Take a day hike, a weekend trip, or a longer hike, and you’ll find yourself pining to go back to the Great American wild again. And while there are many places you can go in the United States to get a taste of nature—from state parks to national and state parks to forests—there are a few places that stand out above the rest.
Luckily, plenty of great hiking locations in America are only accessible to footloose folks who are willing to put up with some trial and error.
Keep in mind that before you hike, make sure that you abide by various COVID-19 policies. In this way, you won’t be able to contract or spread the disease. Of course, don’t forget the essential Leave No Trace principles!
Table of Contents
- 1 Best Places To Hike In The United States
- 1.1 Penobscot and Sargent Mountains, Maine
- 1.2 Appalachian Trail
- 1.3 West Maroon Creek Trail, Colorado
- 1.4 Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
- 1.5 Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota
- 1.6 Tongue Mountain Range Trail, New York
- 1.7 Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina / Tennessee
- 1.8 Mount Rogers, Virginia
- 1.9 Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
- 1.10 Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
Best Places To Hike In The United States
Penobscot and Sargent Mountains, Maine
Perhaps the granddaddy of all backpacking destinations, Maine has some of the most beautiful and rugged lands in the United States. The state’s numerous hiking trails offer many options for every level of hiker, from short easy treks to challenging long-distance journeys. The Penobscot and Sargent Mountains, along with a number of other nearby sites, are among the most visited areas in the state and are located in the Appalachian Mountain chain of New England.
Within the Acadia National Park, these summits are deemed to be the most rewarding route for hikers. The 5.4-mile trail begins at the Jordan Pond House and ends there, too–making it an exceptional loop. The hike itself is pretty technical, but once you are on the top of the Sargent Mountain, your hard work will be gifted with a majestic panoramic view of the Down East Coast.
The Appalachian Trail, part of the 2,200-mile-long National Scenic Trail, covers an extensive journey through 14 states. It is the longest hiking trail in the eastern United States. Moreover, it stretches from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The trail was built in the 1930s to provide a means of recreation for people living in the Appalachian region of the United States and promote tourism by providing a means for hikers to travel between the eastern and western United States.
West Maroon Creek Trail, Colorado
This rewarding trek starts in Aspen and ends in Crested Butte, connecting the two towns. It is best experienced when wildflowers are at their peak – usually in July. Colorful flowers such as violets, larkspurs, and columbines shoot throughout the 10-mile hiking path, which has some of the most beautiful views in the Rockies.
Colorado has many breathtaking sites, but one of the most photographed is Maroon Lake, with its reflection of the two Maroon Bells. The trail begins in and out of the valley where it crosses a glacial stream, winds through aspen groves, traverses scree fields, climbs Mount Maroon’s 3,000-foot peak before descending steeply. There are several shorter hikes for those who are not able to complete this twenty-mile hike.
Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
One of the world’s most iconic mountains, Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, is a must-see for travelers. Mount Rainier is 14,410 feet high. However, its summit is not the only hiking destination you can have at this location.
More than 260 miles of maintained trails wind through the park, taking visitors through tranquil forests, meadows, and valleys. The Burroughs Mountain trek offers breathtaking views of Mount Rainier and the surrounding alpine scenery.
Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota
In the state of Minnesota, the Superior Hiking Trail is one of the nation’s premier hiking trails. It spans over 310 miles and passes through six distinct regions, including the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, the northern forest, the St. Louis River region, the Arrowhead region, the Sand Lake region, and the Boundary Waters North Wilderness.
The Superior Hiking Trail offers a wide variety of hiking opportunities, from the most accessible short hike to the most challenging backpacking trip. Along with the physical terrain, the Superior Hiking Trail also offers a wide variety of hiking experiences, from long day trips to overnight hikes in the wilderness.
Tongue Mountain Range Trail, New York
The Tongue Mountain Loop is a long hike that takes hikers through the scenic New York State’s Adirondack Mountains. It is 25 miles long, and the trail varies from leisure walks throughout the foot of the mountain ranges up to the more technical ascents while within the peaks. Along the way, you will be able to witness the unreal beauty of Lake Georgia, which is a favorite scenery throughout the trail.
The uniqueness of the Tongue Mountain Range Trail lies in the fact that it is composed of six summits: the Brown Mountain, Huckleberry Mountain, the French Point Peak, First Peak, Fifth Peak, and the Five Mile Mountain. The latter is considered as the highest part of Bolton. Interestingly enough, setting campsites and campfires are permitted throughout the various parts of the trail–as long as they are within the designation of the New York Department of Environmental Conservation.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina / Tennessee
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a stunning treasure for hikers. The 522,419-acre park is located in the Southwestern United States and covers parts of Tennessee and North Carolina. The park is named after the distinctive layer of clouds that form on the mountains during autumn, giving the park its name. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to over 500 types of plants, more than 100 species of birds, and one of the highest concentrations of elk in the world, making it a great place to see wildlife.
Keep in mind that the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the most visited national park in the country. Hence, it supports a substantial tourism industry within the Sevier County of Tennessee. Attractions like Dollywood and Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokers are among the things you can do while you are on the trails. You should consider Charlies Bunion Hike via the Appalachian Trail if you want an excellent hiking path to traverse while in the park.
Mount Rogers, Virginia
Mount Rogers is a mountain located within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests in Virginia. With a summit elevation of 5,729 feet above sea level, it is touted as the highest elevation throughout the state. This exceptional trail extends to both Smyth and Grayson counties.
You can access its summit via the Grayson Highlands State Park by just treading a part of the southbound Appalachian Trail (around 3.5 miles). Once there, you will witness the towering tree groves. You’ll also notice four triangulation station disks erected by the National Geodetic Survey. Since the Appalachian Trail is less than half a mile from Mount Rogers, it became a favorite side-trip for many hikers.
Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
Located in western Oregon, Oregon’s Smith Rock State Park is a beautiful spot for hiking. The rock formations that make up the park are tall, colorful, and stony. Specifically, the park is located in the heart of the High Desert, which is just within the proximity of Terrebonne and Redmond. Most of the time, it is open from dusk to dawn, attracting local and foreign hikers alike.
Furthermore, the park also features a number of basalt and tuff cliffs, which are all suitable for rock climbing. In fact, many believe that modern sport climbing in the United States was born in Smith Rock State Park. For hikers, the Canyon To Rim Loop is a must-visit destination. This trail offers up to 7 miles of moderate to difficult hiking terrains. Local guides suggest that the best time to hike is during the early morning so that you can see the wildlife in the area.
Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
Kalalau Trail is one of the most beautiful hikes in Hawaii. It’s a strenuous 11-mile trail along the Nā Pali Coast OF Kauai Island. But certainly, you’ll get rewarded by some of the finest views you can have on this state. The tropical landscape and panoramic seaside views can relieve all the stress that you are feeling.
However, keep in mind that going to this Kalalau Trail requires a bit of preparation. It is equally challenging and exhausting, especially if you are planning to traverse it after a rainy period. If you are a day hiker, I suggest that you only cover the first three miles of the trail, which would lead you to Hanakapi’ai Beach. Here, you’ll also see eye-catching wonders.