Top 20 Most Scenic Half Day Hikes in the United States

The United States is home to some of the most diverse and stunning landscapes in the world. From majestic mountains and canyons to serene lakes and waterfalls, there is a hike for every taste and skill level. Whether you are looking for a short and easy stroll or a challenging and rewarding adventure, here are 20 of the most scenic half day hikes in the United States that you should add to your bucket list.

Skyline Trail Loop Mount Rainier National Park
1. Skyline Trail Loop - Mount Rainier National Park, Washington

The Skyline Trail Loop is one of the best ways to experience the beauty and grandeur of Mount Rainier National Park. This 6.2-mile hike takes you past lovely Myrtle Falls, through forests of evergreens, and up to the slopes of Mount Rainier. From Panorama Point, you get jaw-dropping views of the park and on a clear day you can see as far as Mt. Hood in Oregon. This hike is strenuous and involves some steep sections and snow crossings, so be prepared and check the trail conditions before you go.

Angels Landing Hiking Trail
2. Angels Landing, Zion National Park, Utah

Angels Landing is one of the most iconic and thrilling hikes in Zion National Park. The trail climbs up a narrow ridge with sheer drop-offs on both sides, offering spectacular views of the Zion Canyon below. The final section of the trail involves holding onto chains and scrambling over rocks, which adds to the excitement and challenge. This hike is not for the faint of heart or those with a fear of heights, but the reward is well worth the effort.


Grinnell Glacier hiking trail - Glacier National Park, Montana

3. Grinnell Glacier - Glacier National Park, Montana

The hike to Grinnell Glacier is one of the most scenic and rewarding hikes in Glacier National Park. This 10.6-mile hike takes you through stunning alpine scenery, past waterfalls, emerald green lakes, wildflowers, and wildlife. The highlight of the hike is the Grinnell Glacier, one of the few remaining glaciers in the park that is slowly melting away. You can see the effects of climate change on this fragile ecosystem and marvel at the beauty and power of nature.

Precipice Trail - Acadia National Park, Maine
4. Precipice Trail - Acadia National Park, Maine

The Precipice Trail is a short but steep and exhilarating hike in Acadia National Park. This 2.5-mile hike takes you up the east face of Champlain Mountain, using metal ladders, rungs, and railings to help you navigate the cliffs and ledges. The views of the Atlantic Ocean and the surrounding islands are breathtaking and well worth the effort. This hike is not for the inexperienced or the acrophobic, and it is closed during the nesting season of the peregrine falcons (usually from March to August).

San Clemente Beach Trail - San Clemente, California
5. San Clemente Beach Trail - San Clemente, California

The San Clemente Beach Trail is a relaxing and scenic hike along the Pacific Coast in Southern California. This 4.6-mile hike follows a paved path that runs parallel to the beach and the railroad tracks. You can enjoy the views of the ocean, the surfers, the pier, and the palm trees, as well as the occasional train passing by. This hike is easy and suitable for all ages and abilities, and you can stop at any point and access the beach for a swim or a picnic.

Manitou Springs Incline - Manitou Springs, Colorado
6. Manitou Springs Incline - Manitou Springs, Colorado

The Manitou Springs Incline is a challenging and rewarding hike that will test your stamina and endurance. This 3.4-mile hike follows a former cable car track that ascends over 2,000 feet in less than a mile. The trail is steep and consists of over 2,700 steps that vary in height and distance. The views of the surrounding mountains and the town of Manitou Springs are spectacular and worth the sweat and pain. This hike is strenuous and not for the faint of heart, but if you are looking for a workout and a thrill, this is the hike for you.

Tunxis Trail Burlington, Connecticut

7. Tunxis Trail - Burlington, Connecticut

The Tunxis Trail is a beautiful and varied hike in the northwest corner of Connecticut. This 9.5-mile hike takes you through forests, fields, wetlands, and rocky outcrops, as well as past historic sites and landmarks. You can see the remains of an old mill, a stone arch bridge, a waterfall, and a Native American cave. You can also enjoy the views of the Farmington River Valley and the Talcott Mountain Range. This hike is moderate and well-marked, and you can shorten it by taking one of the many side trails.

Cape Henlopen State Park Loop - Lewes, Delaware
8. Cape Henlopen State Park Loop - Lewes, Delaware

The Cape Henlopen State Park Loop is a fun and scenic hike that combines history, nature, and beach. This 6.4-mile hike takes you around the park, which was once a military base and a site of the American Revolution and the War of 1812. You can see the remains of the Fort Miles Battery, the observation towers, and the World War II bunkers. You can also enjoy the views of the Atlantic Ocean, the Delaware Bay, and the lighthouse. This hike is easy and flat, and you can stop at the beach for a swim or a sunbath.

Kalalau Trail Kauai Hawaii

9. Kalalau Trail - Kauai, Hawaii

The Kalalau Trail is one of the most stunning and challenging hikes in Hawaii. This 22-mile hike takes you along the rugged and remote Na Pali Coast, which is only accessible by foot, boat, or helicopter. You can see the dramatic cliffs, the lush valleys, the cascading waterfalls, and the pristine beaches. You can also experience the Hawaiian culture and history, as the trail passes through ancient villages and sacred sites. This hike is strenuous and dangerous, and requires a permit and overnight camping. However, you can also do a shorter day hike to Hanakapiai Beach (4 miles round-trip) or Hanakapiai Falls (8 miles round-trip), which are equally beautiful and rewarding.

Old Rag Mountain Loop Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
10. Old Rag Mountain Loop - Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

The Old Rag Mountain Loop is one of the most popular and exciting hikes in Shenandoah National Park. This 9-mile hike takes you to the summit of Old Rag Mountain, which offers panoramic views of the park and the Blue Ridge Mountains. The hike involves a challenging and fun rock scramble, where you have to climb, crawl, and squeeze through boulders and crevices. This hike is strenuous and requires some skill and experience, as well as a lot of patience and caution. It is also very crowded, especially on weekends and holidays, so plan ahead and arrive early.

Mist Trail - Yosemite National Park, California
11. Mist Trail - Yosemite National Park, California

The Mist Trail is one of the most popular and spectacular hikes in Yosemite National Park. This 7-mile hike takes you to two of the park's most impressive waterfalls: Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall. The hike is named for the mist that sprays from the falls, creating a refreshing and sometimes drenching experience. The hike is steep and involves climbing many stone steps, but the views of the waterfalls and the valley are worth it. This hike is best done in spring or early summer, when the water flow is at its peak.

Delicate Arch Arches National Park, Utah
12. Delicate Arch - Arches National Park, Utah

Delicate Arch is the most iconic and recognizable landmark in Arches National Park. This 3-mile hike takes you to the base of the arch, where you can admire its beauty and size. The hike is moderate and involves some exposure and slickrock sections, but the trail is well-marked and maintained. The views of the arch and the surrounding landscape are stunning, especially at sunrise or sunset. This hike is very popular and crowded, so plan ahead and arrive early or late to avoid the peak times.

Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail Acadia National Park, Maine
13. Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail - Acadia National Park, Maine

The Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail is a rewarding and scenic hike that takes you to the highest point in Acadia National Park. This 7.4-mile hike takes you through forests, meadows, and rocky terrain, as well as past a small pond and a stone hut. The summit of Cadillac Mountain offers panoramic views of the park and the ocean, and it is also the first place in the United States to see the sunrise from October to March. This hike is moderate and well-marked, and you can also drive to the summit if you prefer.

Bright Angel Trail

14. Bright Angel Trail - Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

The Bright Angel Trail is one of the most famous and challenging hikes in Grand Canyon National Park. This 19.9-mile hike takes you from the rim to the river and back, passing through layers of geologic history and diverse ecosystems. The hike is strenuous and requires a lot of planning and preparation, as well as a permit and overnight camping. However, you can also do a shorter day hike to one of the rest houses or the Indian Garden Campground, which are equally beautiful and rewarding.

Franconia Ridge Loop White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire
15. Franconia Ridge Loop - White Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire

The Franconia Ridge Loop is one of the most epic and exhilarating hikes in the White Mountain National Forest. This 8.9-mile hike takes you to the summits of three 4,000-foot peaks: Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette. The hike is strenuous and involves a lot of elevation gain and loss, as well as some exposure and scrambling sections. The views of the mountains and the valleys are stunning, especially from the ridge, where you can see for miles in all directions. This hike is best done in summer or fall, when the weather is clear and the foliage is colorful.

Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

16. Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Emerald Lake is a stunning alpine lake nestled in the heart of Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail to the lake is relatively easy and passes by two other beautiful lakes: Nymph Lake and Dream Lake. Along the way, you can enjoy the views of the surrounding peaks, such as Hallett Peak and Flattop Mountain. The lake itself is a gorgeous turquoise color and reflects the snow-capped mountains in the background.

Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

17. Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Sky Pond is another stunning alpine lake in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail to the lake is challenging but rewarding, as it passes by several waterfalls, lakes, and meadows. The most difficult part of the trail is the final ascent to the lake, which requires climbing up a steep and slippery rock wall next to a waterfall. The lake is surrounded by sheer cliffs and spires, creating a dramatic and awe-inspiring scenery.


Observation Point, Zion National Park, Utah
18. Observation Point, Zion National Park, Utah

Observation Point is one of the highest and most scenic viewpoints in Zion National Park. The trail to the point is strenuous and steep, but offers amazing views of the Zion Canyon and its landmarks, such as Angels Landing, the Great White Throne, and the Three Patriarchs. The point itself is a large and flat area that overlooks the canyon from 2,148 feet above. This hike is a great alternative to Angels Landing if you want to avoid the crowds and the chains.

Half Dome Hike in Yosemite

19. Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

Half Dome is one of the most iconic and challenging hikes in Yosemite National Park. The trail to the summit of the dome is long and strenuous, and sometime requires a permit. Hikers gain 4,800 feet of elevation along the trail that passes highlights such as Vernal Fall and Nevada Fall, before reaching the cables on Half Dome’s steep granite domes. Steel cable handrails and wooden planks are set up along the dome to assist hikers to the summit in the summer months. The cables are removed every October, and replaced in late May.


South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
20. South Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

South Kaibab Trail is one of the best ways to experience the grandeur and beauty of the Grand Canyon National Park. The trail descends from the South Rim to the Colorado River, passing by several viewpoints and landmarks, such as Ooh Aah Point, Cedar Ridge, Skeleton Point, and the Black Bridge. The trail offers stunning views of the canyon and its layers of rock and colors. The trail is steep and exposed, and has no shade or water, so be prepared and plan accordingly.

Cascade Canyon Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
21. Cascade Canyon Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Cascade Canyon Trail is one of the most scenic and enjoyable hikes in Grand Teton National Park. The trail follows the Cascade Creek through a glacially carved canyon, offering views of the towering peaks of the Teton Range. The trail passes by several waterfalls, lakes, and meadows, and provides opportunities to see wildlife, such as moose, bears, and marmots. The trail is mostly flat and easy, except for the initial climb from Jenny Lake.

Rattlesnake Ledge
22. Rattlesnake Ledge, Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area, Washington

Rattlesnake Ledge is one of the most popular and accessible hikes in the Mount Si Natural Resources Conservation Area. The trail climbs up a forested slope to a rocky ledge that offers stunning views of the Rattlesnake Lake, the Cedar River Watershed, and the Cascade Mountains. The trail is well-maintained and moderate, but can be crowded on weekends and holidays. The ledge is a great spot for a picnic or a photo, but be careful of the steep drop-offs.


Hanging Lake, White River National Forest, Colorado23. Hanging Lake, White River National Forest, Colorado

Hanging Lake is a stunning and unique natural wonder in the White River National Forest. The lake is fed by a series of waterfalls that cascade over a travertine dam, creating a turquoise pool that hangs on the edge of a cliff. The trail to the lake is steep and rocky, and requires some scrambling and climbing over logs and boulders. The lake is a fragile ecosystem and a designated National Natural Landmark, so be respectful and follow the rules.

Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine
24. Beehive Trail, Acadia National Park, Maine

Beehive Trail is another exhilarating and challenging hike in Acadia National Park. The trail ascends the south face of the Beehive, a prominent granite dome that overlooks the Sand Beach and the Atlantic Ocean. The trail uses iron rungs, ladders, and railings to overcome the steep and exposed terrain, offering thrilling views and adrenaline rush. The trail is not for those who are afraid of heights or have vertigo, and is best done in dry and clear weather.

Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska
25. Harding Icefield Trail, Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska

Harding Icefield Trail is one of the most spectacular and rewarding hikes in Kenai Fjords National Park. The trail climbs up the valley of Exit Glacier, offering views of the glacier and its crevasses. The trail ends at the edge of the Harding Icefield, a vast expanse of ice and snow that covers over 300 square miles and feeds 38 glaciers. The trail is steep and challenging, and can be snowy and icy even in summer.

We hope you enjoyed this article and found some inspiration for your next hiking adventure. Happy trails! 😊


Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.