1. Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park
Travelers who want to get up close and personal with Alaska's famous glaciers should consider a trek along the scenic Harding Icefield Trail. Located in Kenai Fjords National Park, about 125 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, this trail offers unbeatable panoramic views of the expansive Harding Icefield, which comprises about 700 square miles of the park. But that's not all you can expect on this 8-mile trail. The path weaves through different types of forests, as well as picturesque alpine meadows. Just come prepared: With 1,000 feet of elevation gained at every mile, recent visitors find this hike to be quite strenuous.
2. Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park
The Mist Trail is one of Yosemite National Park's most notable treks. As its name suggests, the trail snakes alongside two waterfalls – Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall – spraying visitors with a fair amount of moisture depending on the time of year. The total hiking time varies. Ascending only Vernal Fall (the first waterfall on the trail) yields a 2.4-mile round-trip hike, while Nevada Fall is a 5.4-mile round-trip journey. If you're visiting in spring or early summer, when water flow is at its peak, exercise extreme caution as the trails become both crowded and slippery.
3. South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park
The South Kaibab Trail is the only trail in the Grand Canyon that, according to the National Park Service, "dramatically holds true to a ridgeline descent." The trail's descent on ridges that jut out into the canyon afford unique panoramic vistas difficult to find elsewhere in the park. But the trail isn't for the faint of heart: There is no shade on the trail and hiking during the summer is not recommended. During the cooler months, the NPS advises travelers not to go past Skeleton Point for a day hike, which clocks in at a 6-mile round-trip journey.