A Directory of Natural Beauty
America’s 60 Best Day Hikes
While states like Alaska, California, Colorado and Montana might get all of the attention for great hiking (not without merit), there are great hikes tucked away in every pocket of the US. Virtually every state in the US has a great hike that can be tackled in a day, and many are even within striking distance of major cities. This summer instead of cowering indoors, sheltered from the heat, get out and embrace it. Hunt down a great view. Take a walk along a serene body of water. Bag the tallest summit in your state. The US is filled with amazing hikes. Use this list as a starting point, but be sure to explore beyond it and seek out the wandering side trail. – AJ Powell
Crimson Tide, Crystalline Lakes
The Draw: Crystalline lakes and one-of-a-kind Southern scenery. Starting from Blue Pond (a swimming hole worth returning to), the northern and southern loops take you past sapphire-blue ponds and a whole slew of Southern flora.
Don’t Miss: The bug spray. You’re passing through bogs and swamps, so you do the math. Visit in winter to dampen the swarm and take advantage of cooler temperatures.
How Long: 13.5-mile north loop and 5-mile south loop (connected by 4-mile link trail)
Found In: Andalusia, AL
Which Is: 2 hours northeast of Mobile; 2 hours south of Montgomery
Stare Down the Country’s Tallest Peak
Savage River Canyon Trail
Season: Summer. Depending on snowfall and weather, the trail can be open during the spring or fall. Check visitor center beforehand.
The Draw: A short, scenic hike alongside the Savage River’s whitewater. Since there are few tall trees, it’s easy to explore off the trail. The area’s a popular spot to picnic and sightsee because of its abundant wildlife. Don’t get too close to the grizzly bears.
Don’t Miss: On clear days, stare down Mount McKinley.
How Long: 2-mile loop
Found In: Denali National Park
Which Is: In central Alaska, a good 4.5-hour drive north of Anchorage
A Natural Wonder
Bright Angel Trail
Season: Year-round, but check with Park Rangers for current conditions.
The Draw: Wonderful views of the Grand Canyon and its carver, the Colorado River. But be careful: the trail is hot and steep, and being unprepared here can be deadly.
Don’t Miss: Cinematic views of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders.
How Long: 12 miles roundtrip
Found In: The Grand Canyon National Park, along the Canyon’s South Rim
Which Is: Just west of Bright Angel Lodge
Where Bill Clinton Inhales
Eagle Rock Loop
The Draw: More river crossings than your Chacos can handle. The path, however long you take it, continually crosses over creeks and rivers, then peaks at various vista points along the way.
Don’t Miss: Locking down bragging rights for the total loop. It’ll be tough to do in a day; take a weekend to complete this razorback rite of passage.
How Long: Up to 26.8 miles
Found In: Ouachita National Forest, AR
Which Is: 2 hours and 30 minutes southwest of Little Rock
A Far Cry From LA
East Fork Cold Spring and Montecito Peak
Season: It’s nice year-round. This is Cali.
The Draw: An arduous but scenic hike through a canyon, alongside a creek with infinite opportunities to explore small waterfalls and pools.
Don’t Miss: Southern California’s got more than just beach views. From Montecito Peak, there are fantastic views of Camino Cielo and Santa Barbara.
How Long: Just north of 9 miles roundtrip
Found In: Montecito, CA
Which Is: A 10-minute drive from Santa Barbara
The Draw: A view-filled hike that boasts a vast canyon, coastal waterfalls, a growing redwood forest and fantastic ocean views.
Don’t Miss: There isn’t one focal point to hone in on — it’s got everything. But if you want something extra unique, look for roosting California Condors.
How Long: 4.5 miles
Found In: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Which Is: Just east of Highway 1. The entrance is about 37 miles south of Carmel or 48 miles north of Ragged Point.
Take Off the Skis and Walk
Blue Lake Hike
Season: June to October
The Draw: This is great hiking above the tree line. Blue Lake sits in a bowl-shaped depression called a glacial cirque. The water is deep blue and is framed by the rocky feet of Mount Audubon, Mount Toll and Paiute Peak.
Don’t Miss: At the end of the trail, there’s a fairly inconspicuous path to the north shore of Upper Blue Lake. Routes to Little Pawnee Peak, Mount Toll and Paiute Peak branch off from Blue Lake as well.
How Long: 5.1 miles roundtrip
Found In: Indian Peaks Wilderness Area
Which Is: An hour west of Boulder, CO
Boats and I-95
Lion’s Head to Bear Mountain
The Draw: Bear Mountain is the highest peak in Connecticut, and hiking to it from Lion’s Head — along the Appalachian Trail — is the best way to get to the summit.
Don’t Miss: The 22-foot stone pyramid at the summit and views of the Catskills in New York and Mt. Everett in Massachusetts.
How Long: 13 miles
Found In: Salisbury, Connecticut
Which Is: 90 minutes north of Bridgeport; 75 minutes southeast of Albany
Bring the Gator Spray
Florida Trail, Hopkins Prairie to Juniper Springs
The Draw: The Juniper Prairie Wilderness, named “the jewel of the Florida trail” for its diverse flora and fauna.
Don’t Miss: Hidden Pond, a quiet watering hole fed by a crystal-clear spring. Do miss (but see from a distance) the sinkholes that line the path, interspersed between the surprisingly flush sand pine forest.
How Long: 10.5 miles
Found In: Silver Springs, FL
Which Is: 1 hour and 30 minutes northwest of Orlando; 1 hour and 45 minutes south of Jacksonville
Life’s a Peach
Blood Mountain Loop
The Draw: The route offers a mix of rhododendron-covered pathways and panoramic rock outcroppings — but the peak, sitting on jagged rocks overlooking the valley, is what you’re really here for.
Don’t Miss: Your DSLR, especially in autumn when the deciduous trees take on a panoply of colors, coating the trail with fallen leaves and making the somewhat easy trek entirely photo worthy.
How Long: 6 miles
Found In: Chattahoochee National Forest, GA
Which Is: 1 hour and 40 minutes north of Atlanta
This is the ultimate guide to hiking footwear. On this list you’ll find 20 of the best hiking shoes and boots. Get a pair and take them to the trail. Read the Story
The Draw: A 1,000-foot gorge that slices its way through lush forest growth. There are also naturally occurring water slides scattered along the way, so bring a bathing suit.
Don’t Miss: A hiking permit. The trip to the floor of the falls is restricted to 100 per day, so go on a slow weekday or go early.
How Long: 2 miles
Found In: Tallulah Falls, GA
Which Is: 2 hours northeast of Atlanta; 2 hours southwest of Asheville, North Carolina
Explore Volcano Country
Kuliouou Ridge Trail
The Draw: A diverse hike through forests, up ridges and with dramatic ocean views. It gets steep, but that’s part of the challenge.
Don’t Miss: Kuliouou Summit. You’ll have uninterrupted views of the valley, the Pacific Ocean and everything in between.
How Long: 5 miles round trip
Found In: The Kuli’ou’ou Valley
Which Is: On Oahu, minutes from downtown Honolulu
Touch Idaho’s Clouds
Borah Peak Hike
Season: Winter ascents are possible, but may require crampons, snowshoes and an ice axe. Try it during any of the other three.
The Draw: The rocky terrain, combined with tough, icy conditions makes for an arduous climb. It’s not quite Vertical Limit, but it’ll test you.
Don’t Miss: A chance to stand on top of Idaho. At 12,662 feet, Borah Peak is the highest point of elevation in the state.
How Long: Approximately 8 miles, roundtrip
Found In: The Lost River Mountain Range
Which Is: in Challis National Forest, central Idaho
Land of Lincoln.
Garden of the Gods
The Draw: Hundreds of millions of years have turned the sandstone in Southern Illinois into spectacular rock formations that sit high above Shawnee National Forest to the west and the Ohio River to the east.
Don’t Miss: Sunset.
How Long: approx. 0.5 miles
Found In: Shawnee National Forest, Simpson, IL
Which Is: 2 hours and 30 minutes southeast of St. Louis, MO; 3 hours northwest of Nashville, TN
One at the northern tip, one at the southern.
West Beach Trail
The Draw: It’s a beautiful hike among forest and the beaches of the southernmost point of Lake Michigan. Elevation changes are challenging and also give you a tremendous view of the water. Plus, it’s on the beach.
Don’t Miss: Bringing a picnic for cooling down with your feet in the water.
How Long: 3.4 miles
Found In: Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, IN
Which Is: 1 hour east of Chicago, IL; 2 hours 30 minutes north of Indianapolis
Adventure Hiking Trail
The Draw: This cleverly named trail is one of the longest continuous trails in the state. The loop takes hikers past four shelter houses, old pioneer houses, cliff faces and sinkholes.
Don’t Miss: Views of the Ohio River from the high bluffs along the trail.
How Long: 25 miles
Found In: Harrison-Crawford State Forest, Corydon, IN
Which Is: 1 hour west of Louisville, KY; 2 hours 30 minutes south of Indianapolis
The Hawkeye State.
Sylvan Runkel State Preserve
The Draw: The secluded ridgeline takes you above forests in a 12-mile loop around rolling grassy hills.
Don’t Miss: The “loess” is accumulated wind-blown silt piled up to 200 feet high. The only other places where loess reach these heights outside of the Iowa/Missouri region is along the Yellow River in China — a bit of a longer roundtrip.
How Long: 12 miles
Found In: Loess Hills State Forest, Harrison County, Iowa
Which Is: 2 hours west of Des Moines; 60 minutes north of Omaha, NE
Geographic center of the contiguous United States.
Elk City State Park
The Draw: The park offers some of the best hiking in Kansas while the lake and its rivers offer up bass, crappie, catfish and saugeye to fishermen.
Don’t Miss: The Green Thumb Nature Trail loop runs for one mile and empties out onto stunning views of Elk City Lake.
How Long: 12 miles
Found In: Montgomery County, Kansas
Which Is: 2 hours southeast of Wichita; 90 minutes north of Tulsa, OK
The Bourbon Trail
Swift Camp Creek Trail
The Draw: Lots and lots of arches: Red River Gorge carves out the largest concentration of arches east of the Rockies, all packed into tree-crowded scenery. Swift Camp drops you into the heart of things, past arches, waterfalls, and plenty of green.
Don’t Miss: The impact of the logging industry. Before it was declared a national park, the whole Daniel Boone forest was chopped. Loggers used to float trees down the creek; the logging trails and second-growth forest remain a testament to that time.