Palu­ose Falls, Washington

With the melt­ing snow and increased pre­cip­i­ta­tion asso­ci­at­ed with spring, there are few bet­ter times in the year to admire an immense water­fall or two. From the Cas­cades out west to the Blue Ridge Moun­tains in the east, mas­sive and scenic water­falls are surg­ing to catch your atten­tion. Access to these bril­liant dis­plays of grav­i­ty vary from road­side park­ing spots to longer hikes and each water­fall is always sur­round­ed a lush scenery aid­ed by plen­ty of water. While the list below is only a frac­tion of all the water­falls to find in the Unit­ed States, each one guar­an­tees a healthy dose of fast-mov­ing sys­tems and ver­ti­cal attraction.

Palouse Falls
Palouse Falls State Park, Washington
Locat­ed with­in a state park of its own name, Palouse Falls plum­mets near­ly 200 feet into the undu­lat­ing canyon envi­ron­ment known as the Palouse Prairie region of south­east Wash­ing­ton. A slight­ly less­er-known adven­ture out­post in a state stacked with stun­ning nat­ur­al land­scapes, Palouse Falls became the offi­cial water­fall of Wash­ing­ton per 2014 state leg­is­la­tion. Vis­it the water­fall at the 105-acre state park and you can see the falls from three dis­tinct van­tage points. Make sure to uti­lize the first-come, first-serve tent camp­ing space for extend­ed stays.

High Falls
Grand Portage State Park, Minnesota
Abut­ting the Cana­di­an and U.S. Bor­der in north­ern Min­neso­ta, Grand Portage State Park received its name thanks to its 120-foot water­fall that served as a great has­sle when trav­el­ing by boat down the Pigeon Riv­er. Trav­el­ing to the High Falls of Grand Portage is a lit­tle eas­i­er in cur­rent times. Inter­est­ed spec­ta­tors can check out the gush­ing water with an acces­si­ble half-mile board­walk trail and obser­va­tion deck. For the more ath­let­i­cal­ly inclined, a five-mile loop trail takes vis­i­tors over a more rugged path to check out the equal­ly inspir­ing Mid­dle Falls.

Low­er Yel­low­stone Falls

Upper and Low­er Falls
Grand Canyon of the Yel­low­stone, Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park, Wyoming
At up to 1,200 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide, the Grand Canyon of the Yel­low­stone Riv­er is one of many awe-inspir­ing ele­ments of Yel­low­stone Nation­al Park. Con­tain­ing two daz­zling water­falls with­in sight of each oth­er (the Upper and Low­er Falls), vis­i­tors to the Grand Canyon of the Yel­low­stone Riv­er have many ways to appre­ci­ate the frothy scene. The Brink of Low­er Falls Trail lends a great view of the Low­er Falls before it plunges 309 feet below. Artist Point, Grand View, and Inspi­ra­tion Point Trails all live up to their high-expec­ta­tion names.

Upper White­wa­ter Falls
Nan­ta­ha­la Nation­al For­est, North Carolina
Near the bor­der of North and South Car­oli­na, the Upper White­wa­ter Falls is one of the largest water­falls east of the Rock­ies. I sits on the edge of the Nan­ta­ha­la Nation­al For­est, 60 miles from Asheville. The rugged escarp­ment that lends to the water­falls stature also makes explor­ing the area dif­fi­cult to do. Vis­i­tors can access view­ing plat­forms for the falls by a paved jaunt from a park­ing area that costs $2 to park. A foothill trail from there can get you to the base of the falls, but all vis­i­tors are encour­aged to not wan­der far from the well-worn path.

The Broad­moor Sev­en Falls
Col­orado Springs, Colorado
Col­orado has a lot of nat­ur­al won­der to choose from, includ­ing a wide array of water­falls through­out the state. One of many daz­zling dis­plays can be found on the grounds of the His­toric Broad­moor Resort in Col­orado Springs. Cel­e­brat­ing its cen­ten­ni­al in 2018, there are many great rea­sons to vis­it the Broad­moor and spend the night. The resort includes its own per­son­al canyon and water­fall, the Sev­en Falls water­fall, which snakes its way 181 feet down a nar­row box canyon. Vis­i­tors can take stairs all the way to the top to track its journey.

Mult­nom­ah Falls, Oregon

Mult­nom­ah Falls
Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge Nation­al Scenic Area, Oregon
The Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge, sit­ting at sea-lev­el between Wash­ing­ton and Ore­gon, uti­lizes its low posi­tion to catch plen­ty of water through­out the year. Along the 80-mile stretch of the des­ig­nat­ed gorge, there are hun­dreds of water­falls to scout out and see. Mult­nom­ah is per­haps the most pop­u­lar of all the falls. It con­sists of over 600 feet of ver­ti­cal drop on dis­play between its two steps. The Mult­nom­ah Lodge* is accessed right off the high­way and is a good hub for embark­ing on the short trail to the view­ing plat­form of the falls.

Falls Trail
Rick­etts Glen State Park, Pennsylvania
Tout­ed as one of the most scenic areas in Penn­syl­va­nia, Rick­etts Glen State Park occu­pies over 13,000 square miles in the north­east part of the state. The park deliv­ers a dense selec­tion of pic­ture-wor­thy water­falls. Rang­ing from 12 feet to 94 feet, Rick­etts Glen State Park fea­tures 21 dif­fer­ent water­falls along the 7.1‑mile lol­lipop-loop with­in the Glens Nat­ur­al Area. Wear prop­er shoes (san­dals are pro­hib­it­ed) and find which fall is your favorite on this fam­i­ly friend­ly trek. 

Ruby Falls
Look­out Moun­tain, Chat­tanooga Tennessee
Ruby Falls pro­vides an inter­est­ing water­fall expe­ri­ence that can be found at few oth­er places in the world. The falls have a sub­ter­ranean sta­tus which can only be dis­cov­ered via a guid­ed tour. Orig­i­nat­ing as a road­side attrac­tion, over the last 100 years Ruby Falls and the sur­round­ing cav­ern have grown into a tourism sta­ple in the south­east today. Reg­u­lar tours, lantern-led pro­grams, and spe­cial pro­mo­tion pack­ages all allow patrons to get a glimpse at the under­ground show. For an addi­tion­al unique expe­ri­ence dur­ing your vis­it to Ruby Falls and Thun­der Moun­tain, check­out the Look­out Moun­tain Incline Rail­way which takes patrons on a one-mile, 72.7% grad­ed incline, scenic ride to the top of Look­out Mountain.

 

*Note: The Mult­nom­ah Falls Lodge is open amidst the dam­age done by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, but as of 1/22/2018, the view­ing plat­form is closed to the public.

Solo Hike

There are many rea­sons to do a solo hike. Some peo­ple choose to hike alone because they crave the silence and being away from the crazi­ness of every­day life. “Oth­ers like to be self-reliant,” accord­ing to Eliza Hatch, direc­tor of guest ser­vices for Adven­ture­Women. “You’re out there by your­self with no one else to talk to, and you are rely­ing on your own feet and what you can carry.”

Solo hik­ing also gives you qui­et time to reflect, which is some­thing that very few peo­ple take the time to do, accord­ing to Hatch. “Even when you sit at home alone, you’re dis­tract­ed by oth­er things – get­ting out into the woods leaves you alone with your thoughts,” Hatch says.

Plan For Everything
If you’ve nev­er been hik­ing, it’s prob­a­bly not a good idea to start with a solo hike. Instead, join a group so you can learn the basics, what to pack and how to deal with the unex­pect­ed. “Prac­tice being out­side before­hand in lots of dif­fer­ent weath­er so you can test out your lay­ers; for exam­ple, try out your rain gear in the show­er – you should be dry when you get out,” says Hatch. “And take a map and com­pass class so you can nav­i­gate with just these tools – GPS isn’t always reliable.”

It’s also a good idea to pack an emer­gency med­ical kit that includes rehy­dra­tion salts, a brace, and ban­dages, says Kel­ly Lewis, founder of the Go! Girl Guides and of the annu­al Women’s Trav­el Fest. “If you’re a fre­quent hik­er, it’s also a good idea to cre­ate a back­up med­ical plan,” Lewis adds. “Using a ser­vice like Med­jet can help get you to the near­est hos­pi­tal if some­thing real­ly bad does hap­pen.” Emer­gency ser­vices like Med­jet offer med­ical trans­port and cri­sis response so you don’t end up stuck in a tiny clin­ic in the mid­dle of nowhere with­out access to bet­ter facil­i­ties or no way to get home.

“It all sounds like com­mon sense, but you’d be sur­prised at how many peo­ple you find in the woods who don’t know how far away they are from their cars with no warm lay­ers or rain gear,” Hatch says. “Be smart and over-prepared.”

Put Safe­ty First
One of the most impor­tant things you can do before you leave for a solo hike is to make sure some­one knows where you are. Always share your itin­er­ary with a friend and tell them when you’re expect­ed to be back.

In addi­tion, Lewis rec­om­mends basic things such as stick­ing to well-marked trails, not hik­ing in extreme weath­er, prepar­ing for the worst and expect­ing the best. “Hik­ing solo is an incred­i­ble way to recon­nect with nature and with your­self, but if you’re new to trails and hik­ing, start with an eas­i­er trail and then work your way to more advanced treks,” Lewis adds.

When in doubt, Hatch rec­om­mends always mak­ing the con­ser­v­a­tive deci­sion. “Hik­ing in the rain is fine as long as you have the right lay­ers, but if you hike in a light­ning storm, you need to know to ditch your pack and your poles and crouch in the trees,” Hatch says.

Deal­ing With Loneliness
Hik­ing solo has many chal­lenges and per­haps one of the most dif­fi­cult ones to deal with is being by your­self. “On a longer hike, like a mul­ti­ple day or week trip, the first cou­ple of days are the hard­est,” Hatch says. “After a day or two, you get used to the silence, and you are thank­ful when that nice chat­ty per­son on the trail goes the oth­er way.”

“Bring­ing a dog is great on a one- or two-day hike, but more than that and you’re car­ry­ing your food as well as your dog’s,” says Hatch. No dog? Hatch sug­gests bring­ing a book that you’d be will­ing to read over and over (more than one book is too much extra weight for a long hike) or a jour­nal where you can write down your thoughts.

A lit­tle cre­ativ­i­ty is all it takes to beat the crowds on a hike—even if you’re not the only one hit­ting the trails.

So your favorite hike has gone main­stream. Thanks to its insane­ly Insta­gram wor­thy fea­tures, the park­ing lots are a bat­tle­field, the trails them­selves are clogged, and you can’t find peace of mind at the peak for all the self­ies being tak­en around you. What’s a hik­er to do? Get creative—that’s what.

crowds on a hike

1. Go Ridicu­lous­ly Early
As the old say­ing goes, the ear­ly bird real­ly does get the worm. A head start on the trail means you’ll have your choice of a park­ing spot and you’ll be able to enjoy the hike free from the crowds. If the trail is an out-and-back, you may run into a lit­tle con­ges­tion on your way out—but it’s bet­ter than being caught in the mad­ness the entire time.

How ear­ly is ear­ly? It depends on your hike of choice—the ear­li­er the bet­ter, par­tic­u­lar­ly on week­ends or hol­i­days. If you’re famil­iar with the trail, why not bring a pow­er­ful head­lamp and make it a sun­rise hike?

2. Focus on the Off-Season
In most places, sum­mer is high sea­son on the trails. To beat the crowds on a hike, this one is tech­ni­cal­ly a no-brain­er. Things qui­et down after the first week of Sep­tem­ber when every­one is back to school and back to real life—but the weath­er is often still con­ducive to some excel­lent hik­ing. Even bet­ter, the mid­days are less swel­ter­ing and the bugs are typ­i­cal­ly less offensive.

An ear­ly start in the sea­son is anoth­er option—but no mat­ter when you tack­le your trail of choice, be sure to check up on trail con­di­tions and come pre­pared. For instance, if you’re hik­ing at high alti­tudes ear­ly in the sea­son, be pre­pared to encounter snow and know how to iden­ti­fy unsta­ble conditions.

3. Find an Alternate
All too often, one main trail gets all the glo­ry, while oth­er side trails—which may meet up with or break off from the main trail—get large­ly ignored. Do a lit­tle recon on your hik­ing area of choice—you may be sur­prised to dis­cov­er an alter­nate start­ing area or a trail that runs par­al­lel to your orig­i­nal favorite that the mass­es have not yet sought out.

4. Call In Sick
Okay, maybe play­ing hooky isn’t the best call—but strate­gi­cal­ly tak­ing a mid-week vaca­tion day will often yield few­er crowds than head­ing out on the week­end. Beat the Week­end War­riors and set out on, say, a Wednes­day morn­ing rather than a busy Saturday.

5. Camp It Out
Be cre­ative with your tim­ing, and you may out­smart the crowds. For exam­ple, if your hike of choice is up to a moun­tain peak with a lake two-thirds of the way up and most peo­ple hike it in a day, con­sid­er plan­ning a mid-route overnight camp­ing trip at the lake. You can start lat­er of the day when most peo­ple have already come and gone; you get to spend a glo­ri­ous night under the stars; and when it final­ly comes to reach­ing the peak, you’ll have a head start over those who start­ed from the bottom.

This only works if there is a poten­tial camp­ing spot along the route and of course, you have to make sure camp­ing is indeed per­mit­ted. The point is that there’s often anoth­er way of tack­ling a hike than the way that most peo­ple do it.

6. Go Explore
It’s a sad day when your favorite trail offi­cial­ly jumps the shark and becomes a hec­tic tourist attraction—but when one door clos­es, anoth­er one opens, right? Con­sid­er this your oppor­tu­ni­ty to find your new favorite hike. Go a lit­tle fur­ther abroad or deep­er into the back­coun­try, as your skills and expe­ri­ence per­mit. You may just dis­cov­er the next big thing a few years ahead of every­one else.

There you have it. Now you know the tips and tricks to beat the crowds on a hike, even if it’s the most pop­u­lar one in town.

Mount Rainier

To expe­ri­ence the paint strokes of nature in their prime, pass by wild­flow­ers dur­ing your favorite hikes. If you trek any of these trails dur­ing the right time of year, you’ll see an abun­dance of beau­ty you’ll nev­er for­get. To catch some wild­flower dis­plays at the right time, it’s worth check­ing out these 10 best trails for wild­flower hikes.

Columbia GorgeUpper Sec­tion of the Cape Horn Trail—Columbia Riv­er Gorge, Oregon
A great hike any time of the year, the upper sec­tion of the Cape Horn trail on the Colum­bia Riv­er Gorge real­ly blos­soms to life each spring. Fea­tur­ing sweep­ing views of the Colum­bia Gorge and a close look at the cas­cad­ing Cape Horn Falls, this rugged hike is also con­ve­nient­ly locat­ed only about 45 min­utes away from Port­land. Hik­ers need to be aware that the low­er por­tion of the Cape Horn loop trail is closed from Feb­ru­ary until July to pro­tect nest­ing Pere­grine Fal­cons, but the upper loop is always open and is a great place to find some wild­flow­ers come spring.


Blue­bell Island Trail on the Clinch River—Centreville, Virginia
The sweet spot to explore the Blue­bell Trail in Bull Run Region­al Park of North­ern Vir­ginia is mid-April, with over 25 vari­eties of wild­flow­ers bloom­ing along the path. Not sur­pris­ing­ly, the most com­mon wild­flower you’ll see on this very-mod­er­ate walk­ing path is the Peren­ni­al Blue­bell Flower, which adds a splash of col­or to the Vir­gin­ian coun­try­side. To see more wild­flow­ers in action, the sur­round­ing Bull Run Region­al Park offers 1,500 more acres to explore, includ­ing the 19.7‑mile, nat­ur­al-sur­face Bull Run Occo­quan Trail.


Crested ButteWash­ing­ton Gulch Trail #403—Crested Butte, Colorado
Some­times referred to as “the last great ski town in Col­orado”, Crest­ed Butte and the adjoin­ing Crest­ed Butte Moun­tain Resort does have quite the rep­u­ta­tion for being a world-class ski­ing des­ti­na­tion. Ask any­one who has stuck around past the Col­orado win­ter though, and they’ll agree that there is still a lot to do and see when the snow melts away. A prime exam­ple of that can be found with the 7.8‑mile, out and back Wash­ing­ton Gulch Trail (also referred to as Trail 403). Fea­tur­ing an awe-inspir­ing com­bi­na­tion of wild­flow­ers and full panora­mas of the sur­round­ing Rocky Moun­tains, it’s wild­flower hikes these that makes every­one and their cousins want to move to Colorado.


Deep Creek Loop Trail—Deep Creek Recre­ation Area, Great Smoky Moun­tains Nation­al Park
Beard­tongue, Bluets, and Blue-Eyed Grass; these are just some of the many wild­flow­ers you can expect to see through­out the spring when you vis­it the cel­e­brat­ed Deep Creek area of the Great Smoky Moun­tains Nation­al Park. With an abun­dance of water­falls and streams to nav­i­gate through and around, the eye-catch­ing col­ors on the ground won’t be the only thing vying for your atten­tion. The Deep Creek Loop Trail is rough­ly 4 miles long, though it is inter­sect­ed with oth­er fas­ci­nat­ing trails that sprawl through­out the area, ensur­ing that you get to choose your own kind of adven­ture when look­ing for wild­flow­ers in the Great Smoky Mountains.


Antelope ValleyAnte­lope Val­ley Pop­py Reserve—Lancaster, California
Locat­ed in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia in the Mojave Desert, the Ante­lope Val­ley Pop­py Reserve fos­ters an incred­i­ble bloom of the Cal­i­for­nia state flower, the Cal­i­for­nia Pop­py. With a bloom that gen­er­al­ly ranges from mid-Feb­ru­ary to late May, vis­i­tors have plen­ty of time to check out these sea­son­al sur­pris­es of the desert land­scape, and the state-pro­tect­ed Ante­lope Val­ley Pop­py Pre­serve has 8 miles of mod­er­ate trails to immerse your­self in all the col­or and aro­mas of this stun­ning spring hike.


Suther­land Trail—Catalina State Park, Arizona
Sit­u­at­ed square­ly in the San­ta Catali­na Moun­tains, the 5,500 acres of Ari­zona back­coun­try of Catali­na State Park attracts vis­i­tors year-round to this high-desert land­scape. Whether it’s hik­ing, bik­ing or bird­watch­ing, many of the local Tuc­so­nans and fur­ther-trav­el­ing explor­ers will agree that the best time to explore Catali­na State Park is between March and April, when the rugged foothills and canyon depths come alive with wild­flower col­or. With the dras­tic back­ground of desert land­scapes con­trast­ing nice­ly with the col­or of a new sea­son, the 8.6‑mile, one-way Suther­land Trail is per­haps one of the best places in the coun­try to appre­ci­ate wild­flow­ers while you hike.


Mount RainierBench & Snow Lakes Trail—Mt. Rainier Nation­al Park, Washington
Locat­ed lit­er­al­ly in Par­adise, the Bench & Snow Lakes trail can not only give you some of the best wild­flow­ers looks you’ll see all sum­mer any­where else in the nation, but as a back­drop to all the action, the impres­sive Mount Rainier is also vis­i­ble most days when the fore­cast allows it. This 2.5‑mile loop is a pret­ty mod­er­ate start to the day, though it can give views that will last you a life­time, and there are plen­ty of oth­er trails in the Par­adise and sur­round­ing areas of Mount Rainier Nation­al Park to explore, prov­ing what many already knew, that Mount Rainier Nation­al Park is one of the best places to catch mid-sum­mer wild­flow­ers and year-round adventure.


Niquette Bay State Park Trail—Colchester, Vermont
Locat­ed on the shores of Lake Cham­plain as an inden­ta­tion of the much larg­er Mal­letts Bay, Niquette Bay State Park is a 584-acre facil­i­ty that is a pop­u­lar place to explore for the neigh­bor­ing res­i­dents of Burling­ton, Ver­mont. Open only dur­ing day­light hours with camp­ing not allowed, day hik­ers at Niquette Bay State Park can find dolomite lime­stone cliffs, sandy shores and for just a few weeks in late April, an impres­sive col­lec­tion of blos­som­ing spring flow­ers that line the 3.2‑mile trail that mean­ders through the park. While Niquette Bay is beau­ti­ful any time of the year, it is these spring moments that real­ly set the scene for this pic­turesque State Park.


Mt TimpanogosThe Tim­pooneke Trail—Mount Tim­pano­gos, Utah
Mount Tim­pano­gos stands tall as the sec­ond high­est sum­mit in the Wasatch Range of Utah, only behind the neigh­bor­ing Mount Nebo, and the trails and scenery sur­round­ing the top of this rugged moun­tain are con­sid­ered a Utah clas­sic. There are two ways to get to the top of Mount Tim­pano­gos, the 8.3‑mile Aspen Grove Trail, and the 7.5‑mile Tim­pooneke Trail, and while both are fair­ly demand­ing one-ways routes to the top, each also shares some fan­tas­tic wild­flower vis­tas between July and August. With such read­i­ly avail­able views of wild­flow­ers pressed against the Wasatch Moun­tains, you don’t even need to make it to the top of either hike to have a mem­o­rable time explor­ing Mount Timpanogos.


Cot­ton­wood Creek Trails—Custer Gal­latin Nation­al For­est, Montana
Locat­ed in the Boze­man Dis­trict of Custer Gal­latin Nation­al For­est, the three dif­fer­ent Cot­ton­wood Trails (South, Mid­dle & North) all offer dense for­est and mead­ow land­scapes as they mean­der next to Cot­ton­wood Creek. Much not­ed as a hike for a hot day thanks to the adja­cent cold waters of Cot­ton­wood Creek, the best rea­son to get on these trails between June and August is the wild­flow­ers that take over the area, pre­sent­ing a stun­ning view of alpine excel­lence. All three trails pro­vide dif­fer­ent flo­ra options, and all three trails pro­vide dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ences in terms of hik­ing dif­fi­cul­ty but check them out in the right sea­son and all three won’t fail to stim­u­late your spring­time senses.