Long Trail, Jay Peak Long Trail North—Jay, Vt. from Great American Hikes
Great American Hikes
Long Trail, Jay Peak Long Trail North—Jay, Vt.
The “footpath in the wilderness” was established in the early 1900s, making it the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. The whole of the trail spans from Massachusetts to the Canadian border, but trail expert Philip Werner suggests the Jay Peak section to hikers looking for the best part. It’s rugged enough to keep any hiker interested, but the Jay Peak section is accommodating of beginners.
Appalachian Trail, 30-Mile Wilderness—Monson, Maine
Maine’s renowned 100-Mile Wilderness is the longest part of the Appalachian Trail that never crosses a paved road. Lucky for northeastern hikers, the first 30 miles of this route showcase the trails best features. A somewhat rugged route, explorers can expect to encounter the Lower Wilson Falls, lush maple forests, rocky rushing rivers, and panoramic views of Maine’s rustic backwoods.
Cascade Mountain—Keene, N.Y.
Named for the waterfalls at the mountain’s base, Cascade is one of the 46 Adirondack High Peaks, and is said to be the easiest to scale. A great choice for beginners and anyone looking for a stunning view of New York’s Green mountains and Lake Champlain, the 4.2 mile hike is classified as easy, but the views are hard to come by anywhere else.
Mount Tom Traverse, Metacomet-Monadnock Trail (Section 6)—Easthampton/Holyoke, Mass.
The Mount Tom Traverse portion of the Metacomet-Monadnock Trail was certified as a National Recreation Trail in 2001, was designated as part of the New England National Scenic Trail in 2009, and offers hikers a unique opportunity to experience the varying landscapes that the Massachusetts wilderness has to offer. Beginning at the entrance to the Mount Tom Reservation on Route 141, after a quick 200-foot elevation gain, this route will take you through about six miles of ridgewalking where you’ll catch awe-inspiring views of the Connecticut River Valley and pass by the ruins of century-old hotels before reaching Goat Peak. Birdwatchers will especially love this trail in the spring and fall when it’s common to spot hawks gliding overhead.
Mt. Tammany—Worthington State Forest, N.J.
This New Jersey mountain overlooks the Delaware Water Gap, providing spectacular views and a variety of trail options, all in eagle-watching territory. The main loop is only 3.5 miles long, but what it lacks in distance, it makes up for in slope. The shortest option on Mt. Tammany is listed at 1.5 miles, a manageable distance for any hiker.
Old Rag Mountain—Shenandoah National Park, Va.
Just because this trail is one of the more popular hiking destinations in the U.S. doesn’t mean it’s an easy ascent. In fact, the National Park Service says it’s one of Shenandoah’s most dangerous hikes. The Old Rag route is widely considered a classic hike and is known for attracting crowds of climbers during the peak summer seasons. Aptly named for its rugged terrain strewn with boulder fields and bare rocks, the trail is 8 miles round-trip. Ensure a safe trek by taking a look at the NPS safety guidelines before attempting this climb.
Franconia Ridge Traverse—White Mountain National Forest, N.H.
The Franconia Ridge Trail runs from south to north and links Mount Liberty (4459′), Little Haystack, Mount Lincoln and Mount Lafayette along a knife-edge, above-treeline trail that plunges thousands of feet to the Walker Brook and Lincoln Brook river valleys below. On a clear day, you can see the entire Pemigewasset Wilderness to the east including distant Bondcliff, the Twins, and Owls Head Mountain. To the east, is the magnificent Cannon Cliff and the Kinsmans, with views of Vermont and even New York State in clear weather.
Beacon Heights—Linville, N.C.
A trail that offers big rewards but requires little effort, after a short hike (less than one mile) to the summit of Beacon Heights you’ll be greeted by breathtaking views of Grandfather Mountain, MacRae Peak, and Rough Ridge Overlook. On especially clear days you may even be able to catch glimpses of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The trail also provides access to longer hikes like the 13.5-mile Tanawha Trail that leads to Price Lake and the Mountains to the Sea Trail, which stretches all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.
Cape Henry Trail—Virginia Beach, Va.
Winding through First Landing State Park, the Cape Henry Trail is six miles long and mostly flat. In those short six miles, you’ll make your way through forests and over swamps and salt marshes, getting a taste of Virginia’s coast. The trail is rich with wildlife, birdwatchers should put this trail on their to do list.
Cohutta Wilderness, Jacks River Trail—Epworth, Ga.
Vast, well-preserved Cohutta wilderness is home to one of the best trails in the Southeast. Jacks River Trail follows its namesake, and crosses occasionally, so don’t count on staying completely dry. The trail offers access to lush greenery, clear swimming holes and ideal camping spots. The full hike is 16.2 miles long, which makes it a perfect weekend hike for those with some hiking experience.
Blue Spring Loop, Conecuh National Forest—Wing, Ala.
The entire Conecuh Forest Trail extends over 20 miles of dense, Deep South forest, but the Blue Spring Loop allows hikers to experience all the landscape has to offer within a 6.1-mile circuit. Described as a hilly hike, this route ascends through elevated woods and drops down towards streams, swamps and ponds. A diverse display of vegetation and wildlife will have you on the lookout for longleaf pines, turkey oaks, otters, snakes, and even alligators.
Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area, Honey Creek Loop—Oneida, Tenn.
The Honey Creek Loop is the most challenging trail in the area, but it’s worth the effort. The trail offers a descent into a cliff-enclosed pool, an array of unique rock formations throughout and several creek crossings. For the short five and a half mile hike, experts say you’ll need at least an hour per mile and warn against going after a big storm, as the extra water could make this challenging trail nearly impossible.
The Hayduke Trail’s Hurrah Pass, Arches National Park—Moab, Utah
This route is located entirely on public lands, linking six National Parks in the Southern Utah and Northern Arizona area and covering 800 miles of rugged backcountry terrain. The entire route is divided into 14 sections, the second of which stretches over 47.1 miles from Hurrah Pass to the Big Spring Trailhead of Canyonlands National Park. Advanced dessert hikers capable of tackling this treacherous trek will be rewarded for their hard work with sights of some of the most magnificent red rock views of the American Southwest.
The Lost Coast—Calif.
Named for its tendency to be lost beneath California’s tide or for its exclusion from the Pacific Coast Highway, depending on who you believe, this trail is about as ocean-front as you can get. Don’t be fooled by the beautiful scenery—this hike is a tough one. So tough, in fact, that road crews deemed it impassable and refused to build road on these shoreline cliffs. The trail is more than 20 miles, one way, with camping spots throughout, making it the perfect week-long challenge for the extreme hiker.
Williams Lake Trail— Ski Valley, N.M.
An intermediate-level hike and one of the most popular trails in the Taos Ski Valley, the Williams Lake Trail covers about 2 miles and summits at just over 11,000 feet. A quick climb that yields beautiful views of the valley’s emerald pines and of course, Williams Lake, this hike features a few steep stretches but for the most part is suitable for hikers of all levels.
Snowmass Wilderness, Maroon Bells–Aspen, Colo.
This spectacular view is said to be Colorado’s most photographed mountain landscape, but the hikes are not to be overshadowed. Standing at more than 14,000 feet each, the six peaks draw scores of experienced hikers. With the popularity of the area, you won’t be alone in your adventure, but it’s still worth the trip.
Mt. Wittenberg Loop, Point Reyes National Seashore—Olema, Calif.
The Mt. Wittenberg Loop in California’s 70,000-acre Point Reyes National Park presents hikers with a steep 5-mile ascent to the park’s highest point. You’ll meander through forests and meadows before reaching the peak at 1,407 feet where gorgeous panoramas of the California coast and Olema valley await.
Angels Landing—Zion National Park, Utah
Angels Landing may have been named for its remote route, but the difficult trek is well worth the effort. Begin by scaling cliffs with the help of chains bolted into rock and reach the best views by negotiating a narrow rock fin with steep dropoffs on either side. Red rock fans and dare devil hikers won’t be able to pass on this journey.
John Muir Trail, Sierra Nevada Mountains—Yosemite Valley, Calif.
You can walk for 2 or 3 weeks without crossing a road. The John Muir is the best section of the longer Pacific Crest Trail. It crosses Yosemite, Ansel Adams and John Muir wilderness, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. If there's a hiker's heaven, it looks like the John Muir Trail.
Oswald West State Park, Neahkahnie Mountain—Arch Cape, Ore.
This 7.6-mile hike on Neahkahnie Mountain is classified as challenging, but it’s also said to be the best way to see the Oregon coast. Total elevation gain is marked at 1,700 feet, but must-see views of the Pacific make the effort more than worthwhile.
Open summer through fall, this popular 5.5–mile route within the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is an exciting hike that beautifully showcases the park’s many different landscapes. Surrounded by thick woodlands at the start, as you continue on your ascent to the 10,781-foot summit the forest will begin to thin out and the route will become more rock-strewn. Two miles in a split in the trail offers the option for hikers to head either to the Hogsback Camp and then the Mt. Baker Summit or a slightly more challenging route, which requires the crossing of a few streams but ends with stunning views of the Coleman Glacier.
Glen Alpine Trail—Calif.
Called “the best day hike in Tahoe,” by Backpacker.com, the Glen Alpine Trail spans 12 miles through western wilderness. The path winds past waterfalls and cashes in on the best part of Tahoe—views of the incredible lake. This difficult trail is best traveled from late spring to fall, but the waterfalls will be strongest and most spectacular in spring due to winter runoff.
Cinnamon Lookout, Gallatin Canyon—Big Sky, Mont.
Ending with incredible views of the Spanish Peaks, Sphinx Mountain, The Taylor Hilgards, and the entire Gallatin Range, this 4.4-mile path is an easy ascent accessible even to inexperienced hikers. The Sierra Club calls Cinnamon Lookout “the best hike in the Big Sky area” and praises it for being uncrowded and offering incredible views.
Lone Peak, Jacobs Ladder—Hidden Hills, Utah
There are several routes up to Lone Peak, but Jacobs Ladder is the trail with the shortest distance at around 6 miles. It is also the steepest trail—one section in particular will have you climbing a incline for more than an hour, total elevation gain is more than 5,500 feet. Not a great choice for beginners, but a good challenge for someone with experience looking for a day hike with a view.
Loon Lake Loop, Chinook Campground—Burgdorf, Idaho
A classic Rocky Mountain trail strewn with a number of exciting attractions, the Loon Lake Loop is a popular route not only for hiking but horseback riding and mountain biking, too. Sights of the Secesh River might offer a chance to see wild salmon and hikers will also find other unique points of interest like the wreckage of a 1943 B23 bomber, Dredge Pond, and the spooky “Murder Cabin.”
Glacier North Circle, Glacier National Park—West Glacier, Mont.
This is a fabulous hike-of-a-lifetime in every possible way. The complete North Circuit is 65miles (104km) plus side trips, though it's easy to section hike. Some trails are appropriate for all levels of fitness and experience. Much is pristine wilderness unchanged for hundreds of years.
Ala Kakakai National Historic Trail—Oahu, Hawaii
Designated a National Historic Trail by the National Park System in 2000, this historically significant path covers 175 miles and highlights a wide range of ancient Hawaiian sites. The section of the trail designated for public use is located between Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site and Anaeho'omalu Bay, south of Waikoloa Resorts but hikers can also gain access to other parts of the trail via any of the Island’s four National Parks. With varying ecological zones to be discovered the Ala Kakakai trail features everything from caves and anchialine pools to lava formations and an opportunity to witness endangered wildlife.
Portage Pass Trail—Whittier, Alaska
The reward for this short Alaska hike is one you won’t find in the Southern states. The end of the trail offers an upclose look at the Portage glacier from the shores of the lake. The best view requires a descent to the shore but even without the trek downhill, the views are spectacular.
Crow Pass Trail—Girdwood, Alaska
This historically significant trail follows the old, 21-mile Iditarod supply route. Soak in the striking scenery which includes glaciers, wildflowers, waterfalls, and mining ruins as you make your way to Crow Pass (the highest point on the trail) or even farther to Eagle River. Widely considered one of the best day hikes in all of Alaska, this route also offers opportunities for extended stays as the full-length of the course typically takes two to four days to complete.