Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.
Hiking through the wilderness is not only a perfect way to see a new place or your home state, it’s great for your mental and physical health. In fact, hiking is scientifically proven to reduce stress levels, according to a study conducted at Chiba University in Japan that found a 15-minute walk in the woods reduces certain stress hormones by 16% and blood pressure by 2%. And that’s just one of the reasons that hiking is up 22.5% since 2014, as documented by leading outdoor footwear brand Merrell. All that to say, there’s no time like the present to hop on the hiking bandwagon — it’s all the rage, especially with masks and adequate distance from other hikers.
Wondering where to go hiking? We've got you covered. Each one of our 50 states has remarkable state and national parks which put the country’s natural splendor on full display. Those living in the U.S. and travelers coming from halfway ‘round the world revel in the country’s gorgeous terrain and ecological diversity. From the hiking trails along the Atlantic Coast to trekking the Tetons or ascending the slopes of Mount Rainier, we’ve rounded up each state’s best hiking trail. Which trail do you want to tackle this year?
Connecticut — Pine Mountain Trail
In Ridgefield, Hemlock Hills has beautiful trails and is the perfect place to experience Connecticut’s outdoors, thanks to the proximity to Pine Mountain, Wooster Mountain State Park, and Bennett’s Pond State Park. Take Hemlock Hills to the Pine Mountain Trail for a moderate 7.5-mile loop through scenic woodlands and around Lake Windwing.
Maine — The Beehive Trail
Hiking in Acadia National Park is one of the most joyous outdoor experiences in Maine. The Beehive Trail is an iconic Acadia hike, with cliff walks, elevation gain, and scenic ledges — though none overly steep, keeping the trail viable for novice hikers.
Massachusetts — The Great Island Trail
Hiking along the Atlantic Coast on Cape Cod is as good as it gets in Massachusetts. The Great Island Trail, in Wellfleet, Massachusetts, takes hikers along the Cape Cod National Seashore and Herring River to Wellfleet Harbor, before ascending to the Pitch Pine Forest and the cliffs overlooking Cape Cod Bay.
New Hampshire — The Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail
An Appalachian Trail hotspot, New Hampshire sees the AT wind along the Presidential and Franconia mountain ranges up to Mount Washington’s summit. On Mount Washington, the Ammonoosuc Ravine Trail takes hikers on a nine-mile loop from the trailhead to Lakes of the Clouds and the summit beyond.
New Jersey — Stairway to Heaven
No fewer than 72 miles of the Appalachian Trail go through New Jersey. To soak in just a small part of that, take the Stairway to Heaven — where Led Zeppelin fans and outdoor enthusiasts unite — from Pochuck Valley Trail to Pinwheel Vista. The seven-mile hike crosses an exciting mile-long suspension bridge on the way to Pinwheel Vista, and hikers in the spring are treated to views of gorgeous wildflowers blooming along the trail.
New York — Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail
Watkins Glen State Park is a stunning abyss of gorges and emerald pools cascading into one another. The way the light hits when the sun streams into the gorges is just as exceptional as the lush greenery and natural waterfalls you’ll encounter at seemingly every turn. Watkins Glen State Park Gorge Trail is just a mile and a half, and it goes under a beautiful suspension bridge and some active waterfalls — so slip-resistant shoes are a must.
Pennsylvania — Bridal Veil Falls
The Pocono Mountains are known for Bushkill Falls, often called the “Niagara Falls of Pennsylvania.” The Bushkill area is actually comprised of eight waterfalls, all of which can be reached via hiking trails. Start with the walk to Bridal Veil Falls, where three Pocono waterfalls meet and rush down the mountains.
Rhode Island — Beavertail Trail
To see the best sunsets in Rhode Island, you might assume the Newport Cliff Walk is the only answer. And while seeing the sunset over the waterfront mansions is a treat, the best sunsets are found on Jamestown Island in Beavertail State Park. Beavertail Trail brings hikers through woodlands to the island’s lighthouse and waterfront, providing panoramic views of the crashing waves and unreal sunsets.
Vermont — The Long Trail
Vermont is one of those states, much like Washington, where people just walk around looking ready to hike at a moment’s notice. It’s hard to go wrong with this sort of enthusiasm. Mount Mansfield is the highest mountain in VT and offers two miles of ridge-top, alpine hiking. There are a few trails that bring hikers to the summit of Mount Mansfield, but we’re partial to the Long Trail. The Long Trail is actually a 272-mile trail, but can be followed for 2.3 miles to Manfield’s highest point at 4,393 feet.
Alabama — The Pinhoti Trail
Alabama’s Pinhoti Trail goes for 339 miles from Alabama into Georgia — and 171 of those miles are in Alabama. Pinhoti is the longest hiking trail in the state, and it begins at the top of Cheaha, the state’s tallest mountain.
Arkansas — The Ozark Highland Trail
In Arkansas, hike through the Ozark National Forest on the Ozark Highland Trail. The Ozark Highland Trail — part of the far-reaching main Ozark Trail — is 218 miles. Day hikers should choose a short stint along the way that goes by one of the many swimming holes in the Ozark National Forest. And make note, there are plans for the Ozark Highland Trail to eventually extend 320 miles across northern Arkansas.
Delaware — The Gordons Pond Trail
Some of Delaware’s best hiking is found in Lewes at Cape Henlopen State Park. The Gordons Pond Trail is just over three miles and a perfect hike for those eager to explore the state’s wildlife-friendly wetlands, and of course, the Atlantic coast.
Florida — Snake Bight Trail
Florida is home to Everglades National Park, which boasts 1.5 million acres of natural beauty. You could hike for months and not see every exceptional sight in the Everglades. Nonetheless, start with the Snake Bight Trail, which brings hikers through tropical forest to the shores of Florida Bay.
Georgia — The Benton MacKaye Trail
Georgia is prime Appalachian Trail territory. The Benton MacKaye Trail runs for 300 miles through the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Great Smokies. Benton MacKaye Trail, which starts at the beginning of the Appalachian Trail on Springer Mountain, is known for scenic waterways, mountain overlooks, and a gut-wrenching suspension bridge that crosses over the Toccoa River.
Kentucky — Natural Arch Loop Trail #510
Daniel Boone National Forest is one of the best parks to hike through in Kentucky. Divided into four districts with varied terrain and miles of hiking paths, the must-take path is Natural Arch Loop Trail #510 to a storybook-looking natural arch surrounded by dense trees that display vibrant foliage every fall.
Louisiana — The Wild Azalea Trail
The longest hike in Louisiana is the Wild Azalea Trail, which is home to blooming flowers in the spring, rolling hills, and even in-the-weeds bayous. The 28-mile trail brings hikers through the Kisatchie National Forest and the Valentine Lake Recreation Area, among other scenic Louisiana points of interest.
Maryland — C&O Canal’s Billy Goat Trail
Hiking in Maryland means hiking in full view of the scenic Potomac River. Take Chesapeake & Ohio Canal’s Billy Goat Trail —separated into three separate trails, all of which pay off with views of waterfalls and the river.
Mississippi — The Bear Creek Outcropping Trail
The Bear Creek Outcropping Trail, located in Mississippi’s Tishomingo State Park, is rated as moderately difficult. But with scenic views of the Appalachian foothills, huge rock formations, and fern-filled crevices only found in this part of the state, it’s worth the extra effort.
North Carolina — The Black Rock Trail
In Linnville, North Carolina, Grandfather Mountain is a scenic preserve crowded with strong spruce and fir trees and 11 hiking trails. While the Grandfather Trail is a fun challenge for intermediate and advanced hikers, we prefer the Black Rock Trail, which has views of MacRae and Attic Window Peaks and Grandfather Mountain.
South Carolina — The Table Rock Trail
Some of the best hiking in South Carolina is found at Table Rock State Park. The Table Rock Trail is an intermediate trek through the Blue Ridge Mountains to the summit of Table Rock. The trail ventures through fields of rock formations and beautiful waterfalls, finishing with sweeping views of the lake below.
Tennessee — Gregory Ridge Trail
The best hiking trails in Tennessee can only be found in the Great Smoky Mountains. Hike to Gregory Bald along the Gregory Ridge Trail, which brings hikers to Cades Cove, Fontana Lake, and the eastern crest of the Smoky Mountains. In addition to some of the best views in the Smokies, this trail is lined by blooming azaleas if you visit in mid-to-late June.
West Virginia — Falls of Hills Creek
In the 909,000-acre Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia’s natural splendor is on full display. This forest boasts true biodiversity, to the extent that it was named an area of ecological importance by The Nature Conservancy. One of the best hikes here is Falls of Hills Creek, which brings hikers to three scenic waterfalls—20 feet, 45 feet, and 63 feet tall, respectively.
Virginia — The Upper Hawksbill Trail
Shenandoah National Park is an accessible getaway for Virginia residents and those living in the D.C. metro area. One of the best views of Shenandoah is found at the summit of Hawksbill Mountain, the tallest peak in the national park. The Upper Hawksbill Trail is the easiest way to the summit; it’s a two-and-a-half-mile out-and-back trail, and while most of the trail is wide with terrain perfect for beginner hikers, it does get narrower and steeper toward the top.
Illinois — River to River Trail
In Illinois, hikers love to visit Shawnee National Forest, especially to soak in the beauty around Cedar Lake. The hiking in the Cedar Lake area of Shawnee Forest is all part of the Cedar Lake Trail System. One of the most comprehensive hikes in the system is the River to River Trail, which actually runs for 160 miles, circumventing Little Cedar Lake and terminating at the Lirley Trailhead. We, of course, recommend you focus your efforts on the patch of trail around Little Cedar Lake .
Indiana — West Beach Trail
Indiana Dunes National Park is one of the country’s newest national parks; it became the 61st United States National Park in 2019. One of the most popular hikes in Indiana Dunes National Park is the moderate West Beach Trail. The trail has multiple loops, one of which brings hikers to the summit of the highest dune with views of dunes, woods, prairies, and ponds along the way.
Iowa — Hitchcock Nature Center Loop Trail
A six-miler in southwestern Iowa, the Hitchcock Nature Center Loop Trail shows hikers the best of Hitchcock Nature Center. The hike moves through rolling, lush green hills with a slight elevation gain of about 1,200 feet.
Kansas — Castle Rock
Castle Rock, one of the wonders of Kansas, is a fun hike that involves scrambling up rocks, ducking under arches, and hiking the slopes of Hackberry Creek Valley. The relatively easy two-mile hike through the towering rocks may even help hikers stumble upon prehistoric artifacts like small fish fossils.
Michigan — North Country National Scenic Trail
Michigan’s Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore provides sweeping views and miles of hiking along Lake Superior. One of the best trails within Pictured Rocks is the 42-mile North Country National Scenic Trail. While travelers can take day hikes along the scenic trail, multi-day adventures are popular here too, with several campgrounds along the trail.
Minnesota — Superior Hiking Trail
In northeast Minnesota, hike the north shore of Lake Superior on the Superior Hiking Trail. You’ll want to hike the Duluth portion of the trail, as the entire Superior Hiking Trail is 300 miles, reaching up to the Canadian border. The trail in Duluth offers unreal views of Lake Superior and an opportunity to explore the Minnesotan forest.
Missouri — Bell Mountain Trail
In Mark Twain National Forest, Missourians can take the Bell Mountain Trail, which is actually part of the longer Ozark Trail, running from St. Louis right into Arkansas. Bell Mountain is one of the tallest peaks in Missouri — the 11.6-mile trek brings hikers 1,702 feet to the summit.
Nebraska — Saddle Rock Trail
The trails of Scottsbluff were once visited by the travelers on the Oregon Trail. The three-mile Saddle Rock Trail, which features sheer faces and beautiful views, has a 500-foot climb — but the challenge is worth it for the vistas at higher elevation.
North Dakota — T Trail
In North Dakota, one of the best hiking spots is in the Badlands at Little Missouri State Park. With 45 miles of hiking trails — accessible on foot or horseback — it’s a perfect place to see North Dakota wildlife, like bobcats, mule deer, and eagles. Hike to Dunn Crater or take T Trail, a three-and-a-half-mile trail that showcases the best of the Badlands terrain.
Ohio — Ash Cave Rim Trail
Hocking Hills State Park is a beautiful place to hike in Ohio, and Ash Cave is found in the southernmost area of the park. The hike to Ash Cave moves through a narrow, hemlock-lined gorge and a wildflower-filled valley to the tantalizing depths of Ash Cave. The Ash Cave Rim Trail is just half a mile and wheelchair accessible.
South Dakota — Castle Trail
Hiking the Badlands is a rite of passage for the outdoors-inclined folks of South Dakota. The Castle Trail is the longest hike through Badlands National Park in South Dakota, coming just shy of 11 miles. Five of those miles weave along the north edge of the Badlands Wall, and often hikers will stay nearby and hike different sections of the Castle Trail over a few days. Castle Trail feeds into Saddle Pass, a steep climb up the rock formations, and the four-mile Medicine Root Trail for those looking to tack on an extra hike.
Wisconsin — Ice Age Trail
In Sauk County, Wisconsin lies Devil’s Lake State Park, with scenic trails and waterways that make it a fun outdoor getaway. One of the most popular trails around Devil’s Lake is the Ice Age Trail. The trail is actually 1,200 miles in total, 11 of which are in Devil’s Lake State Park. These are the 11 most well-trafficked miles of the Ice Age Trail, the highpoint being the vistas of the lake seen from Devil’s Doorway.
Arizona — South Kaibab Trail
Finding the best hike in Arizona is an open and shut case: It’s in the Grand Canyon. Grand Canyon’s South Kaibab Trail is a moderate and wildly scenic hike that typically takes hikers four to six hours. Along the hike, visitors will see Cedar Ridge, Skeleton Point, the Tipoff, and the Grand Canyon rim.
New Mexico — Gila Middle Fork
Near Silver City, New Mexico is the scenic 550,000-acre Gila Wilderness, which was the first land protected by the Wilderness Act of 1964. Take the Gila Middle Fork, an exceptional 11-mile hike — which can be done as an overnight hike — for the intermediate hiker. The trail takes you through multiple river crossings and to the Jordan Hot Springs about seven miles in.
Oklahoma — Bison, Longhorn, or Elk Trails from French Lake
Oklahomans can find 15 beautiful miles of hiking terrain in the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which is in the southern part of the state, just 60 miles north of Texas. As the name suggests, you’ll encounter wildlife a-plenty in the Wichita Mountains. There are several trails within the Dog Run Hollow Trail System, but the journey to French Lake Trailhead on either the Bison, Longhorn, or Elk Trails shows hikers some of the most diverse scenery within the refuge.
Texas — South Rim Trail
The adage “everything’s bigger in Texas” even applies to their hiking trails and wilderness parks. Some of the best views in Texas are found in the state’s southwestern Big Bend National Park. The 13-mile South Rim Trail includes a challenging climb to the highest ridge in the park, from which you can see the mountains extend all the way into Mexico.
Alaska — Savage River Loop Trail
Alaska is, of course, known for Denali National Park, and one of the best ways to see the park is on the Savage River Loop Trail. Just a two-mile round trip hike, there’s an exciting footbridge and a stunning river flanked by towering peaks.
California — Yosemite Falls
Yosemite National Park is on most outdoor enthusiasts’ bucket lists. While Half Dome is arguably the most famous Yosemite hike, we’d say the best trail — and a more accessible hike for all skill levels — is Yosemite Falls, which brings hikers to North America’s tallest waterfall.
Colorado — Thunder Lake Trail
In Rocky Mountain National Park, you can’t do better than hiking to the Lion Lakes, a surreal chain of alpine pools. Take the Wild Basin Trail or Thunder Lake Trail — the former is more challenging at 11 miles — to see these exquisite pools.
Hawaii — Awaawapuhi Trail
It’s nearly impossible to pick the very best hiking trail in Hawaii. Nonetheless, the hikes on Na Pali Coast of Kauai offer striking views, and some of the best trails are within Koke'e State Park. Awaawapuhi Trail is about six miles out-and-back with challenging climbs and awe-inspiring views of the striking Na Pali Coast.
Idaho — Alice Lake Loop
For backpacking fans, hiking Alice Lake when in Idaho is an absolute thrill. The Toxaway to Alice Lake Loop is 19 miles, making it a multi-day endeavor with views of the mountains, waterfalls, and expansive lake.
Montana — Highline Trail
Montana’s inspiring and untamed wilderness intrigues not only American hikers but global travelers. And of course, the best of Montana’s terrain is on display at Glacier National Park. Within Glacier National Park, take the Highline Trail (also called Highline Loop, though it is a one-way trail). Just over 14 miles, the Highline Trail follows the Garden Wall and offers sweeping views of Mt. Cannon, Mt. Oberlin, and Heavens Peak before bringing hikers to the Granite Park Chalet.
Nevada — Turtlehead Peak
Nevada offers more prime desert hiking than visitors flocking to Vegas give the state credit for. Visit Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to see these towering desert rocks; Turtlehead Peak is a 4.5-mile, fairly strenuous hike that offers gorgeous panoramic views of Red Rock Canyon.
Oregon — Garfield Peak Trail
There is no shortage of gorgeous parks to hike through in Oregon — the Pacific Northwest has an incomparable beauty in that way. But hiking Crater Lake National Park is the pinnacle of Oregonian hiking. Within the national park, take Garfield Peak Trail, a three-and-a-half-mile out-and-back hike with a 1,000-foot ascent.
Utah — Canyon Overlook Trail
When honing in on the best hike in Utah, what national park do you even start with? While Bryce and Arches are stunning in their own right, Zion National Park is arguably the gem of Utah. The Emerald Pools hike is a favorite, but you must fit in the short-and-sweet, one-mile Canyon Overlook Trail, which gives hikers a birds’ eye view of the magnificent red Zion rocks.
Wyoming — Cascade Canyon Trail and Lake Solitude
Wyoming is home of the bucket-list Grand Teton National Park, a 310,000-acre park in the northwestern part of the state. With alpine terrain and majestic lakes begging to be explored, serious hikers can’t miss the Cascade Canyon Trail and Lake Solitude. It’s a 14-mile out-and-back trail winding from the western end of Jenny Lake through the unreal Cascade Canyon, onto Paintbrush Canyon, culminating at the alpine Lake Solitude.
Washington — Burroughs Mountain Trail
Mount Rainier is, of course, the pride of Washington, which is saying something when you consider it’s the state with never-ending hiking possibilities, from urban Seattle-based hikes to coastal trails in the San Juan Islands. Nevertheless, a bucket-list Washington hike is Burroughs Mountain Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, which takes hikers to the highest Mount Rainier point accessible by trail at 7,402 feet.
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