Five Gorgeous Hidden Hikes in North America

Five Gorgeous Hidden Hikes in North America
For every well-hyped, bustling hiking trail, there are a score of paths far more obscure but no less enchanting. That's a truth of outdoor recreation, one also relevant to rivers, wilderness areas or mountain peaks. While some of these kinds of hikes may be popular among locals of good taste, they don't always make the guidebooks or travel shows, and therein lies part of their charm.

Blue Hole of the Imnaha (Wallowa Mountains, Oregon)

Head for the Indian Crossing Trailhead in the eastern Wallowa Mountains of northeastern Oregon---one of the spectacular, lesser-known alpine ranges of the West---for this enchanting hike, which traverses a burned wood (relic of the 1994 Twin Lakes Fire) beneath bald domes. Only about two miles in, the Imnaha River---whose glacially excavated valley you have been tracing upstream---rolls through a narrow bedrock slot, the waters so strangely calm and clear that the rocky shadows of the bottom are mysteriously clear. While strolling through ghostly snags or alder thickets, scan the skeleton-timbered ridges surrounding for elk, black bear and mountain lion.

Wallowa-Whitman National Forest---Pine Ranger District
38470 Pine Town Ln.
Halfway, Oregon 97834
(541) 742-7511

Snake Bight Trail (Everglades, Florida)

Many people think of kayaks when considering exploration of Everglades National Park, but there are a few designated hiking trails. One of these, Snake Bight, follows a canal through a tropical hardwood hammock throbbing with life---anoles, cacti, zebra butterflies, strangler figs, gumbo limbo trees, palmettos---into the mangrove forest fringing Florida Bay. The hike's climax is the pale, otherworldly shore of the bay itself: The prospect extends to far-off keys, intervening azure waters likely studded with wading birds, and the silty mangrove flats surrounding you are enlivened by the possibility of crocodiles.

Everglades National Park
40001 State Rd. 9336
Homestead, FL 33034
(305) 242-7700

Missouri Headwaters State Park Trails (Missouri River, Montana)

Seek out this state park on the Montana plains west of Bozeman, which commemorates the birth of the Missouri River proper---at the junction of its three great tributaries, the Jefferson, Gallatin and Madison rivers, fresh off the nearby Yellowstone highlands. An excellent series of interpretive trails explores flood plain savanna of cottonwood, alder and willow, the limestone table of Fort Rock and the riparian thickets of the Missouri itself. You'll see the distant ramparts of several Rocky Mountain ranges, from the Tobacco Roots to the Bridgers; squadrons of massive American white pelicans; an ethereal petroglyph scrawled in a secluded grotto; and countryside relatively unchanged since it was celebrated by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, who camped here after poling thousands of miles up the Missouri at the start of the 19th century. Lewis described the landscape of the confluence as consisting of "extensive and (beautiful) plains and meadows which appear to be surrounded in every direction with distant and lofty mountains."

Missouri Headwaters State Park
1400 S. 19th St.
Bozeman, MT 59715
(406) 994-4042

Kohler Dunes (Lake Michigan, Wisconsin)

An hour's drive north of Milwaukee, just south of the port of Sheboygan, lies Kohler-Andrae State Park, a beautiful swath of forest, woodland, meadows and dunes along Lake Michigan. The park's highlight is a boardwalk path---comprised of the Creeping Juniper Nature Trail and Dunes Cordwalk together---winding through the coastal dunes and their matted junipers, billowing grasses, conifer groves and marshes, all cast against the wild horizon of the great lake. Those hiking during moonrise over the lake have an especially enviable view.

Kohler-Andrae State Park
1020 Beach Park Lane
Sheboygan WI 53081
(920) 451-4080

Lost Coast Trail (Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, California)

Hike all or part of this 60-mile trail along the remote, wild Lost Coast of northern California---a stretch of Pacific shore so rugged that no highways penetrate its folded seaside ranges and ocean bluffs. Good access is afforded from Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, a far-flung jewel reached by rough, winding one-lane roads. Roosevelt elk graze a few hundred feet from bobbing harbor seals, and broad views encompass dramatic headlands and the heaving wilderness of the Pacific itself.

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park
c/o Richardson Grove State Park
1600 U.S. Highway 101 # 8
Garberville, CA 95542
(707) 986-7711

Article Written By Ethan Schowalter-Hay

Ethan Schowalter-Hay is a writer and naturalist living in Oregon. He has written for the "Observer," the Bureau of Land Management and various online publishers. He holds a Bachelor of Science in wildlife ecology and a graduate certificate in geographic information systems from the University of Wisconsin.

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