From rugged mountain ranges to peaceful national parks, we’ve gathered a list of the 5 highest-rated hiking trails across all 50 states. Recommended by tens of thousands of outdoor enthusiasts and adventurers alike, these must-visit hiking destinations let you experience nature’s finest treasures.
1. Angel’s Landing Trail, Zion National Park, UT
This rigorous out-and-back trail is 5.4 miles round-trip and is known for its technical difficulty with steep drops and narrow pathways. The effort is well worth it, as Angel's Landing Trail has earned its top rating with stunning views from its observation point 1500 feet above Zion Canyon.
This is a popular hike all year round, but it is recommended to go during the Spring or Fall. The summer can be dangerously hot, and the winter can make the trail wet and icy. Due to the technicality of the trail, you should leave your pets at home. They will not be allowed to join you on your hike.
Zion National Park is free to enter, but you need a permit to hike the Angel’s Landing Trail. For more information about permits, trail navigation, and preparation tips, you can visit https://www.nps.gov/zion/planyourvisit/angels-landing-hiking-permits.htm.
2. Navajo Loop & Queens Garden Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Recommended for first-time visitors, The Queen’s/Navajo Combination Loop averages between 2-3 hours to complete. This 2.9-mile moderately-difficult trail is known for its famous natural features along the way, including Queen Victoria, Two Bridges, and Thor’s Hammer. A bit further down the trail, you will find yourself at a junction. Hike down Queens Garden to witness the colors of the towering sandstone hoodoos, or tall spires of rock.
This trail is recommended from March through October to avoid common and dangerous weather and trail conditions. Leave your pups at home for this one, too.
You will have to pay an entry fee for Bryce Canyon National Park unless you go on one of the fee-free days. For a detailed map, accessibility information, and specific details, take a look at their website here: https://www.nps.gov/thingstodo/queen-s-navajo-combination-loop.htm.
3. Bridge Trail, Coconino National Forest, AZ
A perfect place to experience Red Rock country, this trail is relatively short with a steep climb at the end. It is another out-and-back, moderately difficult trail. At 1.8 miles long, you will experience the largest natural sandstone arch in Sedona. You’ll start off at a trailhead elevation of 4,600 feet, but only a 400-foot climb during the 1.5-hour hike.
Good news! You can bring your pets on this hike, but they must be leashed. Please consider your furry friend’s physical ability when deciding whether to bring them.
Passes and permits are required for recreation. The city of Sedona also offers free shuttle services, as parking is extremely limited and the Devil’s Bridge trailhead can only be accessed with a high-clearance vehicle. Otherwise, you’ll have to park about a mile away from the trail. You can check out the shuttle schedule at https://sedonashuttle.com/routes/route-12/.
4. Emerald Lake Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, CO
Explore this 3.2-mile out-and-back, moderately challenging route near Estes Park, Colorado. From pine forests, alpine lakes, and snow-capped mountains, this is a great hike for photographers. Many visitors enjoy fishing or snowshoeing in this area, too.
Emerald Lake Trail is especially captivating during the winter season. However, it is only recommended if you have winter hiking experience. Stay informed on weather and avalanche conditions, bring adequate hiking attire, and have an emergency plan in place.
Rocky Mountain National Park charges a fee to enter. Timed entry permits are required between May 26-October 22, 2023. Parking is limited, but there are shuttle services available. For more information on fees and passes, visit https://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/fees.htm.
5. Vernal and Nevada Falls via Mist Trail, Yosemite National Park, CA
Most traveled in Yosemite National Park, this 6.4-mile loop takes an average of 4 hours to complete with an elevation gain of 2,208 feet. Along the way, you will hike past two waterfalls (be careful, you might get wet!)
This trail is not pet-friendly, so they will not be allowed to accompany you. It is recommended to hike this trail in spring or early summer, as snow runoff ensures the falls are flowing.
Yosemite charges a fee per vehicle or per motorcycle to enter the park. If you are entering on foot, bicycle, or horse, entrance, the fee is per person. Take a look at https://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/vernalnevadatrail.htm for additional safety and trail etiquette tips, fee information, and more.
If you plan on hiking one of these breathtaking trails, remember to embrace the journey, the challenges, and the discoveries along the way. Above all, stay safe and happy hiking! If you’ve hiked one of the trails on the list or would like to visit sometime, let us know in the comments!