Best walks, hikes and treks in USA [View list of walks]
The vastness of the United States, one of the largest countries in the world, makes a summary of its charms an extraordinary challenge. Inhabited by native Americans for thousands of years, and visited by the Vikings as far back as the 10th century, this remains, however, a young nation, forged over the last half millennium through diversity and immigration.
Such recent and disparate origins, with all their inherent insecurity, have bought their own costs: a modern history of ethnic cleansing, slavery and suppression and social inequalities and lack of support for the less fortunate which amaze those in sclerotic Europe. And yet from this modern empire has arisen a fixation with freedom in all its forms, including hundreds of millions of privately-owned guns.
America’s history, its settlement, economic success, and through this its political domination, is inextricably intertwined with its natural resources. Perhaps because of their defining role, the USA began to look to the protection of its natural spaces earlier than any other country – and this has made it a home to some of the most famous and the most outstanding wildernesses in the world.
From the unspoiled mountain backcountry of the northwest to the eerie sandstone formations in the deserts of the southwest, the western-American landscape is fantastic and varied. It is not so surprising that its name in Mandarin – meigno – means “beautiful country”. For something more metropolitan head outwards: on either coast lie some of the world’s most renowned cities, New York and its fabulous Brooklyn Bridge to the east, and the beautiful bay of San Francisco in the west.
So, the USA has things to fascinate everyone, children included. The variety of travel and tours you can make in America is as a result huge.
Walking, hiking and trekking in USA
The USA has some of the world’s best walks, hikes and treks, ranging from tough mountain hiking and trekking trails, such as those in the vast Rocky Mountains and the compact Catskill Range, to geological absurdities like the Grand Canyon, Zion, Yosemite, the Chinese Wall, Arches National Park and the various slot canyons to volcanic excitements such as Hawaii, Mount St Helen’s and Crater Lake to historic routes (the Nez Perce National Historic Trail, or the Freedom Trail through Boston) to the charismatic cities of New York and San Francisco.
Perhaps most famously of all it has wilderness hikes through the great American national parks, with walking routes exploring the geothermal wonders of Yellowstone or the huge views, pristine forests and mirror-like lakes of the Tetons, or the crags, cirques and lakes of the Wind River Mountains.
In long distance walks America has something of a trump card in the heroic Continental Divide Trail. Stretching down from the Canadian border in the north to the border with Mexico in the south, this epic trail takes in some of the country’s best scenery and toughest hikes. And the grand Appalachian Trail does well on that front, too
So, walking, hiking and trekking tours and holidays in the USA are so varied that everyone’s taste and energy levels can be met. Walking here isn’t just for hard-nuts, although there is plenty to get their juices flowing. The lazy and youngsters alike will be enthralled by what it offers: American walking, trekking and hiking holidays and tours really can be for everyone.
See the list below for a (currently incomplete – please give us your recommendations!) list of the best walks, treks and hikes in the USA. Various of these are in our world’s Top 100 list.
Famous walking regions include:
- The Grand Canyon, Paria and Buckskin, the Wave, Canyonlands, Zion and Arches NP: beautiful, naturally carved sandstone shapes, slot canyons and weirdly wonderful desert
- Yosemite, King’s Canyon, Mount Whitney and the long distance John Muir Trail that links them together: outstandingly scenic Californian landscape
- Yellowstone NP, the Tetons and the Wind River Mountains: an illustrious, charismatic landscape of geothermal wonders and stunning views
- Glacier NP: stunning mountainous landscape of rapidly disappearing glaciers on the Canadian border
- Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Bitterroot Mountains: a mountainous countryside coated in thick forest and alpine meadows, and cut through by the imposing Chinese Wall
- Shenandoah, the Catskills and the Great Smoky Mountains NP: lush green forests and cascading waterfalls in the eastern mountains of the USA
- Volcanic Hawaii: the craters of Kilauea volcano, barren Haleakala NP, and the stunning coastal views of the Kalalau Trail
- Alaska: the harsh, icy landscapes of the Kenai Peninsula and McGonagall Pass
We intend that our walk pages contain detail and photos on walking, hiking or trekking routes, including books, best times and weather, how to get there, possible problems, walking, trekking and hiking firms, organisers and guides in USA, accommodation in USA and useful links. But this takes a lot of research, so if they are not "there" yet, please give us any suggestions you may have.
Best walks, hikes and treks in USA
You can sort the walks by category by clicking on the category titles.
(The rating of walks marked * is currently provisional.)