Best Hikes In America – Top US Trails Inside and Outside National Parks

Updated: May 11, 2023

The United States is home to some of the most remarkable hiking trails.  Vaste wilderness areas offer a wide range of trails, amazing wildlife sightings and stunning mountain views.

In this article I've grouped the best hikes in the USA by National Park. Where relevant I've linked to our detailed trail guides for these hikes.

At the end of the article, I've also highlighted some of the best USA hikes by State and near major cities.

Let's jump in.

Hiking In The USA (A Little Context)

It goes without saying, the USA is huge.

Before we jump into the best hikes in the USA, let me give you a little context. 

There are 50 States to explore in America. Within these States, there are 58 national parks, covering approximately 84.9 million acres of the U.S. This leaves an endless amount of trails and landmarks to discover. The National Park Association protects these parks, so we can continue to enjoy them for years to come.

In addition to the National Parks, there are three major mountain ranges in North America. There are many more smaller ranges too. It would take a lifetime to explore all the beautiful  mountains in the US.

The Appalachian Mountains run for 1,500 miles along the east coast. This is where you'll find the famous Appalachian Trail (AT) hikes (we have detailed section guides for GeorgiaPennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Maine). Read more about shelters on the AT.

The Rocky Mountains, run 3,000 miles from New Mexico, through Montana, and into Canada. These mountains are home to another major thru-hike, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), as well as countless Rocky Mountain hikes.

Lastly, the Sierra Nevada is the third largest range and runs north to south for 400 miles in California and Nevada. This range is home to the famous Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). 

I haven't mentioned hikes on the AT, CDT or PCT below, but these alone provide 1000s of amazing day hike opportunities.

Best Hikes in the USA (By National Park)

I've tried to organise the best hikes in America by national park. Of course, I haven't included every national park, just the major ones, and many great hikes are not in national parks. Where relevant I've mentioned hikes outside of national parks, especially ones near major USA cities. 

I've added links to our detailed trail guides for each of the hike I mention.

Yosemite National Park (California)

Yosemite National Park 3

Yosemite National Park is a majestic and iconic playground for hikers. It is home to glaciers, ancient sequoias, waterfalls and incredible panoramic views.

You will certainly not be disappointed when visiting this World Heritage Site. Yosemite’s international recognition brings over four million people each year to see the park in all its glory. Explore over 800 miles of trails and embark on a leisurely nature walk or a lengthy backpacking trip.

The best time to visit Yosemite depends on what experience you are looking for. Generally, springtime is best to avoid the crowds. May and June are ideal if you are looking to see the picturesque waterfalls. July and August are perfect for hiking or backpacking in the High Sierra.

Popular Hikes in Yosemite

Glacier National Park (Montana)

Glacier National Park

A park designed for lovers of the backcountry. Glacier National Park is a fantastic place to explore for a summer family vacation or for those who crave an individual hiking adventure.

With over 700 miles of trails, 25 active glaciers, and hundreds of species of animals, the Rocky Mountains are sure to have you in awe. Whether you are looking for a short hike or extended backpacking trip, Glacier National Park will have you covered. 

The best time to visit Glacier National Park is the months of July and August. This is peak time for visitors while the temperature are pleasant. Although it will be busier and entrance fees will be higher, most facilities and shuttle services are open.

The 50-mile trek called “Going-to-the-Sun-Road,” is famous for its striking views of Montana. When on this trek you will come across several lakes, a historical site, and a location that crosses the US-Canadian border.

For a shorter alternative, the Highline Trail is 11.4 miles that still offers stunning views of the summits. Some other frequently visited trails are the Grinnell Glacier (10.3 miles) and Hidden Lake (2.8 miles).

Popular Hikes in Glacier NP

Grand Canyon National Park (Arizona)

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park is the second most visited park in the United States and one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Six million travel from around the world to see the striking canyons made of rich red rock. The canyon is divided into the South Rim and North Rim. The South Rim

The best time to visit the Grand Canyon is March-May and September-November. Temperatures are cooler and it is less busy. When visiting in the summer during peak season, the park will be crowded and accommodation will be difficult to book. 

The Rim-to-Rim trail is one of the longest hikes. It is 44 miles round trip and takes about 5-7 days to complete. It is strenuous and takes great endurance; the views, however, are absolutely immaculate.

The Bright Angel trail is a shorter option, 9.5 miles with campsites along the way. There are several other trails varying in distance and difficulty.

Popular Hikes in Grand Canyon NP

Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

Yellowstone National Park

As the first National Park in the United States, Yellowstone is home to a vast amount of wildlife and numerous diverse ecosystems.

Yellowstone runs through 3 states and spans over 3,500 square miles. When hiking through Yellowstone, you will explore canyons, forests, rivers, hot springs, and geysers.

The most popular time to visit Yellowstone is July and August. If you are looking to avoid the crowds, April to May or September to November are best for this. The weather is mild during this time as well.

Uncle Tom’s Trail is a popular Yellowstone hike as it is only one-mile long round trip. However, do not be deceived, there are 328 stairs and a 308ft vertical gain and loss.

You will be rewarded with views of Yellowstone River’s Lower Falls. For a more secretive adventure, visit The Grand Prismatic.

Located in the southwestern part of Yellowstone, this spring is naturally filled with vivid rings orange, yellow, green, and blue.

You could stop and see this feature while on route to Fairy Falls, a 5-mile easy hike to another spectacular waterfall. For a relaxing dip, visit The Boiling River.

Popular Hikes in Yelllowstone NP

Acadia National Park (Mount Deser Island, Maine)

Acadia National Park

The oldest national park east of the Mississippi River: filled with mountains, woodlands, an ocean shoreline, lakes, marshlands, and fields.

There are 47,000 acres to explore as the park stretches across Mount Desert Island, Isle Au Haut, and the Schoodic Peninsula. 

Acadia is home to various animals such as mollusks, mammals, reptiles, and raptors. On water, you can expect to see whales, seals, and herons.

There are over 120 miles of hiking trails to choose from with two main campgrounds, Blackwoods and Seawall.

The best time to visit Acadia is September to early October. This time of year avoids the crowds and tends to be less rainy unlike the months of March to May.

Cadillac Mountain is a popular trail in Acadia. With stellar views of the park and the potential of spotting a peregrine falcon, Cadillac is a memorable one.

For a shorter hike leading to the shoreline, the Wonderland Trail is a great option with flat ground and minimal roots and rocks.

Take a visit to Acadia’s deepest and clearest lake by taking the Jordan Pond Path. A moderate, 3.3 mile loop trail.

Popular Hikes in Acadia NP

Zion National Park (Utah)

Zion National Park

People have inhabited Zion National Park and its surrounding areas for over 8,000 years.

Zion has several life zones and a unique geography of mountains, deserts, canyons, forest, and rivers, creating numerous habitats for plants and animals.

Zion National Park is perfect for short family-friendly hikes or longer multiple-day backpacking trips.

The best time to visit Zion National Park is either in spring or fall, this being the months between April and May or September and October. These months are pleasantly warm with highs between 60-90°F.

The Canyon Overlook Trail is the perfect hike for any age group or ability level. It is only 1 mile long, easy to moderate in difficulty, and will only take 1 hour. At the top, you have a fantastic view of Zion Canyon.

The Weeping Rock trail is another iconic hike at Zion. It is the shortest and can get crowded for its popularity. For a lengthier hike, Emerald Pool Trail is a great option.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park (Tennessee North Carolina Border) 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The Great Smoky Mountains or the Smokies, a UNESCO world heritage site with over 78 structures protected throughout the park. With 9 million people visiting a year, it is one of the most-visited parks in the US.

There are over 187,000 acres of mountains and forests housing the densest population of black bears. With over 850 miles of hiking trails, there is an endless amount of trails and places to explore.

Visit Smoky National Park in summer (June, July, and August) or during the fall. July is Smokies busiest time of year and October showcases vivid colored foliage for the autumn season.

Alum Cave Trail is one of the most hiked trails featuring the Smokies unique topographies and breathtaking views.

It is a strenuous hike lasting 11 miles round trip. If you’d like to see more than the cave, you are able to summit Mt. LeConte at 6,593ft on the same route. 

There are so many other wonderful trails to explore such as Thunderhead Mountain (strenuous, 13.9 miles), Porters Creek (moderate, 4 miles), and Andrews Bald (easy, 3.6 miles).

See all hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) 

Grand Teton National Park

When entering Grand Teton, you will be in awe of the 40-mile long Teton Range and the valley known as Jackson Hole.

The National Park gets its name from the tallest mountain in the Teton Range. Just 10 miles south of Yellowstone, you could easily add Teton to your agenda.

Humans have walked along Grand Teton as far back as 11,000 years. Grand Teton is a popular destination for hiking, mountaineering, and fishing.

With more than 1,000 drive-in campsites and 200 miles of hiking trails, one will be in the best circumstances to explore.

Mid-May to late September is the best time of year to embark to Grand Teton National Park. This time is ideal as all visitor centers and trails are open.

At 2.2 miles round trip, Hidden Falls aka Inspiration Point is one of the well-known trails at Grand Teton. It is easily accessible from two locations and offers impressive views of the park and falls.

String Lake Trail is another easy option at 3.8 miles, offering fantastic views of the “Cathedral Group” otherwise known as Teewinot Mountain (12,325ft), Grand Teton (13,770ft), and Mount Owen (12,928ft).

There are plenty of opportunities to summit a mountain in the Grand Teton, although it will be a technical climb.

See all hikes in Grand Teton.

Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park is most famous for its massive natural amphitheaters and Hoodoos. Hoodoos are uniquely shaped natural pillars and Bryce Canyon has the largest collection of them in the world.

Despite “canyon” being in the parks name, it is actually not a canyon. It is a park made of amphitheaters with rocks colored vibrant shades of red, pink, orange, and gold. Bryce Canyon is 50 miles northeast of Zion National Park. 

The most popular time to visit Bryce Canyon National Park is during the summer, May-September. Spring/Fall will have fewer tourists. Wintertime has increased snowfall and wonderful winter activities. 

A popular trail at Bryce Canyon is the Navajo Loop/Queens Garden Trail. It is 3 miles long with remarkable views of the hoodoos.

If you are looking for a more secluded trail and experience, the Fairyland Loop is for you.  It’s 8 miles long with spectacular views of the amphitheaters and it also fantastic in winter.

See all hikes in Bryce Canyon.

Olympic National Park (Washington)

Olympic National Park

Located on the Olympic Peninsula, the Olympic National Park is made up of four different regions, the coastline, temperate rainforest, dry rainforest, and alpine area.

All of these different ecosystems are homes to numerous species of wildlife. Olympic National Park offers a variety of activities. Whether you want to hike, backpack, or climb.

As a UNESCO work heritage site and International Biosphere Reserve, this 1 million acre National Park is an extraordinary adventure. 

The best time to explore Olympic National Park is during the spring or fall. The park can get quite busy over the summer.

Take the Enchanted Valley Trail and be immersed in forests and waterfalls. This 5-mile hike is great for any age group.

A popular hike at the Olympic is Hurricane Ridge, just 3.2 miles round trip and the Olympic Mount peaks and ocean are perfectly in your view.

If you are looking to see the most picturesque rainforest, check out the Hoh Rainforest. All trees are covered in green hanging moss. 

You won’t miss the Hall of Mosses while going through the Hoh Rainforest. It really is unlike any rainforest you’ve ever seen before. Other fantastic short hikes include Lake Quinault (1.3 miles) and Sol Duc Falls Trail (1.6 miles).

See all hikes in Olympic National Park.

Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)


Hugged by the Cascade Mountain Range, Crater Lake attracts hikers from around the world with its aquamarine deep blue waters.

The mighty lake gets its dramatic yet inviting appearance from the miles of cliffs that hide the water from the rest of the world.

Arrival here is something to behold - every hiker feels like they have re-discovered this hidden yet accessible blue jewel. 

Spring is probably one of the best times to hike the park, when its altitude of meadows and fields are carpeted with stunningly bright wildflower carpets.

Conveniently, the lake is only about 3-5 hours away from Portland, so hiring a car there would be a good way to explore the whole area. 

The park is also famous for its wildlife and ancient forests, where you can find fir, hemlock and lots of pine trees.

While here, don't miss a chance to take a boat ride to a cinder cone (simples form of a volcano) called Wizard Island, which towers above the water.

USA Hikes by State

Here are quick links to our detailed hiking guides by State.











New Hampshire

New Mexico

New York







10 Best Parks For Epic Views

About the author 

Mark Whitman

Mark has trekked extensively in Asia, Europe, South America and Africa. He founded Mountain IQ in 2014 with the sole aim to be the best online information portal to some of the most popular mountain destinations around the world. When not writing for Mountain IQ, Mark is out exploring the outdoors with his wife!

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