The best hikes in the United States can be found in distant, wild, and sometimes risky places spread across the country. Before you start any hiking adventure, the first thing to do is check the gear you already have and think about what additional equipment you might need to buy.
Wouldn't it be great to say you've completed all the amazing trails in the USA? Due to the current global situation, people might choose to stay closer to home for the next few years. So, why not start exploring these wonderful outdoor destinations in the United States?
There are countless hiking trails in America; each state offers a seemingly endless variety of great paths to explore. It's quite a challenge to select the 30 best hikes in the US, but Long Weekend is here for you.
Fire Warden's Trail
Let's start our exploration of the best hikes in the USA in the ultimate frontier of adventure travel! The Fire Warden's Trail, which is almost five miles long, goes up Bigelow Mountain, a 4,000-foot peak with six distinct summits. Bigelow Preserve, where you'll find this trail, doesn't get as much attention (and fewer visitors) compared to larger places like Baxter State Park and Acadia National Park.
So, you shouldn't run into too many other hikers as you walk through beautiful hardwood forests and rocky ridges on your way up.
Tongass National Forest in Alaska
If you're in Juneau, Alaska, you can set up your base camp for an exciting adventure in the Tongass National Forest. This forest is full of hiking trails, boasting an impressive 700 miles of them. However, if you're not an experienced backcountry hiker, it's a good idea to hire a guide.
Tongass National Forest is a piece of wild America, where you can come across bears, glaciers, and caves on nearly every trail. If you decide to go on a small-ship Alaskan cruise, you'll have plenty of opportunities to explore the Alaskan wilderness. One of the most popular hikes in the area starts from the Mendenhall Glacier visitors center and takes you to Nugget Falls. Mendenhall Glacier itself is one of Alaska's most famous glaciers.
Table Rock Trail in Andover, Maine
If you happen to be in Andover, Maine, don't miss the chance to visit the stunning Table Rock Trail in Grafton Notch State Park. It's one of the best hikes you can do in Maine.
While the 2.1-mile loop may have some steep parts that make it a bit challenging, you can customize your adventure by choosing trails that match your skill level. Here's a helpful tip: take the orange-marked trail uphill and follow the blue and white trails on your way down. Along the journey, you'll discover natural caves you can explore.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park is an amazing place for people who love hiking. This huge park covers a whopping 1200 square miles (3,027 km²). However, the most incredible hiking trails are concentrated around the Yosemite Valley. The top favorite is the Half Dome Hike, which attracts hikers from all over.
This challenging 14-mile round trip hike usually takes about 10 to 12 hours to finish and includes a 5000-foot climb above the Yosemite Valley floor. You'll need to use cables for the final 400 feet, providing a safe way to reach the summit without needing special climbing gear.
Mount Whitney in California
In California, you'll encounter Mount Whitney, a dream hike for many outdoor enthusiasts. This trail goes from 6,656 feet to an impressive 14,494 feet. Surprisingly, it can be completed in just one day, but we recommend planning a multi-day backpacking adventure.
This demanding trek leads you through breathtaking mountain peaks, serene lakes, and picturesque valleys, offering awe-inspiring views. Reaching the summit is a remarkable accomplishment.
The Famous John Muir Trail in California
The John Muir Trail is one of the most renowned hiking routes in the United States. This extensive trail spans 220 miles and passes through some of America's famous national parks, including Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Park.
You might be wondering why we highlight so many California hikes on our list of top USA hiking trails. Well, that's because California is home to numerous national parks and incredible hiking paths!
Oregon has a lot of trails for hiking. These trails take you through mountains, dense forests, and rugged coastlines. There are 361 state parks and 11 national forests in Oregon, making it a fantastic place for hiking in the United States. The Pacific Crest Trail goes through Oregon, so you can hike a part of this long trail that goes from Mexico to Canada. But Oregon also has many other great hiking options.
We've picked the Misery Ridge trail at Smith Rock because it's one of the most famous hiking trails in the country. It's only 3.5 miles long, so it's not too far, but it's very rewarding. The trail is steep and offers amazing views. When you get to the top of Misery Ridge, you'll see impressive rock formations like The Monkey Face Rock, tall granite cliffs, and calm lakes that reflect the scenery.
Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is definitely one of the top hiking adventures in the United States. It's a long trail, stretching 2,650 miles (4,265 km), and it shows you many different landscapes in North America as you hike from Mexico to Canada.
Not everyone will hike the whole way into the northern wilderness, but the idea of doing it is really appealing. You might know about the Pacific Crest Trail from the famous book "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed, which was made into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon.
Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail
You can drive up Cadillac Mountain, but why not take this moderately challenging 6.7-mile path to the top and back? The trail goes through the woods and then climbs up to open rocky areas that lead to the summit. You can start your hike at the Blackwoods Campground, or you can set up your tent there and have everything ready for making s'mores when you come back after reaching the summit.
Since we mentioned it earlier, let's talk about the Appalachian Trail. It's another huge hiking adventure in the United States. It goes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine on the East Coast. It's a big challenge to hike the whole thing in one season. Most people do it a bit at a time. And an interesting thing about this trail is that the International Appalachian Trail goes into Canada, all the way up to Newfoundland.
Ice Lake Trail
Ice Lake Basin in the San Juan National Forest is said to be one of the most beautiful hikes in Colorado. The trail has some of the most stunning mountain scenery in the United States. So, put on your hiking boots and go on this trail to see two of the most beautiful alpine lakes in the country.
Hiking Ice Lake is not easy, but with some effort, you can experience one of Colorado's most iconic landscapes. Plus, there's so much beauty to see that you'll have many reasons to stop, catch your breath, and enjoy the views.
Besides the beautiful alpine lakes that will leave you speechless at the end of the trail, this hike also features amazing high alpine meadows with streams flowing through them, waterfalls cascading down from nearby cliffs (during the summer), and a charming cirque of 13,000-foot peaks.
Once you reach Ice Lake, you can extend your adventure by walking over to nearby Island Lake, which is about a 30-minute hike away. There, you'll get even more incredible views of yet another alpine lake and the stunning scenery that surrounds it.
Continental Divide Trail
To complete the Triple Crown of Hiking in the United States, let's include the Continental Divide Trail. Wondering what the Triple Crown is? It consists of the Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. The Continental Divide Trail Coalition manages one of these cross-country trails that stretches for 3,028 miles (4,873 km). It goes from Mexico to Canada through the heart of the country, following the main ridge of the Rocky Mountains.
Joshua Tree National Park
For an otherworldly, moon-like landscape hike in the US, head to Joshua Tree National Park in California. It's about 140 miles from Los Angeles, and you might recognize it from many Hollywood movies. Joshua Tree offers a variety of hikes, ranging from as short as a quarter-mile to as long as 10 miles! Discover the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park here.
Badlands National Park
Don't overlook South Dakota for hiking. Badlands National Park isn't just stunning; it also provides numerous opportunities to get out of your car.
There are several easy hikes in Badlands National Park waiting to be explored, from short ones like Notch Trail, Fossil Trail, and Cliff's Shelf Trail, to longer adventures like the 10-mile Castle Trail and the 22-mile loop of the Sage Creek Wilderness Area. Whichever trail you choose, you can count on breathtaking scenery.
The Grand Canyon is the ultimate destination in the United States. Who wouldn't want to visit the Grand Canyon and have the chance to hike along the rim? It's on every traveler's must-visit list. You can actually hike from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim, crossing the Colorado River in the process!
One of the most popular hikes in the Grand Canyon is the Rim Trail. It covers 13 miles (20 km), starting from the South Kaibab Trailhead and ending at Hermit's Rest.
Along the way, you'll pass through the Grand Canyon visitor center, Grand Canyon Village, Mojave Point, Monument Creek Vista, and finally reach Hermit's Rest. For a real challenge, consider taking the Bright Angel Trail to the North Kaibab Trail, which allows you to hike all the way to the North Rim.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park is a hiker's paradise. Situated in Montana on the Canadian border, it shares its landscape with Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. Exploring the 700 miles of both short and long hikes in Glacier National Park is a must.
Keep in mind that you should watch out for cougars and bears. We've encountered a cougar near the border in Waterton, and they can be dangerous. So, always hike in pairs and maintain conversation to let the wildlife know you're around.
The Wave Trail
Hiking at The Wave in Arizona offers an incredibly unique experience. It's so special that it almost doesn't feel real. When you're here, it's like being on another planet.
Getting a permit for this adventure requires a lot of time and effort, but the reward is a truly exceptional once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The Wave is essentially a rock formation made of sandstone. It's called The Wave because it resembles a rising wave. It's not your typical hiking trail; there's no designated path to follow. Instead, you can explore this remarkable place in every direction. However, it's important to have a map, compass, or GPS with you.
Imagine going on a hike among unique rock formations that look like fairy chimneys, amphitheaters, and stunning pink and orange rocks. That's exactly what it's like to hike in Bryce Canyon. It's no wonder that Bryce Canyon is on everyone's list of the best hiking spots in the United States. It offers hiking opportunities for all levels, from beginners to experienced hikers.
With both short and long hiking trails, you could spend an entire summer exploring the hiking paths of this national park. The Rim Trail, extending for 11 miles (round trip), is one of the finest hikes in Bryce Canyon for enjoying the breathtaking landscape and gaining a true appreciation for this natural wonder.
Zion National Park
Located in Utah, Zion National Park boasts hiking opportunities around rock formations that are around 250 million years old. There are numerous fantastic hiking trails here, but the West Rim Trail is an excellent choice for a multi-day hike with camping options along the way.
Another remarkable trail is the Angels Landing hike, offering views of various formations within Zion. There's so much to explore in Zion that it's advisable to plan for more than just one day here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Situated in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park holds an iconic status as one of the finest hiking destinations in the USA. No matter which part of Rocky Mountain National Park you visit, you'll be treated to 360-degree views that will leave you in awe.
The Continental Divide Trail stretches through Rocky Mountain National Park, extending all the way up to Canada and down to Mexico, covering a distance of just over 3000 miles. It's a blend of both wild and developed trails. You don't have to hike the entire trail, though; you can explore a portion of it right here at Rocky Mountain National Park and discover why it's considered a premier hiking destination.
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
In Hawaii, there's a place called Haleakala National Park on Maui Island. It has a volcano, a forest with tall bamboo, colorful eucalyptus trees, and waterfalls. If you want to go hiking in a really beautiful place in the United States, you should definitely check it out! There's a particularly stunning hike at the end of the Hana Highway.
The Pipiwai Trail will take you to some of the most beautiful spots on Maui. You'll walk through a bamboo forest to reach the impressive 400-foot Waimoku Falls and the Seven Sacred Pools. Another amazing hike here is to go up to the edge of the Haleakala volcano to watch the sunrise.
Point Lobos – Big Sur
While Big Sur is more famous for being a great place for a road trip in California, it's also an excellent destination for hiking. One of the most popular hiking spots in Big Sur is Point Lobos State Park. The Bird Island Trail gives you fantastic views of China Cove, and it leads you to cliffs where you can see sea lions enjoying the sun.
Point Lobos (which means "Point of the Sea Wolves" in Spanish) was named because there are lots of sea lions that hang out on the rocks.
The NaPali Coast is one of the most beautiful places to hike in the USA, and the Kalalau Trail is the only way to get there. The full trail is 22 miles long (about 35.4 km), but it's also one of the top 10 most dangerous trails in the world and requires camping overnight. So, most people choose to do a day hike to Hanakapiai Beach, which is a much easier option.
Starting at Ke’e Beach, one of the best spots to watch the sunset in Kauai, the trail starts to climb right away. The first lookout over Ke’e Beach and the NaPali Coast is truly breathtaking! After all, this coastline is one of the most stunning in the whole world.
As you make your way through the lush Hawaiian forest, the path can get quite muddy. You'll catch glimpses of the coastline as you head towards Hanakapiai Beach. Just before reaching the beach, you'll have to cross the Hanakapiai River. Be cautious because even a small rain can turn the river into a fast and dangerous one, so it's best to cross when the river is calm.
Prepare to be amazed by Grand Teton! This park is right in the middle of Wyoming's stunning scenery, and it offers some of the best hiking spots in the USA. One of the most popular hikes in Grand Teton is the Jenny Lake Trail. It's an 8-mile long trail that's mostly flat, with a 623-foot climb in elevation. This trail allows you to soak in the breathtaking views of Grand Teton.
One of the big reasons it's so popular is that it connects with other great hikes like Hidden Falls, Inspiration Point, and the Forks of Cascade Canyon. This means you can explore several different trails all in one go.
Lake Tahoe boasts some stunning hikes and breathtaking views. However, if you're in search of one of the finest hikes in the USA, consider the renowned Rubicon Trail. This trail spans a lengthy 22 miles, guiding you through a valley floor and up a challenging rocky ascent.
While it may be quite a journey, there are convenient campsites along the trail for rest. Be prepared for numerous winding paths and successive steep climbs. Doesn't that sound like a hiker's dream?
No discussion of the top hiking destinations in the United States would be complete without mentioning Yellowstone! This iconic national park, America's first, is celebrated for its geysers and volcanic activity, making it a paradise for hikers as well.
Situated in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, Yellowstone encompasses over 2.2 million acres, offering an abundance of hiking trails. The North Rim Trail, often referred to as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park, extends for 7.6 miles. Along this route, you can admire Upper Geyser Basin Falls, Cascade Creek, and Crystal Falls, as well as the picturesque Firehole River meandering through Upper Geyser Basin.
Devil’s Bridge Trail
Arizona holds numerous surprises and is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. The state is adorned with splendid locations offering thrilling panoramic views and epic hiking experiences, particularly in Sedona. Among the finest hikes in Sedona is the Devil's Bridge Trail.
The Devil's Bridge, the largest sandstone arch in Sedona, is considered one of the most breathtaking hikes in the United States. This remarkable arch, shaped by wind and weather erosion, is the highlight of the trail.
The hike leading to Devil's Bridge is relatively short but absolutely awe-inspiring. As you trek, you'll be treated to breathtaking vistas of the red rock formations. Take a moment to sit and savor the scenery:
Devil's Bridge standing majestically before you, red rock cliffs in the background, and an seemingly endless lush valley below. Reward yourself for completing the hike. The most magical moments of your journey occur when the rock formations are bathed in brilliant reddish and orangish hues as the setting sun casts its glow upon them.
Please be aware that there may be a queue to take photos atop the bridge. While you are allowed to walk on the bridge, exercise caution and stay on the wider sections, avoiding the narrow edges, and never descend to lower portions of the bridge.
Pictured Rocks Michigan
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore stands out as one of the most stunning destinations to explore in Michigan. With a vast network of 100 miles of trails, you could spend days camping within the confines of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It is renowned for its extraordinary sandstone cliffs.
Blue Hills Reservation
Boston may not have mountains like Denver, but it still offers a couple of impressive hills to conquer. Just a short drive outside the city lies a 7,000-acre reservation with 125 miles of unspoiled hiking trails. Ascend to the summit of Great Blue Hill and revel in an unrivaled view of the city's skyline. Be prepared for some crowds during the warmer months. If you're a fan of skiing, return in the winter for some enjoyable slalom action.
Great Smokey Mountains
North Carolina (and Tennessee) is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a natural gem. Within its expansive 200,000 acres, you'll discover numerous astounding hiking trails, totaling 500 miles in length. Notably, 101 miles of the famed Appalachian Trail traverse this park, allowing you to experience a taste of the challenges faced by those hiking the entire trail.
Another must-see hike is the Cascade Falls trail, which leads you to a thunderous 20-foot waterfall in E.B. Jeffress Park.
While it might be the biggest nature reserve in the green town of Lincoln, the mountain it's named after is more like a small hill. If you explore these paths, you're sure to come across charming animals like chipmunks, squirrels, birds, and deer. When you reach the top of Mount Misery, you can enjoy views of the Sudbury River and Fairhaven Bay. Concord's famous Walden Pond (which inspired Henry David Thoreau's Walden) is also close by, so you can make a whole day of visiting both natural wonders.
Red Rock Canyon Nevada
One of the highlights of my trip to Las Vegas was visiting Red Rock Canyon. If you ever start feeling tired of the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas, consider taking a trip to Red Rock Canyon. It's only a 25-minute drive west from the Las Vegas Strip, and it's one of the most popular outdoor destinations in Nevada.
There are various trails suitable for beginners, intermediates, and advanced hikers. Red Rock Canyon is also a top spot in the United States for rock climbing, and it's not unusual to spot rock climbers scaling the vibrant orange cliffs throughout the park.