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The Best National Park Dayhikes

Only have a day to spare? Here are our short-and-sweet picks for 10 popular national parks


With dizzying exposure and supreme panoramas of Zion’s colossal towers, choose this delightfully strenuous 8-mile up-and-back to Observation Point…

With dizzying exposure and supreme panoramas of Zion’s colossal towers, choose this delightfully strenuous 8-mile up-and-back to Observation Point instead of the classic (read: overcrowded) Angels Landing hike. [Photo: Melissa Hopkins / Flickr]

No shock here: If you want to get the prime Grand Canyon experience, head to the South Rim. Use the shuttle service to check off this 6.4-mile…

No shock here: If you want to get the prime Grand Canyon experience, head to the South Rim. Use the shuttle service to check off this 6.4-mile section hike, much of which is unpaved and rugged. Yeah, there’ll probably be crowds. And yeah, you won’t mind so much when you see the view. [Photo: NPS / Flickr]

Follow this traverse for 8.6 miles up and down the spine of the highest peak in the dramatic sawtooth Snake Range. Ending above 13,000 feet, this…

Follow this traverse for 8.6 miles up and down the spine of the highest peak in the dramatic sawtooth Snake Range. Ending above 13,000 feet, this trail offers open vistas of rugged limestone peaks. [photo: Chu / Flickr]

Leave the crowds behind by ferrying yourself across pristine Jenny’s Lake and taking the 9-mile out-and-back deep into the most conspicuous peaks in…

Leave the crowds behind by ferrying yourself across pristine Jenny’s Lake and taking the 9-mile out-and-back deep into the most conspicuous peaks in the Rockies. [Photo: Richard Taylor / Flickr]

Walk along the surreal milky-white Hoh River through a glowing green coastal rainforest on this 10.6 mile round-trip hike. The reward: prime viewing…

Walk along the surreal milky-white Hoh River through a glowing green coastal rainforest on this 10.6 mile round-trip hike. The reward: prime viewing of the Pacific Coast’s notorious snowcapped volcanoes. [Photo: JM / Flickr]

Where the mountain leaps from the sea, hike a gentle granite ascent up exposed ridges past fresh water ponds and snap some of the most photographed…

Where the mountain leaps from the sea, hike a gentle granite ascent up exposed ridges past fresh water ponds and snap some of the most photographed nature shots the East Coast has to offer on this 7 mile up and back. Want the full experience? Get there for sunrise and spend the rest of your day exploring the vast network of trails and carriage roads within the park. [Photo: Mark Bailey / Flickr]

Power up this 7.6 mile stair-master for extraordinary vistas of the legendary stone cathedral Half Dome. Cool off at the base of the misty, mystical…

Power up this 7.6 mile stair-master for extraordinary vistas of the legendary stone cathedral Half Dome. Cool off at the base of the misty, mystical mother of all U.S. waterfalls. [Photo: Phil King / Flickr]

It was agonizing to choose just one trail in Canyonlands, but if you've only got a day, take this 10.75-miler for a prime tour of the windswept…

It was agonizing to choose just one trail in Canyonlands, but if you’ve only got a day, take this 10.75-miler for a prime tour of the windswept slickrock/ Gaze across a seemingly infinite old West panorama of narrow pinnacles in the Island in the Sky district. [Photo: Leanna Gingras / Flickr]

It's easy to imagine wood-elves and tree-trolls inhabiting this primeval woodland.  Be careful of neck strain as you wander through gigantic trees on…

It’s easy to imagine wood-elves and tree-trolls inhabiting this primeval woodland. Be careful of neck strain as you wander through gigantic trees on the Oakridge Trail, a lesser-traveled and considerably less-swampy 6.6 mile stroll through the largest old-growth forest in the East. [Photo: Miguel Vieira / Flickr]

Climb switchbacks above the Chihuahua desert floor up to the highest peak in Texas. This 8.4-mile, 3,000- foot up-and-back lands you at a soaring…

Climb switchbacks above the Chihuahua desert floor up to the highest peak in Texas. This 8.4-mile, 3,000- foot up-and-back lands you at a soaring overlook of the legendary southwest tower known as El Capitan. [Photo: Kirk Kittell / Flickr]