Ah, summer hiking—long daylight hours, warm weather, and vibrant landscapes. It’s the season outdoor-lovers dream of all year. Yet, it also comes with its own unique challenges: Some regions can experience dangerous heat, water sources may be low in some areas, and trails can experience overcrowding. However, with thoughtful planning and the right gear, you can soak up this sunny season with ease. 

One important aspect of planning is choosing the right trail for you. This includes selecting one that’s in line with your skill level, as well as one that’s right for the season. For example, if it’s sweltering hot in town, look for a trail that will take you to a higher elevation to beat the heat.

To jumpstart your summer hiking plans, we asked our brand ambassadors for their suggestions on the best summer hiking trails. We hope their thoughts below inspire your next great adventure or relaxing day hike.

1. Appalachian Trail Through the Roan Highlands in Tennessee & North Carolina

Brand ambassador Rochelle “Ruby” Altman recommends a scenic stretch of the Appalachian Trail to enjoy a sunny day: 

The Roan Highlands is a stunning section of the Appalachian Trail. What makes it so special is the stretch of treeless mountaintops, which offers some of the most breathtaking 360-degree views. Starting from Carvers Gap, you get an immediate reward with a quick climb to Round Bald, where the panoramic vistas are incredible. As you continue, the trail weaves and dips through shaded forested areas, leading to the wide-open expanses of Jane and Grassy Ridge balds. You can see Grandfather Mountain, and on clear days, Table Rock and Linville Gorge. One of the highlights for me is hiking in mid-June when the Catawba rhododendrons and azaleas are in full bloom. It's also special to spot the rare Gray’s Lily with its red-orange flowers that look like little upside-down teacups. Later in the summer, it's so satisfying to taste the ripe blueberries found along the trail.

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    2. Kachina Trail in the Colorado Plateau in Arizona

    Brand ambassador Sirena Rana recommends escaping the Arizona heat on the Kachina Trail in Flagstaff:

    For summer hikes in Arizona, head for the high country of the Colorado Plateau! The Kachina Trail in Flagstaff starts at the Snowbowl Trailhead at 9,000 feet. The trail undulates across the face of Agassiz Peak for 5.2 miles, traveling through massive mossy boulders and fields of ferns. In addition to being cooler because of the elevation, it has giant groves of quaking aspen, massive Douglas fir trees, and extensive views from the prairies. This hike can be done as an out-and-back, or if you have two cars, you have the option to leave one at Friedlein Prairie Road (FR 522) and shuttle to the start at Snowbowl to hike it one-way. 

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      3. Continental Divide Trail Through the Weminuche Wilderness in Colorado

      Brand ambassador Steven “Twinkle” Shattuck recommends exploring the higher elevations in Colorado along the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) during the summer months:

      Summer in Colorado is all about the high elevation mountains, and no other area in the state rivals the Weminuche Wilderness in rugged beauty. Wildflowers are especially beautiful in mid-July, when the high alpine meadows really come alive!

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        4. Big Pine Lakes Trail in the Eastern Sierra in California 

        Brand Ambassador Michelle Zhang recommends a dog-friendly trek through California’s Eastern Sierra this summer:

        The whole hike is just a beautiful setting—and you can bring your pup with you! There are about seven lakes on this trail with some great campsites in the trees, but the most epic campsites overlook Second Lake, a turquoise green body of water that sits below the Temple Crag rock formation. If you keep going on the trail, you’ll hit the North Palisade Glacier, the largest glacier in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

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          5. Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne in Yosemite National Park in California

          Brand ambassador Emily “Squishy” Schrick recommends embarking on a short thru-hike in Yosemite National Park’s Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne:

          This mini thru-hike wanders along the Tuolumne River. It’s filled with beautiful granite canyon views, waterfalls, and so many opportunities to take a dip in the river. Pate Valley and Glen Aulin are my favorite camping spots along this trail!

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            6. Whistler Canyon Trail on the Pacific Northwest Trail in Washington

            Brand ambassador Kathy Kimberlite recommends spending this summer on a section of the Pacific Northwest Trail:

            My favorite summer hike is the Whistler Canyon Trail, or the 100 Trail, a section of the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). This section begins at the Whistler Canyon Trailhead, about two miles south of the town of Oroville, Washington, the midway point of the PNT. I love this route, as it begins in rugged, desert-like canyon country with possibilities of rattlesnakes and big horn mountain sheep in the rocky terrain. The trail quickly climbs through sage into ponderosa pine forests, cool creeks, ponds, and wide trails to easily navigate. Mountain lions, deer, black bear, moose, coyotes, waterfowl, and other birds are all possible to see or hear. There is a ton of variety and environment change to keep it interesting. This route finishes at the Wilcox Mountain Trailhead, for a total of 15 miles, beginning in the Okanagan River Valley and ending in the Okanagan Highlands.

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              7. Yellow Mountain Trail and Lookout Tower in North Carolina

              Brand ambassador Nancy “Seal Mom” East recommends a higher elevation trail in the Appalachian Mountains to escape the hot and humid summers of the Southeast:

              You can bank on sweltry summers in the southern Appalachian Mountains, so I spend my time exploring the higher peaks where the air is slightly cooler. The Yellow Mountain Trail never drops below 4,100 feet and is worth the sweat equity to reach its namesake summit. Yellow Mountain (5,127 feet) is the tallest peak in the Cowee Mountains of western North Carolina, and its craggy zenith boasts a well-weathered but accessible lookout tower. The views from the tower and the rock slab at its base encompass four different states and nearly all of North Carolina’s high mountain ranges. The quaint tower, built in 1934 by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, was used for more than three decades to monitor the eastern half of the Nantahala National Forest until it was decommissioned in 1969. It is accessible to the public and far less intimidating to those with acrophobia since it only requires a 7.5-foot climb to reach its deck and cab.

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                8. Green River Lakes Loop in the Wind River Range in Wyoming

                Brand ambassador Gabriel Vasquez recommends using the summer to check out the remote Wind River Range in Wyoming:

                The Winds cannot be driven to, so you do have to hike to get there. The closest town would be Pinedale, Wyoming. In my opinion, this has to be the most beautiful place in America. You will find some of the most stunning alpine lakes the Rocky Mountains have to offer. There are over 40 peaks you can summit. Spending a week or weekend there will totally be worth it.

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                  Enjoy the Best Summer Hiking Trails With the Right Prep and Gear

                  Summer is an excellent time to hit the trails. High to higher elevations to escape the heat or trek into a shady Pacific Northwest forest for some green respite. Wherever you adventure, just make sure to bring your ten essentials, leave no trace, prep for summer weather, and stay hydrated.

                  Hungry for more summer backpacking gear and planning knowledge? Check out some of our other articles on the Light Feet blog to prep for your next sunny hike:

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