Best Hikes in The United States

by | Apr 29, 2024 | Peru Travel Blogs | 0 comments

Best hiking the in usa

In this comprehensive guide to the best hikes in the USA, we’ll navigate you through the most iconic and thrilling trails the country has to offer.

Embark on a journey of discovery amidst the best hikes in the United States, where the pace of nature invites us to pause and immerse ourselves in the beauty of our surroundings.

With over 236,000 miles of trails crisscrossing federal and state National Parks in The USA—an expanse nearly equivalent to the distance to the moon, according to the American Hiking Society.

There’s a world of exploration awaiting. These pathways meander through diverse landscapes, from towering mountain passes to serene valley floors and rocky canyons to coastal vistas.

Each step tells a story, weaving a tapestry of history and natural wonder. Unsure of where to begin? Fear not, for we’ve curated a collection of the finest hiking trails in the nation, offering unparalleled experiences for both the seasoned trekker and the beginner adventurer.

Lace-up your boots and prepare for an unforgettable journey into the heart of America’s wilderness.

Understanding Where is the safest place to hike in the US?

When it comes to identifying the safest place to hike in the US, it’s essential to understand that safety is less about the location and more about the hiker’s preparedness and awareness. Many national parks and trails offer secure environments for hikers, but the real variable lies within the hiker’s approach to their expedition. For example, the Grand Canyon, with its breathtaking views and challenging trails, can be a safe haven for a well-prepared hiker or a perilous voyage for an ill-equipped one.

The most significant risk many hikers face is underestimating the wilderness, be it in the imposing depths of the Grand Canyon or the serene yet deceptive trails of local mountains. Tales of hikers venturing into these environments unprepared – clad in nothing more than shorts, tank tops, and flip-flops, with just a pint of water – are all too common. Such lack of preparation leaves them vulnerable to sudden weather changes, injuries, and the harsh realities of nature. A simple sprain can turn into a life-threatening scenario, leaving them immobilized and awaiting rescue, exposed to the elements, and the risks of hyperthermia or hypothermia.

Proper preparation involves wearing appropriate attire, carrying sufficient water and food, understanding the trail, being aware of the weather conditions, and having a plan for emergencies. Hikers, especially those with less experience, must educate themselves on these aspects before setting foot on the trail. The safest place to hike, therefore, is less about the geographic location and more about the mental and physical preparation of the individual undertaking the hike. Awareness, preparation, and respect for nature are the true hallmarks of a safe hiking experience.

Before we break down the US best hikes

Let’s talk about why hiking is more than just a hobby — it’s a holistic experience. Hiking offers a myriad of health benefits, from building strength and stamina to reducing stress and anxiety.

Connecting with nature provides a mental escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, which is crucial for our overall well-being.

Research has shown that hiking can improve your mood, enhance creativity, and even lead to a deeper sense of purpose.

Plus, the sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a hike, especially one that’s particularly challenging, is immeasurable. It’s an experience that stays with you long after you’ve hung up your hiking boots.

Traversing the Landscapes of America: Iconic Hiking Trails You Can’t Miss

01. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Overview: Stretching over 2,650 miles from the US-Mexico border to the US-Canada border, the PCT is one of the longest and most scenic hiking trails in the USA. It traverses three states — California, Oregon, and Washington.

It offers an astonishing variety of landscapes, from the sizzling Mojave Desert to the lush greenery of the Pacific Northwest.

Difficulty: This trail is not for the faint-hearted. Hiking the PCT in its entirety takes months of dedication and endurance, but you can experience equally awe-inspiring segments on shorter treks.

Highlights: Jaw-dropping natural wonders await you at every turn, from the otherworldly volcanic fields of the Cascade Range to the serene beauty of the Sierra Nevadas.

02. The Appalachian Trail (AT) Best Hike in The US

Overview: The AT spans approximately 2,200 miles and is the oldest long-distance trail in the country. It takes hikers through diverse landscapes, including the ancient Appalachian forests Trail, picturesque farmlands, and vestiges of America’s colonial history.

Difficulty: Like the PCT, hiking the entire Appalachian Trail takes time and preparation. Many hikers tackle it by segment, with the most popular being the trail through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Highlights: Revel in the vibrant wildflowers and vivid fall foliage, and immerse yourself in the culture of small mountain communities along the way.

03. Nugget Falls Trail, Tongass National Forest, Juneau – Alaska

The Tongass National Forest offers plenty of activities for visitors such as hiking through dense forests, exploring caves, and walking on a wooden trail through swampy bogs.

The forest boasts more than 700 miles of trails, ensuring that hikers will always have a fresh experience.

Most of the accessible paths start from the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center in Juneau. The area is a wildlife sanctuary, and visitors can often spot bald eagles, sockeye salmon, and black bear cubs.

The Nugget Falls Trail provides excellent views of the waterfall and the glacier, and it’s an easy 0.8-mile hike.

04. Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Trail Arizona

Overview: A one-of-a-kind experience and the Best hiking in the USA. This hike crosses from the South Rim to the North Rim and treats adventurers to some of the most dramatic views in the world.

Difficulty: The biggest challenge of this hike isn’t distance, but the steep 10-mile, 4,780 ft ascent from the Phantom Ranch to the North Rim.

Highlights: Marvel at the breathtaking expanse of the Grand Canyon as you cross the Colorado River and ascend the rugged, exposed terrain of the North Rim.

05. Burroughs Mountain Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state is the proud host of one of the world’s most majestic peaks. Towering at 14,410 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier ascends into the clouds, offering a breathtaking spectacle.

However, the park’s allure extends beyond its towering summit. With over 260 miles of well-maintained trails, the park invites visitors to explore serene old-growth forests, meandering river valleys, and vibrant subalpine meadows.

For those seeking remarkable views of Mount Rainier and its surrounding alpine beauty, the Burroughs Mountain Trail is a must-visit.

06. Glacier National Park

Overview: With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier National Park’s legacy is written in stone and ice, and its rich tapestry of ecosystems plays host to native flora and fauna numbering in the thousands.

Difficulty: Trails range from easy strolls to backcountry challenges, with the iconic Highline Trail offering some adrenaline-pumping exposure along the Garden Wall.

Highlights: Witness the park’s namesake glaciers and feed your wanderlust with the incredible diversity of landscapes you can explore in a single day.

07. Yosemite National Park and Half Dome

Overview: Yosemite’s granite cliffs, the iconic Half Dome, El Capitan, and thundering waterfalls are only a few of the hallmarks of this iconic park.

Half Dome

The Half Dome day hike in Yosemite National Park, California, is an exciting adventure into the wilderness, covering a 14- to 16-mile round-trip trail. However, visitors are advised on the national park’s website that this trail is designed for experienced hikers who are well-prepared, as the elevation gain of 4,800 feet can be overwhelming. Typically, it takes 10 to 12 hours to complete the entire hike.

Difficulty: Yosemite’s trails cater to all levels of hikers, from the valley walks to the backcountry.

Highlights: Whether you’re admiring the breathtaking views from Glacier Point or marveling at the majesty of the giant sequoias, Yosemite’s vistas leave a lasting impression.

08. Zion National Park Utah

Overview: Utah’s Zion National Park stands out for its diverse & best hiking trails in USA. While it could easily claim multiple spots on this list, let’s shine a spotlight on its iconic trail: Angel’s Landing. The 4.4-mile trek culminates in a challenging half-mile ascent, where chains aid in balancing along precarious stretches. The reward? A spectacular aerial view of the sandstone canyon below. Note that a new permit program is now in place for access.

Difficulty: The terrain can be tricky and conditions vary from season to season, but the experience is unmatched.

Highlights: Apart from The Narrows, Angels Landing offers another thrilling hike with stunning vistas for hikers who are not afraid of heights.

09. Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is a marvel for hikers, showcasing some of the most extraordinary landscapes imaginable. This park is renowned for its hoodoos – peculiar, towering rock formations sculpted by the relentless forces of erosion.

Bryce Canyon boasts the world’s largest collection of these natural sculptures, best viewed along the Rim Trail. Completing the 5.5-mile journey rewards hikers with breathtaking panoramas of the Main Amphitheater.

Catering to all skill levels, Bryce Canyon offers a range of hiking trails, from serene backcountry paths for those craving adventure, to enchanting moonlight tours tailored for nocturnal wanderers.

10. Rocky Mountain National Park

Overview: Rocky Mountain’s beauty is diverse, with alpine meadows, glacial lakes, a wide array of wildlife, and 77 mountains that reach over 12,000 feet.

Difficulty: The park’s 350 miles of trails offer hikes for all levels, but the high altitude and rapidly changing weather demand respect and preparation.

Highlights: Hike to Dream Lake for a postcard-perfect alpine lake, while the Estes Cone Trail grants panoramic views of Longs Peak and the Continental Divide.

11. Halema’uma’u Trail, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park offers a unique opportunity to experience the intense heat of a volcano up close.

The park features a variety of trails for visitors, among which is the Halema’uma’u Trail. This 0.8-mile hike descends 425 feet to the southern rim of the Kīlauea caldera, leading visitors through a lush rainforest.

12. Canyon to Rim Loop, Smith Rock State Park, Oregon

Hikes at Smith Rock State Park come in various lengths and levels of difficulty, yet each path offers stunning views of the Central Oregon landscape.

The park recommends that visitors arrive early to catch glimpses of geese and ducks along the riverbanks.

Throughout the day, it’s possible to observe golden eagles, prairie falcons, river otters, and beavers in their natural habitat.

Embark on the tranquil Canyon Trail, which leads past the Rope-de-Dope climbing area and ascends to the rim, presenting breathtaking views of the canyon below.

13. Acadia National Park

Overview: Home to the tallest peak on the Atlantic coast of the United States, Acadia’s trails offer old-growth forests, the rugged Atlantic coastline, and miles of carriage roads.

Difficulty: The park’s trails vary from gentle coastal walks to challenging mountain climbs.

Highlights: Cadillac Mountain allows for stunning sunrise and sunset views, while the Precipice Trail offers a thrilling scramble-up iron rungs and ladders to the top of Champlain Mountain.

14. Petroglyph Wall Trail, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada

Nestled in Nevada, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is renowned for its predominantly short-distance trails, most of which are under five miles. However, the brevity of these hikes is deceiving.

Classified as challenging, a five-mile trek through Red Rock Canyon might demand four to five hours to complete. As you navigate the diverse paths, keep an eye out for the desert’s inhabitants, such as lizards, toads, and hawks.

For beginners, the Petroglyph Wall Trail is a must-try. This easy 0.2-mile journey leads you past ancient rock art, offering a glimpse into centuries past.

15. Kalalau Trail, Hā’ena State Park, Kauai – Hawaii

The Kalalau Trail, nestled within Hā’ena State Park on the picturesque island of Kauai, stretches approximately 11 miles along the island’s north shore, extending from Keʻe Beach to the breathtaking Kalalau Valley.

Visitors are required to pay an entrance fee, and those wishing to venture beyond Hanakāpīʻai Beach must secure a camping permit, even if they do not intend to camp overnight. It’s important to note that the trail presents a challenging and potentially hazardous journey.

However, for experienced hikers willing to navigate through streams and ascend steep inclines, the trail offers the ultimate reward: mesmerizing views of the island’s crystal blue waters, making it a sought-after destination for thrill-seekers.

Hiking Gear Essentials

Before setting out on any best hiking adventure in the USA, whether it’s the arduous ascents of Hawaii’s Kalalau Trail or the intriguing desert paths of Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon, equipping yourself with the right gear is critical.

Key essentials include a durable pair of hiking boots that provide ample ankle support and grip, essential for navigating the uneven and sometimes slippery terrain you’ll encounter.

A lightweight, but capacious backpack is also a must-have, designed to carry water, snacks, a first-aid kit, and any additional layers of clothing or rain gear you might need as weather can rapidly change in the great outdoors.

Additionally, don’t forget to include navigation tools such as a map and compass, or a GPS device, especially in remote areas where cell service could be non-existent. Equally important are sun protection measures like sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat, to shield you from harmful UV rays during your hike.

Together, these essentials ensure you’re prepared for various scenarios, keeping your focus on the stunning views and experiences ahead.

Preparing for Your Adventure

A successful hike in the USA national parks requires careful planning and preparation. Here are some essential tips for when you’re ready to hit the trail:

Research and Choose Your Trail Wisely

Different trails cater to different levels of hikers and interests. Research the trails’ difficulty, length, elevation gain, weather conditions, and the best time to visit.

Gear Up – Packing List

Invest in good-quality hiking gear. You’ll need suitable hiking boots, a comfortable backpack with water and essential supplies, and clothing that’s appropriate for the weather.

Hiking Clothing

Trekking Equipment

Trekking Clothing

Personal Items

Toiletries

  • Compact roll of toilet paper
  • Personal wipes/hygiene items
  • Washcloth
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush (travel size)
  • Toothpaste (travel size)
  • Dental floss
  • Sunscreen (SPF 30 or higher)
  • Lip balm (SPF 30 or higher)
  • Shampoo and conditioner For Travel
  • Camping, Hiking, Travel Soap
  • Deodorant
  • Razor and shaving cream
  • Skin lotion
  • Spare eyeglasses or contact lenses
  • Prescription medications for traveler’s diarrhea, altitude sickness, malaria

Food

Guide companies generally provide breakfast, lunch, dinner, and drinking water during your trek. You’ll want to add to this by bringing snacks, drink mixes, and energy foods. Check with your guide company to see what food is provided

Safety Comes First

Always inform someone of your hiking plans, and be sure to check in when you’ve finished. Bring a map, compass, and possibly a GPS device or a smartphone with GPS capabilities. Familiarize yourself with the Leave No Trace principles to minimize your environmental impact.

Preserving Nature’s Hiking Trails

The beauty we find on these trails is something to cherish and protect. Always be mindful of your surroundings and tread lightly. Take the time to learn about the flora and fauna you encounter and be a steward of these magnificent natural places.

In conclusion, hiking is an experience that engages all your senses and satisfies the longing for adventure and discovery.

The United States presents a treasure trove of trails that beckon hikers to explore farther and dream bigger. Lace-up your boots, pack wisely, and get ready to make memories that will last a lifetime amid the sweeping landscapes of the great American outdoors. The trail awaits — and it’s time to begin your next great hike.

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Cesar Conde

I’m Cesar Conde, owner of Tour Leaders Peru & Travel Advisor and my other side job is Nomadic Digital. I share my own amazing Tour Experiences, travel stories, guides, and itineraries for travelers like you and me!

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