Estes Park is the quintessential Rocky Mountains vacation destination and aptly known as the Gateway to the Rockies. Between its homey downtown and easy access to some of the best hiking trips in Colorado, Estes Park is a top stop for serious backpackers and casual hikers alike. Experienced hikers can use Estes as a basecamp for longer ascents into the Rocky Mountains, while nature-lovers of all hiking abilities love the easy Adams Falls Trail and hike to Lily Lake. If you aren’t looking to attempt hikes on your own, a guided tour like the Discover Rocky Mountain National Park tour or a private wildlife safari offer good introductions to the area’s rich wildlife and scenery.
Big Bear Lake may be small, but it packs in plenty of outdoor activities. This lakeside retreat in southern California is best known for its winter skiing, but also offers a number of hiking trails like Castle Rock Trail that are perfect for exploring in the summer. The area also features the popular Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which rehabs native animals and offers visitors a great chance to learn about local wildlife, including the lake’s namesake creatures.
In addition to being one of the best hiking destinations in the US, Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular and scenic day trips from Portland. Take a half-day tour from Portland to the picture-ready Multnomah Falls—a wine-tasting and waterfalls tour is also an option—or spend the afternoon wandering down well-marked trails and taking scenic drives on your own. Dewy forest floors and wildflower-filled fields make Columbia River Gorge a hiker’s dream.
Clear glacial waters hemmed by towering snow-capped peaks make South Lake Tahoe a popular vacation destination. Though hiking Mt. Tallac Trail or to Lower Eagle Falls are good trekking options, the area is also well-known for its water sports and cultural activities. Take a cruise on Emerald Bay, book a parasailing adventure, or snag a kayak for a day paddling through blue waters. Then, hit up the town’s many restaurants, bars, and clubs for a fun end to a full day.
A whole island full of gorgeous scenery and exciting outdoor activities, Kauai makes for a paradisiacal hiking vacation. From the jagged ridges of Na Pali Coast State Park to the gulches of Waimea Canyon, hiking opportunities abound—and more. Rev your adrenaline with an off-road adventure, unwind on a sunset dinner cruise, or opt into one of the most popular helicopter tour destinations in the country. With a whole island of activities to choose from, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.
Jackson Hole is a skiing paradise in the winter, but has hikes to waterfalls, crater lakes, and woodland wonderlands during warmer months. From the family-friendly Cascade Canyon Trail to the heart-thumping Static Peak Divide, Grand Teton National Park is by far one of the best hiking vacations you can take. Pack in even more adventure by booking a Grand Teton safari for chances to see animals like elk, bears, and bison in the wild.
A high-end ski resort turns summertime bucket-list destination in Jay, a cozy city with family-friendly amenities and plenty to keep kids entertained, including the popular Jay Peak Pump House. The town’s best hike is to its namesake summit, Jay Peak, a moderate 3-mile trail past wildflowers, boulders, and pastures.
The Adirondacks have great hiking, to be sure, but they offer a whole lot more: go white-water rafting, learn about conservation at the kid-friendly Wild Center, or make some waves on glassy Lake Placid. Be sure to get to Bald Mountain, too, for an easy hike for the whole family.