Last updated on April 17th, 2019 at 08:39 am
With our eternal pursuit of a balanced lifestyle in mind, we often like to incorporate physical activity into our travel plans in an attempt to stay fit while traveling. We also love to surround ourselves with nature and will climb hills, stairs, and mountains whenever possible to reach that stunning vista of the landscape below. When you put all those things together hiking is the natural result. Therefore when we return home every year we are always looking for the best hiking trails in North America to add to our experience.
Having hiked in North America, Europe, and Asia we have a pretty good list of awesome treks but we are always on the lookout for new trails to traverse. So we reached out to our fellow travelers for inspiration and have compiled some of their favorites along with our own.
Here is the first in our series of Great Hikes around the world starting with the Americas.
Best Hiking Trails in North America
Rattlesnake Ridge Trail, Washington State
“Washington State has some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world which also means some of the best hiking as well. Rattlesnake Ridge trail in western Washington is one of my favorites and makes for a great day hike from Seattle. The hike is also called Rattlesnake Ledge and for good reason. When you arrive at the view point there is a huge ledge to lay out and have a lunch with one of the best landscapes before you.
It is a moderate hike that takes about 2-4 hours depending on your hiking pace and an elevation gain of almost 1200 ft. You can also head further up the mountain to two higher viewpoints if desired. You could even add this to a trip to Snoqualmie Falls and hit two epic spots in one day. Better yet, make it part of a camping road trip and explore the hundreds of other great trails in Western Washington!”
Read more from Nathan Sado at Fit Living Lifestyle
Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia
“I had heard people rave about Grayson Highlands State Park in southwestern Virginia before I actually went there myself last fall. Even though my expectations were pretty high already, they were exceeded. I spent three days and two nights in the park, hiking, camping and photographing the landscapes and wildlife.
I can honestly say that Virginia’s Grayson Highlands is the most rewarding place I’ve ever hiked in. I’ve done hikes in various places around the world, but nothing really compares to the sheer magnificence of the Grayson Highlands landscapes. Comprising of huge stacks of boulders (fun to climb!), expansive mountain meadows, dense pine forests, rocky summits and even a few small waterfalls, this region has it all.
In addition to spectacular Blue Ridge Mountain views, what’s arguably the park’s biggest attraction is its feral ponies. A large herd of semi-wild ponies roams the meadows of Grayson Highlands, keeping the grass short and the landscape open. These friendly animals are super-photogenic and add that extra touch to what’s already a superb hiking destination.
Adjacent to Grayson Highlands State Park lies the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area, home to the tallest mountain in Virginia. In this area, you’re free to camp where you want, allowing you to catch a Blue Ridge sunset and sunrise.”
Read more from Bram Reusen at Travel Experience Live
Rockwood Conservation near Guelph, Ontario
“Sometimes you don’t have to travel far to find a great place to hike and explore! Growing up in the city of Guelph, about an hour west of Toronto, Canada, we were mostly surrounded by farmland (as much of Southern Ontario is). However, not a 20 mins drive away (45 mins from Toronto), there’s a fantastic Conservation Area – a protected area, similar to a National Park, only smaller. It is set atop a huge foundation of limestone and covered in cedar and maple trees, rivers, trails, some early 20th century ruins and a small campground. There’s a good chance to spot some wildlife, with beavers, minx, deer, and even red foxes being common in this area.
With large limestone cliffs, caves and deep glacier-carved potholes in the stone foundation, along with well-kept trails and look-out points, it is easy to spend a day or two wandering the trails and just breathing in the scenery. I love to see how the landscape differs through the passing seasons, though autumn is definitely my favourite!
Being so close to Toronto, this is a great day trip for locals, and international visitors alike!”
Read more from Ian Ord at Where Sidewalks End
“My favorite hike was in Colorado, which is known for its “14ers” (mountain peaks that are over 14,000 feet high). Some friends and I had decided to hike not only one but two 14ers. This was going to be possible because Grays Peak and Torreys Peak were connected near the top by a .8 mile long saddle. Now, I’m a total city girl, but I was determined to complete this hike.
We started just as the sun was rising and made it to Grays Peak within a few hours. After we ate some snacks we continued on. We hiked down about 400 feet to the saddle that connected the two peaks, crossed it, and began heading up to Torreys Peak. This part of the hike was steeper and we had to keep stopping because our lungs were on fire. But we laughed and kept each other motivated. We were rewarded at the top with some beautiful and breathtaking views. This hike in Colorado ended up being my favorite, not only for the amazing landscape but also because I was able to make wonderful memories with friends that I will always cherish.”
Read more from Vicky Sosa at Buddy the Traveling Monkey
The Narrows at Zion National Park, Utah
“Zion National Park in Utah is best known for one of it’s most beautiful and distinctive hikes, The Narrows. I’ve hiked all over the world, but this remains one of the most unique hikes I have completed to date. The Narrows is spectacular in that there really is no trail unless you count the rushing cold river water as a trail. Yep, that’s right, the trail is IN the river, not next to it.
The Narrows goes through the middle of the Virgin River, leading hikers through 10+ miles of dramatic cliffs, narrow slot canyons and varying water levels. Walking, scrambling and wading through the river over what feels like bowling balls is what makes this hike a challenge, but also a rewarding experience. The river is cold even in the height of summer, but by the end you will enjoy the refreshing coolness.
This is an in/out trail, so carry on for as long as you can manage. Hiking in is against the flow, making the return journey quicker and easier. Hikers of all fitness levels can experience this hike even if only for a short distance. For the tenacious, you will be rewarded with extraordinary views that few get to witness.”
Read more from Karilyn at No Back Home
The White Mountains, New Hampshire
“The White Mountains cover one-fourth of the state of New Hampshire as well as part of western Maine, offering hikers from New England and beyond easy strolls, strenuous summits and breathtaking views just a few hours away from several major cities. The most popular (and crowded) time of the year to visit is during autumn to see the brilliant foliage.
The 19-mile Presidential Range boasts nine peaks over 4,000 feet, including Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast U.S. At 6,288 ft./1,917 m. – although, if you’re not up for hiking it, you can drive or take a ride on the cog railway to the top! Two of my favorite day hikes are easily accessible from Boston: the 4.1-mile Welch-Dickey Loop Trail, which leaves from Thornton, N.H., and the 4.7-mile Mount Morgan and Mount Percival loop in the Squam Lake region of N.H.”
Read more from Brianne Miers at A Traveling Life
Rocky Mountain National Park Colorado
“Close to small town Estes Park, CO you will find one of nature’s greatest gifts: Rocky Mountain National Park. You’ll immediately put on your hiking shoes as you take on the scenery of 350 miles of trails that weave through the incredible 415 square miles of this National Park. New to hiking? Seasoned veteran? Rocky Mountain National Park offers a variety of trail lengths and difficulties for all!
Something else to entice you? Rocky Mountain National Park also has an abundance of waterfalls and wildlife. In fact, there have been so many wildlife sightings that many people have referred to RMNP as Rocky Mountain National ZOO! Be sure to arrive early to watch the sunrise and beat the crowds or stay late and watch as the sky lights up with thousands of stars. Regardless of which trail you take you’re sure to pick a good one. The best time of year to visit is June – October as the other months are more prone to have snow.”
Read more from Kallsy & Logan at Pages of Travel
Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
“Smith Rock State Park is one of our favorite hikes in all of Oregon, and Oregon has a lot of them! Smith Rock State Park is 3 hours south of Portland, right outside Bend. Known for the gorgeous red rock formations, Smith Rock is one of the seven natural wonders of Oregon. The landscape is beautiful and there are tons of hikes to choose from. Our favorite is Misery Ridge, adequately named as you start out trekking uphill for 400 feet. It’s an uphill battle that will definitely increase your heart rate, but the views at the top are well worth it.
Overlooking the snow-capped mountains in the distance, you can see a full 360 view of the area. If you are looking for something a little less challenging, there are 12 total hikes inside the park. Once you hike at Smith Rock State Park, you’ll want to keep coming back. It’s such a beautiful park with many trails to choose from.”
Read more from Tarah & Tip at Fit Two Travel
Angels Landing Zion National Park, Utah
“Angels Landing got its name from explorer Frederik Fisher back in 1916 when he described the peak as so high, ‘only an angel could land on it’. Located in Zion National Park in the scorching desert of Utah, this hike begins like every ordinary hike with a steady incline and switchbacks along the West Rim Trail. What lies ahead in the last ½ mile from Scout Lookout is anything but ordinary.
After the initial ascent, the hike curves through Refrigerator Canyon which offers a welcome respite from the desert sun. Twenty-one steep switchbacks known as ‘Walters Wiggles’ wait en route to Scout Lookout. This part of the hike certainly leaves you catching your breath. The view from Scout Lookout is very impressive and is a great spot to kick back relax and grab a quick snack before tackling the final ½ mile on the Angel’s Landing Trail.
Don’t let the distance fool you, a thin ridge walk with a 1200ft vertical drop one side and 800ft the other is sure to make you quiver in your hiking boots. Hold on to the chain and watch every step. The view at the end, however, gives you spectacular sights of the enchanting Zion valley in all directions. An unforgettable hike to a spot that definitely earns its name.”
Read more from Sally & Jay at Lady and the Tramper
Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
“The Volcanoes National Park on Big Island of Hawaii is a must-see while on the island. And for a good reason, as one can get close to volcanoes, even see an eruption! The park also offers an extensive network of trails, both as day hikes or as multi-day treks, from hiking down to the sea by Apua or Halape to hiking a 13,000 ft summit of Mauna Loa. We selected to head to the Nāpau Crater as it provided an interesting mix of volcanic trail and lush rainforest. The 14-mile (22-kilometers) unmarked trail passed by the hot steam vents of Mauna Ulu and sneaked through fields of dark lava rocks – a scenery worth of Gondor that would thrill any Lord of the Ring enthusiasts like us.
We hiked up to the edge of Mauna Ulu, mindful to stay on the right side of the volcano as to avoid the thinner crust of the crater. The smell of sulfur was rather strong, so we did not stay too long to the edge. The green of the giant ferns of the high plateau was a stark contrast from the black fields but offered a welcome shade against the scorching sun. Luckily this is where we found our campsite for the night. A nearby natural viewpoint allowed us to admire the fuming Pu’u O’o Crater in the distance before we saw the red glares of the Halema’uma’u Crater at night. We would sleep between two active volcanoes – not your typical trek!
The trek has little elevation gain (only 1,300 ft / 370 m) but the unstable rocks, the lack of water, the need to find the few marker stone piles, and the risk of poisonous gas from the vents and erupting volcanoes, made the Nāpau Crater Trail a challenging trek. We returned via the Nāulu Trail to Kealakomo to create a loop, and complete what had been a diverse and unique backpacking.”
Read more from Patricia Pagenel at Ze Wandering Frogs
Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
“This is not one of the most challenging hikes I’ve done but it certainly is one of my favorites. Hhmmm is there a correlation there? The hike from Boca de Tomatlan to Las Animas is a great day excursion that takes you away from the crowds of tourists and vendors in Puerto Vallarta and shows off the natural beauty of Nayarit and the Bahia de Banderas. There are a few steep and narrow spots but for the most part, it’s a fairly easy hike.
The trek takes you through fishing villages, along tropical trails, past hillside homes, and to numerous secluded beaches before arriving at Las Animas beach where you are rewarded with a cold cerveza of cocos frios and a plate of ceviche. When you’re rested and satiated you hop a boat for a 20-minute ride back to Boca. This hike includes many of my favorite things: exercise, nature, beaches, scenic views, local connections and delicious food and drink. All just a short bus ride from lovely Puerto Vallarta.”
Sarah at Live Dream Discover
Best Hiking Trails in Central & South America
Tierra del Fuego National Park, Argentina
“Tierra del Fuego National Park in southernmost Argentina offers some very accessible hiking trails with splendid views and terrain. While there are several difficult treks available in the park, most are easy to moderate, so you don’t have to saddle up for a strenuous hike to reap the rewards the dramatic landscape has to offer. Some trails are just a short jaunt and others several miles long.
It’s a great park for offering a wide variety of trails to suit all physical abilities. You’ll walk along ocean shores through dense, mossy forests; cross peat bogs; marvel at the surreal rock formations, both the ones that tower above you and the ones that lie at your feet; likely spot a flock of green parrots and other colorful birds; and find a continually changing palette of clouds accompanying you on your hike. There are loads of terrific spots to enjoy a scenic picnic lunch. Most trails are not a loop, but it’s super easy to park your car, walk one way, and hitch a ride back to your vehicle. Many tour companies also offer transport from Ushuaia.”
Read more from Shara Johnson at SKJ Travel
Get the complete packing list for trekking in Argentina!
Pastouri Glacier, Peru
“One of my favourite hikes in the world would have to be the Pastouri Glacier in Peru! It’s a quick and easy day hike organised from the nearby mountain town of Huaraz where you are disproportionately rewarded with extreme beauty like nothing I have ever seen before.
The tropical glacier (one of the few left in the world) is located at 5,000 meters above sea level so expect even a casual stroll to leave you gasping for breath – but for your effort you will find turquoise blue glacier lagoons, high Andean mountain peaks that pierce the sky, snow scattered across an otherworldly landscape and be able to walk right up to the glacier face. An absolute must do when in Peru and a hike you will never forget!”
Read more from Jordan Adkins-Bakker at Inspired by Maps
Quilotoa Loop, Ecuador
“While the otherworldly Laguna Quilotoa can be visited on a short day trip from Quito, the real fun is in trekking the full Quilotoa Loop. The Quilotoa Loop is a bit like a choose-your-own-adventure with more than two weeks worth of hiking trails available in the region. The most common routes run 4 days and will take you past agricultural communities, rushing streams, and tiny towns you’d never otherwise see.
The bed and breakfasts are some of the loveliest you’ll encounter in all of Ecuador with incredible food and mountains of blankets to keep you cozy at night. Then, on the final day of your hike, just when you’re lost and sunburned and ready to give up, you’ll climb the side of a caldera. The highly saline Laguna Quilotoa is brilliant shades of blue and green, and you’ll share the trail around its edges with nothing but a couple of llamas and the ever approaching fog.”
Read more from Taylor & Daniel at Travel Outlandish
Ausangate Trek, Peru
“Overshadowed by the nearby Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, Peru’s Ausangate Trek is unarguably one of the most beautiful treks in Peru, and perhaps even South America, yet the only sign of life trekkers may find along the 60-kilometer, five-day circuit is an arriero and his mules.
The little-known trail skirts alongside giants like Apu Ausangate, which stands at a massive 6,384 masl (20,926 feet), and through one of the remaining pastoralist societies in the world. Most visitors to the region get in line for the procedural trek to the massively popular Rainbow Mountain, neglecting to turn their gaze from the colorful hill in front of them and look behind to snow-capped Ausangate.
Fickle weather and poorly marked trails require preparation and GPS mapping knowledge. With three passes ranging from 4,780 to 5,200 meters high, hikers should be well acclimated and in good shape before testing their lungs on this demanding trail. Those who do will be rewarded with some of the most spectacular scenery in all of South America and can find thermal pools waiting for them along the trail. There is no entry fee for the park and the trailhead is easily accessible by bus from Cusco.”
Read more from Jen Sotolongo at Long Haul Trekkers
Torres del Paine, Chile
“It’s quite difficult to choose just one favorite hike. Depending on the views, weather, difficulty, and “reward” even the simplest hike can be memorable. If I had to choose though, I’d say a visit to Patagonia’s Torres del Paine is a must for those who love multi-day treks.
A great outdoor activity if you are looking for things to do in Chile, six days on the W Trek was a challenging fit for my average fitness level and abilities. The park trails can be completed within 3-5 hours (in each direction) between campsites, and offer medium to difficult hikes at reasonable altitudes (and other, more complex terrains to add on if you want to complete a larger circuit).
Along the way you come across some of the best vistas in the world – I still can’t believe it was real! From glowing lagoons to stunning glaciers, snow-capped mountains, and the sounds of avalanches thundering from a distance, a summer hiking trip in Torres del Paine is officially on my list of hiking favorites.”
Read more from Olivia Christine at O. Christine
This hike is also a favorite of Lori Sorrentino from TravlinMad and you can read about her Torres del Paine hiking experience here.
Lost City Trek, Columbia
“Having just come back from Colombia, we can’t think of a more amazing hike in this part of the world than the 5-day trek to the ancient ruins of the Lost City. The trek starts outside of Santa Marta in the Caribbean region in Northern Colombia and stretches for over 75kms through the deep jungle surrounding the Sierra Nevada mountains. It takes 3 days to reach the ancient ruins of the Lost City and 1-2 days to come back.
The trek is known to be challenging, especially in the rainy season, with days ranging from 4-9 hours of walking per day. Luckily, there is entertainment to help pass the time, as knowledgeable guides share insights about the local indigenous groups, their culture, traditions and the history of the region with trekkers along the way. Oh, and did we mention that the views are absolutely incredible?”
Read more from Oksana St John at Drink Tea & Travel
Semuc Champey, Guatemala
“To call this a hike is a bit of an understatement as a trip to Semuc Champey is really a full-on, adventure. However, it does include a lot of trekking and it really is one of my best memories from our past 3 years of full-time travel. Plus this is my blog and I want to include it!
Getting there is no easy task and you will need to be fairly fit but when you feast your eyes on the turquoise pools and waterfalls surrounded by lush emerald jungle you’ll know why it’s worth the effort. Also, if you’re looking for more adventure there is a cave exploration where you have to wade through chest high water and traverse waterfalls in the dark!”
Sarah Hughes at Live Dream Discover
Wow, we’ve got some hiking to do! Check back soon or sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss more inspiration from us and our fellow travelers!
Need a good hiking backpack? Check out the best hiking backpacks according to the Broke Backpacker.
If you like hiking and adventure you may want to take a look at these articles:
- Best Hikes in Asia
- Best Hikes in Europe
- Best Hikes in Australia & New Zealand
- Best Adventure Destinations in Asia
- Best Adventure Destinations in Europe
- Best Adventure Destinations in North & South America
Pin It For Later
Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.