The Best Long Hiking Trails in the United States
If you're trying to find yourself, forget someone, or just stick to your New Year’s resolution, you should go take a hike, quite literally. We’re not talking about a quick jaunt in the woods behind your house; we mean a true quest on one of the best long haul hiking trails in the United States.
Whether you're ready to tackle a trail that's 6,800 miles or 40, the U.S. is home to some of the most beautiful long-distance hikes in the world—many of which lead to some of the most stunning views in America.
There’s little more invigorating or satisfying than exploring the country by foot. Discover the East Coast via the lush paths of the Appalachian Trail, take in the wilderness of the West Coast from the Pacific Coast Trail, or head on a cross-country vacation via the American Discovery Trail. Whatever you choose, there’s a path for everyone.
Not sure where to start? Fear not. We've rounded up the top 10 long haul hiking trails in the country.
Read on for options that span from coast to coast. Plus, we tell you how much time you’ll need and what to expect along the way. All you have left to do is choose your favorite pack, hiking boots, and gear.
Distance: 1,025 miles
What to expect: The trail runs through Alaska, from Anchorage to Nome, and parts of it are now used for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Historically this system was established by Alaska natives to move goods across the area. The conditions are rugged and harsh, especially during winter months. During the summer months, access is limited to the mountains near Anchorage and the beach near Nome.
Tahoe Rim Trail
Distance: 165 miles
What to expect: As one of the most accessible long haul hikes in the country, this trail leads hikers around the rim of the Tahoe Basin. Ranging in difficulty from moderate to strenuous, the path will lead you through multiple terrains to beautiful viewpoints like Relay Peak.
American Discovery Trail
Distance: 6,800 miles
What to expect: This coast-to-coast trail will bring you through cities, towns, mountains, and valleys, across almost every terrain possible. On average it takes hikers over a year to complete the full trek from Delaware to California, and it will test even the most daring of adventurers.
California Coastal Trail
Distance: 1,200 miles
What to expect: Though this trail has technically not been completed (and may never be), hikers can piece together a path spanning from North to South down the California coastline, gaining access to some of the most beautiful views one can imagine.
Distance: 2,190 miles
What to expect: Part of the prestigious Triple Crown—along with the Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide Trail—the Appalachian Trail is a classic. It's comprised of mostly mountain paths, making it as difficult as it is satisfying.
Distance: 3,100 miles
What to expect: Also part of the Triple Crown, the CDT is one of the largest conservation efforts in American history. The path brings hikers from New Mexico to Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana through glacial valleys and diverse landscapes.
North Country Trail
Distance: 4,600 miles
What to expect: The NCT stretches across seven states, from New York to North Dakota, and passes through 12 national forests.
Ice Age Trail
Distance: 1,200 miles
What to expect: The IAT was sculpted by glaciers sweeping across the landscape more than 12,000 years ago and resides entirely within Wisconsin.
Pacific Crest Trail
Distance: 2,638 miles
What to expect: Also part of the Triple Crown, the PCT starts in Mexico and ends in Canada. Be aware that usually this hike takes the full snow-free season to hike and timing is key. Those making the trek should also be sure to include Mount Whitney on their climb for amazing views.
Distance: 1,000 miles
What to expect: Hike from the Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks on the MST, which brings you through three national parks as well as wildlife refuges, national forests, and numerous state parks in North Carolina.
Pacific Northwest Trail
Distance: 1,200 miles
What to expect: The PNT's difficult terrain spans three national parks and seven national forests, and crosses mountain ranges before leading hikers from Glacier National Park through Idaho and Washington.