15 Best Day Hikes in the US to Put On Your Bucket List

15 Best Day Hikes in the US to Put On Your Bucket List

As much as we like crossing off epic hikes in faraway lands on our list, we know there is plenty to discover in our greater backyard, the US. Here’s a list of 15 spectacular day hikes in the US – some of which we’ve done, some of which are recommendations from friends, and all of which we hope to do at some point in our lives.

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Last Updated: June 30, 2019.   First Published: April 6, 2015

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15 Best Day Hikes in the US to Put On Your Bucket List

It was incredibly difficult to narrow it down to just 15, so leave us a comment below if you think there are other hikes that belong on this list.

Location: Yosemite National Park, California, United States
Distance: 16 miles
Best Time to Go: April to October

This round trip hike takes you to the top of Yosemite’s famous granite dome. You get amazing views of Vernal and Nevada Falls and the Yosemite Valley. The most iconic portion of the hike is the final 400 feet to the summit where you climb up using two metal cables, and it requires a permit.

Half Dome Yosemite National Park (15 Best Day Hikes in the US to Add to Your Bucket List) // localadventurer.com

Half Dome Alternative: Upper Falls Trail

Location: Yosemite National Park, California, United States
Distance: 7.6 miles
Best Time to Go: March-May, September-November

In case you can’t get a permit for Half Dome, check out this equally spectacular hike. You gain 2,600 and catch amazing views of one of the tallest cascades in the world. You get to see the falls from both, the bottom and top, and once you’ve made it, you overlook the breathtaking Yosemite Valley.

Location: Zion National Park, Utah, United States
Distance: 5 miles
Best Time to Go: March to October

This hike takes you up to dizzying heights with huge drop-offs from both sides but rewards you with an amazing view of the valley. Don’t worry, there are chains to hold onto.

Pro Tip: Don’t want to deal with the crowds at Angel’s Landing? Try hiking these trails instead: backpacking the Narrows top down (the day hike going up is also crowded), Hidden Canyon, and Observation Point.

Angels Landing Zion National Park (15 Amazing Day Hikes in the US to Add to Your Bucket List Now) // localadventurer.com

Location: Arches National Park, Utah, United States
Distance: 7.2 miles
Best Time to Go: Year Round

This national park is home to the most concentrated collection of natural sandstone arches in the world. The highlight is Landscape Arch, which is the longest arch in the world (the length of a football field).

Landscape Arch Arches National Park Utah (+9 Most Beautiful Arches in Arches National Park) // localadventurer.com

4. Franconia Ridge Loop

Location: Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire, United States
Distance: 9 miles
Best Time to Go: September to November

Only a few hours from Fenway Park, don’t let the proximity to civilization fool you. This hike takes you through alpine tundra and elevation gains of over 3,400 feet in four miles.

Franconia Ridge Loop (15 Best Hikes in the US). photo: Brendan Lynch / creative commons

5. Root Glacier Trail

Location: Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, Alaska, United States
Distance: 4 miles
Best Time to Go: June to August

This hike brings you face-to-face with a magnificent glacier in the country’s largest national park. Because you are traversing over ice you will need crampons, but it’s well worth the effort.

Root Glacier Trail (15 Best Hikes in America). photo: Mark Stevens / creative commons

Location: Olympic National Park, Washington, United States
Distance: 6.2 miles
Best Time to Go: Year Round

This trail takes you into the mossy, dense forest of Olympic National Park. Like no other place in the US, this temperate rainforest is like something out of a fairytale. The trail continues 17.6 miles to Glacier Meadows. Watch out for slugs! They are everywhere!

Hoh River Trail (15 Best Hikes in the US).

7. Wyoming Cascade Canyon Trail

Location: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, United States
Distance: 14.4 miles
Best Time to Go: June to November

Waterfalls, panoramas, and breath-taking mountains, this hike has it all. The trail ends at Lake Solitude, which is a great reward for all that work.

Cascade Canyon Trail Grand Teton National Park + 15 Best Day Hikes in the US

8. Lakes Trail

Location: Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, California, United States
Distance: 7 miles
Best Time to Go: June to November

Walk amongst giants in this national park that houses the largest trees in the world – The General Sherman. You also get to experience Watchtower – a granite behemoth.

Lakes Trail Sequoia National Park (15 Best Hikes in the US).

9. Elephant Canyon / Druid Arch

Location: Canyonlands National Park, Utah, United States
Distance: 11 miles
Best Time to Go: Year Round

This hike offers some of the best rock formations around. Spires, needles, and arches are littered throughout the trek. Be sure to get up for an early hike to catch the best light!

Elephant Canyon / Druid Arch (15 Best Hikes in America).
photo: terratrekking / creative commons

10. Halemau’u Trail

Location: Haleakala National Park, Hawaii, United States
Distance: 11.2 miles
Best Time to Go: Year Round

This otherworldly hike takes you to the floor of Haleakala’s crater. You get the chance to hike through a native scrub forest that hasn’t been overrun by non-native species, and explore a mars-like terrain of red and black cinder cones.

Halemau’u Trail (15 Best Hikes in the US). photo: Tim Szlachetka /creative commons

Location: Big Island, Hawaii, United States
Distance: 5.1 miles, 2100 ft elevation gain
Best Time to Go: Year Round

This 9 miles stretch takes you from Waipio Valley to Waimanu Valley where you’ll come across old ruins, swimming holds, and a black sand beach. We only got a chance to hike down to the beach but hope to do the full hike next time we visit!

Pro Tip: Don’t forget your bug spray. There are a ton of mosquitoes.

Muliwai Trail Hawaii + 15 Best Hikes in the US
Waipio Valley Hike Hawaii + 15 Best Hikes in the US

12. Precipice Trail

Location: Acadia National Park, Maine, United States
Distance: 1.8 miles
Best Time to Go: June to November

Although this is a short hike, it is far from easy especially if you’re afraid of heights. This is one of the most heart pounding hikes that takes you to an amazing viewpoint at the top. You don’t need any climbing experience, but there is some scrambling and boulder hopping involved. There are also iron rungs for you to navigate and climb certain exposed portions.

Local Tip: If you want to do an even shorter hike with similar views in Acadia, check out the Beehive Loop Trail.

Hiking USA Bucket List

13. Panhandle Gap / Summerland Trail

Location: Mount Rainier National Park, Washington, United States
Distance: 8.4 miles
Best Time to Go: June to August

In case you don’t have time to summit Mount Rainier, this hike takes you through a beautiful meadow full of wildflowers. And you get a pretty amazing view of Mount Rainier too!

Washington Summerland Trail Mt Rainier National Park + 15 Best Day Hikes in the US

14. Highline Trail

Location: Glacier National Park, Montana, United States
Distance: 11.5 miles
Best Time to Go: Mid-July and August

This hike takes you through the park’s high country. Stunning peaks, wildflowers around every corner, plus wildlife like goats, bighorn sheep, and bears, makes this a must-do hike. This hike has a very short season, so go when you can. Depending on the snowfall, the trail or portions of the trail might still be closed. Don’t forget to check the trail conditions in Glacier National Park before attempting this hike. When we went in early July, it was still closed, so we opted to do the Cracker Lake hike instead.

Highline Trail Glacier National Park + 15 Best Day Hikes in the US

15. North Vista Trail

Location: Gunnison National Park, Colorado, United States
Distance: 7 miles
Best Time to Go: March to November

Black Canyon isn’t as well known as other canyons but will take you breath away with its narrow openings, jaw-dropping depths, and sheer walls. You can turnaround after you reach Exclamation Point, which is a spectacular overlook, or continue to Green Mountain to give you an aerial view.

North Vista Trail Black Canyon of the Gunnison (15 BEST DAY HIKES IN THE US TO ADD TO YOUR BUCKET LIST) // localadventurer.com

BONUS: The Narrows

Location: Zion National Park, Utah, United States
Distance: 16 miles
Best Time to Go: April to October

Although I would recommend doing the full 2-day top to bottom hike (to give you plenty of time for photos and have the canyons to yourself – permit required), you can still explore the iconic parts of this hike, like Wall Street, doing the bottom up day hike.

The Narrows Zion National Park (15 Best Hikes in the US).

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What is your favorite day hike? Have you done any of these hikes?

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15 Best Hikes in the US to Put on Your Bucket List
15 Best Hiking Trails in the US for Your USA Bucket List
15 Breathtaking US Hiking Trails to Put on Your Bucket List
15 Best Day Hikes in the US to Put on Your Bucket List
Precipice Trail at Acadia National Park + 15 Best Hikes in the US

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, which is one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found both near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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This Post Has 18 Comments

  1. A couple miles north of glacier national park, just into Canada is Waterton National which has Crypt Lake. It is fantastic. Did Highline, Angel’s Landing, and Narrows. When at Zion get a permit to do Subway, super cool!

    1. We wanted to go to Waterton while we were in Glacier, but we were living on the road with our cats at the time and I don’t think we had the proper paperwork to take them across the border. We’ll def have to go back next time. We’re hoping to do Subway too next time we visit Utah! :) Thanks, Gareth!

  2. Cascade Canyon seemed to be the one must hike to do if short on time- it was great but I would reckon there are many. Watch out for an initial steep (the only steep bit) hike up from the water to Inspiration point (it is a bit of a slog for those not fit).
    It was very busy in August and we just missed a young moose apparently. We walked up another 3 or 4 miles and I had a ice cold swim in a beach like part of the river (Don’t do that unless it is a really hot day like when we were there) . We didn’t go all the way to Lake solitude but if you have time and energy do that.

    1. Thanks, Yolanda. We were just in Grand Teton last month and we didn’t end up going because the smog was so bad we couldn’t see anything. We def need to hike it when we go back.

  3. Table Mountain in Wyoming. Depending on which trail you take it’s between 10 and 14 miles with a 4,200 foot elevation gain. Depending on the snow pack there is a very short period on which it can be hiked. It’s listed as hard/strenuous, but I’ve seen everyone from 10 years on up to 70 on the trail. You’re well rewarded at the top when there’s nothing but a massive valley between you and the back side of the Tetons. Will take your breath away.

    1. Amazing – will have to consider it for our next list!

  4. Love your adventures!! Kalalau trail (Napali coast) on Kauai is a breathtaking paradise. Challenging trail but well worth it. Thank you so much for your posts–planning a road trip from SF up through the Oregon Coast, Columbia River Gorge, Mt. Hood, Bend, and Crater lake next summer. I’ll be using your tips and guides!

    1. Thank you, Liz. We will definitely be doing it.. just have to make it back to Hawaii one of these days. haha I hope you have a wonderful trip up in Oregon. There’s so much to see there!

  5. Nice article, thanks. It gives me a lot to look forward to, would like to try many of your hikes. I’m from the northeast, so have been up on top of Lafayette / Franconia Ridge several times. The ridge is breathtakingly beautiful alpine and it can be a lot of fun if you have good weather on a windy day – it gets some of Mt. Washington’s legendary weather and winds are often 50+ mph.

    1. Now that we’ve moved to the Northeast, we will definitely have to do it. :) Have people fallen off because of the winds?

  6. Half Dome and Angel’s landing are amazing! Can’t speak to any of the others as the narrows were closed due to all the snow melt this spring and landscape arch was closed due to construction. I would definitely add the Grand Canyon – though they don’t recommend hiking rim to river and back up in the same day, but we did it anyhow! Great suggestions for future vacations! Thank you!

    1. The Narrows is one of my favorites. I hope you get to go back and do it. :) I’ve always wanted to do the Rim to Rim hike but wanted it multi day since I like stopping for photos. haha Would you say it is doable in a day for the average person?

  7. Hoh Rainforest about 3 years ago, Half Dome 2 years ago, Druid Arch last year.

    Here is one for you: Mt Alava Adventure Trail + Mt. Alava Trail, American Samoa. Did this in March 2017. Here is the Strava data plus some photos: https://www.strava.com/activities/907239774

    1. Thanks, Derek. I would love to make it out to American Samoa. Looks like a great hike.

  8. I’m currently planning a National Parks road trip and am looking forward to doing some hiking, so this list is perfect for me! Thanks for getting me even more excited about the trip :)

    1. You’re so welcome, Kirstie. Which National Parks are you hoping to visit? Happy trekking! :)

  9. Wow, I love this. Beautiful pictures too. Very beautiful. Hiking is truly the way for a foot tourist to see the country.

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