Singling out the best hikes in the US is never an easy task because this vast country is rich with rugged natural beauty for hikers to explore. The wealth of national parks leaves us spoilt for options, with offerings that range from scenic alpine landscapes with snow-capped mountains to coastal jungles with verdant valleys and waterfalls.

    We have handpicked a selection of the best hikes below. Strap on your pack and go on a date with the US wilderness – don’t forget to bring along your camera, take only pictures, and leave nothing but footprints behind.


    Half Dome day hike

    Stand triumphant at the summit and enjoy spectacular views

    Having conquered the Half Dome day hike at Yosemite National Park, you’ll have one of the most famous, most challenging, and yet most memorable hikes under your belt. Half Dome itself is one of the most striking features on Yosemite’s landscape, towering about 5,000 ft above the valley. This view has been heavily featured on film and canvas.

    The day hike is a 15-mile roundtrip, best started out at sunrise. Your journey to the granite giant will be complemented by soothing nature sights, such as the Vernal and Nevada Falls, along with Liberty Cap, another standout formation. Reaching Half Dome, the real thrill begins with the climb up the cables, 400 ft below the summit. All your effort is paid off once you scramble to the top, with the panorama of the valley and the High Sierra to enjoy.

    Location: Happy Isle Loop Rd, Yosemite Valley, CA 95389, USA


    Mist Trail

    Climb the steps by thundering falls

    The Mist Trail is one of Yosemite’s most popular hikes, just south of the famous and challenging Half Dome Trail. This hike can be as short or as long as you please, depending on your call to adventure. It’s preferred by many who’d rather take a shorter trek, while others can follow on further as it leads to the iconic Half Dome rock.

    Follow the rushing Merced River with its giant boulders rising from the water. The trail is roughly a 3-mile roundtrip to Vernal Falls, one of the waterfalls in the area that blanket the trail with mists, hence its name. Pause the steps below the 317-ft-high Vernal Falls and catch a magical rainbow, then climb to the top and find the small and shallow yet tranquil Emerald Pool as a reward.

    Location: Mist Trail, California 95389, USA


    Charlies Bunion Hike

    Stunning geological features along the Appalachian Trail

    The highlight of the Charlies Bunion Hiking Trail is the boulder on its namesake peak that treats you to panoramas of the Great Smoky Mountains’ most intriguing geological formations. The trail winds through the hills near Gatlinburg for just over 8 miles, though those preferring a short trek will be hit with gorgeous vistas less than a mile into the hike.

    Sections of the trail are rocky, and others can be a bit muddy, snowy or even icy. Past the Icewater Spring shelter, it’s mostly a downhill trek. It’s best to hike the Charlies Bunion in spring or the early summer, when you’ll be greeted by vivid blooming wildflowers along the way.

    Location: 107 Park Headquarters Rd, Gatlinburg, TN 37738, USA


    Angel’s Landing

    A strenuous hike with rewarding canyon views

    The rocky hiking trail of Angel’s Landing may be tough, but it’s one of the most spectacularly rewarding hikes in Zion National Park. Steep, with plenty of risky climbs, the 5.4-mile (roughly 4-hour) roundtrip trail is one to conquer for stunning pictures, bragging rights, impressive selfies, and sheer adventure.

    Set out early and bring enough water with you as most of the trail is sunny and can get quite hot. You’ll need to overcome Walter’s Wiggles, which are a set of over 20 steep zigzags, before reaching the prize known as Scout’s Lookout. The climb up to the viewpoint itself involves pulling yourself up by a chain rope. Even if you don’t complete it, there’s plenty of beautiful canyon views along the way.

    Location: Angels Landing, Utah 84737, USA


    South Rim Trail

    A moderate day hike that’s big on canyon views

    The South Rim Trail is great for most hikers, including families with kids in tow, since it's mostly level with many paved sections. Even so, it offers turn after turn of stunning views over the Grand Canyon and Colorado River. What’s more, there are plenty of shaded spots as well as free shuttle services for your convenience.

    Easy on the knees and big on the views, the 13-mile trail stretches from the South Kaibab Trailhead to Hermits Rest, with the vast canyon facing you the entire way. There are different sections along the path – the Trail of Time has informational posts for you to catch up on the Grand Canyon's history. Or, for a bit of adventure, take the unmarked forest trail to Shoshone Point, which is excellent for a scenic picnic.

    Location: Rim Trail, Grand Canyon Village, AZ 86023, USA


    Cadillac North Ridge Trail

    Reach the top of the tallest mountain in Acadia

    Hiking the Cadillac North Ridge Trail at Acadia National Park rewards you with seascapes of Bar Harbor and the Porcupine Islands bobbing in the waters of Frenchman Bay. Facing east through the lush white pine and birch forests, you have the beautiful blue of Eagle Lake in view.

    The North Ridge is mostly covered in bare rock slabs, and the 4-mile trail has sections with a series of narrow stone steps and leafy pathways. The views gradually get better as you reach the summit. An even easier trek nearby is the Cadillac Summit Loop, where you take a quick stroll from the carpark and take in the impressive views, especially during sunrise and sunset.

    Location: Cadillac North Ridge Trail, Bar Harbor, ME 04609, USA


    Grinnell Glacier Trail

    Alpine views with the namesake lake and falls

    Hike the Grinnell Glacier Trail for one of the most beautiful views of the Glacier National Park in Montana. The trail is roughly a 7.6-mile roundtrip – only for serious hikers – and offers splendid alpine views and over Swiftcurrent and Josephine lakes, as well as Grinnell Falls.

    There are shuttle boats that can take you across both lakes to begin the journey. Along the trail, you’ll hike through alpine meadows often dotted with blooming wildflowers and grazing bighorn sheep. After about 3.6 miles out, you’ll reach Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint – this is a spectacular highlight of your journey, with Mount Gould in the background.

    Location: Grinnell Glacier Trail, MT 59417, USA


    Cascade Canyon Trail

    Discover Hidden Falls on this picturesque uphill trail

    Hike the diverse Cascade Canyon Trail to take in the picture-postcard beauty of the Grand Teton National Park with its alpine vistas of shimmering lakes against snow-capped peaks. This spectacular hike takes you up Cascade Canyon and through Hidden Falls, while those looking for more adventure can continue further to the Inspiration Point viewpoint.

    Either way, you’re in for magnificent views and with plenty of sightings of wildflowers and wildlife along the way. Note that hikers journeying through Grand Teton National Park should be ‘bear aware’ as this is indeed black bear and grizzly country.

    Location: Grand Teton National Park, Alta, WY 83414, USA


    Kalalau Trail

    The main scenic hike of Kauai

    Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile-long hike on the northwestern edge of Kauai Island, where you can take in rugged Hawaiian coastal beauty on one side and lush valleys and waterfalls on the other. The trail winds through the vast and splendid Ha’ena State Park, and many won’t be able to experience it all in a single day’s hike.

    Enjoy a 4-mile roundtrip by taking a portion of the trail that sets out at Kee Beach, traversing through steep jungle pathways towards Hanakapiai Beach. In between, you’re treated to the breathtaking seascapes of the NaPali Coast with its rows of sea cliffs. Looking for more adventure? Continue on by following the rough Hanakapiai Falls Trail for another 2 miles, where the Hanakapiai Falls serves as a soothing reward.

    Location: Kuhio Hwy, Hanalei, HI 96714, USA


    Anhinga Trail

    Amble through lush alligator land

    The Anhinga Trail with its well-designed boardwalk is the best way to experience the Everglades safely and conveniently. It’s a great option for families with kids wanting to experience the wilderness of the famous wetland in Florida.

    The River of Grass is home to alligators. Chances are you’ll see a few on your walk along the easy 0.8-mile trail. From the long, raised platform, you’ll also come across various other marsh wildlife like turtles, herons, and the namesake anhinga – a strikingly dark-plumaged waterbird with a long and curved neck that’s known for its spearfishing technique. You might get lucky and see one in action.

    Location: Homestead, FL 33030, USA

    Ari Gunadi | Compulsive Traveler

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