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.

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Like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe films, LGBTQ+ fans awaited the release of Thor: Love and Thunder in open anticipation of the inclusivity that both Marvel and Disney had promised. However, the fans were only setting themselves up for disappointment when the film was finally released.

Despite passionate assurances from studio heads to key actors, Thor: Love and Thunder was NOT spectacularly gay. It wasn’t even that good…

Premiere Night Promises

A bolt of lightning cuts across a rainbow on a dark and stormy night.

Lightning bold across the sky

Photo by Bill D.

Standing on the red carpet at the London Premiere of the film, director and actor Taika Waititi and fellow cast members Natalie Portman and Tessa Thompson were offered up the inevitable question: “How gay is the film?

Amidst some laughter from the crowds, Waititi gestured towards Portman to respond. The actress (who plays Thor’s love interest, Jane Foster, throughout the franchise) raised the microphone to her lips and thought for a moment, before delivering a quiet yet fateful: “So gay!

Barely a moment had passed before the gathered fans went wild and Taika Waititi gave his own verdict: “Super gay!”. Tessa Thompson made no statement on the ‘gayness’ of the film, instead opting to swing her microphone around suggestively. As more cheers erupted, a second round of “super gay” slipped out of Waititi’s mouth, before he urged the fans to enjoy the film.

Thor: Love and Thunder’s LGBTQ+ Potential

Thor’s movie-goers were definitely hyped up for a gay extravaganza and they had a specific character in mind. The fan-favorite Valkyrie, played by Tessa Thompson, stumbled her way into the MCU during Thor’s third film, Ragnarok. The Asgardian warrior won many people over with her wit, sarcasm, and pure badassery.

After the events of Avengers: Endgame *spoilers*, Thor Odinson gives up his claim to the throne of Asgard and names Valkyrie as king in his stead. This left many fans excited to see what would become of the character, especially after certain revelations were made at the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con:

“As a new king, she has to find her queen. So that’ll be her first order of business.”

With these words, Tessa Thompson threw her LGBTQ+ fans into a frenzy, with heavy expectations for the then-upcoming fourth installment of the Thor films. Indeed, in an interview with the LA Times, shortly before the film's release, Tessa Thompson was asked to comment on the sexuality of her character. She responded with several promising remarks, including “there’s a lot of folks that are righteously very hungry for that representation to exist in these movies, as am I”.

*Warning: spoilers ahead!*

So, How Gay Was Thor 4?

To put it simply: not gay at all. Not only did Valkyrie end up without a fabulous new queen, her non-heteronormative sexuality only got the barest mention (a brief line about a previous, now dead, girlfriend). Valkyrie may have made bedroom eyes at some pretty ladies before an action scene spoils the moment, but that’s about as much as we get.

The film does get some credit for introducing a trans character in a minor yet significant role. Thor returns to his people (after a brief stint as a Guardian of the Galaxy) only to find out that the daughter of one of his closest (and deceased) friends is now a boy. The issue is, whether due to personal prejudice or some alien inability to grasp the concept of being transgender, it does take Thor a frustrating few moments to come to terms with the change. And to stop deadnaming.

In fact, the only concession to the queer community was Taika Waititi’s extraterrestrial character Korg finding a husband in one of the closing scenes. This heartfelt moment was somewhat underscored by the revelation that Korg’s entire species is male, meaning he had no other choice but to be ‘gay’.

This Is Not Marvel’s First Queerbaiting Attempt

Close up of an eye reflecting an unknown scene as a rainbow crosses the image.

Photo by Harry Q.

This is, by far, not the first time that LGBTQ+ fans have been sorely disappointed by the workings of Marvel and Disney. In fact, people across many social media platforms have been chiding expectant viewers for once again falling for classic queerbaiting tactics. “Being queerbaited by the MCU is like being a golden retriever with a human who always pretends to throw the ball”, one Tumblr user declared.

Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, was the perfect moment for the MCU to introduce its first lesbian lead. Larson’s character seemed to have an intense relationship with another woman, going so far as to help raise her child (before Larson’s Carol Danvers disappeared from Earth for 6 years). Despite leaning into several romantic tropes, the status of their relationship was never fully fleshed out. However, it was also the franchise’s first female-led superhero movie, so maybe they thought that introducing her as a lesbian would make the film too awesome.

The heavily anticipated Avengers: Endgame was also slated to introduce the MCU’s ‘first gay character'. While many fans were excited, particularly as this would be the second of Larson’s appearances on screen, the big gay build-up was a massive letdown. The film’s director Joe Russo made a cameo as a blip survivor mourning the loss of his husband. A five-second throw-away scene that had no impact on the outcome of the film. Big whoop...

Even when we did see a film with a gay lead, The Eternals, there were also ten other straight leads. At that point, it just seemed more like basic probability than an attempt at pushing LGBT+ superheroes into the spotlight.

Why Can’t Disney Let Marvel Be Gay?

The big problem with allowing a few characters to be anything other than cishet is that there are still many countries in the world that outlaw homosexuality. As much as we like to think that the MCU is being made for comic book fans, we all know the purpose of the films is to make money for Disney. And without certain markets in Asia and the Middle East, Disney wouldn’t be raking in up to (and over) one billion dollars per theatrical release.

Is There Any Hope For LGBTQ+ Fans In The MCU’s Future?

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, the second in the much-loved Black Panther arc, will be released in cinemas this November. The studio has confirmed that the film will contain a queer character. Actress Michaela Coel will play Aneka, a warrior, and trainer of the king’s guard. Whether or not her diversity will stand out in the film (let alone endure for more than a 10-second scene that can be easily cut) remains to be seen.

Next year’s The Marvels film, starring Brie Larson, Iman Vellani, and Lashana Lynch may offer the MCU a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of its LGBT+ fans. The studios may feel it’s finally time to offer us the heartwarming lesbian relationship between Larson’s Carol Danvers and Lynch’s Maria Rambeau that seemed to be teased in the first Captain Marvel. Don’t raise your hopes too high, though, as you may yet end up as a stubborn golden retriever waiting for a cinematic universe to finally throw that rainbow ball.