Ready to explore the best hikes in the US? Discover the most epic treks, scenic day hikes, and how to see the most beautiful forests, mountains and lakes in the USA with this guide.
One of my favourite things about visiting the United States is that there’s literally adventure around every corner. There are so many great spots to take an afternoon stroll that I’ve even run into some of the best day hikes in the USA by accident.
But you can also plan an epic adventure to the most famous hiking trails in the USA – and if you have time, I strongly encourage you to take a multi-day trek through the mountains, valleys, and deserts of the US.
So, where are the best places to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails? Here’s a look at the most stunning hikes in the US, with 10 multi-day and 10 single-day hikes for you to enjoy.
Best Hikes in the USA
10 Best Multi-Day Hikes in the USA
Half Dome, Yosemite
Length: 16.5 Miles
Time: 1-2 Days
Half Dome is a legendary hike in Yosemite National Park that is on the bucket list of most serious hikers worldwide.
Though often billed as a day hike, this requires careful planning and some luck. You’ll also need to win 1 of 300 permits issued daily for the last few hundred feet, which you climb via cables.
You can apply for a day hike permit or backpacking permit, and I strongly suggest the latter unless you are in excellent physical shape. It involves about 12 hours of hiking in total, but there’s over 5,000 feet of elevation change, and the footing can be uneven at times.
Do this hike over 2 days if you are an average or novice hiker. Attempting it as a 1-day hike requires starting at around 5 am, which may present additional risk for untrained hikers.
It’s seriously hard work to climb to the granite mountain top of Half Dome, but if you ever get a chance, the views of Yosemite Valley and the waterfalls, mountains, and forests below make it one of the best hikes in the USA.
Angleworm Lake Trail, The Boundary Waters
Length: 13.1 Miles
Time: 1-2 Days
The Boundary Waters are one of the best places to camp in the United States. But the rivers, lakes, and forests along the border of Minnesota and Canada also feature one of the best solo hikes in the US. Angleworm Lake Trail.
Trails are well-marked, the elevation changes are just challenging enough, and there’s way more wildlife than people along the remote trails.
Depending on when you go, you might need to take a swim. The creek is deep in spots from flooding, so prepare accordingly and bring an extra pair of shoes or bags for your feet to prevent turning around early.
I think this trail is best done over 2 days to take in the beauty of the Boundary Waters area, and is a great backpacking adventure for beginners with beautiful campsites and moderate to challenging terrain.
Longs Peak Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park
Length: 13.3 Miles
Time: 2 Days
If you’re looking for the most difficult hikes in the US, head to Rocky Mountain National Park to attempt the epic Longs Peak Trail.
Not only will you be in for a challenge, but it’s truly one of the best places to hike in the USA. Set out on the 13.3-mile trek after obtaining a wilderness backpacking permit, starting along Longs Peak road.
I highly recommend camping overnight at Boulder Field, as it allows you to acclimate to the 14,259-foot summit.
The next day will be full of adventure, with bouldering and traversing the steep, rocky cliffs along Keyhole Route.
It’s a candidate for the hardest hike in the US, so you’ll only want to tackle this if you’ve trained and are prepared for inclement weather and serious elevation change.
Sykes Hot Spring via Pine Ridge Trail, Big Sur
Length: 19 Miles
Time: 2 Days
You’ll find some of the best US hiking trails in California – one of my favourites is Sykes Hot Spring via Pine Ridge Trail.
You can technically do this Big Sur hike in one day, but I’d strongly recommend breaking it up into 2 days and planning it as a backpacking adventure.
Start at the trailhead near the parking lot and begin your day by climbing up the ridges and passing several waterfalls. Once you reach Sykes Camp, you need to cross the river to get to Sykes Hot Springs. It’s not easy.
Between the sunny open spaces (it gets hot), challenging river crossings where your feet will get wet, and elevation changes of over 5,000 feet, you’ll appreciate the longer rest in the hot springs and campground at one of the best places to hike in the US.
Escarpment Trail, Catskills Mountains
Length: 21.9 Miles
Time: 2-3 Days
The Escarpment Trail around New York’s Catskills Mountains near Hudson Valley is a perfect choice if you’re looking for the best hiking in the USA on the East Coast.
This is a very difficult trail, especially later in the hike near Black Dome. But the views of upstate New York from Haines Falls through the Windham-Blackhead Range Wilderness trails are worth the effort.
I only recommend this to the most seasoned hikers, as the steep elevation and sometimes sketchy trails involving serious scrambling make this one of the most challenging bucket list hikes the USA offers.
Lost Coast Trail, Humboldt Coastline
Length: 25.3 Miles
Time: 3 Days
If you’ve ever driven over King Peak and stared down at the most remote stretch of coastline in California, you already know that the Lost Coast Trail is going to be one of the best hiking trails in the US.
If you’re up for a backpacking adventure of a lifetime, start at the Mattole Trailhead and make your way on this idyllic stretch of Humboldt Coastline over the course of 2-4 days.
Camping near Matthole Beach, hunting for seashells along Shelter Cove Beach, and hiking along the coastal bluffs and sandy shores are all highlights of one of the best hikes in the United States.
Always check the tide charts (some portions are inaccessible at high tide) and bring warm clothes for the chilly mornings and overnights. If you plan to backpack hike, you’ll need to reserve a permit before you set out.
John Muir Trail, Sierra Nevada
Length: 219.3 Miles
Time: 2-3 Weeks
You know any trail named after the “Father of the National Parks” will be one of the best places to hike in the US.
John Muir Trail lives up to the lofty expectations.
If you want to attempt one of the most challenging hikes in the US (and most popular), you’ll need a wilderness permit. If you’re lucky enough to get one, prepare for an adventure of a lifetime.
Starting at Mount Whitney (the highest point in the lower 48 states), this trail takes you through some of the most scenic stretches of the Sierra Nevadas in California. Get ready for day after day of towering granite cliffs, gushing waterfalls, vast meadows overlooking mountains and lakes, and, of course, a cardio challenge unlike any you’ll ever experience.
This is easily one of the best thru-hikes in the US, but you’ll want to prepare for extreme weather as the area can experience snow, sleet, and rain throughout the year.
Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to Canada
Length: 2,5090.9 Miles
Time: 5 Months
If you ever saw the movie Wild, you’re familiar with one of the most epic thru-hikes in the US. Reese Witherspoon killed it as Cheryl Strayed, the woman who wrote a memoir about hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.
As you can imagine, hiking from Mexico to Canada offers some of the best hiking in the United States – if you’re up for the challenge.
The trails leading to vistas from Mount Laguna’s Foster Point, Kearsarge Pass through the Sierra Nevadas, and Goat Rocks Wilderness in Washington are as stunning as they are trying. You’ll need to plan long ahead for this epic journey and mail yourself supplies to checkpoints along the way.
Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine
Length: 2,190 Miles
Time: 6 months
For the serious epic adventurers, the Appalachian Trail offers some of the best hiking in the US. But you’ll need to be up for its staggering distance and time commitment – this trail is a beast at over 2,190 miles.
Granted, you can drop in or out at many sections along this famous hike in the USA. But for those up for the challenge, the history, scenery, and sheer challenge of trekking from Georgia to Maine is as good as it gets.
You’ll hike through Civil War sites near Gettysburg, the site of John Brown’s Raid, and enjoy incredible vistas from the famous Tinker Cliffs in Virginia along this 6+ month journey.
Prepare yourself for the trails in Maine, with areas like Mount Katahdin offering the most difficult challenges on this epic trek.
Continental Divide Trail, Mexico to Canada
Length: 2,039.9 Miles
Time: 6 Months
A polarising journey from Mexico to Canada, there’s no denying this is one of the hardest hikes in the US.
Starting in Animas, New Mexico, you’ll begin an epic 6-month journey through the Western United States and the Rocky Mountains up to the border of Canada in Montana.
The trails are isolated, steep, windy, and rugged. As one reviewer said on Alltrails, “If the desert and snow don’t get you, the loneliness will.”
But traversing the backcountry of Yellowstone & Teton National Park in Wyoming and Glacier National Park in Montana ranks it among the best hiking in the US.
10 Best Day Hikes in the USA
Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park
Length: 3.1 Miles
Time: 1.5 Hours
Bryce Canyon is one of the most scenic National Parks in the USA, thanks to the red rocks, hoodoos, and epic stargazing opportunities at night.
But if you want to discover one of the best hikes in America, set out on the Navajo Loop and Queens Garden Trail for the best views of the iconic red rocks and famous landmarks like Thor’s Hammer.
Hiking this trail is relatively easy, although conditions change with the weather and foot traffic along the popular park.
French Canyon Trail, Starved Rock State Park
Length: 2.5 Miles
Time: 1.5 Hours
If you’re looking for the best winter hikes in the US, French Canyon Trail in Starved Rock State Park, Illinois, is a must.
The canyons and sandstone rocks are beautiful any time of year, but the trails around French Canyon Trail are particularly beautiful in the winter.
Why? The rapids become frozen waterfalls, and the French Canyon Ice Fall offers one of the most unique settings of any USA hike.
Fairy Falls Trail, Yellowstone National Park
Length: 4.8 Miles
Time: 2 Hours
Head to Yellowstone for one of the best hikes in US national parks at Fairy Falls Trail.
You won’t need to train hard for this one (with a modest 170 feet of elevation change), but it’s worth checking out some of the most impressive waterfalls in Yellowstone. You’ll also get a good look at natural hot springs and a lodgepole pine forest.
The 200-foot rapids are the highlight of this day hike, but you can tack on an extra 2.4 miles round trip to see some of Yellowstone’s trademark geysers.
Tall Trees Grove Loop Trail, Redwood National Park
Length: 3.6 Miles
Time: 2 Hours
Redwood National Park is where you can find the tallest trees anywhere in the world. Literally.
So it’s no surprise that this scenic stretch in Northern California has some of my favourite day hikes in the USA.
Pressed to choose one, Tall Trees Grove Loop Trail offers the best bang for your buck. At only 2 hours, it’s short enough to pair with other nearby trails and attractions and have the chance to see the 360+ foot Libbey Tree, which is one of the tallest in the world.
Point Lobos Loop Trail, Point Lobos
Length: 6.3 Miles
Time: 2.5 Hours
California has no shortage of coastal beauty, and if you’re looking for an underrated trek around rocky bluffs overlooking the Pacific shores, head to Point Lobos.
One of the most beautiful hikes in the US, this 6.3-mile loop begins and ends near the park entrance. Starting at Whaler’s Cove, you’ll walk up to Granite Point for panoramic views of the gorgeous Monterey Coast.
Next, set off on an afternoon through the foggy cypress forests overlooking rocky beaches full of wildlife like sea otters, harbour seals, and blue herons.
The trail is relatively easy to hike, but there is poison oak everywhere, so wear long sleeves and be on the lookout.
The Wave, Arizona
Length: 6.7 Miles
Time: 3-4 Hours
If you’ve signed into IG anytime in the past few years, chances are you’ve seen the otherworldly sandstone formations in the Arizona desert at one of the best hikes in the US – The Wave.
The Navajo Dunes offer gorgeous patterns resembling the rolling tides of the Ocean. But you’re nowhere near the water in this famous stretch of Coyote Bluffs near the Utah border.
You’ll want to wear lightweight clothing, bring lots of water, and hike early in the day for the safest overall experience. If you’re lucky enough to win a spot to enjoy some of the best hiking in the USA, you’ll capture some of the most incredible views you’ll see anywhere.
South Rim Grand Canyon Trail, Grand Canyon
Length: 12.7 Miles
Time: 4.5 Hours
Looking for the best hikes in the United States? Head to the Grand Canyon to enjoy the beauty of the most incredible national park in the USA.
Start at Pipe Creek Vista before hiking along some of the most famous viewpoints on the South Rim, including Mather Point, Yavapai Point, and Trailview Overlook. You’ll enjoy views of the Colorado River and the massive canyon carved out in the Arizona backcountry.
Finish up at Hermits Rest, where you can shuttle back to the historic village on this scenic day hike.
Mount Greylock Via Bellows Pipe Trail, Mount Greylock State Reservation
Length: 5.9 Miles
Time: 4 Hours
One of the hardest day hikes in America, Mount Greylock is well worth the effort.
Views of the Massachusetts countryside from the top of Mount Greylock aren’t just beautiful; they were a source of inspiration for literary greats like Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau.
Climb up to the top on 4 hours of switchbacks past waterfalls, ash and spruce forests, and over 2,000 feet of elevation, and you’ll see why.
Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park
Length: 4.3 Miles
Time: 5 Hours
Looking for the best hikes in the USA? Head to Zion National Park and attempt the iconic Angel’s Landing trail.
This day hike in Utah is extremely popular, and you’ll need a permit to hit the trails. Be prepared for lots of elevation change, tricky footing, and, of course, epic views of the namesake rock formation towering at almost 1,500 feet.
But climbing up Angel’s Landing is the highlight of the trip, though it’s a dangerous endeavour. Take your time, use the chains to help you navigate steep slopes, and respect other hikers on the challenging and often narrow trail.
You’ll need lots of sunblock and plenty of water; the trails are mostly wide open, and besides Refrigerator Canyon, you won’t duck out of the sun very often.
Hanakapi’ai Beach via the Kalalau Trail, Kauai
Length: 3.7 Miles
Time: 3-5 Hours
While you need a permit to do the full Kalalau Trail (Nāpali Coast), you can plan a day hike along the first 2 miles of this famous hiking spot on Kauai.
You might think only getting to hike 2 miles of this famous trail isn’t enough, but unless you’re lucky enough to get a permit and are a very experienced hiker, you’ll be content with this section.
Enjoy some of the most scenic (and challenging) hiking trails in Kauai that wind around the towering (and slippery) cliffs along the Pacific Ocean below.
Wear your best hiking boots, use trekking poles, and be very careful of rain, wind, and high tides on Hanakapiai Beach.
Practical Tips For Your Hiking Adventure
- Pack anti-insect sleepwear on overnight treks. American hiking trails are full of bugs, and mosquitos love to come out around sunset.
- Pack snowshoes and warm clothes if you’re high up in the mountains on the best hiking trails in the US in the spring or fall. You never know when you’ll need them.
- The best hikes the US offers have lots of wildlife. Do your best to familiarise yourself with safely observing wildlife when you share trails with large mammals like mountain lions, moose, and bears.
- If you’re camping in bear country on the US best hikes, make sure you have all the necessary gear. I recommend a bear canister for your food and a bear horn in case you need to scare any away.
- Poison ivy and poison oak are commonly found near many US hiking trails. Know how to identify each and carry Tecnu in your daypack.
- I’ve written guides on how to pack for day hikes and backpacking excursions. Read both for an idea of what you should bring to your next hike. But some basics include a good water bottle, compass or GPS device, waterproof hiking trainers or hiking boots, daypack, and hiking poles.
Hikes in the US: Map
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