Best Trails in the US for Women Hikers

Boating down the Colorado River below Havasu Creek / Photo by Mark Lellouch, NPS

Bucket list hikes for every skill level

By Amanda Burgess, Editor, JourneyWoman

For centuries, hiking has been a way for philosophers, royalty and regular folk to clear their minds and realign their bodies and spirits with the rhythms of nature. In the pandemic era, it’s been a way for women the world over to experience a sense of freedom on their own two feet.

It’s also one of the world’s most affordable and accessible activities. The novice-to-intermediate day hiker needs little in the way of costly gear or strenuous physical training. If you can walk or amble along with a mobility aid, you can hike – with The 10 Essentials nestled in your backpack or bag.

That’s something that the American Hiking Society wants everyone to know. “We like to bring a really inclusive community to hiking. A lot of people would say: ‘Oh, well, I just go for walks outside. We say: ‘No, no, no. That counts as hiking,” says AHS Executive Director Kate Van Waes. “You don’t have to be a hardcore hiker to love being outside. It’s one of the lowest barrier activities – you don’t need fancy hiking boots, and you don’t need Gore-Tex. You can put on a pair of sneakers and go for a walk. Moving through the world on foot makes a big difference to your perspective.”

Lisa Ballard, avid hiker and Emmy Award-winning producer and host of PBS series Wildlife Journal, couldn’t agree more. “From a skill point of view, if you can walk, you can hike. If you aren’t super fit, don’t worry – take a hike that’s relative to your fitness level in distance and vertical climb,” she says. “You can start modestly and work your way up from there. As you get into it more, you get a more difficult terrain, and there’s more skill, ability and knowledge required, but anybody can step out onto a trail. You just need to start with something.”

We sat down with an all-woman panel of US-based hiking experts to ferret out the best trails for women hikers of all levels and abilities. American JourneyWomen looking to explore more of your own backyard this spring and summer before the world opens up to you: Get your inspiration here. JourneyWomen everywhere else: Bookmark this article to help you plan your next North American hike.

Jump to a Trail:

Calling all hikers and travellers: Join us for Solo Travel Wisdom on March 30 at 8pm EST

On Tuesday, March 30, join Editor Amanda Burgess and an all-woman panel of hikers for an interactive chat on all things hiking (trails, safety tips, gear, and more).
Think you’re not a hiker? If you walk, in natural or urban settings, you’re a hiker.
Bring your questions and curiosity to this special hiking-themed episode of Solo Travel Wisdom!
Register here and meet our all-woman panel of expert hikers here.

Our Experts

Kate Van Waes on Sligo Creek National Recreation Trail
Kate Van Waes

Executive Director – American Hiking Society

 

Read More

Kate Van Waes joined the American Hiking Society as Executive Director in 2017. Armed with a Ph.D. in Geological Sciences from Brown University, she started her career as a planetary and glacial geologist. She hails from Montana, where she lives with her equally outdoorsy husband and two daughters in the ancestral lands of the Piscatoway (now known as Silver Spring, MD).

Ericka Pilcher from the National Parks Service sitting on rocks in a river
Ericka Pilcher

RTCA Regional Program Manager, The National Park Service 

Read More

As a regional manager for the National Park Service Rivers, Trails and Conservation Assistance Program, Ericka Pilcher works with a network of conservation and recreation planning professionals to partner with community groups, non-profits, tribes, and state and local governments to design trails and parks, conserve and improve access to rivers, protect special places, and create recreation opportunities. She lives in Colorado and spends her free time on road trips in the great outdoors with her family.

Liz Thomas, professional hiker, out on a snowy trail
Liz ‘Snorkel’ Thomas

Professional hiker, speaker, writer and coach – Liz Thomas Hiking

Read More

Pro hiker Liz Thomas, who held the women’s self-supported speed record on the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail from 2011 to 2015, has been called a thru-hiking legend and the Queen of Urban Hiking by Outside Magazine for her innovative backpacking routes through cities. LA former outdoor staff writer for the New York Times/Wirecutter, she’s the author of Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-hike, which received the 2017 National Outdoor Book Award for Best Instructional book.

Lisa Ballard, TV personality and expert hiker
Lisa Ballard

TV Producer/Host, writer, photographer, and champion skier – Lisa Ballard Outdoors

 

Read More

Lisa Ballard is an Emmy Award-winning television producer and host, writer, photographer and champion skier whose articles covering her far-flung adventures, gear, nature, conservation and outdoor recreation have appeared in hundreds of magazines and websites. She blogs for NewYorkByRail.com and The Nature Conservancy’s Cool Green Science, and has authored eight guidebooks on hiking.

Lindsay Brisko out enjoying a hike
Lindsay Brisko

Project Manager & Architect, The National Park Service

Read More

In 2015, Lindsay Brisko decided to take a brief hiatus from her professional career to walk the Appalachian Trail (AT). On-trail, Lindsay quickly learned the ins and outs of ultra-light backpacking, backcountry safety and gained confidence as a solo women hiker. After thru-hiking the AT, she continued the adventure by thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016 and the Continental Divide Trail in 2017. The three hikes combined gave her over 7,900 miles of hiking experience through cultural landscapes and breathtaking views.

Alice Ford solo hiking on a recent trip near the Smoky Mountains
Alice Ford

Hiking expert, entrepreneur and blogger, Alice’s Adventures on Earth

Read More

Alice Ford is an expert hiker and environmentalist who has worked as a stunt double, actress and sports model. She is owner of an eco-hotel booking platform called TravGanic and blogs about her outdoor adventures at Alice’s Adventures on Earth, where she shares expert advice on ecotourism, adventure travel, National Parks, World Heritage sites, hiking and trekking.

Hiker Sonya Richmond of Come Walk With Us is on a four-year mission to hike more than 27,000 kilometres across Canada from coast to coast. Here, she hikes a section of Eastern Manitoba

Best Trails in Canada for Women Hikers

There’s little more mind-clearing and spirit cleansing than taking a long walk in the great outdoors. There’s little wonder, then, that women have been hitting Canada’s trails in record numbers since the start of the pandemic.

Read More

Top 10 Trails in the US for Women Hikers

Hot Tip

The National Park Service recently launched a free app for Apple and Android offering interactive maps, accessibility info, self-guided tours, hours and locations for points of interest like restaurants, things to do at all 420+ national parks, and more. If you want to hike the public lands of the US, consider this your starting point. 

1. Grinnell Glacier Trail (recommended by Kate Van Waes)

Location: Glacier National Park, Montana
Nearest Major City: The trail head is located a 2 hour and 38-minute drive from Columbia Falls, Montana
Season:Mid-June through September
Trail Rating: Strenuous
Google Maps Link

Map of Casque Isles Trail, best trails to hike in Canada
Grinnell Glacier Trail | Photo provided by Kate Van Waes

Grinnell Glacier Trail | Photo provided by Kate Van Waes

Best for adventurous hikers whose palms don’t sweat when faced with heights and exposure, this 11.2-mile (18-kilometre) trail offers a day-hike challenge with its narrow pathways, switchbacks, and wet walks on slippery rocks through waterfalls early in the season. Traversing the shores of stunning lakes, the trail climbs higher and higher, opening up to spectacular views. The steepest part of the hike – cutting across some gulp-worthy vertical rock faces – has you climbing staircases made of giant stones. The views are worth the effort and stress sweat.

TIP: If your trip doesn’t include an overnight stay in the Many Glacier area, hightail it there no later than 8 am. The parking lots fill up fast, and park rangers turn visitors away at the entrance.

2. Franconia Ridge Loop (recommended by Lisa Ballard)

Location: Lincoln, New Hampshire
Nearest Major City: This trail is located a 2 hour and 12-minute drive from Portland, Maine
Season: Year-round (May to September is peak season)
Trail Rating: Difficult
Google Maps Link

Map of East Coast Trail, best trails to hike in Canada
Hiking the Fraconia Ridge Loop

Fraconia Ridge Loop | Photo provided by Lisa Ballard

This 8.6-mile (13.8-kilometre) trail offers the adventurous hiker some steep terrain, an exposed ridgeline and some sweeping panoramic views. This is one you’ll want to train for, but the reward is in the view from the summit (best to start early in the morning to get the best view), and the waterfalls you’ll pass along the way. If you want a place to rest, refill your water bottle, grab a snack or eat your lunch, you can do all of that at the Greenleaf Hut. While a strong day hiker can complete the hike in a day, you can also choose to stay in one of the co-ed bunkrooms at the Greenleaf Hut or book one of Appalachian Mountain Club’s full-service huts.

3. Conundrum Hot Springs Hike (recommended by Alice Ford)

Location: Colorado
Nearest Major City: The trail is a 15-minute drive from Aspen, Colorado
Season: Spring, summer, and fall
Trail Rating: Moderate
Google Maps Link

Map of Fundy Footpath, one of the best trails to hike in Canada
Hot springs blue pool on Conundrum Creek Trail in Aspen, Colorado

Conundrum Creek Trail Hot Springs | Photo by Kristina Blokhin on Adobe Stock

This 18-mile (29.8-kilometre) out-and-back hike winds uphill through Aspen groves, offering a visual feast of mountaintops and fields of wildflowers. The journey culminates in an opportunity to soak your aching feet in warm natural hot springs with expansive views of the valley. If you want to camp near the hot springs at one of 19 designated sites, you’ll need a permit.

TIPS: Be prepared for all weather (storms roll in quickly over the mountain. There is no cell service. If you want to avoid the crowds and blazing sun, start early. At 18 miles roundtrip, you’ll want to pack plenty of food and water.

4. Le Verkin Creek Trail (recommended by Ericka Pilcher)

Location: Zion National Park, Utah
Nearest Major City: This trail is located 21.7 miles (35 kilometres) – just over an hour’s drive – from Cedar City, Utah.
Season: Spring, Summer & Fall
Trail Rating: Moderate
Google Maps Link

Map of High Rockies Trail, one of the best trails to hike in Canada
Kolob Canyon on Le Verkin Trail, Zion

Kolob Canyons in Zion National Park | Photo by Andy Wang on Unsplash

This 14-mile (22.5-kilometre) trail begins at Lee Pass Trailhead on the Kolob Canyons Road, offering spectacular views of the canyons as it crosses Timber Creek and descends towards La Verkin Creek. If pockets of solitude in primitive area of Zion Wilderness is appealing to you, this is your hike. Strong day hikers can hike to Kolob Arch, one of the largest freestanding rock arches in the world. The roundtrip hike takes about eight hours to complete. Backpackers can camp at one of 13 sites, which must be reserved in advance, or make reservations at Visitor’s Centres for first come, first served sites. Backpackers also require permits, which can be applied for on the park’s website.

The Kerry Way's winding trails journey through some of Ireland's highest peaks

Hiking Ireland’s Kerry Way Starts With the First Step

The Kerry Way is a 214-km circular hike that begins and ends in Killarney, Ireland and takes eight to 10 days to complete. Just the challenge guest writer Pandora Domeyko needed.

Read More

5. Torrey Pines Beach Trail (recommended by Liz Thomas)

Location: Torrey Pines State Reserve in San Diego, California
Nearest Major City: The trail is located a 21-minute drive from La Jolla
Season: Year round
Trail Rating: Easy
Google Maps Link

Map of Casque Isles Trail, best trails to hike in Canada
Torrey Pines Beach Trail

Torrey Pines Beach Trail | Photo provided by Liz Thomas of www.treelinereview.com

This 1-mile (1.6-kilometre) out-and-back trail takes you through the Upper Reserve on a sandy trail offering sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean from Yucca Point Overlook. Hikers of all abilities can combine a short hike that is long on beautiful views with some beach time. The trail ends at the stairs leading to Torrey Pines State Beach, where you can dip your toes in the ocean, go swimming, or relax in the sand. Sounds like the best of both worlds, no?

6. Painted Cove Trail (recommended by Lindsay Brisko)

Location: John Day Fossil Beds National Monument
Nearest Major City: This accessible trail is located a 36-minute drive from Mitchell, Oregon
Season: Accessible year round
Trail Rating: Easy
Google Maps Link

Map of East Coast Trail, best trails to hike in Canada
Painted Cove Trail in Mitchell, Oregon

Painted Cove Trail | Photo by Dan Meyers on Unsplash

This short 0.3-mile (0.5-kilometre) walk is great for hikers of all skill levels and features a picturesque boardwalk through the painted hills. That’s some serious bang for your buck. The trail is suitable for hikers with mobility issues, with signage along the way educating visitors about the geologic processes of how the hills were formed. The vivid colours of the hills are incredible to witness in person. Be sure to Leave no Trace by staying on the trails!

7. Chinese Wall Loop (recommended by Lisa Ballard)

Location: Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex, Montana
Nearest Major City: The nearest major airport to this backcountry gem is in Missoula, a 1.5-hour drive from Holland Lake Lodge in the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex
Season: May to October
Trail Rating: Strenuous
Google Maps Link

Map of Fundy Footpath, one of the best trails to hike in Canada
Sunrise on the Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, Montana

Chinese Wall in the Bob Marshall Wilderness | Photo by mtnmichelle on Adobe Stock

If you’re a serious hiker looking for a challenging multi-day trip through some pristine backcountry, you can’t go wrong with this 72.3-mile (116.5-kilometre) trail in the wilds of Montana. The trail is located in Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex – over 1.5 million acres of untouched Rocky mountain terrain that is roughly the size of Delaware. This is the most popular multi-day hike in this area, and it’s a grueling one. The reward? Fields of wildflowers and sweeping views of the Chinese Wall, a massive limestone escarpment that looms over 1,000 feet tall and spans more than 12 miles. This is grizzly bear country, so you might want to do this one with a guide or a group of experienced hikers. You’ll want to carry bear spray, and learn about bear safety and proper food storage before embarking on this unforgettable adventure.

Haddow feeling on top of the world on her hiking adventure

Chasing Adventure on Mount Everest After a Multiple Sclerosis Diagnosis

How a Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis challenged Jennifer Haddow to change her story and trek to Mount Everest, giving her the strength to chase adventure around the world.

Read More

8. Harding Icefield Trail (recommended by Ericka Pilcher)

Location: Kenai Fjords, Alaska
Nearest Major City: The trailhead is a 20-minute drive from nearby Harding, Alaska
Season: Best used from May to October
Trail Rating: Difficult
Link to Map on NPS

Map of Casque Isles Trail, best trails to hike in Canada
 Harding Icefield Trail | Photo provided by NPS

 Harding Icefield Trail | Photo provided by NPS

This is an 8.2-mile (13.2-kilometre) out-and-back hike that leaves from the Exit Glacier Area and winds through cottonwood and alder forests and heather-filled meadows on its climb above tree-line to spectacular views of the icefield that stretches as far as the naked eye can see. The trail gains 1,000 feet of elevation with very mile and takes about six to eight hours to complete. The NPS cautions hikers to be prepared for storms, high winds, blinding sunlight and drastic temperature changes. Also be bear-aware: Visiting the Fjords on an NPS project, Pilcher saw 11 bears on her first day.

9. Havasu Canyon Trail (recommended by Kate Van Waes)

Location: Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Nearest Major City: The trailhead is a 66-mile(106-kilometre) drive from Peach Springs, Arizona
Season: March to October
Trail Rating: Difficult
Google Maps Link

Map of East Coast Trail, best trails to hike in Canada
Boating down the Colorado River below Havasu Creek

Boating down the Colorado River below Havasu Creek | Photo by Mark Lellouch, NPS

You’ll want to plan this 16-mile (25.8-kilometre) hike months in advance. Reservations and an overnight stay in the Canyon are required, with reservations notoriously difficult to obtain. The trail is typically accessed by backpacking in 10 miles from Hualapai Hilltop via the Havasu Falls trail or via helicopter followed by a two-mile hike – both pleasing options for the adventurous. From Hualapai Hilltop, the trail dips into the canyon via a full mile of switchbacks, after which you follow a riverbed into the deep shade of the canyon. Creek crossings, cliff scrambling, and ladder climbing through waterfalls make this one big canyoning adventure.

10. Monument Canyon Trail (recommended by Lindsay Brisko)

Location: Colorado National Monument
Nearest Major City: The trail is located a quick 17-minute drive from Grand Junction, Colorado
Season: Accessible year round
Trail Rating: Moderate
Google Maps Link

Map of Fundy Footpath, one of the best trails to hike in Canada
Fundy Footpath, New Brunswick Photo provided by Sonya Richmond

Monument Canyon Trail | Photo provided by NPS

A great long causal trail which winds you 11.6 miles (18.7 kilometres) along several spectacular rock formations, including Independence Monument, Bell Tower and the Coke Ovens to name a few. There isn’t much shade, so be sure to take plenty of water with you, especially on a warm day. The majority of the trail is a gentle grade with a steep accent/decent as you approach the Monument Canyon Upper Trailhead. Keep an eye out for lizards, deer or bighorn sheep!

TIP: To shorten the hike, you can park a car at either end of the trail.  

Read More on Hiking

Amanda Burgess

Amanda Burgess, a Toronto-based writer and creative strategist whose bags are always packed for her next adventure, is our Editor at JourneyWoman. She is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW), and a Certified Cancer Journey Coach who creates a safe space for cancer patients and caregivers to design their dream lives – while living with cancer, and on the other side of it.

Previous

Next

We always strive to use real photos from our own adventures, provided by the guest writer or from our personal travels. However, in some cases, due to photo quality, we must use stock photography. If you have any questions about the photography please let us know.

Disclaimer: We are so happy that you are checking out this page right now! We only recommend things that are suggested by our community, or through our own experience, that we believe will be helpful and practical for you. Some of our pages contain links, which means we’re part of an affiliate program for the product being mentioned. Should you decide to purchase a product using a link from on our site, JourneyWoman may earn a small commission from the retailer, which helps us maintain our beautiful website. Thank you!

We want to hear what you think about this article, and we welcome any updates or changes to improve it. You can comment below, or send an email to us at editor@journeywoman.com.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You cannot copy content from this page.

Send this to a friend