well as gaiters or higher boots to keep out the sand and dirt. Sturdy shoes capable of transitioning from rock to forest are a necessity, while layering clothes will keep you ready for anything. And of course, plenty of water, sunscreen or a wide-brimmed hat.

La Sportiva Recommends

The Synthesis Mid GTX is a good choice for any type of conditions, but the mid-cut gives you a little more ankle support than your typical sneaker. The Gore-Tex® Surround™ Technology, and Nano-Cell™ mesh along the sides make this an incredibly breathable shoe to help keep your feet cool.

La Sportiva Nucleo High GTX

Classic Hikes

• Hiking up to the iconic Half Dome is a right of passage if you are in Yosemite National Park. There are several trail options, ranging from 7 miles round trip to 23 miles.
• While most people continue on after a few photos at the top of the Grand Canyon, taking the trek down on the South Kaibab Trail is worth the extra effort. You’ll go three miles down into the canyon, with amazing views the entire way.
• Walk among giants at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks in California. There are many trails at the park, but head to the Giant Forest and Lodgepole area to see the General Sherman Tree and to hike up the stone steps to Moro Rock, where you can see the Great Western Divide.
• Utah is home to some of the most unique landscapes in the country, and the 4-mile round trip hike to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, is just one of many ways to see these features up close.


Pacific Northwest

 

One of the best ways to experience the Pacific Northwest is to explore the Sunrise Area at Mount Rainier National Park Douglas Scott

Mossy trails, lush scenary and waterfalls make for some of the best hiking in the Pacific Northwest. Photo: Aly Nicklas

The Pacific Northwest is one of the last bastions of true wilderness in America. From remote coastlines to rainforest-filled river valleys and glaciated volcanic peaks, the upper left corner of the US is ideal for those hoping for a little bit of everything in this lush landscape.

What to Expect

Known best for rain and clouds in the early spring and late fall, the winters of the PNW have blustery winds and endless drizzle in the lowlands, while buckets of snow fall at higher elevations. While many assume it rains year round, the Pacific Northwest actually has glorious weather during the summer and early fall months.

The maintenance of the trails vary throughout the region. Heavy rains and storms occasionally wash out bridges or sections of trails, but that usually only impacts hikers in the winter and spring months. By summer, the trails are mostly clear and easy to follow in all but the most remote of wilderness regions. Elevation-wise, anything in the mountains will likely be steep, while the rugged coast and rainforest trails are mostly level with a few rolling hills.

What You’ll Need

Obviously, while hiking in the Pacific Northwest, you will want waterproof shoes, a rain jacket and probably a pair of rain pants. Unpredictable weather and getting a little soggy is par for the course.

La Sportiva Recommends

The Spire GTX is waterproof, which is paramount in the PNW. This boot is low-cut provides extra flexibility for rocky footing, but has minimal seams and is lightweight.

Classic Hikes

 • The Hoh Rain Forest in Olympic National Park in Washington is a special place—it’s part of a temperate rainforest that once spanned from Alaska to Central California. Explore the forest on the Hoh River Trail, which is 17.4 miles one-way (you can always just go out as far as you’d like and then turn around, or park cars at either end to shuttle back after).
• In Oregon, the 4.2-mile Cascade Head hike has some of the best views of the Oregon coast and you might even spot a sea lion colony, too.
• For a truly one-of-a-kind adventure, grab your backpack and set out on the Olympic South Coast Wilderness Trail in Washington. Bring a tide table, as most of this 17.5-mile one-way trail follows along the beach and plan to wait for low tide at times. Be prepared to climb rope ladders and bluffs, too.

Originally written by RootsRated for La Sportiva.

Preview Photo ©: Aly Nicklas 

7/3/2018 2:07 PM

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Posted in Hiking By Team Sportiva

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Sabryna

posted on 6/11/2017 6:07 AM
Hello,

I was wondering if any of these hikes are dog friendly? I have a 1 year old Siberian Husky that loves to go on hikes with me. Thank you.

La Sportiva

posted on 5/15/2017 8:08 AM
Hi Janice,
Yes, we still make approach shoes. You can find them here: https://tinyurl.com/mbqjhck

We do not re-sole shoes, but here is a list of La Sportiva authorized cobblers that you can reach out to about resoling: https://tinyurl.com/n2g6mtd

Hope this is helpful!

Team Sportiva

Janice stapleton

posted on 5/12/2017 11:25 PM
Do you still make approach shoes for easy climbing or to,get you to the climb. Mine are still in good shape but the sole is coming away from the shoe. Can you re sole them and how much?
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