10 Best Hiking Trails in America with Breathtaking Views

Journey through nature with our guide to the ten best hiking trails with breathtaking views. From mountain panoramas to coastal cliffs, each trail promises an unforgettable adventure. Lace up your boots and prepare to be inspired by the beauty of the great outdoors.

Related: 10 Lesser-Known Places That Deserve National Park Status

10 South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The South Kaibab Trail in Grand Canyon National Park boasts views that will leave you in awe. This trail offers a thrilling adventure for both seasoned hikers and those seeking a memorable outdoor experience.

Starting at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the South Kaibab Trail descends steeply into the canyon, showing panoramic views at every turn. The trail is well-maintained and offers various vantage points where hikers can pause to catch their breath and soak in the inspiring scenery.

One of the highlights of the South Kaibab Trail is the Ooh Aah Point, located a mile (1.6 kilometers) from the trailhead. As the name suggests, this viewpoint offers a jaw-dropping panorama of the canyon, with its rugged terrain and vibrant colors. It’s the perfect spot to snap some photos and take in the sheer size and scale of the Grand Canyon.

As you continue along the trail, you’ll see other landmarks, such as Cedar Ridge and Skeleton Point, each offering unique perspectives of the canyon’s beauty. Bring plenty of water and wear sturdy hiking shoes, as the trail can be challenging, especially during the hotter months.

The South Kaibab Trail is a favorite among hikers for its dramatic scenery and unparalleled views. Whether you’re hiking a short section or tackling the entire trail, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience that will leave you feeling inspired by the natural wonders of the Grand Canyon.

9 Clouds Rest, Yosemite National Park, California

Tucked away in the majestic embrace of Yosemite National Park lies a trail that promises the adventure of a lifetime: South Clouds Rest. This hiking trail is a journey into the heart of California’s wilderness, offering breathtaking views that will leave you spellbound.

Starting from the Tenaya Lake Trailhead, this moderate to strenuous hike spans approximately 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) round trip. While the distance may seem daunting, every step is rewarded with awe-inspiring scenery that makes it all worthwhile.

As you ascend through towering pines and granite cliffs, the trail gradually unveils panoramic vistas of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and the iconic peaks of the Sierra Nevada range. The real treat, however, awaits at the summit of South Clouds Rest.

At an elevation of over 9,900 feet (3,017 meters), the summit provides a bird’s-eye view of the surrounding landscape, seemingly stretching to infinity. From here, you can marvel at the sheer beauty of Yosemite’s rugged terrain, with its cascading waterfalls, pristine lakes, and lush meadows painting a picture-perfect backdrop against the azure sky.

8 Watchman Peak Trail, Crater Lake National Park, Oregon

The Watchman Peak Trail is a must-visit for Crater Lake National Park hiking enthusiasts. It is a journey through geological wonder and natural beauty.

Starting at the Watchman Overlook, this moderate 1.6-mile (2.57-kilometer) round-trip trail leads adventurers to the summit of Watchman Peak, standing tall at 8,013 feet (2,442 meters) above sea level. While the elevation might get your heart pumping, the payoff is well worth it. Along the way, hikers are treated to views of the pristine Crater Lake, renowned for its crystal-clear blue waters formed within the caldera of Mount Mazama thousands of years ago.

As you ascend, the trail weaves through a landscape of evergreen forests and rugged terrain, offering glimpses of vibrant wildflowers during the spring and summer. Keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife like deer, squirrels, and even the occasional bald eagle soaring overhead.

Upon reaching the summit, you can marvel at the sheer magnitude of Crater Lake, surrounded by towering cliffs and snow-capped peaks in the distance. Whether you’re snapping photos or simply taking it all in, the serenity and grandeur of this natural spectacle are sure to leave a lasting impression.

7 Charlies Bunion, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina & Tennessee

If you’re a hiking enthusiast craving jaw-dropping vistas, Charlies Bunion in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is your ticket to nature’s grandeur. Between North Carolina and Tennessee, this iconic trail offers a memorable blend of challenge and beauty that’ll leave you spellbound.

The journey to Charlies Bunion isn’t for the faint-hearted, but trust me, it’s worth every step. The hike starts at the Newfound Gap parking area and is around 8 miles (13 kilometers) round trip. Be prepared for a moderately strenuous trek.

As you cross the Appalachian Trail, prepare to be captivated by the surrounding wilderness. Dense forests, babbling brooks, and occasional glimpses of wildlife accompany you, making the journey as enchanting as the destination.

Charlies Bunion unveils itself like a hidden gem, revealing a rocky outcrop that juts out into the abyss. Perched at an elevation of over 5,500 feet, the viewpoint offers a breathtaking 360-degree spectacle. Feast your eyes on the ridges of the Smokies, draped in a cloak of mist and mystery. On a clear day, you might even spot Mount LeConte proudly asserting its dominance over the landscape.

Remember to bring your camera because Charlies Bunion is a photographer’s dream come true. Whether you’re a seasoned shutterbug or just a casual snapper, you’ll want to capture every angle of this natural wonder.

6 Grinnell Glacier Trail, Glacier National Park, Montana

In Glacier National Park, the Grinnell Glacier Trail is a hiker’s dream come true. With its jaw-dropping scenery and moderate challenge level, it’s no wonder this trail earns its spot among the best hiking trails.

Starting at the Grinnell Glacier Trailhead, adventurers embark on a roughly 10.3-mile (16.6-kilometer) round-trip journey that promises unforgettable experiences at every turn. The trail winds through forests alongside crystalline lakes. Eventually, it ascends to reveal panoramic vistas of rugged peaks and pristine glaciers.

One of the highlights of the hike is witnessing the Grinnell Glacier itself, a remnant of the last Ice Age clinging to the slopes of the mountains. Hikers may encounter wildlife, including bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and even the occasional grizzly bear. Come prepared with bear spray and knowledge of bear safety protocols when venturing into this wild and beautiful terrain.

The trail’s moderate difficulty level makes it accessible to most hikers, but be prepared for steep sections and changes in elevation. However, every step is rewarded with increasingly stunning views that make the effort worthwhile.

5 Mesa Arch Trail, Canyonlands National Park, Utah

The Mesa Arch Trail is waiting to be explored in Canyonlands National Park. Starting at the Island in the Sky, this moderately easy trail spans just about half a mile (less than one kilometer) round trip, making it perfect for hikers of all skill levels. But don’t let its short length fool you. What it lacks in distance, it more than makes up for in natural beauty.

Of course, the highlight of the Mesa Arch Trail is the iconic Mesa Arch itself. Picture hiking along a dusty trail, anticipation building with every step, until suddenly, you reach the edge and are greeted by one of the most breathtaking views in the park. The arch frames a stunning panorama of distant canyons, deep valleys, and towering rock formations, all glowing in the warm hues of the Utah desert.

The best time to experience the magic of Mesa Arch is during sunrise, when the first rays of light paint the landscape in a golden glow, creating a scene straight out of a postcard. Be sure to arrive early, as this spot is popular among photographers and nature enthusiasts.

While the Mesa Arch Trail may be short, its impact is anything but. It’s a hike that proves you don’t need to trek for miles to witness nature’s wonders. Sometimes, all it takes is a few steps to be transported to a world of awe-inspiring beauty.

4 The Narrows, Zion National Park, Utah

In Zion National Park lies a hiking trail that’s not just a walk in the park—it’s an adventure into nature’s masterpiece. Welcome to The Narrows, where your hike is a journey through towering canyon walls carved over millennia by the Virgin River.

Imagine starting your trek by wading through shallow waters, with canyon walls rising hundreds of feet above you. The cool water against your legs is refreshing, and the sound of the river sets a peaceful backdrop for your adventure. As you venture further into the canyon, the walls narrow, sometimes so close together that you can touch both sides.

What makes The Narrows truly special is its ever-changing scenery. One moment, towering sandstone cliffs surround you, and the next, vegetation clings to the canyon walls. Look for the unique rock formations and hidden alcoves along the way—they’re perfect spots for a quick rest or a photo op.

Walking deeper into the canyon, the contrast of light and shadow dancing on the canyon walls creates a remarkable spectacle. And when you reach the iconic Wall Street section, where the canyon walls rise to dizzying heights, you’ll understand why this hike is a must-do for any outdoor enthusiast.

3 Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

In the rugged beauty of Kenai Fjords National Park, the Harding Icefield Trail is an adventure into the heart of the Last Frontier’s icy wilderness. While the trail is certainly not for the faint of heart, with steep inclines and unpredictable weather, its beauty makes every step worth it.

The trail spans approximately 8.2 miles (13.2 kilometers) round-trip from the Exit Glacier area. As you climb through forested terrain and scramble over rocky paths, the landscape transforms, revealing vistas of snow-capped peaks and sweeping valleys below.

The real highlight of this trek awaits at the summit, where hikers are greeted by the sight of the Harding Icefield sprawling out before them. This massive expanse of ice, covering over 700 square miles, is a remnant of the last ice age and serves as a reminder of the Earth’s ancient history.

2 Congress Trail, Sequoia National Park, California

The Congress Trail is a must-do for hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers within Sequoia National Park. This iconic trail offers a perfect blend of inspiring landscapes and fascinating history. It is a top contender on any hiker’s bucket list.

The Congress Trail is a moderate 2-mile (3.2-kilometer) loop showcasing some of the planet’s largest trees. As you wander along the well-maintained path, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering sequoias, some over 2,000 years old and reaching heights that seem to defy reality.

One of the highlights of this trail is the opportunity to walk by the famous General Sherman Tree, which holds the title of the largest living tree on Earth. Standing in the presence of these ancient behemoths is a humbling experience that puts the grandness of nature into perspective.

1 Empire Bluff Trail, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Along the picturesque shores of Lake Michigan, the Empire Bluff Trail in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore offers hikers striking vistas. This scenic trail combines natural beauty with a moderate hiking challenge, making it a favorite among locals and visitors.

Meandering through forests and rolling dunes, the Empire Bluff Trail spans approximately 1.5 miles (2.41 kilometers) round trip, making it an ideal excursion for hikers of all skill levels. Along the way, adventurers are treated to diverse landscapes, from dense woodlands teeming with wildlife to expansive vistas overlooking the waters of Lake Michigan.

The hike’s highlight awaits at the trail’s peak, where hikers are rewarded with views from the towering Empire Bluff. Gaze out across the waters of Lake Michigan as they stretch endlessly to the horizon, punctuated by the distant silhouettes of the Manitou Islands. On clear days, the breathtaking view offers a glimpse into the unspoiled beauty of Michigan’s northwest coast.

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