The Best Hikes in Every State to Get Your Heart Pumping

whiteface mountain

whiteface mountain by Geoffrey Williams (CC BY)

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whiteface mountain
whiteface mountain by Geoffrey Williams (CC BY)

Blazing Trails

Most avid hikers end up with a favorite trail or two that they visit over and over, watching the seasons change over familiar terrain. But the U.S. is rich in scenic hikes — so for those who want to explore new territory or just get a great workout, here's a collection of the best hikes in every state. We chose trails that are popular both with novices and experts and that are challenging enough to get your heart pumping, but with scenery magnificent enough that you won't mind the workout. Just make sure you research your destination before you go. For instance, Hawaii's Diamond Head has started requiring reservations for out-of-staters.

Related: 35 Surprising Facts About America's National Parks

Walls of Jericho State Natural Area, Alabama

Alabama: Walls of Jericho State Natural Area

A pair of trails wind through this natural area, but we're most excited about the Walls of Jericho Trail, a roughly 7-mile in-and-out hike through a collection of beautiful features, from a pretty waterfall to a natural rock amphitheater and even a slot canyon. The opportunities to explore are almost endless, so you'll have no problem tiring your legs out — but make sure you bring your best shoes, because the rocks can be slippery.

Related: Magical Waterfalls Perfect for a Refreshing Swim

Eklutna Lakeside Trails, Alaska

Alaska: Eklutna Lakeside Trails

It's hard to beat the trails around Alaska's massive, glacier-fed Eklutna Lake for their variety and beauty. The rolling lakeside trail stretches for almost 13 miles. For more ambitious hikers, take the shorter but much steeper 5-mile (round-trip) Twin Peaks trail to overlooks of the lake's dramatic blue-green water and a pretty, grassy meadow. 

Related: World's Most Beautiful Glaciers to See Before They're Gone

Camelback Mountain, Arizona

Arizona: Camelback Mountain

We can't mention Arizona without talking about the Grand Canyon, so if you want a serious thigh-burner of a workout, try tackling part of the Bright Angel Trail — we guarantee you'll feel the burn on the way back up. But if you want to sample Arizona's desert beauty without the park’s entrance fee, check out the panoramic views from atop Camelback Mountain near Phoenix, where two short but steep trails head to the top.

Related: Bucket-List Experiences in America's National Parks

North Rim Trail, Arkansas
North Rim Trail, Arkansas by Granger Meador (CC BY)

Arkansas: North Rim Trail

Mount Magazine State Park contains the highest point in Arkansas — but due to thick tree cover, the views of the forested hills around you are actually best from Cameron Bluff Overlook Drive along the North Rim Trail. But don't stop there! If you haven't broken a sweat yet, you can link this trail with the Greenfield and Mossback Ridge trails to create a more than 4-mile loop back to the visitor center trailhead.

Clouds Rest (Yosemite National Park), California

California: Clouds Rest (Yosemite National Park)

California's state and national parks spill over with steep, dramatic scenery that'll get your heart pumping. One of the prettiest hikes you don't need a permit for is Clouds Rest in Yosemite National Park, where you can catch epic views over the valley to the hiking/climbing mecca of Half Dome. You have several trailheads to choose from on this challenging hike, which stretches more than 14 miles round trip.

Mount Bierstadt, Colorado

Colorado: Mount Bierstadt

Is there a single hiking trail in Colorado that won't challenge your heart and your legs? We don't think so — this is one of those states where you just can't go wrong. But we especially love Mount Bierstadt in Mount Evans Wilderness, because it's one of the most accessible "14er" (over 14,000 feet) peaks in the state, wandering past a couple of pretty lakes before charging for the summit, an almost 7-mile round trip.

Bear Mountain, Connecticut
Bear Mountain, Connecticut by Jimmy Emerson, DVM (CC BY)

Connecticut: Bear Mountain

Although Bear Mountain isn't technically the highest point in Connecticut — that honor goes to a spot on the slopes of Mount Frissell, whose summit is in Massachusetts — it is the state's highest peak. This 5.4-mile round-trip trek boasts 360-degree views over neighboring New York and Massachusetts, along with a tie-in to the Appalachian Trail. Although you can take a few routes up Bear Mountain, starting on the Under Mountain Trail is the most straightforward option.

Swamp Forest Trail, Delaware
Swamp Forest Trail, Delaware by Mandy Jansen (CC BY)

Delaware: Swamp Forest Trail

If you can bear to pull yourself away from Delaware's lovely coastline, explore the Swamp Forest Trail, one of the longest hiking trails in the state. The 7.5-mile trek makes a complete circuit of the state's largest freshwater pond, touring through wildflower fields and oak, maple, black cherry, and sweet gum trees.

Black Bear Wilderness Loop, Florida

Florida: Black Bear Wilderness Loop

This 7.1-mile loop through the Black Bear Wilderness Area is one of Florida's more challenging trails, and it just so happens to offer some of the state's best wildlife viewing opportunities, too. If you're lucky, you might even see a Florida black bear. There aren't any shortcuts along the loop, but if you don't want to do the entire trail, you can hike along the eastern portion (start the loop going counterclockwise) to enjoy the riverside section.

Yonah Mountain Trail, Georgia
Yonah Mountain Trail, Georgia by Cody Wellons (CC BY)

Georgia: Yonah Mountain Trail

The Mount Yonah Trail in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests is “just right” to get your heart pumping: A 4.4-mile round trip trek through thick forest full of tumbled boulders and meadows full of wildflowers, to a selection of near-summit overlooks that offer spectacular long-range views. (Although the summit itself is pretty, it's so thickly wooded that the overlooks offer the better vantage points.)

Red Mountain Trail Idaho
United States Department of Agriculture

Idaho: Red Mountain Trail

A combination of two trails — Clear Creek to start out, then the Red Mountain Trail to the peak of the eponymous mountain — is all it takes to snag panoramic views of the mountain ranges all around you. All told, the hike is 7 miles round trip, and if you're really the adventurous sort, you could pack for an overnight trip and explore around Red Mountain Lakes, visible directly below the peak.

Diamond Head, Hawaii

Hawaii: Diamond Head

We only need one word to describe the many visitors to Hawaii's Diamond Head State Monument who make the steep, 1.6-mile trek to the top of the Diamond Head Summit Trail: sweaty. You even get a few sets of steep stairs thrown in for fun, and if going up once isn't challenge enough, do another lap for views of Oahu's entire south shore. But take heed: Beginning in mid-May, reservations will be required for non-Hawaii residents in order to reduce the impact of visitors on the iconic landmark. They can be made up to 14 days in advance. 

cool_waterfall_glen2 by Scotriani (Scott Evans Photography) (CC BY)

Illinois: Waterfall Glen

If you want a great workout, join marathon runners as they use the hillier trails in Waterfall Glen Forest Preserve to improve their endurance. But don't worry: There are gentle trail options, too, and there's plenty to see in this popular preserve, which has 11 miles of trail, a beautiful waterfall, and an impressive bluff overlook.

Jackson-Washington State Forest

Indiana: Jackson-Washington State Forest

The trails in almost-18,000-acre Jackson-Washington State Forest are easily accessed, but not so easily conquered. Get ready to feel a serious burn as you wind through the dozen trails here, including a tie-in to the 58-mile-long Knobstone Trail. You might also see wildlife include turkeys and deer ghosting through some of the state's best scenic views.

Eagle Rock Trail, Iowa

Iowa: Eagle Rock Trail

For the best views and one of the best workouts, head to Effigy Mounds National Monument. Although you have many trails to choose, from the 7-mile round trip to Eagle Rock takes you past some of the most dramatic views in Iowa, including expansive overlooks over the mighty Mississippi River and a series of effigy mounds (rock monuments created by Native American peoples more than a thousand years ago).

Elk River Trail Bluff
Elk River Trail Bluff by Granger Meador (CC BY)

Kansas: Elk River Trail

The popular Elk River Trail runs 15 miles from point to point; you can either create your own out-and-back hike or set up a car shuttle and go for the entire fifteen miles in one ambitious burst. Along the way, you'll climb a series of limestone bluffs on the northwest shore of Elk City Lake, crossing a few streams and ravines along the way — just enough to make the trail interesting, but still a happy moderate hike.

Pinnacle Overlook Trail, Kentucky

Kentucky: Pinnacle Overlook Trail

You can only hike the Pinnacle Overlook Trail in Cumberland Gap National Historic Park from April through October, but there's no beating the views from the top of this 7.8-mile round-trip trek. In summer, you'll look out over carpets of rolling, forested hills; later in the year, the hillsides blaze with all the colors of the fall foliage.

DSCF0872 by Richard May (CC BY)

Louisiana: Backbone Trail

Louisiana may not be the tallest state in the union — its highest natural summit is just a little over 500 feet above sea level — but that doesn't mean it's lacking in wild beauty or opportunities to get your heart pumping. Consider a 7-mile point-to-point hike Backbone Trail in Kisatchie National Forest. For most of the trail's length, you'll travel a ridgeline with unobstructed views of the rolling land around you; it also intersects three other nearby wilderness trails.

Tumbledown Mountain, Maine
Tumbledown Mountain, Maine by Tim Pierce (CC BY)

Maine: Tumbledown Mountain

Maine is spilling over with forest-clad mountains and rugged coastline, so it was almost impossible to choose a favorite. In the end, we settled on the Tumbledown Mountain Loop because it's easily accessible, but still challenging enough to keep even the fittest hikers entertained. This 5.3-mile loop trail packs almost 2,000 feet of elevation gain, but don't worry; there are plenty of milder options on the mountain, too.

Sugarloaf Mountain SW View
Sugarloaf Mountain SW View by Mr.TinDC (CC BY)

Maryland: Sugarloaf Mountain

If you're ready to get your wildflowers and your workout in the same place, set out on one of the four color-coded trails on Sugarloaf Mountain. One of the most popular is the blue Northern Peaks Trail, a 5-mile circuit that highlights some of the mountain's prettiest scenery.

2012_07_21_great-blue-hill_32 by Doc Searls (CC BY)

Massachusetts: Blue Hills Skyline Loop

Located just a few miles outside Boston, the Blue Hills Reservation sprawls across more than 7,000 acres and contains 125 miles of trail to explore. Make sure you take a trail map with you and, if you want a challenge, head for the blue-blazed 5.4-mile Blue Hills Skyline Loop, which tiptoes across several summits in the park.

Escarpment Trail, Michigan

Michigan: Escarpment Trail

You have your choice of three trailheads for accessing the Escarpment Trail in Porcupine Mountains State Park. This 8.2-mile out-and-back trail is a hearty part of the park's network of trails, following a ridgeline along the north side of the stunning Lake of the Clouds and offering commanding views of the hills all around.

Eagle Mountain Trail, Minnesota

Minnesota: Eagle Mountain Trail

One of the best — and prettiest — challenges in Minnesota is the trail up Eagle Mountain in Superior National Forest. In return for a 7-mile round trip on a rugged, sometimes steep wilderness trail, you'll gain the highest peak in Minnesota — elevation 2,301 feet — along with sweeping views of your new forest kingdom and Lake Superior in the distance.

Clark Creek State Park, Mississippi

Mississippi: Clark Creek State Park

Tucked into the state's southwest corner, Clark Creek State Park has some 50 waterfalls — a very unusual feature in Mississippi. The many trails here take you strolling through a forest of hardwood and pine trees, where you'll have plenty of opportunities to see wildlife and maybe even the endangered Carolina magnolia vine.

Rock Bridge State Park, Missouri

Missouri: Rock Bridge State Park

Despite its almost-urban location (just a few minutes from Columbia), Rock Bridge State Park offers the perfect smorgasbord of natural Missouri beauty, with prairie grasslands, steep bluffs, sprawling forest, caves, and good chances wildlife sightings including deer, beaver, and muskrat. All told, the park has eight trails that total more than 22 miles.

Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint, Montana

Montana: Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint

Plenty of hikes in this list feature spectacular mountain peaks — but this is the only one that heads straight for a glacier and the lake at its feet. Grinnell Glacier Viewpoint is just one stop on the "Many Glacier" route in Glacier National Park; you have your choice of starting at the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead or Many Glacier Hotel; it's a 5.3-mile trek, one way, to get to the prize. For shorter treks, you can circumnavigate (or is that circumhike?) the lower-altitude lakes along the way. 

Indian Cave State Park, Nebraska

Nebraska: Indian Cave State Park

One of our favorite areas in Nebraska is Indian Cave State Park, where you can put together your own outing on 22 miles of scenic hiking and biking trails, passing over rugged terrain in a majestic hardwood forest. One of the park's most notable features is Indian Cave, where you can view Native American petroglyphs from a boardwalk that passes inside the cave; the trail also offers great views of the Missouri River.

Turtlehead Peak
Turtlehead Peak by BLM Nevada (CC BY)

Nevada: Turtlehead Peak

Turtlehead Peak, located in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, hits the sweet spot: It enjoys lofty views of the surrounding sandstone peaks while remaining within easy reach of Las Vegas's glittering lights. And although its 4.6-mile round trip climb is challenging, it's still imminently doable — as long as you start early during the heat of summer.

Mount Chocorua
Mount Chocorua by Patrick Kinney (CC BY)

New Hampshire: Mount Chocorua

Mount Chocorua is not only the most-photographed peak in New England, but also one of the most-hiked mountains in New Hampshire. The only thing more plentiful than the views here is the number of hiking trails (and trailheads) you have to choose from. If you start from the Champney Falls Trailhead, it's an ambitious 7.2-mile round trip trek to the summit and back, or you can build some endurance on several shorter trail options from the same trailhead.

Stairway to Heaven, New Jersey

New Jersey: Stairway to Heaven

Adventurous families and solo hardbodies alike will appreciate the sprawling views from the rocky stairs of Vernon, New Jersey's Stairway to Heaven trail. Depending on where you start, you can hike the stairs as a short-and-steep 2.5-mile thigh burner, or incorporate them as part of a 7.3-mile hike. Actually, because this trail links into the Appalachian Trail, you could continue for hundreds of miles if you wanted to, and you might meet some thru-hikers who are doing exactly that.

bandelier by katie wheeler (CC BY)

New Mexico: Bandelier National Monument

You'll find more than 70 miles of trails to choose from in New Mexico's Bandelier National Monument. But the cultural history is what really makes this place special: As you hike the canyon and mesa country, you can also view ancient ruins from the Pueblo people who inhabited this area more than 10,000 years ago. Or head into the backcountry if you want the challenge of longer, more rugged trails.

whiteface mountain
whiteface mountain by Geoffrey Williams (CC BY)

New York: Whiteface Mountain

Once part of the Olympic facilities for nearby Lake Placid, the almost 5,000-foot Whiteface Mountain in the Adirondack Mountains has dozens of trails that, by summer, let you hike for up to 22 miles on three different peaks. Whiteface Mountain is very much a choose-your-own-adventure hike, wending up the same trails that skiers zip down in the winter — but keep your eyes open for fast-moving mountain bikers, too. If you make it all the way to the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Vermont and even into Canada.

072514_546_Grandfather Mountain
072514_546_Grandfather Mountain by turcottes78 (CC BY)

North Carolina: Grandfather's Profile to Calloway Peak

The 7-mile round trip to the top of Calloway Peak in Grandfather Mountain National Park puts you atop the highest mountain in North Carolina's Blue Ridge range. As you follow the Profile Trail to the peak, you'll have views galore along with some fairly gymnastic adventures, including a few ladders and stream crossings, to really get your heart going.

Little Missouri State Park
North Dakota Parks & Recreation

North Dakota: Little Missouri State Park

If you've ever wanted to experience North Dakota's badlands, then Little Missouri State Park — open May through October — offers some of the best backcountry foot access. With 47 miles of groomed trails to choose from, you can select the "green" trails to keep things easy, or work your way up to the extremely challenging "black" trails that are as rugged as the landscape around you.

Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, OH
Ash Cave, Hocking Hills State Park, OH by Amarnath (CC BY)

Ohio: Hocking Hills State Park

Although Ohio isn't spilling over with lofty mountains, it keeps plenty of dramatic scenery close to its chest. Some of the best "can't miss" sights worth sweating for are in Hocking Hills State Park, where 14 miles of groomed trails will take you to Ash Cave (the state's largest recess cave), Old Man's Cave, the Whispering Cave, and Cedar Falls.

Black Mesa Summit, Oklahoma

Oklahoma: Black Mesa Summit

You'll find some of Oklahoma's most dramatic scenery around Black Mesa, a striking plateau that, at almost 5,000 feet of altitude, is the highest peak in the state. The trek through rolling grasslands to the top of the desert mesa, with views of neighboring buttes and mesas — topped with tufts of juniper, scrub oak, and cactus — is just over 8 miles round trip.

Angel's Rest
Angel's Rest by Lisa Norwood (CC BY)

Oregon: Angel's Rest

A true West Coast classic, the Angel's Rest Trail in Oregon's Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area offers a stout workout with amazing views over Portland. It's about a 5-mile round trip, although you can connect it with other trails in the National Scenic Area to create a longer trip, and even if you turn around early, you'll still get great views from a perch atop 150-foot Coopey Falls. This area was affected by the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire, but was reopened to public use in late 2018. If you need an alternative, Mount Hood National Forest boasts about a thousand miles of hiking trails.

Tuscarora by Brook Ward (CC BY)

Pennsylvania: Ricketts Glen State Park

You'll find 26 miles of hiking trails winding through Ricketts Glen State Park, ranging from mild to steep and slippery. Without a question, the most challenging — and impressive — trail here is the 7.2-mile Falls Trail Loop, which passes by 21 waterfalls, the highest of which is 94 feet tall. Heads up: The trail is generally closed during the winter.

Wolf Hill Forest Preserve, Rhode Island
Rhonda-Lisa K./Yelp

Rhode Island: Wolf Hill Forest Preserve

What Rhode Island lacks in square mileage, it makes up in striking scenery. Most of the beautiful coastal walks you can take for views over the Atlantic are easy and paved, or force you to scramble awkwardly over boulders. But the World War II Memorial Loop in Wolf Hill Forest Preserve offers a difference experience, with a mix of rolling trails that take you past the memorial site to a WWII bomber crash, then on to a waterfall and views of the Providence skyline.

Table Rock State Park, South Carolina

South Carolina: Table Rock State Park

Table Rock State Park is home to wildlife like black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkey, bobcats and gray foxes ... oh, and there are more than a dozen miles of prime hiking trails, too. Once you've cut your teeth on the gentler trails, we recommend tackling either the strenuous Table Rock Trail (7.2 miles round trip) or Pinnacle Mountain Trail (8.4 miles round trip), both of which offer fantastic views of the mountains around you.

Scenic drives with beautiful views in Spearfish, South Dakota.

South Dakota: Crow Peak Trail

Just outside of Spearfish, South Dakota, the Crow Peak Trail is a challenging, 6.4-mile round trip to and from what used to be the bottom of the ocean floor. The softer limestone and sedimentary rock that were first lifted up from the ocean have eroded away, leaving behind igneous intrusions to cap this spectacular peak and its panoramic views of the Black Hills and surrounding prairies.

See Tennessee
See Tennessee by csm242000 Photography (CC BY)

Tennessee: Fiery Gizzard Trail

This is the sort of long, rugged hike you'd want to work up to, but even the early portions of the trail are their own reward, with 60-foot Foster Falls making a prominent appearance. If you were to hike the entire trail, it'd be 11.4 miles one way, but making a 9.6-mile loop to Raven's Point and back is one of the most popular routes in the state. Why is it called the Fiery Gizzard Trail? We're not sure we want to know.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

Texas: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park holds the four highest peaks in Texas and more than 80 miles of trails, so there's no shortage of views — or thigh-burning climbs — to be had. Try a relatively mild climb on the Devil's Hall Trail, or go for the big prize of 8,751-foot Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, which will take most people all day to summit. 

A summer morning at the lake
A summer morning at the lake by Brandon Rasmussen (CC BY)

Utah: Big Cottonwood Canyon

Located a short drive outside Salt Lake City, Big Cottonwood Canyon offers everything you could ask for in an urban escape: Beautiful wilderness, striking rock formations, and even some lovely lakeside terrain. Two of our favorite "worth a sweat" trails here are Lake Blanche (about 7 miles round trip) and Mount Raymond (almost 8 miles round trip if you go the distance). Both are steep, but it's worth the effort to get these epic views.

Camel's Hump, Vermont
Camel's Hump, Vermont by Arminnius (CC BY)

Vermont: Camel's Hump

Camel's Hump, located in Camel's Hump State Park, is Vermont's third-highest peak and one of its most pristine, with sweeping summit views across New York's Adirondacks, New Hampshire's White Mountains, and up and down the spine of the Green Mountains that the Camel's Hump belongs to. Choose from any of several routes up the mountain, which is a National Natural Landmark and supports the second largest extent of alpine tundra in Vermont.

Mary's Rock, Virginia

Virginia: Mary's Rock

Hiking to the summit of Mary's Rock in Shenandoah National Park strikes the perfect balance of challenging but doable, with beautiful views across the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains. You have your choice of four summit routes to customize your workout, ranging from almost 3 miles round-trip to about 9. 

Mount Si, Washington

Washington: Mount Si

Okay, Mount Si and its diminutive buddy Little Si might not be the most remote mountains in Washington State — in fact there are so many of those to choose from, we could argue for days about which is best. But when it comes to a convenient — and still gorgeous — mountain workout, you just can't beat Mount Si's easy road access and 3,150 feet of elevation gain in an 8-mile round trip.

Spruce Knob Trail, West Virginia

West Virginia: Spruce Knob Trail

If you want to sweat, head straight for the highest point in West Virginia: 4,863-foot Spruce Knob in the Monongahela National Forest. Along the way, you'll enjoy sweeping views over grassy meadows and rolling forested ridges stretching away to the horizon. There's even an observation tower at the top. A round-trip trek is about 11.4 miles, but with great views early on, too, you can tailor the trail's length to suit you without feeling like you're missing out.

Devil's Lake, Wisconsin

Wisconsin: Devil's Lake

Devil's Lake State Park may be the hottest hiking destination in the upper Midwest, with attendance numbers recently growing to about 3 million visitors per year. Although the park boasts almost 30 miles of trails, if you're looking for a challenge, you'll want to head for the challenging East Bluff and West Bluff trails. The former takes you on a 4.5-mile stroll past some of the park's most famous rock formations, while the latter is a 3-mile loop near dramatic sheer cliffs. 

Death Canyon, Wyoming

Wyoming: Death Canyon

The state of Wyoming may conjure up images of cowboys and grasslands, but it's also home to the craggy peaks of Grand Teton National Park. Some of the park's most spectacular trails require permits, but once you've paid the park entry fee you can explore the alpine beauty of Death Canyon with impunity. This adventurous route connects in to other peaks and canyons, so you can go as far as you like, with the Death Canyon Patrol cabin (8 miles round trip) as a good "work for it" destination.