From the redwood forests of California to the deserts of the southwest to the rolling Blue Ridge Mountains, the United States offers scenic views within wide expanses from coast to coast. There is no better way to explore the 50 states than by strapping on a pair of hiking shoes and venturing out on a trail within a national park or protected natural area. Along the way, you'll trek through rainforests and gorges, and gaze upon glaciers and meadows dotted with wildflowers. Here, seven scenic trails that showcase the country's diverse landscapes.
Cadillac North Ridge Trail
Acadia National Park, Maine
Wildflowers in the spring and stunning fall foliage make this hike on Mount Desert Island tempting, but it’s the end of the trail that makes it a must: The top of Cadillac Mountain is the first point in the continental U.S. to see the sunrise.
Zion National Park, Utah
Bring a walking stick and waterproof shoes for this mesmerizing trip through Zion Canyon’s thinnest section, where the Virgin River flows between sheer rock walls 1,000 feet high. Flash flooding is frequent, so check with park rangers before you set out.
Tahoe Rim Trail
California and Nevada
This massive trail, which passes through California and Nevada as it loops around Lake Tahoe, offers unparalleled views of the lake’s azure waters and the surrounding peaks of the Sierra Nevada. Tackle it in sections or trek all 165 miles in one grand journey.
Cathedral Rock Trail
This spa town’s otherworldly red rocks make it one of the most picturesque places in the whole country. Cathedral Rock Trail offers a stunning 360-degree view of the entire area at its end, which is well worth the strenuous hike. Bring plenty of water—the Arizona sun can be merciless.
Charlies Bunion Trail
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina
This route forms part of the famed Appalachian Trail along the Tennessee–North Carolina border. Trek along it on an overcast day and you might just witness the mysterious, beautiful fog that gives this most-visited national park its name.
Glacier Gorge Trail
Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
The alpine landscape of the Colorado Rockies doesn’t get much more picture-perfect than this path. Glacier Gorge Trail takes hikers past beautiful Alberta Falls before it hits a junction about a mile in—here, you can continue to either Mills Lake or the Loch, but both trails lead to other stunning water features.
Lost Lake Trail
Chugach National Forest, Alaska
The list of jaw-droppingly gorgeous trails in Alaska is as long as the state is large. Still, Lost Lake Trail is notable due to its diverse environments: The trail begins in a temperate rainforest and takes hikers past turquoise lakes, followed by mountain meadows where flowers bloom in warmer weather.