The United States is a nation full of absolutely incredible scenery and lightning shows, and no matter what part of the country you are in you will be able to find some great parks and hiking trails to get out and about to enjoy the natural world in the area. While access might be possible everywhere, obviously some places are just going to be a little more scenic than others. Finding the best trails in the United States can take a bit of research but if you’re making a real bucket list of the best hiking trails then make sure you add these to the list.
The Appalachian Trail
Referred to as the AT, the Appalachian Trail stretches from Georgia to Maine and is the most famous of the “Big Three” hiking trails that span the vertical length of the country from north to south. Individuals hiking the AT are often broken up into two groups: section hikers that walk a little bit at a time and thru-hikers, who attempt to hike the entire trail in one go.
While there are countless sections on the AT that are just stunning, if you can only visit one then make sure to check out the part of the AT that goes through the 30-Mile Wilderness of Maine. This is the first 30 miles of the vast 100-mile wilderness area where the trail goes full nature and doesn’t cross any roads. This route isn’t for pure beginners as it is somewhat rugged, but offers a lot of the best that Maine has to offer from beautiful mountains and forests to rivers and true Maine nature at its complete finest.
The Pacific Crest Trail
The PCT is the West Coast cousin to the AT, and is widely considered the most beautiful long-distance trail in the United States as well as one of the most challenging. Thousands of PCT thru-hikers start each year from the South but only 200-350 actually complete the long, arduous journey. While the numbers will go up as the popularity of the trail continues to rise, the number of people who finish hiking the trail will continue to be a tiny percentage compared to the total number of people attempting to do it. If you do decide to take this trip, be sure you have the right hiking and backpacking gear to take with you. To find the pack that is best for you, take a look at these reviews for the best backpacks for these types of hikes.
The PCT has many extraordinary areas, and section hikers who only have a week or two recommend sections in the High Sierras and places like The John Muir Trail and Klamath Mountains. That being said, there are dozens of areas that offer an amazing day hike and access to beautiful camping areas. Do your homework on the trail, everything it has to offer, and find the section that works best for you.
The Long Trail (Jay Peak Section of Trail)
This is one of the oldest long-distance trails in the United States as it was created all the way back in the early 1900s. Spanning from the state of Massachusetts up to Canada, this is a great long hike that doesn’t take half a year or an entire season, but even if you can only see a small part, then you want to check out the Jay Peak part of the trail. This is a right combination of being easy enough that beginners can take on the most challenging sections, but just rugged enough to keep even extremely experienced backpackers interested.
Located in the Vermont section of the trail, it won’t take you long at all to fall in love with the natural scenery of the Appalachians and what the rural Vermont wilds have to offer. Don’t rob yourself of the experience of this amazingly aesthetic trail.
The Harding Icefield Trail at Kenai
The Kenai Fjords National Park is home to incredible views that put it among the best parks in all of Alaska, and that is indeed saying something when you’re at the top of what “The Last Frontier” has to offer. This trail is 8 miles round trip and offers hikers the ability to experience one of the most breathtaking and spectacular day hikes you’ll find anywhere. Located near the town of Seward, this trail is a bit of a challenge but is entirely worth it.
This trail starts low at the valley floor, cuts up through forests and meadows, and then rises to breathtaking views of the giant Harding Icefield. This massive sheet of snow and ice is a throwback to the Ice Age as 40 glaciers are spread over an incredible 300 square miles of ice that sprawls in every direction. Just try not finding an incredible scenic view on this trail! While it is relatively short in length this is a bit of a challenge, and it’s worth knowing that there is a very healthy bear population here, so make sure you fully understand bear safety and are safe before you go.