15 Otherworldly Hiking Trails That Will Make You Feel As Though You've Stepped Onto Another Planet
The world is full of boundless, breathtaking beauty. Natural wonders like Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon are well-known places that are firmly, wholly part of the American landscape. But there are other places, like the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon or the colorful depths of Carlsbad Caverns, that seem positively alien. Hiking in these otherworldly places is a pure, in-the-moment,
experience; it’s the kind of adventure that will live in your heart (and, of course, your Instagram feed) forever. Let the following otherworldly hiking trails in the U.S. take you on the adventure of a lifetime, transporting you to faraway lands and alien planets in the most wild and wonderful way.
1. Hall of Mosses, Hoh Rain Forest - Washington
Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center, 18113 Upper Hoh Rd, Forks, WA 98331, USA
Located in Washington's wondrous Olympic National Park,
Hoh Rain Forest
is an enthralling emerald oasis.
One of the only temperate rainforests in the world, wandering through Hoh Rain Forest feels like stepping into another world altogether. The rainforest gets a staggering 12-14 feet of rain annually, which gives this thriving ecosystem its verdant canopy of mosses, ferns, and trees. The "Green Giant" is one of Hoh's most extraordinary trees; a towering presence keeping watch over the forest. In terms of hikes, the Hall of Mosses and the Spruce Nature Trail are both beginner-friendly, and while short in distance, they don't skimp on scenic splendor.
Filled with untamed mosses and hanging ferns, old-growth trees, and an abundance of wildlife, Hoh Rain Forest is a lush wonderland within the Washington wilds, and hiking in this park truly belongs on every adventurer's bucket list.
You can experience the otherworldly beauty of Hall of Mosses when you watch the stunning walk-through video below. Prepare to be absolutely enchanted!
2. Canyon to Rim Loop, Smith Rock State Park - Oregon
Smith Rock State Park, Oregon 97760, USA
A place of sublime and awe-inspiring splendor, Oregon's Smith Rock State Park is truly remarkable. Competitive climbers come from all over the world to scale its towering buttes, but some of the park's most breathtaking vistas are actually found on the trails.
Canyon to Rim Loop
, for example, is a loop trail that's just over three miles long. Due to the elevation gain, this trek is rated as moderate -- and your knees and leg muscles will quickly remind you that even though you're not rock climbing, you're definitely still climbing. The payoff, however, is well-worth any weary limbs: from your perch, you'll see for miles and miles, enjoying 360-degree panoramas that feature some of the park's most celebrated wildlife, including blue heron and cougars.
3. Devil’s Orchard Trail, Craters of the Moon National Park - Idaho
Craters of the Moon National Monument & Preserve, Idaho, USA
One of Idaho’s most unique parks,
Craters of the Moon National Monument
is best-known for its otherworldly landscape and volcanic features.
Consisting of lava flows, cinder cones, and endless sagebrush, the terrain of Craters of the Moon is hypnotizing in its rugged beauty that's best explored on foot. The Devil’s Orchard Trail is one way to see and experience some of this park's unique history. This trail takes you through a small area of cinder beds and pieces of the North Crater Wall. This loop trail is only 0.5-miles long, and it traverses the park's most unbelievable -- and frankly, unsettling -- landscapes. What's more, the trail is paved the entire way, allowing all individuals to experience their very own "lunar" adventure... in Idaho.
4. Grand Prismatic Overlook, Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190, USA
One of the most breathtakingly beautiful places in the country,
Yellowstone National Park
is a true world wonder. A place of otherworldly beauty, anyone who visits this national park will immediately understand why this landscape has long captured the hearts of wanderers and adventurer seekers.
Going even further back, many indigenous tribes trace their roots – in myth and in history – to Yellowstone, and when settlers made their way West, their reports were initially written off as lies, because Yellowstone's beauty truly is transcendental.
One of the hallmarks of the park is the Midway Geyser Basin, where you’ll find beautiful thermal features and the absolutely magical Grand Prismatic Spring. Grand Prismatic is a stunningly beautiful hot spring that's known for its bright rainbow of colors created by bacterial mats and living organisms in the superheated water. It's a feast for the eyes that can be viewed in all its glory Grand Prismatic Overlook, the hike to which is a mere 1.2 mile, out-and-back trail. From here, you'll get so close to the spring that you'll feel the steam rising from this magnificent marvel.
5. Boardwalk Trail, Badlands National Park - South Dakota
Badlands National Park, South Dakota, USA
South Dakota is an immensely beautiful state, and nowhere is this more true than the Badlands. The massive 242,756 acres known as
Badlands National Park
is a total show stopper; it offers varied landscaping with sharp buttes and pinnacles among its untouched prairie expanse.
Home to numerous different wildlife species, it's also a favorite spot for birdwatching, photography, and stargazing. The sunsets here are surreal, and absolutely worth seeking out, and we recommend doing so a la the Boardwalk Trail, a short-and-sweet, 0.25-mile trek that's perfect for explorers of all ages and offers jaw-dropping park vistas.
Take a look at what makes the Badlands so magical when you watch the stunning video footage below:
6. The Wave, Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness - Arizona
Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, U.S. Hwy 89 A, Marble Canyon, AZ 86036, USA
Natural beauty abounds in Arizona -- and not just at its
attraction. The state is home to some of the most extraordinary places in the country, with
Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness
topping the list.
While there are numerous formations within this park, The Wave is an elusive beauty that shouldn't be passed up. The Wave is a 190-million-year-old rock formation that hails from the Jurassic Age, and as you hike, you'll undoubtedly picture ancient beasts stomping through its curves and undulations; though wrapping your mind around how, exactly, such an incredible sculptural artwork was formed, is nearly impossible. Don't let the hike's six miles deter you, either; this otherworldly wonder is worth each and every step in the sands.
7. Queens Garden-Navajo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park - Utah
Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah, USA
One of the most unique and awe-inspiring places in the country,
Bryce Canyon National Park
is a sea of red rocks, pink cliffs, and endless vistas. It’s a hiker’s paradise, a fantastic place to camp, and boasts incredible views and top-notch stargazing.
With regard to must-take treks, the Queens Garden-Navajo Loop Trail at Bryce is a visitor favorite. You'll drop right down amongst the hoodoos along the three-mile loop trail, and feel as though you've entered the pages of a bizarre -- yet wholly wonderful -- Dr. Seuss fantasy.
8. Horseshoe Bend Trail, Horseshoe Bend - Colorado
is quite literally a
horse of a different color
. Similar to the Grand Canyon (it's referred to as the "east rim" of the Grand Canyon, in fact), Horseshoe Bend is a place that simply must be admired from above.
A 1.25-mile hike across barren, unforgiving landscape leads to the cliffside of Horseshoe Bend, which materializes almost as a desert mirage. One of the most photographed sites in Arizona, it is truly as beautiful in person as it is in photos. The cerulean blue and emerald green horseshoe stands out like a dazzling gem against the coppery red desert landscape, making this spot one of the true treasures of the West, and certainly a hike worth seeking out.
9. Big Room Trail, Carlsbad Caverns - New Mexico
Carlsbad Cavern Airpark, Carlsbad, NM 88220, USA
A place of immense splendor,
in New Mexico is unimaginably beautiful. Located 20 miles outside of the city of Carlsbad, this extraordinary natural wonder is a limestone cave that was once part of an underwater reef in an inland sea. Put in perspective, the body of water that formed the cavern was on the Earth 250 to 280 million years ago.
Today, visitors can explore this otherworldly expanse on two trails: The Big Room and Natural Entrance. We're partial to the former; it's the largest single cave chamber in the United States and features stunning formations such as the fabled Sword of Damocles. As a bonus, at just 1.25 miles long, this hike is suitable for everyone looking for a bucket-list adventure underground.
10. Circle B Bar Reserve Trail, Circle B Bar Reserve - Florida
Circle B Bar Reserve, 4399 Winter Lake Rd, Lakeland, FL 33803, USA
While the Everglades often rank at the top of most adventurer's Florida bucket lists,
Circle B Bar Reserve
is a hidden gem boasting equally extraordinary flora and fauna.
A former cattle ranch, this 1,267-acre reserve within Polk County is now protected land and visitors can explore a different aspect of wild nature in Florida. Spend the day hiking the vast nature trails throughout and keep an eye out for wildlife that call this reserve home. During the golden hour, there's a haunting, hazy beauty to this park that can only be described as
11. Historic Tour, Mammoth Cave National Park - Kentucky
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259, USA
Within the rolling hills of west-central Kentucky, nestled on the edge of America's Southern Appalachian Region, lies an underground world millions of years in the making.
is one of the greatest wonders in the country -- and the world.
This massive cavern system features some 400 miles of underground caverns and passageways, with more miles being added all the time. The Historic Tour is *the* must-take hike at Mammoth Cave, a guided, two-mile journey into what feels like the center of the Earth. Exploring Mammoth Cave will have you marveling over
there could be a whole other world hiding right beneath our feet, and feeling immensely grateful that it does.
12. Dune Climb, Sleeping Bear Dunes - Michigan
Sleeping Bear Dunes, Glen Arbor Township, MI 49636, USA
Michigan is often referred to as the "Third Coast" because it boasts more miles of shoreline than any other state in the contiguous U.S. And indeed, Michigan is home to some truly beautiful bodies of water -- and, subsequently, some of the best sand in the world.
You'll find this magical marriage at
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
, an otherworldly paradise located on the north side of Lake Michigan. Its coastal views look positively Caribbean, with stunning sunsets and perfect panoramas. And those tropical, white sand shores you're seeking? Sleeping Bear's dunes themselves are as impressive as they are scenic, with some measuring up to 450 feet tall. In terms of hikes, the 1.4-mile Cottonwood Hiking Trail is a
tour de force
of the park's rolling landscape, while the Dune Climb boasts some truly mesmerizing views of Lake Michigan.
13. Albany Mountain Trail, White Mountain National Forest - New Hampshire and Maine
White Mountain National Forest, Livermore, NH 03812, USA
"Otherworldly" is a subjective term, and while volcanic deserts, bold red hoodoos, and colorful geysers certainly fit the bill, there is a place of such immense beauty in the Northeast corner of the country that it can only be described as, well,
not of this world
White Mountain National Forest
spans 800,000 acres between New Hampshire and Maine, with its geography containing dense hardwood forests and towering alpine peaks. Come fall, this landscape takes on an ethereal beauty that's so golden, the entire forest seems to have a halo. Hiking opportunities abound in the forest, too, from easy strolls into the wooded environment to challenging climbs above tree line. The Albany Mountain Trail is particularly lovely, offering stunning vistas along an accessible, 4.2-mile path. It's one of many, many trails, however; with over 1,200 miles of trails to explore, you'll find ample opportunities for challenge, adventure, and renewal in White Mountain National Forest.
14. Waimoku Falls via Pipiwai Trail, Haleakala National Park - Hawaii
Haleakal? National Park, Hawaii, USA
Pretty much *any* Hawaii hike is going to offer sublime, otherworldly splendor; but in terms of an experience that will turn your perspective upside down, nothing compares to the
Waimoku Falls via Pipiwai Trail
at Haleakala National Park.
The 3.8-mile hike itself is relatively flat and easy to hike. You’ll only ascend 932 feet across the entirety of the trail. There are extraordinary and unique features all the trail, including a section through a dense, beautiful bamboo forest that will have you feeling like Alice in Wonderland.
15. Mendenhall Glacier Trails - Alaska
Mendenhall Glacier, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
Alaska is a place of ethereal elegance and beauty, and
is the state's crown jewel. The ice caves located at the Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska, are natural ice formations in one of the most extraordinary places on the planet.
Calling the Mendenhall Glacier "caves" is a misnomer; this place is an entire frozen kingdom that is 13.6 miles long with an estimated total area of 38 square miles. In terms of hikes, the visitor center in Juneau offers educational information and walking trails and is open all year long. Traveling to the ice caves can be a very rewarding experience, yet also very dangerous, so for most explorers, Mendenhall Glacier is best explored with a pro. A place of immense beauty and splendor, there's nowhere in the world like the ice caves at Mendenhall Glacier, and experiencing this natural wonder in person will be something you'll never, ever forget.
Looking for more hiking trails for your bucket list? These
iconic hikes in the U.S. will show you a completely new side of this beautiful country of ours! Before embarking on your next great outdoor adventure, don’t forget to check out our ultimate hiking essentials packing list.
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More to Explore
Hiking In The U.S.
What are some of the best national parks to visit in the U.S.?
If you're hoping to explore America, it just doesn't get much better than our national park system. For proof of this, look no further than our list of some of the best national parks to visit in the U.S.:
Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska
Mount Rainier National Park in Washington
Crater Lake National Park in Oregon
Sequoia National Park in California
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming
Arches National Park in Utah
Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico
Big Bend National Park in Texas
Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota
Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan
Everglades National Park in Florida
Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii
Of course, these are just a handful of the incredible national parks available to explore throughout the U.S. Curious to learn more about the destinations we featured above? Check out our list of the
most stunning national parks in the U.S. and prepare to be impressed!
What are some of the best hiking trails in the U.S.:
Below you'll find our recommendations for some of the best hiking trails in the U.S.:
Burroughs Mountain Hike - Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Canyon to Rim Loop - Smith Rock State Park, Oregon
Half Dome Day Hike - Yosemite National Park, California
Charlies Bunion Hike - Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
Porcupine Mountains Escarpment Trail - Michigan
Maryland Heights Trail - Harpers Ferry, Maryland (and West Virginia)
Cadillac North Ridge Trail - Acadia National Park, Maine
Rim Trail - Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
Horseshoe Bend Trail - Arizona
Learn more about these
bucket-list-worthy hiking trails in the U.S. Happy exploring!