10 Best Hiking Trails In USA

10_Best_Hiking_Trails_In_USA

From the Rockies to the Smokies, the Everglades to the highest point located in Maine, the US features a large number of world-class hiking trails. Irrespective of whether you are a hardcore peak bagger, just looking for an ambitious single-day hike, or you are just trying to make your Instagram feed more interesting while practicing your landscape photography skills, the United States will always have something thrilling for you.

Maybe not knowing where you can find the best hikes in America has been stopping you from lacing your boots and exploring the US wilderness. To help you and other hikers, we have done our research to find the 10 best hikes in America. You can use these hikes as an inspiration for your next outdoor adventure or as a reason to plan your backpacking trip.

Where to Go Hiking in the USA

1. Appalachian Trail – Georgia to Maine

One of the most popular trails in the United States, the Appalachian Trail is the quintessential long-distance hike, ideal for anyone willing to spend more than just a single day outdoors. The “A.T.”, as it is known to most in the US, starts at Georgia’s Springer Mountain and stretches all the way to Maine’s Mount Katahdin.

The entire hiking trail is 2,200 miles and takes an average of 7 months to complete. However, since the entire trail is beautiful and very accessible from various locations, you may not have to commit more than half a year to the trail – you can explore the best sections and leave the less impressive areas to the imagination.

Shenandoah National Park, in Virginia, is one of the best sections. The national park harbors incredible mountain top views and lush deciduous forests which are within easy driving distance from Washington, D.C. The Appalachian Trail spends about 100 miles in the national park – you can hike all or part of this length, using connecting trails inside the park to loop back to the starting point. You will need 13 to 15 days to explore the whole segment one way and twice this amount of time to start and end in the same location.

The Presidential Range, in New Hampshire, is often considered one of the most otherworldly sections of the Appalachian Trail. The section features 10+ miles of alpine tundra and approximately 85 miles of rugged traverses through the White Mountains. The heart of this section is basically a long and high ridge featuring steep drop-offs on both sides – this makes the views, above the treeline, panoramic and continuous. The rugged section will take 13 days one way.

The Appalachian Trail features thousands of cabins, huts, and other rustic accommodations. People who prefer solitude can always set up their backpacking tent and enjoy peaceful nights on their backpacking sleeping bags.

Distance: 2,200 miles

Number of days: 7 months

2. Colorado Trail – Colorado

The Colorado hiking trail traverses approximately 500 miles of the Rocky Wilderness between Durango and Denver. Lying at an average elevation of about 10,000 feet and featuring several extremely remote stretches, the trail for hiking in the USA is more ideal for serious hikers.

If you are not used to high altitudes but are willing to explore the Colorado trail, you may want to spend some time acclimating before setting out. You can spend a couple of days in Denver and then spend an active day at a moderate elevation of about 6000 to 8000 feet before deciding to go higher.

Once you are both physically and mentally prepared, the Colorado hiking trail is well worth all the effort. The trail boasts stunning views from the high peaks, flower-studded alpine meadows, countless lakes, and streams.

The trail is divided into 28 segments. If accessibility is a major priority for you after donning your hiking boots, you may want to start at the Waterton Canyon and then follow the first 4 or 5 segments, ending at Kenosha Pass or Long Gulch. You will traverse a total of 60 to 75 miles. One way, this will take you approximately 9 to 13 days.

You won’t have to worry about accommodation when exploring the Colorado trail. Except for the Waterton Canyon, where Denver Water has restricted overnight use, you can pitch a camping tent on any of the public lands available along the Colorado trail.

Distance: 500 miles

Number of days: About 4 to 6 weeks

3. Ouachita Trail – Arkansas and Oklahoma

The Ouachita trail straddles the spine of the rugged, low mountains in Oklahoma and Arkansas, roughly dividing the Ouachita National forest into 2 equal parts, from east to west. Along its 223 miles length, the hiking trail winds past burbling streams, across rocky crags, and through lush forests.

Unlike the 2 trails for hiking in the USA mentioned above, it’s possible to explore the whole Ouachita trail. If you train for the hike, you should be able to explore the whole length, one way, in about 15 days.

If your goal is just to explore a representative, scenic segment, you may want to start your hike at the Pinnacle Mountain State Park and head west – this trek should take approximately 10 to 12 days and will end at the Blue Mountain Shelter.

Numerous fee-free, rustic shelters exist on the Ouachita Trail – most of these are maintained by the Friends of the Ouachita Trail. Most of the Ouachita National Forest campgrounds, the majority of which feature toilets and running water, are free too. This tells you accommodations won’t be a big problem for you.

Distance: 223 miles

Number of days: 13 to 15 days

4. Mountains-to-Sea Trail – North Carolina

Along the western border, the state of North Carolina harbors the highest elevations existing east of Mississipi. On the eastern edge, the state meets the Atlantic Ocean, with hundreds of miles of unbroken white-sand beach. The 1000-mile Mountains-to-sea hiking trail covers the 2 extremes from the Clingman Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the majestic Outer Banks’ dunes known as the Jockey’s Ridge.

Although still one of the best hikes in America, the hiking trail is still a work in progress. Approximately 50% of it features a dedicated right-of-way. The remaining 50%, however, utilizes rural tracks and country roads – in these sections, caution may be necessary.

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the westernmost segment), features the most stunning vistas and a large number of campsites. Near the middle of the Mountains-to-sea hiking trail, you will find a highly accessible segment that runs for 75+ miles between Greensboro Lakes and the Falls Lake, passing close to Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh, and other sizable cities. To hike this segment one way, after donning your hiking pants and hiking hat, will need approximately ten to twelve days.

Distance: 1000 miles

Number of days: 3 to 4 months

5. Oregon Coast Trail – Oregon

Oregon_Coast_Trail_–_Oregon

Compared to North Carolina’s coastline, Oregon’s coastline is less sandy. However, this does not make the hiking trail less appealing to serious hikers.

The Oregon Coast hiking trail starts at the Californian border and ends at the Columbia River mouth, drawing a fraction of the foot traffic of the nearby Pacific Crest Trail. Although the whole trail stays at lower elevations and loses sight of the Pacific Ocean very rarely, the trail does feature some rugged headlands and hills which any hiker would want to explore after packing their backpack.

If you are looking to explore the best segments, you may want to visit the southernmost section of the trail after gathering all the necessary hiking gear. You will need to start near or at the Oregon-California border and walk towards the picturesque town of North Bend, along the Coos Bay. This trail covers approximately 100 miles, passes through the Cape Sebastian State Park and Humbug Mountain State Park, and takes a maximum of 2 weeks to complete.

The Oregon state allows hikers to camp on the public beaches as long as they are out of the residences. If you prefer spending your night in organized campgrounds, possibly featuring running water and electricity, the state parks do have a wide range of affordable options.

Distance: 382 miles

Number of days: 4 weeks

6. Long Trail – Vermont

Touted as United States’ oldest hiking trail, Long Trail starts at the Massachusetts border and follows the north-south spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains heading towards Canada. The main hiking trail is approximately 270 miles, with an additional 175 miles of side trails and spurs.

Panoramic views of rugged mountains and lush valleys abound from the trail’s numerous peaks. If you bring a hiking camera, it will be hard for you not to remove it from the hiking camera backpack and use it.

Road crossings are far and few between. Unlike most of the best hikes in America listed in this article, the Long Trail remains a true footpath – no horseback riders or bikers are allowed on the path.

Capable and weather permitting hikers can tackle the entire Long Trail in 20 days or less. If you do not have this much time, you may want to explore the southernmost segments which feature an ideal combination of relatively gentle terrain and great views. You may want to start your hike at the Pine Cobble Trailhead, just south of the Vermont border. From there, walk north to Vermont Highway 30, roughly, a 55-mile hike that will take approximately 7 days.

The Long Trail features great accommodation options. In the Green Mountain National Forest, which encompasses a huge portion of the Long Trail, free dispersed camping is allowed, as long as you stay 200 feet from the surface water sources and 100 feet from marked trails. Most of the less-frequented campgrounds are also free.

Distance: 270 miles

Number of days: 20 days

7. North Country Trail – New York to North Dakota

From the Adirondack Mountains in New York to the North Dakota’s Missouri River, the North Country Hiking trail‘s meandering route covers approximately 5,000 miles and 7 states – North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Much of the trail for hiking in the USA connects smaller segments, such as the Superior Trail in Minnesota and Lakes Trail in New York – this allows hikers to take trips off the main stretch.

Although much of the trail runs along the designated rights-of-way, you have to keep in mind that some busy road crossings and tandems do exist. You will need to use caution when exploring the busier sections, especially in lower Michigan and near Lake Erie.

Exploring the whole 5000 miles may not be possible for most people. Luckily, you can explore the popular shorter trail system. The Superior hiking trail and the Finger Lakes trail are the most popular.

The Superior hiking trail is about 250 miles long. However, the 70-mile Duluth’s urban Lakewalk to the Tettegouche State Park features great views and is not very challenging. You can finish this trail in 7 – 10 days.

The Finger Lakes trail features 500 miles of the main Northern Country trail and an additional 400 miles of the adjacent loops and spurs. You may want to try the 100+ miles segment from the Interlocken Trail intersection to the Letchworth trail intersection west of New York. The one-way trip should take you 11 – 15 days.

You can always bring your backpacking cookware and ultralight tents and enjoy spending your nights in the wilderness. The state and national forest lands along the North Country trail do allow free dispersed camping.

Distance: 5,000 miles

Number of days: 6 to 8 months

8. Tahoe Rim Trail – California and Nevada

The Tahoe Rim hiking trail, a 165 miles loop that follows the crest of the Lake Tahoe ridges, accords near-nonstop views of the alpine forests, mountain peaks, and stunning blue waters that define the special region. The hiking trail is quite strenuous and is popular with trail runners and skiers during the winter season.

If you have approximately 3 weeks and the weather is ideal, you can hike the entire length of the Tahoe Rim Trail. Experienced hikers can finish the trail in just 12 days.

Campgrounds do exist along the trail. While dispersed camping is free, the developed campgrounds may require a small fee. It is worth noting that dispersed camping is not allowed in Desolation Wilderness. It is, however, allowed in Eldorado National Forest.

Distance: 165 miles

Number of days: 12 days

9. Pacific Northwest Trail – Montana to Washington

Stretching for approximately 1200 miles from Montana’s Continental Divide to Washington’s Pacific Coast, the Pacific Northwest hiking trail passes through more than a dozen forests and national parks, including the Glacier National Park. Although the trail passes through remote and rugged areas, exploring it, after grabbing your hiking compass and hiking GPS, is worth the effort.

It is quite tough to choose the best segments on the Pacific Northwest Trail. However, the 100-mile trail running from the Glacier National Park and ending at Lake Koocanusa passes through majestic snowfields and affords hikers stunning alpine views.

Towards the mid-point of the Pacific Northwest Trail, the 100-mile segment from Kettle Falls to Oroville is breathtaking. Also, in the western part, you may want to explore the Olympic National Park which spans lush mountainsides, summits covered in snow, and has panoramic views of the ocean. Depending on where you start, the segments take an average of 15 to 17 days.

Camping is the most common accommodation option. Except for wilderness areas, free dispersed camping is allowed in the national forests along the trail. If you would like to set up your tent in organized campgrounds, you will have to pay a fee.

Distance: 1,200 miles

Number of days: 60 to 75 days

10. Pacific Crest Trail – California to Washington

A West Coast cousin to the Appalachian hiking trail, the Pacific Crest Trail runs from southern California to the Canadian border. Its 2,600 miles length follows rugged mountains and ridges which stretch south to north along the trail, reaching the literal high points at the Cascades and Nevada. Over a dozen distinct biomes – from scrubby steppes and lowland deserts to the mountain forests and alpine tundras – are all represented on the trail for hiking in the USA.

If you would like to explore the best sections after donning your hiking gloves, you may want to start with the San Bernardino Mountain’s spine and the nearby ranges. This 100-mile rugged stretch affords views of the Mojave Desert, L.A. Basin, alpine forests, and lakes. In Oregon, the segment existing between Mount Hood and the Three Sisters passes through high desert, lush forests, and volcanic landscapes, stretching for 150 to 200 miles. Both segments will take 20 to 30 days to complete, one way.

Along the trail, you will be able to find paid organized campsites featuring electricity and showers. Free dispersed camping is allowed in Willamette and Mt. Hood national forests.

Distance: 2,600 miles

Number of days: 5 months

Globo Surf Overview

The United States is an absurdly diverse country, featuring virtually every type of landscape. Its numerous hiking trails will allow you to explore coastlines, rainforests, mountains, and deserts.

In this article, we have only focused on the 10 best hikes in America. It is worth noting that we have not covered all the hiking trails you can find in the US. You can always try new trails not included in this article.

More Backpacking/Hiking Reviews:

Source

  1. The 50 Best Hikes in the U.S.: Our Definitive Guide, Countryliving.com
Globo Surf
My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!