Every year I say, “This is the year we will finally make it to the East Coast!” but it never happens. We’ve become so obsessed with sharp jagged mountains and hikes to alpine lakes that every summer we end up getting stuck playing in the Rockies or end up flying to the Pyrenees. So to help boost my motivation to get to the east coast, I’ve asked some fellow bloggers what their favorite epic hikes are on the East Coast of the U.S. and added the ones that are on my bucket list to help fuel our motivation to get out east and to hopefully inspire your wanderlust.
Here are 11 adventurous hikes that you should check out on the East Coast. Let us know in the comments if you’ve done one or if there is another one we should add to this list.
Best Hikes on the East Coast in Maine
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Distance: 2.1 Mile Loop
Elevation Gain: 1,059 feet
Trailhead: Precipice Trailhead Coordinates
Did you say a hike with iron rungs and ladders, plus some boulder scrambling? I’m in! And it’s in a National Park? Pinch me, I’m dreaming!
I seriously don’t know what’s taking me so long to get to Maine! Our family loves national parks and adrenaline filled hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park so naturally this short and scary 2 miler in Acadia would be right up our alley.
Note that this trail is closed between March 15 and August 15 due to falcon nesting and you definitely don’t want to do this if it is raining. Also, leave the hiking sticks in the car because you’ll want both hands ready for this one.
While in Acacia, make sure to check out James @ Travel Collectings favorite hike, The Beehive as well as 3 other hikes he recommends in Acadia NP.
2 | The Beehive, Acadia NP
Distance: 1.6 miles round trip
Elevation gain: 520 feet
Trailhead: Beehive Trailhead Coordinates
The Beehive Trail is an epic hike because of the many technical aspects. It is named after the classic beehive shape of the cliff.
It’s not a long hike, but parts of the steep sides of the ‘hive’ are cliffs that have iron rungs permanently installed that you need to climb. This, combined with narrow ledges with steep drop offs, make this a bad choice for the faint-hearted, but a great choice for adrenaline junkies.
That being said, I did see families do this with careful supervision. At the top, hikers are rewarded with spectacular views of Sand Beach and Great Head Peninsula. If you want the view without the technical hike, there is actually an easy path up the back of the cliff – the Bowl Trail (but the technical aspects of the hike are half the fun!)
Best place to grab a bite or beer after: The classic place to relax in Acadia National Park is the Jordan Pond House (get directions here). You have the try the delicious popovers – a local specialty kind of like a light muffin, served with butter and jam. The perfect way to unwind after your hike up the Beehive.
Thanks for the Inspo James! Click here to see easier hikes in Acadia NP that James recommends.
If you have little one’s you are traveling with, Kelly at Wikebaby recommends doing Cadillac Mountain North Ridge Trail.
3 | Katahdin Dudley, Knife Edge, Saddle Trail Loop, Baxter State park
Distance: 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,624 feet
Trailhead: Katahdin Trailhead Coordinates
With some sections bordering on technical climbing, it will help to harness your inner mountain goat spirit to complete the Knife’s Edge. Like the name implies, the Knife Edge section is narrow and exposed, plus, the descent involves steep scree slope and more scrambling over boulders. Be careful doing this hike in windy conditions and definitely not in the rain.
There are other longer ways to access the Knifes Edge such as via The Hunt Trail.
4 | The Mahoosuc Notch via North Pond Rd to AT, Appalachian Trail
Distance: 9.0 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 2,559 feet
Trailhead: Notch Trailhead Coordinates
While I have no desire at this point in my life to take on the challenging and tedious Appalachian Trail, the famous one mile of Mahoosuc Notch, which is said the be the toughest mile on the AT, sounds very exciting.
This one section of the AT requires climbing over boulders and scrambling through tight spaces so people with claustrophobia may want to skip this one. After, there looks like some fun cliff jumping and swimming nearby at Frenchman’s Hole.
Best Hikes on the East Coast in New York
New York is high up there on our bucket list. While a day or two strolling through Central Park and eating in New York City sounds nice, it’s the mountains of New York that are calling our name. With all the epic hiking in the Adirondacks and Catskills mountains, not to mention climbing the Gunks, it’s really crazy that we haven’t checked this state off the bucket list yet.
5 | Avalanche Pass and Avalanche Lake Trail, Adirondack Mountains
Distance: 10 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,335 feet
Trailhead: Avalanche Pass + Lake Coordinates
This is another strenuous hike that also requires climbing along ladders and bridges that are bolted directly into the cliff walls surrounding a lake. If this one sounds a bit adrenaline packed, there are other ways to take in the gorgeous views of Avalanche Lake that start from the same trailhead.
6 | Devil’s Path, Catskill Mountains
Distance: 21.8 miles (although you can shorten it and do just one half)
Elevation Gain: 8,172 feet
Trailhead: Start Devil’s Path Here on the east side on Prediger Trail Head Road
Know for being one of the most difficult of its kind in the northeast U.S., this one is for bragging rights! While there are a variety of ways to hike Devil’s Path, we’ve got our eyes on the eastern half which takes you over 4 of the Catskill’s 3500 peaks – Indian Head, Twin, Sugarloaf and Plateau. The strenuous ascent and descent over each pass reminds me of our epic backpacking trip through the Maroon Bell’s Four Pass Loop.
Check out TheOutbound for a thorough description of how to backpack Devil’s Path.
7 | Breakneck Ridge Hike, Hudson Valley
Distance: 3.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 1400 ft
Trailhead: Breakneck Ridge Coordinates
Looking for gorgeous views closer to New York City. Head to Hudson Valley to Breakneck Ridge, which our friends Katherine and Anisa at Two Traveling Texans highly recommend.
Breakneck Ridge is one of the best areas to hike in the Hudson Valley. It’s easy to get to from NYC (there is a direct train there on the weekends) and the views of the Hudson River are spectacular.
There are several different routes you can take, but the most popular one is to take the Breakneck Ridge (marked in white), then turn left on the red trail (Breakneck Bypass), and then another left on the yellow trail (Wilkinson Memorial), which will lead you back to the train.
The first part of the hike is the most challenging. You gain most of the elevation in the first mile so at times it’s a bit of a scramble. Don’t worry though, there are several spots to stop and take in the panoramic views. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment once I had completed the hike and the views were worth the struggle!
It’s probably best to bring along a picnic lunch or at least some snacks as there are no facilities along the trail. Afterward, if you want to celebrate your climb, the town of Cold Springs is 2 miles away or it’s just an hour and a half on the train back to Grand Central Station in NYC.
Other Epic Hikes You Might Love:
8 | Labyrinth & the Lemon Squeeze, Mohonk Preserve
Distance: 1 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 291 feet
Trailhead: Park here (but it will cost ya)
While in the Hudson Valley, check out one of the less risky scramble hikes. This route will force you to squeeze, duck, crawl, and climb class 3 across The Labyrinth, then take the ladders up “the lemon squeeze” to 360 degree views of 6 states!
This hike starts from a historic resort, Mohonk Mountain House, and is well marked. The downside is that it cost $22 per person although there are supposedly other places you can start the hike from and pay less.
9 | Gothics via Lower and Upper Wolfjaw Mountains, Adirondacks
Distance: 15.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 5,065 feet
Trailhead: Start at ADK Trailhead
While in the Adirondacks, you might want to conquer Gothic Mountain, which requires cables to summit. This full day hike will reward you with 360 degree views and the pride in conquering not one, but four 46ers! Sounds epic to me!
Best Hikes on the East Coast in New Hampshire
10 | Mount Lafayette and Franconia Ridge Trail, White Mountain NP
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Distance: 7.8 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 3,776 feet
Trailhead: Lafayette Place Parking Area
With the best views of New England, this three peak traverse is considered “strenuous and nerve-wrecking.” Hiking along the ‘knife-edge’ between Mount Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette is sure to be a moment you’ll never forget.
Best Hikes on the East Coast in Virginia
While this hike is a bit of a detour from the hikes above, I had to throw it in because it just looks so fun! If your travels take you to Virginia and you love challenging hikes that test your fitness, you’ll want to check out Old Rag Mountain.
11 | Old Rag Mountain, Shenandoah National Park
Distance: 8.6 mile loop
Elevation Gain: 2,417 feet
Trailhead: Old Rag Parking lot
With about a mile of boulder scrambling, extremely steep switch backs, and plenty of false summits, this is one of those strenuous hikes that will really test your fitness level as well as your bravery. Get an early start because the scramble section gets crowded.
Our Favorite Day Hiking Backpack
Before you head out on your epic east coast hike, check out our absolute favorite day hiking backpack, REI’s Flash 22. This backpack has seen over 3,000 miles and it’s our go-to pack for all our hiking adventures.
Make This A Road Trip
Road trips are our preferred method of travel and when we tackle these epic hikes we will definitely be flying over with our backpack loaded only the essentials for a back to back days of adventuring. Click here for a list of what we pack for our backpacking trips.
Train To Hike Better
Worried about being fit enough to take on these challenging hikes??? Check out my blog How To Train For A Strenuous Hike. Then make sure to do Yoga For Hikers after your adventure to boost your recovery.
- Backpacking Maroon Bells in Aspen
- Backpacking the Kalalau Trail in Kauai
- Best Day Hikes in the World
- How to Train for a Strenuous Hike
- Best Yoga Poses for Hikers