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Hiking For Fitness: 5 of the Best Hiking Areas in the Western U.S.

The most beautiful hiking areas in the country offer more than just amazing views for fitness lovers!


A brilliant sunset over the stark desert landscape of Arches National Park in Moab, Utah - pinks, oranges, yellows, purples, and blues blast across the evening sky

Arches National Park: Moab, UT - Photo Credit: Chris Blake


 

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When I think of “outdoor exercise,” I’d never really considered hiking as something that could fall under that category. But after enduring so many monotonous workouts at the gym, I finally decided it was time for a little change of pace. So, about a year ago I decided to join a couple of my friends on an upcoming hiking trip.


My experience was exhilarating and life-changing. It gave me time to slow down and admire the beauty that had always been around me. It also made me realize how you don’t necessarily have to give up one hobby to focus on another.


Traveling can be a time-consuming undertaking, which may be why so many people have trouble fitting in a workout or two into their schedule. Fortunately, by incorporating hiking as an integral part of my various trips, I was able to see different places without sacrificing my health and well-being.


Initially, my goal for hiking was to lose weight and fit better into my clothes. In my obsessive quest for physical fitness, I even went through a phase where I’d carry around a calorie counter, Lumen device, and pedometer with me during all my hikes. Eventually, I did achieve my fitness and weight-loss goals; however, I also learned a far greater lesson that myself and many others don’t realize at the beginning of the journey:


The prize is in the process.


I learned to appreciate the small things around me that I normally wouldn’t pay attention to. On top of that, I was able to connect more deeply with my body, and now understand its needs and preferences much better than I did before.


The great thing about living in America is that you can find loads of beautiful and exciting hiking spots wherever you are in the country. Today, I’m sharing with you five of the best hiking areas in National Parks across North America that I’m sure you’ll love.


Grim clouds cloak a bright sunset over Yosemite Valley in the wintertime

Yosemite Valley: Yosemite National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



Yosemite Valley


Most people have likely heard of Yosemite Valley, within North America’s famous Yosemite National Park. It features world-renown landmarks such as Half Dome and El Capitan. It also has excellent hiking trails for all levels of experience.


Beginners can check out the Bridalveil Falls Trail, which has a mere 80-foot elevation gain. Not so steep that you’d get winded after the first few minutes, but also not too flat for it to be anticlimactic. The trail has been closed for repairs for quite some time now, but is set to open back up within the next month or two with extensive infrastructure improvements. Meanwhile, for more advanced hikers, you can try hiking the Four Mile Trail, which has an elevation gain of 3,200 feet.


There are also activities throughout Yosemite such as climbing lessons and tours that visitors can participate in.


Due to its popularity, Yosemite Valley can get extremely crowded during certain seasons. More than 3.2 million people visit its hiking trails every year, mostly throughout the summer. So, if you don’t want to run into crowds of other hikers, you’ll want to time your visit right. In my experience, Yosemite Valley has the least number of visitors during the months of November through April, due to snow and extremely cold weather.


Worried about missing out on the beautiful scenery of Yosemite during the colder months? Don’t fret - Yosemite Valley turns into a snowy wonderland in the wintertime. Hike through cool, snow-laden paths during your visit. If you have time, you could even stop by Lake Tenaya and ice skate with some friends.


Winter hiking is a great way to burn more calories while doing something that’s incredibly fun and new. It’s also a great way to raise your resting metabolic rate, helping you burn even more calories in the process.


 

Related on the Pathloom Blog:

Hiking Yosemite's Half Dome: My Journey to Loving the Outdoors

 

Striking red rock formations litter the landscape under scattered wispy clouds in Arches National Park in Moab, Utah

Arches National Park: Moab, UT - Photo Credit: Chris Blake



Arches National Park


Arches National Park in Southern Utah is known for its natural sandstone arches and beautiful red rocks. The Park is home to a wide variety of crawling and flying creatures, including mountain lions, foxes, bats, bobcats, turkey vultures, ravens, hawks, and many more.


Unlike the other Parks listed in this article, the trails here are generally much shorter and have more manageable elevation gains. So, if you’re looking for easy-to-moderate hiking trails, I highly recommend visiting Arches.


One of my go-tos is the Double Arch Trail, which stretches 8 miles out-and-back. Most of the trail is relatively flat, so it’s perfect for beginners or families on a field trip.


On the hike, you’ll see some of the most beautiful juniper and oak trees scattered across the countryside. And if you time it right, you can also spot Utah’s state flower, the Sego Lily, which only blooms from May to June every year.


 

Related on the Pathloom Blog:

Avoiding the Crowds in Moab: Alternatives to Utah’s Overcrowded National Parks

 

Ice encases the stepped landscape of Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, offering a vastly different view of the usual geysers and mountain lakes

Yellowstone National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



Yellowstone National Park


Full of wondrous pools, rivers, and geysers, Yellowstone National Park is a location that every hiker needs to visit at least once in their life. Home to creatures like elk, buffalos, and sometimes grizzly bears, Yellowstone has over 900 miles of trails and around 15 miles of boardwalks.


Yellowstone attracts more than 4 million visitors per year. Despite the park’s massive size (around 2.2 million acres), it’s not uncommon for some parts to get overcrowded during specific seasons. That being said, statistics show that more than 90% of visitors stay on the main road when they visit.


Fortunately, there are plenty of places within the park where you can go to escape the busy crowds.


Avalanche Peak is a personal favorite, stretching 4.7 miles (out-and-back), with an elevation gain of 2,100 feet. A few minutes on this trail can make you feel a little winded if you’re a beginner - but for more advanced hikers, this should be a piece of cake. Once you reach the summit, you can enjoy a beautiful panoramic view of surrounding mountain ranges and the great Yellowstone Lake.


For intermediate or advanced hikers, the Union Falls trail is an excellent option to consider. It stretches 16.2 miles (out and back) - much farther than Avalanche Peak. That being said, it has a much friendlier elevation gain - a mere 1,000 feet.


After the long hike, I recommend you take a plunge in the cool streaming waters of Union Falls before making the trip back!


 

Related on the Pathloom Blog:

4 Epic Yellowstone Day Hikes to Beat the Crowds

 

Misty blue skies over the mountains and rivers of Glacier National Park in Montana

Glacier National Park, MT - Photo Credit: Scott Carnahan



Glacier National Park


It’s no wonder why it’s called “Glacier National Park” – the glaciers have existed there for around 2 million years! You can find the Park resting along the border of Canada and Montana. Glacier is often referred to as the “Crown of the Continent,” featuring more than 680 lakes and 200 waterfalls to explore. There are also two mountain ranges where you can enjoy the most breathtaking scenes of the land.


Hiking paths in Glacier have elevation gains ranging from the tens to the thousands - so you can find trails for hikers of all levels of expertise. Beginners can enjoy the Beaver Pond Loop Hike, which spans 5 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 350 feet.


There are other, more challenging trails with much higher elevation levels that experts can tackle. For example, the Lee Ridge Trail is about 12 miles out-and-back, with an elevation gain of 2,094 feet. Make sure to have a companion with you during this hike, as even the most experienced hikers can have trouble completing this course.


 

Related on the Pathloom Blog:

Overcrowding in the Outdoors: How Tech Can Help

 

Snow dots the striated canyons stretching as far as the eye can see at Grand Canyon, while the clouds glow purple with the Arizona sunset

Grand Canyon, AZ - Photo Credit: Chris Blake



Grand Canyon


You’ve seen it dozens of times in movies, but have you seen this magnificent gem of a National Park in person? If not, it might be high time for you to pack your bags and take a trip to the Grand Canyon.


The Grand Canyon formation is more than five million years old. While you might not be able to find dinosaur bones anywhere in the area, archeologists have uncovered multiple ancient marine fossils that date back 1.2 billion years.


Surveys show that more than five million people visit the Grand Canyon every year. If you want to avoid the crowds, try traversing the less popular North Rim or Bright Angel trails.


The North Rim Trail stretches 21 miles and has an elevation grain of 1,495 feet, making it a great option for intermediate hikers with the endurance to handle longer distances. Meanwhile, the Bright Angel Trail is ideal for more experienced hikers, stretching only 7.8 miles but with a steep elevation gain of 4,460 feet.

 

Though the weather looks cold, the copper colored geyser remains forever hot at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming

Yellowstone National Park, CA - Photo Credit: Abby Voce



Hiking for fitness is a great way to improve your heart rate and metabolism. Additionally, it helps your body burn more calories, strengthen your muscles, and even boost your mental well-being. The internet is swimming with fitness tips and techniques you can use to begin your hiking practice the right way, and miles and miles of hiking trails to help you get there.


Remember, the fun is in the journey, so don’t stress yourself out too much with the outcome. Setbacks and challenges are a natural part of the process. Keep an open mind and be patient with your progress, regardless of the speed. Results don’t show up overnight, but eventually, you’ll see that your hard work and perseverance will pay off. You’ll feel more energized and motivated to keep moving forward. For now, simply take time to appreciate the beauty that’s around you.



 

Author Lana Evans of totalshape.com has been in the fitness industry for 7 years, and has been a personal trainer for 5 years. While traveling, she has made it her mission to be an advocate for women on how staying fit can help in maintaining an active mind, and a healthier body.

 

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