From frigid glaciers to breathtaking canyons, the US arguably wields the greatest variety of unmissable hiking trails in a single country. Classifying the best US hiking destinations is a naturally subjective task, but there are certain spots that consistently make the cut. Here are the 5 best US hiking destinations for travelers and explorers—amateur and professional alike. (At least they get the most votes for us!)
The first national park developed in Utah, Zion National Park boasts massive pink and cream-colored sandstone cliffs that scale majestic blue skies and one of the densest distributions of slot canyons. Its rich history (its trails are the very paths tread upon by the American Indians and early pioneers) and vast diversity of flora and fauna easily make it one of the best US hiking destinations.
Convenient shuttle buses run regularly from April to October, although the best time for hikers to dodge the ever-so-tricky spring runoff is in the Fall. Serious explorers should check out the treacherously steep tip of Angels Landing. The five-mile trek to the top involves 21 tricky stepbacks and a sliver of a ridge with no more support than a single chain to arrive at the literally breathtaking finale.
At the heart of Montana’s Glacier National Park rests its Many Glacier Area, which hosts innumerable active glaciers and colorful lakes. An abundance of wildlife makes hiking through these gigantic mountaintops a truly unforgettable experience. September through November may be the most interesting—albeit risky—period to go due to increased bear sightings (they forage for up to 20 hours a day!) and snowfall. Note: climate in this region is extremely variable and erratic.
The pristine 210-mile journey covering the John Muir Trail culminates in a beeline view of Mount Whitney—the highest peak in the U.S. A sweet advantage of trekking this trail is being able to start at Yosemite National Park and traverse through both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. The persistently shifting vista includes thousands of lakes, cliffs, and canyons that collectively serve as an action-packed treat for the eyes. The best bet for the overall most comfortable experience is to go in the Fall, just after the multitude of Labor Day visitors start packing up for home.
Easily one of the longest single trails a hiker will ever embark on, the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT for short, spans a whopping 2,650 miles from Mexico—cutting through California, Oregon, and Washington—to Canada. This trail afford the most stunning landscapes in the western US, including arid deserts, glacier-filled valleys, and the peaks of the Sierra Nevada.
To close out the list of the best US hiking destinations is the classic Grand Canyon. The 277-mile long, jaw-dropping panorama meets every expectation, no matter the hype. The nearby Uncle Jim Point and Widforss Trails provide spectacular views of the northern rim, which is less populated with visitors.
Well, are you inspired to hiking in some mountains??? What are some of your favorites that didn't make this list?
And you know... once you start visiting a lot of these destinations, you might very well want a nice way to show off how many you have actually been to (or are planning on visiting)! We've got you covered, of course, with a travel map that is perfect for you.