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15 Best Hiking Vacations in the USA

Dust off your hiking boots and grab your backpack for this wanderlust-worthy roundup of hiking vacations in the US.

People on a rock overlooking Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
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This article was originally published on Tripadvisor.com. Viator is part of the Tripadvisor Media Group. Follow Viator on Instagram at @viatortravel, and Tripadvisor at @tripadvisor.

By Olivia Cohen, Tripadvisor.com

From family-friendly, scenic trails to heart-thumping climbs, we’ve uncovered 15 great hiking trips you can take—no matter the season. It’s not just stellar trails that make these some of the best hiking vacations in America—after all, you may want at least one day of lighter outdoor recreation. That’s why we’re featuring other top tours, activities, and experiences to enjoy during your stay. Think guided photography tours of Yosemite, visiting a conservation center in the Adirondacks, or an off-road adventure on Kauai. Plus, our 24-hour cancellation policy means you can pre-book before arriving, but still have the flexibility to cancel if your itinerary changes.

1. Acadia National Park

Jordan Pond in Acadia National Park, the most-visited national park in the Northeast.
Jordan Pond, one of the most photographed spots in Acadia National Park.Photo Credit: Benjamin Rascoe / Unsplash

Maine

Acadia National Park is one for superlatives—both the most-visited national park in the Northeast and home to the highest peak along the North Atlantic seaboard, Acadia is one of the best hiking destinations in the US. Make the drive up Cadillac Mountain to take in stunning views from the 1,500-foot tall peak, or challenge yourself to hikes like the Gotham Mountain Trail. You can even join a narrated sightseeing cruise from Northeast Harbor or rent canoes and kayaks to take out from Bar Harbor. Check it all out on your own or hit the park's highlights on a guided tour.

2. Glacier National Park

A mountain scenery at Glacier National Park in Montana.
Glacier National Park offers some of the most spectacular mountain scenery in the country.Photo Credit: Saul Mercado / Unsplash

Montana

Montana may be landlocked, but a visit to Glacier National Park is all about the water. Hike to pristine alpine lakes, drive past waterfalls, or take a white-water rafting trip down the Flathead River. The Grinnell Glacier stands as a looming challenge over the park, but its rewarding views are unbeatable—be sure to bring plenty of food and water if you do the 8-mile trail on your own. Then, give your legs a break when you drive down the 52-mile Going-to-the-Sun-Road, a scenic highlight reel of Glacier National Park’s diverse wildlife and incredible landscapes.

3. Yosemite National Park

Sequoia trees in Yosemite National Park in California.
Cook's Meadow Loop is an easy walk with views of Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, Glacier Point, and Sentinel Rock.Photo Credit: Brittany Hosea-Small / Viator

California

In Yosemite, steep granite cliffs tower above redwood trees and host tumbling waterfalls. Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, and El Capitan stand out as the park’s most recognized natural formations. Though so much wilderness makes Yosemite one of the best hiking vacations you can take, the park is also a hit among photographers. Follow in the footsteps of Ansel Adams on a Yosemite photography tour to find the park’s best angles. Plus, unlike many parks that are far from urban centers, Yosemite is easily visited on a day trip from San Francisco, Tahoe, or San Jose.

Related: Where to Find the Best Photo Ops in Yosemite

Editor's note: Due to the recent wildfires, please refer to the National Park Services’ website for information about accessibility and permissibility in Yosemite.

4. Big Sur

A man looks out into the ocean in Big Sur in California.
A Big Sur traveler looks out over the Pacific ocean during golden hour.Photo Credit: Peter Thomas / Unsplash

California

Rocky coastlines give way to crashing Pacific waves in Big Sur, a gem of a hiking destination along the California coast. Big Sur is easy enough to fit in during a California road trip—the area is right off Highway 1—but Big Sur’s incredible natural beauty merits its own visit. Take a hike through Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or at the Point Sur State Historic Park for gorgeous views of mist-shrouded cliffs and waterfalls dropping straight into the ocean. If you don’t have your own car, consider visiting as part of a tour, like this Pacific Coast Highway day trip from San Francisco.

5. Great Smoky Mountains

Elk in a field of yellow flowers in the Great Smoky Mountains
Elk in a field of yellow flowers in the Great Smoky Mountains.Photo Credit: Delaney Van / Unsplash

Tennessee–North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains are one of the best hiking vacations for their rolling hills and scenic trails. Hike up Mount LeConte to see the Smokies stretching endlessly into the horizon, or check out the popular Alum Cave Trail, which leads you past rushing rivers through fields of wildflowers. Though well-marked trails make it easy enough to explore on your own, go with a guide to make the most of every moment. Specialty tours include a Smoky Mountains Waterfall Adventure and tours by helicopter and open-air Jeep.

6. Zion National Park

Hikers walk through the Narrows in Zion National Park in Utah.
Hikers walking through the Narrows in Zion National Park.Photo Credit: Frances Gunn / Unsplash

Utah

Zion National Park is easily one of the most-recognized hiking destinations in the US, known for its mesmerizing red rocks smoothly carved out by water. Bring your A-game to the trails at the Narrows, aptly named for the tight squeezes needed to get through columns of river-bound rocks. Once through, you will be richly rewarded by a number of viewpoints around the park that will surely take your breath away. If you’re looking for extra adventure, try a rock climbing and canyoneering tour or combine a visit to Zion with other nearby parks such as Bryce Canyon National Park.

Related: Top Hiking Trails in Zion National Park and How to Spend 3 Days in Zion National Park

7. Blue Ridge

The scenery at Blue Ridge Mountains in Georgia.
The Blue Ridge Mountains as seen from a lookout in western North Carolina.Photo Credit: Wes Hicks / Unsplash

Georgia

The sleepy town of Blue Ridge is full of historic Southern charm. Ride down old train trestles on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, stroll through the quaint boutique-filled downtown, or bring the whole family for a day of outdoor fun at the Toccoa River Swinging Bridge or Long Creek Falls. Plus, because it’s nestled in the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the town is an ideal home base for a mountain retreat.

8. Estes Park

Bear Lake Trail in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park
Bear Lake Trail in Estes Park, Rocky Mountain National Park.Photo Credit: Jeff Finley / Unsplash

Colorado

Estes Park is the quintessential Rocky Mountains vacation destination and aptly known as the Gateway to the Rockies. Between its homey downtown and easy access to some of the best hiking trips in Colorado, Estes Park is a top stop for serious backpackers and casual hikers alike. Experienced hikers can use Estes as a basecamp for longer ascents into the Rocky Mountains, while nature-lovers of all hiking abilities love the easy Adams Falls Trail and hike to Lily Lake. If you aren’t looking to attempt hikes on your own, a guided tour or a private wildlife safari offer good introductions to the area’s rich wildlife and scenery.

Related: Best Ski Destinations in the US Rocky Mountains

9. Big Bear Lake

A cabin sits at the shore along Big Bear Lake in California.
Cabins on the shore alongside Big Bear Lake in California.Photo Credit: Joshua Chun / Unpslash

California

Big Bear Lake may be small, but it packs in plenty of outdoor activities. This lakeside retreat in southern California is best known for its winter skiing, but also offers a number of hiking trails like Castle Rock Trail that are perfect for exploring in the summer. The area also features the popular Big Bear Alpine Zoo, which rehabs native animals and offers visitors a great chance to learn about local wildlife, including the lake’s namesake creatures.

10. Columbia River Gorge

Oneonta Gorge in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon
A traveler faces Oneonta Gorge in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Oregon.Photo Credit: Kristin Ellis / Unsplash

Oregon

In addition to being one of the best hiking destinations in the US, Columbia River Gorge is one of the most popular and scenic day trips from Portland. Take a half-day tour from Portland to the picture-ready Multnomah Falls—a hiking and biking tour is also an option—or spend the afternoon wandering down well-marked trails and taking scenic drives on your own. Dewy forest floors and wildflower-filled fields make Columbia River Gorge a hiker’s dream.

11. South Lake Tahoe

A waterfall in the Desolation Wilderness of South Lake Tahoe in California.
A waterfall in the Desolation Wilderness, South Lake Tahoe.Photo Credit: Eric Ward / Unsplash

California

Clear glacial waters hemmed by towering snow-capped peaks make South Lake Tahoe a popular vacation destination. Though hiking Mt. Tallac Trail or to Lower Eagle Falls are good trekking options, the area is also well-known for its water sports and cultural activities. Take a cruise on Emerald Bay, book a parasailing adventure, or snag a kayak for a day paddling through blue waters. Then, hit up the town’s many restaurants, bars, and clubs for a fun end to a full day.

Related: Top Hiking Trails in Tahoe

12. Kauai

Kalalau Trail on Kauai, Hawaii
Kalalau Trail on Kauai, Hawaii.Photo Credit: Malte / Unsplash

Hawaii

A whole island full of gorgeous scenery and exciting outdoor activities, Kauai makes for a paradisiacal hiking vacation. From the jagged ridges of Na Pali Coast State Park to the gulches of Waimea Canyon, hiking opportunities abound—and more. Rev your adrenaline with an off-road adventure, unwind on a sunset dinner cruise, or opt into one of the most popular helicopter tour destinations in the country. With a whole island of activities to choose from, you’ll find plenty to keep you busy.

Related: Top Hiking Trails on Kauai

13. Jackson Hole (Grand Teton National Park)

Viator
Two bison at a standoff in Grand Teton National Park.Photo Credit: Eustacio Humphrey / Viator

Wyoming

Jackson Hole is a skiing paradise in the winter, but has hikes to waterfalls, crater lakes, and woodland wonderlands during warmer months. From the family-friendly Cascade Canyon Trail to the heart-thumping Static Peak Divide, Grand Teton National Park is by far one of the best hiking vacations you can take. Pack in even more adventure by booking a Grand Teton safari for chances to see animals like elk, bears, and bison in the wild.

Related: How to Spend 1 Day in Grand Teton National Park

14. Jay (Jay Peak)

Snow sits on trees in Vermont.
A snowy scene in Vermont.Photo Credit: Kevin Wiegand / Unsplash

Vermont

A high-end ski resort turns summertime bucket-list destination in Jay, a cozy city with family-friendly amenities and plenty to keep kids entertained, including the popular Jay Peak Pump House. The town’s best hike is to its namesake summit, Jay Peak, a moderate 3-mile trail past wildflowers, boulders, and pastures.

15. Adirondacks

The Ampersand Mountain Trail in the Adirondack Mountains in New York.
Ampersand Mountain Trail near Saranac Lake in the Adirondack Mountains.Photo Credit: Greg Garnhart / Unsplash

New York

The Adirondacks have great hiking, to be sure, but they offer a whole lot more: go white-water rafting, learn about conservation at the kid-friendly Wild Center, or make some waves on glassy Lake Placid. You can even join guided hiking and camping adventures. Be sure to get to Bald Mountain, too, for an easy hike for the whole family.

Top nature and wildlife tours in the US

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