Although the East Coast is home to countless sprawling metropolitan areas and crisscrossed by the interstate highway system, it is also home to many of the best hiking destinations in the U.S. If you know where to look, you’ll find dazzling coastlines, secluded mountain ranges, and tranquil forests.
There are countless incredible trails to test yourself on. We couldn’t possibly cover all of the great views and secret spots are hidden amidst our country’s oldest coastline. So today we’ll just tackle the four best places to take your day pack.
Acadia National Park, Maine
The stunning beauty of Acadia National Park is no secret. Heralded by many as the most beautiful place on the East Coast, or even the entire country, this park has a total of 26 mountain peaks, 60 miles of coastline, and over 120 miles of hiking trails.
From sea cliffs in a classic New England setting to dense forests, you can find a bit of everything here.
The Ocean Path trail is a favorite for many hikers. From the Sand Beach parking lot, this trail winds for two miles along beautiful coastal cliffs. You will pass the famous Thunder Hole on the way to Otter Cliff and Otter Point.
The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail isn’t exactly a single hiking destination, but rather 2,200 miles of unbroken hiking trails through the Appalachian mountains. The trail stretches from Mt. Katahdin in Maine all the way to Springer Mountain, Georgia.
If you plan to do the whole thing, you’re going to need to do months of planning and research, set up supply points along the way and give yourself several months to complete the journey. However, millions of people go for day hikes along small sections of the trail every year, and for good reason.
Popular day hiking sections include Little and Big Niagra Falls in Maine, Lover’s Leap in North Carolina (hot springs!), or Springer Mountain in Georgia. However, it’s almost criminal to leave out so much about this beautiful trail network. Just look up whatever area you’re in and you won’t be disappointed.
Congaree National Park
Congaree National park is unique for a number of reasons. With free entrance and over 22,000 acres of land to explore, it makes a great stop on a road trip or a destination all it’s own. Although many confuse the ecosystem for a marsh or wetlands, Congaree is actually considered a floodplain and most of the park floods several times a year.
This has given rise to an incredibly unique ecosystem that can’t quite be found anywhere else in the world. The park preserves the largest old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. It also has one of the highest deciduous canopies in the world– average height is over 100 feet tall!
There are short trails like the Boardwalk trail if you don’t want to stray far from the car. However, experienced hikers will also find many longer treks deep into the woods where you can really feel the peaceful atmosphere of the forest.
Great Smoky Mountain National Park
Great Smoky Mountain National Park in Tennessee sees more than twice the annual visitors of any other national park in the country, and for good reason. But don’t let that scare you off. With over 240,000 acres to explore, there’s plenty of peace and solitude to be found amidst one of the oldest mountain ranges in the world.
Tourists flock to the park to take scenic drives and stop at vistas for photos, but very few actually lace up their boots and hike the incredible network of trails that the park boasts.
In June you can see one of the finest azalea blooms on the planet on Gregory Bald trail.Catch a 360-degree view from the lookout tower atop Mt. Cammerer. Or for an all-around scenic and surprising hike, take the Alum Cave Trail to Mount LeConte.