America is filled with incredible natural landscapes and beautiful, rugged terrain that draws experienced hikers from all over the world. But what about those of us who aren’t necessarily looking for a three-day excursion into the wild? There are plenty of gorgeous trails all across the country that can be conquered in just a few hours, and these hikes in America will take you to some truly spectacular places without too much effort.
Check out these awesome short and scenic hikes that offer the greatest amount of beauty-per-step.
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
Alabama: Stephens Gap
Stephens Gap, located in Jackson County, is a 150-foot cave that includes a stunning waterfall. It may look like an intimidating spot for a hike, but there is a simple walk-down entrance to the cave and the trip to the cave is only two miles round-trip. Wear sturdy shoes and be sure to visit with a friend.
Alaska: Thunderbird Falls Trail
Located in Anchorage, this beautiful journey is only a one mile hike. You'll start off slightly north of Eagle River and make your way through pristine terrain and a striking birch forest. The trail ends at a viewing platform that affords spectacular views of the 200-foot Thunderbird Falls.
Arizona: Navajo National Monument
Located in Betatakin, this hike comes in just under five miles round-trip. You'll need a guide, as the trail goes through protected Navajo ruins, but the hike itself is not challenging and offers gorgeous and historic scenery.
Arkansas: Falls Branch Trail
Head to Lake Catherine State Park in Hot Springs for a lovely two mile hike through stunning hardwood forests and wilderness. The trail winds across Little Canyon Creek multiple times and terminates at Falls Creek Falls.
California: San Clemente Beach Trail
This hike features steady elevation and stunning ocean views. The rail follows the railroad tracks at San Clemente Beach and is only 4.5 miles round-trip.
Colorado: Manitou Springs
This hike is super short –it's barely one mile long – but hikers will climb over 2,000 feet! There are 2,744 steps that will really make you feel the burn. This trail is perfect for those who don't want to be hiking all day, but still want to challenge themselves.
Connecticut: Tunxis Trail
Head to Barkhamsted for an easy, 4.4-mile there-and-back trail through peaceful woods and sunny meadows. The trail passes through the Indian Council Caves, which are quite beautiful and a great place to stop for a breather in the warmer months.
Delaware: Cape Henlopen State Park
Cape Henlopen is filled with great trails, but one particularly beautiful and short hike runs along the beach for about 4.5 miles and affords stunning views of the waves. The start of the trail is clearly marked, and it ends at the state's largest and tallest sand dune.
Florida: Little Talbot Island
There are a five distinct ecosystems to be explored on the Talbot Island four-mile trail. Hikers are sure to run into all sorts of beautiful wildlife as they traverse the gorgeous island, and the sound of the surf is a perfect soundtrack to any day in the sun.
Georgia: Three Forks at Long Creek Falls
This trail is only 1.9 miles and will take you through dramatic hemlock forests and past groves of fragrant rhododendron. The trail is just a few miles from the beginning of the Appalachian Trail at Springer Mountain.
Hawaii: Papakolea Beach
The hike itself may be easy – just 2.5 miles – but getting here might be a bit of a trek for most. Still, if you can make it to the southernmost point in the United States, this trail along the Green Sand Beach will reward you with stunning views and sea breezes.
Idaho: Mineral Ridge Loop
Located at stunning Coeur d'Alene Lake, this two mile trail has plenty of cliff views, quiet woodland serenity, and just a touch of elevation. This is a great hike that doesn't take much planning or time.
Illinois: Starved Rock State Park
The great thing about this park is that it offers trails of all lengths, shapes, and difficulty levels. Choose a hike that winds above a canyon or past beautiful waterfalls. There's even a great trail that will give you amazing views of the Illinois River.
Indiana: Turkey Run State Park, Trail 8
Coming in at just about 1.8 miles, Trail 8 is a well-maintained path through the park's gentler terrain, and takes you past most of the same spectacular sites that can be reached by the more challenging trails.
Iowa: Wildcat Den State Park
This is a great hiking area for when the weather cools down and the leaves start to turn. Located in Muscatine, Wildcat Den State Park offers easy trails that take hikers past 75-foot cliffs and beautiful rock formations.
Kansas: Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve
The Tallgrass Prairie surrounding Strong City is only 4% of the prairie land that used to stretch over 170 million acres of North America. What is left makes for easy hiking, and the waving fields of wildflowers and tender grasses are absolutely lovely.
Kentucky: Raven’s Run Trail
Situated close to Lexington, this trail is one of the most popular in the area. The 2.8 mile hike will usher you along the banks of the Kentucky River and near some very lovely babbling brooks.
Louisiana: Louisiana State Arboretum Trail, Chicot State Park
This is a great trail for amateur botanists and wildlife lovers. The well-maintained arboretum features signs and markers that point out beautiful and rare plants, and the boardwalk that runs through the preserve makes hiking easy and comfortable.
Maine: Moxie Falls, Moxie Gore
This trail is only 2 miles round-trip, but takes you past the stunning waters of Moxie Falls. The cascades are 90 feet high, so watch your step.
Maryland: Billy Goat Trail
This hiking area is split into three sections of varying difficulty, with the total distance covered being about 4.7 miles. However, if you're looking for a peaceful and easy hike through beautiful forested terrain, then Section C is your trail.
Massachusetts: Bash Bish Falls, Mount Greylock Reservation
This hike gives you lots of beauty for very little effort. The distance to these falls is only one mile, but you'll get an eyeful of the tallest waterfall in Massachusetts.
Michigan: Grand Haven Waterfront Trail
This easy hike will take you from Lake Michigan to the Grand River. You'll see plenty of boats and scenic waterfront areas. Best of all, the 2.5-mile trail is paved and perfect for mobility-challenged hikers.
Minnesota: The Oberg Mountain Loop
This trail offers 2.5 miles of even elevation gain and consistently awesome views of Lake Superior, Oberg Lake, and Moose Mountain. Definitely a great pick for families with younger kids.
Mississippi: CCC Camp Trail
Located in Tishomingo State Park, this trail features rocky outcroppings and travels over several springs and streams. The three-mile loop trail terminates at a gorgeous swinging bridge that's the perfect spot for a photo-op.
Missouri: Drover’s Trail, Prairie State Park
With six trails that are all under five miles, this place is a great spot to wander all day long. The herds of American bison and fields of wildflowers make these hikes unlike any other trails around.
Montana: Woods Gulch
Just outside Missoula lies Woods Gulch, a verdant canyon situated at the southern point of the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. The trail is barely over one mile, but will take you through the most beautiful parts of the canyon.
Nebraska: Cowboy Trail
Though this trail is actually 321 miles in total, most people just hop on and off as they please. This is Nebraska's first official State Recreational Trail, and has become a fan favorite among casual hikers and cyclists.
Nevada: White Domes Loop Trail
The terrain may be breathtaking, but this easy 1.3-mile hike won't leave you winded. Located in the Valley of Fire State Park, this is a beautiful trail through natural arches and a red rock slot canyon.
New Hampshire: West Rattlesnake Mountain
Head to Holderness for an easy two-mile hike that will lead you to the summit of West Rattlesnake Mountain and great views of Squam Lake. The elevation gain is pretty great, but the hike isn't too strenuous.
New Jersey: Van Campens Glen, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area
This hike is short and sweet. You'll travel 1.6 miles round-trip and cross paths with several gorgeous waterfalls. This is a great hike for the autumn months.
New Mexico: The Jemez Falls Area
Hiking around this area is easy and great for the whole family. There's a great cool-water swimming hole, as well as McCauley Hot Springs. The water isn't too hot, so it's not at all uncomfortable to take a dip during the summer season.
New York: Watkins Glen State Park, Watkins Glen
Just a 2.5-mile hike will take you to nineteen waterfalls and gorgeous, peaceful pools. Watkins Glen State Park is one of the most popular parks in New York, and it's easy to see why.
North Carolina: Crabtree Falls Loop Trail
Just look at that view. This hike is short – you'll be walking for about 2.5 miles total - but it does afford a bit of healthy challenge. The trail will take you through stands of birch and hemlock and to the base of Crabtree Falls.
North Dakota: Prairie Dog Town Trail
Take this 1.5-mile trail through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park and you'll be guided to one of the famous prairie dog "towns" that pepper this region. It's a great hike for animal lovers and nature photographers.
Ohio: Hebron Trail, Ohio Canal Greenway
This beautiful trail runs through Licking County and actually follows the old Penn Central Railroad. Hikers will be taken through 2.7 miles of rolling farmland and over a lovely covered bridge.
Oklahoma: Bugle Trail at Osage Hills State Park, Pawhuska
Follow the Bugle trail for a great route through this beautiful state park. This easy hike will take you to Sand Creek and Lookout lake, all with under four miles of trekking.
Oregon: Sweet Creek Trail
There are plenty of places in Oregon for arduous hikers to challenge themselves, but the Sweet Creek Trail is perfect for casual hikers that want to get a good look at the beautiful flora of the Suislaw National Forest. The trail extends 2.2 miles through the woods and past multiple pretty waterfalls.
Pennsylvania: Bushkill Falls, Stroudsburg
Are you looking for a super short hike with an incredible payoff? Check out the four great trails at Bushkill Falls. The Yellow Trail will only take you 45 minutes, but will bring you by the main falls, plus Lower Gorge Falls, Laurel Glen, and Upper Canyon.
Rhode Island: Colt State Park, Bristol
This 864-acre park offers a few well-maintained trails that feature very steady elevation and beautiful waterfront views. There's also a great picnic area that overlooks the water.
South Carolina: Woods Bay State Park
Located in Olanta, this pretty hike will take you on a 0.75-mile loop around Carolina Bay. You also have the option of taking an even quicker jaunt through the swamp on a convenient boardwalk.
South Dakota: Good Earth State Park
Good Earth State Park is a great place for long strolls and learning a bit of local history. The park has been the site of native ceremonies and gatherings for hundreds of years, and the scenic forest groves make for shady and secluded hiking.
Tennessee: Laurel Falls
Head out on a 2.6-mile journey to Laurel Falls. The terrain is fairly level and easy-going, and you'll be rewarded with the sight of these beautiful falls.
Texas: Lost Maples State Natural Area East Trail, Vanderpool
This trail has the highest concentration of maple trees in the entire park, so it's a great hike for the autumn months. Though at only three miles, you can afford to do this one in all four seasons.
Utah: Lower Emerald Pools Trail, Zion National Park
This hike is easy and shady, so it's perfect for the warmer months in Utah. The elevation change is only 70 feet, and the journey totals 1.2 miles round-trip. The trail is clearly marked and easy to follow.
Vermont: Stowe Pinnacle Trail
The climb to this scenic peak is super easy and will only take you a 2.8-mile hike. Once you're there, the gorgeous Stowe Valley will stretch out at your feet.
Virginia: White Oak Canyon
This waterfall hike falls just below five miles, at 4.8 miles in length. Although it can be steep in sections, most of the trail is relatively easy, even for children. This path offers some of the best views in the state.
Washington: Naches Peak Loop
Located at Tipsoo lake, this loop trail offers plenty of fresh, alpine air and beautiful grassy meadows. The hike is about three miles, and is touted as being especially kid-friendly.
West Virginia: Babcock State Park
This beautiful park includes Glade Creek Grist Mill, the most photographed site in West Virginia. The park's hiking trails are numerous and mostly easy. The hike to the grist mill is a must.
Wisconsin: Peninsula State Park
This beautiful coastal park offers more than eight miles of hike-friendly shoreline and 4,000 acres of beautiful woodland. Hiking along the coast is the most scenic and level route.
Wyoming: Beauty Lake Trail
This lovely trail lives up to its name. Hike along this five-mile trail in Shoshone National Forest to take in the splendor of Beartooth Lake, Beauty Lake, and Crane Lake. The latter part of the trail can be a bit challenging, so if you're looking for a super easy hike, just head back about two miles down the trail.
Have you hiked any of these amazing trails? Have any more suggestions for easy and scenic hikes in your home state? Let us know!