The United States is home to some of the most beautiful and captivating parks in the world. Outside of national parks, there are forests, beaches, and trails that have left many astounded by natural beauty.
Many people have trails upon trails included in bucket lists, and for good reason. Mountainous views, crystal blue lakes, and captivating forests are scattered just about everywhere in the United States. From Washington state all the way to the East Coast, there’s bound to be at least one hike even the most avid couch potato would want to conquer and see in person.
Hiking alone, or with friends, can bring about a sense of peace and even lead to some self-discovery. In extreme situations, hiking can push humans to their limit and teach them a thing or two about survival in challenging conditions. Not to mention, hiking is an alternative option to paying for a gym membership. Hiking is beneficial to cardio-respiratory function, builds and tones muscle, lowers the risk of heart and diabetes diseases, and can even burn up to 370 calories per hour, helping maintain a healthy weight. An even more appealing factor is that hiking is also something children and pets can do, depending on the intensity of the trail. Both kids and furry animal friends need exercise, and hiking provides a beautiful environment that not only keeps them healthy but entertained too! Wherever you are in the United States, there is a national park or mountain trail calling your name. Here are 10 of the best hikes in the United States.
10. Cummins Falls State Park, Tennessee
If you’re a fan of the south, and waterfalls, this hike is for you. Cummins Falls State Park is home to Cummin Falls, the eighth largest waterfall in regards to volume of water and is 75 feet tall. Cummins Falls is not only a hiking destination, but also a swimming hole during the warmer months. There are two ways to get to Cummin Falls, one trail clocking in at one mile long and the other one and a half miles long – at two to three miles round trip, Cummin Falls is fairly easy and would make a perfect day hike. Pets and children are allowed, but as the trail is considered “adventurous,” Tennessee State Parks recommend visitors leave the very young, little ones at home.
9. Mailbox Peak, Washington
A little bit more on the lengthy side, Mailbox Peak is a challenging, 9.4 mile round trip hike that intermediate to advanced hikers have to attempt at least once. The Mailbox Peak trail was recently given a face lift, as the old trail was very dangerous – broken ankles and the decision to turn back around before reaching the summit was common. At the beginning of the hike, you’re welcomed with bridges and creeks, making it seem as if the trek won’t be too bad. After that, hikers are burdened with switchback after switchback, lighting muscles on fire with 850 feet of elevation gain per mile. Those who can handle the hike are gifted with 360 degree views of surrounding mountains, with Mt. Rainier also in the distance. Bring a letter or an artifact of choice to leave behind in the mailbox at the top for future hikers to admire.
8. Boulder Pass Trail, Montana
The Boulder Pass Trail is for hikers who have great endurance and spontaneity. It is 30.9 miles in length, and begins at the Kintla Campground and extends all the way to Waterton Valley Trail. Hikers can brave the whole thing, or stop and turn around once they’ve seen a certain checkpoint. The trail follows the shore of the Kintla and Upper Kintla lakes, and also provides views and experiences in the Glacier Park. Besides reaching Boulder Pass, hikers on this trail can also get to Bowman Lake, Olson Creek, Rainbow Falls, and other popular destinations as well.
7. Acadia National Park, Maine
Acadia National Park is one of the most visited national parks – and it’s also the first eastern national park. Hikers who visit get the chance to see granite peaks, fall foliage, and the tallest mountain on the United States Atlantic Coast. According to Bangor Daily News, Acadia National Park broke records in 2015 in regards to visitors, bringing 2.81 million people from all over the world to the park and its trails. The park is open year round, but the main visitor center operates from April through October. The busiest part of the year is July and August, but for those who are fans of fall, go during September and October to see explosions of color along the way.
6. Bright Angel Trail, Grand Canyon
Deemed “the safest trail in the Grand Canyon,” people who’ve always wanted to explore the Grand Canyon can do so here. Bright Angel Trail has a ranger station at the halfway point, as well as covered rest houses and water stations for hikers along the trail. This trail is often used with the South Kaibab Trail, and during hot weather, the Bright Angel Trail provides plenty of shade and water for visitors. Along the trail, hikers will receive sweeping views of the canyon, framed by huge cliffs, and will see lots of plant and animal life along the journey. For in-shape and experience hikers, the Bright Angel Trail could be considered a day hike; for others, plan an overnight stay at one of the campgrounds.
5. Appalachian Trail, Georgia
The full Appalachian Trail is a beast – it starts in northern Georgia in the Appalachians, the end point is 2,000 miles away in Maine. In Georgia though, hikers are able to take on 78.6 miles of the Appalachian hike if desired. The beginning of this hike is noted by a bronze plaque. On the Appalachian trail, hikers will see plenty of foliage, wildflower, and greenery. As for wildlife, wild turkey, black bears, hogs, and deer frequent the trail. If you’re not up for the entire 78.6 mile trek, there are plenty of hikes within the Appalachian trail that span 6 miles and under with great stopping points.
4. Pacific Crest Trail, California
The Pacific Crest Trail, like the Appalachian Trail, is a journey. The PCT begins in southern California near the Mexican border, and goes through California, Oregon, and Washington. Through these three states, there are 2,650 miles along the PCT to be hiked. PCT is one of the first trails to be established by Congress in 1968 under the National Trails System Act. Hikers can choose to hike small portions in each state, but there are some people who have been known to hike the entire PCT in one season. Since this trail goes through three different states, there are many different climates, views, and experiences awaiting those who wish to attempt it.
3. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Whether you’re in Idaho, Montana, or Wyoming, you can experience the beauty that is the Yellowstone National Park. Here, you’ll find most of the world’s geysers, including Old Faithful. Yellowstone National Park was established as the world’s first national park in 1872, starting a trend to mark national parks around the world. Yellowstone is home to bears, wolves, elk, bison and others. Note that the National Park Service instructs visitors to not feed any animals, and to stay at least 25 feet away from any encountered. Besides animals, hikers can expect to see deep blue lakes, greenery, mountains and more.
2. Maroon Bells, Colorado
Notorious for its beauty, Colorado holds one of the best trails to hike; the Maroon Bells. There are three different hikes available for those interested. The first trail is the Maroon Bells Scenic Trail, only one mile long around the circumference of the lake with an active beaver pond. The Maroon Creek Trail is 3.2 miles, and includes meadows, forests, and rocky slopes. The last trail, the Crater Lake Trail, is 3.6 miles and is a steep and rocky journey, but extremely rewarding. Pets are allowed on these trails, but must be kept on leashes.
1. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Mount Rainier in Washington state stands at 14,410 feet above sea level and is the most glaciated peak in the United States. It is also an active volcano, and spans six major rivers. Within Mount Rainier National Park, there are 146 trails to be explored, all different in mileage and difficulty. The most ambitious hike along Mount Rainier is the Wonderland Trail, which covers 93 miles that circles the entire mountain; if you have a couple of days (or a week) to spare, the mountain is your playground. Note that dogs or other hiking companion animals are not welcome within Mount Rainier National Park for safety reasons and to respect other hikers along the trail.