There’s more to spring break than amusement-park lines and flopping on the beach. The annual family holiday is also a great time to take a hike. Luckily, some of the hottest spring break destinations have the most alluring trails. Here are our top picks.
PENSACOLA BEACH, FLORIDA
When it comes to spring break on the Florida Panhandle, Panama City Beach is the king. But nearby Pensacola Beach arguably boasts the best place for hiking.
This 25.3-mile Seashore Trail is the northernmost point of The Florida National Scenic Trail, a series of statewide trails totaling close to 1,500 miles. This particular leg, which passes through the Gulf Islands National Seashore, is the only part of the National Scenic Trail with an ocean view.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate (depending on distance traveled)
Highlights: Sandy beaches and historic Fort Pickens
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS
South Padre is home to a Texas-sized spring break blowout, but the sunny southern island also sports a softer side: the Laguna Madre Nature Trail. Some 300 bird species populate the route, from the island’s famous laughing gulls to the Yellow-billed Loon, the Brown Booby and the White-Morph Reddish Egret. Hikers may even spot the occasional croc.
Highlights: Four acres of wetlands
MYRTLE BEACH, SOUTH CAROLINA
Located within Huntington Beach State Park, this two-mile route winds through freshwater and saltwater marshes, transporting hikers far away from the hustle and bustle of the Grand Strand Coastal area.
Highlights: Secluded beach and birds galore
Cost: $5 adult; $3.25 senior; $3 youth (age 6-15); free (under 5)
Trying to decide whether to take a hike or take a swim? At Rio Secreto Nature Preserve, 40 miles south of Cancun in Playa del Carmen, you can do both. Walk, then float or swim along the 7.5 mile underground system of partially flooded caves as experienced guides lead the way. Tour operators provide wet suits, helmets and walking sticks.
Highlights: Breathtaking vibe, plus stalactites and stalagmites.
Cost: $69 adults; $34.50 children (age 4-11).
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
One of the largest urban parks in the U.S., Mission Trails lays claim to nearly 5,800 acres of both developed and natural parkland, including 40 miles of trails. Plenty of hills—including the 1,590-ft. Cowles Mountain and the 900-ft. Fortuna Mountain—make for some inviting and potentially challenging hikes.
Difficulty: Easy, moderate or challenging, depending on route
Highlights: The iron footbridge along the Old Canyon Trail and views from Cowles Mountain