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50 Views, 50 States – The Best Views in the United States

We asked guidebook writers, backpacker field scouts, landscape photographers, and other local experts nationwide to rule on the sweetest backcountry vista in their corner of the union.

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1. Utah – Observation Point, Zion NP

37.278151, -112.940226
Nothing against mountains and sea. But when we crave a shot of pure geological aesthetics—sandstone waves sculpted by the scalpel of time, canyons lined with silvery water—we’re always called back to Utah and the magnificence of this 6,507-foot precipice. Rising more than 2,100 feet above the Virgin River, it offers the loftiest angle on the canyon’s 2,500-foot freefall from the surrounding plateau. Reach it via a strenuous, 8-mile out-and-back on the East Rim Trail from the Weeping Rock trailhead. Info

Dissenting Opinion
The Subway, Zion NP
37.309983, -113.052633
“In my 10 years at BACKPACKER, I’ve rejected more photos of great views than most people will see in a lifetime. And sure, far-off vistas are lovely. But I find this unusual scene of a perfectly carved tunnel even more powerful and memorable. The way light, water, and rock play together, beckoning you to explore, inspires me more than any sea of peaks ever could. Get there via a challenging, technical, 9.5-mile hike up (or down) the Left Fork of North Creek.” -Genny Fullerton, Photo Editor

2. California – Inspiration Point, Anacapa Island, Channel Islands NP

34.013063, -119.374148
Beyond the edge of the continent, a perfectly Californian sense of infinite possibility beckons, with a view so good you’ll feel like you’re flying. Stand on this 200-foot promontory and let the islands lead your gaze to the ever-changing horizon. Reach this cliff-lined, offshore sanctuary by crossing a 2,000-foot ocean trench on the 12-mile ferry ride from Oxnard ($59/adult;, then follow a 2.5-mile loop to the point. Plan to stay a night or more in the island’s seven-site, primitive campground (no water). Trip ID 312304 Info

3. Oregon – Jefferson Park, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

44.7163071, -121.80000
We struggled long and hard to choose our top vista in the Evergreen State. Columbia River Gorge? Too much road. An alluring bend on the John Day River? Too obscure and hard to reach (paddling only). The Painted Hills? No real hiking. Olallie Butte? Off-limits on reservation land. In the end, this classic scene of 10,495-foot Mt. Jefferson framed by Russell Lake’s wildflowers (best in July and August, depending on the year) won our hearts. “This spot means a lot to a lot of people,” says photographer David Jensen—and it makes for a killer backpack. Approach via the Whitewater Trail (5 miles one-way; shorter) or the Breitenbush route (6.2 miles; more scenic), and camp in a designated site near either Russell or Scout Lakes. This popular spot attracts crowds, so target midweek for more solitude. Info

4. Colorado – South Maroon Peak, Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness

39.070763 -106.988940
In a state infested with mountains, there’s no shortage of breathtaking views of spires sprawling out in all directions, and they all inspire and awe us in their own way. But this panorama encompassing five other Colorado 14ers—including Capitol (14,130 feet), Pyramid (14,018), and Castle (14,265) Peaks—is photographer Glenn Randall’s favorite from his ongoing mission to capture daybreak atop all 54 of them. “Rarely are so many other spectacular, easily identifiable 14ers visible from one vantage point,” he says. “And because you’re at the center of a vast wilderness, there are no roads or cities in the valley below you—wild land stretches as far as the eye can see.” From the Maroon Lake trailhead 10 miles southwest of Aspen, gain 4,800 feet in 6 miles (including some class 3 scrambles) to reach your vista. Info

Dissenting Opinion
Middle of the Dunes, Great Sand Dunes NP
37.751483, -105.558197

“If the Sahara and the Rockies had a love child, it would look like this exotic wonder. Wander into the park’s enormous, shifting sand field, exhaust yourself lugging gear and all of your water up the sateep dunes that keep the crowds at bay, and set up camp wherever the urge strikes. There are no trails, no designated sites, no people. Just acres of sand glowing like molten gold at sunset, with the snow-topped Sangre de Cristo Mountains rising in the distance.” -Dennis Lewon, Editor-In-Chief

5. Alaska – Harding Icefield, Kenai Fjords NP

60.178944, -149.706711
Glaciers covered a third of the Earth’s land during the last Ice Age, and shaped hiker terrain from Yosemite’s hanging valleys to Indiana’s moraines. Today, Alaska is the best place to see glacial power in person. The 700-square-mile Harding Icefield—formed more than 23,000 years ago during the Pleistocene Epoch—stretches as far as the eye can see, and it’s riddled with crevasses revealing slices of deep glacier blue. Get both commanding and up-close views of the frozen relic from the turnaround of this 8.2-mile out-and-back. Trip ID 10249 Info nps .gov/kefj

6. Montana – Hidden Lake, Glacier NP

48.685692, -113.741156
You could make a case for nearly any of Glacier’s 762 perfect lakes, but we chose this one abutting the Continental Divide for its striking cliffs and the king-of-the-hill feeling you’ll get gazing down at its turquoise depths from a viewpoint east of the pool. From Logan Pass, hike 1.5 miles to overlook the tarn cradled between the sheer slopes of 8,684-foot Bearhat and 9,125-foot Reynolds Mountains. To extend the trip, continue another 1.5 miles to the shoreline. Got peakbagging chops? Continue off-trail to summit Bearhat via another mile of class 3 scrambling. Info

7. Wyoming – Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range

42.770275, -109.219847
Like guardians of a granite-strewn, alpine Eden, 13 peaks taller than 12,000 feet enclose this lush, horseshoe-shaped valley with Hall of Fame camping. Beyond their ranks lie meadows crisscrossed with icy streams, which feed glacial lakes that reflect the craggy heights of sentinels including 12,842-foot Lizard Head Peak and 12,369-foot War Bonnet Peak. Wyoming has other stunning views (Tetons, anyone?), but none combine unforgettable scenery with deep-backcountry bliss like the Cirque. And did we mention the rock climbing? Get there on a 16.4-mile out-and-back from the Big Sandy trailhead, 56 miles southeast of Pinedale. Trip ID 1563784 Info

Dissenting Opinion
Fairy Falls Trail, Yellowstone NP
44.523567, -110.840033
“Grand Prismatic Spring’s rainbow pool is one of our nation’s treasures, but it’s tough to see its glory except from the air. This viewpoint, which opened up after the park’s 1988 fires, lets you hike to witness the spectacle—with both feet on the ground. Walk 3.6 miles (round-trip) to see the view plus a 197-foot waterfall” -Rachel Zurer, Associate Editor trip id 10256 Info nps .gov/yell

8. Arizona – Nankoweap, Grand Canyon NP
36.300130, -111.864616
Millions extoll the view of layered sandstone from the edge of the 277-mile-long Grand Canyon, but only hikers know it gets better as you go down. And these storage granaries, built by Ancestral Puebloans about 950 years ago, turn this overlook above the green ribbon of the Colorado River into a magical spot. “In early evening, this ancient structure is bathed in reddish light that makes its sandstone glow,” says photographer Jerry Ginsberg. Reach it via a strenuous, 14-mile, 6,000-foot descent on the Nankoweap Trail from the trailhead off FR 610 in Kaibab National Forest on the North Rim (camp at mile 11 or 14). Info

9. Washington – Norway Pass, Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument
46.310328, -122.105386
In May 1980, standing here would have spelled certain death. Today, it offers a breathtaking reminder of the power of what lies underfoot, with a head-on view across the surface of Spirit Lake—still littered with dead trees scattered like matchsticks—to the spot where magma, gas, and steam blew the lid off Mt. St. Helens 33 years ago. From the Norway Pass trailhead, hike 2.2 miles on Boundary Trail 1 to the 4,508-foot pass; continue 3.5 miles to summit 5,850-foot Mt. Margaret for views including Mt. Rainier. Info

Dissenting Opinion
Second Beach, Olympic NP
47.886478, 124.626244

“Nowhere else in the country do wide, sandy beaches, sea star-plastered tidepools, and monumental sea stacks come together to frame the infinite Pacific like they do on Washington’s wild coast. For a quick fix, hike 4 miles round-trip to explore Second Beach. Or spend a few days hiking the whole 73-mile coast.” -Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan, Special Projects Editor Trip ID 55411 info

10. North Carolina – The Chimneys Campsite, Linville Gorge Wilderness
35.877771, -81.888565
Here’s a view so alluring it’s worth moving for—at least for photographer Lynn Willis, who decided to ditch his native Tennessee and relocate to the Carolina high country after staring 2,000 feet into the gorge’s verdant folds. You’ll understand why from this 3,557-foot precipice on Linville’s eastern edge, with panoramas of lush ridges, raging water, and vertigo-inducing drops. “The only sounds are the mighty Linville River, the birds, and the wind,” Willis says. From the Table Rock picnic area, hike south 1.5 miles on the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, then scramble 70 feet up a gully to pitch your tent at the edge of the world (free permit required). Or sample the area on a 22-mile, three-day loop (Trip ID 379572). Info

The Point, Cane Creek Canyon Nature Preserve
34.622886, -87.801719
From this perch 200 feet above Cane Creek Canyon, a river valley in the state’s northwest corner, the surrounding slopes look positively Appalachian, particularly when the treetops turn rusty red and gold in fall. Follow a 1-mile loop on the Waterfall and Ridgetop Trails to reach the overlook, recommends Joe Cuhaj, author of Hiking Alabama. To extend, take the Canyon Rim Trail south to connect to an 11-mile network winding past cavernous rock shelters, exposed bluffs, and trickling waterfalls. Info

Alaska (see above)

Arizona (see above)

Hawksbill Crag, Ozark NF
35.890997, -93.440394
Background: Classic rolling Ozark hills. Foreground: A beak-shaped stone precipice (aka Whitaker Point) that juts from a bluff 300 feet above the Buffalo River valley. Result: Landscape photographer Mike Boyd’s favorite spot. Reach it via an easy, 1.5-mile path from the trailhead off Cave Mountain Road, 6 miles south of AR 21.

California (see above)

Bear Mountain,
Mt. Riga SP
42.044871, -73.454369
Winter transforms this 2,316-foot summit—the state’s highest—into a wonderland of snow-dusted peaks and ice-encrusted trees. Try it after a storm to savor private views into three states, including the 2,600-foot Taconic Mountains of Massachusetts and the glittering Twin Lakes of western Connecticut. Connect the Undermountain Trail to the AT for a 6.1-mile lollipop climbing 1,560 feet to the 1885-era stone monument at the top. Trip ID** 34984 Info (860) 424-3200

Colorado (see above)

Gordons Pond, Cape Henlopen SP
38.744712, -75.089359
You’ll feel a world away from the nearby boardwalks and crowded beaches at this glassy, 900-acre expanse of tidal lagoon. Follow a gravel trail to reach a deck overlook, .8 mile into a 5.3-mile out-and-back. Continue on to traverse sand dunes that are home to the endangered piping plover. Info

Round Marsh, Timucuan Preserve
30.378686, -81.479854
A labyrinth of water and grass envelops this birding platform in the St. Johns River salt marsh, a vital but shrinking nursery for young marine life. Relish this protected tract—which is especially colorful looking east at sunrise, says local nature photographer Will Dickey—by following a 2.3-mile lollipop on the Willie Browne and Timucuan Trails. Trip ID 1085101 Info

Tray Mountain, Chattahoochee NF
34.801343, -83.683881
After the leaves drop in winter, glimpse wave after wave of Blue Ridge peaks from this 4,430-foot summit, a favorite of Dante Martinez, head of Atlanta’s Outdoor Club South hiking group. On a clear day, you’ll spy the stony half dome of 3,166-foot Yonah Mountain to the south and the 4,784-foot state high point (Brasstown Bald) 9 miles northwest. From Unicoi Gap, take the AT up 2,500 feet in 5 miles. Trip ID 2309408 Info

Dissenting Opinion
Clouds Rest, Yosemite NP
37.767594, -119.489365

“John Muir would roll over in his grave if Yosemite didn’t make this list. Quintessential Sierras includes sweeping granite, sequoias, and alpine lakes. Savor them all on a 6.2-mile climb to this 10-foot-wide arête. You’ll see the entire Yosemite Valley, three famous domes (North, Sentinel, and Half), Tenaya Lake, and even parts of El Capitan.” -Maren Kasselik, Assistant Editor Trip ID 283162 info

Ko’olau Gap, Haleakala NP
20.754830, -156.213312
In a state where postcard-worthy scenes beckon around every curve (beach! volcano! rainforest! waterfall!), we chose this Maui vista because it encapsulates Hawaii’s unique collision of earth and sea: Misty clouds hovering over the Pacific creep through a valley eroded into a million-year-old volcanic crater, juxtaposing damp, fern-laden windward slopes against a moonscape of hardened lava 600 feet below. From the Halemau’u trailhead, hike 1.1 miles to the first glimpse of the gap; descend .8 mile along a series of long switchbacks to the best view. Overnight option: Continue 1.8 miles to camp at Holua (free permit required).

Fishhook Creek ridge, Sawtooth NF
44.152036, -114.939351
The jagged fins of the Sawtooths—evocative of the Tetons—soar nearly 4,000 feet above the Fishhook Creek drainage, rising from the evergreen valley to the snarly, 10,000-foot-plus heights of Thompson and Horstmann Peaks. From the ridgeline tracing the valley’s northern edge, score a rare top-to-bottom perspective of the sheer, craggy rock face, says Erik Leidecker, co-owner of Sawtooth Mountain Guides. From the Redfish trailhead, 59 miles northwest of Ketchum, take the Fishhook Creek Trail .9 mile; follow a spur .5 mile north to the Alpine Way Trail, then hike 100 yards southwest. To extend, continue 3 miles to camp at clear-green Marshall Lake below 10,635-foot Williams Peak. Info

Jefferson Park, Mt. Jefferson Wilderness

44.7163071, -121.80000
We struggled long and hard to choose our top vista in the Evergreen State. Columbia River Gorge? Too much road. An alluring bend on the John Day River? Too obscure and hard to reach (paddling only). The Painted Hills? No real hiking. Olallie Butte? Off-limits on reservation land. In the end, this classic scene of 10,495-foot Mt. Jefferson framed by Russell Lake’s wildflowers (best in July and August, depending on the year) won our hearts. “This spot means a lot to a lot of people,” says photographer David Jensen—and it makes for a killer backpack. Approach via the Whitewater Trail (5 miles one-way; shorter) or the Breitenbush route (6.2 miles; more scenic), and camp in a designated site near either Russell or Scout Lakes. This popular spot attracts crowds, so target midweek for more solitude. Info

Indian Point, Garden of the Gods Recreation Area
37.59254, -88.38428
Gaze across a rare, rugged Prairie State panorama— complete with stone hoodoos and layers of tree-blanketed ridges—from a 320-million-year-old sandstone shelf 200 feet above the forest. “You can relax on the cliffs and take in an amazing sunset view unlike anywhere else in Illinois,” says Champaign-based reader Aron McDonald, an avid hiker currently training for a 100-mile race. From the backpackers’ parking lot, hike south .7 mile on the 1.7-mile Indian Point Loop Trail to the lookout (or see page 33 for a three-day trip through this area). Info

Devil’s Backbone, Pine Hills Nature Preserve
39.94154, -87.04970
The dizzying vantage point atop this narrow sandstone ridge will erase all preconceived notions of a flat, featureless Indiana, says reader Michael Ray, a 20-year veteran Indiana hiker from Terre Haute. Sheer cliffs drop 100 feet to rushing creeks on either side of the rock spine, which measures just a few feet wide. From Shades State Park, take Trail 10 for 1.5 miles to connect two lollipop loops. Take the south one first, then continue to the north loop to ascend the backbone near mile 2.5. Close the loop and retrace your steps for a 5-mile round-trip. Info

Crow’s Nest, Pikes Peak SP
43.000504, -91.164165
You’ll wonder what happened to all the cornfields from atop this 500-foot bluff overlooking the island-studded confluence of the Mississippi and Wisconsin Rivers. See it on a 10-mile lollipop that includes this wooden platform at mile .5, 10-foot Bridal Veil Falls, and another river vista from Point Ann. Info

Big Pasture, Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
38.49105, -96.58268
From this swale in the Flint Hills of east-central Kansas, you’ll get a glimpse back in time to before the advent of the plow: 170 million acres of tallgrass prairie once blanketed North America, but only 4 percent remains, including the sea of grassland surrounding you. “The plants can grow well over 5 feet high,” says reader Jill Hummels, who lives in Lawrence and grew up hiking the region. From the visitor center, hike 6 miles on the Scenic Overlook, Prairie Fire, and West Branch Trails. Info

Double Arch, Daniel Boone NF
37.83662, -83.67729
Narrow, 30-foot-wide Auxier Ridge, which rises 400 feet from the streams below, affords constant views across the valleys and outcrops of the Red River Gorge—none better than this glimpse across a lush ravine to twin 30-foot sandstone expanses, says landscape photographer Kerry Leibowitz. Follow this 3.6-mile out-and-back on the Auxier Ridge Trail to spot Double Arch near the turnaround point. Trip ID 12798 Info

Campsite One, Chicot SP
30.76224, -92.283289
Landlubbers will score a rare sense of immersion in the bayou on this peninsula surrounded by towering, splay-footed water tupelo and bald cypress, says Baton Rouge-based reader and Louisiana Hiking Club member Karla Coreil. From the South Landing, walk 3.1 miles south to reach a .1-mile spur to the campsite. Info

Bigelow Mountain’s West Peak, Bigelow Preserve
45.146816, -70.288017
Stealing Katahdin’s crown is no small feat, but this 4,145-foot summit does it with solitude: The high point of a 10-mile crest near the Canadian border is more than twice as far from I-95 as its oft-climbed big brother, yet yields similarly skyscraping vistas of the North Woods—plus Katahdin itself. “Bigelow’s alpine views would be massively popular if closer to civilization,” says Jeremy Clark, of, a New England hiking website. Trace Bigelow’s spine on this 15.5-mile section of the AT from ME 16. Trip ID 47876 Info

Chimney Rock, Catoctin Mountain Park
39.6289174, -77.4328579
Every president since FDR has sought sanctuary at this park’s Camp David retreat, and you’ll understand why atop this 1,419-foot cluster of stone pillars: Though less than 50 miles from the D.C. sprawl, there’s no sign of suburbia (or special interest groups)—just the green hills of the piedmont to the east. Follow this 3.8-mile loop to reach the view at mile 1.1. Trip ID 450806 Info nps

Peddocks Island, Boston Harbor Islands NRA
42.291231, -70.947775
Catch a view of Boston’s skyline from this camping-friendly island a mile off the mainland. Reach it via kayak, explore tidepools and marshlands on a small network of hiking and paved trails, then roast marshmallows on a below-tideline bonfire. Info nps .gov/boha

Grand Portal Point, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
46.553084, -86.462467
Tan- and orange-striped sandstone cliffs tower 200 feet above Lake Superior’s crystalline waters—which range from emerald to aquamarine depending on the light—on this most wow-worthy section of Pictured Rocks’ 40-mile shoreline. From the tip of the point, mineral-streaked cliffs tower on both sides, and the sparkling lake stretches to the horizon. Reach Grand Portal most directly by hiking 4.8 miles clockwise on the 9.7-mile Chapel Loop; it’s also near the halfway point of a 13.8-mile point-to-point (Trip ID 614547). Info

Rose Lake Cliffs, Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
48.101356, -90.472927
Many, including Matt Davis, regional trail coordinator for the North Country Trail Association, consider this view of Rose, Rat, and South Lakes snaking amid forest among the best vistas in the entire Midwest. From the trailhead on Hungry Jack Lake Road, hike 3.5 miles north on the Caribou Rock Trail to reach the Border Route Trail; follow it west about 2 miles to this 300-foot-high perch. (For a romantic one-nighter in the area, see our August 2013 issue.) Info

Red Hills Ridge, De Soto NF
30.937681, -88.997973
In a state with a high point just 807 feet above sea level, panoramic views can be hard to come by. You’ll find one here, gazing across the treetops from a ridgeline paralleling the state’s only National Wild and Scenic River, Black Creek. Collect your view on a 6.4-mile section of the 41-mile Black Creek Trail. Trip ID 330150 Info

Bell Mountain, Mark Twain NF
37.627861, -90.865120
Hike through hickory- and oak-studded granite glades to reach this 1,702-foot, lichen-covered peak deep within a seldom-visited wilderness. You’ll score vistas of the 1.5-billion-year-old, 1,500-foot-tall St. Francois Mountains via a 12-mile loop from the trailhead off Highway A, 30 miles southwest of Potosi. Info

Montana (See above)

Toadstool Canyon, Oglala National Grassland
42.85124, -103.592234
The Cornhusker State channels its inner Badlands in this maze of 30-million-year-old, water-carved sandstone formations. Savor sunset from its rim, where fading rays can turn the gnarled, buff-colored rocks a pinkish hue. From the Toadstool Campground, follow posts 2 miles to climb out of the canyon. Follow the rim .5 mile east for the best perspective of the 200-foot-deep chasm. Info

Wheeler Peak, Great Basin NP
38.985667, -114.313688
You’d expect a decent view from the tallest mountain within 180,000 square miles, and this 13,063-foot massif doesn’t disappoint. From the pinnacle of this archipelago in the sky, the desert sprawls 1.5 vertical miles below, with spines of the state’s famous basin-and-range ridges rippling out on all sides. Starting at the Summit Trail parking lot, an 8.6-mile out-and-back climbs 2,900 feet to the top through aspen groves that turn shocking yellow, burgundy, and orange in late September. Info

New Hampshire
Zeacliff, White Mountains NF
44.183866, -71.495075
Move over, Franconia Ridge: This vista across the forested notches and peaks of the Pemigewasset Wilderness trumps its better-known neighbor, says New England landscape photographer Jim Salge. “Zeacliff is more private, quiet, and beautiful—and farther from a major road,” he says. From Zealand Road’s southern end, follow the Zealand Trail 2.5 miles, then pick up the Twinway/Appalachian Trail for 1.5 miles to the overlook and its views to Mt. Washington and the rumpled flank of 4,700-foot Mt. Carrigan. Info fs.usda .gov/whitemountain

New Jersey
Catfish Fire Tower, Delaware Gap NRA
41.047511, -74.972334
New Jersey’s wild western edge could easily be mistaken for the Blue Ridge Mountains, says landscape photographer Dwight Hiscano. Gentle hills and thick forests stretch as far as the eye can see from this 60-foot fire tower on 1,500-foot Kittatinny Ridge. “It’s still possible to get lost there, even though New York City is less than 90 minutes away.” Start at the north end of this 13.3-mile AT section to reach the tower just past mile 1. Trip ID 47531 Info nps .gov/dewa

New Mexico
Chimney Rock, Ghost Ranch Education & Retreat Center
36.338256, -106.483828
Scenery rule #78: If it was good enough for Georgia O’Keeffe, it’s good enough for us. This 7,100-foot outcrop overlooks the Piedra Lumbre Basin, a Technicolor mesa landscape striking enough to inspire the American master to settle here in 1940. Beyond the pillar of Chimney Rock, you’ll spy red-rock cliffs, the 5,200-acre Abiquiu Reservoir, and the 11,000-foot Jemez Mountains. From the trailhead behind the Ghost Ranch museums, ascend 600 feet on a 3-mile out-and-back to reach the viewpoint. Extend it: Camp at the ranch and hike Box Canyon and Kitchen Mesa (4 and 5 miles round-trip, respectively.) Info

New York
The Egg, Harriman SP
41.169028, -74.110272
Nothing against the Adirondacks, we promise. What gave this oval outcrop the edge is its contrast, countering the serene hillsides of a nearly 50,000-acre state park against the iconic Manhattan skyline. “Usually I don’t want to see any sign of civilization, but the city really is beautiful shining in the distance,” says BACKPACKER’s former Editor-in-Chief Jonathan Dorn. “Seeing the world’s most famous metropolis from a quiet wilderness perch 35 crow-miles away has always reinforced my great fortune to have escaped the city.” See for yourself near the halfway point of this 16-mile overnight. trip ID 1715727 Info

N. Carolina (See above)

North Dakota
Teepee Ring Hill,
Lonetree Wildlife Management Area
47.698903, -100.227113
Native Americans once staked their teepees on this 1,700-foot prairie promontory, and it’s easy to see why: The expansive vista includes virgin grasslands, waterfowl-rich wetlands, and Sheyenne Lake, .5 mile away. Take the North Country Trail .8 mile east from the Jensen Campground; for a longer hike, camp at Coal Mine Lake’s east end in 4.5 miles.Info

Old Man’s Cave,
Hocking Hills SP
39.432999, -82.544220
Feel yourself shrink beneath the 50-foot ceiling of this 200-foot-long, recessed sandstone cave, peering up and out toward towering hemlocks that thrive in the cool, creek-fed hollow. Reach the hideout at mile .5 of this 5.1-mile loop through a waterfall-lined gorge. Trip ID 5712

Black Mesa, Black Mesa Nature Preserve
36.931848, -102.997805
This 4,973-foot state high point sits at the intersection of three states in the remote Panhandle region, surrounded by miles of arid mesas and canyons in Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. From the Black Mesa Summit trailhead, climb 600 feet in 4.2 miles to the panoramic plateau. Trip ID 960985 Info

Oregon (See above)

The Pinnacle, Pennsylvania State Game Lands #106
40.612499, -75.912834
A patchwork of verdant hills and farmland spreads like a quilt from the base of this 1,635-foot ledge to the Lehigh Valley 1,000 feet below. “Almost all AT thru-hikers consider this the best vista on the Pennsylvania stretch of the trail,” says Michael Juskelis, who runs Follow this 6.8-mile loop and bag runner-up Pulpit Rock en route. Trip ID 5718 Info

Rhode Island
Clay Head Preserve, Block Island
41.21273, -71.555167
Seaside solitude is a rare treat in the second-most densely populated state, yet you’ll find it here, where the ocean crashes onto a sandy beach at the foot of 100-foot white clay cliffs in a 150-acre preserve protected by the Nature Conservancy. “It’s just one breathtaking step after the other,” says reader Shannon Kelley, a Cranston resident who’s been hiking the state for a decade. Take the ferry ($25; blockislandferry .com) from Point Judith; walk or bike 2 miles north on Corn Neck Road, turn right on a signed dirt road, then continue .3 mile to the trailhead. Hike .3 mile and turn left to crest the top of the bluffs. Info

South Carolina
Boneyard Beach,
Bulls Island, Cape Romain NWR
32.929849, -79.573677
The sun-bleached skeletons of hundreds of oaks, cedars, and pines litter this 3-mile stretch of Atlantic coast, where shifting tides and sands have turned a forest into an eerily beautiful tree graveyard. Take the ferry from Awendaw ($40/adult; bullsislandferry .com) to the car-free barrier island, then hike 3 miles on grassy Beach and Lighthouse Roads to see the ghostly snags. Book one of the monthly sunrise boat trips to see it at its most spectacular. Info

South Dakota
Little Devils Tower, Custer SP
43.8522004, -103.5383964
Though the state high point (7,242-foot Harney Peak) sits just a mile north, this barren, 6,971-foot summit boasts the better view: The granite fins of the Cathedral Spires loom in the foreground, and beyond lies the 3.2-million-acre evergreen expanse of the Black Hills, virtually unmarred by civilization. Scramble 600 feet to the payoff on this 3-mile out-and-back. Trip ID 311930 Info

Mt. Cammerer, Great Smoky Mountains NP
35.763699, -83.161362
Mist-shrouded valleys and rolling Appalachian ridges extend in every direction from the CCC-era stone fire tower crowning this 4,928-foot peak in a remote corner of the Smokies. It’s at its finest in mid-October, when the hillsides glow with fiery shades. From Big Creek Campground, take the Chestnut Branch Trail 2.1 miles, then turn south onto the AT. Hike 3.3 miles to a .6-mile spur that leads to the summit. Info

Guadalupe Peak, Guada-lupe Mountains NP
31.891193, -104.861265
This 8,751-foot state high point looms nearly a mile above the salt flats to its west, commanding a view across 100 miles of desert with the limestone cliffs of neighboring peaks like 8,085-foot, flat-topped El Capitan in the foreground. It’s a favorite of Laurence Parent, author of Hiking Texas. Climb 3,000 feet on this 8-mile out-and-back to reach the rocky summit. Trip ID 1089414 Info nps .gov/gumo

Utah (See above)

Camel’s Hump, Camel’s Hump SP
44.319611, -72.886283
Vermont claims two patches of alpine tundra, but only this 4,083-foot summit is chairlift-free. “It’s one of the few peaks in the state not disfigured by ski trails or roads,” says Blake Gardner, author of Untamed Vermont. Included in the panorama are three state high points: Vermont’s 4,393-foot Mt. Mansfield, New Hampshire’s 6,288-foot Mt. Washington, and, past Lake Champlain, New York’s 5,344-foot Mt. Marcy. Reach the top via a 4.9-mile loop. trip id 53644 Info

McAfee Knob, Appalachian Trail
37.392928, -80.037149
Many claim this vertiginous ledge overlooking the rural Catawba Valley is among the most-photographed points on the whole AT. No surprise, then, that its 270-degree vista earned multiple reader nominations. “McAfee gives the hiker unobstructed views that are uniquely Virginia—expansive farming pastures walled by green mountains,” says Andrew Seegers, of Springfield, who’s been camping and hiking since he could walk. Follow this 7.5-mile out-and-back to McAfee’s 3,197-foot heights. Trip ID 383689 Info

West Virginia
Red Creek Canyon, Dolly Sods Wilderness
38.987701, -79.352703
“A vast view of a rugged gorge—houses and roads not included—is hard to find in the East,” says photo-grapher Chuck Blackley, but this outcrop perched 600 feet above Red Creek offers just that. It’s particularly brilliant during peak foliage in late September and early October. To see it, hike 2.3 miles on the Rohrbaugh Trail from the trailhead on FS 19, 18 miles west of Petersburg. Info

Parnell Tower, Kettle Moraine State Forest
43.69968, -88.09004
A 60-foot observation tower climbs above the treetops at the high point of this 52,000-acre state forest, where glaciers left a pockmarked landscape of gravel hills and kettle depressions now blanketed in hardwoods. “The view is phenomenal, looking out toward Lake Michigan to the east, up and down the forest to the north and south, and off to the west to bucolic Wisconsin farmland,” says John Morgan, author of 50 Hikes in Wisconsin. Get there via a 3.5-mile loop on the Ice Age Trail from the trailhead off County Highway U. Info

Wyoming (See above)

Sarah L. Stewart ( is a regular contributor to BACKPACKER. Her top view: Ko’olau Gap, Hawaii.

How to Pack for Backcountry Skiing

Get to know the winter safety gear you need in your pack.