Panoramic view of a beginner-friendly hiking trail in the US, winding through a verdant forest with gentle slopes and clear paths. Sunlight streams through the trees, creating a warm atmosphere. In the distance, a striking mountain range rises against a bright blue sky. A group of cheerful hikers in casual gear enjoys the scenic trail, illustrating its suitability for beginners. The overall scene conveys tranquility, adventure, and accessibility.

Best Hiking Trails in the US for Beginners

Hiking is a wonderful way to connect with nature, get some exercise, and unwind from the hustle and bustle of daily life. If you’re new to hiking and looking to explore the stunning natural beauty of the United States, you’re in the right place.

This article will guide you through some of the best hiking trails in the US for beginners. Whether you prefer scenic strolls or slightly more challenging paths, there’s a trail out there just waiting for you to discover.

1. Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine

Distance: Approximately 2,190 miles Duration: Varies Difficulty: Ranges from easy to strenuous

The Appalachian Trail is one of the most iconic long-distance trails in the United States, stretching from Georgia to Maine. While thru-hiking the entire trail is a monumental challenge, there are plenty of sections suitable for beginners. Consider starting with shorter hikes in areas like Shenandoah National Park in Virginia or the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee. These sections offer breathtaking views, well-maintained trails, and camping facilities.

2. Pacific Crest Trail, California to Washington

Distance: Approximately 2,650 miles Duration: Varies Difficulty: Ranges from easy to strenuous

Similar to the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a long-distance hiking trail, but it runs along the western United States, from California to Washington. As a beginner, you can explore shorter sections of the PCT, such as the stunning Mount Hood section in Oregon or the picturesque Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. These segments provide opportunities to experience the beauty of the PCT without committing to the entire trail.

3. Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park in Utah offers an array of beginner-friendly hiking trails amidst its stunning red rock landscapes. Here are a couple of options to consider:

  • Emerald Pools Trail: This easy, family-friendly trail takes you to a series of lush, green pools fed by waterfalls. It’s a great introduction to the park’s unique beauty.
  • Riverside Walk: This paved trail follows the Virgin River and is perfect for those looking for a gentle stroll with breathtaking views of the towering canyon walls.

Zion National Park also offers ranger-led programs and shuttle services, making it accessible and enjoyable for hikers of all levels.

3. Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, also in Utah, is famous for its otherworldly landscape of hoodoos and amphitheaters. For beginners, the park offers several short and easy hikes that provide incredible views:

  • Queens Garden Trail: A relatively short hike that takes you through the heart of the Bryce Amphitheater, passing by stunning rock formations.
  • Navajo Loop Trail: A slightly more challenging option but still manageable for beginners, this trail descends into the amphitheater and offers unforgettable vistas.

Bryce Canyon’s high elevation means cooler temperatures in the summer, making it a pleasant destination for hikers.

4. Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, located on Mount Desert Island in Maine, boasts a variety of hiking trails suitable for beginners. Some highlights include:

  • Jordan Pond Path: This easy, flat loop offers serene views of Jordan Pond and the surrounding mountains. It’s a peaceful hike suitable for the whole family.
  • Cadillac Summit Loop: A short but rewarding hike that takes you to the summit of Cadillac Mountain, the highest peak on the East Coast. The panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean are simply breathtaking, especially at sunrise.

Acadia National Park is known for its well-marked trails and stunning coastal scenery, making it an ideal destination for beginners.

5. Hoh Rainforest, Olympic National Park, Washington

If you’re looking for a unique hiking experience, the Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park is a must-visit. This temperate rainforest is a lush and vibrant environment, and it offers several beginner-friendly hikes:

  • Hall of Mosses Trail: A short loop that winds through ancient moss-covered trees, creating a magical and enchanting atmosphere.
  • Spruce Nature Trail: Another easy trail that provides an opportunity to explore the rich biodiversity of the Hoh Rainforest.

Olympic National Park’s diverse landscapes, from rainforests to rugged coastlines, make it a captivating destination for nature lovers.

6. Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee, and North Carolina

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with over 12 million visitors annually, is the most-visited national park in the United States, and it’s perfect for beginners. Some notable hikes include:

  • Laurel Falls Trail: A paved path leading to the 80-foot Laurel Falls, one of the most popular waterfalls in the park.
  • Clingmans Dome Trail: Although a bit steeper, this paved path takes you to an observation tower with panoramic views of the Smoky Mountains.

The park offers a wide range of trail options, making it easy for beginners to find a hike that suits their preferences and fitness level.

7. Big Sur, California

California’s Big Sur region is renowned for its dramatic coastline, rugged cliffs, and redwood forests. While some trails in the area can be challenging, there are beginner-friendly options:

  • McWay Falls Trail: A short, easy walk to an overlook with a breathtaking view of McWay Falls and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Partington Cove Trail: This trail takes you through a tunnel to a hidden cove with beautiful coastal views.

Big Sur’s stunning scenery and proximity to California’s major cities make it an excellent choice for beginners seeking a coastal hiking experience.

8. Arches National Park, Utah

Arches National Park is home to over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, making it a unique and captivating destination for hikers. Some beginner-friendly hikes to explore include:

  • Delicate Arch Viewpoint Trail: While the full hike to Delicate Arch is more challenging, this viewpoint trail offers a shorter, easier route to see this iconic arch.
  • Landscape Arch Trail: An easy, flat hike that leads to one of the longest natural arches in the world, offering stunning photo opportunities.

Arches National Park’s surreal landscapes and accessible trails make it a fantastic choice for beginners looking to witness nature’s artistry.

9. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park is a haven for beginner hikers, offering a range of trails that wind through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Here are a couple of options:

  • Dark Hollow Falls Trail: A short, well-maintained trail leading to a beautiful waterfall.
  • Stony Man Trail: A moderate trail with rewarding panoramic views from Stony Man Summit, suitable for beginners looking for a bit of a challenge.

Shenandoah National Park is known for its scenic drives along Skyline Drive, providing access to numerous trailheads and overlooks.

10. Cades Cove Loop Road, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

Cades Cove Loop Road is a unique way for beginners to explore the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains. This 11-mile one-way road allows you to drive through a picturesque valley surrounded by mountains. You can pull over at various points to take short walks and appreciate the scenery. Keep an eye out for wildlife, including deer and black bears, as they are often spotted in the area.

11. The Grand Canyon Rim Trail, Arizona

The Grand Canyon is one of the most iconic natural wonders on Earth, and while descending into the canyon requires significant preparation and experience, you can still enjoy breathtaking views from the rim. Grand Canyon Rim Trail offers an easy and scenic walk along the South Rim, providing numerous opportunities for awe-inspiring vistas. You can choose to hike as much or as little of the trail as you like, making it suitable for beginners.

12. The Great Miami Riverway, Ohio

For a different type of hiking experience, consider exploring the Great Miami Riverway in Ohio. This interconnected system of trails spans over 99 miles and follows the Great Miami River, passing through charming towns, parks, and natural areas. The trails are mostly flat and well-maintained, making them ideal for beginners who want to enjoy a leisurely hike along a scenic river.

13. The Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Cape Cod is known for its stunning coastline and natural beauty. The Cape Cod National Seashore offers a variety of beginner-friendly hiking trails that showcase the area’s diverse landscapes, including woodlands, dunes, and beaches. Consider hiking the Nauset Marsh Trail, a flat and easy trail that provides picturesque views of salt marshes and the Atlantic Ocean.

14. The C&O Canal Towpath, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal) Towpath is a historic trail that spans 184.5 miles from Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland. The trail follows the path of the old canal and offers a flat and easy surface, making it perfect for beginners. You can choose to hike shorter sections of the trail, and there are plenty of access points along the way. The C&O Canal Towpath is a peaceful and scenic escape from urban life, with the Potomac River running parallel to the trail.

Tips for Beginners on the Trail

1. Plan and Prepare

Before embarking on any hiking trip, especially as a beginner, it’s crucial to plan and prepare. Check the weather forecast, pack appropriate clothing and gear, bring enough water and snacks, and let someone know your hiking plans and expected return time.

2. Stay on Marked Trails

Stick to established hiking trails, follow trail markers, and avoid venturing off the path to protect the environment and ensure your safety.

3. Hike Within Your Fitness Level

Choose trails that match your current fitness level and gradually work your way up to more challenging hikes as you gain experience.

4. Hiking Essentials

Always carry essential items such as a map, compass or GPS, first aid kit, headlamp or flashlight, and a multitool.

5. Leave No Trace

Practice Leave No Trace principles by packing out all trash, respecting wildlife, and minimizing your impact on the environment.

6. Hiking with a Group

Hiking with a group, especially as a beginner, can enhance safety and enjoyment. Plus, it’s an excellent opportunity to share the experience with others.

7. Know Your Limits

Listen to your body and know when to turn back if a hike becomes too challenging. It’s okay to adjust your plans for safety.

Bar chart titled 'Hiking in the United States: By the Numbers (2020)'. It displays six categories with corresponding values: National Park Visits (327.5 million visits), Participation Increase (6.1% increase), Trail Maintenance ($654 million), Trash Removed (500,000 pounds), Economic Contribution ($887 billion), and Search-and-Rescue Missions (2,000 missions). Each category is represented by a colored bar, ranging from sky blue to khaki. The chart illustrates the significant impact and popularity of hiking in the US, emphasizing the economic, environmental, and safety aspects of the activity.

Hiking in the United States: By the Numbers

Hiking is not just a leisure activity; it’s a growing cultural phenomenon in the United States. As more people seek solace in nature and the physical and mental benefits of outdoor adventures, the numbers paint a compelling picture of the hiking landscape.

1. The National Park Boom

The allure of national parks is undeniable. In 2020, the National Park Service reported a staggering 327.5 million recreational visits to national parks, underscoring their enduring popularity. Among these visitors, hiking is often the primary attraction.

2. Rise in Hiking Popularity

According to the Outdoor Foundation’s 2020 Outdoor Participation Report, hiking experienced a 6.1% increase in participation. This surge in interest is not limited to experienced hikers; it’s a trend that spans all skill levels, including beginners looking to explore the beauty of the great outdoors.

3. Trail Maintenance Investments

Keeping hiking trails in pristine condition requires significant investment. The National Park Service allocated $654 million in 2020 for the maintenance and improvement of trails, ensuring that hikers can enjoy well-kept paths and safe adventures.

4. Leave No Trace Movement

Responsible hiking practices are vital to preserving natural beauty. In 2020, volunteers and organizations across the country removed over 500,000 pounds of trash from popular hiking trails. This serves as a stark reminder of the importance of adhering to Leave No Trace principles.

5. Economic Impact

Hiking isn’t just about connecting with nature; it also fuels local economies. The hiking and outdoor recreation industry contributes an estimated $887 billion annually to the U.S. economy. This substantial figure supports jobs and businesses in communities near hiking destinations.

6. Safety Concerns

While hiking offers numerous benefits, it’s not without its risks. Each year, approximately 2,000 search-and-rescue missions are conducted in national parks. These incidents highlight the need for adequate preparation, safety measures, and responsible hiking practices.

These statistics not only demonstrate the popularity of hiking in the United States but also emphasize the economic and environmental implications of this outdoor pursuit. As you embark on your journey to discover the best hiking trails for beginners, keep these numbers in mind and remember the importance of responsible hiking to ensure the continued enjoyment of these natural wonders for generations to come.


In the world of hiking, each trail is a gateway to adventure, and as a beginner, you’re embarking on a journey filled with awe-inspiring experiences and natural wonders. The best hiking trails in the United States offer not only breathtaking scenery but also the opportunity to reconnect with the great outdoors.

As you lace up your hiking boots, gear up, and set foot on these beginner-friendly trails, remember that every step is a chance to discover something new about yourself and the world around you. It’s a journey that invites you to leave the hustle and bustle behind, breathe in the fresh air, and savor the beauty of nature.

While the trails we’ve recommended are perfect starting points, your hiking adventures are just beginning. Take the time to explore, learn, and grow as a hiker. Share your experiences with fellow adventurers, respect the environment, and embrace the tranquility of the great outdoors.

As you wander along forested paths, ascend gentle slopes, and stand in awe of majestic vistas, you’ll find that hiking is not just a pastime—it’s a transformative experience that nurtures your spirit, strengthens your body, and leaves you with memories that will last a lifetime.

So, heed the call of the trails, and let the adventure begin!

Next read: Hiking Terms: A Guide to Understanding Hiking Jargon

Raphael Dume
Raphael Dume

Raphael Dume is a passionate outdoor enthusiast and the visionary behind Outdoor Doer is a passionate community of outdoor enthusiasts dedicated to inspiring and equipping adventurers. We offer expert advice, unbiased product reviews, and comprehensive guides on camping, hiking, fishing, and more. Our mission is to promote outdoor accessibility, holistic well-being, and sustainability through high-quality, engaging content and top-tier gear. Join us to explore, discover, and thrive in the great outdoors.

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