5 East Coast Day Hikes Worth Exploring
One of the best ways to appreciate our natural surroundings is during a hike. Whether you do a light, family-friendly jaunt or a dauntingly steep, miles-long trek, the options are endless. From the obvious physical benefits to the mental boost you get from being outdoors, hiking is an easy way to get moving as you explore new places. Sure it can be work getting to the good spots, but that just makes the views all the more rewarding. The East Coast can’t top the West Coast in terms of sheer number of tall summits, but states like New York and Virginia still boast some spectacular trails with thrilling views worth the climb. Throw on some sneakers or hiking boots, grab a hat, stash a few necessities in your backpack—water, snacks, sunscreen, and bug spray to start—and you’re ready to start hiking.
Here are five of our favorites:
Watkins Glen, New York
Part of New York’s Finger Lakes region known for its incredible gorges and waterfalls, Watkins Glen State Park is a little more than four hours away from both New York City and Philadelphia. A perfect hike for families, offers over 19 waterfalls along one short trail—including some you can walk under. There are also high rock walls, massive gorges, rock tunnels, and a stone bridge, making it a must-experience for all ages.
Acadia National Park, Maine
Thanks to its coastal cliffs, rocky beaches, and evergreen woodlands, Acadia has gained the reputation of being one of the best National Parks to experience. This Maine must-see offers over 159 miles of hiking trails at varying experience levels and even the shorter, easier treks deliver magnificent scenes of the Atlantic Ocean. While you’re there don’t miss out on the panoramic views of Cadillac Mountain (accessible by car), as well as a local whale-watching tour at nearby Bar Harbor.
Max Patch, North Carolina
Nestled along the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, Max Patch is one of the shortest hikes on our list at a little over one mile each way, and is a major landmark long the 2,200-mile-long Appalachian Trail—one of the longest in the world. Max Patch is a part of the area’s Bald Mountains, which essentially means at the top there are very few trees to hide your gorgeous view of the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains.
Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire
Another part of the extensive Appalachian trail that sits over a thousand miles above Max Patch, Mount Lafayette in New Hampshire is considered much more strenuous and should be left to experienced adventurers. In other words, if you’re not used to working out regularly, this one is going to leave you seriously sore the next day! Representing the highest peak in the Franconia Ridge, the longest loop lets you experience several waterfalls and three tall peaks—including breathtaking views of some of the tallest mountains in the Northeast.
Old Rag Mountain, Virginia
There are many beautiful places to explore within Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park and a hike up Old Rag Mountain is one of them. Part of the Blue Ridge Mountains (mentioned above), Old Rag is a favorite among hikers for its fun rock scrambles and incredible views. Experienced hikers can do some additional climbing along Byrd’s Nest Shelter to see the famous Balance Rock—named for the precarious way it’s positioned. Old Rag can get crowded during the summer, so plan an early morning hike if you prefer paths less traveled.