The Best Hiking Trails

People are always producing lists of the 10-best, 10-worst or 10-whatever you can imagine about outdoor recreation.  Let’s take a look at a few of the 10-best (or toughest) trail lists that have been making the rounds.  Be sure to click on the photos to see larger versions.

Top 10 of 15 Most Grueling Hiking Trails in America According to Diply

  1. Kalalau Trail – Hawaii: Eleven miles up, down and between the cliffs along the ocean of Kauai.  It features falling rocks and is so narrow in places above sheer cliffs that you may need to crawl.  If you make it to the ocean beaches alive, beware the deadly currents.
  2. Maroon Bells South Ridge – Colorado: Loose rocks on knife-edge ridges.  Lose your footing and . . .
  3. Half Dome Trail

    Half Dome Trail

    Mist Trail – California (and on up the Half Dome Trail): Up Yosemite’s steep cliffs and uneven trails (with railings) through some spectacular scenery then 600 feet up in a 1/4 mile as a warm-up to the final 400 feet that is so steep you will need to use the provided cables to pull yourself up.

  4. Rover’s Run Trail – Anchorage, Alaska: Grizzly bears – a lot of them!
  5. Cactus to Clouds Trail – Mt. San Jacinto from Palm Springs, California: At 10,300 feet (3,100 m), it has the greatest elevation gain of any trail in the United States and it makes the climb in 18 miles.
  6. Devil’s Path – Catskills; New York: It’s a hiking trail, in a mountain range of the same name, but you will still need to climb almost vertical cliffs and through rocky chutes to bag the five summits on the trail.
  7. King Ravine Trail – New Hampshire: Make your way though a cave then climb 1,100 feet in a half mile over slippery moss-covered rocks.  Total climb is 4,400 feet in 4.5 miles.
  8. The Three Apostles – Colorado:  Disappearing trails, loose rock, ice (even in the summer) and some complicated maneuvers if you want to bag all three peaks.
  9. Hoh-High Divide Traverse – Washington: It a 45 mile trek that goes up 4,400 feet – down 2,700 feet – up 2,700 feet – down 1,900 feet – up 2,300 feet– down 4,800 feet and the last 9.5 miles are flat – whew!
  10. Slickrock Creek Trail – Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, North Carolina: Dense rhododendron, 4,200 foot climb and, of course, slick rocks.

Top 10 of 12 Toughest Trails According to Backpacker

  1. Devil’s Path – Catskills; New York: see above
  2. Slickrock Creek Trail – Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, North Carolina: see above
  3. King Ravine Trail – New Hampshire: see above
  4. Paintbrush Canyon Trail

    Paintbrush Canyon Trail

    Paintbrush Canyon – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: Endlesss witchbacks up 4,000 feet  to the divide and you’d better make it over the top before noon or chance a life-changing thunderstorm.

  5. The Three Apostles – Colorado: see above
  6. Captain Peak Trail – New Mexico: A 3,800 for climb in 5.7 miles, lots of switchbacks, loose rock and a general lack of water.
  7. Grandview Trail – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona:  Hiking any of the trails into the Grand Canyon, and back out, are tough.  This one is 4,800 feet in 13 miles on a narrow trail carved into the canyon’s vertical walls with few chances to refill your water bottle.
  8. Charleston Peak

    Charleston Peak

    Charleston Peak Trail – Nevada: Nine miles and 9,700 vertical feet to the summit with no water, unless you can find some snow.

  9. Hoh-High Divide Traverse – Washington: see above
  10. Ruckel Ridge Trail – Columbia River Gorge, Oregon: Hike upward 3,700 feet in 3.8 miles on the sheer cliffs of the gorge.  Switchback through rockfall and carefully climb up, then down, several large rock sections.

Top 10 of 20 Best Day Hikes in the National Parks According to National Geographic

  1. Rim Trail, Maricopa Point to Hermits Rest – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: The most magnificent scenery in the world that changes all day long as the sunlight bathes one part then another.
  2. Upper Yosemite Falls – Yosemite National Park, California: A 2,700 foot climb in 3.5 miles to the top of the tallest waterfall in North America and the fifth tallest in the world.
  3. Landscape Arch

    Landscape Arch

    Devils Garden Trail to Landscape Arch – Arches National Park, Utah: Two miles to the longest natural stone arch in the world.

  4. Hoh River Trail – Olympic National Park, Washington: A 6.2 mile round trip introduces you to the temperate rainforest.
  5. Root Glacier Trail – Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska: Four miles round trip to get up close to a glacier.  If you want to explore the glacier further, bring your crampons.
  6. Wild Cave Tour – Mammoth Cave National Park, Kentucky: Five miles and six hours underground.  If your chest or hip measurement exceed 42 inches, you are out of luck.
  7. Cascade Canyon Trail to Lake Solitude – Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: A 14.4 mile round trip hike with wildflowers, mountain views, a waterfall and, of course, Lake Solitude.
  8. Halemau’u Trail – Haleakalā National Park, Hawaii: A 7.4 mile round trip with a 1,400 drop to the floor of Haleakalā crater.
  9. Fern Canyon

    Fern Canyon

    James Irvine/Miners Ridge Loop – Redwood National Park, California: On this 11.6 mile loop you’ll experience the giant redwoods as well as the other-worldly Fern Canyon that was featured in  Jurassic Park 2.

  10. Mount Washburn from Dunraven Pass Picnic Area – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana: A moderate round trip hike of 7.2 miles takes you to the top of Mt. Washburn and some spectacular views.  Along the way enjoy the wildflowers and wildlife.

10 Most Beautiful Hikes in the U.S. According to Fodor’s Travel

  1. West Maroon Creek Trail – Colorado: This 10 mile point-to-point hike takes you over the 12,480-foot Maroon Pass. Enjoy the wildflowers and spectacular views along the way.
  2. Harding Icefield Trail – Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska: An eight-mile round trip takes you to a point where you can look out over the Harding Icefield.
  3. Precipice Trail

    Precipice Trail

    Precipice Trail – Acadia National Park, Maine: You climb 1,000 feet on narrow ledges in 0.8 miles for a view of the Maine coast.

  4. Angels Landing Trail – Zion National Park, Utah: It’s 4.8 miles, round trip, on a trail with 21 switchbacks carved into the cliff face.  At the top you get one of the most spectacular 360° vistas in the western U.S.
  5. Kalalau Trail – Hawaii: See above.
  6. Mooney Falls – Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: Hike 3 miles from village of Supai through tunnels, down iron ladders, and across cliff faces with chains, to provide some safety, to the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls.
  7. Red River Gorge – Kentucky: It’s actually a 500-mile trail system so choose your own adventure.
  8. Highland Trail

    Highline Trail

    Highline Trail from Logan Pass to Granite Park Chalet – Glacier National Park, Montana:  It’s 7.6 miles from point to point and mostly flat, among the Continental Divide, with great views and wildlife all around.

  9. John Muir Trail – California.  The whole trail is 211 miles long, but many people take day hikes from one of the National Parks (Yosemite, Devil’s Postpile, Kings Canyon and Sequoia).  The trail starts in Yosemite and ends at the  top of Mount Whitney (14,497 feet).
  10. Greenstone Ridge Trail – Isle Royale National Park, Michigan: This 40-mile point to point trail follows the spine of the island from one end to the other.  along the way you have great views of the entire National Park and Lake Superior.

Photo Credits

  • Half Dome Trail:  By Ryan Holliday [GFDL]
  • Maroon Bells

    Maroon Bells

    Paintbrush Canyon Trail: By S. Zenner [Public domain]

  • Charleston Peak: By Jefftopham [Public domain]
  • Landscape Arch: By Cacophony [CC BY-SA 3.0]
  • Fern Canyon: National Park Service
  • Precipice Trail: National Park Service
  • Highline Trail: National Park Service
  • Maroon Bells: By Jesse Varner from Boulder, Colorado, USA (Maroon Bells) [CC BY-SA 2.0]

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