The Best States in America for Hiking 

Nadia Podrabinek Nadia Podrabinek

Written by Nadia Podrabinek

Best states for hiking in the US

My team and I analyzed five factors that we believe contribute to an optimal hiking experience, and gave each of the 50 US states a score out of 100 in order to create our Hiking Index. 

The factors analyzed within the index included the number of hiking trails and waterfalls relative to state area, the percentage of each state covered by national and state parks, as well as the average yearly temperature and rainfall. 

So, here are the results:

  • Connecticut ranks as the best state in America for hiking, scoring highly for its large proportion of hiking trails, waterfalls and state and national park coverage. 
  • Massachusetts ranks as the second-best state, offering the highest number of hiking trails relative to state size. 
  • Hawaii ranked as the third best state for hiking, and offers the highest average annual temperature. 

What people say on Reddit

It’s really hard to beat NH. Sure you don’t get crazy elevation but there’s so much variety and there’s challenges for every skill level. From short day hikes to, “hey, wanna destroy our legs today bro” hikes like singke day presidential traverse or pemi loop.


WNC…by far! I lived in Candler, NC for three years and was constantly hiking…new trailhead every time. If you get a heavy snow in the area, they usually shut down the Blue Ridge Parkway which turns into a looong snow shoeing or skiing trail!


We live in East Tn and there is the GSMNP and a dozen or so national and state parks/forests with some great hiking. We actually don’t hike the Smokies that often because we like taking the dogs. And there are tons of nice trails. The combination of elevation gains in the Appalachian range and foothills and lots of water mean beautiful trails, waterfalls, wildlife, flowers etc.


New Hampshire hands down, you have easy hills and forests and then sharp exposed ridges, waterfalls, mountain lakes, it’s amazing. Also personally Mt Washington is one of my favorite hikes from Huntington ravine to see a very diverse terrain within a day



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The 10 best US states for hiking 

Rank State Hiking Index Score / 100 
1. Connecticut 73.98 
2. Massachusetts 72.31 
3. Hawaii 72.09 
4. California 70.79 
5. New Jersey 69.49 
6. Arizona 64.25 
7. Washington 62.45 
8. New Hampshire 61.55 
9. Utah 61.22 
10. Rhode Island 60.65 

Connecticut ranked as the best state for hiking in the US, with a Hiking Index Score of 73.98 out of 100 across the five examined factors. The Constitution State boasts an impressive number of hiking trails in proportion to its size. In fact, it comes second only to Massachusetts with whopping 1,455 hiking trails per 1,000 square miles. 

The Nutmeg State also has the third-highest state and national park coverage, accounting for 8.49% of its total area, and the fifth-highest number of waterfalls relative to its size, with 30 waterfalls per 1,000 square miles.  

Scoring 72.31 out of 100, Massachusetts ranked as the second-best state for hiking in the US. It was found to offer 2,221 hiking trails per 1,000 square miles which was the highest figure out of any state. The state also features 14 waterfalls per 1,000 square miles and 5.01% of its total area is covered by state and national parks. 

Hawaii was found to be the third-best state for hiking in the US, with a score of 72.09 out of 100. The Aloha State has the warmest average annual temperature at 73.5°F and the highest number of waterfalls relative to its size, with an impressive 85 waterfalls per 1,000 square miles. It also has the second-highest percentage of total area covered by state and national parks, at 9.46%. 

California is fourth on the list, scoring 69.49 out of 100 across the five factors. The Golden state offers 107 hiking trails and seven waterfalls per 1,000 square miles and has one of the lowest yearly average rainfall at 22.3 inches. A respectable 7.63% of California’s total state area is covered by state and national parks, meaning it ranks fifth highest for this factor. 

New Jersey ranked as the fifth best state for hiking in the US, with a Hiking Index Score of 69.49 out of 100. The state has 650 hiking trails per 1,000 square miles, meaning it ranks fourth-highest for this factor. It also has nine waterfalls per 1,000 square miles and 8.14% of its total area is covered by state and national parks. The Garden State also offers a balmy average temperature of 53.6°F year round. 

Surprisingly, Arizona is only the sixth-best state for hiking in the US, with a Hiking Index Score of 64.25. It has the second-lowest average rainfall behind Nevada, with 11.6 inches annually and an average temperature of 61.1°F. Home to the Grand Canyon, Arizona offers 52 hiking trails and one waterfall per 1,000 square miles, and 2.17% of its total area is covered by state and national parks. 

Washington ranked seventh with a score of 62.45 out of 100. The Evergreen State has 140 hiking trails and 47 waterfalls per 1,000 square miles, ranking second for the latter factor. It receives an average of 43.2 inches of rainfall annually, and 4.18% of its total area is covered by state and natural parks. 

With a score of 61.55 out of 100, New Hampshire ranks as the eighth-best state for hiking in the US. The Granite State offers 482 hiking trails and the third-highest number of waterfalls relative to its size with 40 per 1,000 square miles. It has an average temperature of 44°F, yearly average rainfall of 48 inches, and 1.40% total national and state park coverage. 

Utah ranked as the ninth-best state overall for hiking, with a score of 61.22 out of 100. The state offers 87 hiking trails per 1,000 square miles and 1.86% state and national park coverage. The landlocked state has one waterfall per 1,000 miles and the third-lowest annual rainfall, at an average of 13.5 inches. 

Rhode Island is the tenth-best US state for hiking, scoring 60.65 out of 100. Despite being the smallest state in the US by area, Rhode Island has the third-highest number of hiking trails relative to its size, with 1,131 hiking trails per 1000 square miles. The Ocean State also has two waterfalls per 1000 square miles and 49 inches of rainfall annually. 

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My considerations

Photo by Unsplash+ / Ahmet Kurt

This data offers a fascinating insight into the best destinations in the US for lovers of the great outdoors. Connecticut’s emergence as the best state for hiking may appear rather surprising, however, its large proportion of trails and park coverage means that hikers of all skill levels are likely to find a trail that caters to their preferences across the beautiful New England state. 

When planning a trip, it is important to consider other factors that can greatly impact the quality of your journey. Climate and the presence of natural landmarks are just as vital to a successful hiking trip, so taking these elements into account, ensures visitors are able to enjoy a well-rounded experience.


Data from the US Census Bureau, National Park Service, Trailforks, World Waterfall Database and the National Climatic Data Centre was used to create a Hiking Index Score for all 50 states. The index comprises five factors that may be important for hiking trips. 

These factors were; number of hiking trails per 1,000 square miles, number of waterfalls per 1,000 square miles, average yearly temperature, average yearly rainfall, and the percentage of each state covered by state and national parks.  

Each of these factors was scored with each state being able to score a maximum total of 100. Some indicators were transformed using the log transformation to reduce skew in their distributions, and the figures for hiking trails were weighted at 2x the other factors. Rainfall was scored inversely so that lower levels were given a higher score. 

The complete data table

Rank State State area (sq miles) Average yearly rainfall (inches) Average temperature (°F) State & National Park coverage (% of state) Number of hiking trails (per 1,000 sq miles) Number of waterfalls (per 1,000 sq miles)  Hiking Index Score / 100 
1.Connecticut4,841.40 49 49.9 8.49% 1,455  30.363 73.98 
2.Massachusetts7,798.90 49 48.75 5.01%  2,221  13.720 72.31 
3.Hawaii6,420.70 43 73.5 9.46%  62  84.570 72.09 
4.California155,812.80 22.3 59 7.63% 107  6.777 70.79 
5.New Jersey7,352.90 48 53.6 8.14% 650  9.112 69.49 
6.Arizona113,623.10 11.6 61.05 2.17% 52  1.171 64.25 
7.Washington66,437.50 43.2 47.3 4.18% 140  47.037 62.45 
8.New Hampshire8,951.00 48 44 1.40% 482  40.331 61.55 
9.Utah82,355.10 13.5 49.2 1.86% 87  1.202 61.22 
10.Rhode Island1,033.60 49 50.65 1.00% 1,131  1.935 60.65 
11.Colorado103,610.10 18 46.2 1.02% 79  5.434 59.11 
12.Vermont9,215.40 46 43.05 0.88% 285  39.282 57.82 
13.Maryland9,708.60 45 55.4 1.63% 174  2.163 56.75 
14.New York47,111.30 44 46 1.16% 162  20.038 56.72 
15.Wyoming97,063.00 16 42.25 4.12% 21  5.357 56.68 
16.Delaware1,948.00 46 56.2 2.09%  207  0.513 55.68 
17.Michigan56,591.00 33.9 45.15 2.31% 75  4.789 55.54 
18.Maine30,836.60 46 41.8 3.92% 85  15.728 55.01 
19.North Carolina48,607.40 51 59.55 1.57% 55  18.125 54.97 
20.Pennsylvania44,729.90 45 49.45 1.03% 126  7.691 54.07 
21.Virginia39,471.70 46 56 1.05% 75  4.712 52.91 
22.Montana145,509.20 18.9 42.55 1.21% 32  3.306 52.87 
23.Tennessee41,227.10 55 58.45 1.72% 38  16.955 51.62 
24.Illinois55,499.00 40.7 52.65 1.41% 88  0.775 51.61 
25.Ohio40,847.90 41.1 51.65 0.77% 56  6.904 51.27 
26. Florida53,633.70 54 71.4 7.42% 34  0.112 51.13 
27.Oregon95,962.60 32.1 47.9 0.46% 38  16.840 51.11 
28.Wisconsin54,153.10 34.1 43.85 2.02% 36  3.527 50.59 
29.Texas261,193.90 28.6 65.8 0.97% 18  0.360 50.31 
30.West Virginia24,034.80 47 52.6 0.96% 46  8.862 49.89 
31.Kentucky39,480.90 50 56.3 1.76% 21  17.046 49.68 
32.South Carolina30,055.80 48 63.35 0.55% 21  11.978 48.55 
33.New Mexico121,280.10 13.8 54.45 0.18%  18  1.072 47.85 
34.Minnesota79,604.80 28.6 41.65 0.95%  29  1.821 46.88 
35.Georgia57,701.10 50 64.15 0.23% 37  6.291 46.66 
36.Idaho82,623.30 23.7 43.9 0.16% 42  4.006 46.66 
37.Nevada109,831.30 10.2 51 0.30% 15  0.219 45.60 
38.Indiana35,817.00 44 52.35 0.82% 20  3.909 45.07 
39.Arkansas52,023.80 53 61 0.18% 28  8.746 43.27 
40.South Dakota75,789.60 21.2 45.65 0.78% 9  0.132 39.63 
41.Alabama50,633.20 57 63.6 0.15% 24  2.330 38.81 
42.Missouri68,727.30 44 55.25 0.34% 13  0.233 35.79 
43.Oklahoma68,577.80 36.4 60.3 0.13% 5  0.525 34.07 
44.Iowa55,838.90 35.6 48.3 0.21% 12  0.233 33.70 
45.Nebraska76,796.20 24.2 49.4 0.32% 3  0.143 32.13 
46.North Dakota68,976.50 18.8 41 0.22% 12  0.014 31.54 
47.Alaska570,865.80 37.6 27.95 9.81% 2  0.589 31.23 
48.Kansas81,736.80 29 55.05 0.06% 4  0.379 30.00 
49.Mississippi46,913.10 59 64.15 0.08% 7  0.362 27.00 
50.Louisiana43,193.10 60 67.1 0.12% 2  0.116 21.94 
Best states for hiking in the US

My Other Posts About Hiking


21 replies on “The Best States in America for Hiking ”

If you’re hiking in Montana, bear spray is a must-have. The trails in Glacier National Park are in bear country.

Great advice! Bear spray is essential for safety in bear country like Glacier National Park. Thanks for the tip! 🙂

Great article! The additional tips on the best time to visit and nearby attractions are very helpful for planning a trip

Thank you for the positive feedback! I’m glad you found the additional tips helpful for trip planning. 🙂

Hey Marcus! I’m thrilled you found the list fantastic! Happy hiking and exploring those new destinations!

I recommend starting with trails labeled as “easy” or “beginner-friendly” in your local area. These are usually less strenuous and perfect for beginners.

Hi, Nadia! I’m planning a hiking trip to Washington next summer. Any recommendations for trails with stunning vistas?

Hi there! Washington offers some incredible hiking. Consider checking out the Pacific Crest Trail, Mount Rainier’s Skyline Trail, and the Enchantments for stunning vistas. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

I recently explored some trails in Utah. The diverse landscapes from dense forests to rocky canyons were amazing. What is your favorite trail there?

Hi Justin. I don’t have personal experiences or preferences, but Utah offers many stunning trails. Some popular ones include the Zion Narrows, Bryce Canyon’s Navajo Loop, and Arches National Park’s Delicate Arch.

I had an unforgettable hiking experience in Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park. The views were simply breathtaking!

Has anyone tried hiking in multiple states within a short time span? I’d love to hear about your itinerary

We are avid hikers – from Kilimanjaro and the Alps to Mt. Washington and the Rockies and can tell you these are silly metrics. Thus you have silly results. Hike in NH someday – the licence plates are almost all from Mass. NOBODY goes to Connecticut for hiking. Seriously – you need to readjust this “study” or just take this post down.

If you’re hiking in Montana, bear spray is a must-have. The trails in Glacier National Park are in bear country.

Absolutely, bear spray is essential for safety in bear country. Thanks for the valuable tip! 🙂

I’m sorry, but this is the most absurd list imaginable. It is simply comical. No serious hiker would choose Connecticut, NJ, or Mass over states in the intermountain west, California, or PNW. When you evaluated Utah, did you consider that a vast majority of the land is BLM land that is available for hiking/camping, etc., but not an actual park? Seriously. I went 30 min from my house today in SLC (a major metropolitan area with everything you’d want in a big city) with the dog and hiked from ~7500 feet to ~9500 feet. I’ve lived in the east, and it simply can not compare.

From California here, but living in Massachusetts the past 5 years. I agree with Kristen. Massachusetts and Connecticut suck. All trails are boring, densely wooded, with no views.

I think “elevation” should be one of the top 5 factors. Way more universal and definable than “waterfalls” LOL. Highest point in CT is 2400 feet which is 800 ft. less than the hills behind my childhood home in the Bay Area California. 10/10 views are most important in hike they don’t exist the same way on the east coast vs the western US.

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