Senior Center

Best Hiking Trails for Seniors

By Jan Bolder - February 17, 2014

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Your senior years are no reason to hold back on staying fit, with the key to finding hiking trails that are challenging yet safe.

1. Appalachian Trail

Measuring about 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine and with a peak height of 6,643 feet (Clingmans Dome), the Appalachian Trail takes months to hike in full. But the beauty of it lies in being able hike any portion of it from March to October, with white paint blazes making the route easy to follow. Parts of it are challenging, but at a good pace, just about anyone can tackle the Appalachian Trail.

2. Pacific Crest Trail

Around California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia lies a stretch of trail measuring 2,663 miles with a peak height of 13,153 feet at Forester Pass. This jaunt through the National Forest is known for avoiding civilization and offering an unparalleled look at mountain and wilderness life, although there are frequent resupply stations along the way.

3. Continental Divide Trail

Running north and south for 3,100 miles from Canada to Mexico, the CDT offers a breathtaking view at Grays Peak in Colorado (14,270 feet.) Completing this trail in one trip, known as a thru hike, as well as thru hiking the previous two trails amounts to completing the "Triple Crown" of hikes in the United States.

4. Indian Creek Falls

Nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains, this 1.9 mile trail is an easy one and perfect for spur-of-the-moment day trips. It's fairly flat, at least in relation to the first three, with a peak of 2,000 feet, but the abundance of wildflowers along the trail make it a must-visit excursion.

5. Grotto Falls

For a slightly longer trek (2.6 miles) that's still in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, check out this one. Most of the trail consists of a wide, worn path, although there are a couple of sections of crossing water without a bridge. But for those who head out there, be prepared to encounter the only waterfall in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park that a person can walk behind.

6. Deep Creek

Head east to Bryson City, North Carolina and enjoy an easy-to-moderate trail that's a somewhat challenging 4.6 miles. It's not the shortest or longest trail in the world, but there are two waterfalls to enjoy along the way: Toms Branch Falls and Indian Creek Falls.

7. Ten Falls Canyon Trail

If you're around Marion, Oregon, Silver Falls State Park contains a 10.2 mile, half-day hike past 10 waterfalls, with the smallest measuring 27 feet tall and the largest 178 feet tall. Make sure you buy a day pass first, though.

8. Red Rock Canyon

Nevada is known for more than just the Las Vegas Strip, and if you head 17 miles west, you'll be treated to one of the state's best-kept secrets. The 5 mile loop is a bit challenging, but you'll be rewarded with blackbrush, Joshua trees, yuccas, and a 6,300 foot tall view of Las Vegas itself.

9. Mount Si

Washington may be best known for Mounts Logan and Rainier, but this 4.7 mile, 3,700 foot high mountain is a pleasant alternative. While the height may be difficult to scale, taking your time makes it more than doable. And as an added bonus, Boxley's Place in North Bend is a great place to unwind after the hike.

10. Indiana Dunes State Park

Take your pick from wilderness on this 4.5 mile loop that's snuggled in the middle of one of the heaviest urban concentrations in the country. Chicago is only 50 miles northwest, but you'd never know it from the wealth of forests, wetlands and dunes.

Hiking a trail is one of the most rewarding ways to stay fit, especially for seniors, because they offer such a huge variety of difficulties, challenges and views.