Best Hikes in the USA | Hiking Travel Guide
Best Hikes in the USA
I’ve been wanting to put together a hiking guide for quite a while now. I gathered a few (ok, more than a few) travelers and created this awesome guide to some of the best hiking trails in the US including hikes from all over the United States, some in national parks and others in state parks or even off the beaten path. Below are some of the top hikes that you can’t miss ranging from easy to difficult and consisting of day hikes to multi-day excursions. The guide is mostly broken up by sections of the US. Use this as your guide for hiking when you’re visiting a state that you’re dying to explore and to give yourself some trip ideas for your upcoming adventures.
Best Desert Hikes in the USA
Horseshoe Bend Hike – A very easy 1 mile path leads you to one of the most beautiful sights in the USA. Horseshoe Bend should be on everyone’s bucket list when visiting Arizona. Plan to be here for sunset as it is the perfect time for photos. Give yourself an hour to hike the trail and then set up for your photo shoot! This hike is more of a walk but I think it’s completely worth including in this best hikes in the USA list as it’s iconic and breathtaking. The views are incredible and you will stare at your surroundings in awe.
Havasu Falls Hike – Havasu Falls, once a hidden gem of the Grand Canyon in Arizona, has quickly become one of the United States most popular hikes and is likely one of the most iconic waterfall hikes in all of America. People all over the United States come to see these beautiful, turquoise waterfalls. The hike is roughly 25 miles long round trip if you hike all the way down to Beaver Falls which is the final waterfall of the hike. You should plan to spend 3 days doing this hike; spend a day hiking down, a day to explore all the waterfalls, and a day to hike out. Depending on your physical fitness level and the time of the year you decide to do this hike, it could be considered a moderate to difficult hike. Hiking down into the canyon is relatively easy, but if it is the middle of summer and you are hiking back out during the heat of day, you’ll find the 2,500 foot ascent to the parking lot more challenging. Do your best to try and hike in the mornings when it is cooler outside and enjoy the water and waterfalls during the heat of the day. It’s hard to pick just one thing that makes this hike so special. All 5 waterfalls are breathtaking and the hiking is a blast! Be sure to put this iconic US hike on your list, but plan ahead because permits are required to hike this trail! *She Dreams of Alpine*
For those looking for a more detailed look into Havasu Falls Hike, specifically to Mooney Falls….
Mooney Falls Hike – Located in Arizona, Mooney Falls is a waterfall that often gets overlooked due to its world-famous neighbor Havasu Falls. But Mooney Falls stands twice as tall as Havasu Falls and is still one of the sketchiest yet fun hikes I have ever done. The hike is short but challenging. From Havasu Falls to Mooney Falls it is approximately a one-mile hike. However, to get down to Mooney Falls, you have to climb down steep, wet, slippery steps and hike through a small cave. Once you are at the bottom, all the worries seem to disappear and you have the glorious Mooney Falls in front of you. The tall, crystal blue waters of Mooney Falls are worth the stressful and exciting hike. *The Wandering Queen*
Balanced Rock Hike – For a gorgeous Texas hike head to Big Bend National Park and hike to Balanced Rock. It’s named so because of the rock that balances on top of the other two rocks and somehow still hasn’t fallen off! The 1 hour hike is fairly easy, but you will have to do a fair bit of climbing up the steep hill and then you are rewarded with a gorgeous view of the park and the epic rock structure. Once you are done with this hike you can also explore other beautiful hikes including one that leads to natural hot springs. *My Curly Adventures*
Shoshone Trail – On a recent visit to Grand Canyon National Park, we did the trail to Shoshone Point and it was our favorite hike of the trip! We loved it for a couple reasons. First, it’s not marked on any of the trail maps so it was completely crowd-free. We encountered only 4 other people, even though we went during the busy season! Just park at the unmarked dirt lot 1¼ miles east of Yaki Point, cross the street, and you’re at the trail head.
Second, it was easy. It’s a flat 2-mile round trip on a wide, well-packed dirt path, which was helpful since we brought our infant along in his baby hiking carrier. This is a great trail for family hiking! The biggest bonus? Views at the Canyon rim rival all the popular overlooks. *MBsees*
Wind Cave Trail – This trail in Arizona is a fun and an easy to moderate 2.5 mile hike through cacti and desert. It does have some uneven patches of uphill climbs but in general, it’s a gentle slope up the desert. Hike this trail in the morning as it does got quite hot and you have no shade the entire time of hiking. We hiked this in January and even a sweatshirt was hot at times. Most people aim to reach the cave at the top but some continue further. We stopped at the cave and just hiked back down after we snapped a few photos. It’s a great place to hike that’s a short hop from Mesa.
Best Hikes in Hawaii
Hiking in Hawaii is unreal. Hawaii sports some of the most stunning landscapes and understandably so, it offers some of the best hikes in the United States. Take extra caution when hiking some of the more “wild” trails in Hawaii as the unpredictable weather can cause dangerous situations to arise in a moments notice.
Ka’iwa Ridge Trail Hike aka Lanikai Pillbox Hike – Lanikai Pillbox Hike is located in Oahu on the East Coast and overlooks Kailua and the Mokolua Islands (The Mokes) in the distance. It is a gorgeous hike with beautiful viewpoints at the top and should definitely be added to your Oahu itinerary. There are two pillboxes once you reach the end and you can hike to the highest one or just relax at the first one you get to. The hike itself is easy to moderate in difficulty and I would recommend sneakers to hike it. The beginning portion is pretty steep and it has uneven ground throughout (recommended because I tried this with sandals and it wasn’t the smartest decision. Haha!). It’s just over 1 mile in and out and takes about 1-1.5 hours total depending on how fast you hike it. I’d recommend hiking this in time for sunset.
Waimano Falls Trail Hike – Waimano Falls is a relatively easy waterfall hike on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. While it is quite a bit more difficult than the famed Manoa Falls, Waimano Falls is definitely worth the extra effort. At the end, you’ll reach a three-tiered waterfall with tree-shaded pools to cool off in. Plus, there are two rope swings that locals have constructed so you can feel like Tarzan as you swing into the waterfall pool. Or if you just want to cannonball into the water from 25 feet up, that’s always an option too. *Borders and Bucketlists*
Kilauea Iki Trail Hike – The 4-mile Kilauea Iki Trail is situated on Hawaii’s Big Island and takes you to a side-crater of the famous Kilauea in Volcanoes National Park. The hike starts out pretty easy as you make your way through the lush rainforest on the crater rim. Several viewpoints give a glimpse of the crater you’re about to explore. The hike gets more challenging when the path turns into slippery steps that wind down towards the crater floor. Once you get past the lava rocks, the landscape changes into a vast and even surface. Steam vents and massive cracks dot the solidified lava lake. It’s so fascinating to literally feel the heat on the crater floor! When you reach the last set of tacked rocks, it’s time to climb your way up again towards either the Thurston Lava Tube or the parking lot. We completed this moderate hike in about 3 hours as a family of four (with a 6 and an 8-year-old) with no hiking experience. It’s quite challenging but really worth the effort. *CosmopoliClan*
Best Hikes in Montana
Highline Trail – The Highline Trail in Glacier National Park in Montana is one of the most popular hikes in the United States and for good reason. The 13-mile trek offers unparalleled views with vast valleys, glaciated mountain peaks, abundant wildflowers, and the chance to see mountain goats, bighorn sheep, and grizzly bears. And although the trail makes for a long day hike, from Logan Pass to the Loop the trail is relatively level making it a doable hike for most people. It was the perfect way to show my parents the incredible beauty of Glacier without dragging them on a much more difficult hike! *Pink Caddy Travelogue*
Best Hikes Eastern US
Enchanted Trail Hike – The Enchanted Trail in Rock City Gardens is situated at the top of Lookout Mountain on the Georgia state border in the USA. The 4,100-foot loop path leads hikers through tiny crevices in moss-covered boulders and across a 180-foot suspension bridge over Chattanooga Valley before depositing them in front of a gorgeous 90-foot waterfall. From the observation deck above the falls, it’s possible to see seven states on a clear, cloudless day. Affectionately named Lover’s Leap, this iconic viewpoint gets its name from a Cherokee legend of a distraught maiden who jumped to her death after her lover was captured and thrown from the top of the cliff when the two tribes feuded. The trail contains some tight and high spaces that may be a little troublesome for individuals with claustrophobia or a fear of heights but overall is an easy-level hike. There’s even a cave full of fairies – appropriately named Fairyland Caverns – located along the trail at the top of the mountain. It’s a big hit with small children, as well as adults who haven’t yet forgotten how to dream. It’s my favorite part of the entire adventure! *Adventure Dragon*
Tumbledown Mountain Hike – You have not seen green until you have been to western Maine! The hike up Tumbledown Mountain is tough, although it is classified as a moderate hike. The first 1.8 miles are directly up rocky scrambles, but the reward of an alpine lake nestled in the emerald evergreen forest is more than worth the work. You can cool off by jumping into the lake or camping on the island in the middle. After your break, it is another .8 miles to reach the peak which provides stunning views of the mountains of Maine. *The Daily Adventures of Me*
Beehive Trail Hike – The Beehive Trail in Acadia National Park is one of the most exhilarating hikes we’ve ever been on. Though it’s not long (the length of the hike is 0.8 miles), you will expend a lot of effort as you climb, gaining your elevation quite quickly. This trail has been called “not for the faint of heart” as it involves ascending exposed cliffs often using metal rungs affixed to the side of the mountain. With breathtaking views as you climb, it’s true that it might not be for the person who fears heights! But we adored this hike. It was an intermediate level of strenuousness, but you definitely have to use your whole body as you go. To us, it felt like playing on a giant playground for adults with a gorgeous background of coastal Maine. *Two Drifters*
Bubble Rock Trail – Bubble Rock Trail is a unique hike in Acadia National Park. The trail is considered moderate, yet it is a great hike for all ages and is just under 2 miles round trip. The hike begins in a flat, wooded section and then diverges up towards the Bubble Rock area. There are some stairs and a little bit of rock scrambling, but it is not difficult at all. My two kids ages 9 and 7 did this hike happily and easily. Once you reach the top, you are rewarded with some expansive views of the surrounding areas as the summit is about 700 feet high. The trail gets its name from a giant rock left behind by a glacier and it is perched on the edge of a cliff. What I enjoyed the most was sitting at the summit and being surrounded by the granite rock formations and trees. The view from the top was so unique and the short trail to get there offered some nice forest views. *DQ Family Travel*
Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze Hike – Located just outside of New Paltz, NY, Mohonk Preserve is a great day trip just North of New York City. With over 75 miles of hiking trails, there is something for everyone. However if you are looking for something fun but challenging, you should definitely check out the Labyrinth and Lemon Squeeze located just near the Mohonk Mountain House. This is a difficult hike; however, it is short and can be completed in an hour. (Longer if there are crowds). What makes this hike great is the many mini challenges along the way. A little bit of rock scramble, crawling, and figuring your way through tight spaces makes this hike unique. Be sure to save your energy along the way because the highlight is just before you get to the top as you climb ladders and squeeze your way through a tight rock crevice until you make it to the top. Once you reach the top you will be rewarded with amazing views and the satisfaction of knowing you made it through this obstacle course of a hike. *Poor in a Private Plane*
Kaaterskills Falls Hike – This hike is located in the Catskills NY, two hours from NYC. The trail is just over 2.5 miles there and back and is an easy trail for pretty much anyone. The trail is a mix of steps, dirt trails through wooded paths and a smooth rocks and ends in a beautiful two-level waterfall. The trail is open year-round; however, if you choose to hike during winter, make sure you wear spikes or crampons on your shoes as the trail is filled with ice and is quite slippery.
Related: Weekend Getaway in upstate NY
Rainbow Falls Hike – Our favorite hike is to Rainbow Falls in Great Smoky Mountains National Park on the Tennessee side. The moderate 5-mile round trip hike takes you through many beautiful sections of forest and over two picturesque wooden footbridges. At the end of the trail is Rainbow Falls, the 80-foot high waterfall that provides beautiful rainbows on every sunny afternoon. While this waterfall makes the hike worth it on its own, the hiking trail also takes you past several smaller waterfalls in the creek with deep green moss covered rocks. The terrain on the hike is not overly strenuous, but the trail does have over 1600 feet in elevation gain and it does take some time on the way up. *TravelToBlank.com*
Best Hikes in Colorado
Gore Lake Hike – Gore Lake embodies the beauty of the high-alpine. Located near Vail, Colorado, this nearly-12-mile trail offers the perfect challenge for the avid hiker. The trail starts off steep, then levels off for several miles before a long, grueling uphill battle. However, all of that work pays off at the views from Gore Lake. Dramatic rocky peaks cascade down towards a pristine alpine lake. The trail takes the better part of day to complete. For an added bonus, opt to hike in and camp at Gore Lake for even more time in this magical country.
Red Tape: This is a hiking trail only. The Gore Lake trail is dog friendly, but please be sure to clean up after you and your pet. As always in Colorado, be sure to check the weather and avoid being above tree line during an afternoon thunderstorm. *Fox in the Forest*
Dream Lake Trail – The Dream Lake Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is a moderate hike that rewards you with some spectacular views. Beginning in the popular Bear Lake area, the two-mile trail winds past smaller Nymph Lake before climbing up a ridge with some beautiful vistas. I loved taking a break on a large exposed rock outcropping above Nymph Lake and looking down into the valley below. Continuing along the trail takes you to the absolutely gorgeous Dream Lake. With some of the park’s tallest peaks reflected in its mirror-like water, it’s the perfect spot to relax and enjoy a snack before beginning the trip back down. *Nomad by Trade*
Best Hikes in the Midwest
Observation Point Trail Hike – Garden of the Gods Recreation Area is one of Illinois’ best kept secrets. Located in the Shawnee National Forest, it is a beautiful location that defies all of the Illinois stereotypes and is a favorite hiking location for locals. The .5 mile Observation Point Trail (average difficulty trail) and the 2 mile Indian Point Loop are filled with sandstone bluffs and thick temperate forest. Observation Point Loop leads to fabulous lookouts while the Indian Point Loop winds between fabulous bluffs with small caves. *Gypsy with a Day Job*
Notch Trail Hike – Notch Trail in Badlands National Park is one of my favorite hiking trails in South Dakota. The trail is a short but moderately strenuous one and quickly climbs the steep slope of Badlands Wall, a natural escarpment that stretches on for miles in the Badlands landscape. The views of the geological formations of the Badlands including the buttes, pinnacles, mounds, and gullies from the top of this hike are stunning. The best part of this hike is the steep log ladder that adds to the adventure quotient of the trail. If you have time for just one trail in Badlands, the Notch Trail is the one to hike! *Dotted Globe*
Best Hikes in Utah
Full of natural beauty and stunning national parks like Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands and Zion National Park, here are 10 of the best hikes in Utah.
Best Hikes in California
California hosts a myriad of hikes ranging from simple mile strolls to more strenuous hikes. Here are 7 amazing hikes in California including hikes out of Yosemite National Park and hikes near San Francisco and Los Angeles.