En español | If you're itching to put on your hiking boots as winter winds down, you'll probably want to avoid the high country of the Rockies, Sierra Nevada and Cascades — where even June blizzards are far from rare. Where to go? Opt for hikes in the South and Southwest. Here are five spots with the ideal climate for springtime hiking.
1. Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas
With more than 250,000 acres, the largest state park in Texas makes it easy for you to get far off the beaten path. The trail system is a great way to survey the bleakly beautiful West Texas landscape. A mild stretch of the Rio Grande runs through the park, making rafting trips popular, too.
Top Trails: Take your pick of stretches along the Contrabando Multi-Use Trail System, a loop with some 25 miles of trails along the Rio Grande and in the Chihuahua Desert wilderness.
2. Mojave National Preserve, California
As far from civilization as you can get in Southern California, this 1.6 million-acre desert park has singing sand dunes, a restored historical depot housing a visitor center and natural history exhibits, and a wide variety of hiking options. Spring sees temperature highs ranging from the 60s and 70s in the high country to the 80s in lower elevations.
Top Trails: Get a gander at the desert's vast solitude from the Teutonia Peak Trail, then venture down the rungs drilled on the rocky Rings Loop Trail at Hole-in-the-Wall into the otherworldly Banshee Canyon.
3. Snow Canyon State Park, Utah
Just outside St. George, Snow Canyon is one of the prettiest spots in the Beehive State, even considering the competition of Utah's five national parks. Snow Canyon's diverse landscape truly sets it apart, with towering cliffs of red and white over seas of green flora dotted with black lava rocks and crisscrossed by sandy washes. If you need a massage to soothe tired muscles, the Red Mountain Resort, a highly acclaimed destination spa, is adjacent to the park.
Top Trail: Hike the White Rocks Trail to the Lava Flow Overlook for one of the best views in Snow Canyon.
4. Sabino Canyon Recreation Area, Arizona
Just outside Tucson, Sabino Canyon has all the ingredients for top-notch spring hiking: desert scenery, mild weather and a tram to ride up so you only have to hike down. This is literally minutes from the hustle and bustle of the city, yet a world away.
Top Trails: Try Telephone Line Trail, which is part of the Sabino Trail System (the one with the tram), or hike the Bear Canyon Trail to Seven Falls and its idyllic swimming hole.
5. Everglades National Park, Florida
Early spring is one of the mildest times of year for an expedition to the Everglades, the country's largest subtropical wilderness. Thanks to its unique ecosystem, it's home to everything from alligators to manatees. Although it's a canoeist's delight, the park also has plenty of trails on dry land.
Top Trail: Try the Snake Bight Trail (not "bite"; a "bight" is a bay) at Flamingo, a 1.6-mile (one-way) jaunt through subtropical forest to the water's edge.
Also of Interest
- Where to retire if you love the outdoors
- Unlikely allies against a COLA change for Social Security
- Join AARP in the fight to end hunger
Visit the AARP home page for travel discounts, tips and more