There’s something to be said for putting down the carton of yoghurt and leaving the comfort of your own home to take a hike.
Luckily, southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas are a wonderland of walking and hiking trails—both hidden and super-accessible. Lace up your sneakers and prepare to marvel at the stunning natural scenery on these unforgettable trails:
1. Milford Track
This New Zealand hike is often referred to as the “Finest Walk in the World.” It features a full range of awe-inspiring landscapes from the rainforests of Lake Mintaro to the alpine summit of Mackinnon Pass. Due to its popularity, huts on the Milford Track are usually booked solid for months in advance.
Fortunately, many guided excursions are available to hikers who wish to enjoy the stunning scenery of the trail without having to commit to the entire five-day trek. These tours typically include a coach ride from Te Anau Downs to Glade Wharf, and then a scenic cruise across the lake to Sandfly Point.
Hiking the Milford Track requires that you be able to hike long distances while carrying your gear. This is why it’s important to get used to hiking for 6+ hours a day while wearing weight on your back before you attempt the trek. Additionally, you should pack pants that wick moisture to avoid getting wet and cold while on the hike.
2. Yosemite National Park
Known for its awe-inspiring natural monuments, jaw-dropping rock formations and millennia-old giant sequoia trees, Yosemite National Park (yoh-SEM’-it-ee) attracts four million visitors annually. With waterfall-striped granite walls buttressing emerald-green Yosemite Valley, haughty Half Dome and El Capitan rock formations, plunging Upper and Lower Yosemite Falls, and soaring millennia-old trees at Mariposa Grove, the park is a natural wonderland.
Explore the park on one of America’s best long-distance hikes – the Sierra High Route. It’s a wilderness journey that requires backcountry skills and permits, but rewards you with sensational landscapes of mountain lakes, peaks, forests and granite cliffs.
3. Devil’s Eyebrow Natural Area
The rugged, wooded sandstone formation in northwest Arkansas that resembles an eyebrow earned its name from a 19th century comment made by a pioneer surveyor who said you’d have “as much luck building a railroad right through these mountains as the Devil himself has of raising his own.” It’s now one of 75 natural areas managed by the state’s Natural Heritage Commission. The site supports one of the state’s highest concentrations of rare plant species and is also a winter roost for bald eagles.
Old logging roads make up the trail system at this preserve whose highlights include mossy rocks, babbling brooks, and wildflower-lined trails. Sharp declines plummet to tantalizing streambeds while lung-busting climbs abound. It’s not a place for beginners but hikers of all levels will find a challenge here. The site is also a deer and turkey hunting area during the fall and spring.
4. Grand Gulch Primitive Area
The remote backcountry of Southeastern Utah is a treasure trove for hikers. Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings, rock art and pottery shards reveal ancient culture and history in a natural setting. Respect the fragile ruins and treat them with care.
The cliff dwellings, mesa tops and canyon walls were constructed by the Basketmakers, nomadic tribes that settled the area 2,000 years ago. The ruins were rediscovered in 1880 and remain in great condition due to the remote and rugged backcountry that surrounds them.
The ruins are complemented by a stunning array of rock art panels featuring both petroglyphs (pecked into the rock) and pictographs (painted on with pigments). One of the best places to see these is in Bullet Canyon. The cliff dwellings and other ruins are accessible via a day hike down Bullet Canyon, but this is a long out-and-back trip. A loop hike returning up Sheiks Canyon is a much better option and sees more ruins.