5 Best U.S. Hikes Reviewed in 2019

Last Updated by Ricky Holzer on Tuesday, January 7th, 2020

In 2019, I expanded NoCoastBestCoast.com's coverage beyond the Midwest to allow me to share all of the great hikes I do no matter where I go. From the depths of Carlsbad Caverns to the highest peaks in Maine and Arizona, this list showcases the spectacular variety of landscapes the U.S. has to offer. The rankings are rather arbitrary (comparing caves to mountaintops is like comparing apples to oranges), and each of these hiking destinations is somewhere you should visit at least once in your life.

5. Alkali Flat Loop, White Sands National Park, New Mexico
Pristine white sand dunes await you on the Alkali Flat Loop

Pristine white sand dunes await you on the Alkali Flat Loop

White Sands is America's newest national park, promoted from national monument status at the end of 2019. These pristine white sand dunes are made of gypsum, the same stuff used in drywall, and are visible from space -- go to Google Maps and turn on satellite imagery, then look for the white splotch in the center of Southern New Mexico. The Alkali Springs Trail is the best way to experience these dunes, mostly because its length allows you to escape the massive crowds elsewhere in the park (which are probably only going to increase now that it's a national park). There is no feeling like being absolutely alone being surrounded by nothing but sand.

4. Arizona Hot Springs and Liberty Bell Arch Loop, Lake Mead National Recreation Area, Arizona
The view 1000 feet above the Colorado River

The view 1000 feet above the Colorado River

When most people think of Las Vegas, they imagine casinos, buffets, and alcohol, but in fact the city is one of the best destinations for desert hiking in the U.S. Just 45 southeast of Las Vegas, you'll find an underwhelming looking trailhead off the side of the highway heading to Phoenix. After hiking underneath the highway overpasses and leaving the roaring engines of cars and trucks behind, you'll discover fantastic desert scenery and a natural hot spring. The hike is long, but the rewards are tremendous.

3. Humphreys Peak via the Humphreys Peak Trail, Coconino National Forest, Arizona
Flower-filled meadows greet you at the start of the Humphreys Peak Trail

Flower-filled meadows greet you at the start of the Humphreys Peak Trail

My highest state highpoint yet, 12,000-foot Humphreys Peak, was a beastly challenge. Though Arizona is mostly known for its desert, this trail takes you up nearly 4,000 feet from pine forest to the state's only alpine tundra, home of a rare flower that is found nowhere else in the world but the top of these high peaks. While the first half of the hike is an uphill slog through forest, once you ascend above treeline, the views are phenomenal, distracting you from how out of breath you are. On a clear day, you can even glimpse the Grand Canyon from the summit!

2. Natural Entrance Trail, Carlsbad Caverns National Park, New Mexico
The delicate stalactites of Carlsbad Caverns are something everyone should see in their lifetime

The delicate stalactites of Carlsbad Caverns are something everyone should see in their lifetime

If I'm being honest, the Big Room Loop has way better cave formations, but the Natural Entrance Trail offers a less crowded experience. Show up early enough, and you'll have the experience of being alone in the dead quiet of the cave -- something you can't do at any other national parks, since they require guided tours. This hike is also unique in that this is the true natural entrance to the cave; at other national parks, the natural entrances weren't large enough for humans, so either other entrances were dug or explosives expanded the existing entrance. It's truly fascinating to descend down 700 feet from daylight to the bottom of the cave, especially knowing that you can take an elevator back up!

1. Mount Katahdin via Hunt Trail, Baxter State Park, Maine
The views from the top of Mt. Katahdin are unforgettable

The views from the top of Mt. Katahdin are unforgettable

Towering nearly a mile above the famously pretty Maine landscape of forest, lakes, hills, and mountains, Mt. Katahdin is perhaps the crown jewel of the state. Though the scenery is certainly beautiful, the thing that separates Mt. Katahdin from the other contenders on this list is the fun factor of the hike. The Hunt Trail is no simple walk up a hill! You have to climb up massive boulders using your hands and occasional metal rods for assistance. All of that struggle makes you appreciate the view even more, and this is a memorable journey indeed.



What were your favorite hikes this past year? Let me know by commenting below or on Twitter and Instagram!

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