Sure, a relaxing sunny day spent lounging poolside with an ice cold margarita in hand sounds, you know, nice. But sometimes you just want to strap on your sturdiest boots, cover your body in bug spray, and hit an open trail while praying you don’t meet a bear. It’s called being at one with nature, people! Seriously though, few things can feel as freeing as a trek along a gorgeous trail lined that features some of the best views our planet has to offer.
Fortunately, you don’t have to go too far to find that. Some of the most beautiful hiking trails you can imagine can be found right here in the U.S. If you like calming landscapes that, let’s be real here, make for a truly perfect Instagram photo op, then these are for you. (Or, if you just want to star at some pretty pics from your screen for a few minutes, that works too.)
There’s something for everyone out here, thanks to the wide variety of nearby climates and conditions. Maybe you’re looking for a picturesque forest full of glittering lakes and huge trees with some cute wildlife scampering around. The Northwest offers plenty of that, from California to Oregon to Wyoming.
Or maybe you’re more into dusty red rocks and a dry desert atmosphere. Head down to the Southwest, where Arizona and Utah put on quite a show year round. More of a beach person? Hawaii and Maine offer trails with postcard-worthy views of the ocean.
No matter which trail ends up on your bucket list (honestly, probably all of them will), you’re sure to find plenty of adventure, a breath of fresh air, and unforgettable memories. (See also: bears! JK. Maybe.) Get those hiking boots ready.
1) Grinnell Glacier Trail in Glacier National Park, Montana
Glacier National Park is an absolute gem, and maybe the best of the trails there is the Grinnell Glacier Trail. The 11-mile hike offers a stunning view of the last remaining glaciers there. A hike among towering trees ends at an overlook made for prime glacial viewing. And the so-pretty-they-look-fake turquoise waters of Lake Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lake are just *chef’s kiss.*
2) The Narrows in Zion National Park, Utah
The Narrows in Zion National Park = one of the most ‘grammed parts of the park, bc obviously. This super popular trek has you wading through shallow water between the looming slot canyon walls on either side (the walls can reach up to 1,000 feet tall, so, yeah, they’re pretty big). This hike feels more like navigating through a maze created by Mother Nature. This is a good thing!!
3) Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park, California
It’s basically impossible to pick just one gorgeous trail inside Yosemite National Park, so to say that Mist Trail stands out legit says something. The trail snakes around two waterfalls (Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall) that leave a nearly perpetual cloud of mist in the air (and now you know the reason for the name, you’re welcome). Add some tall trees, rocky mountainscapes, and cute wildlife. Swoon!
4) Hoh River Trail in Olympic National Park, Oregon
The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is famous for its lush eco-system that features huge moss-covered trees and grassy ferns covering nearly every inch of the ground. In other words: straight out of a mythical forest fairy tale.
5) Horseshoe Bend Trail, Arizona
One of the easiest trails out there also happens to be one of the most beautiful (thanks, Earth!!). Horseshoe Bend Trail in Arizona is a simple 1.5 mile hike towards a horseshoe shaped bend in the Colorado River. A relatively flat trail winds through 200-million-year-old sandstone cliffs until you arrive at your destination/selfie photoshoot.
6) Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Admit it: you’re more of a snow and ice person, not so much heat and dusty rocks person. Harding Icefield Trail is for you, bb. This 8-mile trail offers gorgeous views of Alaska’s famous glaciers. The star of the show is, obviously, Harding Icefield, which is an enormous sheet of snow and ice featuring more than 40 glaciers, but there’s also magical forests and alpine meadows that may or may not have come straight out of a Disney movie.
7) South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
The South Kaibab Trail is what all of your Grand Canyon vacation dreams are made of: jaw-dropping views, adventurous vibes, and the sense that maybe you are no longer on this planet. The trail descends down ridges for picture-perfect panoramic vistas you can’t find anywhere else. A stop at Ooh Aah Point will elicit, you guessed it, oohs and aahs, and you’ll traipse through fields of wildflowers on the way to Cedar Ridge.
8) Teton Crest Trail, Wyoming
For the most perfect *chef’s kiss* views of the Grand Teton National Park, a trek along the Teton Crest Trail will do. It starts off at the extremely blue waters of Jenny Lake, with attractions like Hidden Falls and Hurricane Pass. There are intimidatingly huge evergreens and tumbling rivers, meadows that seem to have been made for frolicking (yep, frolicking), and, of course, the jagged backdrop of the Tetons in near constant view.
9) Sargent Mountain Loop in Acadia National Park, Maine
No offense to all of the other trails out there, but Acadia National Park in Maine basically has it all: lush greenery all around, colorful wildflowers, rocky granite landscapes, even views of North Atlantic waves crashing in the distance. Sargent Mountain Loop is a 6.5 mile round-trip walk up to the summit of the mountain for a ridiculously beautiful view of the coastline.
10) Grayson Highlands, Virginia
Some things to expect from the magical Grayson Highlands: fairytale-like meadows, regular glimpses of two of Virginia’s highest mountains, rhododendron tunnels you legit have to see to believe, clear mountain streams, and even wild ponies. (WILD! PONIES!) An 8.5 mile hike out to Mount Rogers takes you through flowers, green forests, and more.
11) Kalalau Trail, Hawaii
Spending just a few minutes looking at photos of Kalalau Trail will make you want to throw your savings away on plane tickets to Hawaii, like, now. The 11-mile trail winds along the rocky Nā Pali Coast on the island of Kauai, through tropical forests, cliffs, and secluded beaches that are so perfect they look fake. As if that weren’t enough, the trail ends at a private beach, Kalalau, which is nestled between two volcanic ridges and basically defines paradise.
12) Angels Landing in Zion National Park, Utah
Angels Landing is the hike that bucket lists were made for. This 2.4 mile trail ends at Angels Landing, a huge rock formation with 360-degree views of the West, which, yeah, is just as incredible as it sounds. I mean, who doesn’t want to gawk at the 270 million-year-old rock layers that make Zion Canyon so famous?
13) Templeton Trail in Coconino National Forest, Arizona
Arizona’s famous red rocks are, somehow, even more beautiful in person than they are in photos, and the hike that arguably shows them off the best is Templeton Trail. The 7-mile trek snakes through the base of Cathedral Rock, takes you past the picturesque Oak Creek, and offers up the kind of cacti your plant-loving friends could only dream about. Oh, and did we mention the red rock?
14) Ewoldsen Trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, California
You know those scenes of Big Sur from Big Little Lies that make you want to pack your bags and move out to Monterey? Yeah, that’s pretty much what the Ewoldsen Trail is like. There are quaint creeks, towering redwood groves, mythical valleys, and the kind of coastal views that postcards were made of.
15) Greenstone Ridge Trail in Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Greenstone Ridge Trail can be found in Isle Royale National Park, which is actually a teeny-tiny island (only nine miles wide) in the midst of Lake Superior. It’s 40-miles long, running nearly the entire length of the island, offering glimpses of the sparkling blue lake between giant evergreens. Abundant wildlife add to its magic: moose, deer, wolves, and plenty more can be seen running around.
16) Cane Creek Falls Hike in Fall Creek Falls State Park, Tennessee
Cane Creek Falls Hike leads to a tumbling 85-foot waterfall surrounded by a hazy cloud of mist and jagged rocks. Nashville could never. The trail is actually a fairly steep cable trail down the gorge for the best views. Fall Creek Falls State Park offers plenty more waterfalls, gorges, streams, and much more.
17) Tillamook Head Trail, Oregon
Tillamook Head Trail makes it weirdly easy to pretend you don’t live in the cursed year that is 2020. It consists of the most perfect views of the mountains over the Pacific, grassy forests, and the eerie-looking basalt rock formations that Cannon Beach is known for.
18) John Muir Trail, California
Sorry to the rest of the trails in California, but the John Muir Trail is clearly superior. Part of the famed Pacific Crest Trail, this is a looong one, snaking through areas of Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia National Park, giving you a little taste of everything. Indescribable views, clear lakes and streams, jagged mountain peaks rising in the distance, glimpses of cute wildlife, looming trees… it’s all there, and it’s spectacular.
19) Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee
How can you have a list of the most beautiful hiking trails in the U.S. and not include the Appalachian Trail? You can’t, obviously. This 72-mile long hike is, clearly, not a one-day adventure, but it’s worth all of the time. Between the picture-perfect mountain vistas, the thick green forests, and the bubbling streams (all of which doesn’t even begin to cover it), this is one that’s not easy to forget.
20) Navajo Loop in Bryce Canyon, Utah
Magical forests and jagged coastlines not your thing? Check out Utah’s Navajo Loop. The 3-mile long hike truly shows off the unique landscape of Bryce Canyon, featuring orange and pink hoodoos and haunting sandstone rock formations. Haunting in a good way!
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