If you’re looking for the best hikes in the United States, you’re in the right place. At Road Scholar, we’ve curated a list of some of the top walking and hiking tours for all fitness levels, whether you’re an expert or just starting out. Ready to get inspired? Explore the best hiking places in the United States below.
There’s no shortage of amazing hikes to experience from sea to shining sea across the U.S. From the majestic Rocky Mountains to the rocky coast of New England to the mesas of Utah, America is diverse and picturesque in its landscapes.
We’ve narrowed down the list to some of the top U.S. hikes depending on your goal. Are you a hiker looking for the most stunning views? Are you keen on exploring the best of the National Park system? Or perhaps history calls to you and you’re intrigued by a walk through America’s Civil War past with an expert by your side. The best hikes in the U.S. depend on your goals and fitness level, so here are our picks for five unforgettable hikes.
Explore the beauty of America’s northeast coast at Maine’s Acadia National Park. As one of the top National Parks in the Northeast, Acadia has some of the best hikes in the United States. The hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the east coast, is about seven miles round-trip and is a must-do for any hiker who loves a beautiful vista. You can also take many expert-led coastal hikes that offer panoramic views of both the Atlantic and the mainland, and the varied landscape means there are hikes for a variety of fitness levels.
Of course, a hike in Maine wouldn’t be complete without some lobster to celebrate upon the conclusion. Our Hiking in Acadia National Park excursion includes a lobster dinner, as well as the opportunity to learn from an expert about how the crustaceans are caught and prepared.
Road Scholar Recommends: Hiking in Acadia National Park
Calling all history lovers! The Appalachian Trail affords you many opportunities to trek through history all across this 2,000-mile mountain range. This challenging trail crosses through numerous National Parks, 14 states, and historic locations, like Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia and several key Civil War battle sites.
In the evenings of our Appalachian Trail hike, while resting from your miles on the trail, you’ll often have access to historians and experts offering lectures on local history, as well as local plants and geology.
Road Scholar Recommends: Choose Your Pace: A Hiking Adventure on the Appalachian Trail
An awesome item to cross off your life list is hiking one of Colorado’s “14ers,” which is a term that means it stands at 14,000 or more feet above sea level. The Rocky Mountain state boasts 54 of these majestic mountains—the most in the U.S.—and on our To the Top! Hiking Colorado’s 14ers, you’ll cross off not one, but three of them!
Hiking these bad boys is no joke, so you’ll want to be in good hiking shape, as you’ll be taking on eight to 12 miles per day at elevations higher than 8,000 feet. But the views at the top make it all worth it, and what you’ll learn along the way with your instructor will be even better.
Road Scholar Recommends: To the Top! Hiking Colorado’s 14ers
Some of the best hiking spots in the U.S. are located in the Beehive State. Utah’s geography is incredibly diverse, from the slot canyons of Antelope Canyon to the otherworldly arches of Arches National Park, there are plenty of great geographical features to see in Utah. One of the best hikes in the United States is in Zion National Park.
Spring and fall are the best times of year to hike this gorgeous five mile trail through Utah’s Zion National Park. Starting at the Grotto trailhead, the route to Scout Lookout—and further along Zion's West Rim Trail—offers scenic vistas of canyons, red rocks and jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape. Half the fun and thrill is your hike through “Walter’s Wiggles,” a series of 21 tight switchbacks that quickly gain elevation and venture through Refrigerator Canyon, so named because it’s always shady and cool.
If you’re visiting with kids and grandkids in tow, opt for a family-friendly outdoor adventure in Zion National Park where you’ll learn about Zion’s geology and plant habitats while hiking.
Road Scholar Recommends: Hiking Bryce and Zion National Parks
One of the best hiking places in the United States is Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is filled with excitement, from a rich history to stunning views and vista points.
Seeing the majestic giant sequoia trees of California should be on every adventurer’s life list, and Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park gets you up close and personal with an expert at your side. This is the largest grove of mature sequoias in the park, and the kick-off to our Hiking Yosemite excursion, which also features fascinating geology and natural history information during on-site lectures.
There are multiple hiking trails to choose from in this area, each of varying lengths and difficulties, which ensures you can wind through the more than 500 magnificent trees at the activity level of your choosing. No matter the hike though, be sure to stretch out your arms for a tree hug, and snap many pictures as you attempt to capture the mammoth size and grand stature of Yosemite’s giant sequoias.
Some of the best hiking spots in the U.S. that can be found in Yosemite include:
- Lower Yosemite Falls: One of the best hikes for beginners is Lower Yosemite Falls, where hikers can take snapshots of one of the Park’s most defining features. This half-mile hike can take anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour, depending on how much time you want to take hanging around the falls, and is best to do between May and September.
- Upper Yosemite Falls: If you’re looking for a bucket list hike in the USA, make your way to Upper Yosemite Falls. This hike is geared more toward expert hikers, as it’s a 7.6 miles round-trip with a 2,559-foot elevation gain. However, once you reach the top, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the entire park with the falls roaring below you.
- Half Dome: Arguably America’s best hike is to the summit of Half Dome. This grueling hike is an all-day adventure that requires an official permit. The Mist Trail to the top of Half Dome is about 14.2 miles round-trip with 4,842 feet of elevation gain. However, once you reach the top, you’ll be able to view the entirety of Yosemite Valley and better understand why Yosemite is one of America’s top National Parks.
Road Scholar Recommends: Hiking Yosemite Up Close and Personal
At Road Scholar, we have an expansive collection of experiential learning adventures that take you on some of the best hikes in the United States. From hiking the National Parks to outdoor learning adventures across the country, we have programs for everyone. No matter the program you choose, you can rest assured knowing you’re experiencing some of America’s best hikes.
Our local guides are experts and will help you discover the wildlife, landscapes, and history of the areas you’re exploring. By adventuring with a cohort of like-minded learners, you’ll be able to mark off bucket list hikes in the USA while making lifelong relationships and memories.