America boasts some of the best outdoor spaces for hiking in the world and we share our Top Seven States for it in this article!
Greetings from the dirt paths to all of you Happy Hikers!
My name is Mike Rudd and I am an outdoor adventure writer, hiking/trail running junkie, and part of the HPH Community. I’m back with another piece on hiking in the United States and in this article I am going to share my Seven Favorite States in America for hiking. Who doesn’t like a good biased hiking article?!
Well not complete bias, I have done at least one hike in all 50 of the US states. And no matter where you love or where you explore there is definitely something for EVERYONE in every state when it comes to hiking! But I do have some favorite states for reasons that I will explain below, hopefully this gives you new ideas and future places to explore on the hiking trails!
Why does the gold medal go to California?
Nine National Parks. 20.8 Millions Acres of National Forests.
The highest point in the Lower 48 of the United States that you can hike up to. (Mount Whitney.) The lowest point in North America that you can hike on. (Badwater Basin.) The World’s Largest Tree. (General Sherman.) I don’t know if I should keep going for you or not?!
Well I can a little bit! California has remote seaside bluffs to explore in Big Sur, city hiking in LA and San Diego that boasts better hikes than you will find in dozens of entire states within their city limits, desert terrain in the Mojave, towering mountain ranges in the Sierra Nevada’s, the most famous granite rocks in the world in El Capitan and Half Dome in Yosemite, boiling mud pots in Lassen Volcanic, over 1,700 miles of the PCT, and the tallest trees in the world in the Redwoods.
If I could only hike in one US state the rest of my life California would be my pick! I’ve lived in California for four of the last five months and the options never cease to amaze me when it comes to hiking trails. City, small town, park, it doesn’t matter, Cali has it. Plus you get to listen to Dr Dre & 2Pac (California Love), The Mamas & The Papas (California Dreamin’), and The Beach Boys (California Girls or really any of their songs) at high volumes en route to your trailhead.
Washington State is an extremely underrated hiking state. Except to anyone who lives in the state of Washington. Everyone in Washington State owns a Subaru to be ready to drive down the worst forest service roads to trailheads, the campsites fill up year-round and far in advance, and it is a state full of people who plan their work lives around their next hiking trips and not vice versa. From the crystal blue lakes in the Northern Cascades to the rainforest of the Olympics to the mighty Mount Rainier to the rugged Mount Baker National Forest to beautiful parks by and in all the major cities and 500 miles on the PCT it’s easy to see why Washington is the Evergreen State! One month living here in the summer of 2020 has me yearning for a whole summer in Wash State (2021 perhaps?!) My wife refers to Wash State as the “Glory Land” and I have two friends who have voice imitations of what Mount Rainier would sound like should it be able to talk. Enough said.
Without growing up as a child that visited Colorado every summer and hiked my face off in Rocky Mountain National Park I’m not sure if I would be the hiking junkie that I am today. Nostalgia aside, it still boasts some of the best hiking terrains in the country. Towns like Durango and Boulder have outstanding “city hiking” options while Rocky Mountain National Park has hundreds of miles of trails and the 58 “14’ers” (mountains at over 14,000 feet) is the most of ANY STATE in the US. From the Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs to the must-see to believe Sand Dunes in Alamosa the state has a little something for everyone. And the winter snowshoe options make hiking a year-round activity in this state!
The nod for the fourth slot goes to Arizona with the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Flagstaff, Saguaro National Park, the Painted Desert of the Petrified Forest, and desert hiking options galore in their biggest city of Phoenix. No matter where you go to in this state it seems like there is an available trail to traverse, you might just need to do it VERY EARLY in the summer heat or wait until the temperatures cool down at night and be able to know what to do if you come upon a Rattlesnake (MOVE BACK!) or a sharp Cacti (don’t try to drink out of it!)
We just spent a month living outside of Sedona and the Clarkdale/Flagstaff/Sedona/Cottonwood quadrant will have your hiking, and wine interests if important to you, covered for months on end! The one of a kind Rim to Rim in the Grand Canyon and the highpoint of Arizona (Humphrey’s Peak) will reward you with extra credit if you summit for your hiking course from Happy People Hike and myself!
Surprise surprise we are on the East Coast finally! Maine has the 100 Miles of Wilderness on the Appalachian Trail, the conclusion of the AT in Baxter State Park with the low elevation but very imposing and strenuous Mt Katahdin, and Acadia National Park is where the most average photographer gets to look like a genius!
The elevation isn’t as high as some of the states out West but the woods, lake trails, and smaller mountain trails of Maine will have any Pacific Northwest lover feeling like they are back at home on the Eastern seaboard!
Maybe another surprise entry here to you? Don’t sleep on Idaho. From the Sawtooth Wilderness to several highly technical peaks to rugged volcanic terrain in Craters of the Moon to even having ONE PERCENT of Yellowstone National Park located in its state I love the hiking in Idaho. It’s got a lot of the positive features of the Pacific Northwest without all of the crowds. I have been to lakes there every bit as lovely as the most beautiful in Glacier National Park in Montana, waterfalls that rival the best you can find in California, and the van life scene that makes you feel like you are in Washington State. You can hike for miles without seeing many people and it’s affordable without the bouje hiking towns that have overtaken some other scenic places in states on the list.
I guess this should be a Top Ten list because I am not sure where to go on this final slot, friends! But the 7th slot belongs to one of these four. I would say the final slot will depend on what YOU WANT!
Craters and black volcanic rock and be at the beach for lunch? Hawaii please.
Sand dunes, backpacking, and crystal clear lakes instead? Pure Michigan awaits you!
Mountains, big blue skies, and carrying bear spray is your thing? Montana it is.
You liked those red rocks of Arizona? Well Utah is covered in them and has five National Parks and dozens of State Parks that will have you dreaming of red rocks for the rest of your life.
Alaska didn’t make the list because of the massive amount of brown bears around every corner, the wilderness there kinda makes me a little nervous to best.
Wyoming, New Mexico, Oregon, Virginia, Vermont, and Tennessee, well you can’t get in the top ten but you get a little shout out here as well!
Every US state has some great hiking. I lived in Ohio most of my life and while it’s not California I found ways to escape into the woods whenever my heart desired. Life is what you make of it, don’t be fooled into thinking that you can’t find epic ways to immerse yourself into the outdoors via hiking in your neck of the woods, no matter where it is!
Do you have any questions on any recommended hikes in these states? Here to chat more and of course this is supposed to just be a fun exercise and a happy place to hang out so share your state you would have included without coming off as an internet troll :)!
May we get to hike more because after all, Happy People Hike!