The United States is a unique destination because of the different terrains in the country. One of the best ways to experience this is by going on hikes to explore the natural beauty of the different states. Plantie has put together a list of the best hiking trails in the United States. The hikes featured in the list have varying levels of difficulty so there is something for every hiker or mountaineer.
Pahoa, Hawaii, USA – 1.8 miles round-trip
This hike is different from most hikes! Instead of going uphill to a mountain’s peak, this hike descends through a rainforest to the floor of the Kilauea caldera. A caldera is a concave structure that is formed after a volcanic eruption. In other words, this hike takes you straight to the center of a volcano! You will also be able to see the natural and unique flora and fauna of Hawaii. Make sure to check the notices before you go as the trail may be closed due to the gases released from the volcano.
Acadia National Park, Maine, USA – 7.1 miles round-trip
The trail takes you to the tippy top of the tallest mountain on the Eastern seaboard! Thankfully, this hike is not too steep which means that people of all ages can enjoy the beautiful views at the top of the summit. However, there are a lot of open areas and some rock climbing so be sure to bring sunscreen and good shoes. The view at the top is worth the climb.
Fun fact – Cadillac Mountain is the very first point to see the sunrise during the winter months!
Cutler Coast Trail
Cutler, Maine, USA – 8.8 miles round-trip
Located on the Bold Coast of Maine, this trail proves that it belongs there. You will walk through a classic northeast forest, a coastal forest, and coastal grasslands! This hike will even take you along the cliff’s edge, providing a beautiful view of the Atlantic Ocean. There is even a set of stairs that will take you to a rocky beach so you can really take in the ocean views.
Yosemite National Park, California, USA – 7 miles round-trip
This is Yosemite’s best-known hike and for good reason. This hike will take you through a dense Californian forest and past multiple waterfalls. In fact, there is a waterfall every half mile! Trekking through this forest during the springtime will pit you against a force of nature – the Vernal Falls. From Vernal Falls, continue on the trail past Emerald Pool to Nevada Falls. There is a walkway that can bring you right to the brink of the waterfall. This hike is somewhat difficult due to the steep incline and wet paths.
Charlies Bunion Trail
Smokey Mountains, Tennessee, USA – 8 miles out-and-back
The Charlies Bunion Trail is a subsection of the well-known Appalachian Trail. This rocky trail takes you through a dense forest to the bunion, from where there are breathtaking views of the forest below. There is also a shelter at the top if you would like to stay overnight. Depending on the time of year, you can see wild elk and fields full of wildflowers. Make sure you have good hiking shoes as the trail has lots of loose rocks and roots.
Monticello, Utah, USA – 11 miles round-trip
The Colorado Plateau is surprisingly covered with some crazy rock formations. The Elephant Hill Trail is a great way to see the spires, needles, and arches that dot the plateau. At the end of the hike is a view of the famous Druid Arch. Due to its location, there is little shade, so it is very important to stay well hydrated on this trail. You will not want to turn back for water after you see the striped Needles in the distance!
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado, USA
Every hiker has a dream of completing a 14-er, and Colorado is a great place to do it. Longs Peak is the tallest summit in the Rocky Mountain National Park, standing at 14,259 feet. The first two-thirds of the trail is fairly calm with some rock climbing but conserve your energy for the last five miles. These are extremely steep and require a great deal of mental and physical strength. This is because the Keyhole Route can be dangerous due to the falling rocks and sheer rock faces you have to navigate. Start early in the morning so you can take a break and take in the view when you reach the beautiful summit before starting back down.
Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, USA – 8.2 miles round-trip
A day’s hike in the Kenai Fjords has to be beautiful; this hike ends with a view of Harding Icefield, the largest icefield in the United States You might even see black bears along the way. Do remember to observe the alpine vegetation and rock structures as these are unique to the area. This hike is strenuous due to the switchbacks and quick changes in elevation and weather so come prepared!
Half Dome Trail via John Muir Trail
Yosemite National Park, California, USA – 16.5 miles round-trip
This would not be a top ten hiking list without the inclusion of the Half Dome Trail. Along the Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park, the Half Dome Trail is one of Yosemite’s most difficult hikes. In fact, you can hike from the Mist Trail to the Half Dome Trail if you want an extra challenge. The Half Dome hike is very steep, featuring 4800 feet rise in elevation. To climb the last 400 feet and reach the summit, you will need to scale a rock wall. There are cables affixed to the wall so there is no need to bring rock climbing equipment. The gorgeous panoramic view from the top is worth it. You will need a permit to hike this trail due to its difficulty.
Bright Angel Trail
Grand Canyon, – 15.6 miles round-trip
Just like the Halema’uma’u Trail, this trail takes you downwards. This time, you will be navigating switchbacks as you make your way down the canyon. The trail ends at the Bright Angel Bridge which crosses over the Colorado River. Throughout this hike, you will be able to see the various types of rock formations such as layered cliffs. You might even see mules!
Keep in mind that this hike will take 2-3 days to complete due to the steep descent and lack of forest cover.
The most important thing to remember when it comes to hiking is, BE PREPARED. Make sure you bring enough food and water, proper clothing and shoes, and any required permits when you go on a hike. The best way to get permits is by contacting the respective park services directly. Travel safe and have fun!