Whether you are an experienced backpacker who has already ticked off many long-distance hikes or are brand new to the idea of carrying everything you need for days on your back into the wilderness, the point is: backpacking can be something for everyone . You just have to find the right path for you. (Before you head out, read up on the basics of backpacking and make sure you have the right gear.) Maybe you bring young children and hike a mile or two a day, or you go quick and easy and lay dozens of miles back before sunset. It does not matter. We’ve compiled a list of some of our most popular classic backpacking routes in the United States. Record all or part of it.
Art Loeb Trail, North Carolina
(Photo: Courtesy North Carolina)
The Art Loeb Trail isn’t an easy trail – it climbs to four 6,000-foot peaks – but at just 30 miles, it’s doable in a few days. Most hike it in two to five. Named for a Carolina Mountain Club activist, this trail is one of the most popular routes in the Pisgah National Forest, but still requires a bit of navigation on the less marked sections of the trail. Hike back and forth for a shorter distance or add a connecting trail to make a loop of it. The Blue Ridge Hiking Company offers guided four-day hikes on the Art Loeb Trail (from $ 705) or book a shuttle with Pura Vida Adventures (from $ 125).
Tahoe Rim Trail, California and Nevada
(Photo: Courtesy Tahoe Rim Trail Assoc.)
At 165 miles, the Tahoe Rim Trail is a beautiful long distance route around the ridge line of the Lake Tahoe Basin that most hikers complete in 10 to 14 days. Or tackle just part of it – the 32-mile stretch from Echo Lakes to Barker Pass on the lake’s west bank passes through the stunning Desolation Wilderness and makes for a great two or three day trip. (This is the only section of the trail that requires overnight camping permits.) The best time of year is July through September. The Tahoe Rim Trail Association runs guided multi-day hikes (starting at $ 1,100).
Long way, Vermont
(Photo: Courtesy Amy Potter)
The Long Trail, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States, follows the ridge of the Green Mountains for 272 miles with 70 designated backcountry campsites. Allow 20-30 days for a hike along the way, or just pick a section: the 20-mile stretch from Mad Tom Notch Road in the Peruvian city of Vermont to Route 140 in Wallingford doesn’t have many crowds for great views on Little Rock Pond and Griffith Lake, and can be done in a weekend. Early fall is the best time of year to dodge the summer crowds and catch colorful foliage. Don’t sleep in a tent every night? Inn to Inn organizes self-guided hikes that include overnight stays in boutique hotels near the trail, or Wildland Trekking organizes guided hikes in the fall (from $ 2,690 USD), including overnight stays in B & Bs.
Kalalau Trail, Kauai
(Photo: Courtesy HTA)
Not for the inexperienced, the 22-mile Kalalau Trail in Kauai’s Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park is several hundred feet of elevation gain on craggy trails with sheer, sheer cliffs above the ocean. Your reward is reaching Kalalau Beach, a secluded stretch of sand at the end of the trail, where you’ll camp in an oceanfront forest next to a waterfall. Swimming on the beach is not recommended due to the strong current. Before you leave, be sure to check the current trail, weather, stream, and ocean conditions. Most people do this hike in two days, but you can add an extra day or two to hang out in Kalalau. If you are hiking beyond a day trip to Hanakapi’ai Valley, you will need an overnight stay permit. Reservations for these are currently possible 30 days in advance and can be booked quickly.
Greenstone Ridge Trail, Michigan
(Photo: Posnov / iStock)
The 41-mile Greenstone Ridge Trail is the longest path in Isle Royale National Park and runs from the southwest tip of the island to the northeast corner. It leads over 1,394 foot Mount Desort, the highest point on this off-the-radar Park. You need a free permit for all overnight stays in the park’s hinterland, but you don’t need to reserve in advance – you can pick it up when you get there. Fast hikers can cover the entire trail in three days or take more time to look for moose and take in the views of Lake Superior. The Sierra Club runs guided seven-day hikes (starting at $ 1,425) along this trail for most years.
Teton Crest Trail, Wyoming
(Photo: Dean_Fikar / iStock)
This iconic backpack route leads through glaciated granite peaks and high alpine lakes in the Grand Teton National Park as well as through the Bridger Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. It covers approximately 40 miles and is typically done in three to five days. You’ll need elusive backcountry permits to camp at any of the 11 designated campsites along the Teton Crest Trail. There are a handful of ways to access this path and several options for start and end points. Many people start at Phillips Trailhead and end in Paintbrush Canyon in the National Park, or you can start your hike with an elevator from the tram at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort that takes you onto the Granite Canyon Trail that leads to Teton Crest. Bear-resistant food canisters are required. Teton Backcountry Guides conducts guided multi-day hikes (from USD 795) on shorter sections in summer or on skis in winter.
Three Sisters Loop, Oregon
(Photo: Courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
The Three Sisters Loop is approximately 75 km long and runs through alpine lakes and meadows filled with wildflowers and towering over volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. The three sisters themselves are among the five highest peaks in Oregon. In midsummer there are crowds of people on popular day hike sections, but for most of the hike you have the spectacular view to yourself. With some variations of the loop, you can customize the route to suit your needs. The hike intersects parts of the Pacific Crest Trail and offers great views of Mount Bachelor. Hike Oregon plans a custom itinerary for you (starting at $ 75) that includes a detailed map and route, as well as the location to camp each night.
Edge to Edge, Grand Canyon, Arizona
(Photo: Courtesy of OARS)
Hiking rim to rim on the Grand Canyon is a classic adventure on the bucket list. Begin on the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim and hike a relentless 14 miles and 6,000 vertical feet down to the canyon floor and the banks of the Colorado River. From there, pitch a tent at Bright Angel Campground or Cottonwood Campground, which requires a back country permit posted four months in advance. Or if you plan well in advance, spend the night in a cabin at Phantom Ranch (from $ 172), where bookings are full for a year. From the bottom, it’s a long, steep incline of nine miles to the south rim via the Bright Angel Trail. Summer is hot here, so go in late spring or early fall. Unless you want to turn around and repeat what you just did, schedule a ride on the Trans Canyon Shuttle. Or, let someone take care of the logistics and join a guided five-day rim-to-rim walking tour (from $ 2,699) that includes a stay at the Phantom Ranch.
Main Photo: Courtesy of North Carolina