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15 Best Hiking Vacations in the USA


People on a rock overlooking Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
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This article was originally published on Tripadvisor.com. Viator is part of the Tripadvisor Media Group. Follow Viator on Instagram at @viatortravel, and Tripadvisor at @tripadvisor.

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By Olivia Cohen, Tripadvisor.com

From family-friendly, scenic trails to heart-thumping climbs, we’ve uncovered 15 great hiking trips you can take—no matter the season. It’s not just stellar trails that make these some of the best hiking vacations in America—after all, you may want at least one day of lighter outdoor recreation. That’s why we’re featuring other top tours, activities, and experiences to enjoy during your stay. Think guided photography tours of Yosemite, visiting a conservation center in the Adirondacks, or an off-road adventure on Kauai. Plus, our 24-hour cancellation policy means you can pre-book before arriving, but still have the flexibility to cancel if your itinerary changes.


Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond, one of the most photographed spots in Acadia National Park. Photo: Benjamin Rascoe / Unsplash

Maine

Acadia National Park is one for superlatives—both the most-visited national park in the Northeast and home to the highest peak along the North Atlantic seaboard, Acadia is one of the best hiking destinations in the US. Make the drive up Cadillac Mountain to take in stunning views from the 1,500-foot tall peak, or challenge yourself to hikes like the Gotham Mountain Trail. You can even join a narrated sightseeing cruise from Northeast Harbor or rent canoes and kayaks to take out from Bar Harbor. Check it all out on your own or hit the park's highlights on a guided tour.

Find out more about Acadia National Park

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park offers some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the country. Photo: Saul Mercado / Unsplash

Montana

Montana may be landlocked, but a visit to Glacier National Park is all about the water. Hike to pristine alpine lakes, drive past waterfalls, or take a white-water rafting trip down the Flathead River. The Grinnell Glacier stands as a looming challenge over the park, but its rewarding views are unbeatable—be sure to bring plenty of food and water if you do the 8-mile trail on your own. Then, give your legs a break when you drive down the 52-mile Going-to-the-Sun-Road, a scenic highlight reel of Glacier National Park’s diverse wildlife and incredible landscapes.

Find out more about Glacier National Park

Yosemite National Park

Cook's Meadow Loop is an easy walk with views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small / Viator

California

In Yosemite, steep granite cliffs tower above redwood trees and host tumbling waterfalls. Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan stand out as the park’s most recognized natural formations. Though so much wilderness makes Yosemite one of the best hiking vacations you can take, the park is also a hit among photographers. Follow in the footsteps of Ansel Adams on a Yosemite photography tour to find the park’s best angles. Plus, unlike many parks that are far from urban centers, Yosemite is easily visited on a day trip from San Francisco, Tahoe, or San Jose.

Related: Where to Find the Best Photo Ops in Yosemite

Editor's note: Due to the recent wildfires, please refer to the National Park Services’ website for information about accessibility and permissibility in Yosemite.

See all things to do in Yosemite National Park

Big Sur

A Big Sur traveler looks out over the Pacific ocean during golden hour. Photo: Peter Thomas / Unsplash

California

Rocky coastlines give way to crashing Pacific waves in Big Sur, a gem of a hiking destination along the California coast. Big Sur is easy enough to fit in during a California road trip—the area is right off Highway 1—but Big Sur’s incredible natural beauty merits its own visit. Take a hike through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or at the Point Sur State Historic Park for gorgeous views of mist-shrouded cliffs and waterfalls dropping straight into the ocean. If you don’t have your own car, consider visiting as part of a tour, like this Pacific Coast Highway day trip from San Francisco.

See all Pacific Coast Highway day trips

Great Smoky Mountains

Elk in a field of yellow flowers in the Great Smoky Mountains
Elk in a field of yellow flowers in the Great Smoky Mountains. Photo: Delaney Van / Unsplash

Tennessee–North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the best hiking vacations for their rolling hills and scenic trails. Hike up Mount LeConte to see the Smokies stretching endlessly into the horizon, or check out the popular Alum Cave Trail, which leads you past rushing rivers through fields of wildflowers. Though well-marked trails make it easy enough to explore on your own, go with a guide to make the most of every moment. Specialty tours include a Smoky Mountains Waterfall Adventure and tours by helicopter and open-air Jeep.

Read more about the Great Smoky Mountains

Zion National Park

Hikers walking through the Narrows in Zion National Park. Photo: Frances Gunn / Unsplash

Utah

Zion National Park is easily one of the most-recognized hiking destinations in the US, known for its mesmerizing red rocks smoothly carved out by water. Bring your A-game to the trails at the Narrows, aptly named for the tight squeezes needed to get through columns of river-bound rocks. Once through, you will be richly rewarded by a number of viewpoints around the park that will surely take your breath away. If you’re looking for extra adventure, try a rock climbing and canyoneering tour or combine a visit to Zion with other nearby parks such as Bryce Canyon National Park.

Related: Top Hiking Trails in Zion National Park and How to Spend 3 Days in Zion National Park

See all things to do in Zion National Park

Blue Ridge

The Blue Ridge Mountains as seen from a lookout in western North Carolina. Photo: Wes Hicks / Unsplash

Georgia

The sleepy town of Blue Ridge is full of historic Southern charm. Ride down old train trestles on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, stroll through the quaint boutique-filled downtown, or bring the whole family for a day of outdoor fun at the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge or Long Creek Falls. Plus, because it’s nestled in the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town is an ideal home base for a mountain retreat.

See all Blue Ridge Scenic Railway experiences

Estes Park

Bear Lake Trail in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
Bear Lake Trail in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park. Photo: Jeff Finley / Unsplash

Colorado

Estes Park is the quintessential Rocky Mountains vacation destination and aptly known as the Gateway to the Rockies. Between its homey downtown and easy access to some of the best hiking trips in Colorado, Estes Park is a top stop for serious backpackers and casual hikers alike. Experienced hikers can use Estes as a basecamp for longer ascents into the Rocky Mountains, while nature-lovers of all hiking abilities love the easy Adams Falls Trail and hike to Lily Lake. If you aren’t looking to attempt hikes on your own, a guided tour or a private wildlife safari offer good introductions to the area’s rich wildlife and scenery.

Related: Best Ski Destinations in the US Rocky Mountains

See all things to do in Estes Park

Big Bear Lake

Cabins on the shore alongside Big Bear Lake in California. Photo: Joshua Chun / Unpslash

California

Big Bear Lake may be small, but it packs in plenty of outdoor activities. This lakeside retreat in southern California is best known for its winter skiing, but also offers a number of hiking trails like Castle Rock Trail that are perfect for exploring in the summer. The area also features the popular Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which rehabs native animals and offers visitors a great chance to learn about local wildlife, including the lake’s namesake creatures.

See all things to do in Big Bear

Columbia River Gorge

Oneonta Gorge in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon
A traveler faces Oneonta Gorge in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon. Photo: Kristin Ellis / Unsplash

Oregon

In addition to being one of the best hiking destinations in the US, Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular and scenic day trips from Portland. Take a half-day tour from Portland to the picture-ready Multnomah Falls—a hiking and biking tour is also an option—or spend the afternoon wandering down well-marked trails and taking scenic drives on your own. Dewy forest floors and wildflower-filled fields make Columbia River Gorge a hiker’s dream.

See all Columbia River Gorge experiences

South Lake Tahoe

A waterfall in the Desolation Wilderness, South Lake Tahoe. Photo: Eric Ward / Unsplash

California

Clear glacial waters hemmed by towering snow-capped peaks make South Lake Tahoe a popular vacation destination. Though hiking Mt. Tallac Trail or to Lower Eagle Falls are good trekking options, the area is also well-known for its water sports and cultural activities. Take a cruise on Emerald Bay, book a parasailing adventure, or snag a kayak for a day paddling through blue waters. Then, hit up the town’s many restaurants, bars, and clubs for a fun end to a full day.

Related: Top Hiking Trails in Tahoe

Find more things to do in Lake Tahoe

Kauai

Kalalau Trail on Kauai, Hawaii
Kalalau Trail on Kauai, Hawaii. Photo: Malte / Unsplash

Hawaii

A whole island full of gorgeous scenery and exciting outdoor activities, Kauai makes for a paradisiacal hiking vacation. From the jagged ridges of Na Pali Coast State Park to the gulches of Waimea Canyon, hiking opportunities abound—and more. Rev your adrenaline with an off-road adventure, unwind on a sunset dinner cruise, or opt into one of the most popular helicopter tour destinations in the country. With a whole island of activities to choose from, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.

Related: Top Hiking Trails on Kauai

See all Kauai hiking tours

Jackson Hole (Grand Teton National Park)

Two bison at a standoff in Grand Teton National Park. Photo: Eustacio Humphrey / Viator

Wyoming

Jackson Hole is a skiing paradise in the winter, but has hikes to waterfalls, crater lakes, and woodland wonderlands during warmer months. From the family-friendly Cascade Canyon Trail to the heart-thumping Static Peak Divide, Grand Teton National Park is by far one of the best hiking vacations you can take. Pack in even more adventure by booking a Grand Teton safari for chances to see animals like elk, bears, and bison in the wild.

Related: How to Spend 1 Day in Grand Teton National Park

See all Grand Teton National Park experiences

Jay (Jay Peak)

A snowy scene in Vermont. Photo: Kevin Wiegand / Unsplash

Vermont

A high-end ski resort turns summertime bucket-list destination in Jay, a cozy city with family-friendly amenities and plenty to keep kids entertained, including the popular Jay Peak Pump House. The town’s best hike is to its namesake summit, Jay Peak, a moderate 3-mile trail past wildflowers, boulders, and pastures.

Adirondacks

Ampersand Mountain Trail near Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains. Photo: Greg Garnhart / Unsplash

New York

The Adirondacks have great hiking, to be sure, but they offer a whole lot more: go white-water rafting, learn about conservation at the kid-friendly Wild Center, or make some waves on glassy Lake Placid. You can even join guided hiking and camping adventures. Be sure to get to Bald Mountain, too, for an easy hike for the whole family.

Find out more about the Adirondacks

Top nature and wildlife tours in the US

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Hi, I'm Tripadvisor!

This article was originally published on Tripadvisor.com. Viator is part of the Tripadvisor Media Group. Follow Viator on Instagram at @viatortravel, and Tripadvisor at @tripadvisor.

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