11 of the Nation’s Best Hikes
By no means an exhaustive list, here are 11 hikes across the country that simply have to be on your radar. From the rolling mountains of the southeast, to the jagged peaks of the west, to the canyons, waterfalls, and old-growth forests of the Pacific Coast, these trails are ones for the bucket list. Happy hiking!
1. Roan Mountain Highlands | Asheville, NC
Criss-crossing the Tennessee-North Carolina border for 14-miles, this section of the Appalachian Trail is easily one of the most beautiful stretches along the entire route from Maine to Georgia. The views from these ethereal highlands are stunning and constant, and bring to mind visions of Scotland and Wales.
2. Baxter Creek Trail | Knoxville, TN
In truth, almost every trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park is eligible for your hiking bucket list, but one particular route that highlights the very best of this park is the Baxter Creek Trail- a 12 mile roundtrip with 4,000 feet of climbing, sweetly smelling spruce trees, and a lush rainforest understory.
3. Enchanted Rock | Fredericksburg, TX
Enchanted Rock is a 425-foot pink granite dome that shoots up from the flat Texan landscape and offers hikers an amazing place to explore. With its Native American folklore, fascinating geological formations, and sweeping views, this place is truly enchanted.
4. Superior Hiking Trail | Minneapolis, MN
Located in northern Minnesota, the Superior Hiking Trail is a 296-mile route that affords an epic adventure on the banks of Lake Superior. Whether thru-hiking or day-hiking, this trail, with its dense forests, deep gorges, and fast-flowing rivers (not to mention lovely views of the largest Great Lake) is an absolute must-experience.
5. Indian Peaks Wilderness Area | Boulder, CO
Engraved with snow-swept mountain peaks, a sprawling alpine tundra, and lakes, the Indian Peaks Wilderness explodes with memorable, dramatic scenery. This Indian Peaks Wilderness guide introduces you to the best trails winding around and through Colorado's prized outdoor haven. Expect to encounter a myriad of waterfalls, such as the mystical Cascade Falls, vast valley views, and clear bodies of water, such as Lake Dorothy and Lake Isabelle nestled into the mountains when exploring the Indian Peaks. Locals from Boulder and Denver enjoy traveling here for exciting, stimulating day trips.
6. Paint Mines | Colorado Springs, CO
Located in the prairies of Colorado, the Paint Mines are a geological and archaeological wonder to behold. Sculpted over millions of years, these gulches now form a clay and sandstone labyrinth of butterscotch yellows, burnt oranges, and ruby reds, reminiscent of South Dakota's legendary Badlands National Park.
7. Sleeping Indian | Jackson Hole, WY
The 12-mile roundtrip up Sleeping Indian is quite possibly the best hike in all of Jackson Hole- which is saying something. What makes it so great? Well, aside from the pristine pine forests and wildflower meadows, Sleeping Indian has the best views of the Tetons that you can find anywhere in the area, and it's not even in the Tetons.
8. Oneonta Gorge | Portland, OR
Though not much of a hike, and more like a .6-mile scramble over slippery and wobbly logs, Oneonta makes the list because it is truly one of the most stunning gorges in the country. Carved into a little cranny of the Columbia River Gorge, this picturesque canyon features lush green mossy walls and a wonderful swimming hole and waterfall at the end of the tunnel.
9. High Rock Lookout | Seattle, WA
The view from this old fire tower yields some of the most unbeatable views of Mt. Rainier that you can find anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. While it's only a 3-mile roundtrip, this hike is not for the faint of heart, as it features quite a bit of elevation gain as well as dizzying, vertigo-inducing heights. But the views... wow.
10. Big Basin Redwoods State Park | San Francisco, CA
Located in California's oldest state park, the Pine Mountain Trail, in Big Basin, is a thigh-burning journey that leads hikers through a dense forest of scented pines, ancient oaks, and towering redwoods until they reach the spectacular viewpoint known as 'Buzzards Roost.'
11. Tequepis Trail | Santa Barbara, CA
The best part about the Tequepis Trail isn't the smooth single track, or the 2,000 feet of elevation gain over 9-miles, or even the gorgeous views of Cachuma Lake. The best part about the Tequepis Trail is that it's the closest trail to the Cold Spring Tavern - a rustic restaurant hidden in a sycamore forest offering blues music, craft brews, and delicious Tri-Tip sandwiches.
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