Guidebook

The Most Famous Hike in Every US National Park

Get inspired to plan your next epic adventure with these 63 incredible hikes!

Greg Heil

Description

The United States National Park System protects more than 85 million acres of Planet Earth's most incredible landscapes. From towering mountain ranges to arid deserts, verdant jungles, arctic tundras, and almost every other landscape imaginable, the national parks are the USA's most valuable treasure.

The National Park System (NPS) was born in its nascent state on March 1, 1872, when "President Ulysses S. Grant signed the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law," according to the NPS. However, the NPS truly came of age on August 25, 1916, when "President Woodrow Wilson signed the 'Organic Act' creating the National Park Service, a federal bureau in the Department of the Interior responsible for maintaining national parks and monuments that were then managed by the department," according to the NPS.

Since then, the NPS has become a model for conservation and preservation that has been followed around the world. Above and beyond national parks and monuments, the NPS manages 423 different units with 19 naming conventions (at the time of this writing in late 2022).

While the National Park System includes many different types of units, this guidebook is only concerned with the fully-fledged national parks themselves. As of late 2022 when this description was written, there are currently 63 national parks in the system. This number continues to change as new parks are regularly added to the list. Most often, current national monuments will get upgraded to national park status, thereby receiving additional resources... and fame.

The national parks are some of the most visited natural sites in the world. In 2021, NPS sites received a total of 297 million visits, with the most-visited national park—Great Smoky Mountains—receiving over 14 million visits alone. Despite their popularity, the beauty of these parks—and the famous hikes within their borders—inevitably ignite the human imagination, beckoning people from around the world to come, visit, and experience the beauty for themselves.

Many of the popular sites and hikes have become a bonafide checklist for any self-respecting traveler. While perhaps the lesser-known hikes can offer equivalent beauty with a fraction of the crowds, you sometimes still have to check off the most famous itineraries just to say you've done them.

In this guidebook, we've rounded up what is arguably the most famous hike in every single USA national park, arranged in alphabetical order by park. For some of these parks, it's difficult to choose exactly which trail is the most famous. For instance, in Sequoia National Park, is it the Congress Grove to the famous sequoia trees, or Mount Whitney—the highest point in the Lower 48?

In other parks, the hiking trails themselves aren't the main attraction. In Mammoth Cave, for example, most people head under the ground instead of hiking along the surface. In Dry Tortugas, most people choose to paddle instead of hike.

While many of these "most famous" hikes are also the most popular in the respective national parks, be warned that some of these ultra-famous hikes are still incredibly difficult. Mountain peaks included in this guidebook, such as Longs Peak, Mount Whitney, and Half Dome, are all challenging mountains that should not be attempted without plenty of preparation and training. Similarly, epic traverses like the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim and the Greenstone Ridge Trail comprise challenging multi-day backpacking itineraries for most people. And, it's worth noting that many of these epic hikes—and even many of the shorter ones, like Angels Landing—have claimed lives on multiple occasions. Do not underestimate them.

This incredible diversity and the raw challenge of the natural world are exactly the allure of the national parks. The landscapes are beautiful, wild, and ever-changing, and each and every park is home to something truly unique. Whether you use this guidebook as a checklist of adventures that you must complete or simply as inspiration to get you to plan your next big trip, the important part is the dream that fuels your next adventure.

Sources:
https://www.nps.gov/aboutus/national-park-system.htm
https://www.nps.gov/subjects/socialscience/annual-visitation-highlights.htm
https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/historyculture/yellowstoneestablishment.htm

Beehive Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Beehive Trail

0 - 1 hrs
2.5 km
169 m
169 m
The easiest "rung and ladder" trail known for its stunning views and cliffside exposure.
Severe
Private
Mount Alava Adventure Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Mount Alava Adventure Trail

2 - 3 hrs
8.7 km
699 m
702 m
One-of-a-kind adventure in the national park, scaling many ropes and ladders through thick jungle to reach the top of Mount Alava.
Severe
Private
Delicate Arch
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Delicate Arch

1 - 2 hrs
5.0 km
193 m
193 m
Hike to the iconic arch in Arches National Park.
Moderate
Private
Notch Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Notch Trail

0 - 1 hrs
2.1 km
41 m
41 m
A short walk through a canyon with an impressive overlook at its furthest point.
Moderate
Private
Lost Mine Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Lost Mine Trail

2 - 3 hrs
7.3 km
340 m
340 m
A popular hike in Big Bend National Park with endless views of the Chisos Mountains.
Difficult
Private
Jetty Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Jetty Trail

0 - 1 hrs
1.2 km
1 m
1 m
A boardwalk by the national park visitor center, with spots to fish and look out over Biscayne Bay.
Easy
Private
North Vista Trail to Exclamation Point
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

North Vista Trail to Exclamation Point

Colorado
1 - 2 hrs
4.6 km
105 m
105 m
One of the top hikes in the national park.
Moderate
Private
Queens Garden -> Navajo Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Queens Garden -> Navajo Loop

1 - 2 hrs
4.9 km
189 m
189 m
The most popular hike in Bryce Canyon National Park.
Easy
Private
Druid Arch
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Druid Arch

3 - 4 hrs
15.7 km
450 m
450 m
One of the most popular hiking destinations in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
Severe
Private
Hickman Bridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Hickman Bridge

0 - 1 hrs
2.9 km
133 m
133 m
Capitol Reef's most popular hike leads to a massive natural arch soaring 125 feet high!
Moderate
Private
Upper Rattlesnake Canyon Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Upper Rattlesnake Canyon Loop

2 - 3 hrs
9.6 km
217 m
217 m
A 6-mile backcountry hike off of Desert Loop Road with striking views and diverse plant life.
Moderate
Private
Smugglers Cove
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Smugglers Cove

3 - 4 hrs
12.2 km
440 m
440 m
From Scorpion Cove, a wide path leads over the island to Smugglers Cove, with a remote beach and even further hiking options once you get there.
Moderate
Private
Boardwalk Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Boardwalk Loop

0 - 1 hrs
3.6 km
6 m
6 m
Congaree's most popular trail, on a wooden path among giant trees.
Easy
Private
Garfield Peak
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Garfield Peak

1 - 2 hrs
5.5 km
337 m
337 m
Climb to a stunning overlook of Crater Lake.
Difficult
Private
Ledges Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Ledges Trail

0 - 1 hrs
3.1 km
65 m
65 m
A classic Cuyahoga Valley hike renowned for its towering sandstone cliffs and captivating views.
Moderate
Private
Badwater Basin
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Badwater Basin

0 - 1 hrs
1.2 km
6 m
6 m
The quintessential Death Valley experience.
Easy
Private
Mount Healy Overlook Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Mount Healy Overlook Trail

2 - 3 hrs
7.3 km
534 m
534 m
Widely regarded as the best hike in Denali National Park!
Difficult
Private
Fort Jefferson and Garden Key
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Fort Jefferson and Garden Key

0 - 1 hrs
1.4 km
5 m
5 m
Walk the walls of a massive old fort that juts into the sea.
Easy
Private
Anhinga Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Anhinga Trail

0 - 1 hrs
1.4 km
2 m
2 m
One of the best walks in the Everglades for viewing resident wildlife.
Easy
Private
Upper Arrigetch Valley
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Upper Arrigetch Valley

4 - 5 hrs
14.6 km
927 m
927 m
Journey along Arrigetch Creek to its headwaters, among the glaciers at the feet of impossible peaks.
Severe
Private
Gateway Arch Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Gateway Arch Trail

0 - 1 hrs
2.4 km
26 m
26 m
Wander pedestrian paths through a grassy urban park at the feet of the Gateway Arch.
Easy
Private
Highline Trail + Grinnell Glacier Overlook
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Highline Trail + Grinnell Glacier Overlook

Glacier National Park
5 - 6 hrs
21.0 km
758 m
1,487 m
Simply put: One of the best day hikes in the world.
Difficult
Private
Bartlett Cove Forest Trail Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Bartlett Cove Forest Trail Loop

0 - 1 hrs
1.8 km
41 m
41 m
A partially-accessible hike in Bartlett Cove with two spectacular overlooks of a small pond.
Moderate
Private
Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim via Bright Angel
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Grand Canyon: Rim to Rim via Bright Angel

Grand Canyon National Park
1 day +
32.8 km
2,086 m
1,768 m
A truly epic hike across the Grand Canyon.
Severe
Private
Grand Teton Lower Saddle
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Grand Teton Lower Saddle

Grand Teton National Park
6 - 7 hrs
19.1 km
1,505 m
1,505 m
Epic trek to the saddle in between the Middle and Grand Teton.
Extreme
Private
Wheeler Peak Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Wheeler Peak Trail

4 - 5 hrs
13.6 km
885 m
885 m
An alpine hike to the highpoint of Great Basin National Park, and the second-tallest mountain in Nevada.
Difficult
Private
High Dune and Star Dune
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

High Dune and Star Dune

Salida
2 - 3 hrs
10.2 km
488 m
488 m
An epic trek to the summit of two of North America's tallest sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park
Moderate
Private
Appalachian Trail: Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Appalachian Trail: Fontana Dam to Newfound Gap

Great Smoky Mountains National Park
1 day +
66.1 km
3,825 m
2,844 m
The approach to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Difficult
Private
Guadalupe Peak
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Guadalupe Peak

4 - 5 hrs
13.1 km
926 m
926 m
Hike to the highest point in Texas!
Difficult
Private
Haleakalā Crater: Sliding Sands Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Haleakalā Crater: Sliding Sands Trail

4 - 5 hrs
16.6 km
886 m
886 m
Out-and-back journey to the crater floor, from the summit area of Haleakalā.
Moderate
Private
Halema'uma'u Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Halema'uma'u Trail

2 - 3 hrs
10.0 km
193 m
193 m
One of the best hikes for viewing lava in Volcanos National Park.
Difficult
Private
Grand Promenade
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Grand Promenade

0 - 1 hrs
1.2 km
27 m
27 m
A historic brick walkway designated a National Recreation Trail in 1982.
Easy
Private
West Beach Trails
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

West Beach Trails

1 - 2 hrs
5.5 km
87 m
87 m
A 3-mile hike through the West Beach Recreation Area that highlights the diversity of plant and animal life while offering several spectacular views along the way.
Moderate
Private
Greenstone Ridge Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Greenstone Ridge Trail

1 day +
65.1 km
1,307 m
1,306 m
A 40+ mile ridgeline trek across the mountainous backbone of Isle Royal National Park.
Difficult
Private
Ryan Mountain
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Ryan Mountain

1 - 2 hrs
4.6 km
318 m
318 m
Ultra-popular hike to a summit near the center of Joshua Tree National Park.
Difficult
Private
Brooks Falls
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Brooks Falls

0 - 1 hrs
3.8 km
36 m
36 m
One of the best places to view grizzly bears in the world.
Easy
Private
Glacier View and Exit Glacier Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Glacier View and Exit Glacier Loop

0 - 1 hrs
3.4 km
98 m
98 m
Kenai Fjords’ most accessible hike, leading to the foot of Exit Glacier and along its rocky outwash plain.
Moderate
Private
General Grant Tree
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

General Grant Tree

0 - 1 hrs
0.9 km
26 m
26 m
The second-largest tree in the world!
Easy
Private
Great Kobuk Sand Dunes
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Great Kobuk Sand Dunes

1 - 2 hrs
5.2 km
143 m
143 m
Land by plane and walk across the largest dune field in the Arctic.
Moderate
Private
Tanalian Falls
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Tanalian Falls

1 - 2 hrs
6.8 km
287 m
287 m
A classic Lake Clark day hike to a breathtaking waterfall crashing 30' over hardened lava rock.
Moderate
Private
Lassen Peak Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Lassen Peak Trail

2 - 3 hrs
7.5 km
611 m
611 m
The must-do hike to the summit of the park's namesake mountain.
Difficult
Private
Cedar Sink Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Cedar Sink Trail

0 - 1 hrs
2.5 km
77 m
77 m
A short 1.5-mile hike to a sinkhole about 10 minutes from the visitor center.
Moderate
Private
Petroglyph Point Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Petroglyph Point Loop

Colorado
1 - 2 hrs
4.7 km
174 m
174 m
A respectable hike with stunning history—arguably the best hike in Mesa Verde National Park.
Difficult
Private
Summerland Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Summerland Trail

Mount Rainier National Park
3 - 4 hrs
13.7 km
717 m
717 m
One of the most stunning day hikes in the state of Washington!
Difficult
Private
Endless Wall Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Endless Wall Trail

1 - 2 hrs
4.7 km
131 m
131 m
A classic New River hike loaded with "endless" views from a bluff staring across the river to Fayetteville and the New River Gorge Bridge.
Moderate
Private
Cascade Pass Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Cascade Pass Trail

6 - 7 hrs
24.5 km
680 m
1,137 m
The full Cascade Pass Trail in all its glory!
Difficult
Private
Hoh River Trail: Five Mile Island
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Hoh River Trail: Five Mile Island

Olympic National Park
3 - 4 hrs
16.3 km
181 m
181 m
One of the most beautiful hikes in the nation!
Moderate
Private
Blue Mesa
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Blue Mesa

0 - 1 hrs
1.6 km
38 m
39 m
One of the best hikes in Petrified Forest National Park.
Easy
Private
High Peaks and Condor Gulch Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

High Peaks and Condor Gulch Loop

2 - 3 hrs
8.0 km
463 m
463 m
Exciting trail along the jagged backbone of the Pinnacles, with steep stairs and drop-offs protected by metal rails.
Difficult
Private
Tall Trees Grove
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Tall Trees Grove

1 - 2 hrs
6.2 km
297 m
296 m
The best hike in Redwood National Park!
Moderate
Private
Longs Peak: Keyhole Route
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Longs Peak: Keyhole Route

Colorado
21.5 km
1,540 m
Standard route to the top of Longs Peak, the only 14er in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Moderate
Private
Wasson Peak Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Wasson Peak Loop

3 - 4 hrs
12.2 km
579 m
579 m
A full-value loop to the highest point in the Tucson Mountains District of Saguaro National Park.
Difficult
Private
Mount Whitney via Whitney Portal
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Mount Whitney via Whitney Portal

32.8 km
2,001 m
The famous day or overnight hike to stand atop the contiguous United States' highest summit.
Moderate
Private
Old Rag Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Old Rag Loop

4 - 5 hrs
14.5 km
734 m
734 m
A epic and mesmerizing hike — "One of Shenandoah's premier experiences."
Difficult
Private
Petrified Forest Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Petrified Forest Loop

3 - 4 hrs
16.6 km
270 m
270 m
A challenging 10-mile circuit through one of America's largest petrified forest.
Difficult
Private
Reef Bay Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Reef Bay Trail

2 - 3 hrs
8.0 km
343 m
343 m
One of the best hikes on St. John: Descending through a forest rich with wildlife, past plantation ruins and even older petroglyphs, to a deserted beach on the quiet side of the island.
Difficult
Private
Blind Ash Bay Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Blind Ash Bay Trail

1 - 2 hrs
4.9 km
118 m
118 m
A stroll through the woods to overlooks and points along the lakeshore, with gentle hills and rocky sections for more variety.
Moderate
Private
Alkali Flat Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Alkali Flat Trail

1 - 2 hrs
7.8 km
61 m
61 m
A challenging hike with endless views as you wander through snow-white sand dunes.
Difficult
Private
Rankin Ridge
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Rankin Ridge

0 - 1 hrs
1.6 km
75 m
75 m
Wander through a mature ponderosa pine forest and enjoy breathtaking views from the park's highest point.
Easy
Private
Root Glacier Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Root Glacier Trail

4 - 5 hrs
15.3 km
625 m
625 m
One of Alaska's most incredible easy-to-access hikes!
Moderate
Private
Observation Point to Geyser Hill
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Observation Point to Geyser Hill

Yellowstone National Park
0 - 1 hrs
4.1 km
99 m
99 m
An easy 2.3 mile loop taking you up close to Yellowstone’s famous hot springs and gushing geysers.
Easy
Private
Half Dome Day Hike
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Half Dome Day Hike

Yosemite National Park
7 - 8 hrs
24.0 km
1,711 m
1,711 m
An exciting hike to the summit of one of North America's most iconic peaks.
Extreme
Private
Angels Landing
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP's Editorial team.

Angels Landing

Zion National Park
2 - 3 hrs
7.2 km
531 m
531 m
Zion National Park's iconic vertigo-inducing hike to a heavenly view.
Severe
Private