Whether you’re an avid hiker or are considering hitting a trail for the first time, we’ve compiled the ultimate list of best hikes in all 50 states to inspire you. From the Pacific Northwest to New England, Alaska to Florida, and prairies, coasts, canyons, hoodoos, overlooks, and caves in between, our travel experts share the best hike in your state and those you’re hoping to tick off your bucket list.
Alabama Birding Trails
Length: Varies, Difficulty: Varies
Over 400 species of birds live in and migrate through Alabama, and this trail system, which stretches from the Tennessee River to the Gulf of Mexico, offers 280 spots to stop and bird-watch in addition to inviting you to traverse miles of gorgeous scenery.
Sage Scott told us, “From mountains and forests to marshes and coastline, Alabama is the most biologically diverse state east of the Mississippi River. While most hiking trails throughout the state are lined with beautiful wildflowers, shaded by trees, and offer glimpses of wildlife, my favorite hikes in Alabama are along the Alabama Birding Trails.” See Scott’s advice for other beautiful hikes in Alabama, too.
Ward Lake Loop, Ward Cove
Distance: 1.5 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
“As a fourth-generation Alaskan, I have been traversing the trails in my home state since I was old enough to walk,” Adryn Sumner, who wrote about the most stunning hikes in Alaska, told us. “In a state known for its unparalleled wild beauty and incredibly vast terrain and offerings, the choice of one hike above the others feels like sacrilege. Still, if pressed, I might suggest one that captures the very essence of Alaska herself.
“The Ward Lake Loop is a spiritual experience where visitors of all ages and abilities are enveloped by a world that time forgot,” describes Sumner, “The towering rainforest, mirrored lake, whispering breeze, sunlit meandering path, and powerful rushing creek weave a magical veil from which one hopes never to emerge.”
Summer And Fall: Kachina Trail, San Francisco Peaks, Flagstaff
Distance: 10 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
In summer, head for the Kachina Trail in the Flagstaff area’s San Francisco Peaks. It offers a respite from the scorching Arizona heat and is known for its crisp, cool, pine-scented air. Emese Fromm told us, “As you step on the trail, the forest envelops you, as it winds through tall ponderosa pines, fern-filled areas, open meadows, and groves of quaking aspens. In the fall, the aspens put on a dazzling show, while in spring wildflowers offer another dimension to the hike, in the open meadows. This trail starts in the Arizona Snowbowl area, and although it is 10 miles long, the first two miles offer enough of a show to make it worth it.”
Winter And Spring: Apache Wash Loop Trail, Sonoran Desert Preserve, Phoenix
Distance: 6.6 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
In winter, try the Apache Wash Loop Trail in the Sonoran Desert Preserve north of Phoenix. The nearly seven-mile loop takes you past iconic saguaros and teddy bear cacti, plus pencil chollas and stunted palo verde trees. Emese told us, “Following and crossing the Apache Wash — where you are not likely to see water — parts of the trail are greener than most of the surrounding desert. In the spring, from late February through March, this area is one of the best places to see desert wildflowers, especially along the wash.” For more inspiration, read up on the best hikes to experience in Arizona.
Lost Valley Trail, Buffalo National River, Ponca
Distance: 2.3 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
One of many stunning hikes in Arkansas, Lost Valley Trail is deservedly popular considering it leads hikers to a waterfall, a cave, and a swimming spot. This isn’t just a hike — it’s a nature experience.
David Hopkins told us the natural bridge over the first little waterfall is easy to traverse, and he recommends making time to explore the area around Cob Cave before hiking on. “Make sure to spend some time exploring before moving on. The trees provide enough shade in the summer, so this is a trail that’s enjoyable in any season. The best parts of the trail are toward the end as the trail leads you to Eden Falls. Make sure to pack accordingly so you can hop in for a swim at the end.”
Rubicon Trail, South Lake Tahoe
Distance: 16.4 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
Located in South Lake Tahoe, the Rubicon Trail provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in spectacular scenery and refreshes even the weariest spirit with its magnificent pine-scented peace and serenity. The trail connects two state parks, and you’ll enjoy views of the lake during almost the entire hike, which means plenty of great photo ops.
Sue Reddel ad Diana Laskaris told us, “One of our favorite places on the planet, Lake Tahoe appeals to all the senses in every season,” and hitting the Rubicon Trail is a great way to have your own unforgettable Lake Tahoe experience. See the most stunning hikes in Northern California for even more Golden State inspiration.
Laurel Canyon Trail, Laguna Coast Wilderness Park, Laguna Beach
Distance: 3.6 Miles, Difficulty: Easy To Moderate
Out of the best hikes in Southern California, Laurel Canyon Trail in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park is the hike you cannot miss. Wendy Lee told us, “Most people drive by this 7,000-acre park on their way to the beach without knowing what they are missing.” It winds through meadows full of wildflowers and ascends a rocky slope. “Along the way, the trees are full of birds — over 130 species make their home in this region,” Lee tells us, “I’ve hiked this trail many times and I just don’t get tired of it.”
Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Estes Park
Distance: 9.4 Miles, Difficulty: Hard
One of the the nine most stunning hikes in Colorado, Chasm Lake off Highway 7 in Rocky Mountain National Park. According to Mike Owens, it “has all the right ingredients: switchbacks, above treeline, lots of wildflowers — including the state flower, the blue columbine — enough challenge to raise the heart rate, and a good spot for lunch overlooking a roaring river.” It is truly the ultimate Colorado hike.
Yellow Loop, Mianus River Park, Greenwich/Stamford
Length: 4.5 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
On the border of Greenwich and Stamford, the Yellow Loop in Mianus River Park is an easy hike that goes around the entire park, allowing you to take in all of the beautiful scenery. It is one of the beautiful Connecticut hikes recommended by Laskaris and Reddel. The pair tell us that Yellow Loop’s terrain “provides a lot of variety and it’s great for observing wildlife and birds. Taking this hike gives us a chance to appreciate nature and refresh ourselves.”
Trap Pond Loop, Trap Pond State Park, Laurel
Distance: 5 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
Marvel at the bald cypress trees that rise from the still waters of Trap Pond when you take to the five-mile-long Trap Pond Loop. In addition to these majestic trees, you could see a variety of birds, from fierce bald eagles to red-headed woodpeckers.
“With an average elevation of 60 feet above sea level,” Scott says, “Delaware is one of the flattest states in the Union. But that doesn’t prevent it from offering scenic hikes along the coast, canal, and other waterways,” including Trap Pond. For more inspiration, read Scott’s take on the best hikes in Delaware.
Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area, Tequesta
Distance: Varies, Difficulty: Varies
Appreciate Florida’s unique mangroves and birding opportunities at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area (JILONA). Whether you enjoy authentic Florida or are experiencing the state for the first time, Sara Broers says the Jupiter Inlet trails, which are on either side of Beach Road, will enchant you. In addition to winged ones, you can expect to see manatees in the water here.
Appalachian Trail, Blue Ridge
Distance: Varies, Difficulty: Varies
In Georgia, trekking even a sliver of the iconic Appalachian Trail has to take the crown. Starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia and stretching north some 2,000 miles across 14 states into Maine, the Appalachian Trail is the world’s longest hiking-only footpath, with 78 miles residing in the Peach State. While it is hard for Scott to choose a favorite outdoor experience in Georgia, where hikes range from forested mountains to ocean coasts, she told us hopping on a part of the A.T. is an unforgettable hike you just can’t miss. For access point recommendations, check out Scott’s roundup of the best scenic hikes in Georgia.
Diamond Head Summit Trail, Diamond Head State Monument, Oahu
Distance: 1.6 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
The Diamond Head Summit Trail on the island of Oahu is truly the quintessential Hawaiian hike. Cindy Barks told us, “It really is the hike you can’t leave Hawaii without doing. Not only does it give you bragging rights for climbing Honolulu’s most recognizable landmark, but the payoff is spectacular. After scrambling up steep switchbacks and passing through a 225-foot-long lighted tunnel, you’re rewarded with a sweeping view of Honolulu’s gleaming skyline bordering a shoreline of white-sand beach and turquoise-blue water.
“Because of its popularity, you’ll probably have to share the trail with hundreds of others, but I believe it’s worth it. It is a relatively short hike at just 0.8-mile one-way, but the Diamond Head Summit Trail packs a sweet tropical punch.”
Redfish Lake Loop, Sawtooth National Forest, Custer County
Distance: 15.1 Miles, Difficulty: Hard
High in the Sawtooth Mountains, Redfish Lake provides the perfect summer hike. If you find yourself in Idaho you must see Redfish Lake according to Robert Rosenthal, who advises checking out the historic lodge first. “Then, take the Redfish Lake Trail as far as you want to go,” he says, “The mountain lake just has to be seen to be believed.” While the full 15.1-mile loop is rated hard, hiking a portion of the trail doesn’t have to be. For more Gem State inspo, check out the best hikes in Idaho.
Dells Canyon And Bluff Trail, Matthiessen State Park, LaSalle County
Distance: 2 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
The best hikes are often the ones overshadowed by the famous ones. And that’s certainly the case when it comes to the Dells Canyon and Bluff Trail in Matthiessen State Park in Northern Illinois. Millions of visitors flock to Starved Rock State Park a few miles away to visit its famous canyons, but Rosenthal tells us this trail around and through the canyon at Matthiessen State Park, just three miles south of Starved Rock, is his favorite trail in the area. “Walk the bluffs above the canyon and then take the stairway down into the canyon to view the cliffs from below,” he suggests.
Red Cedar Trail, Giant City State Park, Makanda
Distance: 12 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
Giant City State Park is home to some massive rock formations (hence the “giant”) and the Red Cedar Trail connects them all. It gives you a taste of everything great about hiking in Southern Illinois, and at one of the rock outcroppings, you might not believe you’re in Illinois at all. A native of Southern Illinois, Rosenthal reveals that this has been his favorite hike since childhood. He suggests that you hike part of the trail or take the whole day and hike all of it, then end your day with a great meal at the Giant City Lodge.
Cowles Bog Trail in Indiana Dunes National Park, Dune Acres
Distance: 4.7 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
If you haven’t spent a lot of time in the area, you might be surprised to learn that you can do some sand hiking in Indiana. Take to the Cowles Bog Trail in Indiana Dunes National Park, and Broers says you’ll enjoy beautiful views of Lake Michigan that you’ll carry with you forever. In addition to the windswept beaches, there are also marshes, ponds, and black oaks along the trail. For the best views of Lake Michigan, Broers warns against any shortcuts and says you should take the longer, more strenuous hike.
Pea’s Creek Canyon, Ledges State Park, Madrid
Distance: 4 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
Spend an unforgettable day hiking in Ledges State Park in Central Iowa, where the ledges add to the beauty of hiking trails that are covered by canopies of lush, green trees. Broers recommends the four-mile Pea’s Creek “canyon” walk and told us autumn is an exceptional time of year to visit, as the fall foliage colors are rich and varied. She also enthusiastically recommends these other hikes to experience in Iowa.
Horsethief Canyon, Kanopolis State Park, Kanopolis
Distance: 9.1 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
The name of this scenic hike in Kansas is where the intrigue begins. Tap into your inner adventurer as you navigate in and out of narrow, rocky canyons and over multiple water crossings. The trail is relatively flat, and you’ll enjoy great views of Smoky Hill River. Owens, who tells us this is his favorite spot for a walk in the Sunflower State, suggests making a side trip to Mushroom Rocks — stone pillars topped by harder, larger rocks that look like mushrooms — after you’ve finished hiking Horsethief Canyon. This was the meeting spot for generations of Native tribes and in later years, pioneers heading west.
Eagle Falls Trail, Cumberland Falls State Park, Near Parkers Lake
Distance: 1.8 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
This hike is the perfect blend of a moderate to slightly strenuous hike with a wonderful payoff at the end. The lollipop-shaped trail leads you to beautiful Eagle Falls, and if you take your time to explore, you’ll notice caves and, depending on the time of year, views of Cumberland Falls along the way. Hopkins, who calls this his favorite Kentucky hike in recent years, warns that it is mostly uphill and involves stairs, so don’t be deceived by the fact that the hike is under two miles. For longer and/or less strenuous hikes, check out his other recommendations for fantastic hikes in Kentucky.
Barataria Preserve, Marrero
Distance: Varies, Difficulty: Varies
If you’re spending time in New Orleans, the perfect antidote to all the partying the city has to offer is a hike at nearby Barataria Preserve inside Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. The preserve’s connected dirt and gravel trails are easy to navigate and afford hikers a view of the flora and fauna of Louisiana’s untamed swampland. As Erika Ebsworth-Goold tells us, “A tromp through Barataria is a great way to get some nature in, even during a whirlwind south Louisiana weekend!” She also recommends these other beautiful hikes in Louisiana.
Giant’s Stairs Trail, Bailey Island, Harpswell
Distance: 0.7 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
Out of all of the stunning hikes in Maine, Giant’s Stairs Trail on Bailey Island is Laskaris and Reddel’s favorite. According to the duo, “It isn’t terribly rugged hiking, but the views of the ocean are absolutely stunning. There is so much beautiful coastal area, wide open and perfect for leisurely exploring. It’s a peaceful place to let your mind wander as you immerse yourself in a scenic panorama that fills you with the power of nature.”
Sugarloaf Mountain, Dickerson
Distance: 3.5 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
Maryland is home to many picturesque hikes, but Sugarloaf Mountain boasts “addictive wildlife,” according to Reddel and Laskaris. “As avid wildlife lovers and bird-watchers, we love the opportunity for animal encounters in nature,” they say, “Plus, hiking around a mountain that is 14 million years old helps you gain perspective, especially when you’re in the midst of breathtaking scenery.”
World’s End Trail, Boston Harbor Islands National Park, Hingham
Distance: 3.8 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
“Boasting panoramic views of Boston, World’s End Trail in Hingham is one of the most scenic hikes in Massachusetts. The peninsula juts out into Boston Harbor for an easy 3.8-mile stroll through marshes, woodlands, and windswept pathways. If you are visiting Boston, it is a wonderful opportunity to experience the New England coastline, hear the rhythmic waves, and enjoy the outdoors all year round,” says Barrett.
Pyramid Point Trail, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire
Distance: 2.7 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
Out of all of the fantastic hikes in Michigan, Pyramid Point Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes is a “beautiful hike with lots of variety including forest, meadows, and, of course, sand dunes. The views of Lake Michigan from the outlook are breathtaking,” according to Reddel and Laskaris, “The whole area is worth exploring and gives you a chance to breathe in clean air and find some time to enjoy being out in nature’s glory.”
Angleworm Lake Trail, Superior National Forest, Ely
Distance: 13 Miles, Difficulty: Hard
Minnesota is called the Land of 10,000 Lakes for a reason, and if you hop on any trail near a Minnesota lake, odds are, you’ll be rewarded with memorable views. This is especially true when it comes to rugged Angleworm Lake Trail in Superior National Forest. This hike, which takes two to three days to complete, takes you up over 1,500 feet and past numerous lakes. For more Minnesota trail recommendations, all of which Broers told us are “exceptional when sunset rolls around,” consult her list of perfect hikes in Minnesota.
Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge, Gautier
Distance: Varies, Difficulty: Easy
Out of the many picturesque hikes in Mississippi, the number, length, and difficulty of the trails in the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge are relatively limited. However, it’s the possibility of seeing native sandhill cranes that makes this Gautier spot Scott’s number-one pick in the state. She tells us that the refuge was “established in 1975 to protect these critically endangered, long-legged, crimson-masked birds.”
Big Spring Trail, Ellsinore
Distance: 1.8 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
Missouri is known as the Cave State thanks to limestone that dissolves as water passes through, creating caves and springs. Out of all of the beautiful hikes in the “Show-Me” state, the best one incorporates a cave spring. Big Spring Trail follows a branch of the Current River, one of the best rivers to float in Missouri, that’s fed by Big Spring.
The water along the trail is especially blue and chock-full of dissolved limestone. You’ll hike under the auspices of some of the Ozark Mountains, some of the oldest mountains in North America. Toward the end of the walk, Owens says you should be on the lookout for the spring itself, which jumps out of a hillside. Just don’t be tempted to drink the water. No matter how clear it looks, it’s not potable.
The Highline, Glacier National Park
Distance: 12 Miles, Difficulty: Hard
Renowned for its beauty and difficulty, The Highline comes endorsed by Owens, who spends his summers as a Glacier National Park Red Bus driver. This is a long hike, so you’ll need to be prepared with extra water, food, and strong legs. You’ll also need to take a shuttle either to or from your car. Despite the trail’s difficulty (one portion of the hike is so narrow that the National Park Service has provided a cable handrail for hikers to hold onto), it is heavily traveled and well-marked. Those bold enough to traverse this terrain are rewarded with views of Heaven’s Peak and a creek crossing where Mike says you can “rip off your boots and cool your toes.” There’s also the Granite Park Chalet, where you can take a mid-hike lunch and bathroom break if your timing’s right.
Toadstool Trail, Ogalala National Grassland, Harrison
Distance: 0.8 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
When most people hear Nebraska, they think flat. But Nebraska is not all flat prairies. The western half of Nebraska is loaded with geological features the likes of which you won’t find anywhere else. “If you only have time to explore one hiking trail in Nebraska, you need to visit the Toadstool Geological Park and hop on the hiking trails,” Broers told us. “The best tip that I can give you when hiking in Nebraska is to carry plenty of water with you at all times,” says Broers, “Nebraska is hot in the summer, but it’s extremely rewarding with all of its beauty.”
Alpine Lakes Loop Trail, Great Basin National Park, Baker
Distance: 2.7 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
“Alpine Lakes Loop Trail in Great Basin National Park is hard to beat,” Barks remarks. “Right from the trailhead, you’re treated to the sweet sound of trickling water from the creek that crosses the trail numerous times. But the real treasures of the hike are the two lakes — Stella and Teresa — that you pass along the way.
“Stella is surrounded by snow-patched peaks, which are reflected in the lake’s sparkling clear water. Teresa is fed by a pretty little creek that winds through a green, grassy meadow,” Barks tells us. Out of all of the spectacular hikes in Nevada, Barks gives the Alpine Lakes Loop Trail a 10 out of 10 on the loveliness scale.
Old Bridle Path, West Rattlesnake Mountain, Center Sandwich
Distance: 1.7 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
“Old Bridle Path is a quick, fun hike that is appropriate for the whole family. The payoff is great views of the New Hampshire Lakes Region. On a sunny afternoon, the shaded trail is cool and inviting, beaconing you to push forward for a remarkable, mountain-studded view,” Barrett told us as she reflected on the most picturesque hikes in New Hampshire.
Buttermilk Falls And Crater Lake Loop Trail, Walpack Fish And Wildlife Management Area, Layton
Distance: 6.7 Miles, Difficulty: Hard
Hiking the Buttermilk Falls and Crater Lake Loop Trail is a stunning and challenging experience. Part of the New Jersey side of the Delaware Water Gap, Buttermilk Falls is a gorgeous and powerful waterfall — 180 feet of water come crashing down. Crater Lake is one of the prettiest lakes in the state. In between, wildlife and birds abound.
The 6-plus mile trail starts at the top of the falls and includes part of the Appalachian Trail. It can also be done in reverse by starting at Crater Lake. Buttermilk Falls can be easily seen without hiking, but the hike makes seeing the falls even more of an experience. The contrasting experiences of the peaceful lake and the powerful waterfalls leave an impression on the soul.
As an alternative to the Crater Lake Loop, the beautiful Tillman Ravine and Silver Spray Falls are a short walk from Buttermilk.
Sue Davies and Regina Ang said, “Our favorite hikes include lakes and waterfalls. Buttermilk Falls to Crater Lake is the best in all of New Jersey.” If you’re after a more accessible hike, see their recommendations for the best hikes to experience in New Jersey.
White Sands National Park, Dona Ana And Otero Counties
Distance: Varies, Difficulty: Varies
From snow-capped mountains in the north to dry desert paths in the south, the most memorable hiking trails in New Mexico are at White Sands National Park. Scott told us that the shifting sand dunes of one of the world’s largest gypsum fields, which are about an hour east of Las Cruces, “provide a scenic backdrop unlike any other place in the United States.”
The Constitution Marsh Trail, Storm King State Park, Garrison
Distance: 1.2 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
Of all the gorgeous hikes in New York, the Constitution Marsh Trail at the Constitution Marsh Audubon Center and Sanctuary in Garrison is a must-visit. Self-described “avid bird watchers and wildlife observers” Reddel and Laskaris feel thrilled to be in a place where nature surrounds them in all its glory. “To be rewarded even in the winter with the sight of bald eagles soaring and calling to one another is as exciting as it gets,” they say — and it’s just over an hour from NYC.
Green River Cove Trail, Green River Gameland, Saluda
Distance: 6.5 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
North Carolina’s Green River Valley is a sight to behold, and the road to get into the valley — which has 18 switchbacks going down a steep mountain — is part of the fun. Once you reach the bridge at the bottom, you can take the Green River Cove Trail in either direction. Rosenthal told us, “There’s just nothing like a trail along a river, especially when it’s fully flowing and filled with whitewater kayaks. This trail is steep, but the climb is worth it.” Plan to enjoy some of the most amazing views in the state, and read up on stunning hikes in North Carolina as you decide where else your adventures will take you.
Maah Daah Hey Trail, Western North Dakota
Distance: 140+ Miles, Difficulty: Hard
The granddaddy of all the seven best hikes to experience in North Dakota the Maah Daah Hey Trail system is over 140 miles long and composed of several different segments that can be enjoyed by hikers of all abilities. It passes through valleys and prairies, by jagged peaks, and alongside rivers. Hop on the trail near Watford City, Medora, or somewhere in between and enjoy an out-and-back hike, or, if you’re up for the challenge, plan to traverse the entire trail for the trek of a lifetime.
Buckeye Trail, Encircling Ohio
Distance: 1,444 Miles, Difficulty: Varies
Named for the state tree, Buckeye Trail is an epic 1,444-mile loop. Following the perimeter of Ohio, it encircles the state, offering a wide variety of hikes to spectacular falls, through deeply carved gorges, and along tree-lined paths.
Scott tells us you can “simply follow the rectangular blue blazes and explore the Buckeye State!” Of course, you can also enjoy out-and-back Buckeye Trail hikes that allow you to determine your own hiking time and distance. Aside from the Buckeye Trail, Scott recommends these picturesque hikes in Ohio, too.
Turner Falls Park, Davis
Distance: 3.5 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
In addition to the beautiful waterfalls that give Turner Falls Park its name, the stunning trails, castle-style ruins, and a good old-fashioned swimming hole make this location the place to hike in Oklahoma. Broers tells us you could drive by these falls on I-35 numerous times and not know what you’re missing out on. The park’s trails form a loop that’s heavily trafficked and accessible year-round. For more OK hiking inspiration, see Broers’ recommendations of beautiful hikes in Oklahoma.
Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail, Ecola State Park, Seaside
Distance: 14.1 Miles, Difficulty: Hard
Just outside the vacation town of Seaside, Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail is in Ecola State Park, one of Oregon’s many beautiful state parks. Also known as the Tillamook Head Trail, this stunning Oregon hike invites you to climb the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean and provides one stunning view after another.
Rosenthal told us, “It took my wife and I such a long time to complete this hike because we kept stopping to take pictures. The green moss on every tree and rock, the mist rolling in off the ocean — it might be my favorite hike in the entire West.”
Falls Trail, Ricketts Glen State Park, Benton
Distance: 6.6 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
When in Eastern Pennsylvania, do not miss the Falls Trail at Ricketts Glen State Park. Like most hikers, Reddel and Laskaris love waterfalls, “so the opportunity to hike and see so many of them along one trail is truly spectacular,” the say, “In addition to the many waterfalls, the trail is challenging enough to make you take your time to enjoy the scenery, birds, and wildlife for an unforgettable adventure.”
Kinzua Bridge Trail, Kinzua Bridge State Park, Mount Jewett
Distance: 1.2 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
In Western Pennsylvania, the trail not to miss is the Kinzua Bridge Skywalk. The actual hike to the skywalk is relatively easy and is paved until you get to the bridge, which is then wooden and flat for the entire length of the completely unique, high-in-the-sky structure. Summon your courage and enjoy the “only here” views of the treetops and expansive sky.
Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Trail, Middletown
Distance: 2.4 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
Jutting out into Sachuest Bay, the Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge Trail hugs the coastline for most of its easy 2.4-mile loop and will introduce you to the real Rhode Island. Enjoy gorgeous water views, plus a seemingly endless array of other flora, fauna — including deer — and vistas. Barrett recommends these scenic hikes in Rhode Island as well.
Table Rock Trail, Table Rock State Park, Pickens
Distance: 6.4 Miles, Difficulty: Hard
“You’ll boast quads of steel after this eight-mile workout in Table Rock State Park, but most agree it’s one of the best hikes in South Carolina,” Sumner says. “Strenuous but spectacular, if a six-year-old sporting his favorite KEEN Targhees can manage it, it’s on the table for most everyone.
“Stately boulders, abundant wildflowers, and rushing waterfalls along the way provide ample opportunities to stop at lookouts for a breath and to take in the sights on the steep incline. The well-marked path is 75 percent uphill, so summiting may feel like an Everest-level achievement,” Sumner states, “Still, a packed lunch enjoyed after such an effort over sweeping views of the lake and foothills is extra satisfying.”
Black Elk Peak Loop, Black Hills
Distance: 3.5 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
If you only have time for one best hikes to experience in South Dakota, Broers says it has to be the ascent to Black Elk Peak from Sylvan Lake in Custer State Park. Making it to the top — which involves numerous switchbacks and hiking through a pine forest — is an accomplishment rewarded with stunning views of Custer State Park and South Dakota’s Black Hills from over 7,200 feet. The area’s wildlife is abundant, so Broers recommends packing your binoculars, “as you never know what you’ll see.”
Chestnut Mountain Area And Benton Falls
Distance: 3 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
Talk to any hiker and odds are their favorite Tennessee hike is in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. However, if you’re hiking in Tennessee, you owe it to yourself to head to the far southeastern corner of the state, only a few miles from the North Carolina and Georgia borders. In the Chestnut Mountain area, Rosenthal recommends taking the Benton Falls Trail from the Chilhowee Recreation Area in the north or from the Parksville Lake Campground to the south. Either route takes you by the beautiful 65-foot-tall waterfall.
City Trails: Dallas And Austin
Distance: Varies, Difficulty: Easy
Scott is aware that hardcore hikers may scoff at these suggestions, given the many fantastic hikes in the great state of Texas, but the 7.5-mile Katy Trail in Dallas and the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-And-Bike Trail in Austin are two of her faves. Scott loves the Katy Trail for its proximity to one of her favorite places to stay in Dallas, Hotel Zaza.
Austin is home to many great hikes along the Greenbelt, but Scott prefers the urban Ann and Roy Butler Hike-And-Bike Trail that loops around Austin’s Lady Bird Lake. Take the route over Congress Avenue Bridge at twilight between fall and spring to see over 1.5 million Mexican free-tail bats emerge to chase down dinner.
Queen’s Garden/Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, Bryce
Distance: 2.9 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
Utah is home to several gorgeous hikes, but you can’t miss the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop combination trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. Hike through gorgeous hoodoos, under natural arches, and through red rock tunnels to the bottom of Bryce Canyon. Queen’s Garden displays hoodoos of all shapes and sizes, including the Queen Victoria Hoodoo, which was named for its resemblance to a London statue of the English monarch.
“Scenery changes on the bottom of the canyon, where you walk through a flat area in the shadow of cottonwood trees,” according to Fromm, “Reaching Wall Street might be the most spectacular area of this trail, as you walk in a narrow opening in the shadow of high, towering rocks. On the way out, stops around each bend offer gorgeous views of the canyon below. Though the climb out is steep, overall, the hike is pleasant and not too strenuous if you take it slow.”
Quechee Gorge Dewey Pond Trail, Quechee Gorge State Park, Hartford
Distance: 2.8 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
Pronounced kwee-chee, Quechee is a small village along U.S. Route 4 in the town of Hartford, Vermont. Quechee Gorge Dewey Pond Trail can be found in Quechee Gorge State Park. The first third this wide and inviting out-and-back trail is ADA-accessible.
As you follow the Ottauquechee River, there are benches for quiet moments during which you can enjoy scenic vistas and the sound of water rushing through the gorge. While this hike is rated easy, there is one section that has a noteworthy incline that’s marked by roots and rocks. Otherwise, Barrett tells us it’s the perfect spot for a quiet Northeast nature walk. Check out her other picks for the best hikes in the Green Mountain State.
Cedar Run – Whiteoak Circuit, Shenandoah National Park, McGaheysville
Distance: 7 Miles, Difficulty: Hard
Most avid hikers consider Shenandoah National Park a bucket-list destination. With more than 500 miles of trails, it sweeps across portions of the Blue Ridge Mountains near the charming town of Charlottesville, Virginia. Also known as Whiteoak Canyon Trail, Cedar Run – Whiteoak Circuit is rugged magic. Ebsworth-Goold tells us you’ll face a steep incline on this seven-mile trail, but the payoff comes when you meander past six incredibly beautiful waterfalls. If you want to spend more time on the trail in Virginia, check out the best hikes from across the state.
Horseshoe Bend Trail, Mount Baker National Forest, Deming
Distance: 2.8 Miles, Difficulty: Easy
Washington State is home to several gorgeous hikes, but Horseshoe Bend Trail has fewer visitors than some of the state’s better-known trails according to Fromm. So although it is easy to access from the road, hopefully, this relatively easy walk will offer some solitude.
This out-and-back trail follows the rushing river through a dense, ancient forest filled with mossy trees. It’s an easy walk for about half of the way and will give you plenty of opportunities to stop and enjoy the sounds of the rushing river that’s surrounded by the lush green of the Washington forest.
Visiting in August, Fromm found wild raspberries on the shore and spent time watching squirrels running up and down the trees. “Peeking out from the trees, the view of distant mountains beyond the river surrounded by all this lush green formed some of the most beautiful sights I could imagine. Passing through tunnels of green moss-filled trees with the sound of the river fading in the background, the second part of the trail narrows and is overgrown in a few places, making it just a bit challenging and giving me the impression of being in deep, lush forested fairyland. Overall, for relatively little effort you are rewarded with some of the most gorgeous vistas of the Pacific Northwest.”
Maryland Heights Trails, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park
Distance: 4.5 – 6.5 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
History and stunning views come together in this can’t-miss West Virginia hike. Maryland Heights Trails lets you choose your own adventure. Hike the 4.5 miles to the Maryland Heights Overlook and add another couple of miles with the more strenuous Stone Fort Loop trail.
“This hiking loop has plenty of other hikers, so don’t expect complete solitude,” says O’Neal Smith, “The elevation gain is 1,473 feet, and at the top, you’ll look out over Harpers Ferry, site of a Civil War-era raid that took place where the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers meet. The loop brings you back to your starting place.”
Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Verona (And Elsewhere Across The State)
Distance: 1,000+ Miles, Difficulty: Varies
The Ice Age National Scenic Trail offers everything you could want in a Wisconsin hike, and it can be accessed from points across the state. Wander through forests, prairies, meadows, and lakes, and witness Wisconsin’s unique glacial landscape at every turn. In the winter, Reddel and Laskaris love snowshoeing on the Verona segment. The adventurous duo tells us that there are so many different trailheads that you’ll be able to enjoy hiking the trail no matter how long or challenging of a hike you’re after.
Phelps Lake Loop, Moose
Distance: 4.4 Miles, Difficulty: Moderate
Boasting not one but two national parks, Wyoming offers several wonderful hikes. Located in Grand Teton National Park, Phelps Lake Loop is one of the more lightly trafficked trails, yet it features spectacular views of the mountains. Moose, deer, and other wildlife frequent the area, which is shaded by towering evergreen trees. The hike leads to Phelps Lake, which looks straight out of a storybook.
Pro Tip: Broers recommends making this hike between May and September and wearing layers if you start in the morning, as the air can warm quite quickly.
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