11 Can't-Miss Hiking Trails in the USA

From the red rocks of Arizona to the glaciers of Alaska, these are some of America's best trails.

U.S. News & World Report

11 Can't-Miss Hiking Trails in the USA

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Austria, Tyrol, Tannheimer Tal, young couple hiking on mountain trail
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These remarkable trails will appease both novice and expert hikers.

The great outdoors are great for a reason. It was Shakespeare who once said, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." And in the U.S., opportunities to connect with nature are endless. With 58 national parks and more than 6,000 state parks to choose from, it's easy to get lost in the splendor of America's majestic landscapes. That's why U.S. News rounded up some of the best hiking trails the USA has to offer. From coastal treks to desert voyages, here are the 10 must-see trails across the country.
Hikers at the end of the Harding Icefield trail. Kenai Fjords National Park
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Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park

Travelers who want to get up close and personal with Alaska's famous glaciers should consider a trek along the scenic Harding Icefield Trail. Located in Kenai Fjords National Park, about 125 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, this trail offers unbeatable panoramic views of the expansive Harding Icefield, which comprises about 700 square miles of the park. But that's not all you can expect on this 8-mile trail. The path weaves through different types of forests, as well as picturesque alpine meadows. Just come prepared: With 1,000 feet of elevation gained at every mile, recent visitors find this hike to be quite strenuous.
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These remarkable trails will appease both novice and expert hikers.

The great outdoors are great for a reason. It was Shakespeare who once said, "One touch of nature makes the whole world kin." And in the U.S., opportunities to connect with nature are endless. With 58 national parks and more than 6,000 state parks to choose from, it's easy to get lost in the splendor of America's majestic landscapes. That's why U.S. News rounded up some of the best hiking trails the USA has to offer. From coastal treks to desert voyages, here are the 10 must-see trails across the country.

Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park

Travelers who want to get up close and personal with Alaska's famous glaciers should consider a trek along the scenic Harding Icefield Trail. Located in Kenai Fjords National Park, about 125 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska, this trail offers unbeatable panoramic views of the expansive Harding Icefield, which comprises about 700 square miles of the park. But that's not all you can expect on this 8-mile trail. The path weaves through different types of forests, as well as picturesque alpine meadows. Just come prepared: With 1,000 feet of elevation gained at every mile, recent visitors find this hike to be quite strenuous.

Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail, Acadia National Park

Cadillac Mountain is the tallest mountain on the North Atlantic seaboard, making it the star attraction of Acadia National Park. Although the striking summit can easily be accessed via Cadillac Mountain Road, the most rewarding way to experience the mountain's magnificent vistas is on foot. The Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail is a 4-mile round-trip journey that features a strenuous but manageable incline through lush green and granite landscapes. If you're visiting from October to March, consider an early morning hike since Cadillac Mountain is the first point of the U.S. to greet the rising sun's rays.

Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park

The Mist Trail is one of Yosemite National Park's most notable treks. As its name suggests, the trail snakes alongside two waterfalls – Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall – spraying visitors with a fair amount of moisture depending on the time of year. The total hiking time varies. Ascending only Vernal Fall (the first waterfall on the trail) yields a 2.4-mile round-trip hike, while Nevada Fall is a 5.4-mile round-trip journey. If you're visiting in spring or early summer, when water flow is at its peak, exercise extreme caution as the trails become both crowded and slippery.

Ewoldsen Trail, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

The Ewoldsen Trail in Big Sur offers much of California's diverse topography all in one hike. Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the Ewoldsen Trail takes travelers along the peaceful McWay Creek, through redwood groves and grassy valleys, as well as coastal mountaintops that offer picture-perfect views of the Pacific. The loop trail is a little more than a 5-mile round-trip journey and is touted by past visitors as one of the best day hikes in Big Sur. Before you go, however, make sure you know how to spot poison oak, as the plant is abundant in the area.

South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park

The South Kaibab Trail is the only trail in the Grand Canyon that, according to the National Park Service, "dramatically holds true to a ridgeline descent." The trail's descent on ridges that jut out into the canyon afford unique panoramic vistas difficult to find elsewhere in the park. But the trail isn't for the faint of heart: There is no shade on the trail and hiking during the summer is not recommended. During the cooler months, the NPS advises travelers not to go past Skeleton Point for a day hike, which clocks in at a 6-mile round-trip journey.

Hoh River Trail, Olympic National Park

The Hoh Rainforest is the crown jewel of Olympic National Park. The Washington state forest is famous for its evergreen vegetation and mossy trees that create a captivating landscape. And this dreamy topography reaches its peak on the Hoh River Trail, which stretches a whopping 17 miles. Luckily, you don't have to traverse the entire trail to experience the best of the rainforest. There are various points of interest along the way, including Tom Creek and Happy Four Shelter. However deep into the forest you decide to go, rest assured that you're likely to spot some wildlife along the way.

Templeton Trail, Coconino National Forest

There are hundreds of incredible hiking trails throughout Sedona, Arizona. But if you're looking for one that showcases the region's famous red rocks and most photographed landmarks, consider walking the 7-mile Templeton Trail. The trail is well known for winding around the base of Cathedral Rock, one of Sedona's most famous sights. As you walk along the trail, you'll have many opportunities to veer off onto Templeton's four interconnected paths. The Bell Rock Pathway and the subsequent H.T. Trail feature views of Courthouse Butte and Two Nuns, renowned rock formations.

Awa'awapuhi Trail, Koke'e State Park

Getting a proper view of Na Pali's famous coastal cliffs may seem difficult without a boat, but the Awa'awapuhi Trail makes it possible for landlocked travelers. Located in Koke'e State Park in Kauai, Hawaii, the Awa'awapuhi Trail may appear a bit lackluster at first since much of the walkway snakes through highland forestry. But the lookout point, located 3 miles from the trailhead, is spellbinding. Not only are hikers able to take in the details of the rugged cliffs, but they're also treated to amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. Keep in mind, the whole trail is downhill, so your journey back will be almost completely uphill.

Rubicon Trail, South Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is big (122,200 acres, to be exact), and the best way to experience it all in a short amount of time is with a walk along the Rubicon Trail in South Lake Tahoe, California. This 8-mile, round-trip trail, found along the southwest shore of Lake Tahoe, connects the area's most popular state parks – D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay. Expect scenic vantage points overlooking rocky cliffs and striking blue waters. And if you find yourself itching to take a dip, there are plenty of points along the trail to venture down to beaches. It's important to note that due to weather conditions, the trail is only accessible from March to September.

Cascade Canyon Trail, Grand Teton National Park

Those who don't mind going the extra mile will find the Cascade Canyon Trail a fun challenge. The round-trip hike along the trail – which measures nearly 14 miles – may take all day to complete, but it offers excellent views of Wyoming's Grand Teton National Park. The hike starts at the spectacular Jenny Lake and takes visitors to striking attractions within the park, including Hidden Falls and Hurricane Pass. If you choose to tackle this trail, you'll want to wear sturdy shoes and bring a camera: The route's incredible scenery – jagged peaks, evergreen forests and rocky rivers – is something you won't want to forget.

Highline Trail, Glacier National Park

Ever wondered what it's like to journey along the Continental Divide? On Glacier National Park's Highline Trail in Montana, you can do exactly that.. One of the park's most celebrated trails is as scenic as they come, taking visitors high up along the Garden Wall – part of the Continental Divide – in addition to other points of interest. The Grinnell Glacier Overlook and Swiftcurrent Lookout, as well as plenty of wildlife, are also revered highlights. The only caveat? This trail is long, stretching 38 miles. Most hikers only trek one way (about 11 miles) and find alternative transportation back to the trailhead.
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Rachel Center, Editor

Rachel Center is an Editor for the Travel section at U.S. News & World Report. She joined U.S. ...  Read more

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