20 of The Best Hikes in the United States

the best hikes in the US

The United States is one of the best countries in the world for hiking, especially when it comes to the diversity of landscapes and the number of trails to choose from. According to the American Hiking Society, the nation boasts more than 193,500 miles of trails on federal lands and over 42,500 miles of trails on state lands. From vast deserts with otherworldly rock formations to snowy mountain ranges dotted with evergreen forests, the United States has many different environments to explore on foot. In case you need some inspiration for your next hiking adventure, here are 20 of the best hikes in the US.

1. Half Dome

the best hikes in the US

 

Location: Yosemite National Park, California

Distance: 14 to 16 miles

Duration: 10 to 14 hours

Difficulty: Very challenging

Type: Out and back

As one of the most iconic features in Yosemite National Park, Half Dome is an incredible day hike for experienced hikers in good physical condition. With an elevation gain of nearly 5,000 feet, the climb is known to be grueling.

The final ascent is infamous since it requires the assistance of steel cables as you make the last push to the top of the rock face. Once you’re there, you’ll be rewarded with one of Yosemite’s most spectacular views. You’ll need a permit if you want to hike Half Dome, so make sure to plan ahead.

2. Bright Angel Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Distance: 15 miles

Duration: 10 hours to 2 days

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Grand Canyon National Park. With sweeping views of the canyon and the Colorado River, this trail includes some of the park’s best vistas. Hikers in exceptional shape can complete the trail in a day, but most day hikers shorten the route by turning back at Indian Garden – especially in the summer when temperatures soar.

For an even more epic adventure, do the entire rim-to-rim hike over two to three days. If you take the Bright Angel Trail and North Kaibab Trail, the strenuous point-to-point journey will be 23.5 miles.

3. Highline Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Glacier National Park, Montana

Distance: 7.5 to 15 miles

Duration: 8 to 10 hours for the full 15 miles

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

Spanning 7.5 miles from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet in Glacier National Park, this challenging day hike easily ranks among the best hikes in the US. In fact, many people consider it among the best hikes in the world. The Highline Trail is exposed in places and has little vegetation obstructing your view, allowing you to enjoy incredible vistas during the entire hike. From alpine meadows filled with wildflowers to turquoise lakes and glaciers, the views on this hike do not disappoint.

The Highline Trail has several variations: you can do the hike as a 15-mile out-and-back trek or a 7.5-mile point-to-point trail. There is also a moderate 11.6-mile version from Logan Pass to The Loop that takes about 5 to 7 hours. Since you’ll need to use steel cables to navigate some of the exposed sections, neither version of the Highline Trail is recommended for hikers who are afraid of heights.

4. Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte

the best hikes in the US

Location: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Distance: 11 miles

Duration: 6 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

With scenery like mountain streams, old-growth hardwood forests, wild rhododendrons, and large rock overhangs, the Alum Cave Trail highlights the best of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The challenging trail packs in nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain, but it’s worth the effort. This route also takes hikers to the top of 6,594-foot Mount LeConte, offering one of the best views in the entire park. You can do the hike in a day or plan an overnight at the rustic and charming LeConte Lodge.

5. Skyline Trail Loop

the best hikes in the US

Location: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Distance: 6.2 miles

Duration: 3 to 5 hours

Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging

Type: Loop

If you’re planning a trip to Washington State’s Mount Rainier National Park, don’t miss the Skyline Trail Loop. This 6.2-mile trail is a moderately challenging day hike that takes you past evergreen forests, snowfields, streams, alpine meadows, and Myrtle Falls. You’ll also get to ascend part of Mount Rainier. Once you reach Panorama Point, expect awe-inspiring views of the park’s seemingly endless peaks. On clear days with good visibility, you can see all the way to Mt. Hood in the neighboring state of Oregon.

6. John Muir Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: California

Distance: 211 miles

Duration: 3 weeks

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Point to point

Hiking the 211-mile John Muir Trail in California is an unforgettable adventure that deserves a spot on every hiker’s bucket list. The trail connects Mount Whitney (the highest peak in the lower 48 states) to Yosemite Valley and winds through some of the most beautiful parts of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. Most of the John Muir Trail overlaps with the Pacific Crest Trail, and many say it is among the most stunning sections of the PCT.

In addition to Yosemite National Park, the JMT will take you through spectacular protected areas, including Inyo National Forest, Sierra National Forest, Sequoia National Park, and Kings Canyon National Park. You’ll need a permit to hike the JMT, so keep this in mind when planning your adventure.

On average, it takes hikers about three weeks to complete the trail. If you have less time for your hiking trip, consider hiking a shorter section, such as the Mount Whitney climb or Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows.

7. Kalalau Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park, Hawaii

Distance: 22 miles

Duration: 3-5 days

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

The rugged Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai is a dream destination for hikers in Hawaii. Since the Kalalau Trail is one of the only ways to access the area by land, it truly feels like a remote tropical paradise. The Na Pali Coast appeared in the film Jurassic Park and features towering sea cliffs, cascading waterfalls, and lush vegetation.

Hiking the entire 22-mile Kalalau Trail takes about three days, but many hikers choose to extend this to four or five days. Doing so allows you to spend more time exploring and enjoying the breathtaking scenery in this sacred place. For a shorter trip, hike to the Hanakapiai Valley waterfall pool from the Kalalau trailhead, located at Ke’e Beach. Anyone planning to hike past Hanakapiai Valley is required to have an overnight camping permit.

8. Mount Katahdin

the best hikes in the US

Location: Baxter State Park, Maine

Distance: 8 miles

Duration: 8 to 12 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Loop

Mount Katahdin is the tallest peak in the state of Maine and the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Set among the dense forests of Baxter State Park, Mount Katahdin offers incredible views of Maine’s wilderness. Various routes will take you to the summit, all of which are considered strenuous. If you’re comfortable with exposure, it’s hard to beat the Knife Edge and Chimney Pond. This route is steep, requires some intense rock scrambling, and packs in around 4,000 feet of elevation gain.

9. Angels Landing Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

Distance: 5.4 miles

Duration: 3 to 5 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

Considered one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, Angels Landing Trail in Utah’s Zion National Park is a fantastic day hike with spectacular views of the canyon. Despite the short length, the trail is steep, strenuous, and requires hikers to climb around 1,500 vertical feet. You’ll need a strong tolerance for heights and exposure, as the trail has sheer drop-offs of more than 1,000 feet. There are chains in places to assist hikers, but overall the path is narrow and extremely exposed. The National Park Service now requires hikers to get a permit for this hike due to issues with overcrowding, which should make the trail safer for all who attempt it.

10. Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Distance: 2.9 miles

Duration: 2 to 3 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Type: Loop

One of the best trails in Bryce Canyon National Park, the Navajo Loop and Queen’s Garden Trail offers jaw-dropping views of the park’s famous amphitheater and hoodoos. This easy, family-friendly trail is accessible to most park visitors and only takes about two to three hours to complete. Part of the Navajo Loop is closed in the winter because of potentially dangerous and icy conditions, so plan your Bryce Canyon trip during the spring, summer, or fall if you want to experience the entire length of this gorgeous desert trail.

11. Nugget Falls Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Tongass National Forest, Alaska

Distance: 2 miles

Duration: 1 to 2 hours

Difficulty: Easy

Type: Out and back

This easy trail near Juneau, Alaska, takes you to the terminus of the Mendenhall Glacier and provides beautiful views of 377-foot Nugget Falls and the Tongass National Forest. Wildlife viewing opportunities are abundant, with chances to spot bald eagles, black bears, sockeye salmon, porcupines, and more. The popular trail gets busy – especially when cruise ships are in port – so check out some of the area’s other 700 miles of trails if you’re looking for a more secluded outing.

12. La Plata Peak

the best hikes in the US

Location: San Isabel National Forest, Colorado

Distance: 10 miles

Duration: 6 to 9 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

At an elevation of 14,336 feet above sea level, La Plata Peak is the fifth-highest summit in the Rocky Mountains and one of the best hikes in the US. Climbing the peak is a challenging but phenomenal day hike with gorgeous panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and pine forests. The 10-mile trail has around 4,500 feet of elevation gain and is challenging due to the high altitude. The hike requires some class 2 scrambling over talus towards the summit, but it’s not particularly technical. This makes La Plata Peak a relatively accessible 14er to add to your bucket list.

13. Grinnell Glacier Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Glacier National Park, Montana

Distance: 11 miles

Duration: 5 to 7 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

One of the most stunning hikes in Montana’s Glacier National Park, the Grinnell Glacier Trail highlights the park’s namesake features – glaciers. The trail includes gorgeous landscapes, panoramic views, alpine meadows, turquoise lakes, and waterfalls. You’ll also have opportunities to view wildlife like mountain goats, bighorn sheep, moose, and bears. If you want to experience the majestic scenery but are looking for a shorter route, you can shave off 3.4 miles from this trail by taking a boat ride across Lake Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lake.

14. Cirque of the Towers Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Wind River Range, Wyoming

Distance: 24 miles

Duration: 2-3 days

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Loop

This stunning two or three-day backpacking trip explores some of the most beautiful areas in Wyoming’s Wind River Mountain Range. The Cirque of the Towers Trail starts at Big Sandy Trailhead and is best to complete between July and September. Most of the area is above the tree line, so you’ll have gorgeous panoramic views for much of the hike. Over several days, you’ll see pristine rivers and lakes, wildflower meadows, and craggy peaks reaching heights of around 12,000 feet in elevation.

The trail is an incredible adventure but is only recommended for experienced hikers comfortable with hiking in wilderness areas and at high elevations. The lowest point along the route is 9,100 feet, so you’ll be hiking at altitude the entire way.

15. Devils Garden Primitive Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Arches National Park, Utah

Distance: 7.8 miles

Duration: 3 to 4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Type: Loop

Located in surreal Arches National Park, the Devils Garden Primitive Trail is a fantastic way to explore this unique desert landscape. Although it’s less than 8 miles long, the trail is one of the park’s longest hikes. Hikers will be able to see some of the park’s famous arches, including Double O Arch and Landscape Arch, the longest arch in North America. Other rock formations you’ll be able to see include sandstone spires and narrow rock walls known as “fins.” The trail requires some scrambling on slickrock as you approach Double O Arch and should be avoided when conditions are wet or snowy.

16. Sky Pond

the best hikes in the US

Location: Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Distance: 9.4 miles

Duration: 4 to 6 hours

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging

Type: Out and back

The route to Sky Point is one of the best trails in Rocky Mountain National Park and one of the best hikes in the US. With pristine waterfalls, dense pine forests, serene mountain lakes, and snow-capped peaks, the varied views keep this hike interesting along the entire 9.4-mile trail. The path starts at an elevation of over 9,000 feet at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead and reaches 10,880 feet at Sky Pond. Although the overall elevation gain is only around 2,100 feet, the hike feels quite strenuous due to the altitude.

17. Harding Icefield Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Distance: 8.2 miles

Duration: 6 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

If you’re visiting Alaska, this 8.2-mile hike in Kenai Fjords National Park makes an excellent adventure. Beginning at the Exit Glacier Area, the trail climbs around 1,000 feet per mile up to the border of the 700-square-mile Harding Icefield. The icefield feeds the park’s glaciers and is one of the largest icefields in the US.

In addition to the Harding Icefield, hikers will see beautiful alder and cottonwood forests, heather-filled meadows, surrounding mountains, and Alaskan wildlife. Be prepared for a challenge, as well as potential hazards like avalanches, bear sightings, and severe weather.

18. Emory Peak

the best hikes in the US

Location: Big Bend National Park, Texas

Distance: 10.4 miles

Duration: 6 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

Emory Peak (7,825 feet) is the highest mountain in Big Bend National Park and in the Chisos Mountains. The simplest way to get there is via an out and back trail beginning at the Chisos Basin Visitor Center. Once you reach the summit, you’ll have an amazing 360-degree view of the Chisos Basin, Chihuahua Mountain Range, and Big Bend National Park. If you’re looking for a longer hiking adventure, you can combine Emory Peak with the South Rim Trail. The 15.6-mile loop trail is a full-day trip, taking about 8 to 10+ hours to complete.

19. Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: North Cascades National Park

Distance: 12 miles

Duration: 6 to 8 hours

Difficulty: Challenging

Type: Out and back

Known as one of the best day hikes in Washington’s North Cascades National Park, this strenuous trail is also one of the best hikes in the US. The 12-mile Cascade Pass and Sahale Arm Trail features breathtaking views along the entire route. The trail passes through dense evergreen forests and subalpine meadows, with plenty of opportunities to see wildlife like mountain goats, marmots, deer, and occasionally bears.

In addition to flora and fauna, hikers can take in the impressive scenery, including jagged mountain ridgelines, glaciers, and snow-covered peaks extending towards the horizon. You’ll need to work to get these views, however, as the trail has around 5,000 feet of elevation gain.

20. Precipice Trail

the best hikes in the US

Location: Acadia National Park

Distance: 2.5 miles

Duration: 2 to 4 hours

Difficulty: Moderate

Type: Loop

The Precipice Trail is a must when visiting Maine’s Acadia National Park, as long as you’re not afraid of heights! The trail has significant exposure and fall risk and requires hikers to climb up to the summit of Champlain Mountain with the help of metal rungs attached to the cliffs. Despite the steep ascents and sheer drop-offs, the Precipice Trail is short and not particularly strenuous. Those who decide to brave the route will have some of the most beautiful views in Acadia over the course of this exhilarating hike.

Conclusion

With some of the world’s best long-distance routes and over 236,000 miles of public trails, it’s no secret that the United States is home to many incredible hikes. We couldn’t list all of the country’s spectacular trails, but we think each of the options above would make a worthy addition to your bucket list.

What did you think of our top picks? Let us know your favorite US hikes in the comments!


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