Walking & Hiking

10 Best Day Hikes in America For The Outdoor Adventurer

February 9, 2015
Still lake with forest and mountains in the background

If you’re already planning this summer’s vacation and are looking for adventure, be sure to include a hike. Between the fresh air, altitude and amazing scenery, taking a hike on your getaway could be the most memorable and rewarding item on your itinerary.  If you’re planning a trip to one of the 50 states, you’re likely to find a stunning day hike near your destination. Not sure where to go? Here are the 10 best day hikes in America, sure to be the high point (literally) of your next trip. (Or, if you’re more of the backpacking sort, check out my backpacking bucket list for some inspiration.)


Vermont, Mt. Abraham


Image credit:  Don

Length: 6 miles

This 6 mile hike located in the Green Mountain state is nothing short of stunning. As the 5th tallest mountain in Vermont, from the 4,000 ft summit you will have seemingly endless views of beautiful Vermont’s mountain ranges, as well as the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Lake Champlain, and the Adirondack Mountains of New York. Whether you choose to trek Mt. Abe in the summer, fall or even by snowshoe in the winter, expect to be nothing less than awed.


Washington, Marmot Pass – Olympic National Forest


Image credit:  Sean Munson

Length: 10. 6 miles

If you’re traveling in Washington, the Marmot Pass trail is a hike you won’t want to miss. Hikers are rewarded with stunning views after hiking the steep trail to the Buckhorn Mountain vista. While this hike can be completed in a day, there are primitive camping sites along the trail for those who wish to extend the adventure.


Utah, The Narrows – Zion National Park


Image credit:  Steve Corey

Length: 16 miles

This ambitious 16 mile hike through Zion Canyon is one of Utah’s most famous hikes and for good reason. The beautiful hues found in the earth, rock and water in this canyon trek will give hikers meaning to the phrase “dessert oasis”. While the Narrows is a must-hike trial, it is also potentially dangerous: Hikers will need to be prepared to trek through rivers, walk through running water and tread on slippery rocks during this hike.


California, Panorama Trail – Yosemite National Park


Image credit:  HikrChick

Length: 8.8 miles

Yosemite National Park’s Panorama trail will literally have you walking among mountain tops. This nearly nine mile long trail surely won’t disappoint, as hikers are treated to mountain, waterfall and untamed wilderness views throughout their trek. With an elevation of 2,800 feet this hike is no walk in the park, so be prepared with poles and sturdy boots.


New Hampshire, Franconia Ridge Loop


Image credit:  Paul Ramos

Length: varies

The different trailheads on Franconia Ridge give hikers the opportunity to choose longer or shorter treks without having to skimp on scenery or the all important wow-factor. This hike nestled in New Hampshire’s White Mountains is nothing short of awe-inspiring. At the 5,000-foot high summit of Mount Lincoln, hikers are treated to gorgeous views of neighboring mountain peaks and valleys below. Whether you choose to hike this train in the summer or fall, epic views await.


Colorado, Conundrum Hot Springs


Image credit:  Sam Ley

Length: 6.5-18 miles

This hike located near Aspen is a trail you must trek if visiting Colorado. The Conundrum Hot Springs trail has varying lengths (6.5 miles to 18 miles) depending on how much time you can commit to the trail. While this hike can be traversed in one day, many hikers choose to camp along the trail making it a multiple day endeavor. While hiking the Conundrum Hot Springs trail be prepared to feast your eyes on incredible views of nearly untouched wilderness as well as treating yourself to a dip in the luxurious natural hot springs along the trail.


Montana, Grinnell Glacier Trail


Image credit:  Jeff P

Length: 6 miles

This breathtaking day-hike in the Big Sky country is nothing short of spectacular. The 6-mile Grinnell Glacier trail through Glacier National Park will lead hikers to stunning crystal blue lakes and enormous majestic mountain peaks as well as Grinnell glacier itself. The first two miles of this trail are relatively flat, but the hike increases in elevation for a vertical gain of 1,600 feet. As you hike be on the lookout for mountain goats and pikas sharing the trail with you.


West Virginia, Chimney Tops


Image credit:  coloneljohnbritt

Length: 5.8 miles

Chimney Tops hike located in Monongahela National Forest is one of the most popular and also most beautiful hikes in West Virginia. This moderate hike with a summit at 1,700 feet will reward hikers that reach the top with breathtaking views of the valley below. If you’re lucky you may even spy a Peregrine Falcon as the nest in this area. While the trail is open year-round, the fall is undoubtedly the most rewarding time of year to hike this trail.


Arizona, Grandview Trail to Horseshoe Mesa – Grand Canyon


Image credit:  Akos Kokai

Length: 6 miles

If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon add the Grandview Trail to your trip itinerary. This hike will give you up-close and personal views of the canyon as well as a cave to explore along this 6-mile hike. Along with your camera don’t forget to bring ample water and sunscreen, as the arid desert climate can often take its toll.


Maine, Hunt Trail – Baxter State Park

Main image, credit:  Bob Z

Length: 16.4 miles

The Hunt Trail in Baxter State Park is one of the most rewarding, popular and beautiful trails on Mount Katahdin. Along the trail hikers can view Katahdin Stream falls and the traverse of the Tablehand as they trek to the summit. As this trek is steep and strenuous at spots, hikers should only attempt this trail – and eventual ridgeline – in good weather conditions.


Wherever your travel plans take you next, there’s sure to be a rewarding hiking trail nearby. Whether you’re visiting the east coast or on a trip in the west, a day hike can turn your travels into an adventure, bringing out your inner nature-lover. So before you leave don’t forget to pack your hiking boots, sunscreen and sense of adventure and embark on one of America’s best hikes.

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