16 Best Hikes On The East Coast For Lush Views
We LOVE hiking, like a lot. It’s kinda why we started the whole thing. We just wanted to find other like-minded women to adventure with!
So we asked travel bloggers for their favorite hikes on the East Coast.
Read on to see their recommendations for hiking the eastern side of the US.
See our recommendations on a map! Get our map here.
John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge in Pennsylvania
Recommended by Rachel of Wanderu
Hiking in John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge has over 10 miles of hiking trails, and visitors can explore the diverse landscapes of the refuge, including wetlands, forests, and meadows. The trails range from easy to moderate difficulty, making them accessible to hikers of all skill levels, and each one offers a unique perspective on the natural beauty of the area.
As you hike, keep your eyes peeled for the many species of wildlife that call the refuge home. With over 300 species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians, there is always something new to discover. And with each season bringing its own changes to the refuge’s flora and fauna, no two hikes are ever the same.
Whether you are a seasoned hiker or simply looking for a peaceful escape into nature, hiking in John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge is an experience that will leave you feeling refreshed and inspired. So lace up your boots, grab your water bottle, and hit the trails for a hike you won’t soon forget!
Sugarloaf Mountain in Maine
Recommended by Geeves of Real Girl Review
There are so many great places for hiking in Maine, but one area that doesn’t get anywhere near as much attention as it should is Sugarloaf Mountain in Carrabassett Valley. You couldn’t ask for a more serene and emotion-provoking scenery as you look around to see abundant wildlife and untouched nature in the great abyss of the mountains and lakes region of Maine, home to many beautiful gems like Rangeley Lake. You’ll also find that most of the surroundings are as quiet as a moose, which, if you’re lucky, you may get a glimpse of as it peacefully meanders through the woods.
For a short and easy hike, take Crocker Mountain Cirque trail, where you’ll enjoy a picnic overlooking the reflecting pool, or stay the night and go camping. For some swim time, hike West Mountain Falls Trail. If you’re feeling adventurous, how about a hike on the Appalachian Trail until you reach Sugarloaf? Not for the faint of heart, this 6.1-mile out-and-back trail takes a little over four hours to complete. Whatever trail you decide to hike, bring a compass, water, snacks, and bug spray!
Acadia National Park in Maine
Recommended by Samantha at New England Wanderlust
One of the best hikes in Acadia National Park for beginners is the Great Head Trail. This hike is a 1.9-mile loop that takes you to some of the most beautiful views of the sea cliffs, coastline, and the iconic Sand Beach, and takes about two to three hours to complete.
This is my personal favorite hike in Acadia because it’s easy to moderate in difficulty (and, therefore, pretty relaxing), and the payoff for moderate effort is absolutely incredible. I do this hike whenever I visit the park, and it’s always invigorating.
While most of the hiking trail is pretty flat, it can be considered moderate because there is some rock scrambling at the beginning, so be sure to wear sturdy hiking boots to safely climb up a few rocks. Shortly after the rock scramble, you’ll want to keep an eye out on your right side to find the overlook with amazing views of Sand Beach from above.
As you continue to the top of the trail, be sure to veer off-trail on your left to really enjoy the coastal views. There are also some great spots on the cliffs to sit and enjoy a picnic; just pack sunscreen because they’re all in direct sun. Toward the end of the trail, there’s another amazing overlook of Sand Beach, so be sure to have your camera ready.
The trail ends right back at Sand Beach, so I highly suggest packing a swimsuit and taking a dip in the ocean after your hike if you visit on a warm day!
Mount Abraham in Vermont
Recommended by Heather Kasvinsky of This Noshtalgic Life
Mount Abraham via the Long Trail is one of my favorite hikes in Vermont. Because it’s so rewarding and energizing, I hike it at least once per season.
What makes it so special is the breathtaking 360º view from the 4,017 ft summit. Admiring the stunning panoramic view of the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain after scrambling up steep boulders and rock formations definitely makes the climb worth it!
This hike is rated more challenging due to the 1765 ft elevation gain. It takes about 4-5 hours to complete the 5.1-mile round-trip hike with a short stop at the top. I recommend hiking Mt. Abe on a clear day at the peak of the fall season in Vermont.
The summit can be windy and chilly, so bring appropriate gear, specifically something windproof. Find a spot to enjoy a snack at the top, taking time to soak up the view before heading back down.
Great Falls Park in Virginia
Recommended by Constance Ray of A Well-Read Wanderer
Less than a 30-minute drive from Washington, D.C., you can hike the famous Billy Goat Trail along the state border between Maryland and Virginia. The Billy Goat Trail is located in Great Falls Park, run by the National Park Service. On this hike, you’ll enjoy beautiful views of the Potomac River and the Great Falls.
The Billy Goat Trail is made up of three different sections, A, B, and C. Make sure to familiarize yourself with each section before deciding which route to take, as they each have different difficulty levels, with section A being the most challenging. Each section is only 1.5 to 3 miles long, but they include rock climbing and scrambling, so wear good hiking shoes and only go if you’re sure-footed and physically capable of rock scrambling — it’s not named the Billy Goat Trail for nothing! Depending on your abilities, expect each section to take 1-2 hours to complete.
This is a popular hike in the Washington D.C. area, so try to go toward sunrise or sunset and avoid weekends if possible. Bring a headlamp and plenty of water.
McAfee Knob in Virginia
Recommended by Erin of Go Hike Virginia
Virginia’s McAfee Knob is the most photographed spot on the Appalachian Trail. It’s a 4.0-mile hike to reach the rocky overlook for scenic panoramas, which include Roanoke Valley, Catawba Valley, and North Mountain. There are two ways to get to McAfee Knob, too.
Most hikers take the rugged Appalachian Trail all the way to McAfee Knob, passing two hikers’ shelters – Johns Spring Shelter and Catawba Mountain Shelter – on the way to the top. Alternatively, you can take the McAfee Knob Trail, a gentle fire road, for the first 2.5 miles, then connect with the Appalachian Trail for the final 1.5 miles to McAfee Knob.
Either way, it’s an 8.0-mile round-trip hike. It’s a moderate hike that should take five to six hours to complete. A good tip is to take the Appalachian Trail on the way up, then connect with the McAfee Knob Trail on the way down for a more gentle descent.
Check out these outdoor adventures:
Providence Canyon State Park in Georgia
Recommended by Melissa of Hello Wanderlust Family
Providence Canyon State Park is a unique geological wonder located in southern Georgia. This hike offers breathtaking views of colorful canyons and ravines. It is unlike anything you’d expect to see on the east coast, let alone in Georgia.
While Providence Canyon State Park is full of diverse plant and animal life, the most stunning feature is the 150-foot canyon walls filled with orange, red, pink, and purple hues. On this hike, you’ll see views from both inside the canyons and above them.
Canyon Loop Trail is easy, but the 272-foot elevation gain at the end can be challenging for some hikers. This trail is a 2.5-mile hike that takes approximately two hours to complete.
Due to the water table at the bottom of the canyons, you will most likely hike through shallow streams. Not only will your shoes get wet, but they will also get covered in red clay. I highly recommend wearing waterproof shoes and bringing either a grocery bag to store your dirty shoes in or wet wipes to wipe down your shoes afterward.
Amicalola Falls State Park in Georgia
Recommended by Stephanie of The Unknown Enthusiast
At over 700 feet tall, Amicalola Falls is a truly beautiful waterfall with multiple drops and cascades. It is also the tallest waterfall in Georgia and the third tallest east of the Mississippi, and hiking to it is one of the best things to do in north Georgia.
Several trails take you to different spots on the waterfall, but I recommend taking Creek Trail up to the base of the falls. From here, take the Base of Falls Trail, which is 175 stairs that go along the waterfall. Near the top, this trail becomes a bridge that crosses right in front of the tallest drop of the waterfall and provides incredible views.
This is a moderately difficult hike. The round trip is a little over 2 miles, which takes about 1-1.5 hours to complete. This is not a hike I do regularly, but mostly because I don’t live close by.
New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia
Recommended by Jenoa of The Travel Folk
New River Gorge in West Virginia is the newest national park in the United States. It’s also home to one of the highest bridges in the country, the New River Gorge bridge, hovering 876 feet high above the New River.
One of the best hikes to do at New River Gorge is the Long Point Trail. The hike is 3 miles out and back and is an easy to moderate trail that hikers of all levels can do.
The trail is well-paved and winds through lush vegetation until you arrive at a dead end where you’ll find yourself on a cliff overlooking the gorge. This is where you’ll experience the most incredible panoramic views of the New River Gorge Bridge and the New River.
If you have to pick one hike to do at New River Gorge national park, you should definitely choose the Long Point Trail.
Check out other adventures in West Virginia:
- Cross-country ski and snowshoe through the snowy paradise of Canaan Valley
- Try whitewater rafting and camping at the New River Gorge National Park
Mount Washington in New Hampshire
Recommended by Nichole from Nichole the Nomad
Mount Washington is the tallest mountain in the northeast and one of the best hikes in New Hampshire! Sitting at 6,288 feet tall, Mount Washington provides breathtaking views for 130 miles into the surrounding states on clear days.
The trails to Mount Washington are strenuous, climbing more than 4,000 feet through the alpine zone and boulder fields, so you should allocate an entire day to hike it. It is also known to have the world’s worst weather because three weather patterns in North America converge over it. It is common for it to be in the clouds and have unpredictable weather, so I recommend packing layers, starting early, and hiking it on a clear day to experience it in all of its glory!
Mount Washington is one of my favorite hikes because the terrain is unique and beautiful, and it makes you work hard and then takes your breath away with its views. Once you hike Mount Washington, it will quickly become one of your favorite hikes in the United States!
The Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island
Recommended by Brittany from Travel by Brit
The Cliff Walk in Newport, Rhode Island, is a scenic 3.5-mile one-way hike that blends beautiful views of the city’s shoreline with ritzy mansions peppered along the coast.
The Cliff Walk is unique because it has seven exits, allowing you to leave the trail as you please. The hike has differing levels of difficulty, too. The walk from Easton’s Beach to The Breakers is an easy, paved walk, but the trek from Anglesea to Bailey’s Beach ranges from moderate to extreme difficulty, requiring you to walk over rocks, boulders, and unpaved paths.
Plan to spend 2.5 hours trekking across the entire Cliff Walk, and wear comfortable, closed-toed shoes to climb across the rocks, boulders, and terrain along the way.
Pro tip: After your hike, make reservations at Cara, one of the best places to eat in Newport, RI, for an elegant dining experience with more scenic views of the Cliff Walk.
Sleeping Giant State Park in Connecticut
Recommended by Ruma of New England Cities
Sleeping Giant, or Mount Carmel, is a famous 739-foot traprock mountain eight miles from New Haven, Connecticut. The Sleeping Giant Tower trail is 1.6 miles one way, giving a view of Hamden town below with pine-filled cliffside vistas. The wide gravel-filled trail starts opposite Quinnipiac University, ending at the 4-story tower.
The tower trail starts at the parking lot. The ascent is gradual, and after a distance, it connects with the white trail. After a mile, the blue trail starts, where hikers can take a steep scramble or continue the path.
It is the easiest hike of Sleeping Giant and best for first-time hikers. It takes roughly one and a half hours to complete the trail. As the hike is relatively easy, people can take it at their convenience, depending on their fitness level.
Watkins Glen State Park in New York
Recommended by Kelly of Travel New York Now
One of the best hikes in upstate New York, and New York in general, is the Gorge Trail through Watkins Glen State Park. It is an easy, 2.4-mile loop hike through the center of the park and past 19 different, absolutely stunning waterfalls. I mean, the scenery, waterfalls, and stone walkways are so beautiful that you feel like you’re an extra in the latest Lord of the Rings film in New Zealand.
While the path is paved and easy to climb, and even if it features 800 steps in total, you should wear shoes with a solid grip since the path regularly gets inundated with water. The hike should also take about an hour and a half to complete and will connect you to the South Rim Trail, the Indian trail, and the Punch Bowl Trail should you want to continue your hike.
If you can, try to visit in the autumn when the foliage is most vibrant and when the crowds are significantly reduced. You can also avoid the $8 parking fee by parking on a nearby side street and then walking to the park from there.
South Mountain State Park in Maryland
Recommended by Erin of Maryland Hikes
It is not hard to see why the wooded hike along the Appalachian Trail to Annapolis Rock is a fan favorite. In fact, users of the AllTrails trail finder guide ranked this hike at South Mountain State Park as the most popular hike in Maryland.
The far-reaching views across Maryland’s Cumberland Valley and Greenbrier Lake are spectacular from the large rocky overlook. The out-and-back hike is moderate too, with an elevation gain of less than 800 feet. It is also not too long – just 5.3 miles – so it is a hike that can be comfortably completed by even novice hikers.
Allow 2.5-3.5 hours to finish this hiking trail. Plan to arrive early at the parking area. There is space for a few dozen cars, but the lot can fill quickly, especially on weekends. The views from Annapolis Rock are west-facing, making for a nice sunset hike. Be sure to bring a head lamp for the return hike to your car.
Check out other activities in Maryland:
Nantahala Forest in North Carolina
Recommended by Jordan from The Homebody Tourist
Nestled deep inside the Nantahala Forest, you’ll find one of the most underrated hikes on the East Coast. Pickens Nose Trail is located in Otto, North Carolina down a long and bumpy dirt road.
The hike itself is easier than the drive to the trailhead. At just 1.4 miles round trip and less than 300 feet elevation gain, it can be done in less than one hour. But you’ll definitely want to pack a picnic and spend more time at the overlook because the views are unmatched.
I recommend planning this hike during the peak fall colors as you’ll be above the trees (and cloud line) to admire the vibrant changing leaves.
Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina
Recommended by Pierre of Wayfare with Pierre
If you’re looking for an amazing hike with even more amazing views on the East Coast, the Black Balsam Knob Trail in Asheville, NC is one of the best hikes around. What makes this hike so special?
For starters, the highlight of this trail is that it ends with an unrivaled panoramic view of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains once you reach the summit of the Black Balsam Knob, which stands at 6,214 feet. This makes it a perfect hike for nature lovers and photographers alike.
This Asheville hike is rated as moderate in difficulty, with a round-trip distance of roughly 5.6 miles and an elevation gain of about 700 feet. The hike should take 2-3 hours to complete, depending on your pace and how much time you spend stopping to soak in the views. Nothing too crazy.
My best tip for the Black Balsam Knob Trail is to take the Art Loeb Trail extension. Doing this does add an extra 1.5 miles to the hike, but the tradeoff is that it rewards you with even more amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Overall, the Black Balsam Knob Trail is an absolute must for any outdoor lover or view chaser visiting the East Coast, whether you’re visiting Asheville solo or with family. With its picture-perfect views and moderate difficulty, it’s the perfect way to spend a day out and about in nature.
Check out these other activities in North Carolina:
These are just a taste of the best hikes on the East Coast. And, of course, you can mix in some outdoor adventures like rappelling, rock climbing, or river rafting into your hiking trip. Read what Explorer Chicks have to say about hiking the East Coast on our Facebook Group page. We hope to see you on the trails soon!
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