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Travel: 9 of the best hiking trails in the United States

Monday - 5/5/2014, 7:53am  ET

The United States offers some of the most varied and stunningly gorgeous terrains in the world that make the perfect backdrop for a back-to-nature hike, whether you’re looking for a one-day jaunt or hoping to make a vacation out of the entire experience.

No matter your ideal trail or fitness level, we’ve got you covered coast-to-coast with the best trails for an awesome hiking adventure. (Click on the image to the right to see photos of the trails).

1. Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii

Gorgeous trails snake along Kauai’s stunning coast, and the Kalalua Trail is one of the most stunning, with beautiful sweeping vistas from atop the cliffs. Visitors can choose to hike a portion of the trail for a day excursion, or make an extended trip out of it: The entire trail is about 22 miles and can take three to five days to traverse. It’s often regarded as one of the finest — and most varied — coastal trails in the world, with challenging, muddy slopes and steamy tropical temperatures. Hikers can explore Kalalua Valley, home to enchanting waterfalls and lush foliage, or choose to rest up on the beach.

Stay: Hanalei Colony Resort

No TVs or phones here; instead, you get rare oceanfront views and easy access to hiking along the (practically adjacent) Na Pali Coast. The pool is small, housekeeping only comes every third day, and there’s little on offer at the free breakfast aside from bagels. But the 48 two-bedroom condos with full kitchens are worth the downsized features.

2. The Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim, Ariz.

About two hours north of Sedona, the Rim-to-Rim trail is often considered one of the best ways to experience the Grand Canyon. While some hardcore hikers make the trip in two days, many choose to spread the experience out over a pleasant, and more relaxed, three or four. The sunsets from Plateau Point are stunning, and Ribbon Falls, a stunning waterfall amidst the red rocks of the canyon, is a destination unto itself. There are campgrounds on either rim (North and South), but visitors can also reasonably tack this hike onto a visit to Sedona, or slightly farther-flung Phoenix.

Stay: Junipine Resort

The upper-middle-range Junipine Resort isn’t a true “resort,” as it lacks a swimming pool, fitness center, spa, and shops. Rather, Junipine is comprised of 50 individually-owned, creekside condos in secluded, woodsy Oak Creek Canyon — an ideal spot for some hiking, as well.

3. Olympic National Park, Wash.

They say that Olympic National Park is, in reality, three stunning parks all rolled into one. The breadth of the park means you traverse everything from ancient forests to rugged mountaintops, from stunning valleys to coastal tide pools — all in the course of one day. The Olympic Wilderness Trail takes you through all three terrains, giving you a true taste of the country’s wild side.

Stay: The Maxwell Hotel

Olympic National Park is located about two hours west of Seattle, so making the city your base isn’t a bad idea. The stylish Maxwell Hotel is a gem, hidden in an area of downtown that rarely sees a charming, full-service hotel. Guests of the hotel have the Space Needle and many major Arts venues at their fingertips.

4. Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, Wyo.

There are many ways to hike Jackson Hole’s Grand Tetons, but one of the best routes is across the Teton Crest Trail. Taking hikers past alpine lakes and over craggy summits, the trail guarantees a seriously beautiful adventure. Planning a trip in the summer means getting the chance to walk through valleys flowering with bluebells and lupine.

Stay: Spring Creek Ranch

Set in a wildlife refuge more than 700 feet above the Jackson Valley, Spring Creek Ranch has arguably the most stunning views of the Tetons in the area. Rooms are hit-or-miss, but the delicious, popular restaurant and the excellent heated outdoor pool are lovely perks.

5. Acadia National Park, Maine

Maine’s natural beauty has inspired everyone from Winslow Homer to Stephen King, and campers and hikers have long flocked to the state’s Acadia National Park. The only National Park in New England, Acadia has over 47,000 acres of untouched forest, coastline, mountains and lakes. Multiple routes vary in difficulty, and can take you through coastal cliffs or rugged forests.

Stay: James Place Inn

The intimate James Place Inn is located about two and half hours from Acadia. Visitors can enjoy a coastal drive north that offers views almost as stunning as those you’ll see in the park. The inn features polished rooms, some with fireplaces or soaking tubs. One of the most outstanding features is the extensive free breakfast.

6. Vail Valley, Colo.

There are dozens of trails surrounding Vail that hikers can make use of in the summer or winter months — but if trekking through over three feet of snow doesn’t sound like your idea of fun, you’ll likely prefer a summer excursion. Known as one of the most glamorous resort towns in the Rockies, Vail is also home to untamed natural beauty, which drew the rich and famous to the area in the first place. Vail Valley’s spectacular views and rugged terrain feature lush meadows, conifer forests, and picturesque lakes — where more than one hiker can be spotted fishing for their dinner!

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