Best Scenic Hike in Every State: 50 Hikes, 50 States

by Chris Haney
best-scenic-hike-every-state-50-hikes-50-states

The United States boasts some of the best and most diverse hiking trails in the entire world. Across our great nation there are trails that traverse coastal beaches, mountain summits, rolling plains, desert landscapes, and more. Regardless of where you live in our country, hikers have an abundance of options for their next outdoor adventure. You can’t go wrong with any scenic hike you choose, but here are some of the most awe-inspiring hikes from each of our 50 states.

ALABAMA – Walls of Jericho

  • Distance – 6.4 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 1,341 ft.

The Walls of Jericho hiking trail is in northeastern Alabama near the border of Tennessee. The trail is located close to Estillfork, AL near the headwaters of the Paint Rock River. Hikers will follow the river that features waterfalls, bluffs, caves, pools, and natural amphitheaters created thanks to the areas limestone, which is highly susceptible to erosion. The Walls of Jericho Trail is not for beginners since much of the hike is uphill. In fact, the trail has an elevation gain of 1,341 feet. However, horses and dogs can use the trail as well.

ALASKA – Harding Ice Field Trail

  • Distance – 8.2 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 3,812 ft.

Alaska’s Harding Ice Field Trail is located in the northeastern corner of Kenai Fjords National Park. It’s around a 20-minute drive north of Seward, and is considered a bit touristy, but there’s a good reason for its popularity. The difficult hike boasts gains of more than 3,500 feet of elevation in the first four miles of the climb. But, hikers are rewarded once they trek through forest and meadows and make their way above the tree line. Eventually they make it to the incredible 700-square-mile ice field. Expect national park fees upon entry, a challenging hike, and extreme weather changes on the Harding Ice Field Trail.

ARIZONA – Grand Canyon Rim Trail

Grand Canyon National Park is seen from the South Kaibab Trail along the South Rim trailhead in Arizona, United States on June 21, 2019. (Photo by Patrick Gorski/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 12.7 miles
  • Route Type – Point to Point
  • Elevation Gain – 583 ft.

Arizona is blessed with seemingly infinite areas for hikers to take advantage of. Yet, as many beautiful areas as the state has to offer, the Grand Canyon Rim Trail is a can’t miss trek. The trail stretches from South Kaibab Trailhead west to Hermit’s Rest – an almost 13-mile long hike.

The scenic Grand Canyon Rim Trail is great for all skill levels of hiking. It is mostly paved and provides hikers with markers, which mark how far visitors have traveled. The walk only contains 583 feet of elevation gains, and is mostly a flat hike. However, don’t let the steady terrain fool you. The walk provides gorgeous views of the Grand Canyon throughout its 13 miles. There are tons of overlooks where hikers will have unrestricted views from one side of the canyons to the other. At certain stops, visitors can see up to 40 miles of unimpeded views along their rim of the canyon walk.

Additionally, the trail provides further options for hikers. Multiple shuttle stops are staggered along the trail, which allows hikers to explore specific areas if they prefer not to walk the trail in its entirety. Your leashed pets are welcome to come with you on the trail, but not on the shuttle busses.

Fair warning, Grand Canyon National Park does indeed charge a hefty fee for entry. The park’s fees start at $20 per person if you enter by foot or bicycle. The fees increase to $30 per motorcycle entry and $35 per vehicle. For those that frequent the national park, you can purchase an annual pass for $70.

ARKANSAS – Whitaker Point Trail (Hawksbill Crag)

  • Distance – 2.9 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 413 ft.

Whitaker Point Trail, also known as Hawksbill Crag, is one of Arkansas’ most popular hiking destinations. Thousands of hikers take the trail to the rocky scenic viewpoint that protrudes out of the side of the mountain almost 150 feet. Visitors who walk out on its ledge can take in full views of the surrounding landscape below.

The main attraction of the Whitaker Point Trail is deep in the Ozark National Forest. After a 2-hour hike, visitors eventually arrive at the crag – the rocky formation that juts out from a bluff, which looks like a hawk’s beak. Hawksbill Crag overlooks Whitaker Creek and an enormous valley that stretches beyond the eyes’ reach. On rainy days, hikers will come across multiple small waterfalls during their walk as well.

CALIFORNIA – John Muir Trail

High in the John Muir Wilderness, backpackers enter Sallie Keyes Lakes along the John Muir Trail. (Photo by Ken Hively/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 211 miles
  • Route Type – Point to Point
  • Elevation Gain – 40,902 ft.

Many hikers that have visited the John Muir Trail say that it has arguably the most scenic mountain views in the United States. The Yosemite National Park trail reaches an impressive 211 miles through the Range of Light. It runs from Yosemite all the way to the summit of Mount Whitney, which is the tallest peak in the “Lower 48.”

The John Muir Trail it winds through the Sierra Nevada through the Yosemite, John Muir and Ansel Adams Wildernesses. In addition, the trail passes through Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. The landscape includes 13,000-foot and 14,000-foot peaks, lakes numbered in the thousands, canyons, and granite cliffs. The John Muir Trail also boasts great weather conditions considering the terrain. Out of all the mountain ranges in the world, this Californian trail has the mildest and sunniest climate of them all, which makes for a perfect hike.

COLORADO – Emerald Lake Trail

Emerald Lake, Colorado, USA (Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash)
  • Distance – 3.3 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 702 ft.

Colorado is another state that has a laundry list of great scenic outdoor areas that are perfect for hikers. With so many trails to choose from, visitors have plenty solid treks to choose from. But, for those that may want to stop and take pictures along the way, it’s hard to beat the Emerald Lake Trail.

The 3.3-mile Emerald Lake Trail is popular with locals and visitors alike. The moderately difficult trail is located near Estes Park, Colorado and features a scenic path through the Rocky Mountains to Emerald Lake. Visitors will pass crystal clear alpine lakes that include Nymph Lake and Dream Lakes. Hikers can also look forward to gorgeous views of rocky mountain peaks. Those include Flattop Mountain, Hallett Peak, and Glacier Gorge. The trail is perfect for scenic mountain landscape photography.

The trail is inside of Rocky Mountain National Park, which charges an entry fee of $25 per vehicle or motorcycle. Visitors entering on foot, horse, or bicycle will pay slightly less at $15 per person. Locals and other repeat visitors can take advantage of the national park’s annual pass for $70.

CONNECTICUT – Bear Mountain Trail

  • Distance – 6.5 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,702 ft.

Bear Mountain Trail is a 6.5-mile hike close to Salisbury, Connecticut. A segment features a particularly scenic strip where the Appalachian Trail connects two scenic landmarks. It connects the 2,316-foot Bear Mountain – the state’s highest – to Lion’s Head, which is a stony knob that provides 180-degree scenic views of surrounding lakes and farmland. The Bear Mountain Trail is also home to beautiful wildflowers scattered throughout the trek. Dog owners are also permitted to bring their furry friends along the Bear Mountain Trail.

DELAWARE – Gordons Pond Trail

  • Distance – 5.2 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 42 ft.

Unlike many of the previous mountain-based hikes on this list, Connecticut’s Gordons Pond Trail features mostly flat, gentle terrain. But, don’t let the popular trail fool you. Visitors will still experience a variety of landscapes including sand dunes, marshlands, and maritime forest among the many migratory bird sitings.

The Gordons Pond Trail follows the edge of a saltwater lagoon in Cape Henlopen State Park. The 5.2-mile out and back trail is located near Lewes, DE. It features great views of a pond and beautiful flowers, birds and other wildlife. The trail’s path is flat with a partial boardwalk and partial dirt and gravel walkway. With an average elevation grade of only 1%, and a maximum of only 3%, most wheelchairs and strollers can be utilized on the trail. Therefore, the Gordons Pond Trail is good for all hiking skill levels. In fact, the trail is open year-round, and dogs that are leashed are welcome to join their owners on the hike.

FLORIDA – Wekiwa Springs Orange Trail

  • Distance – 6.3 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 216 ft.

The Wekiwa Springs Orange Trail is another path that is good for all levels of hikers. The 6.3-mile loop trail is relatively flat with elevation gains of only 216 feet. It’s located in Wekiwa Springs State Park and takes around 2.5-3 hours to complete. Horses and dogs can also be taken on the trail.

The Orange Trail takes visitors through the wetlands and also provides hikers with opportunities to take a dip in crystal clear waters. Hikers will also see various plant communities, especially Wekiwa Springs’ signature sandhill. It also includes river swamp, hardwood hammock, mesic flatwoods and more. In addition, wildlife sightings and encounters are common on the trail. Visitors are likely to come across many bird species including turkeys, white-tailed deer, gopher tortoise, and snakes. Rarer animals to keep an eye out for include the Florida black bear and bobcats.

GEORGIA – Blood Mountain and Freeman Loop Trail

  • Distance – 6.1 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,545 ft.

The Blood Mountain summit is arguably Georgia’s most popular hiking destination. Located near Blairsville, GA, Blood Mountain’s summit is the state’s tallest peak on the Appalachian Trail standing at 4,458 feet. Hikers can take a shorter out and back walk on the Appalachian Trail directly to the summit. However, the 6.1-mile loop explores even more of the legendary mountains’ scenic surroundings.

This difficult hike offers rock scrambles, expansive views, and the historic Blood Mountain Shelter at the summit. Blood Mountain towers above the other surrounding peaks giving visitors expansive views of the beautiful landscape. Treeless vistas are uncommon in Georgia since dense forests fill the state. Therefore, Blood Mountain’s gorgeous views offer hikers scenic views of rolling peaks like nowhere else in Georgia.

HAWAII – Kalalau Trail

USA, Hawaii, Kauai, Hanalei, Na Pali Coast, Kalalau Trail, woman at sunset. (Photo by: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 22 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 6,177 ft.

The famous Kalalau Trail off the Na Pali Coast is located near Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii. The trail features stunning landscapes and views just as visitors would expect from the exotic islands. Serious hikers will want to make the full trek across the 22-mile long trail to take in everything the surrounding area has to offer. However, more novice hikers have shorter options, which still include spectacular views as well.

Experienced adventurers may take an entire day to hike the full 22-mile trail. But, many take the trail slowly over two days and camp overnight. For those not wanting to take that much time, they can take a shorter route. Starting from the Kalalau trailhead at Kauai’s Ke’e Beach, hikers will reach a scenic waterfall pool at the end of Hanakapiai Valley. This hike is safer and easier for those that don’t want to walk the whole Kalalau Trail.

No matter the skill level, everyone that takes any part of the trail will be surrounded by scenic coastal views. Visitors can even take a dip beneath the 300-foot tall waterfall, which is a highlight of the trail. Come prepared, because permits are required to hike the Kalalau Trail.

IDAHO – Redfish Lake Trail

Scenic view of Redfish Lake and Sawtooth Mountains near Stanley, Idaho . (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 14.6 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 3,005 ft.

One of the most scenic hikes in all of Idaho can be found along the Redfish Lake Trail. Visitors can expect a difficult out and back trail that totals 14.6 miles. However, the pay off is worth it once you arrive to pristine Redfish Lake, which is surrounded by mountains packed with lush green forests.

Located near Stanley, ID, the trail offers a number of activity options, including hiking, camping and fishing. It is suggested that hikers use the trail from March through October. In addition, dogs are welcome on the trail as long as they are leashed.

ILLINOIS – Waterfall Glen Trail

  • Distance – 9.3 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 396 ft.

Fortunately, Waterfall Glen Trail’s name does not deceive. Hikers get to experience a beautiful waterfall on this 9.3-mile loop trail located near Willowbrook, IL. The relatively flat terrain makes for a great hike for all skill levels. Leashed dogs should have no issue with the hike as well.

The Waterfall Glen Trail features a wide path, which is especially perfect for social distanced hiking. Visitors will love the heavily wooded area full of mature oak and maple trees. Furthermore, the prairie and grassland habitats are home to many species of wildlife that hikers may encounter.

INDIANA – Three Lakes Trail

  • Distance – 9.2 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,017 ft.

Indiana’s Three Lakes Trail is a somewhat difficult loop trail that features two beautiful lakes – not three like its name suggests. The third lake at the southern end of the 9.2-mile trail vanished years ago when its dam broke and was never rebuilt.

However, the trail is still well worth the hike for its heavily wooded landscapes and two large bodies of water. The various terrain is great for those looking for a solid workout. It also makes for an excellent casual day hike as well. Additionally, more trail markers have been added recently, which makes the path easier to follow. Three Lakes Trail is accessible year-round, and is located near Martinsville, IN.

IOWA – Maquoketa Caves Loop

  • Distance – 1.7 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 288 ft.

For hikers who love to explore during their trek, Iowa’s Maquoketa Caves Loop is right up your alley. The fairly short 1.7-mile loop trail features lush green forests, a river, and the main attraction – caves.

Maquoketa Caves State Park is highlighted by 13 caves, including four different types of caves. Hikers of all skill levels can enjoy the trek. Especially since rugged areas near the caves were made more accessible with wooden stairs and boardwalks. The Maquoketa Caves Loop can be used year-round. However, the caves are only open from April to October to allow bats to hibernate without disturbance. Regardless of the month, the scenic area has plenty to take in during the short hike.

KANSAS – Elk River Hiking Trail

  • Distance – 15.3 miles
  • Route Type – Point to Point
  • Elevation Gain – 977 ft.

The most scenic hike in Kansas takes us on the Elk River Hiking Trail near Elk City Lake. The 15.3-mile point to point trail has two main trailheads and plenty of campsites along its path. The trail features multiple limestone bluffs that offer panoramic views of the area. Hikers will also experience crossing over several small streams and ravines. The trail winds through narrow canyons and underneath rock overhangs.

There’s no need to worry about getting lost on this moderately difficult trail since it is clearly marked in both directions. Travelers that start from the western entry point of the Elk River Hiking Trail will be rewarded towards the end of their hike. The trail continues around the edge of the bluffs that surround Elk City Lake, which is a 4,000-acre reservoir. The enormous lake is the perfect backdrop to end your hike on a scenic high note.

KENTUCKY –  Van Hook Falls and Cane Creek Valley

  • Distance – 5.7 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 626 ft.

This Kentucky trail involves two scenic areas where hikers will take in the beauty of the Daniel Boone National Forest. Van Hook Falls and Cane Creek Valley are located near London, KY and hikers can expect a 5.7-mile heavily trafficked out and back trail. Visitors will pass huge rock slabs, a sandstone cathedral, and waterfalls during their journey.

As hikers descend the trail to Cane Creek, they’ll find rock slabs perfect for a picnic near the flowing creek. Next, the trail ascends past Cane Creek and ends at Van Hook Falls. The picturesque waterfall is the highlight of the hike, but visitors will come across other unnamed waterfalls as well. The entire scenic area is a gem of the Bluegrass State.

LOUISIANA – Longleaf Vista Road to Backbone Trail

  • Distance – 10.6 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 646 ft.

Most people think of bayous and swamps when they think of Louisiana landscapes. Yet, the Longleaf Vista Road to Backbone Trail offers an escape from the marshy bogs of that dominate the state.

Longleaf Vista Road to Backbone Trail is a 10.6-mile loop trail located near Mora, LA. While the average elevation of Louisiana is only 100 feet, the trail has elevation gains of more than 600 feet. That means hikers will enjoy scenic views from the Kisatchie Forest’s rocky hills and overlooks. Visitors can take advantage of 300-foot outcrops that make for great photo opportunities of the surrounding area.

The area is especially pretty in the Fall as the leaves change colors. Hikers should expect a difficult trek at times because of the rocky terrain, creek crossings, and some mildly steep ascents and descents. But, trail markers help throughout, even if they are often different colors for the same trail.

MAINE – The Beehive Loop Trail

Beehive mountain at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park. (Photo by: Loop Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 1.4 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 488 ft.

The Beehive Loop Trail is one of the most popular and heavily walked trails in Maine. Located near Bar Harbor, ME, the trail is only 1.4 miles long, but don’t let that fool you. Visitors have a steep clim to the top of Beehive mountain before taking in breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and the neighboring Acadia hills.

The Beehive Loop Trail is considered difficult, but more than worth it. Hikers will pass a lake named The Bowl, but the ascent to the top of Beehive mountain is the highlight of the excursion. Hikers will utilize strategically placed iron rungs, bridges and hand and foot holds to help them along their climb. Make sure to track the light blue trail markers so you don’t get lost as you scale the cliffs. Once you reach the summit, your hard work immediately pays off with stunning views in every direction.

Acadia National Park does charge visitors a fee upon entering. The fees are $30 per vehicle and $25 per motorcycle. And for those entering on foot, horse, or bike the cost is reduced to $15 per person. For those that frequent the area, a park specific annual pass costs $55.

MARYLAND – Annapolis Rock via Appalachian Trail

Annapolis Rock, Maryland, United States (Photo by Ryan Tasto on Unsplash)
  • Distance – 5.1 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 816 ft.

On clear days, the Annapolis Rock off the iconic Appalachian Trail offers hikers an awesome 180-degree panorama of the area. The impressive view includes both Greenbrier Lake and Black Rock Cliff in the distance. The lookout point is the main feature of this 5.1-mile out and back trail located near Boonsboro, MD.

The trail to Annapolis Rock is littered with wild flowers and the rock itself is a popular rock climbing destination. The area also has a campground and has a caretaker that provides information to visitors. Leashed pets are welcome on the trails, but be careful not to park in unofficial parking areas. Local authorities are known to leave parking tickets on hikers’ vehicles.

There is a campground with a caretaker that can provide information to hikers. The rock is also a popular spot for rock climbers. Be careful not to park in unofficial parking areas, police are known to leave tickets on hikers’ cars.

MASSACHUSETTS – Skyline Trail Loop

  • Distance – 8.4 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 967 ft.

The Skyline Trail Loop is our first hike with a city skyline view. The trail is located in the Middlesex Fells Reservation near Medford, MA, just outside of Boston. During your scenic hike on the 8.4-mile loop trail, visitors will experience some of the best views of Boston’s skyline available in the area.

Other features of the moderately difficult trail include a lake and Wright’s Tower, which hikers can climb up for even more expansive views. Skyline Trail Loop can be used for hiking, running, nature trips, and bird watching. The trail can get very windy during winter months, so it’s best used from March to November.

MICHIGAN – Mosquito Falls and Chapel Falls via Chapel Loop

  • Distance – 10.1 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 770 ft.

Hikers won’t want to miss Michigan’s Mosquito Falls and Chapel Falls, which can be accessed via the Chapel Loop. Located near Shingleton, MI, this 10.1-mile heavily trafficked loop trail features a lake and, of course, two beautiful waterfalls.

The area has multiple trails that are available to hike, but the Chapel Loop hits the highlights of the region. This scenic hike near Chapel Rock feature waterfalls that flow into Lake Superior. However, hikers should know that this is not a dog friendly trail. Multiple users have reported that authorities will ticket hikers with an $180 fine for bringing dogs on their excursion.

MINNESOTA – Fifth Falls and Superior Hiking Trail Loop

SUPERIOR HIKING TRAIL, MN – JUNE 19, 2018 (Photo by Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 3 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 298 ft.

The Superior Hiking Trail (SHT) in Minnesota is a 310-mile behemoth of an excursion that follows the edge of Lake Superior for most of the trek. There are tons of smaller sections of the overall larger trail that visitors can take advantage of though. Fifth Falls is one of the many highlights of the SHT. It is only 3 miles long, and a much easier casual hike.

Fifth Falls is a loop trail located near Silver Creek Township, MN that features a lake and waterfalls. The shorter section of the SHT trail is the perfect scenic hike for any skill level, and dogs are allowed as well. The whole area is fun to explore and the breathtaking views of the surrounding area are perfect for photography.

MISSISSIPPI – Bear Creek Outcropping Trail

  • Distance – 1.8 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 121 ft.

Scenic views from the Appalachian foothills are abundant throughout the Bear Creek Outcropping Trail. Located near Dennis, MS, this short 1.8-mile loop trail offers numerous features for hikers. The trail includes a waterfall, unique rock formations, and fern-filled crevices that can only be found in this area of the state.

The trail makes for a beautiful, tranquil hike, which is perfect for the casual hiker. The Bear Creek Outcropping Trail is mainly used for hiking, but also for rock climbing and nature trips. It’s accessible year-round, and dogs can tag along if on a leash.

MISSOURI – Lewis and Clark Trail and Lewis Trail Loop

  • Distance – 8.3 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 849 ft.

The Lewis and Clark Trail is not only historic, but the most scenic trek hikers can take around the Metro St. Louis Area. The Lewis and Clark Trail and Lewis Trail Loop is a 8.3-mile trail near St. Charles, MO. It’s highlights include limestone cliffs, bluff escarpments, and gorgeous views of the Missouri River.

Hikers must veer off the trail, usually by one 25 yards or so, to take in the amazing views from the bluffs. Additionally, most of those areas are within the first two miles of the hike. The excursion is moderately strenuous, including crossing a creek and elevation gains of more than 800 feet. Yet, adventurers are rewarded throughout with different landscapes and views.

MONTANA – Hidden Lake Trail

View of Bearhat Mountain above Hidden Lake at Logan Pass in Glacier National Park, Montana, United States with people in foreground. (Photo by Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 5.3 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 1,374 ft.

Montana is lucky to have an excessive amount of scenic hiking options within the state. Choosing just one is a difficult task, but hikers can’t go wrong with Hidden Lake Trail near Siyeh Bend, MT. The 5.3-mile out and back trail features a “hidden’ lake surrounded by towering mountains and greenery.

The trek is mostly uphill from the top of Logan Pass, but the surprise of Hidden Lake at the end is stunning. Visitors can also hike down to the lake itself from the trail. The path starts as a paved surface before transitioning into a raised boardwalk. Considering that snow can linger into summer months, the boardwalk allows hikers to traverse the terrain more easily.

Visitors will take in beautiful views of multiple mountains, wildlife, and more during their trek. You’ll see 8760-foot Clements Mountain, 8180-foot Mt. Oberlin, 8684-foot Bearhat Mountain, 9125-foot Mt. Reynolds, 8016-foot Heavy Runner Mountain, and impressive views of the Garden Wall.

Wildlife is prominent in the region. Hikers often come across mountain goats. In addition, look out for bighorn sheep, marmots, and even wolverines. Grizzly bears inhabit the area as well, so visitors should stay alert. In fact, parts or all of the Hidden Lake Trail can be closed due to grizzly bear activity in the summer months. Check with the park for more information before your hike.

NEBRASKA – Platte River State Park Trail Loop

  • Distance – 6.7 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 797 ft.

Nebraska’s Platte River State Park Trail Loop is the perfect easy trail for the whole family. The 6.7-mile loop trail near South Bend, NE is a scenic hike with a little less than 800 feet of elevation gains. The trail follows the Platte River for much of the journey, and features a beautiful waterfall.

This scenic hike has plenty of stunning views of the riverside even before you reach the waterfall. It’s great for hikers of all skill levels, including children. The family dog is also welcome on the trails.

Keep in mind that visitors must pay a fee upon entering Platte River State Park. Park passes can be purchased at the park, from permit vendors, or online ahead of your visit.

NEVADA – Fire Wave Trail

Arch rock formations at the Valley of Fire, Nevada’s first and oldest State Park, are viewed on February 28, 2018 near Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by George Rose/Getty Images)
  • Distance – 1.5 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 236 ft.

Nevada is another state blessed with countless scenic hikes with a wide-range of landscapes and terrains. However, there aren’t too many other areas in our country that you can hike through stunning sandstone formations like you can in Valley of Fire State Park.

A little over an hour outside of Las Vegas, the park is home to the oldest and largest state park in Nevada. The Fire Wave Trail rewards hikers throughout its short but extremely scenic route. It proves that all hiking journeys don’t have to be long and strenuous for a scenic payoff.

The Fire Wave Trail gets its name honestly from the area’s beautiful sandstone formations that resemble an ocean wave. The formations feature swirling patterns of red, white, and pink sandstone, which are a photographer’s dream.

As picturesque as this scenic hike is, it also comes with a warning. Officials recommend that visitors hike the trail during cooler seasons. Over the summer, temperatures reach well over 100 degrees and there is little to no shade on the trail. Furthermore, be prepared to pay a park entrance fee upon arrival.

NEW HAMPSHIRE – Welch and Dickey Loop Trail

  • Distance – 4.3 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,774 ft.

The Welch and Dickey Loop Trail provides hikers with a double summit experience that isn’t to be missed if in New Hampshire. Located near Thornton, NH, the 4.3-mile loop trail features two mountain tops and lovely wild flowers scattered across the terrain.

The somewhat difficult trail has elevation gains reaching almost 1,800 feet. Yet, most hikers would expect that considering the highlight of the trail. The loop connects visitors to both the Welch Mountain and Dickey Mountain summits, each part of the White Mountain National Forest. The majority of adventurers hike the loop counterclockwise. However, both directions of the trail provide sweeping views of the forest from exposed rock slabs during this scenic hike.

NEW JERSEY – Buttermilk Falls and Crater Lake Loop Trail

  • Distance – 6.7 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,453 ft.

For hikers who don’t mind a challenge, the Buttermilk Falls and Crater Lake Loop Trail features the best of New Jersey’s scenic landscapes. The 6.7-mile loop trail is popular for both residents and visitors of the Layton, NJ area.

The trail offers hikers a bit of everything with waterfalls, lakes, and beautiful fall foliage later in the year. Additionally, the trek will take you through ravines and valleys, on ridges and steep climbs. The rigorous trail can take hikers around four to five hours to finish, but many rest and enjoy Crater Lake before moving on. Dogs must be kept on leashes during your hike, and watch out for icy conditions during cold months.

NEW MEXICO – Nambe Lake Trail

  • Distance – 6.5 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 2,089 ft.

With seemingly endless hiking options in various landscapes and terrain, New Mexico boasts a plethora of great choices for your next excursion into nature. One of the most scenic hikes in the state is on the Nambe Lake Trail near Santa Fe, NM.

This 6.5-mile out and back trail starts off through Aspen and Pine tree-filled wooded areas. The initial incline of the hike changes up at the first intersection, and begins a steady descent to Nambe Creek. Hikers will enjoy valley views and Mt. Baldy during this portion of the trek. Next, the trail gets a bit harder. From the creek, the trail ascends again and is more difficult to follow, so make sure to keep track of your route.

The hike’s 2,089 feet of elevation gains definitely come into play during this steep part of the journey. Hikers will eventually come to the top where Nambe Lake sits at the end of the trail. Take a rest and enjoy the scenery before heading back on the trail.

NEW YORK –Bear Mountain Loop Trail

Overlook in autumn of Bear Mountain Bridge and Hudson Valley and River at Bear Mountain State Park, New York (Photo by: Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 3.8 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,154 ft.

One of the most frequented hikes in the state of New York is the Bear Mountain Loop Trail, and for good reason. This 3.8-mile scenic hike off the Hudson River in Bear Mountain State Park is the perfect day trip, especially for city dwellers in “The Big Apple.”

The loop trail to the summit of Bear Mountain features stops at Hessian Lake before ascending towards the top of the mountain. The loop utilizes sections of the legendary Appalachian Trail, as well as the Major Welch Trail. Once visitors reach the summit after a steep incline, they’ll take in gorgeous panoramic views of the Hudson Valley, Hudson River, Bear Mountain Bridge, and the wonderful lush landscapes of the region.

Hikers should expect crowds on the weekends, and the area’s parking lot fills up extremely quickly. There are entry fees upon arriving at the state park as well. Entry is $10 per automobile from June 22 to September 2. However, the fees are only collected during the weekends for the rest of the year.

NORTH CAROLINA – Looking Glass Rock Trail (and Looking Glass Falls)

Looking Glass Waterfall near Asheville, NC with Fall Colors in Pisgah National Forest on Blue Ridge Parkway. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 6.1 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 1,729 ft.

North Carolina is lucky to have some of the finest stretches of the iconic Appalachian Trail in the state’s backyard. Western North Carolina is filled with photo worthy, scenic mountain views that are littered across the region.

Looking Glass Rock Trail is a can’t miss trek near Brevard, NC, which is less than an hour from Asheville. The 6.1-mile out and back trail takes four to five hours to complete, and has a steep vertical incline to the summit. However, once hikers make it to the top, the peak boasts expansive, breathtaking views of the Appalachians. The trail is primarily used for hiking, but also for rock climbing and bird watching as well.

Either before or after your scenic hike, make time to stop at the nearby Looking Glass Falls. Although it’s not part of the Looking Glass Rock Trail, the two locations are only a few miles from each other. The waterfall is one of the most beautiful in the state, and is easily accessible. In fact, Looking Glass Falls is one of the only roadside waterfalls in the state.

NORTH DAKOTA – Maah Daah Hey Trail

  • Distance – 142.3 miles
  • Route Type – Point to Point
  • Elevation Gain – 15,141 ft.

North Dakota’s Maah Daah Hey Trail is one of the longest hikes with the highest elevation gains on our list. At 142.3 miles long, this point-to-point trail near Amidon, ND gives hikers a ton of options, from short hikes to a week-long excursion.

The Maah Daah Hey Trail takes hikers through the wilderness and rugged badlands of the western part of the state. Visitors will encounter plenty of wildlife on their journey through prairie land and plateaus. Look out for wild horses, bison, and bighorn sheep during your adventures.

OHIO – Ledges Trail

  • Distance – 2.6 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 229 ft.

The Cuyahoga Valley National Park is home to the Ledges Overlook off the Ledges Trail, arguably the most scenic hike in Ohio. Located near Peninsula, OH, this 2.6-mile heavily trafficked loop trail is accessible year-round.

The trail features valley views and beautiful wild flowers throughout the hike. Ledges Trail follows the edge of sandstone cliffs that sit hundreds of feet above the Cuyahoga River. Visitors can also climb the 200-yard ascent to Ledges Overlook, which is a rock promontory with extensive, scenic views of Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

OKLAHOMA – Bison Trail

Buffalo in the Witchita Mountains wildlife refuge. A herd of 600 buffalo is maintained in this refuge along with 300 native longhorn cattle, 300 elk, and many deer and wild turkey. (Bettmann / Contributor via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 6.1 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 416 ft.

The Bison Trail lives up to its name since bison are one of the main attractions on this hike. The 6.1-mile loop trail near Indiahoma, Oklahoma is a fairly easy walk through rugged terrain with minimal elevation gain.

Highlights of the Bison Trail include Lost Lake, French Lake, and West Cache Creek. Additionally, there are gorgeous views all around of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, which allows hikers to see various endangered species. It is also the home to a herd of wild bison. However, the trail can be difficult to track in certain areas, so make sure to stay alert and not get off trail.

OREGON – Trail of Ten Falls

Silver Falls State Park, Oregon, United States – View from behind waterfall (Photo by Eric Muhr on Unsplash)
  • Distance – 8.7 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,194 ft.

Why settle for only one waterfall on your hike when you could see 10 instead? That’s exactly what adventurers will experience on the Trail of Ten Falls located near Mehama, OR. This 8.7-mile loop trail through Silver Falls State Park is a casual yet scenic hike littered with waterfalls throughout.

The Trail of Ten Falls takes visitors on a gorgeous canyon hike through Oregon’s largest state park. The 9,000-acre park contains more than 24 miles of hiking and biking trails that are great for the whole family. The trail features ten waterfalls that range from 27 to 178 feet in height. In addition, hikers can navigate their way behind four of the waterfalls. The trek can be made year-round, but the waterfalls are at their finest during the spring runoff.

PENNSYLVANIA – Ricketts Glen Falls Loop

Ricketts Glen Falls Trail, Pennsylvania, USA – Multi layered waterfall in a forest. (Photo by Cameron Venti on Unsplash)
  • Distance – 6.6 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,010 ft.

Pennsylvania’s Ricketts Glen Falls Loop is another ridiculously scenic trek that features 21 waterfalls – that’s not a typo. Visitors will be spoiled with numerous waterfalls on this 6.6-mile loop trail near Sweet Valley, PA. The trail takes around four hours to finish, but could take much longer according to how long you spend taking in each of the 21 gorgeous waterfalls.

Other highlights during the excursion include passing by Lake Rose, blossoming dogwood trees in the spring, and passing through the Midway Crevasse – a narrow passageway through Pocono sandstone. Yet, the waterfalls are the star of the hike. Many adventurers consider the Ricketts Glen Falls Loop to be the best hike in the state. And many also consider the trek to be the single best waterfall hike on the whole East Coast. The waterfalls range from only 11-feet in height (Cayuga Falls) to 94-feet in height (Ganoga Falls).

Hit the trailhead and hike clockwise for the easiest hike with the most scenic views. Also, be sure to wear good hiking shoes because the trail is steep and slippery at times.

RHODE ISLAND – Long Pond Woods Trail

  • Distance – 4.5 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 469 ft.

Hikers and bird watchers alike flock to Rhode Island’s Long Pond Woods Trail for its panoramic views and abundant wildlife. The 4.5-mile out and back trail close to Hope Valley, RI features stops at both Long Pond and Ashville Pond.

Visitors will hike through a habitat of hemlocks and rock outcrops on this somewhat challenging hike. The Auubon Society’s 220-acre Long Pond Woods Wildlife Refuge boasts a myriad of animal species that hikers will come across on their trek. Watch out for mink, otter, painted turtle, and tons of bird species. The species of birds include Hooded Warbler, Black-and-White Warbler, Worm-Eating Warbler, Ovenbird, Turkey Vulture, Hooded Merganser, and Barred Owl.

The elevated points of the Long Pond Woods Trail provide expansive scenic views of the region. Make sure to visit during fall for picturesque views overlooking a shimmering Long Pond with surrounding colorful foliage.

SOUTH CAROLINA – Pinnacle Mountain Trail

  • Distance – 8.4 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 2,335 ft.

The Pinnacle Mountain Trail located near Cleveland, SC has a bit of everything for adventurers. This 8.4-mile out and back trail has waterfalls, a mountain stream, a bald with a great view, and a steep incline to finish out this scenic hike.

The begging of the trail is fairly flat on a paved path as it follows Carrick Creek. After a few miles, hikers can stop at Bald Rock Overlook to take in scenic views of the area, including Table Rock Mountain in the distance. Pools and little cascades can be accessed from the trail as well. The rewarding hike ends with stunning views after a strenuous climb to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain.

SOUTH DAKOTA – Black Elk Peak South Dakota Highpoint Trail

USA, South Dakota, Black Hills, Custer State Park, rock peaks, aerial view (Photo by DEA / F. BARBAGALLO/De Agostini via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 7.4 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 1,515 ft.

The Black Hills of South Dakota contain arguably the most beautiful and scenic hike along the 7.4-mile Black Elk Peak South Dakota Highpoint Trail. The popular loop trail is located near Custer, SD within Custer State Park. Visitors will be treated to a unique geological region full of stunning granite towers rising up from the hills on their walk.

The trail to the summit of Black Elk Peak boasts views of Sylvan Lake, granite cliffs and towers, ponderosa pines, and a historic stone firetower at the top. The granite peak was named Harney Peak for more than 150 years. In 2016, South Dakota’s 7,242-foot high point was renamed Black Elk Peak. However, the scenic views from atop haven’t changed a bit.

Furthermore, hikers should take advantage of Little Devil’s Tower on the same loop. It offers even more stunning views, especially of the knifelike Cathedral Spires.

Black Elk Peak South Dakota Highpoint Trail will cost hikers $20 upon entry.

TENNESSEE – Alum Cave Trail to Mount Le Conte

Jeffrey and Mary Shapiro of Johnson City, Tennessee, share their first Cliff Top sunset from Mount Le Conte this spring, April 22, 2009, at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (Photo by John D. Simmons/Charlotte Observer/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 10.6 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 2,919 ft.

The Great Smoky Mountains are packed full waterfalls, mountaintops, trout-filled streams, wildflower meadows, scenic overlooks and more. With more than 850 miles of footpaths within Great Smoky Mountains National Park, tons of amazing outdoor adventures await hikers near Gatlinburg, TN. However, the Alum Cave Trail to the top of Mount Le Conte is about as picturesque as they come.

Visitors will walk through a hardwood forest and on log bridges running over mountain streams. They’ll climb stairways cut into huge rock overhangs as well on this 10.6-mile out and back trail. You’ll follow Alum Cave Creek and pass by Arch Rock. The trail passes underneath the natural arch on the way to Inspiration Point. During this scenic hike, you’ll see spectacular views of of Little Duck Hawk Ridge, The Eye of the Needle, and Myrtle Point on Mount Le Conte.

Keep going and hikers will make it to Alum Cave before continuing on to the summit of the 6,594-foot Mount Le Conte. The mountaintop is the third highest peak in the Smoky Mountains, and offers breathtaking views of the historic region. Visitors can also stay on top of the mountain at the highest guesthouse on the East Coast – LeConte Lodge. The rural cabins are home to the only formal lodging in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

TEXAS – Lost Mine Trail

North America, USA, Texas, Big Bend National Park, Chisos Mountains, Panther Peak. (Photo by: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
  • Distance – 4.2 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 1,099 ft.

The Lost Mine Trail is a perfect introduction to the beautiful landscapes of the Chisos Mountains in southwestern Texas. The popular 4.2-mile out and back trail located near Big Bend National Park, TX can be used year-round.

Hikers will get to explore the remote park that follows a section of the Rio Grande River close to the border of Mexico. Old timey western vibes are plentiful for adventurers traversing desert shrub pinyon pine forest ecosystems. In fact, only one mile into the hike, hikers will come across beautiful views of Juniper Canyon and Casa Grande. The trail continues on at a steep pace because of 1,099-foot elevation gains. But, the trail evens out at the ridge and offers wide-ranging scenic views of Pine Canyon and the Sierra del Carmen in Mexico.

Like many national parks, Big Bend National Park does charge entrance fees. Visitors who arrive by automobile will be charged $30. Those who ride a motorcycle will be charged $25. If entering on foot, bike, or horse, the charge is $15. An annual park pass is also an option at $55.

UTAH – Delicate Arch Trail

A visitor to Arches National Park near Moab, Utah, photographs the park’s best known attraction, Delicate Arch. The park contains the largest concentration of natural sandstone arches in the world, sculpted by 100 million years of erosion. (Photo by Robert Alexander/Archive Photos/Getty Images)
  • Distance – 3.5 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 633 ft.

There are tons of great hiking trails within the boundaries of Arches National Park. However, there’s a reason that Utah’s license plates feature the Delicate Arch. The wildly popular hiking destination located near Moab, UT is a natural wonder with stunning desert views that shouldn’t be missed.

The Delicate Arch Trail is a short out and back excursion that is a 3.5-mile round-trip. The open desert terrain includes minimal elevation gain, and the trail is defined well. The trail gradually levels out toward the top of the rock face that holds the arch. Before arriving at the Delicate Arch, the path follows a rock ledge for around 200 yards, so visitors will want to proceed with caution.

In addition, there is no shade available on the hike and you’ll want to bring water along. Desert temperatures can be brutal, so the trail is best hiked during spring or fall. Or right after sunrise and before sunset when the region’s rocks seemingly change color. The stunning Delicate Arch is a must-do experience for hikers while in Utah.

VERMONT – Camel’s Hump Trail

Camel’s Hump, Huntington, Vermont, USA (Photo by Finlay Buchanan-Jacobs on Unsplash)
  • Distance – 6 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 2,578 ft.

The Green Mountains of Vermont have multiple options for big hikes to the summit of a picturesque mountain. Yet, it’s hard to beat the beautiful landscape and views from the top of Camel’s Hump – the third highest peak in Vermont.

The Camel’s Hump Trail is a 6-mile out and back trail that climbs more than 2,500 feet of elevation gains. Additionally, hikers will walk past old wreckage of a plane crash on their way to mountaintop. The trek near Huntington, VT is the perfect day hike for locals and visitors alike.

Fair warning, the end of the hike becomes steep and narrow. For those who are afraid of heights, this may not be your cup of tea. For those that conquer the hike, you will be rewarded with amazing 360-degree scenic views. Adventurers can take in all the beauty that the region has to offer from every direction. From the summit of Camel’s Hump, you can see Mount Mansfield to the north – the tallest peak in the state. Hikers can also see Mount Washington to the east, and on a clear day you can see Canada as well while on this scenic hike.

VIRGINIA – Old Rag Mountain Loop

  • Distance – 9.4 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 2,680 ft.

Although a difficult journey that isn’t necessarily family friendly, the Old Rag Mountain Loop to the summit is as scenic as they come. The 9.4-mile loop trail inside the Shenandoah National Park is located near Etlan, VA. One of the main features of the trail are tough rock scrambles that will slow down even experienced hikers.

The full trek can take six hours, but the never-ending expansive views are to die for once you reach the summit. Much of the trail follows Brokenback Run, a river flowing through the northern portion of the loop. But the popular hike has some tricky terrain to manage once you reach the rock scramble section. Hikers will traverse the area by heading down, up, around, in between, and underneath granite boulders.

At times you’ll also have to jump over crevasses during the challenging hike. Once you’ve reached the mountaintop, enjoy the superb 360-degree views before continuing your journey down the mountain to finish this scenic hike.

WASHINGTON – Colchuck Lake via Stuart Lake Trail

Colchuck Lake, United States – Jade green lake (Photo by Sergei Akulich on Unsplash)
  • Distance – 9 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 2,283 ft.

The Pacific Northwest is blessed when it comes to nature and its abundance of amazing hiking opportunities. It’s hard to go wrong with any trek, but The Enchantments are a particularly special area of Washington State.

The Enchantments are part of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness area within the Cascade Mountain Range. They boast some of the most beautiful sceneries a camera can capture in our country. Located near Leavenworth, WA, the Stuart Lake Trail takes hikers to the serene Colchuck Lake. This 9-mile out and back trail will challenge hikers who tackle it. But once visitors arrive, they’ll be greeted by a pristine alpine lake stuck between twin spires – Dragontail Peak and Colchuck Peak.

To say this is a scenic hike does not do it justice. In fact, for those that wanted to make the trek into an overnight trip, it’s near impossible to receive a permit to do so. The backcountry permits are handed out through a lottery system. Therefore, it’s extremely rare to partake in anything more than a day hike.

WEST VIRGINIA – Endless Wall Trail

  • Distance – 2.3 miles
  • Route Type – Point to Point
  • Elevation Gain – 288 ft.

West Virginia‘s Endless Wall Trail is one of many on the New River Gorge National River, but is the most diverse and scenic part of the region. The point-to-point trail is only 2.3 miles long located outside of Lansing, WV is great for all skill levels of adventurers.

Hikers will start out journeying through an ancient Hemlock forest full of moss and small streams. Through a gradual elevation gain of less than 300 feet, visitors will reach the more elevated ridge atop the cliffs overlooking the Gorge. Once you’ve arrived at the top, there are countless rocks to climb and view the river below.

Make sure to stop at Diamond Point during your journey on this scenic hike. The overlook offers hikers incredible views more than a mile both upstream and downstream. Additionally, The New River Gorge Bridge is partially visible, and so is the Kaymoor coal mine.

Recently, Congress passed legislation on Dec. 21, 2020 that designated the New River Gorge as the 63rd national park in the U.S. Therefore, it is now known as the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve. 

WISCONSIN – Devil’s Lake via West Bluff Trail

  • Distance – 4.7 miles
  • Route Type – Loop
  • Elevation Gain – 997 ft.

The range of stunning views hikers get to experience on their way to Devil’s Lake via the West Bluff Trail makes it an easy choice for Wisconsin. The 4.7- mile loop trail near Baraboo, WI follows a circular path around the whole of Devil’s Lake.

West Bluff Trail is mainly used for hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, and rock climbing by Devil’s Lake State Park visitors. The park is the third oldest in the state of Wisconsin. Hikers will trek through waterfront areas overlooking Devil’s Lake and also traverse through the dense forest of the East Bluff Woods. To the northwest side of the lake, rock climbers can be seen on the 100-foot quartzite cliffs. Devil’s Lake State Park also boasts more than 100 bird species and 800 types of plants, which you’ll have the chance to see on this scenic hike.

WYOMING – Cascade Canyon Trail

Jenny Lake, Wyoming, United States (Photo by Martin Rancourt on Unsplash)
  • Distance – 9.7 miles
  • Route Type – Out & Back
  • Elevation Gain – 1,128 ft.

Unlike any other trek on this list, the journey on Cascade Canyon Trail begins with a boat ride across Jenny Lake. This scenic hike near Moose, WY offers everything a hiker would want out of a mountainous adventure.

The 9.7-mile out-and-back trail takes visitors deep into Grand Teton National Park. The trail begins at the shoreline of Jenny Lake, and goes far into the Teton Mountain Range. It’s an extremely popular hike not only for its gorgeous views, but also because it’s easier to hike than most other Grand Teton trails. With elevation gains of only 1,128 feet, the hike is considered moderately difficult. Compared to the mountain range’s other much more challenging trails at higher elevations, the Cascade Canyon Trail is a breeze.

Hikers will be treated to picturesque views of the lake and a 100-foot high waterfall named Hidden Falls. They will also be provided with spectacular views overlooking Grand Teton National Park from atop Inspiration Point. It’s the perfect combination of a lush, green valley divided by a flowing creek and snow-capped mountain peaks.

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