In recalling the tragicomic time I hiked Mount Tallac with my family in Lake Tahoe, I can confidently say that we would’ve been more well-off knowing what the best beginner hikes in the US were instead. As a group of inexperienced hikers then, we were way out of our league trekking up the nearly 10,000-foot mountain on a trail actually made for experts.
Of course, our memories of the adventure are amusingly funny in nature, filled with stories of what we faced while embarking on the 10-hour trip (way longer than anticipated!). We had overpacked, making our backpacks too heavy for the steep climb, and made so many stops on our way up that other hikers had passed us going up and down the trail. (We also started to get on each other’s nerves.) But when we reached the peak, we realized how worth it all of that was, intaking the vast incredible views of the entire area.
Nevertheless, we learned that if we wanted to continue going on hiking trips, we needed to start on the easier trails. But deciding what the best hikes are as a beginner can become overwhelming and exhausting while researching, and one can lose gusto and motivation in doing so. But have no fear! We’ve compiled a list of some of the best trails for beginner hikers. So if hiking has been on your bucket list, you can finally cross it off!
Best Beginner Hikes in the US: 17 Easy Trails for the Novice Hiker
1. Glacier Point Hike
Located in Yosemite National Park in California, this easy hike is a great prerequisite to Half Dome. Its trailhead is in Mariposa County, and when you reach the top, you’ll get a panoramic view of Yosemite Valley.
2. Fairy Falls Trail Hike
In Yellowstone National Park, you can take this five-mile hiking trail in Wyoming to visit Old Faithful, the famous geyser. The spectacular views and sounds of the park will take your attention away from the slight elevation gain, so you’ll be doing minimal climbing.
3. Tall Trees Grove
Although the Redwood National Park trail is easy, the journey to the hike is slightly challenging. You’ll have to secure a free permit from the park’s visitor center, and you might want to be hasty about it too. The park only allows 50 cars in a day, giving each a secret code to open the gates leading to the grove. After you make the six-mile drive down, it’ll take you about 45 minutes to make the 1.3-mile hike to Tall Trees Grove. But once you get there, seeing those one-of-a-kind trees will be worth it.
3. Skyline Trail
Along this five and a half-mile trail in Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State, you’ll find flourishes of subalpine wildflowers and get a close up look at Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier. Just make sure to check on trail conditions before you head out, since it could become dangerous during the winter.
4. Grotto Falls Hike
This trail is recommended if you want to bring your family! As one of the easiest hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains, which take up Eastern Tennessee and Western North Carolina, this two and a half-mile round-trip journey will lead you to Grotto Falls, one of the most beautiful falls in the park.
5. Swan Lake Loop Trail
As its name implies, Swan Lake Loop Trail is a charming 3.2-mile loop located in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park and leads to Heron Pond, a popular spot for viewing birds and other wildlife. Its path takes you through winding forests and wetlands below snowcapped mountains, and the park is one of the best places to behold in the fall season.
6. White Mountain Hut to Hut
This 15-mile trail runs point to point on an alpine ridgeline in the backcountry. You’ll spend three to four days hiking along the Appalachian Trail while the sun is up and stay in the mountain huts during the night time. Learn more about the backpacking community while chatting with others staying at the huts who are making the same journey.
7. Canyon Overlook Trail
An easy day hike alternative to Angels Landing in Utah’s Zion National Park, Canyon Overlook Trail has only one prominent challenge during its one-mile round-trip hike. It contains a short bridge that tests your fear of heights, but this short hike is just too underrated to miss.
8. Coyote Valley Trail
On the western side of Rocky Mountain National Park, you’ll find the Coyote Valley Trail, one of the easiest hikes in Colorado. You’ll get to hike in the mountains while enjoying the best views of wildlife and streams all around.
9. Crater Rim Trail
Although this trail is considered an easy hike in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, it actually runs through an active volcano. Along the way, you’ll find native wildlife, lush rainforests, and symbols of Hawaiian deities.
10. Lighthouse Trail
Palo Duro State Park in Canyon, Texas, is wildly underrated, as well as its native Lighthouse Trail. Located at the bottom of the canyon, the six-mile trail is an easy, flat path to a lighthouse.
11. Hoh River Trail Hike
If you want to avoid steep inclines, then this Olympic National Park hike is for you. Located in Forks, Washington, this six-mile trail offers magnificent rainforest views and can be extended based on your fitness level.
12. Jordan Pond Path
This 3.2-mile loop follows along the edge of the glistening Jordon Pond in Acadia National Park in Maine. The area is well-developed with boardwalks to walk on the forest floor, but you’ll still find rugged parts of the trail that require comfortable footwear.
13. The Highline Trail
Although Glacier National Park may seem intimidating with its rugged peaks, the Highline Trail is actually meant for novice hikers. Located in Montana, the mostly flat path follows the Garden Wall ridge, where you can intake the most stunning views of wildlife and blooming flowers.
14. Hanging Rock Trail
Located in Hanging Rock State Park in North Carolina, this 2.4-mile trail is heavily trafficked. Hikers come to enjoy climbing up the path while beholding the scenic views and rock formations along the way.
15. Bright Angel Trail
If you’re ready to brave the Grand Canyon in Arizona, know that technically there is no “easy” hike. But if you wanted to start somewhere, hike down the Bright Angel Trail to Indian Garden, where you can stay at a lush oasis with plenty of shade.
16. Calico Tanks Trail
Although there are some tough sections to get through, this 2.5-mile trail is actually pretty easy. Along the way, you’ll, of course, see the gorgeous red rock formations of Red Rock Canyon in Nevada, rewarding you at the end of the trail with gorgeous views of the mountains
17. Hot Springs Mountain Trail
Located in Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas, this trail is known as “one of the most rewarding trails inn the park,” by the National Park Service (NPS). It goes around the top of North Mountain and is an easy stroll with plenty of scenic overlooks. Spring season is the best time of year to adventure here.
Are you someone who knows which trails to share with those who are just starting their hiking journey? Share your advice with us on our Wide Open Roads Facebook!