There are plenty of people who travel across the world to places such as Nepal and the Andes to enjoy great mountain scenery, but it is often too easy to disregard the stunning walks we have in our own back yard. From the amazing scenery of the Rockies, to the snowy peaks that are the highest in the country, there are some wonderful mountain hikes to enjoy, whether you are looking to bag a peak or just want to hike around the high mountains. Before you go and book that long haul flight to distant mountains, here are twenty mountain hikes you really should try in the United States.
Ridge Trail, Old Rag Mountain, Virginia
Within the boundaries of the Shenandoah National Park, this beautiful trail involves some scrambling as you get over some of the granite boulders on the way up. The path is a loop trail of just under nine miles, and one of the great highlights is passing through a natural cave, where the trail passes through a space in between the rocks. There is also some great rock climbing on several crags around the mountain.
Cascade Mountain, New York
This is a great option for novice and intermediate hikers, as it offers a lot of scenery for not too much effort, while in the winter it is a great spot for those looking to learn more about hiking on snow. There are two beautiful lakes near the trailhead, while further up there is a lovely set of waterfalls before you reach the peak, which has some wonderful views.
Highline Trail, Montana
Traversing through some of the finest mountain scenery in Glacier National Park, this stunning trail is well maintained meaning it is suitable for older children, while the route traverses the valley sides. You will often spot wild goats, marmots and other wildlife along the route, while the views of Mount Gould and the Logan Pass are wonderful.
Maroon Bells, Colorado
Often hailed as the most photographed spot in Colorado, these two stunning mountains reflected in Maroon Lake make for a superb scene. The Crater Lake Trail is a relatively short walk that is good for an afternoon stroll, and has wonderful views over the Aspen forests, while the Maroon Lake Scenic Trail is an easy option following the shores of the lake.
Jay Peak Long Trail, Vermont
The Long Trail is a 270 mile route that traverses the whole of Vermont, but the area around Jay Peak is the most popular, as it is the last peak on the route before you reach the Canadian Border. For a shorter walk that shouldn't take several weeks, you can join the trail at Jay Pass, and climb to the top, where you can enjoy some superb views, although it is worth noting the area is often very snowy.
Half Dome Day Hike, California
One of the most popular day hikes in the United States, this route takes you up the stunning Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, with ropes to help you up some of the steeper rock areas near the peak. Views are sensational, but bear in mind that it does take most of the day, so you will need to be in the park early if you want to complete it before dark.
Chilkoot Trail, Alaska
Beginning in Alaska, and crossing over into British Columbia in Canada, this route takes you through some lovely green valleys before you climb up to cross the pass to get to the other side. This route was vital in the Klondike Gold Rush, but today it is a beautiful way to see the region, while it also has some fantastic wildlife and birds of prey that the eagle-eyed visitor may spot.
Breakneck Ridge Trail, New York
Within the Hudson Highlands State Park, this trail begins at the riverside, and is a climb up to the peaks along the Breakneck Ridge. The walk is challenging, and can also provide a snowshoeing route during the winter, and there is usually some scrambling required so this may not be suitable for young children or those who are unsteady on their feet.
Mount McKinley, Alaska
The highest mountain on the continent is one that requires a lot of preparation and effort, along with the support of others to help you climb to the peak. In almost Himalayan conditions with often very cold temperatures, this is one that is best attempted with a group, although it is fair to say that the payoff in terms of scenery around the Denali National Park is sensational.
Mount Whitney, California
The highest peak in the lower forty eight states, make sure that you arrange your permit before attempting this walk, which takes in some superb mountain scenes. Mountaineering equipment isn't usually needed between mid-July and October, and the Whitney Portal route is where to start on a ten mile hike, with an elevation increase of over six thousand feet. Make sure you know your altitude sickness symptoms, and descend if you start to feel ill.
Undermountain Trail, Bear Mountain, Connecticut
This trail to the highest point in Connecticut is a part of the Appalachian Trail, so it is well signposted and well maintained. The climb is around three miles from the trailhead, but it is very steep, so be prepared to be breathing hard by the time you reach the round tower at the top, where on a clear day the views are superb.
Mount Mitchell, North Carolina
A beautiful climb through some lovely woodland, passing some charming stands of red spruce, this is an eleven mile hike from the trailhead to the peak and back. After climbing through the woods, you'll emerge near the peak and the panorama across the area is very nice, although the car park nearby will sometimes have those who haven't put in the same effort!
Grand Teton Loop, Wyoming
A two or three day adventure into the beautiful Grant Teton National Park, this route is around thirty five miles in length, and takes in some beautiful peaks along the way. You will occasionally spot a few patches of snow on the peaks even in spring and on into summer, while the views back over Death Canyon are also very lovely indeed.
Timberline Trail, Oregon
A forty mile trail which traverses the terrain around Mount Hood in Oregon, this is a well established trail that has been open since the 1930s, and as the name suggests it flirts with the treeline. When it emerges into the open areas the views are very good, while in the woods it is often cooler and very pretty, although be careful when crossing the rivers and streams.
Camelback Mountain, Arizona
A popular hike from just outside Phoenix, this mountain is relatively small compared to some others, but the red rocks rising through the green undergrowth make it a very scenic walk. The trail can be rough in areas, but it does reward hikers with some nice panoramas, including views back over the city itself.
Mount Mansfield Sunset Ridge Trail, Vermont
Widely considered to be one of the most attractive trails in the state, this trail rises through the trees with several switchbacks on the trail, before emerging on to the ridge itself. Follow the ridge up to the peak, and enjoy the panorama, while the views back over the Champlain Valley are particularly nice.
Wonderland Trail Loop, Washington
This route is a great way to get some beautiful mountain scenery as you skirt the area around Mount Rainier, enjoying the lovely mountain air and surroundings. Although it is a multi-day hike at 93 miles, you can leave food caches at several places around the loop to save weight in your pack, but be aware there is plenty of climbing and descent required on this beautiful route.
Mount Katahdin Hunt Trail, Maine
The most famous mountain in Maine, this lovely route comes in at just over ten miles, and is a great day hike that takes you past some beautiful waterfalls and up through woodland early in the day. As you emerge above the tree line, the green hills around are worth a few minutes to admire, while you then have a mile of scrambling over boulders to reach the peak.
South Mount Elbert Trail, Colorado
Although not technically too hard, this is a steep climb, but rewards you with views out over the mountain range, with snow common on the peaks for much of the year. You emerge from the woods early in the day, and can see the path ahead as you climb the ridge, although as with many climbs, that elusive peak can take a while to reach.
Arizona Snow Bowl Humphreys Peak Trail, Arizona
The tallest mountain in the State, most people will start this half to full day walk from the Arizona Snow Bowl, and especially when you climb up to the ridge the views are delightful. Experienced hikers will find a winter or early spring ascent particularly rewarding, when the snow covers much of the mountain, to make the sight even more special.