Hiking Sweet Spots

No mushiness required for these Valentine's Day hikes handpicked by BACKPACKER

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Oh, Valentine’s Day. The Hallmark holiday always stirs up loaded emotions and at BACKPACKER, we tend to feel a familiar urge–to head outside. If you’re like us, grab your honey (or a friend, or your dog) and hit the trail with our staff picks for the country’s five most romantic–and jaw droppingly awesome–hikes. Just click on the hike’s name for our GPS enabled trip report and start packing up the chocolates.

Na Pali Coast via Kalalau Trail: Kauai, HI

The Kalalau Trail that winds along the edge of Hawaii’s oldest island offers breathtaking, 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains, coast and the I-can’t-believe-it’s-this-blue ocean. During the hike, you’ll pass beautiful waterfalls pouring over 1,000 feet down smooth, black volcanic rock and huge wild mango trees. Camp at the end of the 8.4 mile hike near a waterfall and small pond with sea caves. Be prepared to get sweaty with your sweetheart–this hike was rated a 10 out of 10 on the difficulty scale and hikers often find themselves scrambling up the trail on all fours next to 500 foot drops. Check out our tips on being a hiking ambassador if you’re partner isn’t an experienced backpacker.

Cold Mountain: Asheville, NC

If Cold Mountain was a good enough backdrop for Nicole Kidman and Jude Law, we think you’ll be pretty satisfied with it too. Our trip mapper described the 8 mile hike by saying, “Big views. Quiet streams. A forest paradise.” This trail also provides plenty of solitude and a littering of sun washed flat rocks to take in the 180 degree views from the summit.

Panorama Trail: Yosemite National Park

The Panorama Trail stands out in Yosemite because it offers the best views of the park’s famous landmarks, including Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, the Royal Arches, Illilouette Falls and Liberty Cap. Grab some rain gear for the end of the hike when you hit Vernal Falls, a beautiful and crashing waterfall where mist is thick enough to form trailside rainbows. Think it’s a little cheesy? The switchbacks and steep inclines you’ll climb to get there make these rainbows rather manly.

Raven Cliff Falls: Atlanta, GA

This 5 mile round trip trek to Raven Cliff Falls is the perfect dayhike, notable for the many waterfalls that dot the trail (noticing a pattern?). You’ll pass through big hemlock forests and although the bright Rhododendrons and mountain laurels aren’t in bloom yet, the landscape is still green and verdant. The real payoff for this hike comes at the end where a table-top rock above a waterfall lets you share a lunch for two in a pretty sweet spot.

Delicate Arch: Arches National Park

Temperatures in Arches can be downright miserable in the summer but this time of year is perfect for heading up to this iconic arch. You’ll traverse across a slickrock ribbon and through ruddy rock formations on your 3.1 mile ascent. Once you get to the top, there’s nothing left but to revel in the amazing view of Delicate Arch against a backdrop of the Cache Valley and La Sal Mountains. Added bonus: during this quiet time of year, you may have the arch all to yourselves.

What do your Valentine’s Day plans include? Dish on the hiking getaways near you in the comments section below.

–Morgan Keys

Image credits: Scott Sanders, Kari Bodnarchuck, Dave Miller

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