Dedicated hikers know that for the very best vistas and chances to spot wildlife, you’ve got to be willing to lace up your hiking boots and make the trek. And, with 52 million acres of national parks, 18 million acres of state parks, and millions more at the local level, the United States is one of the very best places to do it. These winding trails and wide-open spaces provide unmatched views, excellent wildlife watching opportunities, and incredible nature scenes you won’t find anywhere else.
Here are 10 of the best hikes in America, ranked with help from the AllTrails community.
1. Angels Landing Trail; Zion National Park, Utah
This 4. 1-mile five-star hike is one of the most-reviewed hikes on AllTrails, with over 2,000 ratings. With an elevation gain of 1,600 feet and some insane switchbacks (see photo!), this mountainous trek takes you high above Zion Canyon. This one’s not for those fearful of heights, as it’s rated difficult and features many steep edges. The final half-mile of the trail follows a steep ridge with anchored support chains, but the reward is well worth it! From the sheer cliff at Angels Landing, you’ll soak up some incredible views of Zion Canyon down below, as long as you’re not afraid of heights.
2. Emerald Lake Trail; Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
As the most popular hike in the Rockies, this splendid ramble is surprisingly easy. It’s a 3.1-mile out-and-back taking you up into the pine-covered hills, with breathtaking views at every angle. The trail traverses past several alpine lakes and finally ends at the pristine Emerald Lake, which is well worth the effort. Views of Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak, and Glacier Gorge make this one especially memorable. It’s a real bucket list hike for those who aren’t especially comfortable with long, difficult hikes.
3. Rattlesnake Ledge Trail; Rattlesnake Mountain Scenic Area, Washington
Located just an hour and a half east of Seattle, Rattlesnake Ledge Trail is a longtime favorite among Washingtonians and visitors. The moderate-rated, 5.1-miler is known for its breathtaking views from the top of Rattlesnake Ridge, where hikers can catch unspoiled glimpses of Mount Si and Mount Washington as well as the stunning Rattlesnake Lake.
4. Devil’s Bridge Trail; Coconino National Forest, Arizona
Located in Sedona, Devil’s Bridge Trail is the most popular hike in Arizona. The heavily trafficked 4.2-mile trail provides spectacular vistas of Devil’s Bridge, the largest natural sandstone arch in the Sedona area. The awe-inspiring red rocks, wildflowers, and wildlife make this hike extremely popular among tourists, so make sure to hike early in the morning to avoid the crowd.
5. Potato Chip Rock; Lake Poway Park, California
Despite its name, Potato Chip Rock is no picnic! This 7.6-mile out-and-back trail is rated as hard and takes you to an elevation gain of over 2,000 feet, so make sure to pack your most dependable hiking gear. On this trail, you’ll climb through treacherously narrow corridors and rough, steep switchbacks. But the views are well worth it, as Potato Chip Rock and Mount Woodson provide fantastic views of the Pacific Ocean and Lake Poway down below. The rock itself is a sight to behold, with its slim, potato chip-like shape that juts out over the canyon.
6. Alum Cave Trail; Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Proving that the best hikes aren’t all out west, Alum Cave trail offers serious hikers some of the very best views East of the Mississippi. But this one’s not a breeze, either! It traverses for 10.7 miles up Mount Le Conte and offers an elevation gain of over 3,000 feet, taking hikers past Arch Rock with views of Duck Hawk Ridge and the Eye of the Needle. Waterfalls, caves, and mountain vistas don’t disappoint at Alum Cave Trail.
7. Old Rag Mountain Loop Trail; Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Another gem of the eastern U.S., Old Rag Mountain features awe-inspiring views of the valley below as you climb to over 2,400 feet over 8.6 miles. With several false peaks, Old Rag is known for tricking hikers into thinking they’ve hit the summit, only to have more trail to go.
8. Royal Arch Trail; Boulder Open Space, Colorado
Boulder’s most popular trail is a must-hike for tourists and locals looking to soak up views of the stunning sandstone boulders that are so famous in this region. Royal Arch is an eroded outcrop of a larger formation that offers a natural parasol for picnicking and relaxing. At three miles, this hike is relatively short, but it offers an elevation gain of over 1,300 feet and is rated as hard, so you’ll still get a fairly solid workout.
9. Hanging Lake Trail; White River National Forest, Colorado
Yet another gem of the Centennial State, Hanging Lake Trail offers some of the very best views in the western United States. The trail is rigorous and steep, but rewards with its final view of the pristine Hanging Lake surrounded by natural waterfalls. Though it’s rated as moderate and is only three miles total, Hanging Lake Trail can be treacherous in the winter, so it’s important to exercise caution and use your best judgment when hiking this route.
10. Lake Blanche Trail; Twin Peaks Wilderness, Utah
Located just outside of Salt Lake City, this popular trail is beloved for its varied terrain. Hikers enjoy glimpses of a mountaintop lake, plenty of wildlife, and untouched mountain vistas. It’s a 6.9-mile out-and-back route that’s rated as hard, taking hikers to an elevation gain of 2,700 feet, so it’s best for experienced hikers comfortable with rough terrain.
Seeing America in Your Hiking Boots
There’s arguably no better way to see what America is all about than by packing up your daypack and hitting the trail. Whether your goal is to exercise, reflect, learn, or spot some elusive wildlife, the above routes will leave you feeling fulfilled. Make sure to check with the parks service before beginning your journey, as some of the more dangerous routes are often closed in the winter or during inclement weather. Happy trails!