Walls of Jericho in Alabama
Dogs, horses, and humans are welcome on this 6.6-mile trail that snakes from Hurricane Creek through Turkey Creek near Scottsboro. Although the trail is rated as difficult, the payoff for reaching the terminus is catching sight of a spectacular waterfall flowing from a bowl-shaped limestone structure known as the Walls of Jericho.
Harding Icefield Trail in Alaska
Hit this trail near Seward for a brief but unforgettable glimpse of virtually every ecosystem. On the 8.2-mile journey to and from the trail’s namesake, Harding Icefield, one of four major icecaps in the United States, you’ll spy cottonwood and alder forests, meadows rife with heather, and endless stretches of ice interrupted only by the odd nunatak, or isolated mountain peak.
Rim-to-Rim Trail in Arizona
Less than one percent of the five million people who annually visit the Grand Canyon dare to set off on this grueling 24-mile trail from the canyon’s North to South Rim. But those with the training, stamina, and proper gear for the challenge enjoy rare views of the Colorado River, and, get this—breathtaking views of eleven layers of ancient rock.
Wikimedia Commons via Hermann Luyken
Lost Valley Trail in Arkansas
As one of the most popular trails in Arkansas, this easy 2.1-mile trail near Ponka is heavily trafficked on weekends. But walk it on a weekday, and you’ll enjoy relative solitude as you peer at the dazzling Eden Falls, the mysterious Cobb Cave, and flora such as crested iris, mayapple, and comfrey.
Wikimedia Commons via Semipaw
Sentinel Dome Trail in California
Although it may seem daunting, with its trailhead near Buena Vista sitting 3,500 feet above Yosemite Valley, the Sentinel Dome Trail is a quick and easy 2.1 miles round trip. Nature lovers can spy wildflowers and the famous fallen Jeffrey pine tree as they make their way to the 8,127-foot-tall Sentinel Dome, a granite formation on the south wall of Yosemite Valley.
Maroon Creek Trail in Colorado
Views of Pyramid Peak, the two iconic mountain peaks known as the Maroon Bells, and majestic moose await those who hike this 6.9-mile trail near Aspen. Head out in September, peak leaf peeping season, to see the aspen trees turn from their characteristic green to a regal gold.
Ragged Mountain Preserve Trail in Connecticut
The low elevation gain of this 5.5-mile trail near Berlin, peaking at 560 feet, makes for an easy day hike. But the gravity-defying cliff faces you’ll encounter along the route to Ragged Mountain, a basalt volcanic formation, will make you feel as though you’re on top of the world.
Beaver Valley in Delaware
Experience life in an 18th-century Quaker settlement when you hike this trail at First State National Historical Park in the bucolic 1,100-acre Beaver Valley, surrounded by quaint winding roads and farms. While the rolling hills that the 4.7-mile trail traverses make hiking challenging at times, colorful wildflowers and chirruping birds give you reason to stop and rest your legs among the natural beauty.
Wikimedia Commons via Choess
The Florida National Scenic Trail in Florida
One of only 11 congressionally delegated National Scenic Trails in the country, this trail spanning from southern Florida to the west end of the panhandle features nearly as many species of animals as miles of trail. The 1,300-mile course, which takes most trekkers three months to traverse in total, features wild hogs and alligators as well as a host of gentler fauna such as white-tailed deer and turtles.
Raven Cliff Falls Trail in Georgia
Take shelter from the harsh southern heat beneath the towering hardwood trees that dot this 4.9-mile trail near Helen. A well-stocked trout stream, cascading waterfalls, and cool patches of moss along the trail provide the ultimate refuge from the sun on a summer’s day in Georgia.
Kalalau Trail in Hawaii
Walk on the wild side of Kauai by strolling this rugged 11-mile trail from Ke'e Beach to Kalalau Beach on the island’s Na Pali Coast. The trail serves as the only mode of land access to five stream-filled valleys, culminating in an awe-inspiring fluted cliff.
Hells Canyon Trail in Idaho
The deepest river gorge in the country lives not in the Grand Canyon, but rather at Hells Canyon, a one-mile-deep geological feature that Idahoans and out-of-staters journey to see up close. Straddling Oregon and Idaho, the 11.9-mile trail is filled with shadowy basalt rock formations, enchanting elk, and striking wildflowers at various altitudes.
Little Grand Canyon Trail in Illinois
This 3.6-mile trail in the Shawnee National Forest is known for much more than its beech and sycamore trees. Admire dazzling waterfalls and sandstone formations near the canyon floor, at an elevation of 350 feet, or sneak 360-degree views of the bluffs of Little Grand Canyon at the trailhead, at 700 feet. Although you’ll only be rising 350 feet in altitude, budget three to four hours to make the ascent.
flickr.com via Curtis Abert
Tolleston Dunes Trail in Indiana
From prickly pear cacti to vast wetlands, this 2.9-mile trail at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore serves up plenty of optical delights. But the stand-out feature is undoubtedly the 4,700 year-old sand dunes that were formed when Lake Michigan was 25 feet higher than it is now.
Wikimedia Commons via Diego Delso
Ledges State Park Trails in Iowa
Whether you’re a greenhorn or a seasoned trekker, you’ll find terrain suited for your hiking abilities between the four miles of trail that fill Ledges State Park, near Boone. While hikers must cross steeper ground to reach lookout points such as Pea's Creek Canyon, Inspiration Point, or Crow's Nest, those who prefer a less strenuous excursion can traverse the interpretative trail at the southern end of the park, where engaging signage educates and entertains the curious traveler.
Wikimedia Commons via McGhiever
Elk River Hiking Trail in Kansas
You can access this 15-mile trail near Elk City from one of two main trailheads. Blue trail blazes and mile markers aid in navigation, while streams, ravines, narrow canyons, and limestone bluffs make the trek easy on the eyes.
flickr.com via Granger Meador
Pinnacles of Berea in Kentucky
Head down this trail in Berea for singular views of Kentucky from the major lookout points of East Pinnacle, West Pinnacle, Buzzards Roost, Eagles Nest, or the ever-popular Main Lookout. Up for a challenge? Hit all five hotspots in a single day, which entails a trek of around five miles.
flickr.com via Maria Johnson
Barataria Preserve Trails in Louisiana
A ranger-led walk across any one of the boardwalk trails in the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park, most under two miles, is the best way to take in the vast Louisiana swamp and marsh. But even on solo hiking excursions, you’ll be in the company of turtles, snakes, and—gulp!—the odd alligator.
The Appalachian Trail in Maine
While the Appalachian National Scenic Trail spans 14 states, the 281-mile stretch that runs through Maine is known as the most rugged. But the sights along the way, including moose, bears, and loons, as well as the view of Mount Katahdin at the terminus of the trail, make the trek well worth the occasional pain.
Great Falls Loop in Maryland
This 4.7-mile loop in Great Falls Park, spanning Maryland and Virginia, takes you from the Visitor Center through highlights such as Mather Plaque, Cow Hoof Rock, Old Carriage Road, and back. If your legs grow weary along the way, stop at three overlooks, snap photos in front of a waterfall near the 2.4-mile mark, or snack at a large nearby picnic ground.
Bash Bish Falls Trail in Massachusetts
No visit to the Bash Bish Falls State Park in the Taconic Mountains of southwestern Massachusetts is complete without a jaunt across this two-mile trail along Bash Bish brook, past boulders and massive stone and wooden stairs. At the terminus lies the highest waterfall in Massachusetts: the 59-foot Bash Bish Falls.
Potawatomi Trail in Michigan
Stretching 17.5 miles from point to point, this trail is one of the oldest and longest loops in the Pinckney Recreation Area near Chelsea. The well-marked course starts and ends near Silver Lake and weaves through glacial hills, streams, and Michigan’s deciduous forest, brimming with maple, hickory, and oak trees.
Superior Trail in Minnesota
For the fleet of foot, this 310-mile trail following a ridgeline above Lake Superior offers waterfalls, forests, and wildlife in spades. Ninety-three backcountry campsites stationed every five to eight miles allow backpackers and campers to rest up before hitting the next segment of the trail.
Black Creek Trail in Mississippi
Accessible from the Black Creek Trailhead, Fairley Bridge Landing, or Big Creek Landing, this 39-mile trail hugging the the Black Creek River takes you up and down rolling hills to the Black Creek flood plain. Thanks to 100 nearby bridges and boardwalks, you could practically complete the trek without muddying your boots.
flickr.com via Justin Meissen
Ozark National Scenic Riverways in Missouri
You can amble for days across the 48 miles of foot trails in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways, a national park in southern Missouri. But you’d remiss if you didn’t take a breather to try to catch sight of the hundreds of different species of birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, or wade out into the water in a jon boat or canoe, or go fishing in the crystal-clear waters of the Currents and Jacks Forks Rivers.
Wikimedia Commons via Kbh3rd
Grinnell Glacier Trail in Montana
Although this trail near Browning stretches 10.3 miles in total, you can shave off three miles by taking a boat across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephine. From the boat dock at Lake Josephine, you’ll make an average elevation gain of 484 feet per mile and maybe even spot some marmots and ptarmigans as you make your way past Grinnell Lake toward the Garden Wall (part of the Continental Divide) and a striking glacier below the wall dubbed “The Salamander.”
Wikimedia Commons via Distress.bark
Saddle Rock Trail in Nebraska
This 1.6 mile trail near Mitchell takes you from the Visitor Center to the summit of Scotts Bluff, an 800-foot national monument. But while short, the trail is anything but easy. You’ll ascend 435 feet in elevation in total, all the while brushing past vibrant needle-and-thread grass and eyeing raptors overhead and delicate spiderwort flowers on the prairie floor.
flickr.com via Ali Eminov
Ruby Crest National Recreation Trail in Nevada
A trek across this 38-mile trail near Elko is full of ups and downs—in elevation, that is. The trail’s high point is at Wines Peak of the Ruby Mountains, at a soaring 10,893 feet above the ground, and its low point is at the trail’s southern terminus at Harrison Pass, at 7,200 feet.
Wikimedia Commons via Famartin
Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail Loop in New Hampshire
Inexperienced hikers need not tread this 7.8-mile footpath near Franconia, infamous for an impossibly narrow 1.7-mile ridge dubbed the “knife’s edge.” But the daring 700 people who make the nail-biting trek from Mount Lafayette to Mount Lincoln to Little Haystack each day are rewarded with stunning views of mountain peaks, fertile valleys, and refreshing waterfalls.
flickr.com via Christopher Schmidt
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Trails in New Jersey
Paddlers come to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area to wade across the Delaware River. Anglers cast their lines for trout. But for hikers, the area’s biggest attractions are the 58 miles of trail at the north end of the park, and the 77 miles in the southern region, peppered with towering trees, streams, and waterfalls.
Anatoli Route in New Mexico
This 16.2 mile trail starting near the Aspen Basin Campground passes Santa Fe Baldy and the Penitent and Lake Peaks, two of the most iconic in New Mexico’s Pecos Wilderness, before depositing you back at the trailhead. But as you might expect from a trail named after a mountaineer, one Anatoli Boukreev, its elevation gain of 5,249 feet, along with notably precarious points, such as a six-foot vertical drop near Katharine Lake, make the trail one for experienced hikers only.
Related: The 21 Wildest Places in America
Breakneck Ridge Trail in New York
Undeterred by the trail’s menacing moniker, many an experienced hiker has spent a half a day making the 3.7-mile trek across this trail loop starting and ending near a tunnel west of Route 9D. If you count yourself among these daredevils, be prepared to get your hands dirty; you’ll need to get on all fours at certain rock ledges to make the 1,442-foot ascent up Breakneck Ridge.
Carver's Gap to Highway 19E in North Carolina
Follow the Appalachian Trail from Carvers Gap to Highway 19E via this difficult 13.3-mile trail near Bakersville for sweeping views of the Roan, Yellow, Little Hump, and Hump Mountains. Shelters along the trail, notably the Stan Murray and Overmountain Shelters, allow for rest breaks on the long trek.
The Painted Canyon Nature Trail in North Dakota
Outdoor enthusiasts of all skill levels embark on this 1.1-mile loop trail for a casual jaunt through the southern end of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Short though the trek may be, one look at the Painted Canyon, along with chance encounters with bison, horses, and garter snakes along the desert, flatlands, and grasslands, are bound to make an impression.
Ledges Trail in Ohio
Escape the chaos of Cleveland for the secluded Ritchie Ledges, sandstone cliffs known simply as “The Ledges” by locals. The best way to get there? Follow this rugged 1.7-mile loop trail in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, sprinkled with petroglyphs dating to the turn of the 20th century.
Turkey Mountain Yellow Trail in Oklahoma
Go full circle around this 4.7-mile loop trail near Tulsa for primo views of the shimmering Pepsi Lake, the Arkansas River, and the 104-foot Turkey Mountain. Stay connected to city life by taking a water break at Vista Point, a hot spot for spying the hustle and bustle of downtown Tulsa.
instagram.com via magma82
Trail of Ten Falls in Oregon
From South Falls at the trailhead, to Upper North Falls at the eastern end, you’ll spot 10 invigorating waterfalls along this 7.8-mile loop in the 9,000-acre Silver Falls State Park. When you’ve worked up an appetite, grab a bite to eat at the rustic cafeteria at the South Falls Lodge, which invites passersby with the scent of smoldering firewood.
Ricketts Glen Falls in Pennsylvania
Long Pond Woods Wildlife Refuge Trail in Rhode Island
This strenuous two-mile trail near Hope Valley is commonly known as the most challenging hike in the Audubon Refuge. The upshot of completing it? Killer views of uncommon wildlife and plants, from hemlock and rhododendron to painted turtles and worm-eating warblers.
flickr.com via Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project
Table Rock Trail in South Carolina
You’ll gain 2,240 feet in elevation as you climb this 6.4-mile L-shaped trail near Pickens, extending from Pinnacle Lake to Table Mountain. En route, your fellow travelers will include white-tailed deer, raccoons, gray foxes, and wild turkeys.
flickr.com via Dzmitry (Dima) Parul
Notch Trail in South Dakota
For the best view of South Dakota’s White River Valley, follow this 1.5-mile trail in Badlands National Park through a canyon, up a log ladder, and along a canyon ledge to “The Notch” overlooking the valley. But acrophobes need not enter; the trail features several steep drop-offs.
Roaring Fork Motor Trail in Tennessee
Named after Roaring Fork, one of the faster flowing streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this 5.5-mile motor trail invites hikers to put away their hiking poles and get behind the wheel to see nature. While trucks, trailers, and RVs aren’t permitted on the trail, cars can speed through the one-way looped road for views of quaint log cabins, grist mills, and whimsical old-growth forest.
McKittrick Ridge in Texas
Featuring 2,000 feet of elevation gain over a rugged 10 miles, this trail near Salt Flat, Texas from the McKittrick Canyon Visitors Center to McKittrick Ridge poses a challenge for all but the most advanced hikers. Because you’ll have no mile markers to guide you, keep your eyes peeled for a dense expanse of Ponderosa Pine trees as a sign that you have reached the ridge.
Wikimedia Commons via Fredlyfish4
Delicate Arch Trail in Utah
Located in Arches National Park, the 52-foot free-standing natural arch known as the Delicate Arch has long stood as a symbol of the grandeur of the state of Utah. The ultimate vantage point from which to view it is this 2.9-mile trail that guides you uphill from Delicate Arch Road past Slickrock Slab and finally to the dramatic arch, surrounded by a rock amphitheater.
Stowe Pinnacle Trail in Vermont
The pinnacle of hiking in Vermont is this 3.7-mile trail extending from Upper Hollow Road to Stowe Pinnacle, one of the peaks of the 4,393-foot Green Mountains. The trail follows a straight line for the majority of the course before taking a sharp turn at around the 3.3 mile mark, affording panoramic mountain views.
flickr.com via Patrick Breen
Old Rag Trail in Virginia
There’s no wrong way to hike the Old Rag Trail in Shenandoah National Park, but the most popular route will have you climbing up the Ridge Trail, traversing a rock scramble to the summit of the Old Rag Mountain, than going downhill via the Saddle Trail to Weakley Hollow Fire Road and back to the trailhead. The mountain’s multiple false summits may fool you into believing you’ve reached the top of the mountain before you actually have. Remember: You haven’t reached the summit until you’ve seen the mountain’s brown elevation sign!
Rattlesnake Ledge Trail in Washington
Although the Western rattlesnake has been known to inhabit eastern Washington, where this trail is found, the most menacing aspect of Rattlesnake Ledge Trail is not the reptiles, but rather the steep incline. The trail winds from Rattlesnake Lake to Rattlesnake Upper Ledge, gaining 1,469 feet in elevation over the course of 5.1 miles.
flickr.com via jeffhutchison
Spruce Knob / Seneca Creek Trail in West Virginia
This two-day, 16.5-mile trek is the perfect way to spend a weekend in West Virginia. Starting at the trailhead near the Spruce Knob parking area, you’ll pass campsites, meadows, and waterfalls, and cross wooden footbridges on your way to Seneca Creek, a 19.6-mile tributary.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail in Wisconsin
Traversed by one million people each year, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail follows the edge of an ancient glacier from Interstate State Park in St. Croix Falls, Polk County to Potawatomi State Park in Sturgeon Bay, affording rare views of geological formations that were sculpted by the glacier’s retreat. Believe it or not, all 1,000 miles of the footpath fit within the state of Wisconsin, and those who complete it can apply to join the exclusive ranks of other “Thousand Milers.”
flickr.com via Ryan Afflerbaugh
The Cirque of Towers Trail in Wyoming
Saunter across this 18-mile trail near Boulder to admire the Cirque of the Towers, a stunning glacier-carved valley located in Wyoming’s Wind River Range. Bring comfortable shoes and plenty of patience; the trek eats up three days, and takes you from the Big Sandy Trailhead to Shadow Lake, Texas Pass, Lonesome Lake, the unmarked pass to the southwest, Big Sandy Lake, and finally, back to the trailhead.
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