We’ve been writing a lot about hiking all around the United States this past year, so we thought it was high time we round up all of the best hikes in the United States in one place. We love creating a bucket list of experiences. Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to say you’ve conquered all of these amazing trails? People might be staying closer to home for the next couple of years as the world figures itself out, so why not start exploring all of these great outdoor destinations in the USA.
Best Places to Hike in the United States
Planning on doing a lot of hiking and backcountry in the future? Check out these tips:
Tongass National Forest – Alaska
Let’s start off our best hikes in the USA in the final frontier of adventure travel, Alaska! Making a base in Juneau Alaska, the Tongass National Forest is filled with hiking trails. There are 700 miles of hiking trails as a matter a fact. If you don’t have backcountry experience, you should hire a guide. This is wild America with bears, glaciers, and caves to be found along almost every trail. If you take a small-ship Alaskan cruise you’ll have plenty of opportunities to hike in Alaska. The Nugget Falls trail is a popular hike leaving from the Mendenhall Glacier visitors center. Mendenhall Glacier is one of Alaska’s most iconic glaciers.
Plan your hiking trip in Alaska with these Resources:
Yosemite National Park – California
Yosemite National Park is another American gem that is full of incredible hiking trails. Yosemite National Park is huge at 1200 square miles (3,027 km²). However, most of the great hikes of Yosemite are situated around the Yosemite Valley. The Half Dome Hike is the most popular hike in Yosemite NP. This 14-mile round trip hike takes about 10 – 12 hours to hike and goes up 5000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. Be prepared for using cables during the final 400 feet which allows hikers to summit without climbing equipment. Read more: Things to do in Yosemite National Park
Plan your trip to Yosemite with these Resources:
Mount Whitney – California
Located in California, Mount Whitney is on every hiker’s bucket list. Climbing to 6,656 foot elevation, this 22.5 mile out-and-back trail can believe it or not be climbed in a single day. But we recommend a multi-day backpacking adventure. This challenging hike takes you through gorgeous mountain peaks, lakes and valleys with spectacular lookouts. Reaching the summit is a true feat. Read all about how to climb Mount Whitney Here by Guest writer Jenna of UpAndAwayMag.
Hiking Resources for California
John Muir Trail – California
One of the most iconic hikes in America is the John Muir Trail. This massive hike is 220 miles long and goes through some of America’s most famous national parks including Yosemite National Park, Ansel Adams Wilderness Area, Sequoia, and Kings Canyon National Park. I know what you are thinking, we have a lot of California hikes on our USA hiking trails list. Well, that’s because there are so many national parks and amazing trails! So much so that it requires an entire post of its own: 15 Best Hikes in California – Inspiration to Get Outdoors
Oregon has a ton of hiking trails that take you through mountainous landscapes, dense forests, and rugged coastlines. With 361 state parks and 11 national forests, Oregon is a hiking mecca in America. The Pacific Crest Trail runs through Oregon and you can hike a part of this mammoth trail that runs from Mexico to Canada but there are plenty of choices within the state. We are choosing Smith Rock’s Misery Ridge trail as it’s one of the more famous hiking trails in America. At just 3.5-miles it is short and sweet, but it is steep and spectacular. High on Misery Ridge, you’ll see rock formations like The Monkey Face Rock, sheer granite rock faces, and calm mirror lakes.
Plan your Hiking Adventure in Oregon
Pacific Crest Trail
Since we mentioned it above, The Pacific Crest Trail is most certainly the bucket list hike of the United States. It is 2650 miles (4265 km) long and lets you see the complete gamut of North America’s landscape as you traverse it from south to north from the border of Mexico to Canada. Of course, most people aren’t going to be doing the full hike into the northern territory, but it’s romantic to think about doing so just the same. You might know The Pacific Crest Trail from the popular book Wild by Cheryl Strayed that was turned into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon. See details about hiking the Pacific Coast Trail at Discover the Trail.
Since we mention it above, we should include the Appalachian Trail. Another mammoth of US hikes to add to the bucket list. It passes through 14 states from Georgia to Maine on the East Coast of the United States. It is a huge undertaking to try to trek this hike in one season. Most people tackle a little at a time. Another cool thing about this trail is that the International Appalachian Trail goes into Canada up to Newfoundland.
Continental Divide Trail
To round off the Triple Crown of Hiking in the United States, we must include the Continental Divide. What is the Triple Crown you ask? The Appalachian Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail. The Continental Divide Trail Coalition is one of those cross-country trails spanning 3,028 miles (4,873 km). It runs from Mexico to Canada up the center of the country following the great divide of the Rocky Mountains.
Joshua Tree National Park
For surreal lunar-like landscape hiking in the US, make your way to Joshua Tree National Park in California. It is located 140 miles from Los Angeles and you’ll recognize it from many a Hollywood movie. There are several hikes to choose from in Joshua Tree with hikes ranging from just a quarter-mile to 10 miles long! Check out all the best hikes in Joshua Tree National Park here.
Plan your California Hiking Adventure
Badlands National Park
Don’t write off South Dakota when it comes to hiking. Badlands National Park is not only beautiful, but it also offers a lot of opportunities to get out of the car. There are several easy hikes in Badlands National Park that can be explored from the short hikes at Notch Trail, Fossil Trail, and Cliff’s Shelf Trail, to the longer 10-mile hike through Castle Trail and the 22-mile loop of the Sage Creek Wilderness Area. Whichever trail you choose, you can guarantee beautiful scenery.
Plan your South Dakota Hiking Adventure
The Grand Canyon is the mother of all destinations in the United States. Who doesn’t want to visit the Grand Canyon and being able to get out and hike along the rim? This is at the top of every traveler’s list. You can actually hike from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North crossing the Colorado River to boot!
The Rim Trail is one of the most popular hikes in the Grand Canyon. It goes from the South Kaibab Trailhead to Hermit’s Rest for 13 miles (20 km) taking you through the Grand Canyon visitor center, Grand Canyon Village, Mojave Point, Monument Creek Vista, and finally Hermit’s Rest. If you really want a challenge take the Bright Angel Trail to the North Kaibab Trail where you can hike all the way to the North Rim.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park was made for hiking. Located in Montana on the Canadian border, it shares its landmass with Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta. Getting outdoors at Glacier National Park is a must and the best way to do that is to explore its 700 miles of both short hikes and long hikes. Take note that you will need to keep an eye out for cougars and bears. We’ve come across a cougar on the border in Waterton and they can be dangerous. So be sure to always hike in pairs and keep on talking to let wildlife know you are there.
Imagine hiking through fairy chimneys, amphitheaters, and beautiful pink and orange rock. That is exactly what it is like hiking in Bryce Canyon. There is a reason that Bryce Canyon is on everyone’s list of the best places to hike in the U.S. It is filled with hiking for all levels, from beginner to seasoned hikers. With short and long hikes, you could spend a summer exploring the hiking trails of this national park. The Rim Trail is one of the best hikes in Bryce Canyon for landscape views and gives you a true appreciation for this wonder of Mother Nature. At 11 miles long (out and back), it’s a good distance offering some of the best views of the rock formations.
Zion National Park
Located in Utah, Zion National Park offers hiking around 250 million-year-old rock formations. There are several great hiking trails here, but the West Rim Trail makes for a great multi-day hike with camping along the route. Another great trail is the Angels Landing hiking trail as it offers views of so many different formations in Zion. There is so much exploration to be done in Zion that is good to plan more than one day here.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Located in Colorado, Rocky Mountain National Park has iconic status as one of the best hiking places in the USA. No matter what part of Rocky Mountain National Park you travel to, you’re treated to 360 degrees views that will blow your mind. The Continental Divide Trail runs along Rocky Mountain National Park all the way up to Canada and all the way down to Mexico. It is just over 3000 miles long and is a mix of wild and developed trails. You don’t have to hike the entire trail though, you can hop on a portion of it here at Rocky Mountain National Park and see why this is a premier hiking destination.
Plan your Colorado Hiking Adventure
Haleakala National Park, Hawaii
Located on the island of Maui, Haleakala National Park houses a volcano, bamboo forest, colorful eucalyptus trees, and waterfalls. If you are looking for a diverse place to hike in the United States that is filled with beauty, this is it! A beautiful hike is located at the end of the Hana Highway. The Pipiwai Trail takes you to some of the most scenic attractions on Maui including a walk through a bamboo forest out to the 400-foot high Waimoku Falls and the Seven Sacred Pools. Another spectacular hike here is to go up to the crater rim of the Haleakala volcano for sunrise.
Tips for planning a Maui Vacation
Point Lobos – Big Sur
Big Sur may be more famous as an iconic California road trip than a hiking destination, but believe me, there are plenty of places for incredible hiking along Big Sur. One of the most popular places for hiking in Big Sur is Point Lobos State Park. The Bird Island Trail to take in views of the picturesque China Cove and it takes you to gorgeous cliff views where you can view sea lions basking in the sun. Point Lobos (Punta de los Lobos Marinos) was named for all the sea lions that hang out on the rocks by Spanish explorers.
Grant Teton will completely surprise you! Located in the heart of beautiful landscape in Wyoming, you will find some of the best places to hike in the USA. One of the most popular hikes in Grand Teton is The Jenny Loop Trail. It is an 8-mile long fairly flat trail with a 623 feet elevation gain letting you really take in the scenery of Grand Teton. A big reason it is so popular is that it hooks up with the Hidden Falls hike, Inspiration Point hike, and the Forks of Cascade Canyon hike allowing you to experience several different trails at once.
Lake Tahoe has some beautiful hikes and scenic views. But if you are looking for one of the best hikes in the USA, the famed Rubicon Trail is a 22-mile long trek that takes you through a valley floor and up a rocky climb. It may be long, but there are campsites along the trail. Be prepared for major switchback and ledge after ledge of difficult climbing. Isn’t that a hikers dream?
No article mentioning the best hiking in the US would be complete without including Yellowstone! America’s first national park is famous for its geysers and volcanic activity. But it is also a hikers paradise. Located in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, Yellowstone spans more than 2.2 million acres with hiking trails galore. The North Rim Trail is known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National Park. The 7.6 Mile long hike lets you see Upper Geyser Basin Falls, Cascade Creek, and Crystal Falls as well as Firehole River which runs through Upper Geyser Basin.
Pictured Rocks Michigan
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Michigan. With 100 miles of trails to explore, one could spend days camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It has extraordinary sandstone cliffs. Read more: Fun and Unique Things to do in Northern Michigan
Great Smokey Mountains
North Carolina is home to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are many amazing trails to hike within its 200,000 acres including 500 miles of hiking trails. 101 miles of the Appalachian Trail runs through this park so you can hop on that for a bit to feel what the people hiking the entire route are putting themselves through. Another not-to-miss hike includes Cascade Falls which takes you to a thunderous 20-foot waterfall in E.B. Jeffress Park. Read more: 15 Great Road Trips in America
Red Rock Canyon Nevada
Our favorite part of visiting Las Vegas was getting out to Red Rock Canyon. If you find yourself growing tired of the crowds and excess of Las Vegas, head out to Red Rock Canyon. Located just 25 minutes west of the Las Vegas Strip, Red Rock is one of the most popular outdoors spots in Nevada. There are a number of trails that are suitable for beginner, intermediate and advanced hikers. It is also one of the top destinations in the United States for rock climbing, and it’s not uncommon to see rock climbers hanging off the bright orange cliffs around the park. Read more: Off the Strip – Things to do Outside Las Vegas
Crater Rim Trail – Big Island
Another great Hawaiian Hike is The Crater Rim Trail at the Kilauea Volcano Caldera. It is the longest loop trail on the Big Island and can take about 8 hours. This unique hiking trail takes you to see lava cinders, lava tubes, steam vents, and evidence of lava flow. Kilauea Volcano had an eruption in 2020 that dried out a water lake and a massive lava lake that has since solidified but is quite an incredible sight. Read more: Big Island Of Hawaii: 15 Best Things To Do
Book this volcano tour where you’ll take a guided hike across the lava flow to the new black sand beach while learning of the Lava flows and history of the Big Island.
And these are some of the best hikes in the USA. Of course, there are hundreds of more hikes in the United States to see and do. We can’t get to them all, but as the famous travel quote says – I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list! So are more hikes in America for us!