In a country blessed with plentiful and stunning wild places, there’s sure to be some disagreement over the most beautiful hiking spots in America. While your favorite hiking area may not be on this list, there’s no disputing these places are exceptional for their breathtaking scenery and the opportunity they present for outdoor fun.
Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park in Maine
This steep trail climbs 1000 feet up over narrow ledges on the east face of Champlain Mountain, a short – 1.6 mile round trip – that is deceptively steep, difficult and strenuous. The reward for your efforts is a dramatic and dizzying view of the rugged Maine coastline.
Intended for experienced hikers, Precipice Trail is certainly not for anyone with a fear of heights as you will be traversing a series of ledges with deep drop-offs and end with a mountaintop view of the ocean far, far below.
The Highland Trail, Logan Pass in Montana
Inside of Glacier National Park, the Highland Trail is 7.6 miles point-to-point and every step serves up gorgeous high-country scenery. This is grizzly territory, although it’s more likely you’ll spot a bighorn sheep or mountain goat along the trail. This mostly flat trail follows the Continental Divide with views of rugged peaks, glacial meadows, and the waters of Lake McDonald far below.
Take the shuttle from the “Loop” parking area up to Logan Pass to start the hike and you’ll finish the route back where you parked.
John Muir Trail, Yosemite in California
More than 200 miles of trail winds through the High Sierra backcountry offering up some of the finest mountain scenery in the country. The trail begins in the breathtaking Yosemite Valley and passes through the Ansel Adams Wildernesses, wandering through King’s Canyon and Sequoia National Park before ending at Mount Whitney, at 14,497 feet the highest peak in the contiguous United States.
Take care due to the elevation! Rarely does the John Muir Trail dip below 8000 feet. For flatlanders, it’s a surprise to discover the hike will take 25% longer to cover the chosen distance due to that elevation.
Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royal National Park in Michigan
This is one big national park that’s not especially well known, but the upside to that is you’ll likely have the 165 miles of trails mostly to yourself. Greenstone Ridge Trail is a 40 mile trek along a high ridge that runs end-to-end on Isle Royale, the largest island on Lake Superior.
You might prolong your time in this beautiful wilderness by staying in one of the 36 designated campgrounds to enjoy the rocky shorelines along the lake. The area has 400 smaller surrounding islands offering plenty of interesting places to explore.
West Maroon Creek Trail, Aspen/Crested Butte in Colorado
Spectacular any time, July is prime for hiking West Maroon Creek Trail because it’s the height of wildflower season and you’ll see waist-high blooms of red, purple, white, and yellow lining the trail. In a state blessed with gorgeous scenery, this area seems to rise above the rest – both in beauty and in altitude. The 10-mile trail follows a lush valley to rise up and over 12,480 foot Maroon Pass.
Challenging in terrain and altitude, the trail links Crested Butte and Aspen. The Limelight Hotel in Aspen provides their guests with a lift to the trailhead.
Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska
Spectacular and wild, this day hike near Seward is a round trip of 8 miles that requires some knowledge of bear safety before you head out since black bears are spotted daily along the trail. It’s a hike that climbs steeply from a valley floor through forests and meadows, finally rising above the tree line. The scenic vista from the top is jaw-dropping: a panoramic look over the vast Harding Icefield.
Harding Icefield is like stepping back into the ice age. It’s an enormous sheet of snow and ice stretching for more than 300 square miles and spawning 40 glaciers.
© Vitaliy Mateha | Dreamstime.com – Hiker at the top of a pass