The United States has some of the most excellent hiking trails in the world, with different kind of landscapes that ranges from unearthly desert environments to rocky alpine passes and ridgelines, to rambling coasts.
These top fifteen trails are a wonderful example of the broad variety of hiking in the USA, each of these trails recommends something exceptional to both satisfy your senses and fuel your excitement. Get out of your comfort zones and explore these extraordinary trails, being aware they barely scratch the surface of the wonder that exists deep in the canyons, high in the mountains, and everywhere in between.
We have assembled a list of the most quintessential hikes in America’s wild lands. Some of these are backpacking adventures, which will involve planning and understanding of your individual capabilities, time, and interests. Most can be condensed into easy day hikes if that is desired.
Best Beginner Hiking Trail
Pacific Crest Trail in Pasayten Wilderness, Washington
The “P.C.T.” is one of America’s most extraordinary national trails. Running along the West coast all the way from Mexico to Canada, a thru-hike can the entire five-month snow-free season. If you are looking for just a flavor, try its northernmost stretch through the Pasayten, where you can take in views of North Cascades National Park. If you are an skilled backcountry traveler, you may want to trek the neighboring Pacific Northwest Trail as well. A great day hike in this wilderness is Buckskin Ridge.
Best Beginner Hiking Trails in U.S
1. Pacific Crest Trail in Pasayten Wilderness, Washington
Start high and stay high on this stunning section of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). When in season, wildflowers and huckleberries can be found in the alpine meadows along the trail. Water sources and established campgrounds are frequent on this stretch of the PCT.
From Harts Pass, follow the trail as it climbs away from the road. Just 1.2 miles from the trailhead, you will arrive at a camp and a stunning view of Ninety nine Basin, with Whistler Mine directly across from you.
Continue another 3.7 miles through Buffalo Pass and reach Windy Pass, about 5 miles from the trailhead at an elevation of 6,300 feet. Keep your eyes peeled here for mountain goats, coyotes, and other wildlife as you traverse the ridgelines. At Windy Pass you’ll enter the Pasayten Wilderness, and soon after you’ll be tracing the northeast flanks of Tamarack Peak—keep your eye out for larches here.
A mile from Tamarack Peak, venture through Foggy Pass and then through Jim Pass. It’s 7.5 miles from here to Holman Pass. At Jim Pass you’ll begin a traverse around Devils Backbone, a craggy mass capped by Jim Peak, at 7033 feet. You’ll also enjoy views of the Cascades, Mount Baker, Glacier Peak, Canada, and the surrounding Pasayten Wilderness.
The views continue as you ascend to 6100 feet, north of Jim Peak and the east edge of Devil’s Backbone, 4 miles from Jim Pass, then begin a switchbacking descent to Holman Pass at 5100 feet.
2. Dosewallips to Lake Quinault in Olympic National Park, Washington
This 30-mile voyage winds through magnificent temperate rainforests and wildflower-strewn alpine fields in the wildlife-rich southern part of the park. Coastal weather requires planning (and the wilderness requires permits). With 95% of its lands allocated as wilderness, Olympic has many amazing day hikes as well.
3. John Muir Trail in Yosemite National Park, California
Running in combination with part of the PCT is one of the top trails in the world. One end is at Mount Whitney in Sequoia National Park and the other is in Yosemite Valley, whose iconic surroundings have been safeguarded for 50 years. In Yosemite, you will see Nevada Falls and the spires of the Cathedral Range. For a truly unforgettable journey, you can take a side trail to see half-dome at full moon. For a longer trip through this area, take into account the Grand Traverse from Post Peak Pass to Tuolumne Meadows.
4. Sierra High Route in Ansel Adams Wilderness, California
You can avoid John Muir’s jams if you are ready for more of a task on a trail that is less marked and preserved.
This higher road offers more landscapes of the majestic Sierras as it runs for 195 miles through some of the state’s best purposes.
- Kings Canyon National Park
- John Muir Wilderness
- Ansel Adams Wilderness
- Devils Postpile National Monument
- Yosemite National Park
- Hoover Wilderness
5. Rim to Rim Trails in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Only Some places in the U.S. offer more amazement than this gem. This path takes you from one rim to another, permitting you to peer deeply into the ancient times rooted in colorful layers of rock. You will get a week’s worth of sunsets – and dark starry skies, if you project back and forth, crossing the cool waters of the Colorado River twice. For a shorter stint, any piece of these trails has stunning landscapes, but the dirt path from Maricopa Point to Hermits Rest feels wild yet easy going.
6. Angel’s Landing Trail in Zion Wilderness, Utah
Zion has numerous special trails, but Angels’ Landing may be the most famous. At five miles round-trip, the hike can remarkably take hours to complete with its great heights and adrenaline-charged drops.
Once at top, the prizes are magical as you set your weary eyes on stunning Zion Canyon from above. The 16-mile Zion Narrows is another great trail here, as it curves with the Virgin River through stunning sandstone gorges. The heat at Zion is exacting, so try to hike early.
7. Devils Garden Trail in Arches National Park, Utah
Arches National Park has more pure sandstone arches than any place in the world. This easy two-mile hike takes you past Tunnel and Pine Tree Arches to Landscape Arch, the lengthiest arch in the world and one of the park’s most awe-inspiring. You can continue to Devils Garden to see five more arches for a five-mile round-trip.
8. Mount Washburn in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone is one of America’s most well-known lands, and this trail is one of its traditional day hikes. Seven miles of woodlands offer many wonderful sights but the peak of Mount Washburn has the most spectacular view with Yellowstone Lake, the Absaroka and Beartooth Ranges, and even the faraway Grand Tetons. July and August usher in wildflowers, and mornings host peregrine falcons, elk, mule deer and bighorn sheep.
9. Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park, Montana
The CDT navigates through the mid-section of the continent along the Rockies all the way from Montana down to New Mexico. Over 100 miles journey through Glacier National Park, where it also joins with the Pacific Northwest Trail.
A comparatively easy section follows Glacier’s premiere Highline Trail for 11 miles, boasting angular peaks, bright wildflowers, and lucky hints of mountain goats and bears. The CDT also peels through some of Montana’s one-of-a-kind wilderness areas, where we are helping fish populations cope with a warming climate.
10. Kekekabic Trail in Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota
Boundary Waters is one of America’s most stayed wildernesses and was one of the first to be sheltered under the Wilderness Act over fifty years ago. Along with over 1,000 miles of canoe routes, Boundary Waters has 18 hiking trails and about 2,000 campsites. The Kekekabic Trail is the only one that cuts through the heart of the wilderness. It is a three-to-five-day hike for those who like a challenge – and who seek the quietest campsites in the country. It is set to become part of the North Country National Scenic Trail, which meanders from eastern New York to North Dakota.
11. Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Along with the PCT and CDT, the “A.T.” completes the “Triple Crown” of America’s thru hikes. A hike through the most stop at national park makes for a classic Southern backpacking trip. With the highest point on the trail at Clingman’s Dome, this section is high and sharp as it courses along ridges, offering persistent vistas. Commenced by Wilderness Society founder Benton MacKaye, the AT is now retained by wilderness lovers like The Wilderness Society’s Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards (SAWS).
12. Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park, Florida
Everglades has more variety of wildlife than just about anywhere else in the lower 48 states. This trail is by far the smallest and simplest listed here, but it is no less impressive. About a mile round-trip, the path is raised above a marsh teeming with alligators, turtles, anhinga’s, herons, egrets, and many other birds. Everglades’ best trail is actually for boating; the Wilderness Waterway Trail careens for 99 miles through the beautiful Ten Thousand Islands in the wilderness named for its champion Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
13. Franconia Ridge Loop/Traverse in Pemigewasset Wilderness, New Hampshire
This is one of the biggest iconic hikes in America’s most trail-rich destination: the White Mountains of the northeast. It remains remarkably quiet if you visit previously or later in the year. But be prepared: it is considered the second hardest day hike in the country (we recommend you make it a multi-day). As you climb 3,480 feet over four miles, you will be rewarded by view of the whole secluded “Pemi” as well as alpine wildflowers underfoot. It links with a part of the Appalachian Trail also known as Liberty Spring Trail.
14. Ocean Path to Gorham Mountain Trail in Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia is a treat in spring, summer, fall and even winter. The coastal path offers photographic views of iconic pink granite formations from Sand Beach to Otter Point. Gorham is relatively easy as well, taking hikers past plenty of wild blueberry bushes. New trails now offer direct access to these places from campgrounds and lodging facilities.
15. “Caribou Trail” in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Mollie Beattie Wilderness, Alaska
This hike is more fictional than reality perhaps, but we would be remiss if we left Alaskan landscapes off the list. Every spring and fall, caribou herds migrate 120 to 400 miles in the Brooks Range just above the Arctic Circle. While there are no actual selected trails here, you can join their journeys in Gates of the Arctic and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. “Sometimes when I close my eyes, I can hear their clicking ankles on the tundra, and I imagine walking behind them in silence in that vast expanse of wilderness,” writes author Terry Tempest Williams.