Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

23 Top Day Hikes in the US: Must-See Trails for Every Adventurer (2024)

Discover the top day hikes across the United States, from breathtaking coastal trails to majestic mountain routes. Explore iconic destinations like the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, and Acadia National Park—Experience America’s landscapes’ natural beauty and diversity on these unforgettable hiking adventures.

To compile a comprehensive list of the finest hikes in the US, I reached out to my fellow bloggers, who graciously shared their top recommendations. The resulting suggestions showcase a collection of breathtaking and captivating trails, each promising a remarkable outdoor experience.

This article may contain affiliate links, meaning if you decide to purchase via my links, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For complete information, please see our affiliate disclaimer here.

Best Day Hikes In the United States: National Parks & Beyond

Angels Landing in Zion National Park

Submitted by Hannah from Plate and Compass

Distance: 5.4 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Zion National Park

Angels Landing is a breathtaking day hike in Zion National Park, known for its incredible views of Zion Canyon. The name Angels Landing comes from a Methodist minister who visited the area in 1916 and said the peak was “so high only angels could land there.” But today, it’s a popular destination for hikers who obtain the proper permits and aren’t afraid of the steep drop-offs on the West Rim section.

The 5.4-mile hike can be accomplished in a half-day. The climb ascends at 1,488 feet elevation, making it moderately strenuous, especially in the peak heat of summer.

Spring and fall are ideal times to visit if you plan on taking on this adventurous hike, or you may consider an early morning start. 

Angels Landing
Angels Landing; Picture by Hannah from Plate and Compass

To embark on this day hike, visitors first need to obtain entry into Zion National Park through a weekly or annual pass. Then, a permit is required for the final stretch past Scouts Lookout over the West Rim Trail. Permits can be obtained via the seasonal lottery system, or last-minute passes may be issued based on availability the day before.

Dogs and pets are not allowed in this area of the park. The hike is strenuous and not recommended for children. 

The climb consists of several switchbacks, including a steep section called Walters Wiggles, before you reach the West Rim Trail, where chains line the pathway for stability from the steep drop-offs. This day hike is perfect for adventure-seekers and promises one of the most iconic and picturesque views of Zion National Park.

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Big Pine Lakes Trail

Submitted by Kate from Kate Roams the World

Distance: 10 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Location: Eastern Sierra

One of the best day hikes in the USA is in California’s heart of the Eastern Sierra. A string of 7 bright turquoise-blue lakes are nestled in front of snow-capped mountains on a trail called Big Pine Lakes

The trailhead for day hikers is called Big Pine Creek Trailhead, and you will take the North Fork Big Pine Lakes trail. The closest major town is Bishop, California. 

The best time to do this hike is during the summer and early fall, so the trail is snow and ice-free. There are no entrance fees, and you don’t need a permit unless you plan on backpacking and camping at the lakes. The trail is dog-friendly as long as your pup is on a leash.

This hike is moderate- hard, depending on your fitness level and how far you choose to go. The most popular stopping point for visitors is Second Lake, as it is the most scenic of the lakes. From the Big Pine Creek Trailhead to Second Lake, it is a 10-mile round trip with 2,250 feet of elevation gain. 

Big Pine Lakes Trail
Big Pine Lakes Trail; Picture by Kate of Kate Roams the World

Hit the trail early to avoid being on it during the peak heat of the day since a lot of the trail is exposed with no shade. There are plenty of water sources along the trail if you would like to bring a water filter to hydrate along the way. Be sure to pack sun protection and plenty of snacks as well. 

Stay at the comfortable Creekside Inn in Bishop the night before your hike.

Big Sur Hiking Trail in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Submitted by Rebecca from Veggies Abroad

Distance: 0.5 to 23 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Nestled along California’s breathtaking coastline, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park stands out as a Big Sur hiking haven for its diverse and beautiful trails – nicknamed “mini-Yosemite.” Once you visit, you’ll understand why.

This is a great place to go if you have hikers of varying abilities, as the park is home to multiple terrific trail options that vary in length from .5 to 23 miles!

The renowned Valley View Trail is a standout choice for a memorable day hike. This moderate 5-mile (8 km) loop trail is a great way to enjoy the park’s diverse beauty, meandering through ancient redwood groves, offering panoramic vistas of the rugged coastline, and leading to the iconic Pfeiffer Falls.

The Valley View Trail is suitable for both novice and seasoned hikers, and no guide is required as the trail is well-marked, but it’s advisable to check trail conditions and bring sufficient water. The park is family-friendly, which even includes your furry family members! That is as long as they remain on a leash.

Big Sur Hiking Trail
Big Sur Hiking Trail; Picture by Rebecca from Veggies Abroad

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park charges a $10 entrance fee, and the best time to visit is during the spring and fall when temperatures are mild and wildflowers are in bloom. If you’re looking for a place to stay, the closest accommodation is the Big Sur Lodge. Another option is driving 40 minutes north (a beautiful drive) to Carmel by the Sea, which has more hotels and rentals. 

Blue Lake Trail in North Cascades National Park

Submitted by Serena from Serena’s Lenses

Distance: 5 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Location: North Cascades National Park

Blue Lake Trail is one of the most popular trails in North Cascades National Park, located in Washington State, about 2 hours northeast of Seattle.

While no park pass is required to enter North Cascades National Park, you need a Northwest Forest Pass to hike the Blue Lake Trail. You can purchase this pass from stores like REI or bring cash and pay $5 at the fee station at the parking lot.

Blue Lake Trail is a 5-mile out-and-back hike with an elevation gain of less than 1000 feet. On average, the hike takes 2-3 hours, depending on your fitness level and how long you plan to spend at the lake itself.

Blue Lake Trail
Blue Lake Trail; Picture by Serena from Serena’s Lenses

Since the hike is relatively flat and short, you will see many families with kids or elderly on the trail. Dogs on leash are also allowed on the hike, making this one of the most family day hikes in North Cascades. 

The hike starts behind the parking lot, with the first half of the trail mainly on a boardwalk inside the forest. The boardwalks allow you to cross small streams. Most of the hike is a gentle uphill inside the forest, with occasional large rocks on the trail. You can visit the beautiful Blue Lake when bored with the scenery. You are allowed to swim and fish in the lake. 

Summer and early fall are the best time to hike the Blue Lake Trail. The trailhead is not accessible in the winter due to snow, but you can still expect some snow on the trail in the spring.

Cathedral Rock Trail in Sedona

Submitted by Marian Fink from Discovering Anew

Distance: 1.2 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Sedona

Discover jaw-dropping views of the beautiful red rocks in Southwest Arizona while hiking the Cathedral Rock Trail. A relatively short hike, Cathedral Rock Trail, is ideal for beginners, including dogs and children. This day hike in the heart of Sedona will reward you with sweeping 360 views from atop one of Arizona’s most recognizable rock formations.

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Rated as a moderate hike, be prepared for a small creek crossing, rocky steps, a crevice climb, and rock scrabbling. Sedona has several notable energy vortexes, one of which is near Cathedral Rock’s top.

Logistically, the trail is an out-and-back, 1.2-mile hike. Plan at least 2 hours to tackle this 750-foot elevation climb. Additional mileage can be easily added to the hike since there are trails around the area.

Cathedral Rock Trail
Cathedral Rock Trail; Picture by Marian Fink from Discovering Anew

Visit Arizona’s spring and fall seasons for the most comfortable temperatures in the 70s-80s Fahrenheit (May-March, September-November.) To avoid crowds on this popular hike, head out during the weekdays. Parking is located at the Cathedral Rock Trailhead on Back O Beyond Road for $5.00 per vehicle.

Easily spend a week exploring Southwest Arizona. Stay in uptown Sedona at Orchard Inn, surrounded by gorgeous views of the Red Rocks and conveniently located near delicious restaurants, shopping, and attractions.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

Submitted by Jamie from Photojeepers

Distance: 3.2 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Arches National Park

The hike to Delicate Arch is easily one of the best day hikes in the USA. After all, this short hike in Arches National Park takes you to the park’s most famous and largest free-standing arch. You’ll also pass other stone arches, sandstone fins, and balanced rocks as you make your way through this dynamic landscape. 

Because Arches is located in the desert – near Moab, Utah –  try visiting in the spring or fall. This is when temperatures are cooler and crowds are minimal. It would be best to do this moderately difficult, 3.2-mile, out-and-back hike at sunrise.

Just bring a headlamp to the parking lot on Delicate Arch Road. Dogs are not allowed, though, so leave them at home. Then, prepare for 629 feet of elevation gain as you climb to Delicate Arch and watch the sunrise around you.

Delicate Arch in Arches National Park
Delicate Arch in Arches National Park; Picture by Jamie of Photojeepers

Now, this hike can be adjusted to suit the needs of families with small children. Drive to the end of Delicate Arch Road and Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint for a shorter hike. You’ll still see Delicate Arch but won’t be as close to it.

You’ll also have to pay $15.00 per person or $30.00 per private vehicle to enter the park. Between 7:00 am and 4:00 pm, from April 1st through October 31st, you must make a reservation for $2.00 and purchase a timed entry ticket before entering the park. 

Finally, when you’re ready to relax for the night, unwind inside a room at the 4-star Hoodoo Moab by Hilton. This fabulous hotel has an outdoor pool, a spa, an on-site restaurant, and a children’s play area.

Fairy Falls and Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone

Submitted by Melissa from The Navigating Mom

Distance: 1.6 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Easy
Location: Yellowstone National Park

As one of the most recognizable features of Yellowstone National Park, a hike to see the Grand Prismatic Spring makes an excellent and memorable day hike! Not only will you enjoy this unique feature, but you will also be able to explore Yellowstone’s natural beauty, have a chance at wildlife sightings, and see some of Yellowstone’s other unique features, including Fairy Falls. 

There are two ways to see the Grand Prismatic Spring: the lower boardwalk trail and the Overlook Trail. The lower boardwalk trail along the Midway Geyser Basin is an easily accessible and primarily flat 0.7-mile loop. The overlook is found along the Fairy Falls trail. If you choose to go to the overlook alone, it is a 1.6-mile round-trip hike. 

You will start along an old dirt road before branching off on the overlook trail at about 0.6 miles. The ascent will start here with an elevation gain of about 130 feet. Once you reach the top, you will be treated to bird’s eye views of the Grand Prismatic Spring and Midway Geyser Basin.

Fairy Falls and Grand Prismatic Spring
Fairy Falls and Grand Prismatic Spring; Picture by Melissa from The Navigating Mom

To continue the hike, head down on the Fairy Falls trail, which will take you to the 200 ft. Fairy Falls. The hike is about 4.5 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 170 feet. If you want to extend your hike even more, continue on the trail for about another half mile to reach Imperial Geyser and, just beyond that, Spray Geyser. 

These trails can be done independently, but you will want to be sure you follow park guidelines for safety and wildlife sightings. Bears are expected to be encountered in Yellowstone, so you would like to know how to react if an encounter occurs. 

There is an entrance fee for Yellowstone of $35 per vehicle. The best time to complete this hike is late spring or early fall when you will see fewer crowds and milder weather. The Fairy Falls Trail is family-friendly, but you must leave your four-legged friends at home for this, as dogs and other pets are not permitted on the trail. 

Fremont Lookout Trail at Mount Rainier

Submitted by Tammi from Wander Healthy

Distance: 5.6 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Mount Rainier

The Fremont Lookout Trail at Mount Rainier National Park is a stunning hike with unbelievable views, rich history, and even a fire lookout tower. 

The trail, approximately 5.6 miles round trip, starts at the Sunrise Visitor Center, the highest point in the park accessible by vehicle. Hikers are immediately awed by magnificent views of Mount Rainier, sprawling meadows, and, on a clear day, a glimpse of the Cascade Range. The well-maintained and moderately challenging path is suitable for those with some experience.

After traversing along a partially shaded path for just over a mile, the hike crosses a section of shale that makes footing slightly challenging. This area is also exposed to the sun, wind and rain.

The turn-around point is the Fremont Fire Lookout Tower, a historic and photogenic gem all on its own. Visitors can venture up and sit on the outside decks but are not allowed inside unless a ranger approves.

Fremont Lookout Trail
Fremont Lookout Trail; Picture by Tammi from Wander Healthy

Weather at Rainier can be unpredictable, so carrying layers, rain gear, and sufficient water is essential. Hikers should also be aware of the presence of wildlife, including mountain goats and marmots, and maintain a respectful distance. It’s not incredibly family-friendly, and dogs are prohibited in the park.

The best time to visit is from late July to early September when the park is open, the snow has melted, and the wildflowers are in full bloom.  Timed entry reservations are required from July through September 2. In addition, a National Park Pass is required for entrance and parking.

Lodging is available at the historic Paradise Inn or the National Park Inn in Longmire, providing a cozy stay with easy access to the park’s amenities.

The Fremont Lookout hike is an unforgettable experience, a must-visit for anyone exploring Mount Rainier National Park. 

Grand Canyon Rim Trail

Submitted by Shandos Cleaver of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel

Distance: 2.3 miles to 13 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Location: Grand Canyon

One of the best day hikes in the USA is the Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon. This trail connects many of the best viewing points along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon – just one view is never enough for this spectacular wonder!

The trail officially starts at the South Kaibab Trailhead, 2.3 miles (3.7km) east of the Grand Canyon Visitor Center, and extends for nearly 13 miles (21km) west to Hermits Rest. However, there’s no need to hike the entire trail or retrace your footsteps to your starting point, making for a family-friendly day hike.

Grand Canyon Rim Trail
Grand Canyon Rim Trail; Picture by Shandos Cleaver of Travelnuity: Dog-Friendly Travel

The most popular starting point is close to the Visitor Center and the nearby Mather Point Overlook, with multiple parking lots. The trail is relatively flat and an easy grade, with shade along the route. Most but not all of the trail is paved and wheelchair accessible. It’s also dog-friendly, as long as you keep your dog leashed.

From March to November, the road to the west of the Visitor Center is closed to private vehicles, with a shuttle bus operating. This means walking part of the Rim Trail is easy, then returning to your car by shuttle vehicle. Note that pet dogs are not allowed on the shuttle bus. The road is open to private vehicles from November to February, assuming it’s not closed by snow. 

The best time of year to hike the trail is during the milder months of spring or fall. Avoid the hot summer months, except for short walks, while the track can become icy and slippery during winter. Regardless of the time of year, carry plenty of water.

An entry fee applies for the Grand Canyon National Park, or you can purchase an America the Beautiful Pass if you plan on visiting multiple national parks. Accommodation is available in the park. You can also stay at hotels such as Serene Escape, lodges, and campgrounds at William or Flagstaff. 

Hanging Lake

Submitted by Sonia from Carey on Travels

Distance: 2.4 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Glenwood Springs, Colorado

Hanging Lake is a National Natural Landmark east of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, and truly unique among beautiful mountain lakes. Due to a geologic fault, Hanging Lake dropped away from the valley floor. Now, the water flowing from the Bridal Veil falls into Hanging Lake.

The Hanging Lake trail is a 2.4-mile roundtrip trail near Glenwood Springs, CO. It is moderately challenging and takes about 2 hours and 10 minutes to complete. July through October is the best time to explore Hanging Lake, though it is a beautiful year-round hike. This is a family-friendly hike, but pets are not allowed.

Hanging Lake
Hanging Lake; Picture by Sonia from Carey on Travels

Advanced reservations are required regardless of the time of year. Costs for self-parking and hiking are $12 per person from May 1-October 31 and $10 per person from November 1-April 30th. Take the Hanging Lake exit off of I-70 in Glenwood Canyon for parking at the trailhead—alternatively, bike from Glenwood Springs on the scenic and relatively flat bike trail.

Hike east from the trailhead on the paved path, turning left onto the steep, rocky uphill trail until you reach Hanging Lake. This hike sometimes feels unrelenting, though there are plenty of benches for a water break on the way up.

The hike ends at a boardwalk area at Hanging Lake, with benches and views into the canyon. After enjoying the lake, walk a few more steps up the hill to the waterfall.

The most convenient place to stay near Hanging Lake is Glenwood Springs, which has hot springs and pools to relax after the hike. Hotel Colorado is the closest to the hot springs and the bike trail to Hanging Lake.

Harding Icefield in Kenai Fjords National Park

Submitted by Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World

Distance: 8.2 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Difficult
Location: Kenai Fjords National Park

The Harding Icefield Hike is a fantastic day hike in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska. The trailhead is located at the Exit Glacier, which is one of the many glaciers that the Harding Icefield itself feeds. You can quickly get there from Seward, which is about a 20-minute drive.

This is a challenging hike of about 8.2 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 3,080 feet. You will need between 6 and 8 hours to complete it, depending on your pace and how often you stop to rest or for views.

Harding Icefield
Harding Icefield; Picture by Claudia Tavani from My Adventures Across The World

The trail is very easy to follow. However, the terrain is often uneven, with rocky steps and lots of mud depending on how much it’s been raining. You will almost certainly get rain at some point or another during the hike.

The views along the way are stunning: after just one mile, the vegetation starts opening up, and you can see the Exit Glacier. Soon after that, you will get to Marmot Meadows, about 1/3 of the way to the trail’s end.

During the hike, you also have chances to see wildlife: it’s not uncommon to spot moose and bears.

Be dressed appropriately for the hike with good hiking boots and rain gear. It’s essential to wear layers you can easily take off or put on to adjust to the weather. Ensure you bring enough food and water for the hike, as there is nothing in service besides bathrooms at the Exit Glacier visitor center.

Hidden Lake Overlook Hike in Glacier National Park

Submitted by Emilie from Family Road Trip Experts

Distance: 3 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Location: Glacier National Park

The Hidden Lake Overlook hike in Glacier National Park is one of the great day hikes in the USA that is accessible to most people. The trailhead starts from Logan Pass Visitor Center.

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It’s a busy place, so getting there early is essential. While there is a big parking lot, it’s often full.

The hike to Hidden Lake Overlook is 3 miles long and not too hard. It’s suitable for beginners and hikers of all ages – including kids. It’s one of the best easy hikes in Glacier National Park

Along the way, you might see animals like mountain goats, big-horned sheep, and maybe even bears. 

You can also continue a bit further to the Hidden Lakes for a total hike of 5.1 miles. But note that the trail past the overlook is often closed for bear activities.

Hidden Lake Overlook Hike
Hidden Lake Overlook Hike; Picture by Emilie from Family Road Trip Experts

The best time to hike the Hidden Lake Overlook trail is in the summer. The Logan Pass area is at a high elevation, so it can be chilly and windy. You’ll want to dress accordingly and bring layers.

You don’t need a guide to do this hike; follow the trail. There’s a park entry fee to enter Glacier National, a timed-entry ticket system.

Inspiration Point Hike in Grand Teton National Park

Submitted by Natalie from Camping Kiddos

Distance: 1.5 miles
Difficulty: Easy
Location: Grand Teton National Park

The Inspiration Point hike in Grand Teton National Park is a must-do hike in the US! 

You have a couple of options to access the trail. The first is to hop on the trail behind the Jenny Lake Visitors Center and make your way to the other side of the lake, then follow the trail up to Inspiration Point.

Pros of this option are that the first half of the hike will likely be less crowded, and it adds in a couple of miles of flat trail. The con of this option is that you’ll add about 2 miles total to your overall hike, which will eat into your itinerary if you plan to explore other areas of the park. 

The second option is to take the short boat ride to the lake shore opposite the visitors center and pick up the trail at the base of the mountains. This option cuts off a couple of miles from your overall trip and allows you to enjoy the scenic boat ride. The con is that the boat ride costs money, and you’ll have to wait in line.

Inspiration Point Hike
Inspiration Point Hike; Picture by Natalie from Camping Kiddos

Either way, you’ll get to the main part of the trail at the base of the Tetons, and from that point, you’ll hike about 1.5 miles to Inspiration Point. Most of this hike is easy enough for kids and less experienced hikers, though the last 500 feet to the overlook are rocky and steep. 

You can see Jenny Lake, multiple streams, and far into the valley from the top. 

On the way back down, take the quick side trail to see Hidden Falls. There’s a small amphitheater here if you’d like to take a break or have lunch. 

Thanks to the accessibility of this hike and the incredible payoff at the top, it’s one of the best easy hikes in Grand Teton National Park!

Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs

Submitted by Rachel from Caribbean Uncovered

Distance: 0.9 miles
Difficulty: Moderate to Hard
Location: Colorado Springs

With its 2,744 steps, 0.9 miles, and a 2,020-foot elevation gain, the Manitou Incline in Colorado Springs is a must-do activity for travelers journeying to Colorado, whether hail from nearby regions or distant locales. If those stats don’t seem like enough of a challenge, add a 40-70% steep grade throughout the trail. 

The Manitou Incline is the perfect challenge for solo travelers, friends, and couples – but you do need to make a free reservation beforehand.

Manitou Incline
Manitou Incline; Picture by Rachel from Caribbean Uncovered

There are two parking lots for this trek. You can opt for the Hiawatha Gardens Parking Lot and take a free shuttle or get there early for the first come, first serve spots at Iron Spring Chateau ($15), steps away from the base of the incline.

You can do this hike year-round, with wintering offering spectacular views and a unique challenge in the snow. But June and September are your best bet for comfortable weather. Regardless of when you decide to go, sunrise and sunset are the best times for this hike. The sun-painted views throughout are stunning. 

There are a few hotels in Manitou Springs, or you can stay closer to town in Colorado Springs. 


Last, if you venture out to Manitou Incline, please leave your dogs and children at home. This is not a hike for young children. However, if you have older, active kids, you may be able to make this a family-friendly activity.

Mary’s Rock in Shenandoah National Park

Submitted by Alyssa from An Apple a Plane

Distance: 3.4 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Hard
Location: Shenandoah National Park

Mary’s Rock is one of the best day hikes on the eastern coast of the United States! Located among the Blue Ridge mountains of Shenandoah National Park, there are breathtaking views. It is located in Virginia, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from Washington DC. 

Mary’s Rock is one of the best hikes near DC. It is a 3.4-mile roundtrip hike rated as “hard” on AllTrails. The entire trail is on an incline that ends at the top of a mountain viewpoint. The trail is beautiful, but hiking conditions can be strenuous for non-experienced hikers. 

The hike is also located along the Appalachian Trail, one of the most popular hiking routes in the United States. Pack lots of water and snacks, and remember to leave no trace. 

The greenery and forest of Shenandoah National Park make this a unique location for hiking, and it even pairs well as a day trip from DC.  

The entrance cost to Shenandoah National Park is $35 per vehicle or free with the Annual America The Beautiful National Parks Pass. Costing $80, the pass provides unlimited annual entry to all United States national parks.  

Rough Ridge Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Submitted by Victoria from Southern Trippers

Distance: 3.7 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Blue Ridge Parkway

One of the best day hikes in the USA is the Rough Ridge Trail since it will take you to one of the best overlooks along the Blueridge Parkway. 

You can access this moderately difficult, 3.7-mile out-and-back trail from the parking lot at Milepost 302.8. This hike sits on the Blue Ridge Parkway and features 738 feet of elevation gain.

Dogs are also not allowed, but there are no fees associated with the hike. The trek is also suitable for adults and children since you can do the whole Tanawha Trail or just the Rough Ridge Trail. This section is a short, 0.8-mile section that everyone will love. 

Rough Ridge Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Rough Ridge Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway; Picture by Victoria of Southern Trippers

Along the trail, take in sweeping views of Grandfather Mountain and Linn Cove Viaduct; you’ll also traverse wooden boardwalks and appreciate the best views from the Rough Ridge summit. You can go even higher but must use cables to do so. 

Because the trail is only an hour’s drive from Asheville, you could easily do a day trip here. Just spend the night at the Holiday Inn Asheville East-Blue Ridge Pkwy since it is a well–priced, 3-star hotel with an outdoor pool. If you can, try to visit during the fall when foliage along the trail is most stunning.

Rubicon Trail in Lake Tahoe

Submitted by Kyra Heenan from Sea to Sequoia

Distance: 16.4 miles
Difficulty: Hard
Location: Lake Tahoe

If you’re looking for one of the most breathtaking hikes in Lake Tahoe, CA, check out Rubicon Trail. The popular out-and-back trail takes hikers through D.L. Bliss and Emerald Bay State Parks, offering stunning views of Tahoe’s famous blue water and rocky shoreline.

It’s an especially beautiful trail if you plan on visiting Lake Tahoe in the summer, but it is also enjoyable in the fall and spring.

While the entire hike is 16.4 miles (or 26.4 kilometers), the trail has multiple entrance points. This makes it easy to do as little or as much of the trail as you’d like. Hikers looking to enjoy the entire trail (rated as hard and has an elevation gain of 2,339 feet) can park at the D. L. Bliss State Park Entrance lot.

Alternatively, if you’re looking for a more condensed hike, consider parking at the Emerald Bay State Park Lookout parking lot. From here, you can hike the portion of the trail that goes around Emerald Bay.

This can be an excellent option for those with younger kids, but note that there is a somewhat steep decline to get from the parking lot down to the shoreline (where you’ll join the official trail). Parking for the day in both parking lots costs $10. 

Rubicon Trail
Rubicon Trail; Picture by Kyra Heenan from Sea to Sequoia

Hikers should note that it’s common to see black bears in the area. It’s a good idea to read up on bear safety before visiting. Also, note that dogs are not allowed on the trail. 

For visitors looking for nearby accommodation, consider staying in the South Lake Tahoe area, about a 25-minute drive from the trail. A great option is Fireside Lodge

Sentinel Dome Hike at Yosemite

Submitted by Shweta Singhal from Zest In A Tote

Distance: 2.2 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Easy
Location: Yosemite National Park

Yosemite is a stunning natural park that draws millions of visitors each year. Yosemite is a fabulous spot to visit in north California, whether travelling solo, as a couple or visiting Yosemite with kids.

There are several hiking trails in this national park for outdoor lovers. The Sentinel Dome hike is easy and has great views of the Half Dome and El Capitan. The best part is that you can do this hike with your kids. It is family-friendly and dog-friendly. You should carry water and a light jacket to ward off any chill at the top, plus wear good hiking shoes.

The trail spans 2.2 miles, making it a manageable round trip of 3.5 kilometers. Hikers can expect to spend between 1 to 2 hours traversing the route. The terrain presents mostly easy conditions, requiring minimal exertion until the final segment leading up to the dome.

Sentinel Dome Hike
Sentinel Dome Hike; Picture by Shweta Singhal from Zest In A Tote

The best time to explore this trail is during the summer when the weather is favorable for outdoor activities. Alternatively, visiting during the spring and fall seasons offers the advantage of fewer crowds. It’s worth noting that the trail is closed during the winter months, likely due to inclement weather conditions.

Hiking to the top of Sentinel Dome is Yosemite’s easiest way to experience fantastic views in all directions. To the north, you’ll see Yosemite Valley, including El Capitan and Yosemite Falls. Half Dome is on the east. Looking west, you’ll see down Yosemite Valley and beyond to the Merced River canyon. 

Do note that being a popular destination, so it gets quite crowded in the summer months. Book lodging, such as Yosemite Valley Lodge, inside the park well in advance, especially in peak season. You have options to book mountain cabins and hotel rooms on VRBO. You will pay the standard entrance fee at Yosemite (USD 20 per person).

Seven Sisters Hike in Holyoke Range State Park

Submitted by Karen from Outdoor Adventure Sampler

Distance: 6 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Holyoke Range State Park

The Seven Sisters hike is a stellar trek in Western Massachusetts. This ridgeline traverse is one of the best hikes in the Holyoke Range. Named after the Pleiades constellation of seven stars, the hike spans the best of Holyoke Range State Park in Hadley, MA.

The 6-mile point-to-point hike starts at the Notch Visitors Center, where free parking is abundant. From here, you ascend Bare Mountain, enjoying the views of four New England states from the summit. The following high point on the ridge is Mount Hitchcock. In the spring, rare pink lady slipper orchids may grow between the rocks.

Seven Sisters Hike
Seven Sisters Hike; Picture by Karen from Outdoor Adventure Sampler

The next section of trail climbs up and down the Seven Sisters, although you will swear there are more than seven peaks. Enjoy views of the Connecticut River Valley as you hike. Eventually, you will end up at Mount Holyoke, one of New England’s last remaining summit houses. Descend via the Half-Way House trail.

The hike is spectacular in the spring and fall. It is dog and kid-friendly. A trail running race on the route on the first Saturday in May is a good day to hike elsewhere.

Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park

Submitted by Ladona from

Distance: 9.2 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Hard
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park

For a gorgeous hike high into the Colorado Rockies, try Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park. This 9.2-mile roundtrip hike is considered challenging, with an elevation gain of 1771 feet. 

What makes this hike special is the numerous gorgeous stops along the way. First along the trail is Alberta Falls, a 30-foot waterfall that makes a great family hike. Next up, just before the 3-mile mark, you’ll discover The Loch, a lake that attracts wildlife and birds. 

Then comes the challenging part of the trail. After some steep switchbacks, you must climb up the face of Timberline Falls. The climb is short, and with patience, most hikers find it passable.

After that, it is easygoing as you pass The Lake of Glass before finally arriving at Sky Pond. It’s worth every step of this hike to reach this gorgeous mountain lake with breathtaking views.

Sky Pond
Sky Pond; Picture by Ladona from

The best place to start this hike is at the Glacier Gorge Trailhead. Rocky Mountain National Park requires Timed Entry Reservations for this area (Bear Lake) from mid-May through late October, which you can order online. You will also need to pay a National Park entrance fee. 

July through September are the best time to hike this trail. However, you’ll find hikers here all year round. Even in winter, snowshoers find their way to Sky Pond. At the same time, you’ll see many families on this trail; as you reach higher elevations, the children thin out to the most experienced hikers. 

Table Rock Trail in Dixville Notch State Park

Submitted by Stephanie from USA Adventurer

Distance: 1.5 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Dixville Notch State Park

The Table Rock Trail in New Hampshire is a relatively short hike to a breathtaking viewpoint. The hike is in Dixville Notch State Park, but the park has no hours or entrance fees. Parking for the trailhead is on a small pulloff lot just off Highway 26 near Lake Gloriette. 

The hike is only 1.5 miles (2.4 km) round trip, but you’ll gain approximately 770 feet (234 m) in that 0.75-mile ascent to the summit. Still, I’d classify it as a moderately challenging trail.

The hike is all worth it, though, when you arrive at the summit, a narrow, skinny rocky overlook with sheer sides, with views down over Lake Gloriette and the surrounding hills.

Table Rock Trail
Table Rock Trail; Picture by Stephanie from USA Adventurer

This is a great hike to do in warmer months, but easily the best time is fall when the leaves on the trees around the lake are vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow, and it is a top highlight for any New England in the fall itinerary.  Sunset is also a fantastic time to do this hike since the sunset shines directly on the lake and makes the whole area glow beautifully. 

Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash. This trail is reasonably kid-friendly – the only thing to be aware of is the steep drop-offs at the top, but even careful elementary school kids should be able to do this without issue. There aren’t many lodging options nearby, but Colebrook CC & Motel is a good choice not too far from the hike and state park. 

Tongue River Canyon Trail in Bighorn National Forest

Submitted by Melanie from The World Travel Girl

Distance: 4.7 miles
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Bighorn National Forest

Located in the Bighorn National Forest, Wyoming, the Tongue River Canyon Trail beckons adventurers with its captivating beauty and accessibility. The closest access to the hike is from Lovell, a two-hour drive away or Sheridan, only 40 minutes from the trail, making this trail the perfect one-day hiking destination in the USA.

Spanning 4.7 miles and an elevation gain of 830 feet, it is technically rated as moderate, but it is suitable for both beginners and experienced hikers. This hike is family and dog-friendly and does not require a guide. There are no parking fees to do this hike, and the parking lot at the trailhead is small and accessible down a dirt road.

The journey starts beside the river, offering a refreshing spot for a quick dip before or after the hike. As you venture deeper into the canyon, the river gradually disappears, revealing mesmerizing limestone walls and the canyon’s natural beauty.

Open fields set against the mountains provide a picturesque setting along the way. Keep an eye out for turkey vultures soaring above, and immerse yourself in the wonders of nature.

Tongue River Canyon Trail
Tongue River Canyon Trail; Picture by Melanie from The World Travel Girl

An early start is advisable for summer hikes due to limited shade, while spring and fall offer more temperate conditions. While hiking, stay vigilant as wildlife, including snakes and bears, can be encountered. Respect the natural environment and its inhabitants to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Tongue River Canyon Trail promises an unforgettable hike in Wyoming. Whether you’re an avid hiker or a family seeking outdoor fun, this trail offers an opportunity to connect with nature and bask in the region’s beauty.

Exploring Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming is highly recommended. Numerous trails, like Taggert Lake Loop and String Lake Loop, offer captivating hiking experiences amidst breathtaking scenery.

Window Trail in Big Bend National Park

Submitted by Georgina from Alpacka My Bags

Distance: 5.5 miles (out-and-back)
Difficulty: Moderate
Location: Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park in Texas boasts more than 150 miles of hiking trails. The best day hike in the park is Window Trail, located in the Chisos Basin. This 5.5-mile (8.9 kilometer) out-and-back trail is moderately challenging, with a 961-foot elevation gain. 

Window Trail winds through cactus fields with views of the surrounding Chisos mountains. It takes hikers down a dry river bed and eventually to the “window,” a split in the Rockwall offering a view of Big Bend beyond.

Window Trail
Window Trail; Picture by Georgina from Alpacka My Bags

There is little shade on the trail, so plenty of water and sun protection are essentials to bring with you. Black bears are also common in Big Bend National Park. The bears here are small, but bring bear spray as a safety precaution, especially if hiking alone.

The best time to hike the Window Trail is in spring or fall to avoid the summer heat in Texas. It’s a good idea to download the trail map for offline access. There are a few sections where it’s hard to tell exactly where the trail goes. However, it is still a great trail, even for inexperienced hikers.

There is a lodge in Big Bend National Park in the Chisos Basin, and it’s within walking distance of Window Trailhead. As this is a moderately challenging trail, it’s a great family-friendly option for those with experienced hikers in the family. There is a sheer drop beyond the “window”, and this trail is not dog-friendly. 

Closing Notes

As we conclude our exploration of the best day hikes in the US, it’s clear that the country offers a diverse range of scenic trails and breathtaking vistas for outdoor enthusiasts to enjoy.

From the rugged beauty of the Rocky Mountains to the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest, each hike provides a unique opportunity to connect with nature and experience the wonders of the great outdoors.

Whether you’re seeking a challenging ascent or a stroll, there’s something for everyone to discover along these trails. So lace up your hiking boots, pack plenty of water and snacks, and embark on an unforgettable adventure through some of America’s most stunning landscapes. Happy hiking!


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