The United States is home to some of the most diverse landscapes on the planet, ranging from barren deserts and vast canyons to lush forests and snow-capped mountains. Because of this, it’s no surprise that it also has some of the most spectacular and accessible hiking trails in the world.
The National Park Service has done wonders to preserve the trails and scenery that make these destinations so special. Here are some of the best national parks for hiking in the U.S., as well as some easy day hikes that you can do within each park. Of course, there are plenty of multiday treks available in most parks as well, but if your time is limited or you’d simply rather spend your time doing other things, day hikes may be what you’re looking for.
So get your boots on, get your daypack stocked, and get ready for a look at the 10 most breathtaking day hikes in the United States.
1. Yosemite National Park
Located in California, Yosemite sits amid the stunning granite peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Within the park, there are countless waterfalls, including nine with drops cascading over 1,000 feet, so no matter where you go in the park, you’re bound to be wowed. Yosemite is also known for groves of ancient, giant sequoia trees, some of which are estimated to be around 1,800 years old and stand at over 200 feet tall.
- Vernal and Nevada Falls: This hike only takes around 2–5 hours, depending on how far you go. It’s around three miles round-trip to Vernal Fall, and seven miles round-trip to Nevada Fall, with an elevation gain of 1,000 feet. The stunning scenery makes this one of the best day hikes at Yosemite, so if you only have time to do one hike, make it this one.
- May Lake: This hike only takes around 45 minutes to 1.5 hours, but it really is beautiful. It’s 2.5 miles round-trip to May Lake, and an elevation gain of 500 feet. Almost exactly at the park’s geographical center, Mount Hoffmann stands at 10,850 feet and commands spectacular views of Yosemite.