The United States offers the hiker and outdoorsman many opportunities to enjoy every kind of landscape and climate. Whether you prefer a simple walking trail, or a more challenging hiking or climbing adventure, the United States has more trails than any one person can ever enjoy in a lifetime.
Make sure you read all the available information about these hiking trails because some are only for experienced hikers. Hike these trials equipped with proper mountaineering equipment, tent, suitable clothing, food, detailed chart or hiking GPS and phone with emergency numbers.
Here’s a list of some of the best scenic hiking trails in the United States that showcase the beauty of the great outdoors and the American landscape to the fullest.
Pacific Coast Trail
One of the longest defined trails in the United States, the Pacific Coast trail brings hikers all the way from Portland, Oregon to San Diego, California. The trail stretches over 2,500 miles, and passes through three states, seven national parks, twenty-four national forests, and passes by over 1,000 lakes. The trail also goes through nineteen major canyons and more than sixty mountain passes.
Hiking groups from all across the West Coast originally laid out the Pacific Coast Trail as individual hiking trials in the 1930s. Eventually all the trails were connected to form a complete, border-to-border trail that passes through six separate eco-zones. At the border with Canada the trail covers arctic-alpine country, and at its southernmost point where it touches Mexico, the trail meanders through a desert landscape. Some dedicated hikers have done the entire trail without stopping at any major cities, but many hikers prefer to travel the trail in smaller portions.
The Pacific Coast Trail wends its way directly through the cities of San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle, so many people enjoy taking breaks from the trail and take breaks in each city along the way. For the weary hiker, a city can be a welcome change of pace as well as a convenient place to stock up on provisions for the next leg of your journey.
Spanning the entire length of the Appalachian Mountains in the United States, the Appalachian Trail is like the east coast version of the Pacific Coast Trail. The trail stretches from Georgia to Maine, and passes through twelve states along its 2,178 miles of paths. Completed in 1937, the trail passes through six national parks and eight national forests. With the help of over 6,000 volunteers and 165,000 trailblazers, the Appalachian Trail is completely mapped and marked out with extensive waypoints and painted markers along the trail. The efforts of countless people have turned the Appalachian Trail into the longest marked hiking trail in the United States, beating out the Pacific Coast Trail and many others.
A common practice for people hiking the entire trail is to mail care packages with food and other supplies to the stops they’ll be passing through, so they’ll always have what they need waiting for them at each way station. There are many online guides and books that outline exactly how to plan a thru-hike, making it easy to prepare your route and purchase provisions if you want to travel all the way from end to end. On the other hand, many people prefer to take the trail in small portions, or stick to parts of the trail that are located near where they live. It’s also a great way to experience the Appalachian Trail without dedicating months of time to traversing the 2000-plus miles of trail.
Grand Canyon National Park
One of the most well known parks in the country, the Grand Canyon National Park sees more than five million people pass through its gates each year to enjoy the amazing views of the Grand Canyon. What few people know is that there’s a wide array of hiking trails that lead down into the canyon, and only a few thousand people travel them each year. Compared to the number of sightseers who visit the South Rim of the Canyon each year, the number of people who actually travel down into the canyon is miniscule. The trails offer breathtaking vistas and impressive scenery that can compete with the best scenic hiking trails in the United States.
One of the only drawbacks of hiking in Grand Canyon National Park is the hard climb back to the top after you reach the bottom. Going down the canyon isn’t that simple either, and many hikers find themselves worn out before they reach the bottom. That’s why it’s important to bring lots of water and food when traversing the Grand Canyon Trails, especially in the hot and dry summer months.
There are over fifteen official trails that lead into the canyon, and many hikers decide to spend the night once they’ve reached the bottom. People who prefer solitude often prefer to hike the North Rim of the canyon, which receives only ten percent of the number of visitors as the crowded South Rim.
Yosemite National Park
Spanning 747,956 acres of California wilderness, the Yosemite National Park is approximately the size of Rhode Island, and has over 800 miles of hiking trails inside its boundaries. Over three million tourists visit the park each year, and over 15,000 people backpack through the wild backcountry. With dozens of official trails and many smaller branching trails, The Yosemite National Park is a fulfilling hike for even the most ardent hiking enthusiast.
The officially marked trails in the park include any number of scenic areas where there’s no shortage of wildlife. From thick redwood forests to ice-tipped mountaintops, the Yosemite National Park offers outdoor enthusiasts some of the best scenic hiking trails in the United States.
Well known for being the tallest mountain peak in the lower 48 states, Mount Whitney in California has twenty-two miles of trail leading to its summit, and is frequented by 16,000 hikers each year. Many hikers try to take on the challenge of reaching the peak, but because of the daunting nature of the terrain, only bout half of those who set off to reach the top ultimately make it there. Those who do manage to reach the top get a stunning view of southern California.
The marked trail to the summit is over 100 years old, and will have you crossing babbling brooks while you navigate over 97 switchbacks until you reach the top, and you’ll experience some of the most impressive views of any scenic hiking path in the United States. Located only three hours from Los Angeles, Mount Whitney is a hiker’s paradise, and is an excellent day trip for anyone in the area.