5 breathtaking hikes that need to be on your bucket list

March 9, 2015

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Fill up your bucket list with these breathtaking hikes that get you up close and personal with nature’s beauty.

Bucket lists are interesting things. For a lot of people, they aren’t even physical lists, just thoughts or ideas that you’d like to experience or do one day. Unfortunately, many bucket lists go unfulfilled and don’t go any further than wishful thinking. Don’t let that happen to you.

First things first, if you don’t have a physical list yet, make one. Even if it only starts out with one thing, having that one idea written down somewhere makes it much more real than only being a thought in your head. Carry that list with you and add things to it as they come to you (and they will; don’t worry about that). If you need some help with ideas for your list, you can’t go wrong with the following bucket list hikes.

However, don’t let the hikes I mention be the only ones you consider. Go on the hike that’ll mean the most to you. For me, that means at least one hike through an area where I can hear a common loon call. That call has always meant true wilderness to me…

My point is that each and every nature lover has something like that in their minds for a bucket list hike. After all, different things speak to different people, sort of like how Ben from Parks and Rec feels when he visits the The Redwoods in Yosemite National Park.

A great place for any hiker’s bucket list is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are dozens of great trails to hike in the park, and they offer trips through incredibly unique forests. The thick trees and heavy fern undergrowth make for a truly memorable and lasting experience, and you’ll think you are walking through the rainforest in some sections.


Photo Credit: Miguel Vieira


When most people think of bucket list hikes in the lower 48, they imagine strolls through forests with perhaps some open fields thrown in. If you want a taste of something different, consider Roan Mountain State Park.


Photo Credit: Rob King


The park borders Tennessee and North Carolina and offers breathtaking hikes through impressive highlands. (Just don’t be surprised if you feel like you are in Scotland!) The vistas you’ll check out are stunning. I mean, just look at those clouds…


Photo Credit: Dallas Krentzel


For a particular hike to make your personal bucket list, maybe you want to feel accomplished after completing it. If you make the climb to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, no one’s gonna blame you for bragging.


Photo Credit: Dimitry B.


A system of cables and supports allows visitors to make the exhausting trek to the top of the 4,737 foot tall dome. (Just don’t look down!) You will never forget this hike once you complete it — mostly because your body will remind you of it for weeks after you return home.


Photo Credit: Bonzo McGrue


If mountain views and a more vertical hike are your thing, you won’t want to miss the views offered by High Rock Lookout in the Cascade Mountains of Washington. The exhilarating hike to the fire tower offers splendid views of Mount Rainier National Park as well as Mount Hood and the crater of Mount St. Helens.


Photo Credit: JBLM MWR


This small selection of bucket list hikes would not be complete without mentioning the John Muir Wilderness in California. You can hike through several national parks including Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia while exploring the insanely picturesque wilderness area that was named after the founder of the Sierra Club.


Photo Credit: Miguel Vieira


At John Muir, you’ll feel like an explorer as you come across the hidden alpine lakes in the region that seem to pop out of nowhere. The stunning blue water contrasts brilliantly against the grey rocks, making for some of the most memorable views in the country.

Whatever hikes you decide to accomplish before you kick the metaphorical bucket, planning is the first start. So stop leaving your bucket list in your thoughts and make some real progress towards your own personal bucket list hike!

Need a place to stay during one of your bucket list hike excursions? No matter your destination, there’s a KOA nearby:

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