It’s time to turn up the heat and head to the hottest hiking destinations in the U.S.
Extreme heat attracts a special sort of nature-lover. After all, if you ever get cold, you can always put on another layer, toss another log on the fire, or find a warm blanket. When you hit your heat threshold, however, there ain’t much more you can do than find some shade, hydrate, wear a soaked neck gaiter, and get rid of all the other layers. Or, of course, wear apparel that’s designed to keep you cool. For those who trend toward the cold-blooded and love layering on the heat, here’s a handful of the hottest places in the country:
When it comes to extreme temps, Death Valley owns all the superlatives. It’s the hottest spot in the world with a top temperature of 134 degrees, recorded back in 1913; on average, summer temps average between 100 and 120. The park ranks as the driest spot in North America, and it sits at 282 feet below sea level, the lowest point on the continent. Beyond the “extremes” it also boasts some of the most striking landscapes in the country—vast swaths of desert populated by striated sandstone features, salt flats, and a ghost town whose residents today consist of rattlesnakes and the other fauna burly enough to weather the terrain.
When it comes to extreme temps, Death Valley owns all the superlatives.
Visit at the right time during the spring (after a serious rain storm) and you might even be greeted by a profusion of wildflowers that occasionally blanket the otherwise-foreboding terrain. Visit in the summer and…be ready for the heat, whether you hike the easy Badwater Basin Salt Flats trail, or brave the difficult climb up Telescope Peak.
Compared to some of its sister parks to the west, average summer temps at Florida’s Everglades, which hover around 90 degrees, seem pretty manageable. But that’s before you factor in the humidity, which typically ranks around 90 percent and has the ability to transform the atmosphere into a sodden, dank world that almost feels as everything has been draped in a hot, wet towel. This humidity builds until the sky can’t retain the moisture, triggering fierce thunderstorms that cut through the haze and drop temps back to mostly-tolerable levels—until it builds up again. This rings especially true during the park’s wet season, which stretches from about mid-May through November.
Water-based travel is a quintessential Everglades experience, either via flat-bottom boat or kayak or canoe.
And then there’s the wildlife—alligators, certainly, but also snakes and legions of bugs. Hot, sticky, and icky—but also a real challenge for the hardcore adventurer. Water-based travel is a quintessential Everglades experience, either via flat-bottom boat or kayak or canoe—stick with the theme of heat by braving Hell’s Bay Canoe Trail, or bike and hike the Pineland trails.
This 1,252-square-mile stretch of parkland in southwest Texas derives its name for the massive curve that the Rio Grande River has carved out in the land, now separating Mexico and the United States. The park encompasses the entire Chisos Mountain Range and a large swath of the Chihuahua Desert—where average summer temps often reach 100 degrees. Expect rain as well, from May through September, along with a wonderful lack of tourists typical to most national parks.
The park is open to bicycling, driving, and paddling trips, as well as day hikes in the mountains and throughout the desert; opt for the 10.5-mile Emory Peak route out of the Chisos Basin Trailhead. The hike will be strenuous, but at least the temps at the summit should be 10 to 20 degrees cooler than the desert floor.
One of the most staggering beauties in the National Park Service’s many-jeweled crown, the geological features scattered throughout Arches illustrate the transformative power of Mother Nature, with a vast collection of canyons, arches, and other rock formations carved by wind and water over the course of decades. Visit during the summer and you’ll have to also endure average temps that often break 100 degrees—heat that’s hard to avoid because some of the best features in the park require a serious hike into the wild. And then there’s the summer monsoons, which cool things down some but also bring threats of flash flooding.
One of the most staggering beauties in the National Park Service’s many-jeweled crown, the geological features scattered throughout Arches illustrate the transformative power of Mother Nature.
The park allows backpacking in specific zones of the Courthouse Wash area, which you can use to link together a multi-night tour of the park—and perhaps get some miles in at night, under a full moon, to avoid the heat. Or knock off a few day hikes like the iconic Delicate Arch (three miles…no shade) or the 7.2-mile Primitive Trail at Devils Garden.
Lauren Steele and Paddy O’Connell recently conquered the White Rim Trail on foot in the height of summer – a pretty bad idea, but a good one if you like scorching temperatures. Check out their adventure here: