The Shortest Hikes with the Best Views

No time? No problem.

Tackling a 14er isn’t always an option, and sometimes you just can’t put in a 30-mile trek, but that doesn’t mean a shorter trail won’t be fulfilling. Hiking can easily turn into “bigger, higher and harder,” but with outlooks, peaks, and views that rival mountain summits, these short hikes prove that bigger isn’t always better.

Wizard Island Summit Trail

Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Length: 2.5 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Any hike that requires a boat ride to reach the trailhead is bound to be fantastic, and Wizard Island’s Summit Trail is just that. A short, steep, and rocky trail takes you to the crater summit. Lava rocks and gravel pave the way as you follow switchback after switchback uphill. At the top, you’re greeted with an incomparable view of Crater Lake.

Looking Glass Rock Trail

Location: Brevard, North Carolina
Length: 2.7 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/Difficult

Be prepared to work hard; Looking Glass Rock Trail ascends around 1,500 feet in less than three miles. Portions of the trail are loaded with switchbacks, and the footing near the summit is somewhat eroded, making it bit sketchy. The granite dome summit at Looking Glass results in an expansive view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that’s well worth the burn it took to get there.

Miller Point Caves Loop

Location: Cathedral Gorge State Park, Nevada
Length: 1.8 miles
Difficulty Rating: Easy

“A view of some of the formations that make up Cathedral Gorge.” —HP contributor Stephanie Reed

Short and stark, this relatively easy trail displays the harsh, classic Nevada terrain. Miller Point Caves Loop takes hikers through canyons and caves that are reminiscent of a desert painting. As enjoyable as the formations are to look at, they also provide shade—a luxury on Nevada trails. With the slot canyons, a famous abandoned water tower, and underground passages, there’s a lot to explore on this short trail.

Hidden Lake Overlook

Location: Glacier National Park, Montana
Length: 2.7 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Popular and mostly family-friendly, Hidden Lake Overlook takes you through alpine meadows, known as the Hanging Gardens. You’ll get prime looks at Mt. Brown, Mt. Stanton, and Hidden Lake. Take in the plethora of alpine flowers (think: fleabane, glacier lilies, and elephant’s head), and enjoy watching for the mountain goats, bighorn sheep, ground squirrels, and other wildlife in the area.

Great Head Trail

Location: Acadia National Park, Maine
Length: 1.5 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Located on the east end of Sand Beach, Great Head Trail makes a small, not-too-difficult loop around the peninsula. Pink granite rock formations, a birch forest, and a stunning view of Acadia’s famous Beehive make this trail a must if you’re in the area. On calm days, the tidal pools act as natural mirrors, reflecting the surrounding pines and blue skies.

Cliff Trail

Location: Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, New Jersey
Length: 2.8 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

Bordering drop-off edges in areas, Cliff Trail gives hikers prime access to the Delaware Water Gap. Early filmmakers found the view so inspiring that they shot several Westerns in the area when they were unable to make it to the real West. Other than the initial steep climb and the sheer cliffs, the trail is moderate heading up Raymondskill Ridge. Cliff Trail is probably best experienced in the fall, when the entire Delaware Water Gap explodes with color, but it’s open for access year-round.

Queens Garden Navajo Loop Trail

Location: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Length: 3 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate

The scenery surrounding Queens Garden Navajo Loop Trail is surreal. The trail itself is doable for most, although there are some steep sections. Take in otherworldly rock formations, and Queen Victoria Rock, prominent among the spired hoodoos. Parting way through the many colors and cliffs of Bryce Canyon, this loop is arguably one of Utah’s best short hikes.

Photo: HP contributor EHK

Angel Falls Overlook: Tennessee

Location: Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Tennessee
Length: 2.9 miles
Difficulty Rating: Intermediate/Difficult

A popular route in Big South Fork, the trail begins near the park’s river gorge and continues up to Angel Falls Overlook. You’ll encounter boulders, rock walls, and cascades as you work your way up to the overlook, where you’ll find a wide-open view of Cumberland River Gorge. The trail is rocky, with some degree of difficulty, following the ledge of a rock wall at one point.

No Comments