10 of the best US hiking trails: readers travel tips

From a rocky wonderland with views of Las Vegas to the green ridges of the Appalachians, our readers share their tips for great walks

Winning tip: Angels of Utah

This five-mile round-trip hike within Zion national park takes you from the Virgin river to the top of Angels Landing (nearly 2,000 metres). The views from the top of the valley below are truly breathtaking. But firstly there are 21 steep switchbacks Walters Wiggles to navigate. The final part is along a very narrow ridge with sheer drops on both sides, with just a support chain to hold on to. A truly memorable (and at times scary) experience.

New England mountains

Mount Katahdin. Photograph: Alamy

It was a walking trip in the wilderness of Virginia during which we had a rather worrying encounter with three bears that led me to look into doing a tour for my 50th birthday. Wanting to join a small group to hike the Grand Canyon, I discovered Grand American Adventures circular tour of breathtaking canyon landscapes. We travelled by minibus and hiked great wilderness routes. Ive since hiked spectacular sections of the Appalachian Trail with them, in the mountains of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, including an ascent of 1,600-metre Mount Katahdin, the highest peak of Maine. Its the perfect combination: a small group of like-minded people, camping or staying in lodgings, experienced leaders who know the routes, wonderful hiking and lasting memories.
Appalachian Trail hike from 1,719 camping, 2,289 staying in hotels (flights not included), grandamericanadventures.com

Shelter-to-shelter walking in Vermont

Camels Hump, Huntington Photograph: Alamy

I initially chose to do Vermonts Long Trail for unromantic logistical reasons but ended up falling in love with it. The trail is the oldest long-distance hiking route in the US and quieter than the more famous paths. It runs through high rugged mountains, alpine forests and wide open green valleys and is as stunning as anything Ive seen. Despite the name, at 272 miles it is shorter than many of Americas famous long treks. The route is well-marked with white blazes so theres less time with your head in a map and more opportunity to take in the beautiful Appalachian landscapes. There are more than 50 hikers shelters along the route so you can get away with not taking a tent helping to keep pack weight down.
Savas Arici

California island dreamin

Anacapa island. Photograph: Alamy

Channel Islands national park, 40 miles due south of Santa Barbara coast, has no cars, can only be reached by boat ($60 return with Island Packers from Ventura) and light plane, and has great hiking above rocky coasts or inland hills. We saw one of the islands tiny endemic foxes on Santa Cruz island, many seals, sea lions, pelicans and other birds on both Anacapa and Santa Cruz. The boat trip usually sees dozens of dolphins, sometimes a whale, in the Santa Barbara Channel. The website has lectures and webcams (underwater, eagles, shore birds). Weve done day hikes, and its possible to camp. Its never crowded, since the boats have limited capacity.

Teeming with wildlife, New Mexico

Pecos Wilderness, Sangre De Cristo Mountains, Santa Fe. Photograph: hedobaby

The Pecos Wilderness has a variety of trails winding by high peaks and ridges, lakes, rivers and cascading streams. This southernmost tip of the Rockies is outstandingly beautiful. There are trails for all levels of hiker and many spots to camp as well. You can reach the Pecos via car from Santa Fe in less than an hour. There are lakes and streams for fishing as well. The area is teeming with wildlife and one would not be surprised to see eagles, deer, bears, chipmunks and squirrels. This is a wonderful destination for day hikes or camping trips.

Oregon wonderland

Sparks Lake, near Bend. Photograph: Alamy

Oregon is truly a hikers paradise. Youll find something to suit any hiking preference and ability, from easy scenic lakeside rambles to spectacular challenging mountain climbs and coastal paths, most if not all superbly maintained and documented. The Columbia river gorge is on Portlands doorstep. The Sisters wilderness area on Bends. South Sister is a workout for mind and body that leaves you buzzing (and aching) for days. Theres even a forest hike in Portlands centre. The variety of hikes available in or within fairly easy reach (albeit by car) of Portland and its surrounding towns is amazing. And the added bonus is that Portland and those cities not only have a character unlike many other US cities and towns but also provide so many options for that very welcome craft brew at the end of each hiking day that youll never get bored.

A meeting with Big Bob, Montana

Cliff mountain and cliff pass, Bob Marshall wilderness. Photograph: Alamy

The Big Bob in northern Montana is the highlight of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), which takes in 2,000 miles and five states from New Mexico to Montana. Its full name is the Bob Marshall wilderness a land of huge escarpments, ridges, grassland and forests full of wildlife. You will need six months to do the CDT winter snow and summer lightning storms add to the stress factors of hiking along its paths, 70% of which are signposted so take a compass. A Davy Crockett spirit and a can of bear spray is useful too in case you meet any grizzlies, as we did. Make as much noise as possible to scare them off we discovered they dont want to meet you as much as you dont want to meet them!

Wyoming wildflowers

The North Fork of Cascade Canyon. Photograph: Alamy

Cascade Canyon and Phelps Lake are the less crowded areas of the Teton mountains for wilderness hiking. Start out from Jackson in Wyoming from April to September and you soon find yourself in fields of bluebells (depending on the time of year) with herds of elk and moose grazing and gazing as you walk along. Dont be deceived by their docile demeanour and cartoonish faces they can be dangerous if they feel threatened so best not to approach them. Walk up from the lake for great views over Death Canyon.

Medicine for the soul, Montana/Idaho

The Gird Point lookout tower, Bitterroot national forest. Photograph: Alamy

Last summer I was lucky enough to spend time exploring the states of Montana and Idaho. The two states are both beautiful in their own ways, but one hike Ill never forget was the Medicine Point Trail in the Bitterroot national forest. A steep four-mile trail up to a historic forest fire service lookout was a tough yet fun-filled hike spent sampling huckleberries and spotting wildlife such as deer, goats and many types of birds (thankfully no bears during our trip). The rustic lookout tower had basic amenities for an overnight stay no water or electricity, but an axe for chopping firewood and stunning views of the southern Bitterroot valley and into Idaho. We spent the evening watching the spectacular sunset, and the night staring up at the Milky Way. Ive never been so happy to be off the grid.
Jennifer Johnson

Hiking near Las Vegas

Lake Mead national recreation area. Photograph: Alamy

Walk in the desert in the morning and in cool pine forest in the afternoon. Top it off with world-class dining or a headline performer at night. Eschew Red Rock Canyon and Valley of Fire; both desert areas are stunning but can just as easily be done by car on loops. Instead head to Bootleg Canyon, with 30-odd miles of trail near Boulder City. The peaks, shrouded in silence, offer views over Lake Mead, high desert and the oasis of Vegas in the distance. The area gets its name from being a hidden area for smuggling in beer for the builders of the Hoover Dam during the prohibition era. In the afternoon, 35 minutes the other way from Vegas, head up to the trails that lead out from Lee Canyon surrounded by pine trees and, in winter, plenty of snow. From here you cant see Las Vegas, just mountain walls, blue skies, wildlife and evergreen trees. A beautiful change for the senses. To emphasise how removed you feel, it is often 10C cooler up here.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2017/may/11/10-best-us-hiking-trails-appalachians-california-readers-travel-tips