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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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 2 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

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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, Pennsylvania

Ohiopyle State Park, Pennsylvania

Cool off on the natural watersides in Ohiopyle State Park, a gift from Mother Nature, the Youghiogheny River Gorge and thousands of years of erosion. 960 1280

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Central Park, New York

Central Park, New York

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

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Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

Robert H. Treman State Park, New York

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

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Noah's Ark Water Park, Wisconsin

Noah's Ark Water Park, Wisconsin

Families visiting Noah's Ark, America's largest water park, have over 51 exhilirating slides and 2 giant wave pools to choose from. 960 1280

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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 swimmin' hole became a 126-acre regional park in 2005. 960 1280

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Delaware River, New Jersey

Delaware River, New Jersey

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

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Schlitterbahn Water Park, Texas

Schlitterbahn Water Park, Texas

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

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Lareau Swimming Hole, Vermont

Lareau Swimming Hole, Vermont

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

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Wet 'n Wild Water Park, Orlando

Wet 'n Wild Water Park, Orlando

Minutes from Universal Orlando, Wet 'n Wild has the requisite lazy river and wave pool expected of any water park worth its salt as well as new thrill rides like the Aqua Drag Racer where visitors can go head-to-head in 4 lanes of high-speed slides. 960 1280

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Waterfalls, Hawaii

Waterfalls, Hawaii

Maui, Kauai, Oahu ... if you're willing to hike during your stay in Hawaii you could be treated to your own private swimming hole.  960 1280

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Brownstone Park, Connecticut

Brownstone Park, Connecticut

This adventure center in Portland, CT, 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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