These are the best day hikes in the USA

These are the best day hikes in the USA: 16 favorites

There is nothing more fun than hiking in the USA. It’s one of the best ways to get to know the diverse landscape. This is an overview of the best day hikes in the USA.

About this overview

This overview contains the best day hikes in the USA that I hiked myself and I would like to share these with you. There will undoubtedly be trails that you already know of, but I’m sure you’ll also discover some new great hiking trails. Since there are so many places to go hiking in the US, the best day hikes in the USA are listed by state.

California

Hidden Valley Trail (Joshua Tree National Park)

Hidden Valley Trail - Joshua Tree National Park

Are you short on time in Joshua Tree National Park and are you only able to do one short hike? Then I can highly recommend the Hidden Valley Trail. It is a short hike and you will find many special rock formations next to many Joshua Trees. A perfect hike to get to know the park.

  • Hike length: 1 mile (1.6 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: easy

Mastodon Peak Loop Trail (Joshua Tree National Park)

Flowers along the trail to Mastodon Peak - Joshua Tree National Park
In early Spring, you might see are many flowers in bloom in the desert. A beautiful view.

Do you have a little more time in Joshua Tree National Park and do you like a challenge? Then you should try the Mastodon Peak Loop Trail. For me personally, this is one of the best hikes in Joshua Tree. This is a strenuous hike with a steep climb. To get to the top of Mastodon Peak you have to do a little bit of rock climbing (watch out for rattlesnakes!). And from there you have a fantastic view of Joshua Tree National Park and you can even see the San Jacinto Mountains.

  • Hike length: 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: difficult (especially the last part to the top)

Hawaii

Diamond Head (Oahu)

View from Diamond Head - Oahu Hawaii

Diamond Head is an iconic crater of a volcano on the island of Oahu and is located near Honolulu. From Waikiki Beach, you have a nice view of Diamond Head, but from Diamond Head, you have an even better view of Waikiki and Honolulu.

On Diamond Head, you will also find remains of bunkers (the crater was long used to defend the coastline), and you actually hike through them.

  • Hike length: 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: medium (you have to climb a bit and it is always hot and humid in Hawaii)

Manoa Falls (Oahu)

Are you staying in Honolulu or Waikiki and do you want to explore a little bit of a rainforest? Check out the hike to Manoa Falls! The trailhead is easily accessible by both car and public transport. It is a relatively short hike and you wander straight through the jungle to a 150-meter high waterfall. Fun and adventurous!

  • Hike length: 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: medium (no climbing, but the path is very muddy and slippery)
  • Tip: put your stuff in a dry bag to keep it dry. Chances of rain are high!

Nevada

Fire Wave Trail (Valley of Fire State Park)

Fire Wave - Valley of Fire State Park

One of the most beautiful places in Nevada is Valley of Fire State Park, about a 45-minute drive from Las Vegas. One of the most popular places in the park is the Fire Wave, bright red rocks with a wavy motif. You can get here by hiking the short Fire Wave Trail and it is well worth it. Don’t forget to bring a camera and a bottle of water (it can get very hot in the desert and there’s no shade).

  • Hike length: 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: easy

Turtlehead Peak (Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area)

Turtlehead Peak - Red Rock Canyon State Park

On the other side of Las Vegas is the beautiful Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, another park full of interesting rock formations. One of the most beautiful trails here is the one to the top of Turtlehead Peak, one of the highest peaks in the park. From here you have an incredibly beautiful view of Las Vegas and you can see some of the awesome themed hotels on the Strip.

  • Hike length: 4.6 miles (7.4 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: difficult (it’s quite a climb to get to the top)

New York State

Gorge Trail (Watkins Glen State Park)

Gorge Trail - Watkins Glen State Park

Watkins Glen State Park looks like something out of a fairytale. It is a small park, but very special because of the gorge with the many waterfalls. If you hike the Gorge Trail you can see them all. A beautiful walk and this place is a must-see on a New York State road trip.

  • Hike length: 2.6 miles (4.2 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: medium (there are a few stairs and the path can be slippery due to the water)

Oregon

Blue Basin Overlook Trail (John Day Fossil Beds National Monument)

Blue Basin Overlook Trail - John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

One of the biggest surprises on my Pacific Northwest road trip was John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. A very scenic landscape (a true hidden gem in Oregon!) and there was hardly any other tourist when I was there. I did a few hikes here, of which the Blue Basin Overlook Trail was my favorite. The green/blue color of the rocks is a spectacular sight.

  • Hike length: 4 miles (6.4 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: average (there is a considerable climb, but the path is easy to follow)

Utah

In the US state of Utah, you will find no less than five national parks and each park has a completely different landscape.

Angels Landing Trail (Zion National Park)

Angels Landing Trail - Zion National Park

The Angels Landing Trail is one of the most famous day hikes in America. In fact, it is known as one of the scariest hikes in the world, because the last part is over a narrow rock with steep cliffs on both sides. There are even chains on the narrowest part of the trail that you can hold onto if you get scared. If you survived this section, you’ll have a great view of Zion Canyon.

  • Hike length: 4.8 miles (7.7 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: difficult (it is a tough climb and you should not be afraid of heights)

Devils Garden (Arches National Park)

Devils Garden Trail - Arches National Park

Devils Garden in Arches National Park is a kind of playground for hikers. The first part of the hike (up to the Landscape Arch) is very easy (and therefore also busy), but after that, you can climb and clamber over the rocks to view other beautiful arches. Personally, I loved the hike to the Double O Arch.

  • Hike length: depending on how far you go, the entire hike is 7.9 miles (12.6 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: the first section to the Landscape Arch is easy, then it gets difficult (a lot of climbing over the rocks)

Fremont River Trail (Capitol Reef National Park)

Fremont River Trail - Capitol Reef National Park

One of the less-visited national parks in Utah is Capitol Reef National Park. And it is such a beautiful place! Besides beautiful red rocks, the valley full of fruit trees is also a picture to see. A great short hike to discover the park is the Fremont River Trail. You first hike along the river for a while and then climb a hill. From here, you have a beautiful view of the valley and the special rock formations in the park.

  • Hike length: 2 miles (3.2 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: medium (due to the short, but steep climb)

Observation Point Trail (Zion National Park)

Observation Point Trail - Zion National Park

The second hike in Zion National Park in this list is the one to Observation Point. This is a tough hike with a fantastic view (you actually can see the top of Angels Landing). During the hike you walk along Echo Canyon, a slot canyon with beautiful shapes that looks a bit like Antelope Canyon.

  • Hike length: 8 miles (12.9 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: difficult (but definitely less scary than Angels Landing)

Queens Garden & Navajo Trail (Bryce Canyon National Park)

Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trail - Bryce Canyon National Park

One of the most spectacular places in Utah is Bryce Canyon National Park. It is great to visit all viewpoints here, but it is even more fun to go for a hike in the canyon. One of the most beautiful (and also most popular) trails is the Queens Garden and Navajo Loop Trail. The trail lets you hike between the bright red hoodoos, which is really cool!

  • Hike length: 2.9 miles (4.7 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: medium (the path is easy to follow, but at the end, you have to climb out of the canyon via a steep path)

Upheaval Dome (Canyonlands National Park)

Upheaval Dome Trail - Canyonlands National Park

You can also find some beautiful trails in Canyonlands National Park. The most famous trail here is the one to the Mesa Arch (0.5 miles – 0.8 kilometers), but if you really want to see something different, the Upheaval Dome Trail is also highly recommended. Upheaval Dome is a huge crater and they still don’t know exactly how it came to be today.

  • Hike length: 1.7 miles (2.7 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: medium (there is a climb)

Wyoming

Jenny Lake & Cascade Canyon (Grand Teton National Park)

Cascade Canyon - Grand Teton National Trail

Next to the world-famous Yellowstone is another national park: Grand Teton National Park. The most striking in this park is the Grand Teton Mountains, steep dark gray rocks in an otherwise almost flat landscape. A spectacular sight to see! Many great trails can be found in the park, but the most beautiful trails are those around Jenny Lake (a beautiful mountain lake) and Cascade Canyon (you walk between the Tetons). You can combine these two trails into a long trail. Chances are you will see wildlife, I saw several deer, an elk, beavers, and even a black bear during my walk.

  • Hike length: 16.8 miles (27 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: medium (a few small climbs)

Ribbon Lake Loop (Yellowstone National Park)

Ribbon Lake Loop Trail - Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in the USA. The landscape full of geysers and colorful hot springs is phenomenal, and you also see a lot of wildlife here. One of the most beautiful places to hike is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and that’s where you can hike the Ribbon Lake Loop. The landscape changes rapidly on this short trail, one moment you are walking in the hills, then in the forest, then along a lake, then you see boiling mud and finally, you see the spectacular Lower Falls.

  • Hike length: 5.8 miles (9.3 kilometers)
  • Difficulty: easy

These were my favorite day hikes in the USA. Where do you like to go hiking in the USA?

Get inspired!

These are a few great books with the most beautiful trails:

Wanderlust – USA

America’s Great Hiking Trails: Appalachian, Pacific Crest, Continental Divide, North Country, Ice Age, Potomac Heritage, Florida, Natchez Trace, Arizona, Pacific Northwest, New England

Would you like to try (a section of) a long-distance trail in the USA? I wrote an in-depth guide on hiking the Pacific Crest Trail.

More inspiration for traveling in the USA

Are you planning on traveling in the USA and are you looking to get inspired? Check out these articles:

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Co

Hi! I'm Co and a travel addict. On this website, I'll share stories of my travel adventures and share some travel tips. I'll make sure to keep you inspired for your next trip!

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