Looking for the best US day hikes can be a challenge. There are countless hiking trails scattered across the United States, varying in difficulty and length. With the help of some of the amazing women that hike them, here is a list of a few of the best day hikes around the U.S.
Best Day Hikes in the U.S.
Ocean Path Trail – Acadia National Park, Maine
Submitted by Margie from DQTravel.net
One of the best US day hikes is the Ocean Path Trail in Acadia National Park in Maine. The trail is a groomed pathway near the top of the Cadillac Mountain. There is a gentle incline, but overall the trail is fairly easy. There are numerous “side adventures” you can take off the main path and onto the rocks’ edge. This was my favorite part because you were able to explore and climb these beautiful granite rock formations and then see the Atlantic Ocean.
I visited with my family of 4 and all of us enjoyed this hike immensely. We ventured and scrambled onto a few different viewpoints and gazed at the waves hitting the rocks. The kids loved the scrambling part! We made sure there was one adult at the front and one at the end, to help a child in case they struggled or just to give a helping hand. While my husband and I wanted to sit and take in the views, all they wanted to do was climb!
The entire hike is 2 miles to the end (Otter Cliff), and then 2 miles back to your car. We took about 2-3 hours to walk, explore and soak in the views. Although the afternoon was slightly foggy, we were still able to see some stunning sights. It is definitely a must do day hike!
I’m Margie… a teacher turned family travel blogger. Since I got married 12 years ago, my husband introduced me to the joys of traveling. With our two kids, we have traveled around the country and our goal is visiting all 50 states before they graduate high school. Follow me on Facebook.
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Torrey Pines Natural Reserve – San Diego, California
Submitted by Angelica from Things to do and Eat
For anyone visiting San Diego, hiking in Torrey Pines Natural Reserve is a must! This area is a natural reserve dedicated to protecting several desert flora. It’s totally different from most other best US day hikes since it’s in a desert and on the coast. This means your hike will be full of gorgeous views of the ocean, dramatic sand-swept cliffs, and (sometimes blooming) desert cacti.
There are six main hiking trails to choose from. They’re mostly easy and incredibly short (the longest trail is 2.5 miles)- which makes it perfect for people who are just starting out with hiking. Plus, the trail heads are at the top of a hill, so if you park in the upper lot, you’re only walking downhill. For more advanced folks, the trails are all close together, so you can do multiple in a day.
Note that since this is a natural reserve and not a state park, there are a few different rules. For example, food, non-water drinks, and dogs aren’t allowed on the natural reserve- only on the beach. You can read about the rules and updated parking costs on their website, and you can look at more pictures of this best US day hike on mine!
Angelica is a travel and food blogger at Things to do and Eat. She is based in San Diego, and when she’s not exploring the city, she’s probably traveling to new places and trying their food or getting lost in their nature. Follow her on Facebook.
Delicate Arch – Arches National Park, Utah
Submitted by Jamie From Photo Jeepers
Trailhead & Parking Area: Wolfe Ranch
Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 610 feet
Difficulty Level: Moderate, but can be strenuous on a hot summer day
There are many hiking trails in Arches National Park, but the Delicate Arch trail is one of the best US day hikes. It’s an extremely popular hiking trail and the only way to see the world’s most famous arch up close.
The hike is three miles round-trip. It’s rated moderate due to the steep section along slickrock where you follow cairns (piles of rocks). It’s best to hike this trail in the morning or evening since there is little shade. It’s important to wear good hiking shoes, drink lots of water, and take your time on this trail.
You won’t see Delicate Arch as you walk along the trail. But once you round the corner and see it, you’ll know why it’s considered the best hike in Arches National Park. The arch is in a slanted bowl so be careful as you walk over to have your photo taken while standing under it. Be considerate of others trying to get photos of the arch and take turns. There is so much to see, do and photograph at Arches National Park. Be sure to put the Delicate Arch Hiking Trail at the top of your best US day hikes list.
Jamie and David, Photo Jeepers: David enjoys photography and exploring areas off the beaten path in the jeep. Jamie plans and organizes the travel itineraries and details. We share our photos and stories to Inform and Inspire you to explore new places and capture your adventure with photographs. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram
Widforss Point Trail – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Submitted by Alison from Happy people hike
Did you know the average time spent looking at the Grand Canyon is 17 minutes? On our first trip to this incredible location, we were determined to come in above average. The first part of our plan was to visit the less popular North Rim. We then opted for the Widforss Point Trail, where we were able to get a backcountry permit for an overnight stay, however, this trail would make for the best US day hike.
Coming in right around 5 miles one way, this trail offers epic views of the canyon, as well as terrain not typical to what one might expect. The easy to follow trail winds through a forest of fir, spruce and aspen then takes you right back up to the edge of the canyon when you least expect it. Moderate difficulty with minimal elevation gain but some up and downs along the way, the view at the end is worth every step.
The solitude found at Widorss Point is exactly what we were after. If you aren’t staying overnight we would recommend planning at least an extra hour to take in the magnitude of the canyon. There are no facilities or water available along the way so plan ahead and enjoy a picnic or small nap overlooking one of America’s most beloved treasures, the Grand Canyon!
Alison is the co-founder of Happy People Hike, a brand created to inspire passion, encourage well being, and help others discover their happy. Her home base is Grand Rapids, MI with her husband Dan and two four legged kids, Penny and Sid. Follow their adventures on Facebook or Instagram or learn more at www.happypeoplehike.com.
Lost Lake – Mt. Hood, Oregon
Submitted by Catherine Ryan Gregory from To and Fro Farm
My family and I live outside of Portland, Oregon, easily one of the best locations for gorgeous kid-friendly hikes and outdoor activities. My new favorite day hike, at Lost Lake on Mt. Hood, has it all: Easy terrain for little ones to manage, family-friendly activities for after this best US day hike, and of course stunning views. I’m kicking myself that it took us several years to explore this phenomenal day hike in Oregon.
The 3.25-mile hike around this mountain lake has almost zero elevation gain, and the trails are extremely well maintained—good news for young hikers like my daughters, ages 3 and 5. The biggest draw for this day hike: Postcard-perfect views of Mt. Hood towering over the clear blue waters of Lost Lake.
A few tips: Arrive early in the day to get a parking spot without driving in circles, and know that crowds increase throughout the day—especially on weekends. Bring a boat or kayak, or rent one (2-hour minimum during summer months), to paddle to the middle of Lost Lake. And definitely don’t forget your camera: You’ll want to take photos to remember this hike forever!
Read a full post about hiking Lost Lake with kids at To & Fro Fam.
Catherine Ryan Gregory is a mom of two who explores the Pacific Northwest (and beyond) with her husband, two daughters and rescue dog. She blogs about making family travel easier—and memorable for all the right reasons—at To & Fro Fam.
Kanarra Falls – Zion National Park, Utah
Submitted by Allison from She Dreams of Alpine
If you happen to be visiting Zion National Park in Utah, but are looking for a day hike that is a bit less crowded than the ones you will find at the park, then consider stopping in Kanarraville, Utah to hike the Kanarra Falls trail. The Kanarra Falls hike is a short, easy US day hike through a beautiful slot canyon to a small waterfall. If you hike to the main waterfall, Kanarra Falls, it is only about a 3 mile round trip hike. The hike is fairly straight forward, but you will eventually be hiking along Kanarra Creek until you hit the entrance of a slot canyon where you will start hiking in the water to the main waterfall. If you choose to continue past the waterfall, you can climb a fun ladder to the top of the falls and continue onward. Plan to set aside 2-5 hours of your time to hike to the falls and back to the trailhead, and if you want to beat the heat in the summer months try to do this hike earlier in the morning or in the evening. Keep in mind that there is an $8 per person permit required to hike this trail, but there is currently no quota on the number of people to hike the trail per day. Be respectful of the land and trail, and enjoy one of Utah’s hidden gems, Kanarra Falls. If you’re looking for more things to do in Zion check out this Zion National Park Itinerary.
Allison is the founder and primary author for She Dreams of Alpine blog and works with her partner Michael who helps take most of the photography that can be found on the site. She Dreams of Alpine is an outdoor adventure travel blog that is aimed at those who love not only to travel but to spend the majority of their time in the outdoors hiking, backpacking, and rock climbing their way around the world. Allison founded the blog in an aim to break stereotypes and empower others to be as adventurous and daring as they dream of. Follow her on Instagram
Summerland Trail – Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Submitted by Jennifer from National Park Obsessed
Summerland Trail is an 8.4-mile out-and-back trip is one of the best US day hikes along the 92-mile Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. The trail starts about 3 miles from the White River Entrance but alternate parking can be found at White River Campground and Sunrise Visitor Center. The campground and visitor center parking will add extra mileage to the hike. Plan on getting to the parking lot early if you want a space at the Summerland lot.
The trail slowly meanders through old growth forest. The trail steadily gains elevation until you arrive in Fryingpan Creek Valley. After crossing Fryingpan Creek, the trail climbs steeply and provides unreal views of Little Tahoma, Goat Island, and if you are really lucky Mount Rainer. The trail ends in the subalpine meadows of Summerland.
Stay on the trail while in the Summerland meadow and don’t pick the flowers. Both the actions damage the meadows and ruin the beauty of the meadows for other hikers. Same goes for feeding the cute little chipmunks and other furry creatures.
Jennifer has been obsessed with national parks as a child. This Tennessee native spent her childhood exploring the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and traveling with her parents to National Parks and around the Caribbean. She is always planning her next adventure and is ready to see the world while trying to visit all 59 National Park (*She is ignoring the hunk of concrete that just became a national park).
Chief Mountain – near Idaho Springs, Colorado
Submitted by Stephanie Stallings
My absolute favorite US day hike is Chief Mountain in Colorado! It has the views of a 14er without actually climbing a 14er (talk about the best of both worlds). It’s an incredible hike because when we reach the summit it feels like you’re on top of the world. You also see nothing but mountains surrounding you!
Chief Mountain is not the most strenuous nor is it super simple. This 3.1 mile out and back trail will push you just outside of your comfort zone. There are beautiful wild flowers, not to mention – it’s never crowded. You basically have the entire trail to yourselves! That’s the best kind of hike in my opinion. The trail is at its best from June to November. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but should be kept on a leash.
Hey! I’m Steph – an adventure loving 29-year-old child. I love hiking, traveling and drinking iced coffee. 🙂 I’m pretty badass when I want to be. When I’m not out enjoying the world – I’m watching Netflix and hanging out with my dog Finley. You can follow my adventures on Instagram.
Notch Trail – Badlands National Park, South Dakota
Submitted by Ketki from Dotted Globe
Badlands National Park was my favorite stop during our South Dakota Road Trip. The National Park is best explored by hiking through the bizarre geological landforms and mixed grass prairies. We hiked about half a dozen trails during our stay in Badlands but if you can hike just one, I would strongly recommend the Notch Trail.
The Notch trail is a short and moderately strenuous trail that climbs the Badlands Wall, a geological escarpment of sharply eroded rocks. Along the way the trail goes through mixed-grass prairies, a narrow ravine, and then up a steep log ladder. It follows the cliff edge and leads to a ledge on the top of the Wall.that has beautiful views of the dramatic Badlands landscape. The views from the top are incredibly beautiful and worth the efforts. My favorite part of this trail is the steep log ladder which increases the sense of adventure.
The Notch Trail is just under 2 miles round-trip and can be easily done by hikers of average physical fitness. We saw many families and older hikers completing this best US day hike.
I’m Ketki Sharangpani, an Indian living in the United States. I dream of writing spirited, slightly acerbic and witty stories, being a celebrated author, and traveling the world to see striking buildings, people and cultures, and experience profound sunrises, shadows and rituals. Dotted Globe is my take on combining passions as a travel writer. Read more about why I launched Dotted Globe and the time I received a blogging award. Follow me on Instagram.
Kalalau Trail – Kauai, Hawaii
Submitted by Michelle Joy from Harbors and Havens
On the northern shore of Hawaii’s island of Kauai, pave fades into sand at the Ke’e Beach. It’s the end of the orad, but only the beginning of the journey for those attempting the Kalalau trail along Kauai’s Na Pali Coast.
This part of the island can only be accessed by the land on foot along an 11-mile (each way) path that crosses valley and beaches and climbs cliffs with sheer drops. While experience, permits, overnight camping and some serious gumption are required to attempt the long strenuous journey, day hikers can tackle a shorter portion up and down the uneven dirt paths leading to a beach and waterfall.
The 2-mile marker (and end of the permit-free trail) in the golden sand of Hanakapi’ai Beach, where waves violently pound the shore in winter. If you start early enough and have the stamina, you can attempt to climb another two miles up a side trail to Hanakapi’ai Falls, which runs down to the ocean below.
While you don’t need extensive experience to attempt the 4 or 8-mile round trip to the first beach and falls of the Kalalau, the is a bit challenging, thanks to its ascents and descents and a stream crossing. One of the best views of the breathtaking Na Pali Coast sea cliffs is from the half-mile marker, though, so even a short trek here pays off in some incredible photos and one of the best US day hikes ever.