Whether you're looking for a short walk or a full-on backpacking trek, here are the best trails on which to see the eclipse this month.
A total solar eclipse will blanket a wide swath of the United States on Monday, August 21, 2017. Lasting roughly two minutes, it will be the first total solar eclipse visible in the continental United States since 1979.
Visitor bureaus, law enforcement agencies and those in the accommodations industry are bracing for record-breaking crowds. Hundreds of thousands will flock to Missouri, 1 million visitors may descend upon Oregon alone, and some say Wyoming's population will double. (Grand Teton National Park will be almost square in the middle of the path, where the eclipse will be most visible.)
If the upcoming eclipse has piqued your curiosity, but you’d rather not endure dead-stop traffic and elbow-to-below crowds, you’re in luck. We’ve compiled four hikes from coast to coast, each within the path of totality, that should deliver a solar spectacle without the crushing crowds—and one bonus hike in case you'd rather join in on an eclipse viewing party.
Slickrock and Citico Wilderness Loop (Tennessee)
The eclipse will be visible for the longest period of time in neighboring Kentucky, but we’re partial to Tennessee’s vibrant outdoor scene. In particular, we’d recommend a trip on the Slickrock and Citico Wilderness Loop. The 25-mile lollipop hike spends much of its time in the forest, but if you’d rather not make an overnight trip of it, several clearings along the way provide plenty of prime viewing opportunities.
Four miles in, you’ll approach the open, grassy summit of Bob Stratton Bald, which offers views of surrounding peaks and Santeelah Lake in nearby North Carolina. For casual day hikers, this makes a solid turnaround point and a natural spot for viewing the eclipse.
After another three miles, you’ll encounter several wide-open valley views en route to Big Fat Gap, most of which should be miles from the nearest eclipse-seeking crowds. Seasoned hikers, if not backpacking, should consider turning around here. Brace yourself for waterfalls, swimming holes and more than 2,600 feet of elevation gain from the base of Big Fat Gap if you're completing the entire lollipop.
Strawberry Lake Trail (Oregon)
Most of the crowds descending upon Oregon will compete for space west of the Cascades, so the state’s eastern half promises the best chance for clear skies and a dearth of people.
Specifically, we’d suggest the 8-mile-long Strawberry Lake Trail, which starts from a dispersed campground and follows the banks of Strawberry Lake within the vast Malheur National Forest. A good chunk of the trail hugs the banks in the shadow of Strawberry Mountain, but you’ll encounter a 60-foot waterfall, a second Strawberry Lake and a lush alpine setting along the way. The trail connects with a larger network of paths, making it ideal for easy day trips or longer backpacking excursions.
Fair warning: The U.S. Forest Service has advised that trailhead access may be limited and the roads may be closed around the time of the eclipse. Ensure your vehicle’s gas tank is full and that you have plenty of food and supplies in the event that traffic lives up to the hype.
Ready to hike it? Get the beta here.
Bridle Trail (Wyoming)
While the rest of Wyoming flocks to Grand Teton National Park for the eclipse, we’d suggest hiking the Bridle Trail at Casper Mountain for wide-open views, a moderately thigh-burning ascent, and (with luck) a little solitude.
On the 3.5-mile-long trail, you’ll spend some time in the woods before arriving at Split Rock, which resembles a tall fin made of granite. On your way back, remain on the lip of the canyon for a more exposed return trip. We’d suggest taking a break along this ridgeline for prime eclipse viewing conditions, but be sure to time it perfectly, as the park is only open from dawn until dusk.
Sawtooth Lake (Idaho)
Part of the Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho’s Sawtooth Lake delivers a number of excellent views and opportunities for long day hikes and overnight backpacking trips alike.
Starting at the Iron Creek trailhead, the 8.5-mile hike is long enough for an epic day trip (assuming you start early enough to see the eclipse from a clearing along the way) or a pleasant multi-day trip. If opting for the latter, it’s worth leaving on Saturday or Sunday to claim a campsite.
Along the way, you’ll spy views of surrounding Sawtooth Mountains and Mount Regan. And, of course, the hike ends at the sublime, crystal-clear Sawtooth Lake, the perfect spot to see wide-open skies and a clear view of the eclipse.
Ready to hike it? Get the beta here.
Daniel Island Waterfront Trail (South Carolina)
All of the hikes we’ve spotlighted so far have bypassed crowds for (what we hope are) more solitary experiences. The final hike on this list, the Daniel Island Waterfront Trail in Charleston, South Carolina, takes a different approach by dropping you into the midst of a large-scale celebration.
Normally an easy, quiet pathway along the Wando River, the short 1.6-mile trail offers boardwalks, wildlife viewing, birding and more. Residents are planning an all-day party, and we think you’ll appreciate the accessibility, clear views and lively atmosphere.
One last thing: You'll need special glasses to view the eclipse safely. Stock up here.