The Top 10 Hiking Trails in the U.S. for Breathtaking Views

a group of people walking on the trek. bali

Hiking has always been a profound connection with nature that transcends mere physical activity. It is a rejuvenating escape that nourishes the soul and exercises the spirit of adventure. The United States is a treasure trove of natural beauty, offering a plethora of hiking trails that cater to all skill levels and interests. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast or an adventure seeker looking for a trail that will not only challenge your senses but also reward you with awe-inspiring vistas, you’re in the right place.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll unveil the top ten hiking trails across the U.S. that are renowned for their breathtaking views. Our selection criteria are stringent, designed to ensure that each trail not only provides stunning scenes but also offers a diverse and immersive experience. From the iconic trails of the Western U.S., meandering through the Rockies to the lesser-known gems tucked away in the forests of the East Coast, these trails promise an unforgettable hiking expedition.

Criteria for Selection

In crafting the list of hiking trails, we meticulously considered several factors to ensure the trails were well-rounded in terms of natural beauty, geographical diversity, and level of difficulty. Our selection process took into account the following criteria:

  • Scenic Beauty: The trail should offer panoramic views, unique landscapes, and an abundance of natural wonders.
  • Trail Condition: The path is well maintained and provides a safe environment for hikers.
  • Level of Difficulty: Ranging from beginner-friendly to advanced, we selected a mix of trails that can be enjoyed by hikers of all abilities.
  • Accessibility: Trails that are accessible to the general public and do not require specialized permits or equipment.
  • Hiking Season: Trails with a significant portion available for hiking during peak seasons.
  • Safety: Existing safety measures and the presence of adequate signposting and facilities noted.

Now, without further ado, let’s lace up our boots and hit the trails that showcase Mother Nature at her most majestic.

The Top 10 Hiking Trails

1. Appalachian Trail, East Coast

The granddaddy of long-distance hiking trails, the Appalachian Trail winds over 2,000 miles through 14 states, offering a range of landscapes and cultural experiences. While it may take months to hike the entire trail, many choose to tackle smaller sections. Notable for its rich biodiversity, hikers can experience everything from the Shenandoah Valley’s rolling hills to the misty mountains of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Highlights: Roan Mountain, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Newfound Gap.

Length: 2,200 miles

Difficulty: Varies by section

Best Time to Hike: April to October

Must-Have’s: Sturdy hiking boots, trekking poles, and a multi-day pack if section hiking.

2. Pacific Crest Trail, West Coast

Stretching from Mexico to Canada through the Western United States, the Pacific Crest Trail is the quintessential route for long-distance hikers. This trail is celebrated for its diversity, taking trekkers through deserts, mountain ranges, and forests. The Pacific Crest Trail boasts some of the most stunning scenery in the world, including the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges.

Highlights: Mount Whitney, Mount Hood, and the Bridge of the Gods.

Length: 2,653 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: April to September

Must-Have’s: Desert gear if hiking the Southern Terminus, water purification system, and bear canister in bear country.

3. Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Hiking down into the Grand Canyon is a bucket-list adventure for many. With numerous trails offering different experiences, hikers can descend into the depths of the canyon, traverse the breathtaking ridgelines, and behold the multitude of colors at sunset or sunrise. Expect to be tested by the extreme conditions and rewarding views that the Grand Canyon has to offer.

Highlights: Bright Angel Trail, South Kaibab Trail, and the North Rim.

Length: Varies from 3 miles to over 20 miles one way

Difficulty: Ranges from Moderate to Very Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: Late spring and early fall

Must-Have’s: Adequate sun protection, plenty of hydration, and experience in desert hiking.

4. Glacier National Park, Montana

Home to over 700 miles of hiking trails, Glacier National Park is a hiker’s paradise, with pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and approximately 130 named lakes within the park. The famous Going-to-the-Sun Road provides access to many trailheads, including the spectacular Highline Trail, which offers views of the park’s iconic Logan Pass.

Highlights: Highline Trail, Grinnell Glacier, and Hidden Lake.

Length: Varies

Difficulty: Ranges from Easy to Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: July and August for the highest accessibility

Must-Have’s: Bear spray, layers for variable weather, and a camera for the jaw-dropping vistas.

5. Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite’s granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and lush meadows offer some of the most iconic scenery in the United States. With an extensive network of trails, hikers can explore the serenity of the backcountry or opt for a more popular route, each filled with unique natural wonders.

Highlights: Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and Glacier Point.

Length: Varies

Difficulty: Ranges from Easy to Very Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: Late spring to early fall

Must-Have’s: Daylight permits for Half Dome, plenty of water, and an emergency whistle.

6. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion strikes hikers with its colossal sandstone walls, some of which are a thousand feet high, and its incredibly diverse wildlife. The park’s most famous hikes, Angels Landing and The Narrows, offer a unique perspective of the park’s landscape, with stunning views of the Zion Canyon and Virgin River.

Highlights: Angels Landing, The Narrows, and Observation Point.

Length: Varies

Difficulty: Ranges from Moderate to Very Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: Spring and fall

Must-Have’s: Sturdy shoes with good traction for river hiking, a walking stick, and water shoes for The Narrows.

7. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

With over 355 miles of hiking trails, Rocky Mountain National Park showcases the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains. Some trails take hikers past pristine alpine lakes, whereas others scale high peaks offering unparalleled views. One of the most popular routes includes the hike to the park’s tallest summit – Longs Peak.

Highlights: Longs Peak, Bear Lake, and Trail Ridge Road.

Length: Varies

Difficulty: Ranges from Easy to Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: Summer

Must-Have’s: Layers for changing weather, headlamp for early morning ascents, and bear canister for backcountry camping.

8. The Four Pass Loop, Colorado

Located in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness near Aspen, the Four Pass Loop is a challenging yet rewarding hike that takes hikers through some of the most breathtaking alpine scenery in the state. The loop earns its name from the four mountain passes—West Maroon, Frigid Air, Trail Rider, and Buckskin—that exceed 12,000 feet and offer 360-degree views of the Elk Mountains.

Highlights: Maroon Lake, panoramic mountain views, and backcountry camping.

Length: 27.1 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: Mid-July through early September

Must-Have’s: Proper acclimatization for elevation, durable hiking boots, and a high-altitude rated tent if camping.

9. Kalalau Trail, Hawaii

For a radically different hiking experience, the Kalalau Trail on the Na Pali Coast of Kauai takes the explorer through lush coastal cliffs, valleys, and tropical rainforests. It is the only land access to this part of the rugged coast, so you’re rewarded with isolated beaches and emerald green pinnacles.

Highlights: Hanakapi’ai Beach, Hanakoa Falls, and the Kalalau Valley.

Length: 11 miles round trip

Difficulty: Very Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: May to October, during the dry season

Must-Have’s: Permits, trekking poles for stream crossings, and sturdy boots for slippery conditions.

10. The Precipice Trail, Maine

For something a little out of the ordinary, Acadia National Park in Maine hosts the Precipice Trail, a route of iron rungs and ladders ascending the east face of Champlain Mountain. This trail is not for the faint-hearted, but the precipitous climb rewards with dramatic views of the coast and the park’s interior.

Highlights: Champlain Mountain, The Orange and Black Path, and the Acadia coastline.

Length: 2.5 miles round trip

Difficulty: Very Strenuous

Best Time to Hike: Late spring to early fall

Must-Have’s: Closed-toe, hiking-specific footwear, gloves to protect hands on the iron rungs and ladders, and a sense of adventure.

Ensure you research each of these hikes thoroughly before setting off. The National Park Service websites and local outdoor enthusiast forums can provide the most up-to-date information on trail conditions and any alerts hikers should be aware of. Safety should always be your top priority, no matter how experienced a hiker you are.

Tips for Hiking

Hiking can be a rewarding and enriching experience, but it requires preparation and planning. Here are some essential tips to keep in mind when hitting the trails:

  • Study the trail map and familiarize yourself with the route.
  • Check the weather forecast and adjust your plans accordingly.
  • Dress in layers and wear proper footwear for the terrain.
  • Pack essential items, including water, food, a first aid kit, and a flashlight.
  • Always tell someone your hiking plans, such as route and expected return time.
  • Respect wildlife and follow the ‘leave no trace’ principle.
  • Take regular breaks and know your limits.

Remember, the best way to enjoy the scenery is to hike safely and be prepared for the unexpected.

Benefits of Hiking

Hiking is more than just a workout; it’s a holistic experience that rejuvenates the mind, body, and soul. Here are some of the physical and mental benefits of hitting the trails:

  • A great cardiovascular workout that helps maintain a healthy heart.
  • An opportunity to de-stress and escape the hustle and bustle of daily life.
  • Improved mood and mental well-being, thanks to the release of endorphins.
  • Enhanced core strength, balance, and stability.

If you’re looking for a way to disconnect from the digital world and reconnect with the natural beauty around you, hiking is the perfect antidote.


The U.S. is blessed with an extraordinary array of hiking trails, each offering its own unique slice of natural splendor. From the towering redwoods of California to the sunny peaks of the Colorado Rockies, these trails weave through the heart of the American landscape, inviting adventurers to witness the incredible diversity of the country.

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a novice, a solo trekker or part of a group, the call of the wild beckons, and these trails are ready for you to explore. Venture out, breathe in the fresh air, and savor the sights that only a select few have had the privilege of seeing.

In planning your next hiking expedition, consider these top ten trails and the experiences they offer. Remember the stories of those who have trekked before you, and be ready to create your own tales of adventure and wonder.

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