Best Hiking Trails in the US – the Ultimate Guide

Hiking is a popular activity across the United States, and for a good reason: the country contains some stunning trails! If you enjoy hiking and want to discover the best trails near you, this guide has everything you need to know. 

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Image from Pixabay

No matter where you like to hike, you’re sure to find some great trails in the United States. Because the country is so large, it contains nearly every type of terrain: from mountains and snow to deserts, forests, and coastline. Unfortunately, the size of the United States also means that you may not be able to hike every trail on this list. 

To help you break down the vast amount of incredible trails in the United States, we’ve organized this list by regions of the United States — North, South, East, and West. Each of these regions often contains many different types of terrain, so be sure to check all of the hikes out to find some you love!

Types of Hikes

Though all of the hikes on this list are enjoyable, they’re not all suited for the same skill levels. Certain options here are great for beginners, while others require far more experience to complete successfully. 

To help you get a quick picture of the hike’s difficulty, we’ve included the length in miles along with each description. However, if you’ve never hiked before it may be difficult to gauge how far you feel comfortable hiking. Certain types of terrain may make a hike much more difficult than others — two hikes of the same length can vary drastically in difficulty. 

You can complete them all within one day, though beginner hikers may need to take more time for some of them. Depending on the location, you may also need to purchase some specialized gear to hike safely — don’t travel to Alaska, for example, without crampons!

The Best Hiking Trails in the US

Without further ado, here is our list of the best hiking trails in the United States! 

West


Out of all of the regions of the United States, the West may have the most beautiful hiking trails. Part of this is due to the high amount of national parks you’ll find in the American West. Similarly, the West also features some of the most diverse landscapes of any place in the country. 

Desert vistas dominate large swaths of the West, with Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico featuring some of the most stunning deserts you’ll find anywhere in the world. These deserts house a few of the country’s most famous parks as well, like Arches National Park or Bryce Canyon National Park.

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Image from Pixabay

As you move further West, you’ll find mountains and forests. The Rocky Mountains, which run for most of the length of the West, are among the highest peaks in the country. If you live in one of the Western states, you can most likely access the Rocky Mountains with just a few hours of driving.

The Rockies, along with the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California and Nevada, feature beautiful snow-capped vistas and rocky, rugged terrain lower down. Before you hike in the mountains, though, make sure you can deal with the elevation! The mountains are so high that the air is noticeably thinner at the peak — older or weaker hikers may struggle to adjust.

Moving towards the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find idyllic coastline along with some exceptional beaches. While hiking trails along the coast aren’t as common in large cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco, you can find some spectacular locations for a great hike if you look a bit further out of the urban areas.

Finally, the West also incorporates the silvan forests of Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. These form a beautiful contrast with the sparse deserts you find across the rest of the West. They only add to the stunning biodiversity of the American West — no matter what terrain you want to hike, you’ll be able to find it in the West.

Devil’s Bridge Trail, Arizona


For beginner and intermediate hikers, the Devil’s Bridge Trail is a great option. This 1.8-mile loop traverses through the arches near Sedona, Arizona. Because of the shorter distance, it won’t tire out hikers who don’t have much experience or haven’t built up their stamina.

However, certain passages along this route can be tricky. The trail takes its name from the Devil’s Bridge, which is the largest natural sandstone arch in the area (according to CountryLiving). Crossing around the arches poses a challenge. However, the incredible views you’ll get are worth it in the end!

Sedona, Arizona is located near Flagstaff in the central part of the state. Though it may be a bit difficult to access because of its small size, Sedona offers plenty of trails for novice and seasoned hikers alike. The trailheads at the north edge of town lead to Red Rocks State Park, which features a wealth of incredible hiking options.

Lakes Trail, California


The Lakes Trail passes through the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks — home to some of the tallest and largest trees in the world. In fact, the General Sherman tree found in Sequoia and Kings Canyon is the largest single-stem tree in the world by volume. It clocks in at a whopping 275 feet tall!

Aside from all of the towering redwoods, you can also experience the Watchtower along the Lakes Trail. This is a massive granite formation that offers stunning vistas of the valley below. Make sure to pack a camera when you go!

At seven miles long, the Lakes Trail may be a stretch for new hikers. The terrain is relatively easy, however, and intermediate and advanced hikers should have no problems here. The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located in central California, almost directly between San Francisco and Los Angeles. 

Seven Bridges Trail, Colorado


This trail near Colorado Springs, Colorado, offers plenty of challenges for new and experienced hikers alike. The trail takes its name from seven wooden bridges that stretch over smooth brooks, though there are far more than just creeks to see on this route! Beginners can stick to the flat trails, while advanced hikers may take advantage of the rock climbing portions. 

Seven Bridges also offers a waterfall which makes a beautiful resting point. The total trail only stretches for 3.7 miles, which makes it appropriate for all skill levels (including children). However, it’s set up as an out-and-back trail rather than a loop. This means that the trailhead often gets crowded, particularly in the peak season between May and November. 

This trail is best to hike in the summer when the weather is warm, and you can take advantage of all the flowing water. You can find Colorado Springs south of Denver in the central part of the state. While the town isn’t that large, it’s a nature enthusiast’s paradise. It’s got tons of trails, creeks, and mountains to explore in all different terrains.

Mist Trail, California


While Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are famous themselves, the most iconic national park in California is easily Yosemite. The Mist Trail takes you through some of the Yosemite Valley’s most notable sights, with beautiful scenes and two waterfalls along the way.

Along the path of the trail, you’ll cross two waterfalls: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. It only takes 2.4 miles round trip to reach Vernal Fall, making this a great place for beginners to stop and rest. If you’d like to continue onward, a round trip to Nevada Fall takes 5.4 miles. 

One of the great benefits of Mist Trail is the fact that there are so many things to see in Yosemite. While the park itself is located in relatively remote central California, there are plenty of hotels available. Yosemite is a great location for a week-long getaway!

North


While the West and South may be known for their sunny weather, the North of the United States offers some incredible scenery as well. Depending on what time of year you hike, the trails may look completely different — it’s a great way to create multiple experiences from the same trail. 

The North of the United States also contains plenty of different landscapes. From the North Midwest states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and even Illinois to New York and New England, you can find mountains, pastures, and even coastline as well. 

Bluff Point, Connecticut


Bluff Point State Park offers some of the most beautiful shoreline views you’ll find anywhere on the East Coast. However, the trails in the State Park feature far more than just the coast. You’ll also find plenty of woody forests and green spaces without needing to make a separate hike. 

Multiple trails wind throughout the state park, which means that you can find the trek of the perfect length for you no matter your skill level. Even the longer paths are accessible for beginners because the terrain is relatively flat throughout the park.

You can find Bluff Point State Park near Groton, Connecticut. It’s easily accessible from major urban centers like Boston, Providence, and New York City. If you want to, you can also bring your swim trunks for a fun day in the water after your hike!

Harding Icefield Trail, Alaska


While most people think of the Northeast when someone mentions the North United States, Alaska is the furthest North you can get in the country! The terrain may be difficult, but among all of the snow and ice, Alaska contains some of the most breathtaking landscapes you’ll find anywhere. 

You’ll find Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park, a beautiful wilderness that encompasses more than 700 square miles of the Harding Icefield. But while the majority of the park is snow and ice, you’ll also encounter greener tundra and even a couple of trees and pastures along the route. 

The Icefield Trail itself stretches for eight miles, which makes it a long path for beginners to hike. With that in mind, only advanced hikers should attempt the Harding Icefield, because you gain roughly 1,000 feet of elevation for each mile you walk! The demanding elevation gain can tire out even the most experienced fitness enthusiasts. 

South


Along with the West, the South of the United States offers some beautiful coastlines and mountain scenery. States like Tennessee and West Virginia offer high mountain climbing, while you can find open expanses in Texas and Arkansas and smooth coastlines throughout the Carolinas and Florida. 

The South is often much hotter than other parts of the country, which means you may get tired more quickly than if you’re hiking in other places. This is something to keep in mind, particularly for beginners who may have trouble gauging how far they can hike. Thankfully, you’ll find more flat hikes here, so the change in elevation isn’t devastating.

Conecuh Trail, Alabama


Situated two hours away from both Montgomery and Mobile, the Conecuh Trail offers picturesque views of Southern ponds, lakes, and forests. No matter your ability, you can take on this trail thanks to the two paths. The north loop, which is 13.5 miles long, works best for advanced hikers. Beginners should try the five-mile-long south loop instead.

Conecuh doesn’t contain any major elevation gains, but it can be challenging thanks to the heat and bugs. Make sure to pack some repellent if you try this trail!

Anhinga Trail, Florida


The Anhinga Trail is one of the shortest trails on this list. At less than one mile long, it barely qualifies as a hike! However, it’s more than worth the effort to get here thanks to its incredible scenery.

Anhinga winds through the heart of the Florida Everglades, often crossing above the water on a series of boardwalks. Look off the trail, and you’ll find all sorts of unique plant and animal species. Just don’t fall into the water, because there are alligators!

Guadalupe Peak Trail, Texas


Guadalupe Peak Trail is unique among all of the others listed here. It’s the only trail we’ve mentioned that takes you to the tallest point in the state! Located two hours east of El Paso in the Southwest portion of the state, Guadalupe Peak reaches a peak elevation of 8,571 feet.

The total trail stretches for 8.4 miles, which is a lot for beginners to handle in one day. However, experienced hikers will love the challenge of both length and elevation.

East


Situated between the snowy peaks of the North and the warm forests of the South, the Eastern seaboard offers some exceptional hikes through the coastline and temperate forests. Unlike some of the other regions, East Coast states are great to hike through all seasons of the year. They’re particularly beautiful in the fall when the trees turn yellow and orange. 

Billy Goat Trail, Maryland


This complex hike is accessible for residents of Washington, DC, and Baltimore — it’s less than an hour’s drive away from the cities. However, that doesn’t mean it’s a cakewalk! As the name “Billy Goat Trail” implies, this hike requires some tricky steps over rocks and other obstacles. 

The scenery incorporates rivers, rocks, and trees along the course of the route. At 4.7 miles in total length, it’s doable for beginners and experienced hikers alike. 

Old Rag Mountain Ridge Trail, Virginia


The Old Rag Mountain Ridge hike gives you some stunning views of the Shenandoah Valley in the heartland of the East Coast. While you don’t need to hike the entire loop, it travels over 16 miles in total. Beginners will find it an extreme challenge, while even seasoned hikers may tire after a while. 

The trail contains a difficult rock portion that you’ll need to climb through. Most hikers make the loop in a clockwise fashion to climb this portion on the uphill side, though some prefer to scramble downhill instead. 

Pochuck Boardwalk, New Jersey


This boardwalk in Glenwood, New Jersey, covers parts of the longer Appalachian Trail. The easy hiking surface, short length, and beautiful terrain make this a great choice for walkers of all skill levels. While it only stretches 1.5 miles, the wooden surface makes this a unique and exciting alternative to unpaved hiking trails. 

Along either side of the trail, you’ll pass through extended meadows with flowers in beautiful pastel colors. If you want to hike the Pochuck Boardwalk, though, you’ll need to plan. The trail fills up quickly each day, and logjams aren’t uncommon along certain stretches.

Summary

The United States offers exceptional hiking trails across all different terrains. No matter your skill level, you’re sure to find a trail you enjoy in some part of the nation! 

Our guide contains trails for beginners, advanced hikers, and everyone in between. The different locations we feature are accessible for practically anyone, no matter your location. Take a look at our guide when you plan your next hiking adventure!

Featured Image from Pixabay

Janice Friedman
 

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