The snow is melting, the birds are chirping, and your hiking boots have been collecting dust for more days than you’d care to count.
But finally, spring is upon us! And if you’re a dedicated trail-head who’s been feeling stagnant all winter long, those hiking trails are calling your name. Loud.
You might already be poring over your road atlas and making sure your Passport America membership is up to date and valid, planning the spring RV getaway that’s been tantalizingly out of reach for weeks now. But if your itinerary isn’t quite solidified yet and you’re looking for some stunning trails to hit along the way, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve put together this list of some of the best nature trails to meander down this spring season to help you figure out where to put your next set of boot prints… and, OK, because it’s a whole lot of fun to fantasize about visiting all these beautiful places!
Best Hiking Trails in the US
No matter where in this wide, wonderful country of ours you call home, you likely have some stunning hiking trails just around the corner. There’s so much beauty and diversity in our landscape, it’s hard to go wrong in any state or local park!
But if you want to experience the loveliest trails in the nation, a few destinations stand out above the rest. Here are some favorites.
Cascade Head, Oregon
Spring is a much-anticipated time in the Pacific northwest, where winter is a long, damp, gray slog. By late April, the daytime weather is finally approaching the sixties, and the everpresent rain finally begins to taper off.
If you can find a sunny day in the forecast, this stunning trail in coastal Oregon is the perfect place to celebrate. It’s a manageable 6.8-mile round trip, and trust us: the view is well worth the 1300-foot elevation gain. (Just keep in mind, those rains left not too long ago – the trail may be muddy! A good pair of waterproof boots and wool socks will stand you in good stead, keeping your feet dry and warm.)
National Park Hiking Trails
When it comes to finding the best places to hike, you can always let your National Parks Guide be your… well, guide. After all, those lands were set aside and preserved for a reason!
Here are some of the best hiking trails to tackle in the U.S. National Parks system this spring. (Psst: Don’t forget your National Parks passport!)
Angel’s Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
Although the latter parts of this five-mile hike are downright grueling, with an elevation gain of over 1,400 feet, the first two miles are flat, smooth, and perfect for viewing the majestic and mysterious Zion Canyon that gives the national park its name. No matter what your skill or fitness level, there’s something for you on this trail — though only the most adventuresome will find themselves at the summit of Angel’s Landing, gazing down into the depths of the canyon below.
Huskey Gap Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Not all the great National Park hiking trails are out west! Straddling the Tennessee/North Carolina border, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is home to well over a thousand different kinds of wildflowers — and spring is the perfect time to see them all in bloom. In fact, the park actually hosts an annual Spring Wildflower Pilgrimage, drawing zealous hikers and bird-watchers from all across the world!
Even if you can’t make the pilgrimage this year, you should still consider taking a trip to the Smokies. There are hundreds of miles of trail, of course, but Huskey Gap is one of the best places to spot a huge array of wildflowers, not to mention otters and giant salamanders along the Little River. Keep in mind, though, that the full trail is 10 miles round trip, so plan ahead — and don’t be afraid just to take on part of the trip, depending on your time and fitness level!
Maroon Lake Scenic Trail, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
Rocky Mountain National Park is home to dozens of hiking trails, but only one has the distinction of being named “the most photogenic hike in Aspen” by Fodor’s Travel. Each spring, this one-mile out-and-back trek (making for a two-mile round trip) becomes the perfect viewpoint for the state’s famous twin peaks, the Maroon Bells, which reflect surreally off the crystal surface of Maroon Lake. As if that weren’t enough to get you reaching for your camera as well as your hiking shoes, some four-legged friends may make a cameo: mountain goats and bighorn sheep are frequently seen grazing the banks alongside the mountains.
These are just a few of the hiking destinations you may have in mind for this spring. But no matter where you’re headed, certain essentials will help keep you safe and comfortable during your trip.
For one thing, it’s always important to keep up-to-date hiking maps on your person, even if you’re using a hiking app or GPS system on your phone. You never know when you might walk yourself outside of your cell phone’s data signal, let alone run down the battery or even lose or break your phone. Having a paper backup will help keep you safe in case of an emergency, so don’t hit the trail without one!
You’ll also want to ensure you have the proper hiking clothing and equipment, dressing in moisture-wicking layers you can easily take off and put back on depending on temperature. It’s spring, so the weather can change in an instant; make sure everything is waterproof and never wear cotton! Wool is the best material for keeping warm and dry, which is especially important in the case of hiking socks.
Whether you’re looking for strenuous mountain hiking or a more relaxed trek through the trees, there are fantastic hiking destinations all around us. Even if you don’t have time to make a dedicated trip this spring, be sure to check out the local hiking trails in your area — you may just be surprised what you find in your own backyard.
This post may contain affiliate links.