Hiking events

The best hiking trails in the United States to find your way

Even if you’re an avid hiker, you might take the trails for granted. It’s just the mundane surface you walk on, isn’t it? The point of the hike is more transcendent – the view of a distant peak, a soaring eagle, an unusual plant growing wild. But wait – those modest trails are what allow you to see nature’s beauty without having to scramble your way. And the perfect time to enjoy the trails is June 4, the American Hiking Society’s National Trails Day.

Best US Cities for Hiking

What is the best city for hiking? Well, it depends on what you like. Desert lovers will delight in the giant saguaro cacti towering over them in Saguaro National Park. It’s on the outskirts of Tucson, Arizona where you can spot vermilion flycatchers and maybe even a mountain lion. Those who prefer cooler weather could hike around the Mendenhall Glacier outside of Juneau, Alaska, where you might see black bear cubs playing in the trees.

Related: These elevated log cabins are only accessible by hiking trail

Fortunately, many Americans have access to trails in or near their homes. According to a 2022 study by lawn care company LawnStarter, the top 10 US cities for hiking are: Portland, Tucson, Phoenix, Colorado Springs, Oakland, Salt Lake City, Los Angeles, Boise, Las Vegas and San Diego.

Some of them seem surprising – Oakland and Los Angeles are so urban, and who goes to the neon jungle of Vegas to hike? The research methodology considered the number of hiking routes and campsites, consumer ratings of hiking quality, climate (points for extreme heat or cold), and Quality Index air. They also looked at the really bad stuff like natural hazards, crime, and death rates.

If you want to do some challenging hiking, four cities tied for the most moderately difficult or difficult hiking trails: Hialeah, Florida, along with Pomona, Oxford, and Santa Ana, California. Do you prefer easier walks? Aurora, Colorado, Salem, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington were among the cities with the lowest share of more difficult hikes.

A woman carrying a child on her back hiking through a dirt road

Bucket List Trails

According to a 2017 report by the Adventure Travel Trade Association, hiking has overtaken backpacking, kayaking and rafting as the main activity among adventure travelers. That means a lot of people plan their trips around the bucket list hiking trails. A 2021 Travel + Leisure article names his favorite hikes, from the Appalachian Trail in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park to the Halema’uma’u Trail in Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park. In fact, national parks are the common denominator for many great trails. These lands are set aside and protected for a reason.

You should definitely follow the trails on your to-do list. But they can take some planning. The trails can be crowded in the most beautiful and well-known parks, especially in high season. Campsites, hotels and vacation rentals are also full. And, of course, you have to think of all your family members. Will the trail be too dangerous for small children? And what about Fido? Many national parks confine pets to campgrounds and parking lots. So do your research and find accommodation in advance. Yosemite in July is not the time to fly away.

Also, you can sometimes find very nice trails in the national forest or on national monument lands. These may look a lot like nearby parks, but they have fewer people and are more likely to allow dogs. For example, your dog might not enjoy Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah because he will be confined to paved surfaces like roads, campgrounds, and parking lots. But drive less than an hour northeast to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument and leashed dogs can let off steam on all the best trails.

A person standing on a hill looking towards a forest area

Hiking and learning

Some hikers want education in addition to their exercise and therefore enjoy interpretive trails. This can be an especially fun way to engage kids who prefer dinosaurs to dirt and trees. Learn your fossil facts at the Clarno Unit of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Oregon. Signs along the trail point to fossilized plants in the cliff faces and talk about crazy creatures that once lived here, such as crocodilians and tiny four-toed horses. Dinosaur fans will enjoy the Dinosaur Hill family loop near Grand Junction, Colorado, with bones and dig sites.

Be a Trail Volunteer

If you really want to show your love for the trails, National Trails Day is the perfect day to give back. And this year is very special, as it marks the 13th National Trails Day.

“There’s something magical about being outdoors,” said Kate Van Waes, executive director of the American Hiking Society. “The fresh air, the chirping of birds, moving along a trail or even just around the block – there’s nothing quite like it. But today, these pathways and green spaces are in dire need of help – and not everyone has access to or feels welcome in these places that can calm and inspire.

So if you’re willing and able to get out on the trails and lend a hand, you can find an event near you on the American Hiking Society’s website. Or get involved by sharing how you’re leaving the outdoors better than you found them by tagging #NationalTrailsDay and @AmericanHiking in your Instagram photo and video posts. Share your best trail photos by June 6 and you could even win gear.

Via American Hiking Society

Images via Pexels