Exploring the Beauty: Best Hiking Destinations in the US
Are you ready to lace up your boots and embark on an unforgettable hiking adventure? Look no further because we've curated a list of the absolute best hiking destinations in the US. From awe-inspiring canyons to majestic mountains, tranquil lakes to volcanic trails, this article will take you on a virtual journey through some of the most captivating landscapes the country has to offer. Whether you're an experienced hiker seeking a new challenge or a nature enthusiast yearning to explore the great outdoors, these hiking gems are bound to leave you in awe. Strap on your backpack, and let's dive into the breathtaking beauty of the United States' finest hiking destinations.
Easy Hiking Destinations in the US
- Big Sur - located in California, perfect for seeing redwoods on shorter trails
- Sedona - located in Arizona, ideal for desert-loving hikers
One of the most beautiful natural wonders in Arizona, Sedona is an incredible natural destination and one of the most popular winter hiking escapes in the US, thanks to its very agreeable winter climate. Positioned between the Coconino National Forest, Red Rock State Park, and other protected lands, Sedona is the base for hundreds of stunning hiking trails.
Surrounded by a dramatic landscape of stunning red rocks, Sedona has gained a reputation for enlightenment and rejuvenation, attracting a flourishing New Age Movement to the city.
So while we have primarily put together a Sedona hiking itinerary, we have also included loads of tips on other things to do in Sedona to understand the city's magic and its landscape.
Only two hours from the Grand Canyon, Sedona is also a great addition to a Grand Canyon hiking itinerary.
Cadillac North Ridge Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine
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Acadia National Park offers hikes from easy to strenuous, each providing different views of the bays and tiny islands off the coast of Maine. The Cadillac North Ridge Trail is a great choice for incredible views of Bar Harbor, Frenchman Bay, and the Schoodic Peninsula, and it is a 4.4-mile round trip. The park remains open year-round, but it may experience limited closures in the harsh winter months, so be sure to check the website before visiting.
Charlies Bunion Hike, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
Spread across two states, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is world-renowned for its diversity of plant and animal life and sprawling mountains to explore. The park offers miles of official and backcountry trails with views of waterfalls and old-growth forests. For a particularly breathtaking vista of the mountains and valley, hike to Charlies Bunion, a popular outcropping along the Appalachian Trail. You may even be inspired to take up the "Hike the Smokies" challenge, which rewards hikers who have covered more than 100 miles with exclusive mileage pins.
Billy Goat Trail, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park, Maryland
Billy Goat Trail is a moderate 4.75-mile hike located in Maryland, just minutes from Washington, D.C. Here, outdoor enthusiasts can experience the raging Potomac River and the rocky crags of Great Falls. The hike is incredibly popular, so visit early to beat the crowds. Be sure to check for closures, as Section A is sometimes closed due to flooding, and Section B may be unavailable due to trail damage and erosion.
Chautauqua Trail, Chautauqua Park, Colorado
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Chautauqua Park in Boulder, Colorado, has been around since 1898. The 80-acre park has miles of hiking, much of which is uphill. But there are less strenuous hikes, too. You can start with the Chautauqua Trail, which offers views of the Flatiron mountains and Boulder, before moving on to more challenging trails.
Canyon to Rim Loop, Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
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Hikes at Smith Rock State Park vary in length and difficulty, but they all offer beautiful views of the Central Oregon landscape. The park suggests visitors arrive early in the morning for sightings of geese and ducks on the banks of the river. And throughout the day, you may even spot golden eagles, prairie falcons, river otters, and beaver. Take the gentle Canyon Trail past the Rope-de-Dope climbing area and up to the rim for spectacular canyon views.
Petroglyph Wall Trail, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada offers mainly short-distance hikes (many clock in at less than five miles), but don't let the length fool you. Many of the hikes at Red Rock Canyon are labeled as difficult, and it can take upward of four to five hours to complete just a five-mile hike. Along the different routes, you can try to spot desert wildlife, including lizards, toads, and hawks. One of the park's most beginner-friendly must-do hikes is the 0.2-mile Petroglyph Wall Trail, which takes you past centuries-old rock art.
Mount Ida Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
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The Rocky Mountain National Park's expansive 415 square miles of Colorado wilderness encompass lakes, mountains, and spectacular hiking opportunities. With over 350 miles of trails, you can enjoy wide-open views and wildlife sightings, including birds, reptiles, and bears. One of the most popular hikes in the park is the 9.4-mile out-and-back Mount Ida Trail, known for its stunning scenery above the treeline.
Grinnell Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
Covering more than a million acres, Glacier National Park provides the headwaters for streams that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Hudson Bay. This Montana park offers several hikes, including the 11.2-mile out-and-back Grinnell Glacier Trail in the Many Glacier area. Along the way, be on the lookout for the park's diverse wildlife, including 71 species of mammals. It's home to one of the largest remaining grizzly bear populations in the lower 48.
Upper Emerald Pools Trail, Zion National Park, Utah
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Zion National Park, Utah's first national park, is famous for its massive cream, pink, and red sandstone cliffs, freestanding arches, and hiking trails suitable for all experience levels. For an easy hike leading to sparkling waterfalls, try the Upper Emerald Pools Trail. Be sure to visit at sunrise and sunset for breathtaking photos of sunlight illuminating the cliffs and rivers below. Visit in the spring to avoid the summer crowds and witness the most waterfalls.
Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
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Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah offers one of the most unique hiking experiences with its hoodoos, odd-shaped pillars of rock formed by erosion. The park has the largest collection of hoodoos in the world, and you can see them from the Rim Trail. After completing the 5.5-mile trail, you'll be rewarded with views of the Main Amphitheater. Bryce Canyon offers hikes for all levels, including backcountry options for those seeking more adventure.
Point Lobos Loop Trail, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, California
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The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve in California's picturesque Carmel-by-the-Sea offers more than a dozen trails for visitors to explore. For stunning ocean vistas, embark on the Point Lobos Loop Trail, which stretches over six miles along the coast. Along the way, you'll encounter the 19th-century Whalers Cabin and may spot marine mammals basking on the rocks in secluded Sea Lion Cove.
Yosemite National Park - California
Yosemite National Park is another American gem that is full of incredible hiking trails. With 1200 square miles (3,027 km²), most of the great hikes in Yosemite are situated around the Yosemite Valley. The Half Dome Hike is the most popular hike in Yosemite NP.
Read more: Things to do in Yosemite National Park
Halema'uma'u Trail, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
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Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park offers visitors the unique experience of exploring an active volcano. The park has several trails, including the Halema'uma'u Trail, a 0.8-mile hike descending 425 feet at the southern edge of Kīlauea caldera that takes visitors through a rainforest.
Kalalau Trail, Hā'ena State Park, Hawaii
The Kalalau Trail in Hā'ena State Park on the island of Kauai spans about 11 miles along the island's north shore from Keʻe Beach to the Kalalau Valley. All visitors must pay an entrance fee, and a camping permit is required to hike past Hanakāpīʻai Beach, even if you don't plan to stay the night. Be warned: The trail is challenging and dangerous. The trek takes experienced hikers through streams and up steep hills but rewards thrill-seekers with stunning views of the crystal blue waters surrounding the island.
South Rim Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
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With over 630 miles of trails, Grand Canyon National Park is a paradise for adventurous hikers. The rim of the canyon offers stunning panoramic views, while the inner corridor showcases multicolored rock layers carved by the Colorado River. Expert hikers can attempt to hike from rim to rim, but the park also offers plenty of easier hiking options, such as the South Rim Trail. This mostly flat and paved trail provides access to breathtaking views of the canyon for hikers and visitors using the South Rim's hop-on, hop-off shuttle.
Arches National Park
Arches National Park in Utah is one of the most popular parks in the United States. Located close to Moab and Canyonlands, Arches NP is famous for its iconic rock formations and incredible hiking trails. The landscapes in Arches are so iconic that they feature on the Utah license plate and attract more than two million visitors each year.
Hiking in Arches NP: Arches offers a variety of easy to moderate trails, some of which provide views or close encounters with arches that are not visible from road viewpoints. Arches NP is also an internationally recognized Dark Sky Park, offering incredible night hikes and stargazing opportunities.
Yellowstone National Park
With over 2.2 million acres of diverse ecosystems and ever-changing landscapes, including geyser basins, stunning waterfalls, mountainous terrains, canyons, meadows, and lush forests, Yellowstone National Park is undoubtedly one of the best hiking destinations in the US.
Hiking in Yellowstone National Park: Yellowstone has numerous natural and historical attractions, with over 900 miles of hiking trails. With so many options, it can be overwhelming to plan a hiking vacation itinerary. We have compiled 7 of the best day hikes in Yellowstone to help you plan your itinerary and included tips for visiting this magical national park. Whether you are a casual hiker or seeking more challenging hikes, our list incorporates some of Yellowstone's most famous attractions.
Mount Whitney - California
Mount Whitney, located in California, is a must-do hike for every avid hiker. With a 6,656-foot elevation gain to 14,494 feet, this 22.5-mile out-and-back trail can be climbed in a single day, although we recommend a multi-day backpacking adventure for a more enjoyable experience.
This challenging hike takes you through gorgeous mountain peaks, lakes, and valleys, offering spectacular lookouts along the way. Reaching the summit is a true feat.
Read all about how to climb Mount Whitney here.
Burroughs Mountain Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state is home to one of the most iconic mountains in the world. Mount Rainier rises 14,410 feet above sea level, disappearing into the clouds. But the summit isn't the only hiking opportunity in the park. With over 260 miles of maintained trails, visitors can explore peaceful old-growth forests, river valleys, and subalpine meadows. Don't miss the Burroughs Mountain Trail for stunning views of Mount Rainier and the alpine landscape.
Joshua Tree National Park
If you're looking for a unique and otherworldly hiking experience in the US, head to Joshua Tree National Park in California. This park, located 140 miles from Los Angeles, is instantly recognizable from its appearances in many Hollywood movies. With a variety of hikes to choose from, ranging in length from a quarter-mile to 10 miles, Joshua Tree offers something for everyone. To discover the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park, visit this website.
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Located on the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park is a treasure trove of natural wonders. From volcanoes and bamboo forests to colorful eucalyptus trees and waterfalls, this park offers a diverse and breathtaking hiking experience. One of the most beautiful hikes in Haleakala is located at the end of the Hana Highway. The Pipiwai Trail takes you through a bamboo forest to the stunning 400-foot high Waimoku Falls and the Seven Sacred Pools. Another must-see hike is the sunrise hike to the crater rim of the Haleakala volcano.
John Muir Trail - California
The John Muir Trail is one of America's most iconic hikes. Spanning 220 miles, this trail takes you through some of the country's most famous national parks, including Yosemite, Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Park. California is home to an abundance of national parks and incredible trails, which is why we have dedicated an entire post to the 15 best hikes in the state. To find more amazing hikes in California, check out this article.
Prepare to be amazed by the beauty of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. This park offers some of the best hiking opportunities in the USA. One of the most popular hikes is the Jenny Lake Trail, an 8-mile long trail with relatively flat terrain and a 623-foot elevation gain. Along this trail, you can also connect to the Hidden Falls hike, the Inspiration Point hike, and the Forks of Cascade Canyon hike, allowing you to explore multiple trails in one outing.
Lake Tahoe boasts stunning hikes and picturesque views. If you're up for a challenge, the renowned Rubicon Trail is a 22-mile long trek that takes you through a valley floor and up a rocky climb. While the trail may be lengthy, there are campsites along the route for overnight stays. Be prepared for steep switchbacks and challenging climbs that will make any hiker's dreams come true.
Pictured Rocks Michigan
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is a must-visit destination in Michigan. With over 100 miles of trails to explore, you can spend days camping and hiking in this picturesque area. The park is famous for its extraordinary sandstone cliffs, which provide breathtaking views along the trails.
Crater Rim Trail - Big Island
Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Crater Rim Trail at Kilauea Volcano Caldera offers a unique hiking experience. This trail is the longest loop trail on the island and takes approximately 8 hours to complete. Along the way, you'll encounter lava cinders, lava tubes, steam vents, and evidence of past lava flows. The recent eruption in 2020 created a fascinating sight with dried-out water and a massive solidified lava lake. For more things to do on the Big Island of Hawaii, check out this article.
- Take a volcano tour to explore the lava flow and learn about the history of the Big Island. The tour includes a guided hike to the new black sand beach.
These are just a few of the amazing hikes you can experience in the USA. With countless national parks and trails waiting to be explored, there is no shortage of outdoor adventures to add to your bucket list. As the famous travel quote goes, "I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list!" Let's keep discovering more hikes in America together.
Mammoth Lakes, located less than an hour from Yosemite National Park, is nestled in one of the most pristine wilderness regions in the USA, between Yosemite and Nevada. This area is teeming with natural attractions, protected areas, and historical landmarks, making it a perfect destination to visit year-round.
As you can see, the United States is home to an incredible array of hiking destinations, each offering its own unique beauty and challenges. From the stunning red rock canyons of Sedona to the majestic glaciers of Glacier National Park, there is a trail for every hiker's taste. Whether you prefer easy, leisurely hikes or more demanding expeditions, the US has something to offer. So, grab your boots, pack your backpack, and get ready to explore the natural wonders of America's best hiking destinations. The adventure awaits!
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