The United States is known worldwide for its natural beauty. From the coasts of California to the piedmonts of North Carolina, the diversity of each wildland presents another opportunity to explore and enjoy the grandeur that the USA offers. The toughest choice that any hiker has to make is where should you plan to go hiking? With a seemingly limitless number of trails to choose from, it’s understandable how overwhelming that feeling can get.
To help narrow down your decision making for your next outdoor adventure, we’ve put together a list of our favorite hikes that we’ve been on in the US. Each one can be completed within a day and offers unique opportunities to immerse yourself in the natural beauty that the US is known for!
1) Garfield Peak Trail, Oregon
Length: 3.4 miles
Best Feature: Solitude from the crowded parking area near the rim above Crater Lake.
Crater Lake National Park is one of the most unique national parks in the US. This once active volcano has been transformed into an impressive lake over the last several million years. Crater Lake is one of the deepest lakes in the US and is actually used by the US Navy from time to time to test the capabilities of submarine technology! If that wasn’t impressive enough, the views from atop the Garfield Peak Trail are awe inspiring to say the least. Plus, you’ll be able to escape the crowds that all clamor around the rim of the lake near the visitor’s center!
2) Marymere Falls Trail, Washington
Length: 1.7 miles
Best Feature: Wildflowers and wildlife viewing opportunities.
Washington is well known for its rainforests and waterfalls. The Marymere Falls trail allows you to enjoy the best of each! It’s a quick and easy hike that offers hikers the opportunity to take a leisurely stroll through some of the lushest green forests in the US and rewards you with a gorgeous waterfall at the end of the hike. You’ll only gain about 300 feet of elevation on this hike, making it an ideal one to introduce little kids to the joys of hiking!
3) Devils Bridge Trail, Arizona
Length: 3.9 miles
Best Feature: Spectacular views from the top of the Devils Bridge.
Arizona is one of the most gorgeous states that we’ve ever been to. And the most beautiful spot in Arizona? Sedona. Located about an hour and a half north of Phoenix, Sedona is a city nestled in some of the most beautiful red rock formations. The trail that you absolutely can’t miss when visiting Sedona is the Devils Bridge. After a couple mile hike out from a dirt road, you’ll find yourself climbing up a rocky staircase to where you’ll find the bridge. You can walk out on the bridge but be careful! Wind gusts can be strong and the bridge narrows in the middle, leaving very little room to trip!
4) Mt. Woodson Trail to Potato Chip Rock, California
Length: 7.3 miles
Best Feature: Pretty views of Lake Poway below and an opportunity to take a picture on a thin sheet of granite.
Potato Chip Rock got its name after a granite boulder lost all of its mass, except a thin sheet of rock at the very top. Part of that rock was connected to the rest of the mountain, which left an almost potato chip looking feature hanging out over the valley below! As you hike to the top, you’ll want to take several opportunities to stop and take in the views of southern California that spread out below you. Bring plenty of water and start early for this one as it gets hot and there is very little shade on trail!
5) Booth Falls Trail, Colorado
Length: 4.2 miles
Best Feature: Gorgeous hike through aspen groves to the always impressive Booth Falls.
The Centennial State is well known for its skiing, beer, and hiking. If you play your cards right, you could enjoy all three in the same day! Booth Falls, located just outside of Vail Colorado, offers the opportunity to ski, drink, and hike due to its proximity to some of the best skiing in the world as well as top tier breweries! If you time it right, you could get up early in the morning to ski in one of the backcountry areas that abound around Vail, grab a quick beer at Vail Brewing Company, and then head up to the trailhead to enjoy a relaxing stroll through the woods to Booth Falls for an epic sunset adventure!
6) Cascade Canyon Trail, Wyoming
Length: 9.1 miles
Best Feature: Spectacular views of Jenny Lake and the Grand Tetons.
Northwestern Wyoming is home to some of the most beautiful mountains in the world: the Grand Tetons. The jagged mountains burst up from the plains and hold pockets of snow on their tops all year long! The best trail to take when visiting Grand Tetons National Park is the Cascade Canyon Trail. As you make your way up from Jenny Lake, you’ll walk through groves of pine trees, cross snowmelt fed streams, and take in spectacular views from appropriately named rest stops like Inspiration Point!
7) Jordan Pond Path, Maine
Length: 3.1 miles
Best Feature: Great views of the lake, fun technical sections to climb over.
Acadia National Park is iconic for the way in which the mountains meet the sea. The views here truly are spectacular! Heading a bit further inland from the coast, you’ll find an array of great hikes to choose from. The best one that you can’t miss is Jordan Pond Path. This fun loop offers excellent views the entire time you hike along the shore of the lake. There are also some fun technical rock scrambles that you’ll end up doing to keep it interesting!
8) Mount Mansfield Loop Trail, Vermont
Length: 7.3 miles
Best Feature: Summitting the highest point in Vermont.
Vermont is home to some of the most gorgeous mountains in the Northeast. The best spot to view all of the mountains sprawling out below you is from the top of Mount Mansfield. After you’ve warmed up your rock scrambling skills on the Jordan Pond Path, take a crack at some of the technical sections here! There are several areas that the line between hiking and rock climbing will begin to blur. For an added challenge, consider going in the winter! Don’t forget your crampons at home though, as the trail can become an ice rink in certain spots.
9) Wekiwa Springs Volksmarch Trail, Florida
Length: 6.3 miles
Best Feature: A gorgeous walk through lush, green forests with a large variety of plants to enjoy.
If you’re hiking with little kids or just want a nice, leisurely stroll in the woods, then you have to take a hike along the Wekiwa Springs Volksmarch Trail. The trail is really mellow, staying nice and flat as you make your way out to Wekiwa Springs. Plant enthusiasts will love this trail, because there are tons of different plants that grow in the wilderness surrounding the trail. From cactus to tall pine trees, the diversity of plant life here keeps the scenery fresh around each corner you turn!
10) Catawba Falls Trail, North Carolina
Length: 2.3 miles
Best Feature: Bragging rights that you’ve visited the headwaters of the Catawba River.
One of the coolest parts about hiking in places like North Carolina is that there is a history of strong outdoor communities you can truly feel. Many of the trails in North Carolina were all cut long ago, giving you a connection to all of the people who have hiked along the same tread that you are. This connection through time allows you to empathize with the past because you’re experiencing the same hike that many others have experienced ever since the trail to Catawba Falls was cut in the 1920s! Once you’re done geeking out about the historical connections, take a look around for some of the best wildflower viewing opportunities we’ve come across in the Southeast!
Planning a day hike in the US is completely dependent on where you want to go. As you can see from our list, the diversity between locations in terms of heat, elevation profile, shade, and availability of water while on trail differ wildly.
Wherever you decide to go, where the appropriate clothing and pack along the appropriate gear. Remember that layers are key to ensuring that you’re prepared to take on anything that you encounter when hiking. And always bring plenty of snacks to refuel as you hike!
Try to avoid carrying bulky, heavy items as you hike as well. Whether that be your camera or your wallet, the lighter you go, the happier you’ll be! You don’t want to go hiking with a heavy, bulky wallet in your back pocket. In fact, there’s really nothing more frustrating than sitting down for a break and realizing your wallet in your back pocket is keeping you from getting a comfortable rest! Upgrade to the Axwell Wallet to carry a slim wallet in your front pocket. You’ll forget you’re even carrying it on your hike.
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