Top Hiking Trails in the Southern U.S. National Parks
There is so much to explore in every U.S. National Park, but we will be focusing on the top hikes in the southern National Parks today. From Arizona to Florida, here are some of the best hiking trails to consider.
Grand Canyon National Park
The South Rim offers several gorgeous and challenging day hikes. You can only get to the South Kaibab Trail via shuttle bus, and this area is quite secluded compared to other well-traversed Grand Canyon hikes. If you’re ready for a Grand Canyon adventure, begin at Yaki Point, and remember to take extra water and snacks with you. This trail has very little shade and will require a lot of physical exertion. The views along the South Kaibab Trail make it worth the effort.
Petrified Forest National Park
Take the Blue Mesa Trail to discover the bluish bentonite clay hillsides and petrified wood from all angles in this intriguing desert landscape. This one-mile loop trail is scenic in its own right. The Blue Mesa Trail begins at the Blue Mesa sun shelter and has a steep grade at the beginning. However, the hike features a mixture of pavement and gravel, leveling out through the remaining route.
Saguaro National Park
Trek among the cactus at this serene national park. The Garwood Dam and the Wildhorse Tank hike is the second-longest marked trail, and you will need to follow the right branch just 0.2 miles into the Douglas Spring Trail. The Wildhorse Tank section has incredible views of the Santa Catalina Mountains to the north, so bring your camera and capture the beauty of Saguaro National Park.
Hot Springs National Park
One could say that Hot Springs National Park is one of the most underrated national parks in the United States. Even though there aren’t a lot of places to hike here, there is a remote hiking area called the Sunset Trail. It is 10-miles long (one-way) and comprises three sections: West Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, and Stonebridge Road. Be sure to pause and soak in the view at Balanced Rock, located towards the eastern end of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Biscayne National Park
You won’t have to narrow down places to hike here because the Spite Highway Trail is the park’s only trail. Biscayne is ideal for snorkeling and kayaking, but if you want to spend time out of the water, be sure to explore this trail on the Elliott Key. This hike is seven miles long and features a wide, smooth trail tunneling through a hardwood forest. Hikers of any age will have a good experience here.
Dry Tortugas National Park
The Fort Jefferson Loop encircles Fort Jefferson on Florida’s Garden Key. Fort Jefferson is one of the largest 19th-century military forts in the United States, and it is the main attraction at Dry Tortugas National Park. Anyone that enjoys touring historic sites should plan on spending a day at this area of the park.
Everglades National Park
If you’ve been itching to hike through this part of Florida, take the Snake Bight Trail. Although the name may sound deceiving, the Snake Bight is a small bay. This short trail is not challenging, but it is ideal for bird watching. Any nature lover visiting southern Florida should come and check out this park.
Carlsbad Caverns National Park
You’ll be hiking underground at this unique destination. Visitors are welcome to explore the Big Room Trail at the Carlsbad Caverns at their own pace. Carlsbad Caverns features the largest single cave chamber in the nation, and it takes people an average of an hour and a half to explore this trail. Parts of the Big Room are wheelchair accessible, but watch your step while exploring the rest of this cave system.
White Sands National Park
Believe it or not, there are five established trails at this national park. If you want to trek through the heart of the sand dunes, take the Backcountry Camping Trail. This is a moderate two-mile (round-trip) hike featuring steep dunes and loose sand. Come prepared with plenty of extra water and plan to explore this area early in the morning.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
No one can deny that the Great Smoky Mountains are a spectacular sight. You won’t regret hiking the Ramsey Cascades Trail, even if you are short on time. This scenic trail takes hikers through a massive tulip poplar forest, eventually ending at the 100-foot Ramsey Cascades waterfall, the tallest waterfall in the park. Plan to spend at least a day exploring this part of the Great Smoky Mountains.
Congaree National Park
Experienced hikers will enjoy the challenge of the River Trail. At just over 11 miles round-trip, this trail leads to the Congaree River and features dense vegetation among the old-growth bald cypress trees. Sometimes the river overflows, so be aware of current trail conditions if you’re not keen on getting your feet wet. Keep your eyes peeled for alligators and other wildlife while venturing through this national park.
Big Bend National Park
Head to the heart of the Chisos Mountains by hiking the Lost Mine Trail. Most of this nearly 2.5-mile trail is steep and offers stunning views of Pine Canyon plus the northernmost section of Mexico’s Sierra del Carmen mountain range. Since it is so close to the Mexico border, the optimal time of year to visit Big Bend is late fall.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park
See some of the most beautiful landscapes in all of Texas along the McKittrick Canyon Trail. This is an excellent area for a multi-day backpacking excursion. Some of the neat sights you will encounter include the Pratt Cabin, the notch, and the grotto. Anyone can find solitude here, especially within the canyon’s Permian Reef section.
We hope you and your loved ones have a grand time hiking through these National Parks in the southern United States. If you’re ready to go wandering, here are some itineraries that may help you find inspiration for your next road trip: Quickest National Parks Tour, Oklahoma to New Mexico, Gulf Coast, Arizona, Florida, Southern State Parks