Best of the West: Best Easy to Moderate Hikes in the Western United States

We’ve had the unique pleasure of hiking hundreds of miles this year. We’ve barely scratched the surface of the thousands of amazing trails out West, but I’ve decided to compile a list of my favorites so far. These hikes today are all easy to at most moderate. They are good for kids, the elderly (I have been lapped by more people over age 80 than I care to admit), and dogs where specified. The vast majority of our hikes are on National Forest land. These forests are much less crowded than national parks, and they allow our dogs to hike with us. We get to see so many remote, beautiful places this way. I hope to keep adding to these lists over the years, there’s so much wild country out here to explore.

1. Trail 403, from west Washington Gulch Side, to Viewpoint, Gunnison National Forest, Crested Butte Colorado. 4 miles roundtrip to viewpoint only, 400 feet elevation gain. Easy to moderate. The drive to this trail is beautiful as well, through a scenic valley. You must go during wildflower season, that is what makes this hike spectacular. They are unreal. The best wildflowers I’ve ever seen, anywhere. What I also love about Crested Butte is how varied and beautiful the mountains themselves are. The Elks have a lot of interesting, red coloration, and you are completely enveloped by mountains on all sides. At the top there are 360 degree views and some fun rocks to scramble up. Beautiful. This one’s also one I will keep trying to go back to over the years; it’s worth seeing as many times as life allows.

2. Zion Canyon Overlook Trail, Zion NP, Utah. 1 mile, 250 feet elevation gain. Moderate. Such a fun trail! We hiked when it was 100 degrees, but the rocks made for plenty of shady areas. The hiking gets sketchy at times, with narrow rocky trails and steep drop offs. It’s really very fun, especially to scramble near the cliff edge at the top! Wear proper shoes and clothing on this hike. Though short, there are many potential places to injure yourself. The scrambling at end is world class excitement at the edge of the canyon.

3. East Rosebud to Elk Lake, First Part of the Beaten Path, Custer Gallatin National Forest, East Rosebud, Montana. 7.5 miles, 850 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy. Mostly flat trail, only one steep part, so the length goes by quickly. Through an amazing valley with roaring river and waterfalls. The lake at the end, with the valley in the background is breathtaking. Our goal is to backpack this entire trail one day. We loved this trail and this area so much I’ve been here multiple times, and it keeps getting better.

4. Rim Loop Trail, including West Rim spur, Dead-horse Park State Park, Moab, Utah. 5 miles, 900 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy to moderate. Oh this place. We love this park so much. We’ve seen probably a total of 5 people on the west rim the 5 times we’ve hiked it. A little known gem.

5. West Fork #108, Sedona, Arizona. 7.5 miles, 850 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy. Long trail, but fairly flat. This canyon is beautiful! It’s like a less crowded narrows hike, and we creek walked a fair bit. Creek walking is a wonderful, simple pleasure of life. We loved it! We are going back here next month, and this will be a must do!

6. Cape Arago Loop Trail, Ashlee Acres State Park, Coos Bay, Oregon. 1.5 miles, 59 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy. The collision of so many ecosystems is amazing. The rainforest, the cliffs, the ocean. It’s stunning!

7. Corona Lake, Arapaho National Forest, Rollinsville, Colorado. 2 miles, 500 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy. The drive is rough, rough, rough up there and long!!!! The views at the lane and the top are worth it!

8. Horseshoe Lake and McLeod Lakes, Inyo National Forest, Mammoth Lakes, California. Looping them makes 3.75 mile loop with 500 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy to moderate (to McLeod). Horseshoe is nice and flat and McLeod is a little steep. Gorgeous lakes.

9. The Narrows, Zion NP, Utah. As long as you want (we did about 6.5 miles), no elevation gain. Easy. The best creek walk ever.

10. Island and Night Lakes to Beauty Lake, Shoshone National Forest, Cooke City, Wyoming. 7.5 miles, 500 feet elevation gain (without going down to Beauty Lake shore). Dog Friendly. Easy. Flat high on the plateau in grizzly country. Can be very buggy! The views and terrain are amazing and unique.

11. Tower Bridge Trail, Bryce NP, Utah. 3.5 miles, 830 feet elevation gain. Moderate. Long climb back up, the isolation and views of the canyon are amazing.

12. Red Canyon Trails- all trails spanning out from the visitor center on both sides of the street, Red Canyon State Park, Panguitch, Utah. Various mileages and elevation gains. Dog Friendly. Easy to Moderate. Lots of fun places to scramble. So much less crowded than the national parks, and lots to see here.

13. Corona and Bow Tie Arch, BLM land, Moab tied with Windows Arches, Arches NP, Utah. Respectively 2.5 miles and 500 feet elevation gain, and various mileage and elevation gain based on personal route and scrambling done. Corona and Bow Tie Arch is outside the national park and is dog friendly. Easy except the second rope. The arch is really beautiful, get up close if you can!

14. Trinidad Beach Trail System, Trinidad Beach, California. Various mileages and elevation gains. Dog Friendly. Easy. The coastline here is stunning.

15. Eagle Rock, Lake Tahoe Basin Unit Management, Homewood, California. 0.7 miles, 250 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy to moderate. Some steep scrambles at the top, watch your step! 180 degree view of the lake.

16. Big Circle Tree Trail, and spurs, Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, Orick, California. 0.5 miles, no elevation gain. Easy. A nice short immersion in the giant trees. Make sure to lay down flat on your back and look up!

17. Painted Wall, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP. 0.2 miles, no sig elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy. My favorite viewpoint. I scrambled off on the rocks at the cliff edge, of course. Huge drop off!

18. Grand Canyon South Rim Trail, Grand Canyon NP. Various distances and elevation gain- start as far from the visitor center and campground as possible. Dog Friendly. Easy. Once you get away from the crowds you ca actually enjoy waking the rim, great for the dogs.

19. Incline Village Flume Trail, Lake Tahoe Basin Unit Management, Incline Village Lake Tahoe, Nevada. We hiked 5 miles out and back, 10 total, elevation gain maybe 500 feet. The full trail is much longer. Dog Friendly. Easy. So flat for so long! Great intermittent views. Lots of bikers.

20. Sunset Point to Sunrise Point, Bryce Canyon NP. 1.1 miles, 82 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy. Short trail but amazing views.

21. Upper Two Medicine Lake, Glacier NP. From Ferry to Lake (skip the hike round the lake, at least one way), 3 miles, 350 feet elevation gain. Take the ferry! The hike around the lake isn’t scenic enough to be worth it! The upper lake is beautiful!

22. Secret Harbor, Whale Beach, Toiyabe National Forest, Incline Village, Lake Tahoe. 1.4 miles, 350 feet elevation gain. Nude beach alert! Dog Friendly. Easy down moderate back up. Nice little cove, may see some naked people. Great place to get in the lake in summer, but crowded!

23. Ski Lake, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wilson, Wyoming. 4.0 miles, 892 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Moderate. Uphill hike to a lake. The lake isn’t very scenic in late summer, water is very low. There is a nice view before the lake and pretty meadows.

24. Black Canyon Trail, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wilson, Wyoming. First 2 miles out and back, to high point. 750 feet elevation gain. Dog Friendly. Easy. Right along the ridge overlooking the valley. Big views for little work.

25. Lithia Park, Ashland, Oregon. This is more of a stroll (but there are steep side trails if you want that), but I’m including it because it’s a beautiful and unique park. Amazing trees! Dogs can only walk on the road.


  1. Jennifer A. Sinclair says:

    When I looked at the title of your article that stated “I was Wrong….”, I knew a female doctor wrote it. Men don’t have the courage to say they were wrong. Only women have those kind of guts. Most men are weak. I do know three men that have courage. There are three that do exist.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: