Death Valley National Park

A young girl hiking Angels Landing in Zion National Park.

The 25 Best National Park Dayhikes

By Michael Lanza

America’s most stunning landscapes are protected within our 63 national parks, and some of the very finest scenery within our national heritage can be reached on dayhikes. Some of these hikes you may not have done yet or heard of. Others are famous, but there’s a reason for that: They are mind-blowingly gorgeous, so they stand out even in parks with multiple, five-star footpaths. You take these hikes for a one-of-a-kind experience.

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A hiker on the Taylor Creek Trail in Zion National Park.

The 17 Best Uncrowded National Park Dayhikes

By Michael Lanza

The best-known dayhikes in America’s national parks are certainly worth adding to your outdoor-adventure CV. Summits and hiking trails like Angels Landing in Zion, Half Dome in Yosemite, the North Rim Trail overlooking the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, Glacier National Park’s Highline Trail, the Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail and many others represent the highlights of the crown jewels of the National Park System. And for that very reason, unless you take those hikes outside the peak seasons or times of day, you can expect to encounter a lot of other people.

But there are other national park dayhikes that remain off the radar of many hikers—so they attract a tiny fraction of the number of people flocking to the popular trails. This story will point you toward many of the best of them.

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Hikers on the trail up Telescope Peak in Death Valley National Park.

11,000 Feet Over Death Valley: Hiking Telescope Peak

By Michael Lanza

We set out at a brisk pace from the Telescope Peak Trailhead, at just over 8,100 feet in Death Valley National Park, for a good reason: It’s 29° F at just after 7 a.m. on this Saturday in the third week of May. That’s exactly 80 degrees colder than the big digital thermometer at the park’s Furnace Creek visitor center read when we arrived here four days ago. But the fifth-largest U.S. national park—and the biggest one outside Alaska—is nothing if not a place of extremes, both of temperature and physical relief. Today, besides notching the coldest temp we’ll see over four days of hiking in Death Valley, we intend to tag another of its extremes: the highest summit in Death Valley National Park, 11,049-foot Telescope Peak.

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Surprise Canyon, Panamint Range, Death Valley National Park.

A Mind-Boggling Chunk of Lonely: Backpacking in Death Valley National Park

By Michael Lanza

“Can you believe how much water there is?!” Katie asks incredulously. It’s a logical question, and the response of silence from the rest of us answers her pretty succinctly: No, we can’t.

We’re backpacking in a lonely corner of the water-starved and nearly barren Panamint Range in southern California’s Death Valley National Park. One of the most insufferably hot and dry deserts on the planet, Death Valley averages less than two inches of rainfall a year. The temperature on this mid-May evening still hovers around a steaming 90° F in the shade, even as sunset fast approaches. That actually feels relatively frosty compared to when we stopped at the park’s Furnace Creek visitor center this afternoon, at 190 feet below sea level, where the outside thermometer read a searing 108° F.

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A hiker in the Wonderland of Rocks, Joshua Tree National Park.

Photo Gallery: California’s National Parks

By Michael Lanza

Examine the wealth of natural places protected within our 59 national parks, and you’ll quickly see that no state has more than California’s nine (more even than Alaska’s eight). And arguably, no state has a greater diversity of parks than the Golden State, from desert to snowy mountains, giant sequoias and redwoods to rocky islands, the highest peak in the Lower 48 to the lowest and hottest patch of scorched earth. The list includes some of our most iconic and beloved parks and some of the least-known, least-crowded, and most mysterious: Channel Islands. Death Valley. Joshua Tree. Kings Canyon. Lassen Volcanic. Pinnacles. Redwood. Sequoia. Yosemite.

Doesn’t that list make you want to start planning a trip right now?

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