Our 8 Favorite Hikes of 2022

  • AOU
  • October 24, 2022

In December of 2021, we decided we were going to quit our jobs and live in a van full time, traveling the country and exploring the outdoors. In June, we set off on the adventure of a lifetime. Now, nearly 4 months and over 60 hikes later, everything has changed. If you had met us before we set out on this journey, you never would have guessed that we would spend the summer hiking (and that eventually, any day we didn’t get out for a hike, we would feel like something was missing!)

When we were living in Boston, we started to feel disconnected - from nature, from each other, from ourselves. One of our top priorities when we decided to become nomads was to get back in touch with the outdoors and to see as many national parks as we could. Almost immediately, we knew we were hooked. The fresh air, the peace and quiet (well, depending on how crowded the national park was that day..), the feeling of balance; it was like having the most pure form of therapy at the tip of our hiking boots.

Of the many miles we have traveled so far, the ones taken by foot are, by far, our favorite. We still have many more yet to explore, but we have already seen so many beautiful and transformative places on our travels. We wanted to sum up some of our favorite hikes. Below is a map and list of our top 8 favorite hikes of 2022. If you’d like to see every hike we’ve done to date, we keep a running list here.

*All photo creds are our own.

8. Avalanche Peak Trail
  • Location | Yellowstone National Park, WY
  • Challenge level | Hard
  • Mileage | 4.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain | 2,070 feet
  • Pet friendly? | No

Let’s be clear, although this hike is at the bottom of this list, it is far from boring (it’s just that we have so many good ones to choose from!) Avalanche Peak was definitely a challenge for us as it has a pretty steep incline. Near the top of the peak, you reach a rocky, narrow ridge which could be a bit nerve wracking for some (Chan has a slight fear of heights in these situations) but the view made it all worth it. Be prepared for some light scrambling over boulders at times. Located on the East side of the park, this was one of the less crowded hikes we went on in Yellowstone, so it’s a great option if you’re looking for a little more solitude.

7. Jenny Lake to Cascade Canyon
  • Location | Grand Teton National Park, WY
  • Challenge level | Hard
  • Mileage | 17 miles
  • Elevation Gain | 1,725 feet
  • Pet friendly? | No

For this hike, we decided to combine two separate trails - Jenny Lake and Cascade Canyon - which ended up being quite the trek. If you’re not looking to do this many miles, you can find each trail separately, with Jenny Lake being a less challenging loop. You can also take the ferry across the lake, so you can cut out part of the loop or just do Cascade Canyon on its own (the ferry does cost money though, so be sure to check on the national parks website for the most updated price). It’s nice to know that you have the option to take the ferry back if you get tuckered out! The trail is slightly crowded in sections around the lake, but gets less populated as you get further into Cascade Canyon. There is a nice little shady spot at the end perfect for refueling before you head back. A good amount of this hike is through the woods, but you do get to see the mountains and the lake in certain sections along the way.

6. Fairyland Loop Trail
  • Location | Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
  • Challenge level | Moderate
  • Mileage | 7.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain | 1,545 feet
  • Pet friendly? | No

Bryce Canyon was one of those national parks where you will distinctly remember the landscape. The unique formations transform Bryce into a land of castles and towers, where royal children may be trapped, guarded by some mythical dragon! Okay, maybe we’re taking the name of this loop a little too literally, but seriously, out of all the places we’ve been to so far, this was probably one of the most memorable. The Fairyland Loop takes you down into the canyon. We went early in the morning, not long after sunrise, and it was incredible to see the colors change as the sun hit in different places. If you’re going during the warmer months, make sure to go early or later in the evening, as there’s not a whole lot of shade along the way.

5. Historic Donner Pass Trail
  • Location | Donner Memorial State Park, CA
  • Challenge level | Moderate
  • Mileage | 6.3 miles
  • Elevation Gain | 980 feet
  • Pet friendly? | Yes (off-leash in some areas)

If you’ve never heard of the Donner Party, it’s worth a Google (be prepared, it is gruesome). This tragic story is one that sticks out from the history lessons in school. The Historic Donner Pass Trail takes you through old railroad tunnels which are now home to many different works of graffiti. Be sure to bring a flashlight, as it can get a bit dark in the tunnels at times. We hiked this trail on October 1st, which felt like the perfect way to kick off spooky season! It is pretty well traveled, so you probably won’t be the only ones going through the tunnels. There are breaks between the tunnels where you can catch some great views of Donner Lake. If you continue on beyond the end of the tunnels, be aware that the trail is not super well marked. We got lost and certainly took a way back that we would not recommend, but otherwise it is pretty easy to navigate.

4. Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail
  • Location | Redwood National Park, CA
  • Challenge level | Easy
  • Mileage | 1.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain | 100 feet
  • Pet friendly? | No

This was another milestone for us, and Kyle’s first time on the California coast (which he was very excited for 😁). The iconic redwoods did not disappoint, and were more beautiful in person than any image can do justice. The trail is spacious, flat, and mostly clear of tripping hazards so you can calmly stroll through the trees with your neck cranked up looking around without having to worry about rolling your ankle and ruining your cross country road trip for your partner.

3. Skyline Trail Loop
  • Location | Mount Rainier National Park, WA
  • Challenge level | Hard
  • Mileage | 6.2 miles
  • Elevation Gain | 1,790 feet
  • Pet friendly? | No

This hike is the one with the most Alltrails reviews on this list, and rightfully so. Arrive at Paradise earlier than you think you need to if you are going to hike it in the summer like we did. We like to get the hard work out of the way first which means going clockwise on this one. After a steep paved section to start you’ll be greeted with a variety of wildflowers (depending on the season), cool, high elevation air, snow patches, rocky outcrops, and stream crossings. This was the definitive alpine hike for us so far for sure. The hype from the John Muir quote engraved on the stone steps to start the trail is real.

“"… the most luxuriant and the most extravagantly beautiful of all the alpine gardens I ever beheld in all my mountain-top wanderings." - John Muir (1889)

2. Navajo Knobs Trail
  • Location | Capitol Reef National Park, UT
  • Challenge level | Hard
  • Mileage | 9.1 miles
  • Elevation Gain | 2,140 feet
  • Pet friendly? | No

Our favorite hike in Utah. There are more popular parks, and more instagramable photo ops, in The Mighty 5. But if you are looking to skip the crowds, get a good workout, and become engrossed in a cool landscape with amazing views – trust us, you can’t miss Navajo Knobs in Capitol Reef. There is also a great free camping spot right outside the park…but you didn’t hear it from us 🤫.

1. Plain of Six Glaciers, Highline, Beehive, and Lake Agnes Trail
  • Location | Banff National Park, AB (Canada)
  • Challenge level | Hard
  • Mileage | 11.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain | 3,230 feet
  • Pet friendly? | Yes (on leash)

Banff National Park was one of our top bucket list locations to get to this summer! It looked so picturesque and the images of Lake Louise are all but iconic. One of the biggest draws, however, was the fact that you can hike to not one, but two historic teahouses (Lake Agnes Teahouse and Plain of Six Glaciers Teahouse). Only accessible on foot, these charming little establishments make you feel like you’ve landed in a secluded alpine village. We got hot tea and scones at the first teahouse, and chili at the second one - and food never tastes so good as when you’ve hiked to get it! Be prepared to pack out your trash. The views were incredible and, if you push yourself past the second teahouse, you get to see a glacier viewpoint. For those who are looking for less of a challenge, you can still hike to the first teahouse in 4.6 miles (roundtrip) via the Lake Agnes Trail - just get there early if you want to beat the crowds.

It was incredibly hard to narrow down our favorite hikes, as any time we can get out in nature is enjoyable for us! Have a favorite hike you’ve done in 2022? Or maybe we passed one another on one of these trails this summer. Let us know on instagram! You’ll also find more pictures from our adventures, and can see our new addition to the family… (Hint: 🐶)

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