Prepared to stay the course? We cross-referenced the top authorities in adventure to bring you the ultimate top 10 US hiking trail list. Our qualifications? Every trail here was noted at least twice across four trusted "best of" lists. If you're ready to hit the trail, read on.
- Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
Distance: 8 miles round trip
Journey from valley floor to tree level on this steep four mile climb into the Ice Age: you'll land at a lookout point over the Harding Icefield -- a sheet of 23,000 year old glacial ice that stretches over 300 square miles.
Tip: Watch out for black bears and mountain goats, and understand bear safety before you hike.
- Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine
Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
This dizzyingly steep trail climbs 1,000 feet up the east face of the Champlain Mountain in .8 miles. If you can handle (very) lofty heights, you'll earn a stunning view of the Northeast coast.
Tip: This climb is nearly vertical and requires total fearlessness and presence of mind.
- Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
Distance: 4.8 miles round trip
This one is a physical feat. After ascending 2.4 miles past the Virgin River through Refrigerator Canyon; into a sweat-inducing series of 21 steep switchbacks known as "Walter's Wiggles", you'll find yourself at the top of Angel's Landing: a 1,488 foot sandstone formation with breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding piñon-juniper forests and canyon walls. Stay present for the narrow hike back down the mountain: it's precarious, but exhilarating.
Tip: The summit of Angels's Landing rises to nearly 6,000 feet in elevation. Bring extra water to avoid dehydration.
Mooney Falls, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Distance: 6 miles round trip
Named after a drunken cowboy who fell to his death here, this place is a 200 foot sandstone obstacle course of wet rocks, iron ladders, narrow caves, and rusty chains. Starting from the village of Supai in the Hualapai Indian Reservation, the trail descends into a stunning plunge pool ---- a blue oasis against the red canyon walls -- surrounded by a garden of wild grapes. It's paradise, sure... but you're gonna earn it.
Tip: Stay at a guest lodge in Supai and learn more about the vibrant culture of its people.
- John Muir Trail, California
Distance: 211 miles
Widely known as the finest mountain scenery in the U.S., this 211 mile jaunt through the High Sierra backcountry will leave you breathless in more ways than one. If you don't have a month to devote to this climb, pick a park for a day hike: Yosemite valley, Ansel Adams Wilderness, Devils Postpile National Monument, and Kings Canyon are all worthy treks... or set your sights on Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental U.S. at 14,497 feet.
Tip: Elevations remain high throughout the John Muir trail, at 8,000 feet or above. Give yourself 25 percent more time than you anticipate needing: you're slower at high altitudes.
- Greenstone Ridge Trail, Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
Distance: 40 Miles (4 days) one-way
It takes four days and three nights to climb the high ridge that runs from one end of Isle Royale, the largest island on Lake Superior, to the other. Atop Mount Desor, you'll gaze out over the craggy shoreline to the pristine lake and 400 smaller surrounding islands. And you'll likely have the place to yourself as Isle Royale is the least well-known of the national parks on our list... well, almost to yourself: moose, loons, and howling wolves will likely accompany your journey.
Tip: Backpackers can spend extra time exploring Greenstone Ridge's 36 designated wilderness campgrounds. Hike the entire 40-mile trail in four days (there's a boat shuttle pickup at the other end), or move on to the 165 miles of extended trail.
- Grinnell Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana
Distance: 11 Miles round trip
Marvel at glacial valley lakes, Alpine wildflower meadows and possible grizzlies as you work your way to the mouth of Grinnel Glacier. You'll skirt Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lakes on your ascent to the glacial peak overlooking icy blue Grinnel Lake waters.
Tip: Opt for a Swiftcurrent and Josephine Lake boat tour if any of your trail companions need to shave 3.8 miles off their hike.
- Mount LeConte, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Distance: 10.4 miles round trip
A 6,593 foot trek up Mount LeConte takes you through spruce and balsam hardwood forests to exposed cliffs. You'll earn bragging rights for climbing a "Sixer" (an Appalacian mountain higher than 6,000 feet -- one of the tallest in the East), and gain access to diverse and rarely seen habitats and views.
Tip: Book a room at the mountaintop LeConte Lodge for the night and save the descent for the next day.
- Old Rag Loop, Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Distance: 8.8 miles round trip
Set out across the Blue Ridge Mountains and enjoy sweeping views and a fair amount of sweat: you'll scramble up over 2,200 feet of steep granite crests using all your limbs. At the top of the loop, you'll be able to see 100 miles in every direction: the climb is always worth it.
Tip: Hike Old Rag in the spring, when the wildflowers pop and you won’t have to worry about bugs.
- 30 Mile Wilderness, Appalachian Trail, Maine
Distance: You guessed it. 30 miles.
The Appalacian trails combined total an approximate 2,200 miles of unkempt wilderness across Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire and, finally, Maine. This 30 mile trail showcases the best of the Appalachias, with access to Lower Wilson Falls, rushing streams, and panoramic views of Maine's vibrant maple forests.
Tip: You'll be traversing straight up forest, so be on the lookout for wildlife... including insects.