By Erin Gifford
There are stunning eye-pleasing panoramas that can only be savored from high atop a rugged mountain. Lace up your hiking boots, friends. Here are seven peak hikes to love for sensational views, colorful wildflowers and sparkling lakes.
1. Grizzly Peak
Where to Find It: The trail is a 30-minute drive from Ashland, Oregon.
What’s Great About It: This 5-mile loop hike on the Grizzly Peak Trail serves up expansive vistas from atop 5,922-foot-tall Grizzly Peak. In early-summer, wildflowers like Baker’s violet and Siskiyou onion are in full bloom. From the hike’s Ashland Viewpoint, soak up all the views of Mount Shasta and Pilot Rock.
Where to Stay: Turn in for the night at the Ashland Springs Hotel, an elegant stay in the Rogue Valley, a breathtaking paradise in Southern Oregon.
2. Bertha Peak
Where to Find It: San Bernardino National Forest, California. It’s two hours east of Los Angeles.
What’s Great About It: A sometimes rocky 3.4-mile hike (one-way) along the Cougar Crest Trail to the top of 8,201-foot-tall Bertha Peak wows with exceptional views of sparkling Big Bear Lake and nearby mountains, like Castle Rock and Gray‘s Peak.
Where to Stay: Settle in at the Best Western Big Bear Chateau in charming Big Bear Lake. This comfy stay is less than a 10-minute drive from the trailhead.
3. Mt. Mitchell
Where to Find It: Located in the Black Mountain range of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Western North Carolina. It’s about 35 miles northeast of downtown Asheville.
What’s Great About It: At 6,600 feet above sea level, it’s not only North Carolina’s tallest mountain peak, it’s the tallest anywhere east of the Mississippi River. Visitors can choose from 3.4-mile, 5.5-mile or 2-mile hikes. Or, drive almost to the top and opt for a short quarter-mile paved trail. At the top you’re rewarded with epic panoramic views.
Where to Stay: Overnight it at the Carolina Country Inn in Burnsville, located about 11 miles from Mount Mitchell State Park.
4. Hallett Peak
Where to Find It: Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park, Colorado. It’s a two-hour drive northwest of Denver.
What’s Great About It: Wind your way to the top of 12,713-foot-tall Hallett Peak, which towers high above Bear Lake, a pristine alpine lake. This 10-mile hike along the Flattop Mountain Trail earns top marks as one of the best hikes in the park — and great for non-expert hikers. You can climb to the top of the Rockies, without the steep drop-offs.
Where to Stay: Book a room at The Estes Park Resort for alpine elegance and breathtaking views across Lake Estes. It’s less than a 15-minute drive from the park’s Beaver Meadows Visitor Center.
5. Mount Marcy
Where to Find It: North Elba, New York. It’s an easy 20-minute drive south of Lake Placid.
What’s Great About It: For one, it’s the highest point in New York at 5,344–feet–tall. Four main routes lead to Mount Marcy, the most popular being a 15-mile hike along the Van Hoevenberg Trail. On the way up, savor the views at glistening Phelps Brook and tumbling Indian Falls. At the summit, it’s all about the Adirondack High Peaks.
Where to Stay: Spend that night at AAA Four Diamond-rated Mirror Lake Inn Resort & Spa, a lakeside hotel with a private beach and well-appointed rooms that look out at Mirror Lake and the Adirondack Mountains.
6. Sharp Top
Where to Find It: Bedford, Virginia. It’s 50-minute drive northeast of Roanoke in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains.
What’s Great About It: Savor sensational views all along the iconic Blue Ridge Parkway as you motor along to Sharp Top, one of three mountains that comprise the Peaks of Otter. Once thought to be Virginia’s tallest peak at 3,862–feet–tall, it’s a 1.6-mile hike to revel in far-reaching 360-degree views.
Where to Stay: Bed down at The Hotel Roanoke & Conference Center, a AAA Four Diamond-rated historic hotel in downtown Roanoke. A becoming mix of historic elegance and modern comforts across the hotel captivates.
7. Guadalupe Peak
Where to Find It: Guadalupe Mountains National Park in Salt Flat, Texas. Situated in far west Texas, it’s an hour’s drive from Carlsbad, New Mexico.
What’s Great About It: The 4.5-mile hike to Guadalupe Peak, the natural high point of Texas, is profoundly rewarding. To earn the spoils, however, you will need to ascend nearly 3,000 feet to reach the top of the 8,749-foot-tall peak. Strike a celebratory pose with the six-foot-tall metal pyramid that marks the high point.
Where to Stay: Cross the border into New Mexico for a stay at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in Carlsbad. Cool off in the refreshing outdoor pool after a full day of hiking.