Welcome to spring—the time of year where snow covers the ground one day, the sun beats down the next, and rainy weather comes with a vengeance. The weather in springtime is indeed unpredictable, but there are places throughout the U.S. where the warmth comes early, and the trails open up like they’re on a schedule. The key is to stay at lower elevations, aim for the southern regions of the country, and plan your trips moving north as springtime develops. Don’t worry if your dream trail is still buried under snow—the beauty of springtime is in the progression of the season, and trails that were completely closed off in April will be open in June.
Do your research, know the area, and you’ll be able to get your spring fix and work out the winter stiffness across a variety of terrain and regional favorites. These are some of the best don’t-miss spring hikes in the U.S., in order of the best times of spring to hike them.
1. The Wave—Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Utah
Best Time: March-April Distance: 5 miles
The permit to hike to this natural feature is one of the most sought-after among hiking fanatics, and it’s extremely difficult to obtain. Only 20 people are allowed in this area at a time, and there are very few permits reserved each day for walk-ins. The trail itself is relatively mild, transitioning from loose sand to hard sandstone, with reddish buttes looming as you near the site. The Wave itself consists of narrow funnels of eroded sandstone, forming intersecting formations that don’t look like they belong on this planet. Your best bet is trying to get a permit during the weeks without massive amounts of spring breakers, so be sure to plan ahead.
2) Bridal Wreath Falls Trail—Saguaro National Park, Arizona
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Bridal Wreath Falls Trail is a 5.6 mile moderate out and back well marked trail located near Tucson, Arizona. The short journey up the canyon is beautiful even in the heat and the falls at the end make it worth the trip – but make sure you take lots of water. There is a good carpark at the trailhead and plenty of nearby street parking. Great shot that captures the wonderful colors of nature by @wherekelseygoes Share your hiking and biking snaps with us #hikeandbikeusa
Best Time: Late March-early May Distance: 5.6 miles Difficulty: Difficult
This hike is short and fairly steep, but rewarding in the sense that hikers will see a rare waterfall in the middle of the desert. Bridal Wreath Falls is critical for local wildlife, providing water for coyote, deer, kangaroo rats, peccaries, Gila monsters, and more. The biodiversity of the desert never ceases to amaze, and springtime is one of the best times to see the animals and the life growing in this arid environment. As the trail ascends towards the falls, the plant life changes as well. Bring plenty of water and sun protection. Even early in the season, the days can get hot.
3. South Rim Loop Trail—Roxborough State Park, Colorado
Best Time: Late March-May Distance: 4.8 miles Difficulty: Easy
This loop takes hikers to stunning views of the vibrant red rock formations for which this state park is known. The majority of this hike is flat and well-graded, with a short steeper climb toward the top of a ridge. Benches line the trail on the way up, making this outing ideal for families or people working to acclimate to Colorado’s higher elevation. Bring a pair of binoculars and spot deer and antelope in the hillsides below…another excuse to hang out up there longer.
4. Canyon Loop—Providence Canyon, Georgia
Best Time: April-June Distance: 3 miles Difficulty: Easy
The Canyon Loop Trail is one of the best ways to see the entirety of this incredible natural feature, which is so different from the rest of Georgia that it’s hard to believe you’re still in the state. You’ll see vibrant rocks in streaked hues of red, gold, and orange—it looks like a miniaturized version of the Grand Canyon. The white-blazed trail skirts sandstone spires, takes hikers around multiple canyons, and down into the floor between the brilliantly colored walls. Signage is plentiful for hikers who want to explore more canyons off the main trail.
5. Smokemont Loop—Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
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foot bridge crossing Bradley Fork at Smokemont Loop Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina #2015 #bradleyfork #bradleyforktrail #smokemont #smokemontlooptrail #blueridgemoments #ashevilletrails #ncoutdoor_inc #wilsonandsonphotography #friendsofthesmokies #greatsmokymountains #greatsmokymountainsnationalpark #gsmnp #smokies
Best Time: April-June Distance: 6.5 miles Difficulty: Moderate
Looking for some of the best wildflower viewing in the Smokies? This is your trail. The first section of this hike follows the historic Benton MacKaye Trail, picking up the Chasteen Creek Trail to the Bradley Fork Trail to continue the loop. The Bradley Fork Trail section is one of the best trails in the region for wildflower viewing throughout the year. During early spring, spot violets and foamflowers. During the later spring months, Fraser’s sedge blooms at higher elevations. From April onward, look for Canadian violets and wild strawberries.
6. Mist Falls—Kings Canyon National Park, California
Best Time: May-June Distance: 11 miles Difficulty: Moderate
This is one of the most popular day hikes in Kings Canyon National Park, and it’s not hard to understand why. Late spring sees the river roaring, the falls at their peak volume, and the surrounding scenery is, in a word, epic. The trail is moderately graded and doable in one day. Hit it right and you’ll see wildflowers in the meadows, birds swooping through the dense pines, and the falls at their maximum flow. This trail starts on the Kanawyer Loop Trail, picking up the Paradise Valley Trail to Mist Falls.
Of course, you’ll want the proper clothing to stay comfortable out on the trail, and nothing beats 37.5 Technology when it comes to outdoor apparel. The fabric technology, used by a wide variety of outdoor clothing companies, helps keep your body at its ideal core temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius with a relative humidity next to your skin at 37.5 percent. When you’re hot, the material pulls moisture from the body to cool you. When you’re cold, the fabric uses the body’s infrared energy to warm you up. For spring hiking, a waterproof jacket is a must-have, and the Kamleika from Original Mountain Marathon is a lightweight gem that will keep you dry and comfortable in the worst of conditions.
Written by Matcha for 37.5.
Featured image provided by Bochen Chen