The 17 Greatest Hiking Trails in America

Looking for a little adventure this summer?

The Greek physician Hippocrates was onto something when he reputedly said, “Walking is a person’s best medicine.”

Recent research reveals that hiking unplugs us from technology while increasing attention spans and problem solving skills by as much as 50 percent. 

Walking, alongside the intellectual stimulation, is also the sense of physical well-being; one hour of trekking can burn in excess of 500 calories, lower blood pressure and reduce the dangers of heart disease, diabetes and stroke.

You can read about 7 simple habits to stay healthy as a veteran here

For your dose of Hippocrates’ medicine, here is a sample of 17 hiking trails worth considering.  Some of these can be hiked in a day; others take a bit longer.


Small Doses of Hiking Medicine


17. Snake Bight Trail

Location: Everglades National Park, Florida

A straight 1.6 mile path which extends into Florida Bay, hikers can see exotic birds, tropical trees and big alligators.  Pitching a hammock while amphibious reptiles slip beneath the water remains an unforgettable experience for most hikers.

 

16. Precipice Trail

Location: Acadia National Park, Maine

This is not an easy 1.8 mile hike.  Trekkers are in for a heart pounding climb as they scramble around and hop from boulder to boulder to reach the top and an amazing view.

 

15. Paint Mines

Location: Calhan, Colorado

The views here might top those of the other hiking trails on this list. It is said the mines found at the Paint Mines suggest humans lived within them over 9,000 years ago.  This and the hoodoos, caprock canyons and dark colored clay found on this 3.6 mile trail are beautiful.


The colorful Colorado Paint Mines. Credit: Reddit.

14. Root Glacier Trail

Location: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska

This hike puts gives you the opportunity to move four miles across a glacier in the country’s largest national park.  Crampons are required, but well worth the effort.

 

13. Angel’s Landing

Location: Zion National Park, Utah

For five miles hikers will climb to dizzying heights with huge drop-offs on both sides while taking jaw-dropping views.  No worries, though; there are chains to hold on to.

 

12. Hoh River Trail

Location: Olympic National Park, Washington

Like no other place in the United States, this 6.2 mile trail leads into the mossy and dense rainforest in the park.  The trail continues for another 17.6 miles to Glacier Meadows.


The PNW’s Hoh River Trail. Credit: RootsRated.

11. Devils’ Garden Trail

Location: Arches National Park, Utah

Hikers on this 7.2 mile trail will be in the home of the most concentrated collection of natural sandstone arches in the world, the longest of which is the Landscape Arch at 300 feet.

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10. Franconia Ridge Loop

Location: Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Not far from Boston, this hearty nine mile hiking trail takes visitors through alpine tundra and elevation gains of over 3,400 feet in just four miles.

 

9. Halemau’u Trail

Location: Haleakala National Park, Hawaii

An otherworldly 11.2 mile trail leads trekkers to the floor of Haleakala’s volcanic crater as they hike through a native scrub forest and explore a Mars-like terrain of red and black cinder cones.


Haleakala National Park. Credit: National Park Service.

8. Highline Trail

Location: Glacier National Park, Montana

Welcome to the high country, where mountain peaks, wildflowers and wildlife (goats, bighorn sheep and bears) make this 11.5 mile hike one to never forget.

 

7. Wyoming Cascade Canyon Trail

Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Hikers will definitely start to feel the 14.4 miles they trek while enjoying waterfalls, panoramic views and inspiring mountains.

 

6. Half Dome

Location: Yosemite National Park, California

With 16 miles to cover, hikers go to the top of the park’s famous granite dome to take in views of Vernal and Nevada Falls and the Yosemite Valley.


Big Doses of Hiking Medicine


5. Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Hike

Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

This is a tough 24 miler (one-way), but with the right preparation and gear there is nothing that matches the excitement of crossing the canyon on foot.

 

4. Appalachian Trail (Small)

Location: Maine

At 100 miles in length, this trail challenges hikers with mildly rugged terrain, lush maple forests, waterfalls, panoramic views, and rushing rivers.

 

3. John Muir Trail

Location: Yosemite Valley, California

Named after the famed naturalist and author, hikers can go for 14 days before crossing another road on this 211 mile trail, as it stretches from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the lower 48 states.


Sunset over the John Muir Trail.

2. Appalachian Trail (Big)

Location: Eastern United States

At 2,200 miles in length from Maine to Georgia, this hike passes through the heart of Appalachia as it passes through 14 states, eight national forests, six national parks, and numerous state and local recreation areas.

 

1. Pacific Crest Trail

Location: Western United States

Unlike the other hiking trails on this list, the PCT runs for 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada; this hiker’s ultimate dream of a walk passes through California, Oregon and Washington as it winds through deserts and forests and over glaciers.


The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). Credit: Smithsonian Magazine.

Whether a day-hike, year-long trek or somewhere in between, regular doses of hiking – especially on these hiking trails – will leave you feeling physically and psychologically refreshed.

That’s good medicine.

For more, read our list of top campgrounds in the U.S.

 

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