For many, there is simply nothing better than experiencing firsthand the beauty that Mother Nature has given us. Taking a hike through some of the most majestic forests or canyons in the U.S. can be exhilarating — and great physical challenges for the body too. There’s no shortage of trails to tackle from sea to shining sea. We wanted to know which were the consensus best hiking trails in the U.S., according to expert reviews.
What’s great about hiking is it can be an easy and enjoyable activity for people of all ages, and certainly a great vacation activity for families. A recent poll gathered that nearly 2 in 3 Americans — 63 percent to be exact — regret not spending more time outdoors as a kid. And because of that lack of exposure, 54 percent of these adults are now hesitant to pick up outdoor activities out of fear they won’t be good at it.
Another study exploring whether a love for nature is, well, designed by nature itself or fostered through nurture. Findings suggest that parents pass on their passion for the outdoors to their kids genetically. So, your genetics help determine how close you feel to green spaces and how often you visit them.
Spending time outside has an upside, even if you’re not genetically predisposed to love it. Scientific research also finds making some room for trees, rivers, and flowers will do a world of good for not only your own well-being, but the planet as well. According to lead author Leanne Martin from the University of Plymouth: “Physically and psychologically reconnecting with nature can be beneficial for human health and well-being, and at the same time encourages individuals to act in ways which protect the health of the planet.”
With your well-being in mind, we at StudyFinds hope to inspire you to get outside with a list of the best-rated hiking trails in the U.S. These are great places to reconnect with nature, as you explore the top scenic spots recommended by experts.
The List: Top 5 Best U.S. Hiking Trails, According To Expert Websites
1. Nugget Falls Trail, Tongass National Forest, Alaska
Travel and Leisure rates this trail as a golden nugget: “The area is a nature-lover’s paradise with visitors often spotting bald eagles, sockeye salmon, and black bear cubs. Visitors can choose to hike through dense forests and meadows, explore caves, or even venture on a wooden “boardwalk” trail through swampy bogs, called muskegs. The Nugget Falls Trail provides incredible views of the waterfall and the glacier, and it’s a relatively easy, 2-mile hike.”
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The Planet D ranks this trail No. 1, too, saying: “Let’s start off our best hikes in the USA in the final frontier of adventure travel, Alaska! The Tongass National Forest is filled with hiking trails … The Nugget Falls Trail is a popular hike leaving from the Mendenhall Glacier visitors center. Mendenhall Glacier is one of Alaska’s most iconic glaciers.”
2. Angels Landing Trail, Zion National Park, Utah
So stunning, it’s angelic.
Where Are Those Morgans writes, “Famous hikes in the U.S, don’t come any more terrifying yet rewarding than the knee-wobbling ascent to Angels Landing. Is it worth it? Well, views down Zion’s main canyon from the top are staggeringly impressive and you will have conquered one of the scariest hikes in the entire U.S. National Park network.”
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Even though it’s scary, you won’t walk alone.
“This is a very popular area for hiking, so you’ll likely encounter other people while exploring. The best times to visit this trail are February through October,” All Trails writes.
3. Skyline Trail, Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Earth Trekkers rank Skyline Trail highly, stating, “For spectacular views of Mount Rainier National Park, put the Skyline Trail Loop on your bucket list. With ever-changing views and a chance to get up close to Mount Rainier, this is an unforgettable experience.”
This trail is also ranked as one of the best in the U.S. for fall foliage.
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“Don’t miss exploring Mount Rainier’s fall foliage on foot — one of the best Mount Rainier hikes to experience the beautiful autumn colors is the Skyline Trail, where you’ll climb through meadows of vibrant wildflowers, along the 14,411 foot giant’s slopes, from huckleberries to scarlet paintbrush, to see the Nisqually Glacier up close and personal and have views of the surrounding Cascades and their technicolor fall foliage as far as the eye can see,” Solo Sophie writes.
4. Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
The Half Dome Trail takes your full commitment.
“This roundtrip hike takes you to the top of Yosemite’s famous granite dome. You get amazing views of Vernal and Nevada Falls and the Yosemite Valley. The most iconic portion of the hike is the final 400 feet to the summit where you climb up using two metal cables, and it requires a permit,” Local Adventurer writes.
And the Travel Channel describes it as a heart-pounding rush: “For many, ascending Half Dome is the ultimate American day hike. The iconic granite dome rises 5,000 feet above Yosemite Valley, and even for experienced hikers, the 14- to 16-mile journey to its summit can be a heart-pounding rush. Half Dome’s final 400 feet are famous for the metal cable system that allows hikers to pull themselves up to the summit.”
5. Rim Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
No best U.S. hiking list would be complete without the Grand Canyon.
Hello Landing raves about the views on the Rim Trail, stating, “The Grand Canyon National Park Rim Trail stretches 12 miles along the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, offering hikers a mostly flat option with nonstop spectacular views of the canyon.”
It’s a must-have on every bucket list.
“The bottom line is that — from a hiking perspective — the Grand Canyon has it all, and it deserves to be near or at the top of every avid hiker’s to-visit list,” Wildland Trekking writes.
Let us know your favorite hiking trail in the comments below!
- Travel and Leisure
- The Planet D
- Where Are Those Morgans
- All Trails
- Earth Trekkers
- Solo Sophie
- Local Adventurer
- Travel Channel
- Hello Landing
- Wildland Trekking
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Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations.
Syncline Loop in Canyonlands is a must do! NPS.gov even states that the most park rescues occur on this hike. Make sure to add the out and back to the center of the dome for a complete journey. Not especially known for the views but more than makes up in the challenge!