When it comes to communing with nature, it’s hard to beat a good hike. Rambling through the great outdoors—the sun on your face and the wind at your back—provides you with the perfect opportunity to let go of everything and just walk. One foot in front of the other, the repetitive motion becomes almost meditative.
Long associated with genuine health benefits, from lowering stress levels and reducing anxiety to boosting your cardiovascular output, if you’re in need of an instant mood boost, head outdoors and start hiking. And if you’re wondering where to hike, we asked a few guides and outdoor enthusiasts for the very best hikes in the United States in a range of difficulty. So no matter where you find yourself this summer, you’re likely not too far from one.
According to the experts at AllTrails.com, this relatively easy trail is one of the country’s most popular—and for good reason. The two mile out-and-back trail near Springdale, Utah only takes around 45 minutes to complete (so it’s great for kids and older adults as well). The spring and summer are the best times of year to visit, but if you want great photos you’ll want to hit the trail early to avoid the crowds.
Long’s Peak in Colorado is one of the most impressive 14,000-foot peaks one can climb. The hike is as challenging as it is rewarding—which is why it’s considered by many guides to be one of the state’s best hikes. Most hikers set out in the early hours of the morning (meaning when it’s still dark out). The upside? You’re able to catch the sunrise above the tree line and also give yourself plenty of time to complete the hike before sundown. The trail climbs more than 5,000 feet, so be sure to bring plenty of water. Half the people who attempt Long’s peak do not make it to the summit. Why? The easy answer is that it ain’t easy. Another contributing factor to a failed summit bid is a late start.
Oregon is something of a hiking mecca, with a myriad of trails that take you through mountainous landscapes, dense forests, and rugged coastlines. But Smith Rock’s Canyon Rim trail offers you a little of everything in this three and a half mile trek. See climbers tackling the mountain along with wildlife along the river as you wind your way up. You’ll see the densest vegetation and unqiue “cave rocks”, even bald eagles nest along the rim before being rewarded with spectacular canyon views.
Imagine hiking on Mars. That’s pretty much what it’s like hiking in Bryce Canyon. And this is why this national park in Utah is on practically everyone’s list of America’s best places to hike. It’s filled with hiking for all levels, from beginner to seasoned adventurers and features the park’s signature hoodoos—intricately-carved rock spires left standing by erosion. They’re best experienced along our day hiking trails, which offer an up-close and intimate look at these unique rock formations. Most day hikes and their trailheads are found in the Bryce Canyon Amphitheater area. By comparison, Bryce Canyon's backcountry trails offer forests and meadows, stunning views of distant cliffs, solitude, but fewer hoodoos.
Half Dome is one of America’s most iconic natural formations and one of the best hiking trails in all of Yosemite. At over 2,500 feet, Half Dome is a massive slab of granite towering high above Yosemite Valley. Hikers keen enough to tackle the challenging 17-mile trek are rewarded with some pretty mesmerizing views that are difficult to fully comprehend. Thankfully, you’ll snap some impressive photos to document the achievement. The summit of Half Dome is gained with the help of the Via Ferrata style series of cables and steps. But be warned: If you are afraid of heights, then this probably isn’t the hike for you.
Another recommended trail by the team at AllTrails, the Petrified Forest in North Dakota is unlike any other place you have ever been. This is a striking landscape of surreal nature, filled with petrified wood specimens that have seemingly turned to stone. There are also plenty of wildlife sightings, including American buffalo, elk and antelope. At just over 10 miles, this trail is great for hiking and horseback riding, and it's unlikely you'll encounter many other people while exploring. What’s more, the loop isn’t strenuous and can be enjoyed in one day, since the majority of the hike is through rolling grassland.
The Rubicon Trail in South Lake Tahoe connects two of the most beautiful state parks in all of California—extending between the Vikingsholm Estate and D.L. Bliss State Park to the north. You can do the hike either direction, or hike it there and back to make sure you soak up all the amazing scenery and breathtaking views. The footpath connects rocky points and sandy coves along an untamed shoreline that once intimidated mountain men. Today, the paths have been cleared and the steeper sections shored up, but you should still be prepared for some major switchbacks and a few sweat-inducing ledges. But isn’t that any hiker’s dream?
Deep canyons nestled in the shadows of sandstone cliffs and peaceful hemlock groves harbor some of the most ruggedly beautiful hiking trails in Indiana. But don’t be fooled by the natural beauty. The AllTrails team says that Turkey Run blurs the line between trail and obstacle course. The six mile hike offers a range of ladders, bridges, cliffs, streams and narrow ravines, but is only moderate in terms of challenges. Kids and inexperienced hikers can certainly enjoy the trail, especially during the summer.
Overlooking Hingham Bay, this easy gravel four-mile trail is formed by two drumlins and has rocky beaches, ledges, cliffs, patches of salt marsh and an area of freshwater marsh. It’s simple enough for young kids and the elderly and even allows dogs to come along (on leash). The AllTrails team say the aptly-named trail offers a wealth of different landscapes, from rustic marshes to views of the Boston skyline. You'd be hard-pressed to find a trail this close to the city with as much to offer.
We’re rounding out the list with one of the least visited, yet most dramatic national parks in America, Montana’s Glacier National Park. The 12.6 mile Cracker Lake trail hike can be done as an intense (and very tiring) day-hike or a comfortable overnighter. Most guides recommend the latter. And once you arrive here, you’ll agree—the last thing you’ll want to do is turn around and leave. A moderate and gradual climb through the woods eventually gives way to a scenic hike along a creek that heads towards the lake. It’s so peaceful and quiet that most hikers encounter a moose or two on their trek.