As a travel editor, I’ve found hiking to be one of the best ways to take in a new destination. It forces you to unplug, look around, and simply be in the moment you’re in. Between our National and State Parks, we truly have an embarrassment of riches in the United States when it comes to beautiful trails. And they’re all over the place! Below are five of the prettiest hikes in the continental US, ranging from strenuous to easy. Scroll down to discover the most beautiful trails in the country, and start planning your next adventure.
image by makingthymeforhealth
Location: Yosemite National Park, California
Distance: 7.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 3,175 ft
Take this steep trail to the top of North America’s tallest waterfall (which drops about 2.4k feet to the valley floor). On the way up you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous views of the waterfall, the Yosemite Valley, and Sentinel Rock. The trail is open year round, but the best time to do this hike is in the spring when the waterfall is at it’s peak — you might even enjoy some spray from the waterfall on your way up!
image by lovelyandlimitless
Location: Page, Arizona
Distance: 1.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 200 feet
This easy 1.5 mile trail takes you along a cliff overlooking the famous bend of the Colorado River. It’s a view so panoramic that it’s hard to photograph – bring a fish eye lens if you have one. The hike is relatively flat and easy for anyone to do, which means that the trail can be crowded during peak season. The good news is that it’s dog friendly, and something you can do in less than an hour.
image by national park service
Location: Muir Woods National Monument, California
Distance: 2.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 144 feet
Walking beneath the giant redwoods of the Muir Woods, it’s easy to wonder if J.R.R. Tolkien might have taken some inspiration from the area. There is something magic about this place. The old growth trees are the tallest living things in the world, and it’s simply impossible to look up at them with anything but wonder. This easy 2 mile trail is good for the whole family, and a can’t miss stop on your next visit to San Francisco.
photo by jasonian
Location: Glacier National Park, Montana
Distance: 28.4 miles
The Highline Trail is aptly named — it’s famous for a section that hugs a narrow ledge with drop offs of over 100 feet! For those willing to brave the heights, there are spectacular views of the scenery along the Continental Divide (and a hand cable to hold onto.) This is grizzly territory, so be sure to take precautions and check with park rangers before hiking in this area.
photo by buffalo river
Location: Ozark National Forest, Arkansas
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 413 feet
Of all the 42 beautiful hikes in the Ozark National Forest, Whitaker Point Trail is ranked number one on AllTrails.com. This easy 3 mile hike through the forest leads you past waterfalls and ultimately to Hawksbill Crag, a rock ledge that overlooks an enormous valley below. A quick image search will reveal just how gorgeous the view can look during different times of year, and even at different times of day. But the explosion of color that happens in the fall makes autumn the best time to do this hike.