7 virtual hikes to take when you want to hit the trails

Traveling has come to a halt and parks across the country have closed their trails, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get breathtaking hiking views from your couch.

man with backpack on hiking the appalachian trail
Photo by Kirk Thornton

The weather’s warming up, the sun is setting later in the day and you have more freetime on your hands then you have in a long time—it’s a perfect recipe for a day or weekend spent hiking your favorite trails. But, with social distancing and parks closing across the state and country, heading out to hike may not be in your foreseeable future.

If you’re missing hitting the trails worry-free, then take a walk along these seven virtual hikes across the country and start planning out your next great in-person hike.

The Appalachian Trail

May is one of the busiest times on the Appalachian Trail, but right now the majority of the trail is closed to hikers amid stay-at-home orders. Don’t fret: If you’re missing those beautiful views, you can download a recently released app for iOS called Walk the Distance. Designed to use the iPhone’s pedometer feature, it tracks the number of steps you take each day and charts the activity in terms of the Appalachian Trail’s 2,200 miles. The app also includes photos so you can pretend you’re taking in the trail’s views as you walk around your home or neighborhood.

Bryce Canyon National Park

This Utah park is home to the popular Bryce Canyon. Take a trip along the beaten paths with this hour and a half video featuring forest and desert views, including hoodoos: spire-shaped rock formations that can be found throughout the canyon’s switchbacks.

Natural Tunnel State Park

This virtual reality, 360-degree tour of Natural Tunnel State Park, located in Duffield, Virginia, takes viewers from the Carter Cabin by the river to Lover’s Leap at the peak. The park is best known for the naturally formed cave so big it became a train tunnel for the Norfolk Southern Railway. Catch views of the tunnel from the ground looking up and the trail overhead in this video.

Lake Ingalls Trail

Did COVID-19 cancel your summer camping trip? Take a hike and go on an adventure through this virtual tour of Lake Ingalls Trail, located in Leavenworth, Washington. The video showcases a backpacking trip on the trail, stopping at camps along the way before the finale: taking a swim in Lake Ingalls itself.

Havasu Falls

Usually, to visit the sacred Havasu Falls grounds, you have to make a reservation first (the land belongs to the Havasupai tribe). But those stuck at home can catch the turquoise-green waterfall by taking a virtual tour of the desert trail leading to the water. Havasu Falls is located in the Grand Canyon, meaning viewers will twist and turn between mesas before arriving at the hiking oasis. 

Wailea Beach Path

Unwind from the pandemic stress with this Hawaiian trail sure to make you feel calm. This virtual experience takes you from the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort to the Fairmont Kea Lani, all along the Wailea Beach Path. You can almost feel the ocean breeze coming through your screen.

James Irvine Trail

Located in California’s Redwood National Park, the James Irvine trail features the state’s iconic giant redwood trees. Paired with soothing music, this virtual walking tour will transport you to a peaceful park in your mind, offering the solace you’re looking for in this hectic time.

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