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Scenic view of nice sunny day hiking path, trail under clear blue sky in Mt. Tamalpais National Park
Photograph: Shutterstock/Uraiwan Niyomsiri

This is the best state for hiking in the U.S.

'Why This Place' ranks the country's top spots for a hike

Erika Mailman
Written by
Erika Mailman

For many smart travelers, vacation requires time spent in nature. With a hike through the shaded woods or to the summit of an exposed rock face, the feeling that descends and overtakes your body can be deliciously exuberant… or just peaceful. You’ll wolf down your food which always tastes better when you’re hiking or just afterward when you reward yourself for the effort, sleep better that night, and remember that time with nostalgia. You’ve just had a big hug from Mother Nature, and it will resonate throughout your body. So, where do you go for the best hikes? We're sharing a ranked list from the online travel guide Why This Place which will help you plan a trip that incorporates the best of woodland trails—and gives you the best chance of seeing waterfalls along the way.

The state that delivers all that the best? Connecticut. It gets the highest score on the travel guide’s ‘Hiking Index’ which uses five factors to determine what constitutes the best hiking experience. These include the number of hiking trails and waterfalls relative to each state’s size, the percentage of the state that is a national or state park, and the state’s average temperatures and rainfall. Connecticut got a 73.98 on the index (looks like a low C to us, but apparently no one’s grading on the curve) for its preponderance of hiking trails—it has 1,455 hiking trails per 1,000 square miles—and for its fair amount of state and national park coverage (8.49 percent) and its number of waterfalls (30 per 1,000 square miles). Funnily enough, Connecticut didn’t win in any of the subcategories but placed high enough to win overall.

The second-best state Massachusetts has the highest ratio of hiking trails in the nation (2,221 per 1,000 square miles). You’ll see 14 waterfalls in that same mileage, and roughly 5 percent of the state is a state or national park. Its overall hiking score was 72.31, breathing right on Connecticut’s wooded neck.

In third place is Hawai’i, with warm temps year-round, averaging at 73.5°F. There is not, however, a high ratio of hiking trails to state size: only 62 per 1,000 square miles. But the state makes up for that by ensuring each hike has a high chance of seeing spectacular waterfalls—it has the highest number of waterfalls per 1,000 square miles: a whopping 85! If we’re doing our math correctly, it looks like most trails offer multiple waterfalls (62 trails and 85 waterfalls). Additionally, nearly 10 percent of the state is covered by a national or state park, the highest in the nation: 9.46 percent. Hawai’i’s overall hiking score is 72.09.

Let’s look at the rest of the Top 10:

4 and 5. Tie between California and New Jersey: score of 69.49

6. Arizona: score of 64.25

7. Washington: score of 62.45

8. New Hampshire: score of 61.55

9. Utah: score of 61.22

10. Rhode Island: score of 60.65

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