Celebrate National Take a Hike day with the best local trails in each state

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Hanna Horvath, CFP®

Hanna Horvath, CFP®


Hanna Horvath is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and managing editor for growth at Policygenius. She helps produce the Easy Money newsletter, and owns all growth initiatives for Easy Money. She recently passed her exam to become a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ in November 2020.

Hanna's work has appeared in NBC News, Business Insider and Inc. Magazine. She is regularly quoted in top media outlets, including CNBC, Best Company and HerMoney. She has also appeared on the Money Moolala podcast and All's Fair podcast.

Prior to Policygenius, Hanna wrote for KNBC in Los Angeles and WNBC in New York. When she isn't writing, she's (often) running, (usually) cooking and (sometimes) doing photography.

Published October 31, 2018|10 min read

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November 17 is National Take a Hike Day and what better way to celebrate the day, and the crisp fall season, than with a hike. With that, we're highlighting the best local trail in each state.

To name the best trails, we looked exclusively at hikes that are 10 miles or less total, so you don’t have to spend longer than an afternoon on the trail. Plus, each trail on this list offers something more than just exercise — we’ve also included the thing you must see on each trail.

Alabama: Mountain Laurel Trail

Where: Cheaha State Park Distance: 2.3-mile loop Must see: Wander along the streambank to the Rock Garden Outlook, where you’ll enjoy breathtaking views of the Talladega National Forest.

Alaska: X Lake Loop

Where: Talkeetna Lakes Park Distance: 3.5-mile loop Must see: In the fall, this is the prime spot to go blueberry-picking. This trail circles X Lake and takes you through beautiful old-growth forests where you're bound to see wildlife and can enjoy fishing.

Arizona : Soldiers Pass Trail No. 66

Where: Coconino National Forest Distance: 4.5-mile loop Must see: This trail passes two natural arches, the Seven Sacred Pools and Devil’s Kitchen, which is the largest sinkhole in Arizona.

Arkansas: Bear Hollow Trail

Where: Mount Magazine State Park Distance: 3.7 miles out and back Must see: Catch some of the best scenery in the state here: This trail crosses several creeks that lead to waterfalls. Other sights include WPA steps and Sunrise Rock.

California: Runyon Canyon Trail

Where: Runyon Canyon Park Distance: 1.9 miles to 3.3 miles, depending on loop Must see: This popular hike offers panoramic views of Los Angeles and the Hollywood sign — on clear days you can see all the way to the Pacific. Consider fueling your hike with an almond latte from the best local coffee shop Go Get 'Em Tiger, and keep your eye out for celebrities along the path.

Colorado: Zapata Falls Trail

Where: Great Sand Dunes National Park Distance: 1 mile out and back Must see: You can get up close and personal with a majestic waterfall and enjoy breathtaking views of the dunes on this short trail, which includes wading into a rock crevasse.

Connecticut: Bigelow Hollow Breakneck Loop

Where: Bigelow Hollow State Park Distance: 6-mile loop Must see: Enjoy beautiful views of Mashapaug Lake and Bigelow Pond in one of the largest forest areas in Connecticut.

Delaware: Gordons Pond Trail

Where: Cape Henlopen State Park Distance: 5.2 miles out and back Must see: This walk takes you along an elevated boardwalk over miles of marshland and dunes.

Florida: Black Rock Trail

Where: Big Talbot State Park Distance: 1-mile loop Must see: Stop at the midway point of this short loop to take in the spectacular rocky shoreline with tidal pools and bluffs.

Georgia: Tennessee Rock Trail

Where: Black Rock Mountain State Park Distance: 2.2-mile loop Must see: Walk through the wildflower-filled forest in Georgia’s highest elevation park to check out the view at Tennessee Rock overlook.

Hawaii: Canyon Trail to Waipoo Falls

Where: Waimea Canyon State Park Distance: 3.2 miles out and back Must see: Observe the “Grand Canyon of Hawaii,” a majestic canyon on Hawaii’s Westernmost island.

Idaho: Third Fork Rock Creek Loop

Where: Sawtooth National Forest Distance: 8.3-mile loop Must see: Enjoy gorgeous river and waterfall views on this scenic, family and dog-friendly trail. Come back in the winter for great skiing right off the trail.

Illinois: Little Grand Canyon Trail

Where: Shawnee National Forest Distance: 3-mile loop Must see: This canyon descent features beautifully carved sandstone rock, waterfalls and rivers.

Indiana: Clifty Falls 8,3,4,5 Loop

Where: Hoosier National Forest Distance: 5.8-mile loop Must see: There are a number of great waterfalls to check out, but the must-see is Hoffman Falls.

Iowa: Horseshoe Bluff Nature Trail

Where: Mines of Spain Easement Distance: 0.9-mile loop Must see: Make sure to check out the Julien Dubuque monument at the North end of the trail and the old quarry at the South end of the trail, which lies along the Mississippi River.

Kansas: Orange, Violet and Red Trail

Where: Shawnee Mission Park Distance: 6.5-mile loop Must see: This stunning trail boasts a beautiful dammed lake – Lake Lenexa – and is great for hiking, biking or horseback riding.

Kentucky: Gray’s Arch Trail Loop

Where: Daniel Boone National Forest Distance: 3.4-mile loop Must see: Enjoy remarkable views of the forest and the famous Gray’s Arch.

Louisiana: Comite Park Trail

Where: Comite River Park Distance: 4.9-mile loop Must see: Experience the wonders of the Bayou on this wonderful riverside trail, but be sure to load up on insect repellant — it can get muggy.

Maine: Beehive Loop Trail

Where: Acadia National Park Distance: 1.4-mile loop Must see: The birds are what you can't miss here. Be on the lookout for puffins and black-throated green warblers.

Maryland: Maryland Heights Loop

Where: Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park Distance: 4.5 or 6.5 miles, depending on the loop Must see: You'll definitely want to see the historical Civil War artifacts along the way, which include artillery batteries and a stone fort. You’ll get plenty of good views of the Potomac here.

Massachusetts: Braintree Pass Path

Where: Blue Hills Reservation Distance: 3 miles out and back Must see: The trail passes by groves of hemlocks, laurel-covered mountains and a cedar swamp. An old cellar hole marks the Glover Homestead, where farmers settled hundreds of years ago.

After your hike, travel 20 minutes up to Boston, where you can re-fuel at the Boston Public Market, the must-visit local farmers market in the state.

Michigan: Chapel Loop

Where: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Distance: 10-mile loop Must see: You'll definitely want to see the landmark the trail gets its name from, but also the limestone arches that line the shore, including Lover's Leap.

Minnesota: Silver Creek Trail

Where: Jay Cooke State Park Distance: 3.5-mile loop Must see: Get excited to cross the Swinging Bridge, which hangs above the St. Louis River and offers views of the Silver Creek.

Mississippi: Outcroppings Nature Trail

Where: Tishomingo State Park Distance: 2-mile loop Must see: This loop trail starts at the Swinging Bridge over the Bear Creek. If you want to spend the day outside, grab your gear — this trail is popular among rock climbers.

Missouri: Buford Mountain Trail

Where: Buford Mountain Distance: 9.1-mile trail Must see: This trail takes you through the Buford Mountain Conservation Area to a peak of 1,740 feet above sea level, which you don't want to miss. It’s a great spot for camping and seeing wildlife.

Montana: South Fork Ross Creek Trail

Where: Kootenai National Forest Distance: 7.1 miles out and back Must see: Follow Ross Creek through a forest of giant cedars and hemlocks to a picturesque lake surrounded by mountains.

Nebraska: Saddle Rock Trail

Where: Scotts Bluff National Monument Distance: 3.2 miles out and back Must see: This is a short, but tough hike with a 435-foot climb. But it's worth it — at the top, you could see raptors soaring above the bluff or box turtles crawling up the plains.

Nevada: Historic Railroad Trail

Where: Lake Mead National Recreation Area Distance: 7.5-mile loop Must see: Catch views of Lake Mead and the Boulder Basin. Plus, you get to travel through large tunnels of a historical railroad route that ran from 1931 to 1961.

New Hampshire: Champney Falls Trail

Where: Chocorua Lake Conservatory Distance: 1.4 to 8.4 miles, depending on loop Must see: This trail has really neat, old logging roads that you will walk over to get to the scenic Champney and Pitcher Falls. If you’re looking for an added challenge, you can climb 3,490 feet to the Mt. Chocorua summit.

New Jersey: Red Dot and Blue Dot Loop Trail

Where: Worthington State Forest, Mount Tammany Distance: 3.5-mile loop Must see: Just two hours from New York City, this mountain trail gives you panoramic views of the Delaware River, nearby Mount Minsi and the hills of Pennsylvania.

New Mexico: Main Loop Trail

Where: Bandalier National Monument Distance: 1.2-mile loop Must see: There are spectacular archaeological sites like Big Kiva, an ancient meeting place, and ladders you can climb into cavates, alcoves carved into the stone.

New York: Sam's Point and Verkeerderkill Falls Trail

Where: Minnewaska State Park Preserve Distance: 8.2-mile loop Must see: Make sure to see the gorgeous 187-foot waterfall, the highest in Sam’s Point. But also don't miss the ice caves or the serene view of Lake Maratanza.

North Carolina: Daniel Boone Scout Trail

Where: Grandfather Mountain Distance: 6 miles out and back Must see: At 5,964 feet above sea level, Calloway Peak is highest point in the Blue Ridge Mountains range. The rolling hills of Flat Rock View, about midway through the hike, are also worth seeing.

North Dakota: Two Rivers Trail

Where: Knife River Indian Village Distance: 6.2-mile loop Must see: Walk alongside the Knife River and the Missouri River — you will also pass the village where Sacagawea once lived, as well as a sacred earthlodge site.

Ohio: South Loop

Where: Zaleski State Forest Distance: 9.3-mile loop Must see: Deep in the heart of an old-growth forest, you’ll see long patches of marshland (or snow fields in winter time) and small caverns on this trail.

Oklahoma: Bison Trail

Where: Wichita Mountains Distance: 5.7-mile loop Must see: The Wichita Mountains offers splendid views of lakes and craggy rock — follow the trail long enough and you could see herds of wild buffalo.

Oregon: Trail of Ten Falls

Where: Silver Falls State Park Distance: 7.2-mile loop Must see: As the name suggests, you can see 10 amazing waterfalls, from the 177-foot South Falls to the 27-foot Drake Falls.

Pennsylvania: Forbidden Drive

Where: Wissahickon Valley Park Distance: 8.5 miles out and back Must see: Don’t let the name scare you. This mostly flat trail offers standout views of old bridges and historical homes, and you can even ride a horse on it (with a permit). Finish off your afternoon hike with a sweet treat at Flying Monkey Bakery, the best local bakery in the state.

Rhode Island: Breakheart Pond Loop

Where: Arcadia Management Area Distance: 3-mile loop Must see: The highlight of this loop is the 44-acre pond it surrounds.

South Carolina: Falls Creek

Where: Jones Gap State Park Distance: 3.4 miles out and back Must see: This short and sweet hike offers breathtaking views of a 125-foot waterfall that is sure to be unlike anything you've seen before.

South Dakota: Crow Peak

Where: Black Hills National Forest Distance: 5.9 miles out and back Must see: Look out for wild turkeys and deer along the way on your way up the peak. Once you've reached the peak, you'll get panoramic views of Black Hills Mountains, including Terry Peak and Bear Butte.

Tennessee: Alum Cave Hiking Trail

Where: Smoky Mountains Distance: 4.4-mile loop Must see: Though you won’t actually see a cave, you’ll get to see plenty of breathtaking rock formations, including Arch Rock and The Eye of the Needle.

Texas: Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail

Where: South-central Austin Distance: 7 miles out and back Must see: There are several great swimming holes along the trail, including Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls — but don't miss limestone bluffs that line the path.

Utah: Lake Blanche Trail

Where: Big Cottonwood Canyon Distance: 6.9 miles out and back Must see: Definitely check out Lake Blanche, but if you have the time, take the short trails to explore Lake Florence and Lake Lillian.

Vermont: Sunset Ridge Trail

Where: Mount Mansfield, Summit Post Distance: 5.7 miles out and back Must see: The best part of this trail is the two miles of ridge-top hiking above the treeline, known as Adam’s Apple. Here, you can get a glimpse of rare arctic tundra.

Virginia: Old Rag Mountain Trail

Where: Shenandoah Valley Distance: 9-mile loop Must see: The 360-degree views of the Shenandoah Valley are unparalleled. Make sure to be prepared for a full day of hiking.

Washington: Rattlesnake Ledge Trail

Where: Snoqualmie Region, North Bend Area Distance: 4-mile loop Must see: Catch a view of Cedar River, Mount Si and Mount Washington on this high-altitude hike. If you are feeling ambitious, climb up a little bit further to the upper ledge to get even better views.

Washington, D.C.: Billy Goat Trail

Where: Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Distance: 8-mile loop Must see: One of the most popular hikes in the District sits alongside the Potomac river, with plenty of overlooks. The trail is divided into three parts by level of difficulty, so there's sure to be something for everyone. If you make it to the end, you can enjoy lunch at the delicious Old Angler’s Inn.

West Virginia: Endless Wall Trail

Where: New River Gorge National River Distance: 2.7-mile loop Must see: The overlook at Diamond Point provides great views of the West Virginia vista. But don't be afraid to look down the 1,000-foot cliff — the beauty of the New River Gorge below beats out any view.

Wisconsin: Ice Age Trail

Where: Devil’s Lake State ParkDistance: 7.5-mile loop Must see: Hike to the top of a 500-foot bluff to get a panoramic view of Devil’s Lake, and view other landmarks such as Devil’s Doorway and Balanced Rock.

Wyoming: Cascade Canyon Trail

Where: Grand Teton National Park Distance: Around 6 miles, depending on the loop Must see: On the top of the 200-foot Hidden Falls sits Inspiration Point, which looks out over Jenny Lake and the east side of the park. If you are feeling adventurous, continue on the trail to the Cathedral Group peaks, with a breathtaking view.

Looking for more ways to explore? Check out this state-by-state guide to the best local towns to visit.

Image: Imgorthand