America's Classic Loop Hikes

These loops set the gold standard for circular hikes. Yes, they’re popular, but with very, very good reason.
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These loops set the gold standard for circular hikes. Yes, they’re popular, but with very, very good reason.
Mt. Rainier, as seen from the Wonderland Trail in Mt. Rainier National Park

See Mt. Rainier from Indian Henry's Hunting Ground on the Wonderland Trail. By Don Geyer

New views everyday. No shuttle required. Never a wasted step. Circular trails are a backpacker's best friend, and these classic loop hikes are the best of the best.

1. Pemi Loop, NH (32 miles)

This iconic White Mountains trek is a peakbagger’s delight, crossing eight summits and wracking up 18,000 feet of elevation change. Short on time? It's also one of America's hardest day hikes.

2. Four Pass Loop, CO (26 miles)

Tour Colorado’s most photogenic twin peaks—the Maroon Bells—amid acres of colorful wildflowers in mid- to late summer, and you'll see why it's one of our all-time favorites.

3. Rae Lakes Loop, CA (41 miles)

They don’t call it Paradise Valley for nothing. Target this Kings Canyon National Park hike in September to avoid crowds. Pack two memory cards. Get the info. 

4. Wonderland Trail, WA (93 miles)

Count the glaciers—more than two dozen of them—as you circumnavigate mighty Tahoma. Tip: Apply for a permit March 15 through Mt. Rainier National Park. 

5. Paintbrush Canyon & Cascade Canyon, WY (18 miles)

The Tetons’ best loop (and that’s saying something) climaxes with all-star views of the Cathedral Group. See our scout's report here.

6. Outer Mountain Loop, TX (30 miles)

Discover challenging desert and mountain hiking in Big Bend. See our scout's report here.

7. Royal Arch Loop, AZ (34 miles)

Looking for a challenge? Enjoy stellar campsites, seclusion, and a short technical rock climb on a five-day loop off the South Rim.

8. Timberline Trail, OR (41 miles)

After you hike this CCC-built loop around Mt. Hood, odds are good you’ll be inspired to climb the 11,239-foot mountain.

9. North Circle Route, MT (65 miles)

This Glacier National Park hike delivers with wildlife, wildflowers, and passage through the famous Ptarmigan Tunnel.

10. Three Sisters Loop, OR (55 miles)

Explore a volcanic wonderland with a sweet scenery-to-sweat ratio, thanks to the route’s modest elevation change.