Expansive views, towering trees, and dramatic geology are just some of the astounding features of America's most beautiful hiking trails. From routes beside glaciers in Alaska, to pathways balancing on rocky ledges overlooking the rugged coast of Maine, these trails practically demand that hikers carry a camera. And while there will never be universal agreement on the 10 most beautiful hikes in the U.S., our list makes for a good conversation starter, and an even better vacation primer.
Photo Credit: Thomas Barrat/Shutterstock
West Maroon Creek Trail
10 miles, point-to-point
In a state packed with beautiful hikes throughout the Rocky Mountains, one rises above the rest. This 10-mile jaunt follows a lush glacial valley before heading up and over the breathtaking 12,480-foot Maroon Pass, linking the dreamscapes known as Aspen and Crested Butte. Hike West Maroon Creek Trail in July, the height of Colorado's wildflower season, when waist-high blooms in hues of red, purple, white, and yellow line the trail.
Insider Tip: West Maroon Creek Trail is challenging due to both terrain and altitude. Aspen's Limelight Hotel makes it decidedly cushier by providing guests with a lift to the trailhead, post-hike accommodations at a partner property in Crested Butte, and a ride back to Aspen the next morning (by shuttle or helicopter, depending on your budget).
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Aspen Guide
Photo Credit: puttsk/Shutterstock
Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park
8 miles, round-trip
Step back into the ice age with this spectacular day hike located near Seward in Kenai Fjords National Park. The four-mile trail climbs steeply from the valley floor, through forest and meadow, before rising above tree line and ending at a jaw-dropping lookout over the Harding Icefield-an enormous sheet of snow and ice that stretches for over 300 square miles and spawns 40 glaciers in all directions. There are many scenic vistas en route with stellar views of Exit Glacier and the Resurrection River.
Insider Tip: Black bears are spotted nearly every day near the Harding Icefield Trail. Understand bear safety before you go.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Alaska Guide
Photo Credit: (c) Tsmarkley | Dreamstime.com
Precipice Trail, Acadia National Park
1.6 miles, round-trip
Views of the ocean from the mountains of the Northeast are special, and experienced hikers will say that it's something you need to experience yourself. We've chosen the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park for said experience. The steep trail climbs 1,000 feet up narrow ledges on the east face of Champlain Mountain in .8 miles, providing a dramatic (and dizzying) view of the rugged coast.
Insider Tip: Don't be fooled by the short distance (1.6 miles round-trip); this hike is strenuous, steep, and not recommended for those with a fear of heights.
Plan Your Trip: Visit Fodor's Acadia National Park Guide