New independent film features a series of low-effort, high-reward hikes for finding joy in the outdoors.
Actor and filmmaker Tom Huang may not seem like a typical adventure movie star. In his new independent release, “Find Me,” he plays an accountant searching for his lost friend.
His emotionally wounded and out-of-shape main character, Joe, is “forced” to go on a series of hikes — and he finds the outings surprisingly easy and fulfilling, letting him experience the beauty of some of the country’s most famous national parks. His film shows that you don’t need to be young and fit to hike in a national park, and you don’t have to spend long, grueling hours on the trails to have a memorable time.
We asked Huang to share a few of the hikes he featured in his film.
The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah
One of Zion’s most iconic hikes, the trail is actually the bed of a river that cuts through stunning slot canyons with towering canyon walls. Though this is a popular hike, if you can hike about a couple of miles, the crowds thin out and it’s a really quiet, meditative experience. If you just hike the first mile you will see some amazing stuff, but if you get out about 2.5 miles to the Wall Street area (featured in the film), you’ll be surrounded by towering, curvy red rock walls and fewer people. Kids love being able to hike in the water, and parents will be able to see incredible sights. Hiking through here inspired me to make a film that would inspire people to point to these canyon walls on the screen and say, “I want to go there.”
Editor’s note: The Virgin River has been experiencing high water levels in the spring and summer of 2019 due to heavy rains, and park staff have been closing The Narrows to the public for safety reasons when appropriate. Always check conditions in advance before attempting this hike.
Sidewinder Canyon, Death Valley, California
This little-known trail is an incredibly easy adventure. You hike only about a mile through a beautiful desert canyon to what is literally a hole in the boulder walls that you crawl into. Suddenly, you find yourself in a beautiful slot canyon with high walls full of rocks. Simply follow the narrow paths as they curve into the canyon and through little caves and natural bridges. There are three different slot canyons along the main canyon, so if you like the first one you can go back out and find the second and third ones. It’s not at all difficult or dangerous but feels thrilling, especially for kids. They filmed parts of Luke Skywalker’s home planet from Star Wars here, so I guarantee you will hear dramatic Star Wars music in your head as you wander through this otherworldly landscape. The best time to do this hike is in winter and spring, when the weather is pleasant. Be sure to bring plenty of water.
Pohono Trail (via McGurk Meadow) to Crocker Point, Yosemite, California
Everyone knows Yosemite is spectacular, but the crowds can get you down. If you really want to experience Yosemite, find places where you can be alone with its trees, meadows and towering rocks. There is a series of little-known viewpoints along the Pohono Trail with stunning views overlooking the world-famous Yosemite Valley, where you can usually be all alone to enjoy the sights. One of those viewpoints is Crocker Point, where you can sit on a ledge that overlooks the valley below, with the majestic El Capitan in front of you, as well as Bridalveil Falls and Half Dome in the distance. The Pohono Trail itself is a strenuous, 13-mile one-way hike, but there’s a secret way to avoid most of that. If you park at the McGurk Meadow trailhead off Glacier Point Road, the trail will take you straight into the middle of the Pohono Trail, and it’s just an extra mile to Dewey Point and then another half-mile to Crocker Point. This hike is a bit longer than the others I’ve mentioned, about three miles each way to and from Dewey Point, but it’s pretty flat, and you get to travel through all that is great in Yosemite without the crowds, ending with a unique and stunning view.
Because all three of Huang’s picks are in Western parks, it inspired us to come up with five more hikes in other parts of the country that also offer a lot of enjoyment in just a few miles without strenuous conditions.
Paul H. Douglas (Miller Woods) Trail, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana
This three-mile out-and-back hike features many of the great landscapes in this park, from woods to wetlands to rare black oak savannah to the park’s famous namesake dunes. The trail leads to the beautiful Lake Michigan shoreline, a perfect spot for picnicking and swimming. Just be careful to avoid the poison ivy on these narrow trails.
String Lake and Leigh Lake Trails, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
This easy out-and-back trail follows the eastern shores of two lakes through wooded areas with beautiful views and reflections of the mountains in the lakes’ clear waters. Hike the full 7-mile round-trip or go as long or as short as you like. Bear spray is recommended.
Ocean Path, Acadia National Park, Maine
Meander along the eastern shore of Mount Desert Island from Sand Beach to Otter Point on this rugged, scenic 2-mile path (each way) with numerous spots to enjoy the ocean views. The trail goes directly past the park’s famous Thunder Hole, where waves create a deep crashing sound when they hit just right. Hikers can also see Monument Cove, an isolated beachfront with striking granite rock formations, and Otter Cliff, a 110-foot-tall headland where you can sit and watch the tides. Note that while the trail is relatively flat and easy to hike, parts of the path run beside a steep cliff and hikers should make sure they have good shoes and steady footing.
Gatlinburg Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
This 2-mile trail (each way) along Pigeon Creek offers a verdant path through the woods with views of trees, mountains and rushing waters. See the remains of historic homesteads as you make your way to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, where you can extend the hike on a short side trail to the picturesque Cataract Falls. Note that this trail parallels a busy road. Those seeking a more serene path into the forest can explore the park’s “Quiet Walkways” — a series of short loop trails off Newfound Gap Road. Maps and information are available at the Sugarlands Visitor Center.
Anhinga Trail, Everglades, Florida
This short wetland trail winds through sawgrass prairie and beside part of one of the park’s freshwater canals, Taylor Slough. The boardwalk path is one of the park’s most popular spots because of its accessibility and diversity of wildlife, including the trail’s namesake birds, which breed here. Visitors can also spot herons, turtles and lots of alligators, as well as exotic plants, such as orchids — all in just eight tenths of a mile.
What is your favorite easygoing national park hike that is suitable for people of all fitness levels? Let us know in the comments. We may feature your pick in a future story.
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About the authors
Zach Ragbourn Senior Director, Digital Communications
Zach leads NPCA's work in social media and digital advocacy, developing messaging and coordinating between all of NPCA's federal and regional campaign priorities.
Jennifer Errick Managing Editor of Online Communications
Jennifer co-produces NPCA's podcast, The Secret Lives of Parks, and writes, edits and moderates online content.