9 breathtaking American day hikes

Nine heart-thumping hikes across the USA that can be completed in time for you to sleep in a comfy bed at night

5 mins

Let's be honest: hiking isn’t for everyone. Day hiking, however, is becoming an enormously popular recreational activity. From meandering around beautiful lakes, to climbing steep and challenging mountains, to sleeping in a beloved bed – day hiking is a quick adventure that can be enjoyed on most trips to the USA.

1. Lower Great Range Loop, New York

You’ll probably question the ‘lower’ part of this name when you’re hiking atop the 4,000 foot Adirondack Mountains, but you’ll also be enjoying outstanding panoramic views of waterfalls and other mountain peaks.

Starting the day hike on Lake Road, you'll reach the sublime Ausable Lake. Once you’ve taken in this stunning scenery, travel towards Rainbow Falls and continue up the terrain until you reach the top of Sawteeth. Here you will have fantastic views of mountains such as the aptly-named Nippletop. For even better views, travel higher over Pyramid Peak and to the Gothics summit. Proceeding with the trail over Armstrong, make your way down the steep Wolfjaw ledges and back down Lake Road (this tiring day hike is one big loop!).

Approximate distance: 17 miles
Approximate time: Full day
Difficulty level: Hard

2. Falls Creek Trail, South Carolina

This hike only takes a couple of hours to accomplish but you’ll still sleep well after gaining over 1,000 feet of elevation during the trail. The scenery along the way is absolutely stunning and the falls offer a highly enjoyable finishing line.

Falls Creek Falls can be found just 1.7 miles into this day hike. However, starting at Jones Gap on Hospital Rock, you will find yourself hiking up steep terrain almost immediately.  It is a strenuous trail but the beautiful flora, fauna and views make it worth the effort.

Approximate distance: 2 miles
Approximate time: 1-2 hours
Difficulty level:  Moderate

3. Conundrum Hot Springs, Colorado

After the rigorous hike to the Conundrum Hot Springs, you and your muscles are rewarded with a 102-degree hot springs pool (making it quite difficult to want to head home).

Starting at Aspen, hike for nine miles to reach the rewarding hot springs. Along the way trekkers will pass phenomenal scenery including wildflowers and creeks. The hot springs can get very busy at the weekends so it is advisable to complete this day hike on a weekday if possible. Oh, and be warned that clothing is optional in the waters!

Approximate distance: 18 miles
Approximate time: Full day
Difficulty level: Moderate

4. Rock Creek Park, Washington DC

For a relatively easy hike that still offers picturesque nature, this is the perfect trail. It’s hard to believe that the busy state of Washington DC is home to such peaceful streams meandering through the hills.

Starting at Pierce Mill, continue along this easy loop trail to Beach Drive. Shortly after, cross a bridge to get to the Valley Trail, offering amazing scenery and stunning streams. Approximately one mile further the trail is home to Park Road which leads you back to the starting point via the Western Ridge Trail.

Approximate distance: 3 miles
Approximate time: 1-2 hours
Difficulty level: Easy

5. Coastal Prairie Trail, Florida

Another easy trail, but be sure to stop off for a lie down on the beach before you head home.

Starting at the Flamingo Campground, travel along the single-track pathway passing open prairies and spotting numerous impressively-colourful birds. This day hike will also see you walk over the same pathways used by fishermen and cotton pickers many years ago. The trail ends at the Clubhouse Beach, but you can also turn it into a loop hike and head back the way you came (this would require a full day).

Approximate distance: 7 miles
Approximate time: 3 hours
Difficulty level: Easy

6. Delicate Arch, Utah

At the finishing line of this moderately easy hike along the sandstone terrain, find the infamous landmark of Arches National Park: the Delicate Arch (so don’t forget your camera). The trail starts off relatively flat. It isn’t until you start hiking across the slick-rock that you begin to gain elevation. Along this trail, you'll take in spectacular views of the La Sal Mountains, but the real reward comes a bit further along, when the Delicate Arch begins to appear from its natural amphitheatre. Once you’ve had your photo with the 52 foot arch, hike back down the way you came.

Approximate distance: 3-4 miles
Approximate time: 2 hours
Difficulty level: Moderate

7. Grinnell Glacier Trail, Montana

In addition to the beautiful lakes and glaciers, hikers on this trail will get to see a great deal of wildlife. The park trail begins in a blaze of beautiful scenery; pass the stunning Lake Josephine, continue further and the view is quickly surpassed when you get to Grinnell Lake.

For those wanting to continue hiking onto the glaciers, a guide is necessary.

Approximate distance: 12 miles
Approximate time: Full day
Difficulty level: Moderate

8. Ten Falls Canyon Trail, Oregon

Wherever you look while hiking through this magical-looking rainforest, you'll see an amazing variety of waterfalls – ranging from approximately 30-180 feet. In fact, you can actually get up close and personal with four of the ten waterfalls during the hike.

The first waterfall you'll encounter is South Falls, which is an incredible 177 feet tall. In contrast, you will then come across Drake Falls (the smallest fall on the trail) shortly after. After continuing to pass various waterfalls on this day hike, arrive at North Falls. Your trail will also bring you into a cave that sits directly behind the waterfall – it is a spectacular experience!

Approximate distance: 10 miles
Approximate time: Half day
Difficulty level: Easy

9. Grand Canyon (rim to rim), Arizona

I know what you’re thinking: this article is for day hikes! Completing this hike in a day is certainly a huge challenge, but it is possible. If you manage to do it then I recommend giving yourself a big pat on the back (although I doubt you’ll have the energy to even lift your arms). However, don’t worry if this 23-mile hike is too much for you, those that stay the night get to experience the incredible night skies and witness the extraordinary sunset at Plateau Point.

Begin on the north rim, at the Roaring Springs Canyon, surrounded by evergreen forest. Just two miles into the hike as you travel through the Supai Tunnel, however, you will start to see the more expected desert environment. There are also a number of campsites such as Cottonwood Camp and Bright Angel Campground, and consequently many people prefer to spread the hike over a few days. When you finally return to the north rim, visit the gift shop and buy yourself a deserved rim-to-rim t-shirt (and a beer!).

Approximate distance: 23 miles
Approximate time: Full day (minimum)
Difficulty level: Hard

Harry Peters is from travel company Just The Flight, who offer flights to destinations worldwide. 

Related Articles