Yosemite National Park
Waterfalls. Granite cliffs. Giant Sequoias. Wildflowers. El Capitan. You get the picture. As one of America's oldest and grandest National Parks (thanks, John Muir!), Yosemite National Park range needs little explanation. While there is a lot to do at Yosemite, many first-time visitors to the park are so overwhelmed by the natural splendor and sheer size of the place (it's 1,189 square miles, about the size of Rhode Island) that they don't stray too far from the highly-trafficked tourist zone in Yosemite Valley. However, venturing off on the park's 800 miles of hiking trails is rewarding. Just don't forget your compass.
Although many of the park's most popular trails like Cook's Meadow Loop, Bridalveil Fall and the world-famous Half Dome (permit required) are within Yosemite Valley, there are other hike-worthy trails both easy and grueling within the other major sections of the park including Glacier Point Road, Tuolumne Meadows, White Wolf, Hetch Hetchy and Wawona/Mariposa Grove. The 2,650 mile-long (Canada to Mexico!) Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, a West Coast version of the Appalachian Trail, also passes through Yosemite.
Trail-mates: Black bears, coyotes, bighorn sheep.
Requisite gear: Marmot PreCip Safari Hat.
Historic hike-toid: Although Yosemite officially became a National Park in 1916 when the NPS was formed, a park bill signed by Abraham Lincoln in 1864 made Yosemite the first area of park land to be set aside for preservation and public use by the federal government.
Optimum hike time: Late spring/early summer