The great outdoors in the United States has a lot to offer. Geography can change drastically in a matter of a few miles, offering seascapes, deserts, plains, and mountain ridges. There’s no better time to explore some of these regions than in the summer and fall, when hiking trails become more accessible and the weather becomes perfect for lacing up your boots for just a few miles or for a week-long excursion.
Just as the country’s landscape varies, so does its hiking trails. Some of the most renowned hiking locations are easy enough for beginners, and others are best left for when you’ve earned your hiking stripes. No matter what, there’s something for everyone. There are hiking trails to be found in almost every corner of the state, but there are some that rise above the rest. If you’re ready to see the great outdoors, we’ve compiled a list of must-hike trails recommended by the experts and hikers who know them best. If you’re staying out overnight, most trails and national parks require permits, so make sure you’ve completed the necessary steps to prepare for whatever length of trail you’re undertaking.
Whether you’re looking for a guy’s weekend, a trip with your significant other, or quality time in solitude, these are The Ten Most Beautiful Hiking Spots in America if you’re looking for a quality outdoor adventure. Skill levels vary, though it will vary depending on how long and which sections of certain trails you travel through. If you’re an avid outdoorsman you probably have a list of your own must-visit spots, but take the word of some other adventurers to expand your horizons.
Zion National Park
With a wide variety of options and a multitude of landscapes, Zion National Park in Utah is a hiker’s and climber’s paradise. The park is very well organized, there’s a shuttle system that passes many of the trailheads, and there’s plenty of backpacking options for those looking for a more serious overnight adventure. If you really want to experience Zion, it’s important to explore both the depths of the canyon and the various cliffs that dot the park. Be sure to do some homework and planning before coming to Zion, particularly if you’re an inexperienced hiker.
It would be a crime to mention great hikes in the US and not mention the Grand Canyon. The vast majority of tourists come to the Grand Canyon each year and don’t make it past the rim. While wandering around the rim and seeing the Grand Canyon from above is certainly amazing, it’s even more spectacular to see the power of the Canyon from the bottom. It takes a lot of advanced planning, but if you want to see the canyon from a unique perspective, consider hiking to the bottom and camping.
Yosemite National Park
This massive park really does have it all, from 200 foot waterfalls to over a hundred lakes to prehistoric looking trees to mountains to meadows and even a few beaches. What better way to explore this unique and beautiful park than on foot? You want options? You have plenty with over 800 miles of trails, from easy (and crowded) paved trails for those just looking for a nice, relaxing walk to challenging, remote, unmaintained trails for the hardcore trekkers.
Columbia River Gorge
The second largest river in the United States is the backdrop for this amazing area in the Pacific Northwest. The rainy weather may not be the favorite part of visiting here, but the scenery wouldn’t be as spectacular without it. Waterfalls abound in the Columbia River Gorge, and hiking opportunities for the outdoor lover are endless.
Denali National Park
Denali is hands down one of the most unique hiking areas in the United States. The most appealing aspect for hikers visiting this Alaskan wonderland is that there are no marked trails once you are out of the entrance area (which does have several marked trails). But if you really want to get into the backcountry and wilderness, go beyond the entrance for some amazing opportunities to experience nature in its most raw form.
Glacier National Park
Located in northern Montana and bordering Alberta and British Columbia, Glacier National Park offers hikers some amazing natural settings. Rugged mountains, a multitude of lakes, gorgeous meadows, and immaculate forests greet visitors to Glacier NP. Planning a getaway to Glacier offers hikers the chance to get away from the crowds that gather at other more popular national parks.
Rocky Mountain National Park
A separate article could easily be written about the amazing hiking opportunities throughout the state of Colorado. Though there are probably equally spectacular places to hike, you just can’t go wrong with Rocky Mountain National Park. With the highest peak reaching over 14,000 feet, there are plenty of amazing trails to really experience the wild of the Rocky Mountains.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Most travelers don’t think of the United States when they want to see volcanoes, but our fiftieth state has plenty and offers something that no other US state can. A large percentage of visitors to Hawaii go for the amazing beaches and water activities that come with them, but Hawaii is also quite the outdoorsman’s paradise. If you want to see terrain and landscapes that you can’t see anywhere else in the country, then head to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
Great Smoky Mountains
Because the southern location of the Smokies, hiking is possible year-round. While it can get cold and weather is a factor in any mountain range, it’s easier to hike year-round here than in most other mountain ranges in the US. You won’t get the ruggedness of the Rocky Mountain or Glacier National Park, but there are still amazing views to be had, pristine streams and rushing waterfalls, and plenty of forest and wildlife opportunities. Choosing a trail may be the hardest part, as the Smokies are massive and the choices are never-ending.
It’s impossible to mention hiking and the United States without mentioning the Appalachian Trail (AT). A trail that stretches over 2100 miles and passes through 14 states, from Georgia to Maine, is one of the best and most varied trails in the country. If you are a hiker, then it would be sacrilegious not to hike at least part of this epic trail.