If you are looking for a picturesque hike, praise the many long and difficult trails of the West. But there are also plenty of breathtaking hiking destinations east of the Mississippi, and some of them may be in your own garden.
The combination of fresh air, exercise and beautiful scenery can provide benefits for both the mind and the body. It can help a lot after a few months of cooperation. Whether you prefer leisurely hikes or multi-day adventures, the odds are that you don't need a plane ticket to reach these trailheads.
Quick Note: If you choose to exit during the COVID-19 pandemic, make sure you follow the CDC guidelines for outdoor living by avoiding crowded parks and trails and maintaining at least 6 feet of social distance between others. Before you visit, check with your destination to see if operating hours, campsites or facilities have been affected by local public health restrictions.
Want to check out something new without traveling too far? Here are some East Coast hikes worth adding to your bucket list:
Ridge Trail, Old Rag Mountain, Virginia
Ridge Trail in Shenandoah National Park is one of the most popular hikes in country. You can hike the trail clockwise or counterclockwise depending on whether you want to deal with the popular cliff traveling up or down.
Meet at the Old Rag trailhead parking lot and double-knit your hiking shoes. This trail is known as one of the best in the park. It is also one of the more challenging hikes, so it is recommended to face the steep climb early when you are feeling strong.
Upper Hawksbill Trail, Hawksbill Mountain, Virginia
Difficulty: Easy [1
Follow the blue flames and stop to rest at Byrd's Nest Shelter, a popular grocery area near the top. There is a good chance that you will see birds of prey and other wildlife on the way up.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio
Although the Midwest is not known for its national parks, Cuyahoga Valley National Park must not be overlooked. The park surrounds the Cuyahoga River and the historic Ohio & Erie Canal. It also has more than 125 miles of trails, including the popular 20 mile towpath.
Choose a shorter hike to see one of the park's waterfalls or walk off the beaten path with a section of the Ohio Buckeye Trail, which circles the entire state.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Wisconsin
Hiking the Ice Age National Scenic Trail offers a look at the country's past. Its forest trail follows the edge of the last continental glacier crossing Wisconsin. Not only will you see the amazing sights today but you will also look at how the landscape was shaped.
Hike smaller sections or try multi-day segments for a longer adventure. If you drive to the various state parks along the trail, you should keep a car emergency situation in hand during a breakdown.
Brown County State Park, Nashville, Indiana
Just one hour south of Indianapolis is the largest state park in Indiana. The longest trail is only 3.5 miles, which makes any of the hikes a good choice for taking children or a dog (in a leash).
Choose a week when the leaves change and take the whole family. If you choose the longer trail, you'll see a more remote part of the park, which ends with a walk around Ogle Lake.
Shawnee State Forest, Herod, Illinois
This National Forest occupies more than 280,000 acres between the Mississippi and Ohio River. Among the network of paths you will find the Garden of the Gods Observation Trail, a short hike that leads to a tree canopy filled with newly grown pine trees and hardwood trees planted in the 1930s.
Take a half mile round trip and pause at wildflowers and sandstone rock formations. This trail is good for all skill levels and ends with a sweeping view of the forest.
Rocky Top Trail, Rocky Top, Tennessee
There is no hiking destination in Tennessee more well known than Rocky Top. This scenic hike is lined with rhododendrons and panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains. The summit inspired even the University of Tennessee's fight song, so it's a good track to check out your list.
Smells the flowers, conquers the height and takes in the view. If you're leaving Cades Cove, support yourself for the 11-mile round trip.
Starved Rock State Park, Illinois
This park includes 18 canyons and 14 waterfalls, as well as a striking view of the Illinois River. It is the most popular state park in Illinois so you may have to fight a lot but its famous rock formation is just 15 minutes from the visitor center.
Bring the kids and dogs to play in one of the park's waterfalls during the warmer months. You can also take a ski trip or watch the ice climber climb up the canyon during the winter.
Mount Mitchell Trail, North Carolina
Difficulty: Challenging (unless you drive to the top!)  No list of hikes east of the Mississippi is complete without Mount Mitchell. This is one of the highest peaks in eastern North America and has long been documented by both researchers and explorers. The 12-mile round track is lined with historical markers for hikers to read as they breathe.
Hike, camp or backpack up to the top of the Black Mountain Range. If you do not want to deal with traffic on the trail, drive to the summit and go to the observation deck.
Lakeshore Trail, Image Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
Difficulty: Moderate  This 42-mile-long line stretches across the Michigan coast with views from waterfalls to lighthouses. Although much of the trail is moderately in difficulty, it shares some distance with the North Country Trail, which is approximately 4,600 miles long and has several climbs between bluffs.
Stop by for an overlook while taking in the sights or testing some camping hawks at one of the trail's 11 backcountry campsites. If you get too worn out, use the shuttle service and walk just one road.
Embrace the journey
The journey it takes to reach the top makes the view much more rewarding. Step by step, a great walk can help remind us that life is about living in the moment. At Erie Insurance, we value these moments as much as you do. That is why we go out to help you protect what is most important. Talk to your local ERIE agent today to find the right insurance for you and your family. We would love to help you on your journey.