The easiest "rung and ladder" trail known for its stunning views and cliffside exposure.
Get inspired to plan your next epic adventure with these 63 incredible hikes!
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.
The easiest "rung and ladder" trail known for its stunning views and cliffside exposure.
One-of-a-kind adventure in the national park, scaling many ropes and ladders through thick jungle to reach the top of Mount Alava.
Hike to the iconic arch in Arches National Park.
A short walk through a canyon with an impressive overlook at its furthest point.
A popular hike in Big Bend National Park with endless views of the Chisos Mountains.
A boardwalk by the national park visitor center, with spots to fish and look out over Biscayne Bay.
One of the top hikes in the national park.
The most popular hike in Bryce Canyon National Park.
One of the most popular hiking destinations in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park.
Capitol Reef's most popular hike leads to a massive natural arch soaring 125 feet high!
A 6-mile backcountry hike off of Desert Loop Road with striking views and diverse plant life.
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.
Congaree's most popular trail, on a wooden path among giant trees.
Climb to a stunning overlook of Crater Lake.
A classic Cuyahoga Valley hike renowned for its towering sandstone cliffs and captivating views.
The quintessential Death Valley experience.
Widely regarded as the best hike in Denali National Park!
Walk the walls of a massive old fort that juts into the sea.
One of the best walks in the Everglades for viewing resident wildlife.
Journey along Arrigetch Creek to its headwaters, among the glaciers at the feet of impossible peaks.
Wander pedestrian paths through a grassy urban park at the feet of the Gateway Arch.
Simply put: One of the best day hikes in the world.
A partially-accessible hike in Bartlett Cove with two spectacular overlooks of a small pond.
A truly epic hike across the Grand Canyon.
Epic trek to the saddle in between the Middle and Grand Teton.
An alpine hike to the highpoint of Great Basin National Park, and the second-tallest mountain in Nevada.
An epic trek to the summit of two of North America's tallest sand dunes in Great Sand Dunes National Park
The approach to Clingmans Dome, the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
Hike to the highest point in Texas!
Out-and-back journey to the crater floor, from the summit area of Haleakalā.
One of the best hikes for viewing lava in Volcanos National Park.
A historic brick walkway designated a National Recreation Trail in 1982.
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.
A 40+ mile ridgeline trek across the mountainous backbone of Isle Royal National Park.
Ultra-popular hike to a summit near the center of Joshua Tree National Park.
One of the best places to view grizzly bears in the world.
Kenai Fjords’ most accessible hike, leading to the foot of Exit Glacier and along its rocky outwash plain.
The second-largest tree in the world!
Land by plane and walk across the largest dune field in the Arctic.
A classic Lake Clark day hike to a breathtaking waterfall crashing 30' over hardened lava rock.
The must-do hike to the summit of the park's namesake mountain.
A short 1.5-mile hike to a sinkhole about 10 minutes from the visitor center.
A respectable hike with stunning history—arguably the best hike in Mesa Verde National Park.
One of the most stunning day hikes in the state of Washington!
A classic New River hike loaded with "endless" views from a bluff staring across the river to Fayetteville and the New River Gorge Bridge.
The full Cascade Pass Trail in all its glory!
One of the most beautiful hikes in the nation!
One of the best hikes in Petrified Forest National Park.
Exciting trail along the jagged backbone of the Pinnacles, with steep stairs and drop-offs protected by metal rails.
The best hike in Redwood National Park!
Standard route to the top of Longs Peak, the only 14er in Rocky Mountain National Park.
A full-value loop to the highest point in the Tucson Mountains District of Saguaro National Park.
The famous day or overnight hike to stand atop the contiguous United States' highest summit.
A epic and mesmerizing hike — "One of Shenandoah's premier experiences."
A challenging 10-mile circuit through one of America's largest petrified forest.
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.
A stroll through the woods to overlooks and points along the lakeshore, with gentle hills and rocky sections for more variety.
A challenging hike with endless views as you wander through snow-white sand dunes.
Wander through a mature ponderosa pine forest and enjoy breathtaking views from the park's highest point.
One of Alaska's most incredible easy-to-access hikes!
An easy 2.3 mile loop taking you up close to Yellowstone’s famous hot springs and gushing geysers.
An exciting hike to the summit of one of North America's most iconic peaks.
Zion National Park's iconic vertigo-inducing hike to a heavenly view.