There are literally hundreds of thousands of hiking trails in America; every state has a seemingly endless variety of amazing routes to discover, so you can imagine how difficult it is to narrow down a list to the 25 best hikes in the US.

The USA is a hiker’s dream country for many reasons. America is absurdly diverse and contains virtually every type of landscape within its borders: deserts and mountains, rainforests and thousands of miles of coastline.

To help you make sense of America’s greatest footpaths, I bring you this epic guide to the 25 best hikes in the USA!

From the Grand Canyon and the lava fields of Hawaii to the Rockies, Tetons, Smokies, and the Sierras, America’s hiking trails take you through every type of terrain and climate. It’s no wonder that millions of people from the US and around the world hit the trails each year.

I’ve explored countless states (and 2,000 miles+ of trails) in search of the best hiking trails in the USA. This guide is the result of my hiking and research.

From challenging day hikes and multi-day missions to long-distance epics, there is a trek for every type of keen hiker on my list.

Now, let’s get to know some of the best hiking trails in the United States…

What to Pack for the Best Hikes in the USA

Every adventure begins with the right gear. Frankly, without proper equipment, hiking isn’t that much fun. If you have ever had an ill-fitting pair of hiking shoes or a sleeping bag that doesn’t actually keep you warm, then you know what I am talking about.

Not only is owning the right gear important for comfort and fun, but it is also essential for staying safe in unpredictable weather patterns and harsh natural environments.

best hikes in the usa
This is the ultimate guide to the best hikes in the USA

The best hikes in the USA are found in remote, wild, and potentially dangerous environments scattered throughout the country. The first step for any hiking trip is to assess the gear you own and what gear you may need to buy.

We at the Broke Backpacker are very passionate about quality backpacking gear. Our team has spent countless hours testing and reviewing the top outdoor equipment on the market.

Below are a series of gear reviews that will put you in touch with everything you need to have a successful and comfortable (and safe!) hiking adventure.

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    Choose the Right Gear to Tackle the Best Hikes in America

    How to choose the right tent to take backpacking – Every traveler needs a good tent. Period.

    MSR Hubba Hubba 2-person tent review – My favorite backpacking tent on the market.

    Choosing the right backpack – Your backpack is god.

    Best sleeping bags to take traveling – Find the right sleeping bag for your journey.

    Best sleeping pads to take backpacking – Your back and weary bones will thank you.

    Best Camping Hammocks – Get to know the amazing world of #hammocklife.

    Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock Review – Quite possibly your new best travel mate.

    Best travel jackets for backpackers – Find the right jacket based on your intended outdoor activities.

    How to choose a backpacking stove – If you want to save money and eat well at camp, you need a stove.

    MSR Pocket Rocket 2 review – The ultimate lightweight backpacking stove to fuel your adventures.

    Best Hiking Trails in the United States

    1. Lost Coast Trail, California

    • Length: 24.6 miles (39.6km)
    • Days: 3-4
    • Best time to hike: All year, Fall is best.
    • Nearest Town: Shelter Clove

    The Lost Coast Trail in Northern California is often forgotten about. Why? Well, because it is kind of lost. Logging companies tried and failed to build a road through here. Instead, Highway 1 cuts inland from the coast into the windy coastal hills and redwood forests. Few people have even heard of the Lost Coast.

    Fun fact: This section of coast running from Northern Mendocino into Humboldt county is the largest undeveloped coastline in the USA outside of Alaska!

    best hikes in the usa
    Morning on the Lost Coast
    Photo: Wendy Seltzer (Flickr)

    This nearly 25-mile hike can be walked either direction (north-south or vice-versa) starting from Mattole Beach or Black Sands Beach near Shelter Cove. Each trailhead have parking lots where you can park your vehicle. If you don’t have anyone picking you up at the end of the trail, there are also shuttle busses taking your from one and to the other.

    For those keen for an even longer hike, the southern section of the Lost Coast Trail runs to Usal Beach some 30+ miles south of Black Sands Beach. Most people tend to stick to the Northern section though.

    The Lost Coast trail winds its way along barren, misty stretches of beach and forest. The tide schedule must be factored into the hike and it is recommended that hikers carry bear-proof canisters.

    A misjudgment in the tide schedule could literally mean the end for you. There are a few miles of the trail that are impassable at high tide, so do your research.

    This hike is one of the best hikes in the USA because of its unique and remote location in a state of nearly 40 million people. I love it out here!

    2. Tonto Trail, Arizona (Grand Canyon National Park)

    • Length: 70 miles (113km)
    • Days: 4-6
    • Best time to hike: Spring, Fall, Winter (avoid July and August, you will melt.)
    • Nearest Town: Grand Canyon Village

    For those who really want to experience the Grand Canyon from within the Canyon itself, the Tonto Trail is an awesome multi-day trek to make that dream a reality.

    The Tonto Trail is officially classified as a South Rim Hike and runs from Garnet to Red Canyon. It’s considered one of the best hikes in Arizona and is known for its stunning views.

    best hikes in the usa
    The landscapes within the Grand Canyon are indeed as grand as they come…
    Photo: Chris Lininger

    The Tonto Trail starts 3000 feet below the rim, so you can only access the trailhead by foot, and leave your vehicle at the Grandview or Bright Angle trailhead.

    Water can be an issue on the Tonto, especially in the summer. Suitable water sources include Hermit Creek, Monument Creek, and Garden Creek— but remember (very important!) you MUST filter or treat the water as it can be laden with heavy metals/unpleasant bacteria.

    The backcountry campsites found along this route must be reserved via a wilderness permit with the Backcountry Rangers Office. If you strike out, there are plenty more conventional places to stay around the Grand Canyon itself.

    Enjoy spectacular views of the Colorado River and the endless sea of massive red rock canyons!

    3. Trans-Catalina Trail, California

    • Length: 38.7 miles (62km)
    • Days: 3-5
    • Best time to hike: All year, (Summer is HOT AF)
    • Nearest Town: Avalon

    Usually, I wouldn’t touch Southern California with a 10-foot pole for the best hiking trails in the USA list (ok, Joshua Tree is awesome and some other spots are too). That said, the Trans-Catalina trail is worth knowing about.

    Catalina Island is some 22 miles south of the mainland and couldn’t be more different than mainland Southern California. Well, at least the rugged interior of the island is a world away from traffic/people-ridden So-Cal.

    best hikes in the usa
    Yep, buffalo live here!

    The trail starts near Avalon on the eas-tip and crosses the whole island to the starlight beach on the western end. If you’re staying in Avalon, make sure to get your hiking and camping permit at the Catalina Conservancy office. From here, it’s just a couple of miles to the trailhead, so technically, you could walk that distance. The hiking can be intense as it is pretty exposed throughout the whole route. I do not recommend tackling this hike in the summer.

    I did it in August and it was a poor choice indeed. I felt like I was melting and probably approached heat-stroke on several occasions. At the same time, I had the time of my life spotting buffalo, camping on secret beaches, and soaking in the dramatic desert-island landscapes.

    You can really walk this hike at your own pace. If you tend to be a slower hiker or you are hiking it in the heat of the summer, consider taking 4 days to complete the hike.

    4. Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

    • Number of trails: 31
    • Highest elevation peak: 13,775 ft
    • Best time to hike: May-September
    • Nearest Town: Jackson, Wyoming
    best national parks in the USA
    Grand Tetons National Park is loaded with amazing outdoor adventure potential…

    This incredible national park is home to some of America’s most beautiful hiking routes. The Cascade Canyon Trail is the most famous, and for good reason. You’ll get to soak in unmatched views of the Tetons, a scene that becomes ever more idyllic when the annual sea of wildflowers shows up.

    The park also features 30 other popular hikes–mountaineers even scale the Grand Teton which sits at a lofty 13,775 feet.

    5. Kalalau Trail /Napali Coast, Hawaii

    • Length: 22 miles (35.4 km)
    • Days: 2-3
    • Best time to hike: All year
    • Nearest Town: Hanalei

    I am not the first to dub the Kalalau Trail one of the best hikes in the US. The Napali Coast on the Hawaiian island of Kauai is one of the most breathtaking places found on planet Earth. Staying on Kauai is literally like like staying in paradise. The landscapes look like something straight out of Jurassic Park and Avatar (oh wait, they were filmed here!).

    The Kalalau Trail is blessed with stunning beach scenes, waterfall swimming opportunities, rivers— all of which are framed by the mountains in the backdrop.

    backpacking kauai
    This place. I mean come on.

    There are multiple ways to get to the trailhead. Shuttle buses bring you directly to the trailhead. You can also drive there, however, parking space is very limited on the North Shore, meaning you’ll have to reserve a spot well in advance. The trailhead starts at Ke’e beach and ends at Kalalau Beach. There are multiple camping options on the trail, but you’ll need a permit for those.

    This trail is rugged, remote, and requires some advanced planning. The camping permits need to be applied for months in advance. Rainstorms can come suddenly with the intensity of a flash. Hikers have been swept away when mellow creeks turned into raging torrents.

    The Kalalau Trail can be done as a day hike to Hanakapi’ai waterfall, but to really get the essence of what the Napali Coast is about, you should tackle the whole trail.

    Come prepared, and you will leave with the memories of a lifetime.

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    6. The Wave, Arizona

    • Length: 5.2 miles (8.3km)
    • Days: 1 day (2-4 hours)
    • Best time to hike: All year
    • Nearest Town: Kanab

    Instagram may have made The Wave even more famous than it already was. True. But, this magical landscape of swirling red sandstone in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is not to be missed.

    the wave arizone best hike in the USA
    Watching the sunrise over The Wave is incredible!
    Photo: Ana Pereira

    But…wait for it…

    Because of the overwhelming popularity of the site, the Bureau of Land Management limits foot traffic to 20 people/day. Yup. 20.

    You’ll need a stroke of luck to get the permit, but if/when you do, you can be certain that you are about the tackle perhaps the best desert day-hike in the USA. Be sure to pack plenty of water as there is none available on the trail.

    7. Cracker Lake, Montana (Glacier National Park)

    • Length: 12.6 miles (20 km)
    • Days: 1-2 days
    • Best time to hike: Summer
    • Nearest Accommodation: Many Glacier Hotel

    Glacier National Park is so damn beautiful that I really had a hard time just covering one hike from this park on my “best hikes in the USA” list as the more remote side of Glacier National Park is also definitely worth a visit. The scenery is dramatic and the crowds are not quite as abundant as you’d expect from such a beautiful USA national park (although it can get busy during summer).

    The hike to Cracker Lake can be done as an intense, tiring day-hike or a comfortable overnighter. I recommend the latter. Trust me, once you arrive here the last thing you will want to do is turn around and leave.

    best hikes in the usa
    Glacier National Park is one of the least visited and most dramatic national parks in the USA…

    The hike to Cracker Lake in Glacier National Park begins from the Piegan Pass/Cracker Lake Trailhead, located at the south end of the parking lot above the Many Glacier Hotel. Almost immediately after starting your hike, you’ll reach a split in the trail where you need to turn left.

    Due to its northern location, Glacier National Park remains quite cold for the majority of the year. On a fine, clear summer’s day, I can’t think of a better place to be. In fact, it’s one of the top places to go hiking in North America in the summer.

    8. Mauna Loa Summit, Hawaii (Hawaii Volcanoes National Park)

    • Length: 17 miles (28 km)
    • Days: 1
    • Best time to hike: All year!
    • Nearest Town: Hilo

    Mauna Loa is one of the most impressive mountains to be found on any Pacific Island in the world. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, the Mauna Loa summit trail is a tough day-hike through lava-scree Martian landscapes. Once you summit, all of that tough work is rewarded by truly epic views.

    best hikes in the usa
    Soft light on a Mauna Loa decent.

    Start early and pace yourself so that you can have the maximum amount of time to enjoy the summit. To get to the trailhead, from either side of the island, take the Saddle Road, Hwy. 200, to the Mauna Loa Observatory Road (it’s well-marked). Follow this sometimes one-lane road for 17.5 miles to the parking area for hikers.

    Note: As of this moment, a majority of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed due to volcanic activity. Check with the National Park service for updates regarding trail closures and general safety information.

    Even if the trail isn’t closed, the corrosive/toxic volcanic ash is no fun to breathe. I believe it is better to wait until the air clears, which hopefully will be soon.

    9. Long’s Peak, Colorado

    • Length: 15 miles (24.1 km)
    • Days: 1 Day (12-14 hours)
    • Best time to hike: May – October
    • Nearest Town: Estes Park

    Long’s Peak in Colorado is one of the state’s most impressive 14,000-foot peaks one can climb. The hike is as difficult as it is rewarding and it can be considered one of the best hikes in Colorado.

    Most hikers set out in the wee hours of the morning when it’s still dark. By doing so, you are able to catch the sunrise above the tree line and also give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike before sundown.

    best hikes in the usa
    Sunrise en route to the Long’s Peak summit…

    The Long’s Peak hike via the standard Keyhole route climbs more than 5,000 feet. Half the people who attempt Long’s peak do not make it to the summit. Why? The easy answer is that it ain’t easy. Another contributing factor to a failed summit bid is a late start. Don’t expect to complete this hike end-to-end if you start at 10 am.

    If you take your car to the trailhead, be sure to arrive well before sunrise. All spots are normally taken before you see the first light of the day, so you better get up early. To get to the trailhead in the first place is relatively easy. Simply drive down on Highway 7 and turn right onto Longs Peak Road. Continue to drive 1 mile and you’re at the parking lot.

    Give yourself plenty of time and bring an abundance of real food, snacks, and water. If you set yourself up for success, you should crush it.

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    10. The Narrows, Utah (Zion National Park)

    • Length: 5-16 miles (depending on the route)
    • Days: 1 (5-10 hours)/2 days
    • Best time to hike: May-October
    • Nearest Town: Springdale

    Hiking in Zion National Park will give you some of the best trails in the USA, if not in the whole world. Few places on earth offer up the opportunity to get down in a canyon to gawk at 18 million years of eroded rock walls.

    The Narrows refers to two hikes, both the 3.6 miles (5.8 km) bottom-up hike from the Temple of Sinawava to Big Springs, as well as the 16 miles (26 km) top-down hike from Chamberlain’s Ranch back to the Temple of Sinawava (for which we recommend bringing a backpacking tent and making it an overnight).

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    The Narrows is one of the most beautiful slot canyons in the world.

    You’ll have to get a shuttle bus to the trailhead if you want to start at the Chamberlain Ranch, as well as a permit for this trail, since it’s located on private property. 

    For one of the best day-hikes of your life, I recommend tackling the bottom-up hike. Hiking is done largely in the river as – for a third of the route – the river runs canyon wall to canyon wall.

    Water levels change from season to season; most hikers will wade at least waist-deep and many will swim a few short sections.

    Flash flood danger is a very serious threat to consider when hiking the Narrows, and hiking slot canyons in general. If rain is in the forecast, stay the hell out of there! In stable weather conditions, however, set off and enjoy the truly spectacular scenery.

    The Narrows is undoubtedly one of the best Utah hiking trails. There are so many other great hikes where this came from, but we can’t possibly put them all in this one blog post. Start here, though, and discover the rest of what Utah has to offer as you go!

    11. Bryce Canyon National Park

    • Number of trails: 8
    • Highest elevation: 9,105 ft
    • Best time to hike: May-September
    • Nearest Town: Bryce Canyon City, Utah
    best views of Bryce Canyon sunrise in Utah
    Capturing the sunrise in below freezing temperatures!
    Photo: Ana Pereira

    As one of the best national parks in Utah as well as the US, visiting Bryce Canyon is like taking a trip to Mars. You get to choose among 8 marked trails that can each be done in a day, or plan a multi-day backpacking trip by connecting some of the routes.

    The Fairyland Loop is an incredibly popular (and busy) option, but the views are worth it especially if you arrive early. The 7.8 mile loop has a 1,500 ft elevation gain and traverses some of the park’s most spectacular scenery.

    Bryce Canyon’s Rim Trail encircles the alienesque rock formations that have made it world-famous. At only 5.5 miles, it’s a moderately difficult trek for the average person. The park also has a fair amount of epic off the beaten path adventures to be found if you look hard enough!

    12. Half Dome, California (Yosemite National Park)

    • Length: 17 miles
    • Days: 1 (12 hours)
    • Best time to hike: May-September
    • Nearest Town: Curry village

    Half Dome is one of America’s most iconic natural formations and one of the best hiking trails in Yosemite. At over 2,500 feet, Half Dome is a massive slab of granite towering high above Yosemite Valley. Hikers keen enough to tackle the grueling trek are rewarded with mesmerizing views that are difficult to fully comprehend.

    The summit of Half Dome is gained with the help of the Via Ferrata style series of cables and steps. If you are afraid of heights, then this hike is not for you.

    best hikes in the usa
    Half Dome illuminated in that special light only found in Yosemite.

    Half Dome is one of the most famous rock formations in the world and has the associated human traffic. My advice is to start your hike early. You absolutely do not want to get stuck in a long line of people at the foot of the cables. If other hikers are ahead of you on the cables, be very wary of falling rocks from above. Also make sure you sort your Yosemite accommodation beforehand, as lots of places get booked out very fast.

    Hiking up Half Dome is sort of a right of passage for hikers visiting Yosemite National Park. There really isn’t another hike like it, but Yosemite National Park has several of the best hikes in the USA; Half Dome just happens to be one of them.

    Tip: Such an epic hike with cables means permits are extremely competitive. Make sure to go through the official Yosemite reservation process to try and snag your group permit when planning a trip to Yosemite.

    MATH TIME: The entry fee for Yellowstone National Park is $35. Meanwhile, the entry fee for the neighbouring Grand Teton National Park is another $35. That means that visiting TWO national parks alone (out of the 423 total in the USA) will run you a grand total of $70…

    Or you can stuff that whole deal off and buy the ‘America the Beautiful Pass’ for $79.99. With it, you get unlimited access to ALL federally-managed land in the U.S.A for FREE – that’s over 2000 recreational sites! Ain’t that just beautiful?


    13. Titcomb Basin, Wyoming

    • Length: 28 miles (45 km)
    • Days: 2-3
    • Best time to hike: July-September
    • Nearest Town: Pinedale

    The Wind River Range in Wyoming is home to multiple hiking gems, but hiking in the Titcomb Basin is one of the most visually rewarding. Over the course of 28 miles (or more) the landscapes are very impressive indeed.

    best hikes in the usa
    Nearing midnight in the Titcomb Basin
    Photo: Bob Webster (Flickr)

    Weave your way through boulder-strewn tundra-esque mountains. Stop for lunch at serene alpine lakes. Set up camp at the base of snow-capped peaks. This is the Wind River Range!

    There are some truly excellent atmospheric camping spots along the way. Generally, the “real Titcomb basin” doesn’t start until the valley narrows just south of the lower lakes. Island Lake is a popular campsite, where hikers opt to base themselves for day-hikes.

    This part of Wyoming is desolate, rugged as hell, and offers up some of the most spectacular landscapes to be found anywhere in the western United States.

    14. John Muir Trail, California

    • Length: 211 miles (339 km)
    • Days: 15-21
    • Best time to hike: July-September
    • Nearest Town: Curry Village

    For a committing, well-varied route through the heart of the Sierra Nevada mountains, look no further than the magnificent John Muir Trail.

    First off, this hike passes through three of the best national parks in the USA, Yosemite, King’s Canyons, and Sequoia. Most folks typically begin the hike at the Northern Terminus within Yosemite, Happy Isles. The hike officially ends atop the summit of Mt. Whitney; the highest mountain in the continental United States.

    best hikes in the usa
    Just another day on the JMT.

    For about 160 miles (260 km), the trail follows the same footpath as the longer Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). The trail is named after one of my favorite humans from history, the environmentalist/author/badass, John Muir.

    The JMT takes some logistical planning as resupply points are few and far between. There are large sections of this trail that are vast wilderness areas. With a bit of due diligence and proper planning, the JMT is one of the best long-distance hiking trails in the world.

    15. Kesugi Ridge Trail, Alaska (Denali State Park)

    • Length: 36.2 miles (58.3 km)
    • Days: 2-3
    • Best time to hike: July – August
    • Nearest Town: Anchorage

    Ah, Alaska. For those of you who don’t know, Alaska is incredible. I could easily have filled up this best hikes in the US list with Alaska-only hikes, but that wouldn’t be fair to the other states now would it?

    Denali State Park is packed full of adventure opportunities, and the Kesugi Ridge Trail offers up an excellent taste of what Denali is all about.

    best hikes in the usa
    Hiking in Denali is next level shit.
    Photo: Paxson Woelbe (WikiCommons)

    This hike can easily be customized as there are no less than four different starting/ending points. Among the popular hikes in Denali, the Kesugi Ridge trail is well-known, though not as popular as some of the others.

    As with most semi-serious hikes in Alaska, the Kesugi Ridge trail can be tough going. There are several steep climbs and boulder fields to cross. It’s a good idea to check in with the park service regarding flooding on the Troublesome Creek trail.

    16. Art Loeb Trail, North Carolina

    • Length: 30.1 miles (48.4 km)
    • Days: 3
    • Best time to hike: Spring – Fall
    • Nearest Town: Brevard

    The Art Loeb trail in North Carolina was one of my first solo multi-day treks I took on at age 18. Though not terribly long, there are at least three significant mountains to traverse including Black Balsam Knob (6,214 ft), Tennent Mountain (6040 ft) and Pilot Mountain (5095 ft).

    best hikes in the usa
    View up Black Balsam Knob.

    I tackled this trek in April and found myself trekking in cold sleet and relatively deep snow on the 3rd day, somewhere around Pilot mountain. Likewise, one can experience fine weather in April; it just depends on the year and your luck.

    The diversity of the Art Loeb really plays a big role in stoking my love of this trail. Over the course of 30 miles, the trail passes through or over Appalachian balds, forest, meadows, and typical Blue Ridge Mountain splendor.

    The Art Loeb trail is one of the best hikes in the south-eastern US.

    17. Tomales Point Trail, Califonia

    • Length: 9.4 miles (15.1 km)
    • Days: 1
    • Best time to hike: All year!
    • Nearest Town: Point Reyes Station

    I know what you’re thinking, ANOTHER hike in California? Well, the Tomales Point trail is too good to leave off this best hikes in the USA list.

    The hike out to Tomales Point is a full-on sensory experience complete with a jaw-dropping coastline, wild elk, and hills so green that you will wonder if you are actually hiking in Ireland, not California.

    best hikes in the usa
    Tule Elk doing their thing on the Tomales Point trail.

    Due to its location north of San Fransico, the hike to Tomales Point makes for an excellent city escape. That said, it is a hell of a long day if you plan to make it to Tomales via San Francisco and then return back to SF for the night, but by no means impossible. Alternatively, pitch up a tent in one of California’s best camping spots.

    The hike itself isn’t too difficult, but it is actually one of the best day hikes in the USA, let alone on this whole list. Bring a picnic and watch the elk graze with the Pacific Ocean stretching out behind them.

    18. Mount Adams South Climb, Washington

    • Length: 11.2 miles (18 km)
    • Days: 1-2
    • Best time to hike: May – September
    • Nearest Town: Trout Lake

    As far as medium-difficulty mountain summits go, the hike up Mount Adams is one of the best hikes in America for its genre. In the summer, the hillsides explode in an ocean of colorful wildflowers. Snow remains on the summit year-round, and many hikers opt to ski down the mountain (or more accurately to the end of the snowline).

    best hikes in the usa
    Mt. Adams is one of the most impressive mountains in the Pacific Northwest.

    You should know that this trail is popular due to its accessibility and relative ease. The Mount Adams trek should not be attempted in anything other than fine weather. Despite the trail being straightforward and I dare say, obvious, every year hikers get lost and end up in serious peril or worse.

    Note: If you’re from out of state and plan on doing this hike, you’re better off staying in Portland, Oregon. It’s closer to Adams than Seattle.

    19. Acadia National Park, Maine

    • Number of trails: More than 150 miles of trails
    • Highest elevation: 1,528 ft
    • Best time to hike: May-September
    • Nearest Town: Bar Harbour, Maine
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    Fall colors explosion in Acadia National Park.

    The highlight of Maine’s Acadia National Park is no doubt the stunning Cadillac North Ridge Trail that will bring you to the top of Cadillac Mountain. The peak is 1,528 feet and can be reached in just a few hours. The sunsets and sunrises are particularly sublime–as is the fall foliage that arrives in October!

    Rest assured that the massive park has plenty of other options to choose from with over 150 miles of hiking and walking routes. The Beehive Trail is one of the best in the park, though be warned that it does get a bit steep and isn’t exactly beginner friendly.

    Meanwhile, the Precipice Trail is perhaps the most challenging–get ready for over 1000 feet of elevation gain in the form of a 2.5-mile loop.

    20. Continental Divide Trail

    • Length: 3,028 miles
    • Days: 147+
    The Cottonwood Pass is along the Continental Divide Trail.

    Thru hikers, this one is for you! While the Appalachian and Pacific Coast Trails are household names, far fewer enthusiasts try to tackle the Continental Divide. Cutting 3,028 miles (4,873 km) from Canada to Mexico, this epic route runs through the center of the US through the Rocky Mountains. The trail is wild and unfinished – many hikers end up deviating off the exact route quite a bit.

    For those that don’t have months to complete the whole thing, there are smaller sections you can power through as the trail cuts through major destinations like Yellowstone National Park.

    21. The Long Trail, Vermont

    • Length: 272 (437 km)
    • Days: 20-39
    • Best time to hike: April – October
    • Nearest Town: Williamstown

    For hikers who find themselves in the northeast with a decent chunk of time on their hands, the Long Trail is a worthy challenge. The Long Trail runs the length of Vermont! You shall get to know this awesome state intimately!

    best hikes in the usa
    View of Mount Mansfield on the Long Trail.

    Fun fact: the Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the USA (excluding, of course, pre-colonial Native American footpaths).

    The Long Trail follows the main spine of the gorgeous Green Mountains and shares roughly 100 miles of trail with the AT. It is also possible to hike sections of the Long Trail if you only want to tackle a portion of it over a weekend.

    22. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

    • Number of trails: More than 900 miles of trails
    • Highest elevation: 11,358 ft
    • Best time to hike: April – October
    • Nearest Towns: Gardiner, Montana
    bison standing near geyser in yellowstone national park backpacking usa
    Yup, this is a real image!

    You can’t talk about the best hiking trails in the United States without mentioning this legendary national park. But in addition to the herds of bison and numerous rainbow-colored hot springs, Yellowstone has a whole bunch of hikes for trekkers of all ability levels.

    America’s first national park has dozens upon dozens of trails to choose from, though I think these should be on your list:

    • North Rim Trail
    • Grand Prismatic Overlook Trail
    • Lone Star Geyser Trail

    23. Petrified Forest Loop, North Dakota

    • Length: 10.6 miles (17 km)
    • Days: 1 (7-9 hours)
    • Best time to hike: May – September
    • Nearest Town: Cripple Creek

    The Petrified Forest in North Dakota is unlike any other place you have ever been. This is a land of surreal landscapes, American buffalo, elk, antelope, and petrified wood specimens that have seemingly turned to stone.

    The good news? The Petrified Forest loop isn’t strenuous and can be enjoyed in one day. A majority of the hike is through rolling grassland. You will be humming “where the buffalo roam” to yourself in no time.

    best hikes in the usa
    To beat the crowds, head to North Dakota.

    There isn’t a reliable water source to be found on this hike, so plan accordingly.

    To access the Petrified Forest Loop, go west on I-94 then take exit 23. Go north along Forest Service Road 730 and follow the signs for the Petrified Forest.

    Note that the north trail has a larger concentration of petrified wood. Prepare to have your mind blown.

    24. Mt. Washington Summit via Tuckerman’s Ravine, New Hampshire

    • Length: 8.4 (17 km)
    • Days: 1 (8-10 hours)
    • Best time to hike: June – September
    • Nearest Town: Gorham

    The challenging north-east summits just keep on coming. Mt. Washington is located in New Hampshire’s beautiful White Mountains; this summit will challenge just about anybody who isn’t a super athlete (and even they will feel the burn).

    The distance of the Mt. Washington summit hike may not seem overly long, but don’t kid yourself. This hike is intense and needs to be taken seriously.

    best hikes in the usa
    Mt. Washington on an exceptionally brisk spring morning.

    That said, it is absolutely one of the best hikes in the USA, and easily in the top 5 regarding all of the eastern US.

    The mountain is notorious for its erratic weather. On the afternoon of April 12, 1934, the Mount Washington Observatory recorded a wind speed of 231 miles per hour (372 km/h) at the summit! Bloody hell! Above all else, Mt. Washington needs to be approached with respect.

    Keep in mind that the Boott Spur Trail offers better views in fine weather, but does take longer than the approach via Tuckerman’s Ravine.

    25. Appalachian Trail, Georgia –  Maine

    • Length: 2,190 miles (3,524 km)
    • Days: 4-6 months +
    • Best time to hike: March – October
    • Nearest Town: Hot Springs (you’ll pass lots of other towns on the way)

    Last but certainly not least, we have come to the Appalachian Trail. I hiked 1,200 of the 2,190 miles of the AT in 2015, and even now a week doesn’t go by that I don’t think about returning to complete it.

    The Appalachian Trail casts its siren song over many backpackers; though in reality, the AT is fully completed by few (myself included). The AT is without a doubt one of the best hikes in America for long-distance hikers. This hike is unlike any other on my list; an AT thru-hike takes months to complete and requires steadfast motivation day after day.

    best hikes in the usa
    Take me back.
    Photo: Chris Lininger

    My time on the AT is among some of the most memorable experiences of my life. If you are able to hit the pause button on all of life’s responsibilities for a couple of months, go a do the damn thing.

    Be careful though, long-distance hiking is addicting. Furthermore, the community of hikers you meet along the trail bond in a way similar to that of a military band of brothers (and sisters).

    Be sure that an Appalachian Trail thru-hike is very challenging. Of course, there are few achievements in life that can match a successful thru-hike… The best things in life are never easy. That is certain.

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    Final Thoughts on the Best Hikes in the USA

    By now, I am sure your inspiration is firing and you’re keen for an adventure of your own.

    America is truly a playground for hiking adventures. There are so many amazing places to explore. I hope this guide to the best hikes in the USA was helpful, and most importantly, I hope it has inspired you to take a few (if not all) of these hikes on.

    I deeply love my country’s wild places. They hold a special power as you will soon experience. Do your part to help keep them clean and beautiful, and always practice leave no trace principles when camping or trekking in the backcountry.

    Wherever your hiking path will lead you, please be respectful to the environment along the way. Always hike out your own trash and reduce (or eliminate!) the amount of single-use plastic. Pick up a water bottle and/or a water filter and use them!

    Most of all, have the time of your life getting to know some of these epic American hikes for yourself.

    best hikes in the usa
    Happy hiking friends…

    Updated February 2023

    And for transparency’s sake, please know that some of the links in our content are affiliate links. That means that if you book your accommodation, buy your gear, or sort your insurance through our link, we earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you). That said, we only link to the gear we trust and never recommend services we don’t believe are up to scratch. Again, thank you!