Best Hikes in the U.S.
Updated: Aug 4, 2021
Who loves exploring the outdoors and hiking in nature? I’m reminiscing of the hiking adventures I had last year at Estes Park in Denver, CO, and Griffith Park in Los Angeles, CA, and this past February to Haleakala in Maui, HI taking in the breathtaking mountain scenery. The best alternative right now for social distancing this summer is venturing safely outdoors to local national parks while getting some fresh air, exploring, exercise, and rejuvenating as you marvel at nature’s beauty.
There are 59 National Parks and more than 10,000 state parks in the U.S. with no shortage of fruited plains or majestic mountains to explore via its 193,500 miles of trail. In addition to the obvious benefits like exercise, Vitamin D, an opportunity to reduce stress and increase memory performance, it’s more essential than ever, given the current pandemic climate. But with so many paths to choose from, where does one begin?
Well, you can begin with these 11 routes from nowhere-else-on-Earth scenery to kid-friendly beach treks.
1. Best Family-Friendly Hike: Pyramid Point Trail, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan
Spectacular waterfront views are not exclusive to oceanside hikes. This trail is located along the northeast coast of Lake Michigan and is home to sandy bluffs towering as much as 450 feet over the Great Lake.
2. Best Summertime Hike: Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte, Gatlinburg, Tennessee
The 10.3-mile route from Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte offers much to hikers, especially during the summer.
3. Best Coastal Hike: Kalalau Trail, Hanalei, Hawaii
As you pass through the abundant vegetation along Kauai’s Na Pali Coast, the setting may seem familiar, Jurassic Park was filmed in the lush crags of Na Pali in 1993, and your hike will feel equally cinematic.
4. Best Short Hike: The Beehive Loop Trail, Bar Harbor, Maine
Though only a mere 1.3 miles in length, this climb through Acadia National Park packs enough scenic magic to make it well worth the trek to Mt. Desert Island.
5. Best Hidden Gem: Trail of 10 Falls, Silverton, Oregon
The Beaver State is ripe with photogenic trails showcasing the state’s diverse flora and fauna.
6. Best Desert Hike: Devil’s Bridge Trail, Sedona, Arizona
Scramble up wildflower-speckled hills of Coconino National Forest for the awesome outlooks of Sedona’s signature sandstone formations, including a natural bridge at the peak, perfect for panoramas.
7. Best Intense Hike: Half Dome Trail, Mariposa, California
No “best of” list would be complete without a mention of the natural grandeur of Yosemite National Park, almost 16 miles long, the Half Dome.
8. Best Mountain Hike: Burroughs Mountain Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
The primary appeal of climbing a mountain is typically the view from the summit but the Burroughs Mountain loop through the Cascades offers spectacular vistas throughout.
9. Best Backpacking Hike: Kesugi Ridge Trail, Talkeetna, Alaska
Though perhaps less accessible than trails in the Lower 48, an Alaskan expedition should be on your to-hike list.
10. Best Scenic Hike: Angel’s Landing Trail, Hurricane, Utah
Those brave enough to ascend this 4.4-mile journey, which includes a steep final half-mile where chains have been installed along certain precarious stretches to help you maintain balance, will be greeted by a bird's-eye look at the sandstone canyon below.
11. Best Archaeological Hike: Hanging Rock, Effigy Mounds, Iowa
Effigy Mounds National Monument along the northeast border of Iowa offers serious spiritual heft and archaeological significance that commands respect from visitors. The site is home to a Native American burial ground, where indigenous peoples built more than 200 effigy mounds, piled-earth tombs shaped to look like animals or other symbols.
Enjoy the outdoors safely and remember to wear your mask, take your hand sanitizer, water bottle, and healthy snacks to stay clean and fueled for your hike, bike, or walk. Have fun, mates!