Here’s a riddle: If a bunch of friends go on an epically scenic hike and don’t Instagram it, did it really happen? OK, trick question. It doesn’t matter, because the point is: Spending time outside with friends is the most fun way to fit in some physical activity—whether you get the ‘gram or not. (And the breathtaking views don’t hurt either.)
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If you don’t know how to dominate a day hike, don’t freak—your go-to guide is here. Then you just have to figure out which trail to take. These are the day hikes that offer up the most jaw-dropping views across the U.S. So no matter where you live, you’re going to want to plan a day or weekend trip—just make sure that phone battery is fully charged.
1. Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Danny Griffin (@danny.gryffindor) on Aug 2, 2017 at 6:48am PDT Where: Acadia National Park, MaineType: LoopElevation: 1,530 feetDistance: 7.7 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: the sunrise. It’s worth the early wakeup call when, for nearly half the year, you’re the first person in the U.S. to see the sun atop the tallest mountain along the eastern coast. (The rest of the year that honor goes to Mars Hill near the Canadian border, due to the sun rising farther south.)
2. Precipice Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Ana Dunn (@anadunn22) on Aug 14, 2017 at 6:11pm PDT Where: Acadia National Park, MaineType: Out and backElevation: 1,072 feetDistance: 1.5 milesDifficulty: Hard (Moderate)’Gram it for: the ocean views from atop Champlain Mountain. You’ll want to spend plenty of time there catching your breath: The steep trail requires 1,000 feet of elevation gain in just 0.8 miles (on narrow ledges, no less), but the dramatic views of the rugged coast are so worth it.
3. Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Brady and Jessica Graham (@theadventuregrahams) on Aug 24, 2017 at 7:58am PDT Where: White Mountain National Forest, New HampshireType: LoopElevation: 3,937 feetDistance: 8 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: the walk along the “knife edge” between the peaks of Mounts Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette. Seriously, the New England views don’t get much better than this, especially during peak foliage.
4. Sunset Ridge Trail and Long Trail Loop
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Daniel Marcella (@outsiderintel) on Aug 14, 2017 at 2:11pm PDT Where: Underhill State Park, VermontType: LoopElevation: 2,683 feetDistance: 5.2 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: the summit of Mount Mansfield, the highest peak in Vermont that also somewhat resembles a face. (You know, as much as rocks and trees can.) Sunset Ridge is the most scenic route, so take your time and grab plenty of photos along the way.
5. Kaaterskill Falls Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by ૐ (@ktina_xo) on Aug 2, 2017 at 2:17pm PDT Where: Catskill Mountains, New YorkType: Out and backElevation: 603 feetDistance: 1.3 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: the two-tiered waterfalls that oh so beautifully spill into small watering holes you can swim in. Bonus: It’s the tallest two-tier waterfall in New York. (For those of you who like bragging rights.)
6. Mackinac Island to Arch Rock
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Alice Naser (@alicenaser) on Aug 22, 2017 at 9:04am PDT Where: Mackinac Island, MichiganType: Out and backElevation: 171 feetDistance: 1.1 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: Arch Rock. The natural limestone arch formed during the Nipissing post-glacial period, when Lake Huron levels rose pretty dang high. See it while you can—the arch is slowly deteriorating due to the brutal freezing and thawing cycle of Michigan winters.
7. Oberg Mountain Loop
Where: Superior National Forest, MinnesotaType: LoopElevation: 623 feetDistance: 2.6 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the forest encircling Lake Superior on this small section of the 296-mile Superior Hiking Trail. Make sure you stop at each of the overlooks for a different perspective.
8. Petrified Forest Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Lindsey Carlin (@lindsey_carlin) on Feb 25, 2016 at 6:26pm PST Where: Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North DakotaType: LoopElevation: 1,082 feetDistance: 10.3 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: the petrified forest, which, as part of the Badlands, creeps across the border into Montana and South Dakota. Sections of the trail look like a Martian landscape thanks to arid erosion, so channel your best Matt Damon impression for this trek. (Oh, and be on the lookout for bison, elk, and prairie dogs… oh my!)
9. Old Rag Mountain Loop Trail
Where: Shenandoah National Park, VirginiaType: LoopElevation: 2,493 feetDistance: 9 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: the rock scrambles (false summits that make you think you’re at the top because they’re so damn gorgeous) and the actual summit itself. There’s a reason this hike is considered one of the best in Shenandoah National Park—it takes a helluva lot of work to reach the top, but when you do, it’s insanely worth it.
10. Ruby Falls
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Anna Kay Phillips (@anna_officialscout) on Aug 22, 2017 at 1:31pm PDT Where: Chattanooga, TennesseeType: Out and backElevation: 0 feetDistance: 0.2 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: the 145-foot waterfall found at the end of the underground cavern. When you arrive, wait for the operators of the cavern to light up the falls so you can get a truly magical snap. Tack it onto a hike along Glen Falls Trail on Lookout Mountain to feel legit.
11. Alum Cave Bluff
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Aanchal Sinha Wang (@aanchalsinhawang) on May 20, 2017 at 8:52pm PDT Where: Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TennesseeType: Out and backElevation: 1,237 feetDistance: 4.6 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: Inspiration Bluff, which offers up pretty spectacular views of Little Pigeon River’s upper basin. The naturally curved Arch Rock, Huggins Hell, and Alum Cave Bluff (where you finish the trek) also have top-notch photo ops.
12. Tallulah Gorge and North and South Rim Loop Trail
Where: Tallulah Gorge State Park, GeorgiaType: LoopElevation: 488 feetDistance: 1.2 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: The gorge itself is deep and pretty to look at, yes, but the best views are arguably at the swinging suspension bridge. Pause while you’re there and really soak in your surroundings.
13. Conecuh South Loop Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Christopher Sebastian Williams (@sebastian.the.savage) on May 8, 2017 at 7:09pm PDT Where: Conecuh National Forest, AlabamaType: LoopElevation: 508 feetDistance: 6.8 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: the crystalline lakes and simple Southern scenery. The Blue Pond holds sapphire blue water (and a slew of Southern flora), so snap your best pic there. Oh, and bring plenty of bug spray—you’ll be passing through bogs and swamps, so, yeah, you get the idea.
14. Grinnell Lake Trail
Where: Glacier National Park, MontanaType: LoopElevation: 462 feetDistance: 7.2 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: the view of Grinnell Lake, the icebergs you’ll see floating in it from the melting Grinnell Glacier (no joke), the meadows filled with eye-popping wildflowers, and—as if that weren’t enough—the wildlife. It’s not uncommon to spot bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and moose, so have your camera ready.
15. High Dune Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Joe Ewing (@joey_ewing) on Dec 8, 2016 at 4:28pm PST Where: Great Sand Dunes National Park, ColoradoType: LoopElevation: 629 feetDistance: 2.5 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: the sand dunes, duh. This trail is unique: It’s less like an actual trail and more like a situation where you hike into it, spot the highest dune, and make your way toward it. (The tallest sand dune in America is the towering Star Dune, BTW, so keep an eye out.) It’s also why the short distance is rated as “hard” (it’s not exactly easy to trudge through sand). Still, adventure seekers will love this place—you can rent sandboards and sleds and ride your way down the dunes for an added thrill.
16. The Wave Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Jordan Pfeffer👨🏻 (@_worth1000words) on May 21, 2017 at 2:20pm PDT Where: Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, UtahType: Out and backElevation: 1,256Distance: 6.1 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the Wave formation at Top Rock. Seriously, the bands of red, pink, yellow, and white Navajo sandstone that arc up, down, and around ancient stone chutes are unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Be patient, though: There are only 20 people allowed out each day—you have to enter a daily lottery four months in advance if you want a permit, or take a gamble and walk into the GSENM Visitor Center in Kanab to try to score one for the next day.
17. The Narrows Riverside Walk
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Angie Blankenship (@angieb11) on Aug 23, 2017 at 7:30pm PDT Where: Zion National Park, UtahType: Out and backElevation: 344 feetDistance: 1.9 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: the trail itself. It’s the narrowest section of Zion Canyon (hence the name), and the canyon walls go up about 1,000 feet high at some points. You’ll walk in the Virgin River (sometimes the water gets chest high), so bring water shoes and a waterproof camera case, obvs.
18. Angel’s Landing
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Tyler Belnap (@tbelnap) on Aug 23, 2017 at 8:51am PDT Where: Zion National Park, UtahType: Out and backElevation: 2,073 feetDistance: 4.4 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: the change in scenery. You’ll start the trail with a series of switchbacks—a.k.a. Walter’s Wiggles—while surrounded by sandstone cliffs. The built-in chains at the last half-mile make for badass-looking ‘grams, but safety first—someone on solid ground can snap the pic while you pull yourself up the razor-thin ridge. The summit offers incredible views overlooking Zion Canyon, giving you the trifecta of photo options.
19. Tent Rocks Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Todd (@alsymer) on Aug 23, 2017 at 7:29pm PDT Where: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument, New MexicoType: LoopElevation: 938 feetDistance: 3.1 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the insanely unique hoodoos (tall, thin rock spires) and striated rock formations that came to be after years of erosion from wind and water. You’ll also hike through tunnels and up ledges, since this is another slot canyon hike, but once you get to the top, you’ll be able to see for miles.
20. South Kaibab Trail to Cedar Ridge
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Samantha Lefave (@samanthalefave) on Apr 28, 2017 at 4:02pm PDT Where: Grand Canyon National Park, ArizonaType: Out and backElevation: 1,223 feetDistance: 3.2 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: the fact that you’re in the Grand Canyon. More specifically, the Insta-worthy views at Yaki Point, Ooh Aah Point (that’s the actual name, which gives you an idea of how sweet the lookout is), and Cedar Ridge. Pro tip: Bring water, a hat, and lots of sunscreen, as there’s little to no shade on this exposed trail.
21. Horseshoe Bend
Where: Page, ArizonaType: Out and backElevation: 754 feetDistance: 1.2 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the actual horseshoe-shaped geological structure you’ll see smack in the middle of the Colorado River. Go around sunrise or sunset to capture the best light in your photos (the colors of the walls will dance in the sun thanks to minerals). Just don’t get too close to the edge—the overlook is 4,200 feet above sea level, and since the river is at 3,200 feet, you’re looking at a 1,000-foot drop.
22. Antelope Canyon
View this post on InstagramA post shared by yzulle (@yzulle) on Aug 23, 2017 at 7:50pm PDT Where: Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, ArizonaType: LoopElevation: 118 feetDistance: 0.6 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: the mesmerizing canyon walls. It’s the most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest for a reason—so much so, in fact, you have to book a $20 tour to access the lower canyons. Trust, it’s worth every penny.
23. Harding Icefield Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Kyle Wagaman (@kylewagaman) on Aug 23, 2017 at 11:43pm PDT Where: Kenai Fjords National Park, AlaskaType: Out and backElevation: 3,200 feetDistance: 8.8 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: views of one of the largest ice fields in North America. There’s something serene and extremely humbling about seeing such a stark sheet of ice with breathtaking peaks popping out.
24. Hurricane Hill Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Amy Leng (@amyleng) on Aug 22, 2017 at 8:07pm PDT Where: Olympic National Park, WashingtonType: Out and backElevation: 912 feetDistance: 3.2 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the summit views, where you’ll get a 360-degree panoramic view of the Olympic Range, Vancouver Island, and the Puget Sound. Make sure you have your camera out well before the top, though—Olympic National Park is the only temperate rain forest in the U.S., meaning there’ll be plenty of wildlife (mountain goats and marmots are seen often) and luscious landscapes to photograph.
25. Palouse Falls Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by ShaneLinke (@coloradonat1ve) on Aug 23, 2017 at 5:03pm PDT Where: Palouse Falls State Park, WashingtonType: LoopElevation: 692 feetDistance: 2.6 milesDifficulty: Easy (Green)’Gram it for: the massive 200-foot waterfall pouring the Palouse River into a deep canyon. The marked trail itself isn’t that impressive, so if you’re feeling daring, try the unmarked options that take you to the bottom. It’s at your own risk though, so go slow and be extra cautious with your feet placement. Either way, the views are 100.
26. Ramona Falls Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Daniel Kordan (@danielkordan) on Jun 14, 2017 at 12:56am PDT Where: Mount Hood National Forest, OregonType: LoopElevation: 1,135 feetDistance: 6.9 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the thick, mossy forest that surrounds this 120-foot waterfall. (Yes, it’s always a good idea to chase ’em.) It’s not the tallest, widest, or most powerful waterfall, but the falls’ lush surroundings make this one special. It’s all very PNW dreamy.
27. Panorama Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by @ashiddell on Aug 19, 2017 at 6:27pm PDT Where: Yosemite National Park, CaliforniaType: Point-to-pointElevation: 3,200 feetDistance: 8.5 milesDifficulty: Hard (Black)’Gram it for: the three major waterfalls you’ll hit along the way—Nevada, Vernal, and Illilouette, where daredevils can lie on a granite slab and peep their GoPro over the edge. The mist from those falls also makes it likely you’ll walk straight through a few rainbows, so do your best Dorothy impersonation and pretend you’re skipping through Oz.
28. Coastal Trail: DeMartin Section
Where: Redwood National and State Parks, CaliforniaType: Out and backElevation: 2,370 feetDistance: 6 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the beach views and, yeah, the redwoods (you’re in Redwood National and State Parks, after all). As you trek through the forest, you’ll see Sitka spruce, western hemlock, Douglas fir, and redwood trees. Then you’ll hit a section of prairie before being welcomed by sweeping ocean panoramas—perfect for the hiker who needs a little bit of everything.
29. Kīlauea Iki Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Samantha Lefave (@samanthalefave) on Oct 5, 2016 at 10:03am PDT Where: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, HawaiiType: LoopElevation: 875 feetDistance: 3.2 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the rain forest views and the still-steaming volcanic crater floor. The hike starts in lush greenery, home to tons of native birds, but eventually you’ll make your down to a solid lava lake and pass by steam vents, cinder cones, and spatter cones.
30. Hawaii Highpoint Trail
View this post on InstagramA post shared by Avery Kealoha (@avery_kealoha) on Aug 22, 2017 at 9:24pm PDT Where: Kamuela, HawaiiType: Out and backElevation: 646 feetDistance: 2.2 milesDifficulty: Moderate (Blue)’Gram it for: the cloud porn. It’s a short hike, but you’re at high altitude, so you’ll literally have your head in the clouds for most of this trek. Remember to go slow and take deep, conscious breaths so altitude sickness doesn’t get ya.