Photo by Forrest M.

Find the best hikes with the best views!

The springtime has arrived, signaling the beginning of the prime hiking season. You might be ready to head back out into the great outdoors for your next big adventure, but what’s the best place to explore?

With so many amazing hiking trails across the vast and varied USA, it’s hard to figure out where to start. To help you out, we’ve put together our top choices for the best places to go hiking in the U.S.

Group hiking through a forest-covered mountain.

Do you prefer rocky or grassy hikes?

Photo by Dmytro M.

From colorful rocky deserts to vibrant grassy hills, there are thousands of stunning settings for the best hiking trail in America. Each memorable destination offers unique and impressive views for every level of hiker, beginner or advanced. Although even easy trails might require you to bring hiking equipment along. If you need inspiration for your next hiking vacation, then read on to discover the 5 best places to go hiking in the U.S.

Calico Tanks Trail - Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, NV

Sign reads "Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area" as mountains are seen in the background.

A colorful hiking spot for all the family!

Photo by Ian M.

Red Rock Canyon is truly one of the best places to go hiking in the U.S. because of its vivid colors, ancient petroglyphs, and entertaining rock scrambling. Situated on the eastern edge of the Mojave Desert, Red Rock is characterized by the rusty shades of the Aztec Sandstone that forms the canyon and cliffs.

The Calico Tanks Trail is the best of Red Rock Canyon, with bold colors and an eventual vista overlooking Las Vegas. Along the Calico Tanks Trail, you will also find historic Native American sites, including an agave roasting pit. If the weather is not too dry you can find pools of water along your walk, which give Calico Tanks its name. The challenging segments of the trail are the fairly steep red sandstone steps and the rocky pathways where you might have to use your hands to scramble over the boulders.

Alternatively, kids and adults can both enjoy the ancient petroglyphs and cave art that can be viewed along the very short Petroglyph Wall Trail. More prehistoric writing can be seen along the 1-mile Children’s Discovery Trail along Lost Creek Canyon.

Hiking Facts

  • Distance: 2.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 400 ft
  • Average Time: 1 hour
  • Hiking Level: Intermediate

Clatsop Loop Trail - Ecola State Park, OR

The grassy fields hills of Ecola State Park disappear into the Pacific Ocean.

A spectacular coastal hike!

Photo by Miguel A. S.

With forests and mountains that stretch along the Pacific shoreline, Ecola State Park draws in many hikers with its picturesque landscape. Known as a hotspot for the explorers of old, the green trees, rocky mountains, and sandy beaches are irresistible to the avid adventurer.

The Clatsop Loop Trail at Ecola is one of the best places to go hiking in the U.S. if you want a stunning coastal hike. This trail includes a steep but simple climb along the cliffs of Indian Point which can be quite muddy. You also get to see the beautiful Indian Beach and Bird Point. Most of the Clatsop Loop runs through vibrant forests around the towering Bald Mountain and there are many opportunities to stop and take in the natural scenery.

If you’re up for a more challenging hike, try out the Lewis and Clark Discovery Trail. Although the full 12-mile trail is not for everyone, a section of it runs through Ecola State Park. There is no better way to experience the beauty of America than to follow in the footsteps of the nation’s greatest explorers!

Hiking Facts

  • Distance: 2.8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 785 ft
  • Average Time: 2 hours
  • Hiking Level: Beginner

Fairyland Loop - Bryce Canyon National Park, UT

A view over the sharp rocks of Bryce Canyon, Utah.

A dramatic and memorable hike!

Photo by Digital A.

Utah’s remarkable Bryce Canyon National Park is famed for the unique rock formations that rise from the canyon floor. Shifting layers of reds and oranges cut across the rocky valley on the tall stalagmite-like stones. Named hoodoo, these spiky rocks draw in many visitors who come to see their fascinating shapes and colors.

The greatest hike around Bryce Canyon is the long Fairytale Loop. The trail begins by winding down the canyonside until it reaches the staggering hoodoos. Once you’re able to draw yourself away from the captivating stones, the route continues back up the canyon and along the ridge where you can see panoramic views of the park. The extraordinary hoodoo forest, set against a fiery landscape, makes Bryce Canyon one of the best places to go hiking in the U.S. for anyone seeking a dramatic change in scenery.

For a shorter walk with astonishing panoramas, take a hike from Sunset Point to Sunrise Point. This 1-mile trail leads you over Bryce Canyon Amphitheatre, where the best of the canyon’s intriguing rock formations can be seen.

Hiking Facts

  • Distance: 8 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 1700 ft
  • Average Time: 4 hours
  • Hiking Level: Intermediate

Saint Louis Canyon - Starved Rock State Park, IL

A waterfall empties into a pool of water inside the dark Saint Louis Canyon.

For a peaceful woodland hike!

Photo by Ryan H.

The Starved Rock State Park is one of the best places to go hiking in the U.S. for waterfall lovers. This Illinois park is famed for the many falls that flow into the various canyons that form the park. Far different from the desert canyons, Starved Rock is lush and green, with pleasant woodland hikes winding around mossy cliffs.

The nicest hike is the path to Saint Louis Canyon which leads you to a calm waterfall seeping into the cave-like canyon. The fresh, earthy smells and the sun-dappled trail make a perfect place to relax in nature. Birdwatchers can even enjoy the chance to spot a bald eagle. While the route is an easy one, it does involve a fair amount of stairs.

A longer and more scenic hike can be found on the Starved Rock and Sandstone Point Overlook Trail. This 4-mile hike leads to a natural vista that looks out over the Illinois River.

Hiking Facts

  • Distance: 1.5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 154 ft
  • Average Time: 1 hour
  • Hiking Level: Beginner

Rocky Top Trail - Great Smoky Mountains National Park, TN

A view over a wooded valley of the Great Smoky Mountains.

For an endurance hike!

Photo by Cheryl B.

The Great Smoky Mountains cover the east of Tennessee and form part of the great Appalachian Trail. While that 2000-mile trail is a significant hike to take on, there are many shorter trails that run through the forested National Park.

Not a hike for beginners, the Rocky Top Trail is a test of fitness and endurance. The rewards are worth the effort as the highlight is a satisfying summit of Thunderhead Mountain. The entire trail features incredible views of the Great Smoky Mountains and the summit allows you a 360-degree look over the mountains and Fontana Lake. The Rocky Top Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains is one of the best places to go hiking in the U.S. for an all-day endurance hike.

If you’re visiting the Great Smoky Mountains and seeking a much shorter hiking route, try out the easy Laurel Falls Trail. This 2 ½-mile trail leads to the 80 ft Laurel Falls which pours down the mossy mountain rocks.

Hiking Facts

  • Distance: 14 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 3665 ft
  • Average Time: 8 hours
  • Hiking Level: Advanced

Why You Should Take Up Hiking

There are so many places to see that are not always accessible by vehicle. Hiking solves that problem. Not only do you get in some great cardio, you also get to take in the beauty nature and your surroundings have to offer. Take some food and drinks and make a day of it.

Photo by Sara Dubler on Unsplash

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LGBTQ+ Healthcare Issues

The Dobbs decision, otherwise known as the court case that overturned Roe v. Wade, has resulted in confusing medical situations for many patients. On top of affecting access to abortions for straight, cisgender women, it presents heightened risks for LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole. Flipping the switch on reproductive rights and privacy rights is a far-reaching act that makes quality care harder to find for an already underserved community.

As the fight against the Dobbs decision continues, it’s important to shed light on the full breadth of its impact. We’ll discuss specific ways that the decision can affect LGBTQ+ healthcare and offer strategies for overcoming these challenges.

How the Right to Bodily Privacy Affects LGBTQ+ Healthcare

When the original Roe v. Wade decision was made, the bodily privacy of people across the United States was protected. Now that bodily autonomy is no longer guaranteed, the LGBTQ+ community must brace itself for a potential loss of healthcare rights beyond abortions. This includes services like feminizing and masculinizing hormone therapy (particularly for transgender youth) that conservative lawmakers have been fighting against this year, as well as transition-related procedures. Without privacy, gender-affirming care may be difficult to access without documentation of sex as “proof” of gender.

As essential services for the LGBTQ+ community become more difficult to access, perhaps the most immediate effect we’ll see is eroding trust between healthcare providers and LGBTQ+ patients. When providers aren’t working in the best interest of patients — just like in cases of children and rape victims denied abortions — patients may further avoid preventative care in a community that already faces discrimination in doctor’s offices.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t Just a Women’s Issue

While the Dobbs decision is often framed as a women's issue — specifically, one that affects cisgender women — it impacts the transgender and non-binary community just as much. All people who are capable of carrying a pregnancy to term have lost at least some ability to choose whether or not to give birth in the U.S.

For transgender and non-binary individuals, this decision comes with the added complexity of body dysmorphia. Without abortion rights, pregnant trans men and some non-binary people may be forced to see their bodies change, and be treated as women by healthcare providers and society as a result.

The Dobbs decision also opens up the possibility for government bodies to determine when life begins — and perhaps even to add legal protections for zygotes and embryos. This puts contraceptives at risk, which could make it more difficult to access gender-affirming care while getting the right contraceptives based on sex for LGBTQ+ individuals.

Overturning Reproductive Rights Puts IVF at Risk

Queer couples that dream of having their own children often have limited options beyond adoption. One such option is in vitro fertilization, or IVF, which involves implanting a fertilized egg into a uterus.

While IVF isn’t directly affected by the Dobbs decision, it could fall into a legal gray area depending on when states determine that life begins. Texas, for example, is already barring abortions as early as six weeks. To reduce embryo destruction, which often occurs when patients no longer want more children, limits could be placed on the number of eggs that can be frozen at once.

Any restrictions on IVF will also affect the availability of surrogacy as an option for building a family.

How Can LGBTQ+ Individuals Overcome Healthcare Barriers?

While the Dobbs decision may primarily impact abortion rights today, its potential to worsen LGBTQ+ healthcare as a whole is jarring. So how can the community be prepared?

If you’re struggling to find LGBTQ+-friendly providers near you, using telemedicine now can be an incredibly effective way to start developing strong relationships with far-away healthcare professionals. Telemedicine eliminates the barrier of geography and can be especially helpful for accessing inclusive primary care and therapy. Be sure to check if your insurance provider covers telemedicine.

If you’re seriously concerned about healthcare access in your area — especially if the Dobbs decision affects your whole state or you need regular in-person services that may be at risk — it may be time to consider moving now. While not everyone has the privilege to do so, relocating gives you the ability to settle in areas where lawmakers better serve your needs. However, this decision shouldn’t be taken lightly, so preparing and making progress on a moving checklist now can help you avoid issues later.

The Dobbs Decision Isn’t LGBTQ+-Friendly

The Supreme Court of the United States has proven the power of its conservative majority with the overturning of Roe v. Wade. However, the effects of the Dobbs decision don’t stop at affecting cisgender women’s abortion rights. In states with bans, it also leads to forced birth for trans men and non-binary individuals. Plus, the Dobbs decision increases the risk of other rights, like hormone therapy and IVF, being taken away.

Taking steps now, whether it’s choosing a virtual provider or considering a move, can help you improve your healthcare situation in the future.