In planning this story, we set out to do the impossible: find the best hike in each state. Turns out, “best” means something a little different to everyone. So rather than tinker with formulas, we turned to our most trusted source: you. Hikers from across the country flooded our inboxes and DMs to tell us about their favorite trail. We heard compelling descriptions of crowd-free sunset views, of shimmering alpine lakes, of nostalgia for places with personal significance, and so much more. From there, we narrowed the nominees down to these 50 picks. Our list might be contentious, but behind each entry is a passionate champion who convinced us that their trail is worth visiting. So, are these really the best hikes in the US? Read on, and decide for yourself.
Leaf-covered treadpath on Alabama’s Pinhoti National Recreation Trail.
Alabama: Pinhoti National Recreation Trail
Length: 337 miles
Not many people know about the fantastic hiking in Alabama, and the Pinhoti Trail is this underrated state’s crown jewel. On my favorite section, about 10 miles from the trail’s southern terminus, I find solitude from step one. My daughter and I hike along a creek, where mini waterfalls surprise us as we wander under a canopy of fragrant longleaf pine and towering oak trees. Mile after mile, we don’t see any other hikers. The Pinhoti is full of unexpected delights, but they don’t come easy. My feet grow sore from the ups and downs, but I’m eventually rewarded: We reach an overlook of the southernmost Appalachians; views over their green ridgelines make every step worth it.
Despite the trail’s remoteness, a strong hiking community makes me feel safe and welcome as I section-hike the Pinhoti, preparing myself for an eventual thru-hike. Because of its length and reputation for being well-maintained, the Pinhoti serves as a training ground for hikers preparing for treks on some of America’s more popular long trails. I read these hikers’ rave reviews of the Pinhoti online and can’t help feeling a sense of pride; I’ve always known it was special.
As my daughter and I hike back the way we came, I think about how the next time I walk this section of trail, I may be starting a thru-hike of my own. I can’t wait.