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 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.
2023 Update: We have officially made it to the East Coast and this blog has been updated with a few more of our favorite picks for East Coast hiking!
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Here are 12 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 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 @ Parks Collecting’s 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 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 ones 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. As the name implies, the Knife Edge section is narrow and exposed, plus, the descent involves a steep scree slope and more scrambling over boulders. Be careful doing this hike in windy conditions and not in the rain.
There are other longer ways to access the Knife’s 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.
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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 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 | Kaaterskill Falls, Catskills
Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip
Elevation Gain: 620 feet gain
Trailhead: Laurel House Road
Kaaterskill Falls, recommended by Taima of Poor In A Private Plane, is located in the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York. This is an excellent hike in New York for those looking for a moderately easy hike with big returns.
As one of the tallest two-tiered waterfalls in New York, with a 260-foot drop, it offers a fantastic view of the falls, which gives the opportunity to view the falls from two different perspectives.
Because the hike to Kaaterskill Falls is relatively short but rewarding, it provides a perfect mixture of accessibility and adventure, so it is excellent for all skill levels, including children.
The hike’s highlight is the observation platform, where you can feel the falls’ mist and hear the thundering water. As you stand there, surrounded by the immense beauty of the forest and the falls, it’s easy to see why this spot is epic.
From there, you can continue to either the upper or lower parts of the falls or extend your hike and do both.
After your hike, consider stopping by the nearby town of Tannersville for a bite. Last Chance is a great spot to warm up with a cup of their french onion soup or their homemade macaroni and cheese.
Kaaterskill Falls is an excellent hike to visit during a weekend trip to the Catskills or even on a day trip to nearby Hunter Mountain.
8 | 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 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.
Need a gift idea for the hiker in your life? Check out our latest Gift Guide for Hikers
9 | 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.
10 | 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 the 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
11 | 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-wracking.” Hiking along the ‘knife-edge’ between Mount Little Haystack, Lincoln, and Lafayette is sure to be a moment you’ll never forget.
12 | Table Rock, Dixville Notch State Park
Distance: 1.5 miles round trip
Elevation Gain: 770 feet
Trailhead: Table Rock Trail Head
Table Rock Trail, located in Dixville Notch State Park in northeast New Hampshire, is a moderately steep hike up to an absolutely stunning viewpoint shared by Stephanie of USA Adventurer.
After hiking through the woods, you’ll reach the summit, which is on a rather narrow, craggly rock with sheer sides and dropoffs.
The summit overlooks Lake Gloriette, which is surrounded by tree-filled hills. This hike is incredible anytime, but is just insane during fall time when the trees are filled with vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows. I’d highly recommend coming for sunset, when the evening glow is shining on the lake and the hills and you can even watch the sun drop behind the horizon.
While the view from the top is clearly superior, I do think it’s worth stopping at the pullout spots right by the lake – the views from the bottom are also really gorgeous!
This is a can’t-miss stop on a New England fall foliage road trip.
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.
13 | 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 switchbacks, and plenty of false summits, this is one of those strenuous hikes that will test your fitness level as well as your bravery. Get an early start because the scramble section gets crowded.
Best Hikes on the East Coast in Tennessee
Not exactly sure what area is officially considered the “East Coast” however we don’t think this blog is complete without mention of Tennessee, home of the most visited National Park in America: Great Smoky Mountains.
14 | Mount LeConte via Bullhead Trail, Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Distance: 14.5-mile loop
Elevation Gain: 3,913 feet
Trailhead: Rainbow Falls Trailhead
Known as the 3rd highest peak in the Smokies and near bustling Gatlinburg, Mount LeConte is both a prominent peak and a popular peak. Crowds are a common concern around here, but not if you hike the secluded route up via the Bullhead Trail. The Bullhead Trail approaches LeConte’s from the Northwest side and chances are, you’ll only run into a couple of other hikers, if any.
The views at the top are vast and expansive and though the trail is already a long day hike, it’s worth the extra half-mile detour to Myrtle Point where the views are much clearer than the High Top summit.
15 | Clingmans Dome, Smoky Mountains National Park
Distance: 1.3 miles roundtrip out and back
Elevation Gain: 337 feet
Trailhead: Clingmans Dome Trailhead
Kristen Czudak of Yonderlust Ramblings shares the Clingmans Dome Trail as one of the top East Coast hikes, both literally and figuratively. It is the highest point in the entire state of Tennessee, as well as the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the entire Appalachian Trail.
Though it is a shorter hike, the Clingmans Dome Trail packs in a lot in just over 1 mile, with stellar panoramas overlooking the Smoky Mountains, a surprisingly challenging uphill grade that gets your heart pumping, trail intersections with the iconic Appalachian Trail, and a stunning viewing platform at the summit for unobstructed, 360-degree views!
As an added bonus to hiking Clingmans Dome, there are dozens of additional hikes in the surrounding area of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as well as picnic areas, Visitor Centers, and the nearby bustling towns of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge, both full of attractions, lodging, and dining.
Wait! Before you go, find out your ADVENTURE Style 👇👇
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