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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

20 Full Moon Hikes

The moon is full on Monday, July 26. Get out this weekend to explore open meadows and ridgelines at night.

by: The Backpacker Editors & Contributors

(Photo by Kip Evans
(Photo by Kip Evans

A generous smattering of meadows, open ridgelines, or desert make these day and overnight hikes the perfect venue for full moon romps. Headlamps optional.

Balitmore, MD: Patapsco Valley State Park
You'll find two wooded creeks and plenty of solitude on this 2.8-mile lollipop loop nestled in the heart of Patapsco Valley State Park.

Shenandoah NP: Old Rag Mountain
Navigate switchbacks, boulder scrambles, and rock mazes on this 8.6-mile loop that ascends Old Rag Mountain, one of Shenandoah's most famous peaks.

St. Louis, MO: Grant City State Park
This 9.8-mile loop covers the Shawnee National Forest essentials: lovely waterfalls, scenic sandstone cliffs, singing birds, and colorful wildflowers.

Denver: Apex Park Loop
Just a short ride from downtown, this 5.1-mile dayhike climbs loops around the panoramic ridgelines of Indian Mountain.

Great Falls, MT: Windy Mountain Loop
This 7.1-mile dayhike in Lewis and Clark National Forest loops through the Highwood Mountains, skirting several creeks and the broad summit of Windy Mountain.

Big Bend Ranch State Park, TX: Closed Canyon
Descend into Closed Canyon's slot for a 1.4-mile round-trip trek from Big Bend's scenic River Road toward the Mexican border and the raging Rio Grande.

Santa Fe, NM: Valle Vidal
Explore the "Yellowstone of the Southwest" on this 28.4-mile loop that links a series of meadows, creek crossings, and a canyon in New Mexico's Valle Vidal.

Seattle: Hamilton Buttes
Grab shotgun views of four volcanoes on this lonely 6.2-mile out-and-back in Gifford Pinchot National Forest

Point Reyes: Mt. Wittenberg Loop
Hike to the highest point in Point Reyes National Seashore in this 6.4 mile loop hike to the top of Mt. Wittenberg along the Sky Trail, Z Ranch Trail and Horse Trail.

Yosemite NP: Half Dome by Moonlight
Let the soft light of a full moon guide your way to Yosemite's most iconic granite peak on this 14.2-mile out-and-back.

Got your own favorite moonlight hike? Add it to the comments section, or a submit a tracklog at

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Reader Rating: -


Aug 17, 2010

Sorry that would be the Saguaro East :-(

Aug 17, 2010

A great moonlight or not hike that I had was the Tanque Verde trail,(hope I spelled it right)in the Saguaro National Park West. With the moon and the city below, what a sight!!!!

Jul 23, 2010

Bryce Canyon National Park, UT. The Queen's Garden trail is short and manageable.

Jul 22, 2010

Those in the South East might find it worth the trip to Cumberland Falls SP in south KY. If it is clear there will be a "moon bow" in the falls. To view it, position yourself at the top of the falls with your back to the moon. The moon bow will form about 45 degrees out from here the shadow of your head would project.

Evan Robb
Jul 22, 2010

The short hike up to the Watchman (fire lookout) or Garfield Peak on the rim of Crater Lake is perfect for a full moon. The moon's reflection on the lake's surface far below is kinda mesmerizing. Even better with a bit of snow on the ground.

Moss Piglet
Jul 22, 2010

Grand Canyon: if it's hot, and you're at the bottom, and need to get to the top that day, starting in the dark (moonlight) is the way to go.
Tucson: am partial to moonlit hikes such as Wasson Peak, Sweetwater Preserve, Saguara Nat'l Parks (east or west).

Dan Jones
Jul 22, 2010

A couple years ago you ran a moonlight/sunrise article and it gave me the idea to hike Mt Cammerer in the Smokies up to the stone fire tower. I literally got there 2 minutes before sunrise. The previous day had some small forest fires on the TN/NC border and the sun came up the most brilliant hott pink you've ever seen, absolutely gorgeous!


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