20 Best Hiking Trails in the United States
Hiking is one of America’s favorite activities. It is most likely due to the fact that we have amazing national, state and city parks to explore. There are handfuls of non-profit organizations such as the American Hiking Society that fund and create projects to maintain and provide excellent hiking trails for all to enjoy. We have compiled a list of hiking trails that you will for sure want to check out sometime. These trails have been ventured by people of all skill levels.
1. Long Trail, Jay Peak Long Trail North
The “footpath in the wilderness” was established in the early 1900s, making it the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. The whole of the trail spans from Massachusetts to the Canadian border, but trail expert Philip Werner suggests the Jay Peak section to hikers looking for the best part. It’s rugged enough to keep any hiker interested, but the Jay Peak section is accommodating of beginners. — Diana Gerstacker
2. Appalachian Trail, 30-Mile Wilderness
Maine’s renowned 100-Mile Wilderness is the longest part of the Appalachian Trail that never crosses a paved road. Lucky for northeastern hikers, the first 30 miles of this route showcase the trails best features. A somewhat rugged route, explorers can expect to encounter the Lower Wilson Falls, lush maple forests, rocky rushing rivers, and panoramic views of Maine’s rustic backwoods. — Katie Rosenbrock
3. Cascade Mountain
Named for the waterfalls at the mountain’s base, Cascade is one of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, and is said to be the easiest to scale. A great choice for beginners and anyone looking for a stunning view of New York’s Green mountains and Lake Champlain, the 4.2 mile hike is classified as easy, but the views are hard to come by anywhere else. — Diana Gerstacker
4. Mount Tom Traverse, Metacomet-Monadnock Trail
The Mount Tom Traverse portion of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail was certified as a National Recreation Trail in 2001 and offers hikers a unique opportunity to experience the varying landscapes that the Massachusetts wilderness has to offer. Beginning at the entrance to the Mount Tom Reservation on Route 141, after a quick 200-foot elevation gain, this route will take you through about six miles of ridgewalking where you’ll catch awe-inspiring views of the Connecticut River Valley and pass by the ruins of century-old hotels before reaching Goat Peak. Birdwatchers will especially love this trail in the spring and fall when it’s common to spot hawks gliding overhead. — Katie Rosenbrock
5. Mt. Tammany
Worthington State Forest, N.J.
This New Jersey mountain overlooks the Delaware Water Gap, providing spectacular views and a variety of trail options, all in eagle-watching territory. The main loop is only 3.5 miles long, but what it lacks in distance, it makes up for in slope. The shortest option on Mt. Tammany is listed at 1.5 miles, a manageable distance for any hiker. — Diana Gerstacker
6. Old Rag Mountain
Shenandoah National Park, Va.
Just because this trail is one of the more popular hiking destinations in the U.S. doesn’t mean it’s an easy ascent. In fact, the National Park Service says it’s one of Shenandoah’s most dangerous hikes. The Old Rag route is widely considered a classic hike and is known for attracting crowds of climbers during the peak summer seasons. Aptly named for its rugged terrain strewn with boulder fields and bare rocks, the trail is 8 miles round-trip. Ensure a safe trek by taking a look at the NPS safety guidelines before attempting this climb. — Katie Rosenbrock
7. Franconia Ridge Traverse
White Mountain National Forest, N.H.
The Franconia Ridge Trail runs from south to north and links Mount Liberty (4459′), Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette along a knife-edge, above-treeline trail that plunges thousands of feet to the Walker Brook and Lincoln Brook river valleys below. On a clear day, you can see the entire Pemigewasset Wilderness to the east including distant Bondcliff, the Twins, and Owls Head Mountain. To the east, is the magnificent Cannon Cliff and the Kinsmans, with views of Vermont and even New York State in clear weather. — Philip Werner
8. Beacon Heights
A trail that offers big rewards but requires little effort, after a short hike (less than one mile) to the summit of Beacon Heights you’ll be greeted by breathtaking views of Grandfather Mountain, MacRae Peak, and Rough Ridge Overlook. On especially clear days you may even be able to catch glimpses of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail also provides access to longer hikes like the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail that leads to Price Lake and the Mountains to the Sea Trail, which stretches all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. — Katie Rosenbrock
9. Cape Henry Trail
Virginia Beach, Va.
Winding through First Landing State Park, the Cape Henry Trail is six miles long and mostly flat. In those short six miles, you’ll make your way through forests and over swamps and salt marshes, getting a taste of Virginia’s coast. The trail is rich with wildlife, birdwatchers should put this trail on their to do list. — Diana Gerstacker
10. Torreya Challenge Loop
Although it’s mostly flat, this 7-mile loop around Florida’s Torreya State Park is still considered a moderate-level hike. This trek through a marshy forest terrain will take you across several ridges and deep gorges. The trail is accessible year-round and offers access to several camping areas, too. — Katie Rosenbrock
11. Cohutta Wilderness, Jacks River Trail
Vast, well-preserved Cohutta wilderness is home to one of the best trails in the Southeast. Jacks River Trail follows it’s namesake, and crosses occasionally, so don’t count on staying completely dry. The trail offers access to lush greenery, clear swimming holes and ideal camping spots. The full hike is 16.2 miles long, which makes it a perfect weekend hike for those with some hiking experience. — Diana Gerstacker
12. Blue Spring Loop, Conecuh National Forest
The entire Conecuh Forest Trail extends over 20 miles of dense, Deep South forest, but the Blue Spring Loop allows hikers to experience all the landscape has to offer within a 6.1-mile circuit. Described as a hilly hike, this route ascends through elevated woods and drops down towards streams, swamps and ponds. A diverse display of vegetation and wildlife will have you on the lookout for longleaf pines, turkey oaks, otters, snakes, and even alligators. — Katie Rosenbrock
13. Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Honey Creek Loop
The Honey Creek Loop is the most challenging trail in the area, but it’s worth the effort. The trail offers a descent into a cliff-enclosed pool, an array of unique rock formations throughout and several creek crossings. For the short five and a half mile hike, experts say you’ll need at least an hour per mile and warn against going after a big storm, as the extra water could make this challenging trail nearly impossible. — Diana Gerstacker
14. The Hayduke Trail’s Hurrah Pass, Arches National Park
This route is located entirely on public lands, linking six National Parks in the Southern Utah and Northern Arizona area and covering 800 miles of rugged backcountry terrain. The entire route is divided into 14 sections, the second of which stretches over 47.1 miles from Hurrah Pass to the Big Spring Trailhead of Canyonlands National Park. Advanced dessert hikers capable of tackling this treacherous trek will be rewarded for their hard work with sights of some of the most magnificent red rock views of the American Southwest. — Katie Rosenbrock
15. The Lost Coast
Named for it’s tendency to be lost beneath California’s tide or for its exclusion from the Pacific Coast Highway, depending on who you believe, this trail is about as ocean-front as you can get. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful scenery — this hike is a tough one. So tough, in fact, that road crews deemed it impassable and refused to build road on these shoreline cliffs. The trail is more than 20 miles, one way, with camping spots throughout, making it the perfect week-long challenge for the extreme hiker. — Diana Gerstacker
16. Williams Lake Trail
Ski Valley, N.M.
An intermediate-level hike and one of the most popular trails in the Taos Ski Valley, the Williams Lake Trail covers about 2 miles and summits at just over 11,000 feet. A quick climb that yields beautiful views of the valley’s emerald pines and of course, Williams Lake, this hike features a few steep stretches but for the most part is suitable for hikers of all levels. — Katie Rosenbrock
17. Snowmass Wilderness, Maroon Bells
This spectacular view is said to be Colorado’s most photographed mountain landscape, but the hikes are not to be overshadowed. Standing at more than 14,000 feet each, the six peaks draw scores of experienced hikers. With the popularity of the area, you won’t be alone in your adventure, but it’s still worth the trip. — Diana Gerstacker
18. Mt. Wittenberg Loop, Point Reyes National Seashore
The Mt. Wittenberg Loop in California’s 70,000-acre Point Reyes National Park presents hikers with a steep 5-mile ascent to the park’s highest point. You’ll meander through forests and meadows before reaching the peak at 1,407 feet where gorgeous panoramas of the California coast and Olema valley await. — Katie Rosenbrock
19. Angels Landing
Zion National Park, Utah
Angels Landing may have been named for it’s remote route, but the difficult trek is well worth the effort. Begin by scaling cliffs with the help of chains bolted into rock and reach the best views by negotiating a narrow rock fin with steep dropoffs on either side. Red rock fans and dare devil hikers won’t be able to pass on this journey. — Diana Gerstacker
20. John Muir Trail, Sierra Nevada Mountains
Yosemite Valley, Calif.
You can walk for 2 or 3 weeks without crossing a road. The John Muir is the best section of the longer Pacific Crest Trail. It crosses Yosemite, Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. If there’s a hiker’s heaven, it looks like the John Muir Trail. — Rick McCharles