The United States of America stretches from sea to shining sea (and beyond) with a staggeringly diverse landscape. In this guidebook you'll find 25 of the most incredible day hikes in the USA to experience this incredible landscape for yourself!Less
Angels Landing is the world-renowned must-do hike in Zion National Park. This trail routinely graces lists of the “most beautiful” and “most dangerous” hikes around the world, and its fame has made it ultra-popular. The hike is notorious for "the chains" that guard the final overlook— an upward traverse of an exposed ridgeline that drops away sheerly for hundreds of feet. In the steepest parts, steps are cut in the rock, and chains are anchored for support, but a slip can certainly be fatal.
This quintessential desert sandstone arch has become famous around the world. Delicate Arch is now the de facto icon for the state of Utah, thanks to appearing on the state’s license plates. This incredible beauty and the relatively short hike to reach it make Delicate Arch easily the most popular hike in Arches National Park. While you’ll have to contend with the crowds, the effort to see this incredible view in person is undoubtedly worth it!
A truly spectacular peak, Half Dome is rightly revered as one Yosemite's great landmarks. This tough hike to the top of the exposed granite dome isn‘t to be taken lightly: it covers 15 miles and 5,600 vertical feet of climbing round-trip, taking most hikers 10-12 hours. The most famous section of the hike is the final pitch to the summit, which requires hikers to climb a set of exposed metal cables hung from the granite.
At 14,505 feet above sea level, the top of Mount Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States. In the Sierra Nevada, the chain of huge granitic peaks stretching through California, Whitney happens to be the tallest, but it's not actually that formidable to summit. Though technical climbing routes do exist, the Mount Whitney Trail allows passage for fit hikers of average ability.
Bright Angel is the most popular trail below the rim in Grand Canyon National Park. It is the only trail from the South Rim that has water stops and a campground along the way. Bright Angel Trail is also shadier and generally less exposed to the elements, thus it is the rim-to-river route favored by most, especially during the warmer months.
The South Kaibab Trail is the most visually stunning trail on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. Following a ridgeline that juts toward the canyon center, it deals jaw-dropping views the entire way. When compared to Bright Angel Trail, the other major route to the canyon floor, South Kaibab takes a more direct approach and deals a better "bang for your buck" in scenery. It is more exposed to heat and wind, however, and has no water available except for the very beginning and end of the trail.
The Summerland Trail is arguably the best day hike in all of Washington State! "Summerland,” the destination of your hike, is a beautiful alpine meadow filled with stunning wildflowers. Named by famous climber and explorer E. S. Ingraham, Summerland serves as a basecamp for climbers ascending Mount Rainier via its southern slopes. A backcountry camping area of the same name has been established near the meadow to serve both climbers and backpackers.
The Highline Trail is one of the top hikes in the entire National Park System. In terms of effort to views ratio, it cannot be beat. It is quite popular, but its popularity is well-earned! For an extra dose of epicness, add on a dogleg to an overlook of the Grinnell Glacier. The crowds are much lighter on this section of trail, and you'll get to enjoy one of the most incredible views in Glacier National Park!
The Panorama Trail is a gorgeous point-to-point hike in Yosemite National Park, running from Glacier Point down to the valley floor. This 9-mile hike affords incredible views of Half Dome, mentioned earlier in this article, but it doesn't require nearly the same amount of effort as actually climbing that massive hunk of granite! At points, you'll also enjoy incredible vistas across Yosemite Valley, and can spot obvious landmarks like El Capitan and Yosemite Falls.
Longs Peak is a true Colorado Icon. At 14,259 feet, it’s one of the state’s proudest 14ers, and the only one within Rocky Mountain National Park. It looks imposing from every side, but the ‘Keyhole’ notch allows passage to the summit. The Keyhole Route is one of the most popular 14er routes in Colorado, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Longs Peak is one of the deadliest 14ers in Colorado—approach this hike with caution and respect.