It’s true that some of the most beautiful places on earth can only be accessed by foot. If you enjoy strapping on your hiking boots and hitting the trails, you know there are literally hundreds of hiking trails in the U.S. for taking in the most pristine natural landscapes. We like hiking too, so we put together some top picks for U.S. hiking destinations. Whether you’re looking for a day hike or a multi-day, pack-in hiking trip, you’re sure to find something here!
Stretching from Maine to Georgia, the Appalachian Trail offers hikes of varying difficulty and a wide range of scenery. The truly ambitious may aspire to hike the entire length of the trail and become a “2,000 miler.” Some of the most popular day hikes along the trail include Crampton Gap to Harpers Ferry, W.V. and Sunfish Pond to Mount Mohican, Columbia, N.J. If you prefer a southern climate, trails at Blood Mountain, Springer Mountain or the Lens Foote Hike Inn Trail, all in Georgia, get high marks from visitors. Find the perfect section of the Appalachian Trail for you using the Appalachian Trail Conservancy Find a Hike tool.
The Red Rocks in and around the new-age mecca of Sedona, Ariz., make a great backdrop for hiking. The six-mile hike in Boynton Canyon is among the top-ranked hikes in the country, but there are many other shorter adventures around Sedona, including hikes to Devils Bridge and Cathedral Rock, among other sites. Many hikers, as well as spiritual seekers, pilgrimage along these trails to experience the numerous spiritual vortex sites that are reportedly in the area.
Straddling the state line of Nevada and California, Lake Tahoe offers magnificent lake views set among picturesque mountains. Trails here are well-worn and generally not paved. They wind through evergreens and boulders, and often parallel crystal-clear mountain creeks. The 186-mile Tahoe-Yosemite Trail originates at the Lake, so you could choose to hike it or any number of other trails in the area, including those in and around Emerald Bay State Park. The Mt. Tallac Trail is ranked the #1 “Thing to Do” in South Lake Tahoe by TripAdvisor users. The demanding trail, while well-maintained, requires strong legs and lungs to reach the summit at 9,375 feet.
North Country Trail
A stellar example of what a dedicated legion of volunteers can do, the North Country Trail (NCT) stretches 4,600 miles from New York to North Dakota. Volunteers of the North Country Trail Association, in cooperation with the National Park Service, put in over 70,000 volunteer hours to carve the trails through the pines and hardwood forests of seven states – New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Spring and fall are the best times to hike the NCT, since northern winters are harsh and summer insects can be even harsher. Check out the association’s website to find a section of the trail that interests you.
The “Garden Island” has many hidden treasures, and breathtaking waterfalls and tropical flora and fauna are revealed to those who venture off-road. Drive to Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” for an amazing vista while you prepare to hike one of the 10+ hiking trails that begin at the Canyon. As an alternative, the Kuilau Ridge Trail originates at the Keahua Forestry Arboretum and takes you to the Moalepe Trail. Together, the two trails total 4.6 miles one-way and provide distant views of Mount Waialeale covered in the rain clouds, the Makaleha Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
With a climate, topography and culture unlike any other state, Alaska offers hikers experiences and sites that are truly unique. Here, you can hike among mountains, glaciers and snow, as well as the brown and black bears, bald eagles, dall sheep and other wildlife indigenous to cooler climates. Hiking is abundant around Anchorage, according to EveryTrail.com, a site that highlights trails and welcomes readers to submit their own. From Eklutna, you can access the Twin Peaks Trail, which takes a steep, 3.6-miles climb up East Twin Peak to reveal views of Eklutna Lake, East and West Twin Peaks, Pepper Peak and a glacier below.
Want more ideas? Visit trails.com to search by state and download maps. Whether you’re on the top of a mountain or relaxing by your Harman stove, enjoy the fire!
Disclaimer to satisfy our lawyer and our insurance company: Remember, check with your doctor before beginning any exercise regimen and be sure you’re in shape before hiking any of the trails referenced above. Also, some species of wildlife can pose danger, so respect their space and protect yourself.