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9 of the Best Hiking Vacations in the U.S.

From craggy mountain peaks to the depths of the Grand Canyon, these are the best hiking vacations in the U.S.

From Rocky Mountain peaks to the desert depths of the Grand Canyon, the best hiking vacations in the U.S. are as diverse as they are dramatic. Whether you’re up early to greet the sunrise on Maine’s Atlantic coast, sheltering under a 27-story tall tree at midday in California or watching the sunset paint a glacial lake in Montana, these hiking vacations showcase a dizzying variety of American landscapes. They entice us to wade through rivers, amble along boardwalks and cling to ropes carved into mountains.

The best vacations for hiking aren’t just for super-fit adrenaline junkies. They’re for everyone. Each location includes a variety of trails that appeal to hikers of any ability, so everybody in your group can enjoy being in nature.

There are short, easy trails for beginners who prefer walking vacations over hardcore hiking, and flat, paved, wheelchair-accessible routes for those with limited mobility and people pushing strollers. There are also plenty of steeper, longer, grittier day hikes for hikers ready to push their limits. Each spot in anchored by comfortable lodging with hiker-friendly amenities to help you unwind after a long day on the trail.

Hiking Around Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park

The towering trees in these two interconnected parks near Fresno, California are like something out of a storybook. Giant sequoias up to 20 stories tall absolutely dwarf the streams of hikers who scurry around their trunks like ants, trying to take in the size and scale of these natural wonders.

Buses shuttle visitors back and forth between parks and key attractions, like the Congress Trail, Sequoia National Park’s 2-mile paved loop around the massive General Sherman Tree. (The base is a whopping 100 feet wide.) For more sequoias (and fewer people) hike away from the tree to granite dome of Moro Rock. It’s 6 miles each way. You can climb the 350 steps to the top.

Don’t miss General Grant Tree in Kings Canyon National Park. At 27- stories tall, it’s the second largest tree on the planet. Take the quick half mile hike to the tree, then continue on to the 1.5-mile North Grove Loop to escape the crowds. Or scale the natural granite staircase and follow the riverbank on the Mist Falls Hike, a popular 9.2-mile trek that highlights the drama of King’s Canyon and crashing waterfalls.

You can hit the trail early and come in late when you stay at John Muir Lodge because it’s inside King’s Canyon National Park, just 0.2 miles from the Visitor Center, a little over a mile from Grant Grove and just over two miles from Kings Canyon panoramic point. Purchase entrance passes online to avoid the lines when you arrive.

The rustic stone and timber lodge, with its hand-crafted wood furniture, feels a bit like a treehouse for all ages. Guests plays games, do puzzles and read the fireplace in the lobby great room or and watch the sunset from the rocking chairs on the public deck. The Grant Grove Restaurant next door offers breakfast, lunch, and dinner. There’s also a seasonal espresso bar on the patio.

John Muir Lodge

Kings Canyon National Park
8.2 Very good (566 reviews)

Following the Appalachian Trail Inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The world’s longest hiking-only footpath draws acolytes from all over the globe. The Appalachian National Scenic Trail(or AT, for short) traverses more than 2,100 miles of dense forest, Appalachian Mountain crests and scenic valleys from Maine to Georgia.

It’s a bucket list hike for thru-hikers, who power through in a single season. But there are gorgeous stretches of trail accessible to more casual section hikers and day hikers as well.

The 72-mile section that passes the wildflowers and waterfalls inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of them. Hike it all in seven days (just get a permit first) or try an 8-mile round trip trek from Newfound Gap to Charlie’s Bunion for forest scenes and views from the summit. Or take the steep ½ mile trek to the top of Clingmans Dome. At 6,643 feet, it’s the tallest point on the trail and that highest point in the state. The observation tower on top rewards you with 360° Smoky Mountain vistas and a view of up to 100 miles.

You can also see the Smokies from your private balcony or terrace at Highland Manor Inn and Conference Center in Townsend, Tennessee. It’s perched on a hilltop just two miles from the park.

Fuel up with the complimentary coffee, tea, cocoa and homemade muffins and other treats on the generous continental breakfast spread before you hit the trail. Plunge into the outdoor pool to cool off when you return. Then unwind in the gazebo as fireflies flicker.

Highland Manor Inn and Conference Center

Top rated
Townsend
8.9 Excellent (538 reviews)

Walking Vacations in the Glacier National Park

More than 700 miles of Rocky Mountain trails make Montana’s Glacier National Park one of the country’s best vacations for hiking. Shuttle buses and hiker’s shuttles make routes more accessible. Some of the most popular trails are located right off Going-To-The-Sun-Road, the spectacularly scenic 50-mile route chiseled out of the mountains.

These include the 3-mile Hidden Lake Overlook Trail, which passes wildflower meadows, fir trees and frolicking mountain goats before crossing the Continental Divide for panoramic views of Hidden Lake and Sperry Glacier. A 1.5-mile trail connects at the overlook and descends to Hidden Lake. The 11.6-mile Highline Trail is more challenging (at points hikers hold on to a rope on the mountainside for balance) but offers glimpses of snowcapped mountains.

Two Medicine Valley is one of the best places in the country to see grizzlies and black bears. Your spacious 3-bedroom rental home is located just 10 minutes away from the Two Medicine entrance in East Glacier, Montana. The 1,400 square foot home sleeps up to seven and has a big kitchen, two bathrooms and laundry facilities, so it’s a great choice for larger groups.

You can even see some of Glacier’s most famous peaks, including Dancing Lady, Calf Robe and Mount Henry from the front porch and enjoy mountain views from the living room and dining room too. Relax among the flowers in the landscaped yard as dinner sizzles on the grill.

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East Glacier Park
9.1 Excellent (55 reviews)

Visiting the Grand Canyon National Park

While the crowds gawp at the Grand Canyon and hop back in their cars, you’ll be drinking in this desert wonder from a variety of angles. North and South Rim day hikes are much safer than attempting a longer rim- to-river hike, especially in the summer heat.

For an easy introduction to the beauty of the inner canyon, hop on the mostly paved, handicap-accessible Rim Trail. There are six scenic overlooks along the 13-mile trail. You can even up on a shuttle bus as needed. The other three South Rim trails are longer (6-12 miles) and steeper.

The North Rim trails show great variety. The 0.5 mile Bright Angel Point Trail includes a self-guided nature walk, while the 3-mile Transept Trail traces the canyon rim. The North Kaibab Trail actually takes you into the canyon to Coconino Overlook (1.5 miles) or Supai Tunnel (4 miles).

After a scorching hike, one pool is good – but two is even better. The Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn in Tusayan, Arizona has a pool and hot tub both indoors and out. The hotel’s bowling alley and arcade provide built-in entertainment in air-conditioned comfort. And when it’s time to hit the trails again, you’re ideally situated – this hotel is just a mile and a half form the park entrance.

Best Western Premier Grand Canyon Squire Inn

Tusayan
7.9 Good (10938 reviews)

Exploring the Zion National Park

Nature’s most vivid colors are on display at Zion National Park. Towering sandstone cliffs blaze orange, scarlet and pink under a bright blue Utah sky. Zion Canyon’s steep, rust red cliffs practically glow in the light. Hanging gardens of ferns and mosses and violets paint the porous stone with bursts of greenery.

The park’s best hikes are equally dramatic. The 0.4-mile walk to Weeping Rock to see the gardens and the accessible 3-mile jaunt to the waterfalls and Emerald Pools are easy hikes. The park’s two most famous hikes are more challenging – but for very different reasons.

For a truly unique hike, wade into The Narrows, a 1,000-foot canyon carved by the Virgin River under your feet. The water roars as the canyon walls narrow to under 30 feet. Or cling to chain bolted to a cliff atop Angel’s Landing. The steep series of switchbacks along the 5-mile trail reward the tenacious with epic views from 5,790 feet. Hikers afraid of heights can stop earlier, at Scout Lookout.

You can see Zion Canyon from Novel House Inn. It’s right outside the park entrance in Springdale, Utah. You can hop on the free park shuttle just down the street. Stroll the 2-acre grounds, relax with a drink on the patio or walk into the city center for shopping and dining. Restaurant vouchers are provided for breakfast, so you can try the places locals love.

Rooms are tastefully decorated in homage to novelists like Bronte, Tolstoy and Austen. They combine romantic touches from the past, including antique style phones and canopy beds with modern comforts like 40-inch TVs, free Wi-Fi and spacious tubs for a post-hike soak. If it’s raining, curl up in the library or borrow a DVD and cuddle up under blankets in your room.

Novel House Inn

Springdale
9.5 Excellent (449 reviews)

Glamping by the Yellowstone National Park

This is one of the best vacations for hiking in the world and a marquee National Park. The vast, 2.2 million acre wilderness of lakes, rugged canyons and scenic rivers is mostly in Wyoming (although it spills across the borders of Montana and Idaho too) and sits atop a volcanic hot spot of bubbling hot springs, rugged and gushing geysers. The most famous, Old Faithful, puts on a show about every 90 minutes.

A mind-blowing 900 miles of trails crisscross this natural wonderland. It’s a great choice for both hiking vacations and walking vacations, since many routes are kid-friendly. A variety of day hikes to Mammoth Hot Springs and Old Faithful explore some of the park’s most fascinating geothermal features, including geysers, springs and pools. There are lake view trails in the south, valleys and petrified forests in the northeast and 2-10 hour day hikes to forests, meadows and marshes in the central canyon area.

Located just ten minutes from the park’s west entrance, Under Canvas Yellowstone immerses guests in the region’s rough-hewn beauty 24/7. The luxuriously appointed safari style tents and portable teepees sleep 2-7 in upscale style; amenities include organic bath products and sleek West Elm Furniture.

Every corner of the campground offers sweeping views of the plains and mountains. A cooked-to-order breakfast and onsite Bar-N-Ranch restaurant promise leisurely al fresco dining. Gather around the campfire for gooey s’mores or settle in for movies – all campsite activities are included.

Under Canvas Yellowstone

Yellowstone National Park
8.5 Excellent (150 reviews)

Enjoying Unique Views From The Acadia National Park

The 150 miles of hiking trails in Maine’s Acadia National Park cover a startling variety of landscapes, including rocky Atlantic coastline, quiet forests, placid lakes and stark mountaintops. The coastal trails and overlooks are some of the most unique.

Greet the sunrise from Cadillac Mountain on Mount Desert Island. At 1,530 feet, it’s the highest spot on the North Atlantic seaboard and one of the first places in the country to see the sun.

At low tide, stroll along the sandbar (1.9 miles round trip) to Bar Island for pretty harbor views. The steep and challenging Schoodic Peninsula Trail Network traverses 7.5 miles of shrubland and forest. Ocean Path Trail offers 4.4 miles of rocky cliffs, shoreline and fun in the sun on Sand Beach. The family-friendly beach offers restrooms and changing rooms. The free Island Explorer bus shuttles passengers to and fro during the busy summer season.

The same bus will also take you back to your comfortable rental house. This cozy 2-bedroom, 1-bath home is in Southwest Harbor, Maine, on the quiet side of Mount Desert Island. It’s a 2-minute drive to Echo Lake Beach and just minutes from the ocean and Bar Harbor. The fully stocked kitchen and backyard grill and patio make it easy to eat in. But since the free shuttle also stops at shops and restaurants, it’s tempting to go out.

Beautiful Summer Rental Nr Acadia National Park & Bar Harbor!

Southwest Harbor
9.3 Excellent (230 reviews)

Hiking and Relaxing in the Rocky Mountain National Park

Crystal clear alpine lakes, granite domes and rugged tundra draw nature lovers to Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s one of the best hiking vacation destinations, with 355 miles of trails to explore. The majestic Longs Peak is the highest point in the park at 14,259 feet. Climbers scale the vertical rock faces to experience it up close. Hike Chasm Lake (8.6 miles round trip) to see the granite walls from below. Make sure to drink plenty of water to prevent altitude sickness.

The .8-mile Lily Lake Loop offers a level path for walking or rolling , while the 9-mile round-trip Fern Lake hike 1,453 feet of elevation gain provides a challenge to more experienced hikers. Wheelchair accessible Bear Lake Loop (.5 miles) shows off great views of Hallett Peak and the Continental Divide. From there, climb through aspen and ponderosa pine to Emerald Lake (4.1 miles) or hike 7 miles to Lake Haiyaha for dramatic Glacier Basin vistas.

The seasonal shuttle to the park stops just three houses away from your vacation house. This spacious 8-person cabin is close to both Rocky Mountain National Park and downtown Estes Park, which makes it easy to pop into town for dinner, to check out a brewery or do a little shopping.

But this 3-bedroom cabin is so comfortable, you might not want to leave. The full kitchen, washer and dryer makes cooking up easy. But the enclosed, wrap-around deck and 6-person hot tub are the real draws. You might see elk or deer shyly make an appearance as you’re enjoying your morning coffee or a post-hike soak.

Cabin Between Rocky Mountain National Park And Downtown Estes Park

Estes Park
9.3 Excellent (164 reviews)

Following the Pacific Crest Trail

The scenic wildness of the Pacific Crest Trail unspools over 2,650 miles. The PCT begins in California, winding through the deserts and the Sierra Nevada Mountains before climbing the Cascade Mountains in Washington. It’s a grueling endurance challenge for thru-hikers. Oregon’s gentler altitude gains are a better fit for day hikers.

Cascade Locks, Oregon, is an ideal base for hikers who want a taste of the trail. Located along the Columbia River, it’s both the largest city along the PCT and its lowest elevation point. It’s also near Mount Hood National Forest and part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.

Park at The Bridge of the Gods Trailhead just outside of town and hike through the Douglas fir and maple forest to watch the water plunge over Dry Creek Falls. Or start at Cascade Locks Trailhead to hike a 3-mile loop that includes the Columbia River and the most urban section of the Pacific Crest Trail.

Then settle into your snug 617 square foot rental cottage just off the trail. The Pacific Crest Trail House sleeps up to six in comfort, with a full kitchen for meal prep and a washer and dryer to clean up and dry out after Pacific Northwest drizzle. The little green house has cable and a movie and board game library for rainy days and a quiet backyard firepit on the edge or 300 miles of silent forest.

Pacific Crest Trail House

Cascade Locks
8.3 Very good (47 reviews)