5 Unforgettable Hikes in the U.S. for All Fitness Levels

There’s no shortage of amazing hikes to experience from sea to shining sea across the U.S. From the majestic Rocky Mountains to the rocky coast of New England to the mesas of Utah, America is diverse and picturesque in its landscapes.

We’ve narrowed down the list to some of the top U.S. hikes depending on your goal. Are you a hiker looking for the most stunning views? Are you keen on exploring the best of the National Park system? Or perhaps history calls to you and you’re intrigued by a walk through America’s Civil War past with an expert by your side. The best hikes in the U.S. depend on your goals and fitness level, so here are our picks for five unforgettable hikes.

1. For an Amazing View: Walk Through Acadia National Park

Explore the beauty of America’s northeast coast at Maine’s Acadia National Park. The hike to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest point on the east coast, is about seven miles round-trip and is a must-do for any hiker who loves a beautiful vista. You can also take many expert-led coastal hikes that offer panoramic views of both the Atlantic and the mainland, and the varied landscape means there are hikes for a variety of fitness levels.

Of course, a hike in Maine wouldn’t be complete without some lobster to celebrate upon the conclusion. Our Hiking in Acadia National Park excursion includes a lobster dinner, as well as the opportunity to learn from an expert about how the crustaceans are caught and prepared.

Road Scholar Recommends: Hiking in Acadia National Park

2. For a History Lesson: Trek the Appalachian Trail

Calling all history lovers! The Appalachian Trail affords you many opportunities to trek through history all across this 2,000-mile mountain range.This challenging trail crosses through numerous National Parks, 14 states and historic locations, like Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia and several key Civil War battle sites.

In the evenings of our Appalachian Trail hike, while resting from your miles on the trail, you’ll often have access to historians and experts offering lectures on local history, as well as local plants and geology.

Road Scholar Recommends: Choose Your Pace: A Hiking Adventure on the Appalachian Trail

3. For Your Life List: Hike Colorado’s 14ers

An awesome item to cross off your life list is hiking one of Colorado’s “14ers,” which is a term that means it stands at 14,000 or more feet above sea level. The Rocky Mountain state boasts 54 of these majestic mountains—the most in the U.S.—and on our To the Top! Hiking Colorado’s 14ers, you’ll cross off not one, but three of them!

Hiking these bad boys is no joke, so you’ll want to be in good hiking shape, as you’ll be taking on eight to 12 miles per day at elevations higher than 8,000 feet. But the views at the top make it all worth it, and what you’ll learn along the way with your instructor will be even better.

Road Scholar Recommends: To the Top! Hiking Colorado’s 14ers

4. For a Thrill: Venture to Scout Lookout in Zion National Park, Utah

Spring and fall are the best times of year to hike this gorgeous five mile trail through Utah’s Zion National Park. Starting at the Grotto trailhead, the route to Scout Lookout—and further along Zion's West Rim Trail—offers scenic vistas of canyons, red rocks and jaw-droppingly beautiful landscape. Half the fun and thrill is your hike through “Walter’s Wiggles,” a series of 21 tight switchbacks that quickly gain elevation and venture through Refrigerator Canyon, so named because it’s always shady and cool.

If you’re visiting with kids and grandkids in tow, opt for a family-friendly outdoor adventure in Zion National Park where you’ll learn about Zion’s geology and plant habitats while hiking.

Road Scholar Recommends: Hiking Bryce and Zion National Parks

5. For Tree Lovers: Mariposa Grove, Yosemite National Park, California

Seeing the majestic giant sequoia trees of California should be on every adventurer’s life list, and Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park gets you up close and personal with an expert at your side. This is the largest grove of mature sequoias in the park, and the kick-off to our Hiking Yosemite excursion, which also features fascinating geology and natural history information during on-site lectures.

There are multiple hiking trails to choose from in this area, each of varying lengths and difficulties, which ensures you can wind through the more than 500 magnificent trees at the activity level of your choosing. No matter the hike though, be sure to stretch out your arms for a tree hug, and snap many pictures as you attempt to capture the mammoth size and grand stature of Yosemite’s giant sequoias.

Road Scholar Recommends: Hiking Yosemite Up Close and Personal

Which hike appeals most to your love of learning and sense of adventure?

About the Author
Hailing from London, England, Alexander Morris studied at The School of Oriental and African Studies in his home city. He began his Road Scholar journey 13 years ago designing small programs in the Midwest, learning a great deal about North America in the course of managing and developing unique programming. In his current position as the Director of Strategy and Program Development, his broader International perspective and knowledge is invaluable as he oversees new Road Scholar programming across the globe. Alex espouses the value of an occasional sabbatical to recharge creative batteries, spending four months sailing the Greek Islands prior to joining Road Scholar and more recently spending a year in Costa Rica.

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