Daily Escape

Belvedere Castle

Photo by Thinkstock

Belvedere Castle

New York, New York

Italian for “beautiful view,” Central Park’s Belvedere Castle delivers on its name, big time. Originally built as a “Victorian folly” -- a structure created to provide a beautiful backdrop, but without a real purpose -- the castle found its calling when the National Weather Service began putting its measurement tools on the turrets. Whether it’s raining or sunny, the castle’s 2 balconies are the perfect place to take in the Big Apple’s views.


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Pacific Northwest Trail
Pacific Northwest Trail

Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest Trail spans 1,200 miles -- including 3 national parks and 7 national forests. To tackle this route, which runs through Montana, Idaho and Washington, you'll have to keep a pace of 20 miles per day. That'll get you to the trail's end in about 60 days.

Best times to hike:Year-round at lower elevations, summer and fall at higher elevations.
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Andy Porter, flickr   

Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail

The famed Appalachian Trail spans more than 2,180 miles. A thru-hike usually takes between 5 and 7 months, cutting through 14 states between Georgia and Maine. Along the way, enjoy views of pink rhododendrons along the trail’s Tennessee-North Carolina state line and in southwest Virginia, from late spring to early summer.

Best times to hike: Spring to fall.
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Thinkstock  

John Muir Trail

John Muir Trail

Naturalist John Muir loved this area of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range. Today, the trail named in his honor runs 211 miles, from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney (the highest point on America’s mainland). Most hikers start their trek at Yosemite’s Happy Isles or Tuolumne Meadows.

Best times to hike: Generally July to September.
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Steve Dunleavy, flickr  

Hayduke Trail

Hayduke Trail

Uber-hiker Andrew Skurka calls Hayduke Trail “one of the finest ways to discover the Colorado Plateau … and get away from it all.” No wonder. The 800-mile trail running through Utah and Arizona covers the area’s big national parks: Zion, Grand Canyon, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches.

Best times to hike: Spring and fall.
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Thinkstock  

Pacific Crest Trail

Pacific Crest Trail

The massive Pacific Crest Trail covers more than 2,600 miles, from California, Oregon and Washington to British Columbia. The trail is among the “Big 3”: If you hike the Pacific Trail, as well as the Continental Divide Trail and the Appalachian Trail, you’ll get the American Long Distance Hiking Association’s Triple Crown Award.

Best times to hike: Late April to late September.
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Sierra High Route

Sierra High Route

The Sierra High Route is one of pro hiker Andrew Skurka’s favorite trails. The 195-mile trail in California’s Sierra Nevada Mountains offers amazing views of meadowlands, lake basins and mountain peaks. Keep a pace of roughly 20 miles per day, and you’ll complete the trail in a little over a week. Also, keep in mind logistical considerations.

Best time to hike: Depends on skill level.
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Getty Images  

Arizona Trail

Arizona Trail

The 800-mile Arizona Trail runs north and south through the state, and showcases some of the region's most unspoiled terrain: ridges, mountains and wilderness areas that have remained untouched since Arizona became a territory in 1863. That remoteness also means hikers must stay current on Arizona Trail conditions.

Best times to hike: Year-round at lower elevations, summer and fall at higher elevations.
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Long Trail

Long Trail

Known simply as the Long Trail, this route runs 273 miles through Vermont -- the whole length of the state. The trail also happens to be America’s first long-distance hiking trail. Construction began in 1912 and continued for nearly 20 years. Today, hikers can enjoy short day hikes and extended treks (including to Mount Mansfield, Vermont’s highest mountain).

Best times to hike: Late spring through late fall.
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dvs, flickr  

Continental Divide Trail

Continental Divide Trail

At 3,100 miles, the Continental Divide Trail is not for the faint of heart: Only about 25 people a year attempt to hike the entire trail, which runs between Mexico and Canada. Some areas can only be traveled by bushwacking, aka make-your-own-trails, and roadwalking.

Best times to hike: April to October.
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Getty Images  

Superior Hiking Trail

Superior Hiking Trail

Everyone loves Superior: Hiker Andrew Skurka ranks the trail among his 10 favorite US hikes, Readers Digest ranks it among its top 5. The 275-mile footpath showcases scenic views -- boreal forests, rushing waterfalls and the 30-mile-long Sawtooth Mountains are among the attractions -- as well as 81 campsites for a little R&R.

Best times to hike: Late spring to early fall.
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Thinkstock  

Florida Trail

Florida Trail

Alligators are among the wild critters that hikers can encounter along the Florida Trail. The 1,400-mile trail starts at Big Cypress National Preserve (about 45 miles west of Miami) and ends in the Pensacola, FL, area. And if you see a gator along the way? Give it space, circling around its tail end so it doesn’t feel threatened.

Best times to hike: Year-round.
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B A Bowen Photography, flickr  

Colorado Trail

Colorado Trail

Hikers, horse riders and bicyclists, the Colorado Trail is calling your name. The 486-mile trail runs from the Denver area to Durango, CO, with some of Colorado’s most beautiful scenery in between: wildlife (marmots, deer, sheep and more), as well as wildflowers, forests, lakes and streams ideal for fishing. A thru-hike generally takes 4 to 6 weeks to complete -- a feat accomplished by roughly 150 people per year.

Best times to hike: Primarily July and August.
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Crown Fountain, Millenium Park, Chicago, Illinois
Crown Fountain, Chicago

Crown Fountain, Chicago

Designed by Jaume Plensa, the Crown Fountain in Chicago's Millennium Park consists of two 50-foot glass brick towers facing each other across a black granite plaza. LED screens project the faces of smiling Chicago residents who take turns spurting water into the 1/8th-inch deep reflecting pool. 960 1280

City of Chicago  

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri

Play in the shallows of the East Fork of the Black River or shoot through "Mother Nature's hydraulics" in the natural swimming holes at Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park in Middle Brook, Mo. 960 1280

Missouri Division of Tourism  

Ohiopyle State Park, Pa.

Ohiopyle State Park, Pa.

Cool off on the natural waterslides, courtesy of Mother Nature, the Youghiogheny River Gorge and thousands of years of erosion. 960 1280

Stockphoto.com/Aimintang  

Central Park, NY

Central Park, NY

Who says you can't keep cool in the city? Park yourself alongside the Bethesda Fountain in Central park or take to the Lake in a rented rowboat from Loeb’s boathouse. 960 1280

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Robert H. Treman State Park, NY

Robert H. Treman State Park, NY

Take a dip in the stream-fed pool beneath the 115-foot Lucifer Falls, at Robert H. Treman State Park in the Finger Lakes. 960 1280

Aimin Tang/iStock/Getty Images  

Noah's Ark Water Park, Wis.

Noah's Ark Water Park, Wis.

Families visiting Noah's Ark, America's largest water park, have more than 51 exhilirating slides and two giant wave pools from which to choose. 960 1280

Noah's Ark  

Blue Hole Regional Park, Texas

Blue Hole Regional Park, Texas

Picture yourself plunging into Blue Hole from a rope swing... This good ol' fashioned Texas swimming hole became a 126-acre regional park in 2005. 960 1280

Robert Thigpen  

Delaware River, NJ

Delaware River, NJ

Flowing for 330 miles from New York through Pensylvannia, families typically float down the Delaware River from Frenchtown, NJ, where they rent tubes, canoes, kayaks or rafts. 960 1280

William Thomas Cain/Hulton Archive/Getty Images  

Schlitterbahn Water Park, Texas

Schlitterbahn Water Park, Texas

Opened in the heart of Texas Hill Country in 1966, Schlitterbahn now has bragging rights to the world's tallest water slide, Verrückt. However, it hasn’t sacrificed its family-first atmosphere, such as allowing visitors to bring their own picnics into the park. 960 1280

Schlitterbahn Waterparks and Resorts  

Lareau Swimming Hole, Vt.

Lareau Swimming Hole, Vt.

Cool, green water from the Mad River flows into deep ponds and gentle rapids at Lareau Swim Hole. With multiple depths, it's a popular spot for all ages, easily accessible from Waitsfield, Vt. 960 1280

Doug Kerr  

Wet 'n Wild Water Park, Orlando, Fla.

Wet 'n Wild Water Park, Orlando, Fla.

Minutes from Universal Orlando, Wet 'n Wild has the requisite lazy river and wave pool expected of any water park worth its salt. New thrill rides, like the Aqua Drag Racer where visitors can go head-to-head in four lanes of high-speed slides, attract thrill-seeking crowds. 960 1280

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Waterfalls, Hawaii

Waterfalls, Hawaii

From Maui to Kauai to O'ahu, Hawaii boasts plenty of hiking trails to explore. Once you reach the end of the trail, take a dip in one of the cool, refreshing swimming holes before heading back down the mountain. 960 1280

Hawaii Tourism Authority/Tor Johnson   

Brownstone Park, Conn.

Brownstone Park, Conn.

This adventure center in Portland, Conn., provides an adrenaline-pumping plunge into the water from a zip line. Spend the rest of the day rock climbing, cliff jumping, swimming, kayaking and more. 960 1280

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Goal Zero Charger
Goal Zero Charger

Goal Zero Charger

There’s nothing worse than your phone dying at the end of a ride while sitting on the side of the road with a flat tire. Bike bummers like this no longer exist with these portable solar chargers. Simply aim the panel at the sun and all your gadgets will stay fully charged. 960 1280

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The Atom

The Atom

Bicycle generators have been around for ages in Europe but they’re a bit clunky. The Atom, however, is a highly efficient device that easily mounts on most bicycles and will charge anything with a USB connection. As opposed to solar chargers, it doesn’t have to be sunny for this baby to work its magic. 960 1280

Siva Cycle  

Cruiser Cooler Handlebar Bag

Cruiser Cooler Handlebar Bag

A lovely bike ride complete with a picnic is about as romantic as it gets, and this handy little bag is your most loyal wingman. It’s made of recycled bike tubes, connects easily to handlebars and is insulated to keep beverages warm or cool. 960 1280

Green Guru Gear  

KEEN's Commuter Sandals

KEEN's Commuter Sandals

It’s no fun to wear stinky bike shoes during the sweaty summer months -- that’s where these sandals save the day. They’re rigid like a bike shoe (clipless pedal compatible) and vented to keep your feet cool. Bonus: By the end of the summer, you’ll have the coolest tiger-striped tan lines in town! 960 1280

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Pitbull STD U-Lock

Pitbull STD U-Lock

Many riders love their bikes as much as their firstborn children -- and they’ll do anything to protect their babies. Locks can cost a pretty penny but they’re totally worth the investment. This intimidating U-Lock will keep all bad guys away, rawrr! 960 1280

ONGUARD  

Boombotix Portable Speakers

Boombotix Portable Speakers

This stylish little party pack keeps you grooving as you hammer out the miles. It connects wirelessly via Bluetooth, easily connects to your handlebars or backpack, and is loud enough to entertain everyone on the block. 960 1280

Boombotix  

Monkey Lights

Monkey Lights

Bike lights are a must for nighttime visibility and while the typical handlebar light will do, Monkey Lights take illumination to the next level. These lights attach to your spokes and create digital light art that instantly turns your bike into a rolling party. 960 1280

MonkeyLectric  

Schwalbe Marathon Tires

Schwalbe Marathon Tires

Let’s face it, flat tires are the worst part of cycling; there’s no bigger headache. These extra-tough road warriors are about the closest thing you can get to tank treads. They cost more than regular tires, but you’ll rarely get a flat and you’ll ride confidently into the sunset, over and over again. 960 1280

Schwalbe North America   

Ergon BioKork Grips

Ergon BioKork Grips

These super comfy grips prevent achy palm syndrome caused by hours of riding. As an added bonus, they’re made of cork from sustainable forests in Portugal. 960 1280

Ergon  

BOB Trailer

BOB Trailer

This 1-wheeled carriage is a must for hauling groceries (careful with eggs!), bringing Rover to the park or touring thousands of miles across country. It’s super simple to connect and instantly turns your bike into a soccer mom SUV. 960 1280

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Bike Gear Guide  10 Photos

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