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Looking for the best hikes on the East Coast? Keep reading to learn about them all!
When people first hear the words “epic hikes in the United States” a lot of people probably imagine the hikes out West right?
Well, there is some pretty epic hiking on the East Coast too! Hikes on East Coast feature a range of natural wonders from waterfalls to mountaintops to rivers to awesome overlooks. The East Coast is abundant with state parks, national parks, and other protected outdoor spaces that provide amazing hiking. Here, we’ve rounded up the best hikes on the East Coast!
You Need to Experience The Best Hikes on the East Coast
Canyon Loop Trail at Swallow Falls State Park, Maryland
Length: 1.5 miles
Type of Hike: Loop
This 1.5-mile loop trail along the Youghiogheny River (known as the “Yawk”) in western Maryland is an easy family-friendly hike with lovely waterfalls. To access this hike visit Swallow Falls State Park which is only a handful of miles from the western edge of the state and the border with West Virginia. This portion of Maryland is rolling wooded hills just west of the Deep Creek Lake reservoir.
The Shallow Falls trailhead leaves from the main parking lot by the park headquarters. The first part of the hike is a flat trail through the woods (dominated by hemlocks) but then the trail descends down to the river on a set of stone steps. Along the river, the rail involves a bit more scrambling over rocks and is not wheelchair friendly but a great and picturesque path. The highlight of the hike is the 53 foot tall Muddy Creek Falls. At that height, it is the tallest single drop for a waterfall in the state of Maryland. The trail also passes by the much shorter Upper and Lower Swallow Falls but is not clear why the park is named after the shorter of the falls.
There are longer hikes available in the adjacent Garrett State Forrest and Herrington Manor State Park. Camping is available in Swallow Falls State Park and log cabins are available for rental in Herrington Manor State Park.
Access to Swallow Falls State Park costs $5 ($3 for Maryland residents).
Contributed by Chris Christensen of Amateur Traveler
Mount Cammerer at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Length: 11.2 miles
Type of Hike: Out-and-back
For a hidden gem hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, opt for Mt Cammerer. This strenuous hike is an 11.2-mile out-and-back with a whopping elevation gain of 2,740 feet, so it isn’t for the faint of heart! However, after you make it past the first 3 miles of relentlessly steep switchbacks, you’ll have a much easier time making it to the top on a flatter trail.
Begin your hike on the Low Gap Trail near the Cosby Campground amphitheater. This is the tough 3-mile trek up the mountain and the hardest part of the hike. Then, you’ll take a left onto the famous Appalachian Trail where it flattens out for 2.1 miles. After that, you’ll turn on the 0.6-mile Mount Cammerer Trail. While the steep elevation gain may seem daunting, you get it out of the way upfront, and are rewarded with amazing views of the Smoky Mountains at the top of Mt Cammerer! As a bonus, you may have the view all to yourself! It is far less crowded than other famous hikes in the park. There is also a charming old stone fire tower from the 1930s on the top where you can go inside for more views.
The best time for this hike is between spring and fall and early in the morning. Starting around 7 am is a good idea, as this hike can take between 7-8 hours to complete, so getting the toughest part of the hike over during the cooler hours of the day is ideal. As the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is free to visit, this hike is completely free too!
Contributed by Kat Weiss Butler of World Wide Honeymoon
Mount Marcy Summit via the Van Hoevenberg Trail at Lake Placid, NY
If hiking to the Mount Marcy summit in the Adirondacks isn’t on your bucket list yet, it absolutely should be. It is certainly one of the best hikes on the east coast of the US. Why is this hike so special? Mount Marcy is the tallest peak in the Adirondack Mountains and the state of New York, too!
This hike should only be attempted during the summer months unless you are experienced with winter and ice climbing. Winter conditions in the Adirondacks can be quite dangerous, especially for the inexperienced. Snow and ice will be present at the summit much later than you might expect, so plan to hike this during July, August, or September for the best conditions. Access the trailhead just outside of Lake Placid, NY at the Adirondack Loj. While there are a few routes to access the summit of Mount Marcy, the shortest, which still traverses nearly 15 miles, follows the Van Hoevenburg Trail.
This is a busy trailhead for quite a few hikes in the area, so be sure to arrive early in the morning to secure a parking spot. They definitely fill up during the busy season! Parking here also costs $15, and only cash is accepted. Be sure to come prepared because there is no ATM. Begin the hike early in the morning because you’ll be covering a lot of distance and much of the terrain you will cross is very rocky. Pack lunch to enjoy at some point during your hike. Indian Falls is a great pit stop for a snack on the way up and lunch on the way back down. The trail can be quite muddy in spots, so waterproof boots are recommended. Although you definitely shouldn’t expect to be alone on this trail, it’s still something you should add to your east coast hiking bucket list!
Contributed by Samantha of PAonPause
Mount Monadnock in Jaffery, New Hampshire
Length: 4 miles
Type of Hike: Out-and-Back
Mount Monadnock in Dublin and Jaffery, New Hampshire is one of the most hiked mountains in the world, because of the rewarding views and ease of access. The 3,165-foot mountain towers above all other peaks in the area, giving hikers an incredible height advantage. On a clear day, you can see up to 100 miles in all directions! Reaching the summit will be about a 4-mile hike, round trip. The most common route is to follow the White Dot Trail on the way up, and the White Cross Trail on your descent. This hike is rated as hard, because of its elevation gain and the trail conditions. Expect exposed tree roots and loose rocks. There are some points during the hike that you will be scrambling over boulders! It’s recommended to have supportive hiking shoes and poles may also be of assistance.
There are a few ways to reach the summit, but the most popular is to begin at the Monadnock Park Headquarters in Jaffery. To park in the headquarters parking lot, the fee is $16 per car (up to 6 people). Because of the popularity of this hike, it’s recommended to make a reservation online. Once the parking lot is full, visitors are able to enter on a first-come-first-serve basis. Hikers aren’t allowed to park somewhere else and walk in, so if you don’t have a reservation, plan to arrive at the parking lot in the early morning. Even if you do have a reservation, it’s probably in your best interest to arrive earlier in the day to avoid the crowds, especially in the summer.
The best time of year to hike Mount Monadnock is late summer into fall. This is when the temperatures start to cool down and you’ll have an opportunity to see some amazing fall foliage. The trail is open year-round, but visitors in the winter should be advised to bring traction devices. Mount Monadnock, for good reason, sees over 125,000 people per year, making it one of the best hikes on the East Coast!
Contributed by Kassidy Olson of Kassidy’s Journey
Bearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia
Length: 1.4 miles
Type of Hike: Loop
Bearfence Mountain at Shenandoah National Park is one of the best hikes on the East Coast. Not only does it offer scenic 360-degree views of the area, but hikers also get to climb up a series of rock scrambles to get to the top.
This hike is only 1.4 miles round trip loop trail. It is a moderate hike because there is some incline. The most difficult part is where you have to climb or “scramble” over various rocks and boulders to get to the viewpoint. You have the option to take an alternate path, but you do not get the 360-degree views taking that route. To access Bearfence Mountain, you will head to the Bearfence Mountain Parking at mile 56.4 along Skyline Drive. All miles are marked along this route. There are a few drop-offs along this trail, so keep that in mind if you are afraid of heights. Also, make sure to wear shoes with good traction because you will need them for the rock scramble section.
This hike is best in the fall, spring, or early summer. During the wintertime, the area might be covered in snow making it very slippery. Later in summer, it can be very hot and humid and hikers may encounter many bugs. The hike does not get too busy but go in the morning to avoid any possible crowds. It costs $30 to get into Shenandoah National Park or it is free with an American the Beautiful National Parks pass. This admission is good for a week.
Contributed by Francesca Makana of Homeroom Travel
Florida Trail at Ochopee to Fort Pickens
Length: 1,500 miles
Type of Hike: Out-and-Back
The Florida National Scenic Trail (aka Florida Trail or simply FT) is one of only 11 National Scenic Trails and is the longest US trail entirely within one state. The 25-mile section of the Florida Trail along the Florida Panhandle coast is the only National Scenic Trail in the US that is along a saltwater shoreline (ocean or gulf). 1,100 miles of the Florida Trail are part of the Eastern Continental Trail, which extends from Key West to Quebec and also includes the Appalachian Trail.
The Florida Trail currently extends 1,500 miles from Ochopee in South Florida, up the spine of the Sunshine State, and then west across the Florida Panhandle to Fort Pickens. Starting and ending in National Park properties, the Florida Trail crosses more than 100 public and private properties throughout Florida—from Big Cypress Preserve in the Florida Everglades to the Gulf Islands National Seashore in Pensacola. FT stretches around Lake Okeechobee (second largest freshwater lake in the lower 48 states), through Ocala National Forest (southernmost national forest in the US), along Lake Wales Ridge (ancient inland shoreline), and along the gorgeous Florida Panhandle beaches.
While hiking the entire Florida Trail is a monumental trek, most hikers experience the FT in sections. Day trips from Orlando are a perfect way to get a taste of the Florida Trail. There are several Florida Trail entrance points near Orlando and one suggestion is to drive 75 minutes from Orlando Airport into the heart of Ocala National Forest. 7.5 miles north of Altoona FT crosses highway 19 and you can walk in either direction. Alexander Springs, a popular natural swimming area, is 4 miles east, while Juniper Springs is 11 miles west.
Thru-hikers take about three months to complete the entire FT. Eight end-to-end hikers are officially registered in both 2020 and 2021. The Florida Trail Association recommends hiking between mid-January and April for the best weather and to avoid hunting seasons. Also, register for permits at least 30 days in advance because portions of FT do cross private land. Some FT areas are physically challenging with soft sand and uneven terrains but there are very few elevation issues.
Contributed by Charles McCool of McCool Travel
Great Falls River Trail in Great Falls Park, McLean Virginia
Length: 3.5 miles
Type of Hike: Loop
One of the most beautiful hikes in Virginia is just 15 miles west of Washington DC! The River Trail hike at Great Falls Park is a scenic, cliffside walk on the edge of the Potomac River. At Great Falls, the Potomac River drops 75 feet then passes through narrow Mather Gorge on its way to the nation’s capital. Here, visitors can view the falls from three overlooks, then follow a National Scenic Trail with nearly continuous views of the gorge and river.
An easy to moderate hike on the River Trail is one of the best ways to enjoy Great Falls Park in Virginia. The River Trail within the park boundaries is just 1.5 miles long, but you can easily extend your hike on connecting trails. In fact, the River Trail is part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail, which continues along the river to the north and south. For a nice 3.5-mile roundtrip, start at the Great Falls Visitor Center and follow the River Trail southeast until it connects to the Ridge Trail. Take the Ridge Trail back to the Mathildaville Trail to return to your starting point. This loop hike has excellent cliffside views of the river and is mostly easy with a few rocky and steep sections. On your return, you can see remnants of a canal system planned by George Washington to enable boats to skirt the falls.
Great Falls is managed by the national park system and there is a $20 entrance fee for vehicles (National Park Pass also accepted). This is a fun hike year-round but is very crowded on warm weekends, especially during the spring cherry blossom season. Arrive early (by 10:00) or visit on a weekday to avoid long entry lines and enjoy a more peaceful hike.
Contributed by Julie McCool of Fun in Fairfax VA
The Beehive Loop at Acadia National Park, Maine
Length: 1.4 miles
Type of Hike: Loop
The Beehive Loop is a relatively short 1.4-mile round trip hike that is nonetheless strenuous due to the steep elevation change and challenging elements of the hike. It’s probably the most famous hike in Acadia National Park, Maine so no wonder it’s on our list of the best hikes on the East Coast! It climbs the almost sheer cliff face of a beehive-shaped mountain and involves scrambling up steep granite staircases, climbing up iron rungs, walking across iron beams, and hiking along narrow ledges with exposed drop-offs. This is not a hike for those with a fear of heights! The trail starts across the road from Sand Beach and is easy for a short while, but soon starts to climb. The trail quickly turns into a rock scramble as you rapidly ascend the granite cliffside. There are sections with iron rungs attached to the sheer cliff face that you need to climb.
About halfway up the Beehive, there’s a section where you need to walk across iron bars with nothing but air below you. There are even more ladders and iron rungs, and narrow ledges with steep drop-offs. It’s worth taking some time to enjoy the views, which are stunning. After you get to the top, there’s a short walk to get to the actual summit. The views from the top are truly breathtaking. You can see Sand Beach, the islands around Acadia, and the rocky coastline stretching out before you. To return, you continue along the much easier Bowl Trail (the “Bowl” is a small pond) that forms a loop back to the trailhead.
The Beehive is located in Acadia National Park. There’s an entrance fee of $30 per vehicle, $25 for a motorcycle, or $15 per person. There is free parking at the Sand Beach parking area and also a free shuttle bus from nearby Bar Harbor that stops at Sand Beach. The best time to hike is late spring to early fall. The trail gets crowded, so early in the morning or late in the afternoon is best, to beat the crowds. The hike is dangerous when icy and wet, so do not attempt the hike after rain, until the granite is dry and not slippery.
Contributed by James Ian of Parks Collecting
Devil’s Marbleyard at Natural Bridge Station, Virginia
Length: 4 miles
Type of Hike: Out-and-Back
Get ready to maneuver across an enormous eight-acre field of gigantic boulders, some the size of full-size cars. You’ve got to use your hands, arms, elbows, knees, and feet to scramble all the way to the top of Devil’s Marbleyard in Natural Bridge Station, Virginia. A forested two-mile hike (one-way) on the Belfast Trail in the George Washington & Jefferson National Forests guides hikers to this super-size rock slide. It’s like nothing you’ve seen before. It’s a rock scramble that puts all other rock scrambles to shame. It also attracts visitors from far and wide to strategically navigate this field of boulders. Slow down as you scramble to the top to savor scenic panoramas across the Arnold Valley. They are breathtaking!
Children may be eager to reach the top quickly and feel less inclined to savor the vistas or thoughtfully consider which rock to scramble next to on the way up. Tackle Devil’s Marbleyard when the weather is mild. Don’t go when it’s too hot (you’re in full sun) or too cold (the rocks get very cold). Also, do not attempt this hike if it’s raining or snowing. The boulders can get slippery and dangerous. Wear proper footwear, too. No flip-flops or sandals that could lead to sprained ankles or twisted knees on the rock scramble. Parking: There is a small lot at the trailhead with eight spaces. Fees: Free
Contributed by Erin Gifford of Go Hike Virginia
Calvert Cliffs in Lusby, Maryland
Length: 5 miles
Type of Hike: Lollipop
If you’re looking for a coast hike on the East Coast, this one is for you! More than 13 miles of hiking trails criss-cross Calvert Cliffs State Park in Lusby Maryland, including the Red Trail, which delivers visitors to dramatic sandstone cliffs and the promise of fossilized keepsakes on the sandy shoreline of the Chesapeake Bay. The Red Trail sees the lion’s share of park visitors, guiding hikers across dirt and gravel trails, as well as wooden boardwalks and footbridges.
Take time to savor views across a sizeable tidal wetlands area, which includes ghost trees. These dead, leafless trees fell victim to unwanted saltwater intrusion as brackish water made its way in from the bay. At the 1.9-mile mile mark, hikers reach the Chesapeake Bay for their first views of stunning cliffs that date back 20 million years. At that time, nearly all of Southern Maryland was underwater. When the sea waters receded, the sandstone cliffs came into view. Bring along a sieve or shovel to gently excavate prehistoric fossils on the sandy coastline. From here, hikers can retrace their steps to the Orange Trail, then turn right to enter a shady, old-growth forest. This trail loops back around to the main parking area, passing a recycled tire playground and picnic tables along the way. Alternatively, hikers can retrace their steps from the beach to the parking area on the Red Trail for a 3.8-mile out and back hike. There is a mid-size lot step from the trailhead. Fees: $5/vehicle (in-state), $7/vehicle (out-of-state)
Contributed by Erin Gifford of Maryland Hikes
Bonticou Crag at Mohonk Preserve, NY
Length: 3 miles
Type of Hike: Loop
The hike to Bonticou Crag is a challenging 3-mile loop trail located in Mohonk Preserve in New York’s Hudson Valley. It’s also one of the most fun hikes on the East Coast. The trail starts easy, with an uphill, but fairly gradual walk uphill, through the woods, passing along an old carriage road for part of the way. There are several crisscrossing trails, so it’s important to have a map (free at the trailhead) and follow the trail markers carefully. After about a mile, you come to a cliff covered in boulders that resulted from an epic rock slide. That’s the rock scramble. If the thought of scrambling up boulders with sheer drop-offs on one side terrifies you, there is an alternate path that goes around and still reaches the top, but if you’re up for it, the rock scramble is super fun.
The way up is clearly marked with red paint blazes, but it can be scary if you have a fear of heights. At the top, there are incredible views from the top of Bonticou Crag of Mohonk Preserve and the Hudson Valley. An easy trail goes along the top of the crag/ ridge and then descends, forming a loop that ends back at the trailhead.
Park your car at the Spring Farm Trailhead, which is open from 7:00 am – 7:00 pm for members and 9:00 am – 7:00 pm for day visitors. The parking lot is not that big and it does fill up by mid-morning on peak weekends, so it’s best to get there early. Entrance to Mohonk Preserve is $15/ day or $60 for an annual membership. The rock scramble is closed in winter when icy conditions make it unsafe, so it’s best done from late spring to fall. The fall color in the middle two weekends of October is especially stunning.
Contributed by Ian James of Hudson Valley Discovered
Flume Gorge Trail in New Hampshire
Length: 2 miles
Type of Hike: Loop
When visiting the White Mountains area in New Hampshire, hiking the Flume Gorge Trail is a must do. You will hike under a canopy of trees to a breathtaking Flume Gorge.
Flume Gorge Trail is located inside Franconia Notch State Park. It’s not hard, but it includes uphill walking and lots of stairs. As of today, you must do the whole 2-mile loop. You will walk on a combination of asphalt, dirt, and wooden terrains for about 1,5 hours.
The hike will start right after the check-in booths. Along the way you will see the picturesque Flume Covered Bridge, the Boulder Cabin, and the Table Rock. Then you will arrive at Flume Gorge. You will be amazed at the view in front of you and may want to take tons of pictures because it’s just spectacular!
You will walk on the boardwalk that leads to staircases at the end. Both walls of the gorge are covered with moss and lichen, and the Flume Brook rushing on the other side. Walking here is a bit like hiking the Ledges in Cuyahoga Valley NP.
At the top of the gorge is Avalanche Falls, the water source of Flume Brook. Before you get there, there’s a Bear Cave on the right. Just make sure it’s not slippery if you want to explore this small cave.
From Avalanche Falls the Flume Gorge Trail starts to go down. You will hike past Liberty Gorge, The Pool, the Sentinel Pine Covered Bridge, and a Wolf Den before you get to the finish line at the Flume Building.
Flume Gorge is a premier attraction at Franconia Notch State Park. There’s a fee to do the hike, and reservations for admission can only be made online in advance. It’s $18 for ages 13+, $16 for 6-12, and free for 5 & under.
To avoid crowds, start your hike at 9am, when the park is just opened. You will most likely be the first person to hit the trail, and you won’t see strangers in any pictures you will take.
Contributed by Umiko of Two World’s Treasures
Seneca Rocks Trail West Virginia
Length: 3.6 miles
Type of Hike: Out-and-Back
This awesome hike in West Virginia is perfect for those seeking panoramic views! The Seneca Rocks Trail is one of the best hikes on the East Coast because its features one of West Virginia’s most unique mountains. Seneca Rocks is a large crag that gives the mountain a razorback look! The Seneca Rocks Trail takes you the whole way up to the rocky cliffs and you’ll get a great panoramic view of the surrounding mountains. In addition to the hike, Seneca Rocks also attracts visitors for its rock climbing!
Seneca Rocks is located in the Monogahela National Forest and is very remote so don’t expect phone service! Parking is free and there is a visitors center with a museum and facilities.
Barbour Rock at Colton Point State Park
Length: 1.3 miles
Difficulty: Easy, handicapped accessible
Type of Hike: Out-and-Back
Did you know Pennsylvania has its own “Grand Canyon?” The Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, or Pine Creek Gorge, features some amazing hikes! The Barbour Rock Trail, located at Colton Point State Park, offers a beautiful view of the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. The Barbour Rock Trail offers two routes: a traditional hike and a handicapped-accessible trail. Both routes take you through the Pennsylvania woods and lead you to a stunning overlook!
A parking lot is available across the road and there is no fee to enter the park. The trail is beautiful during all seasons. However, the summer and fall are the busiest!
Which hikes on the East Coast are you adding to your bucket list?
See? There are tons of awesome hikes on the East Coast worth exploring! Let us know in the comments which East Coast hike will be your next!
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