With summer almost upon us, it’s time to grab your hiking boots and head for the hills. Here we celebrate six of the best long distance hiking trails across the U.S.
The Long Trail, Vermont
Established in 1930, the oldest walking trail in the U.S. travels 272 miles along the ridge of the Green Mountains, spanning the Massachusetts/Vermont state line to the Canadian border. On this rugged expedition you’ll encounter hardwood forests, rushing streams, and steep climbs. The best hiking conditions occur from mid-September to early October, when you’ll avoid the notorious midsummer black flies and the late May/early June ‘mud season’ caused by mountain snowmelt. If you’re camping, take your pick of 70 backcountry campsites en route. And whether it takes you one hike or several years, once you complete the 272 miles you’ll be crowned an official End to Ender, with a certificate to prove it.
The Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail is a whopping 2,663 mile odyssey that begins in California’s Mojave Desert, 20 miles from the border with Mexico, travels north across Oregon and Washington and finishes at the Canadian border. The long-distance trail takes in seven national parks and abundant stunning topography including the high peaks of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges, Yosemite and Lassen Volcanic Park. You need approximately four to six months to tackle the whole walk. Alternatively, opt for a shorter segment, such as the popular John Muir Trail (see below).
The John Muir Trail
One of the most famous hikes in the U.S., this 210 mile trail journeys through California’s Yosemite National Park to the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the 48 lower United States. John Muir was an eminent 19th century naturalist and environmental trailblazer who energetically lobbied to develop national parks and protect areas of outstanding beauty across the U.S. The trail pays testament to his efforts, showcasing superb natural landscapes of gorges, lakes, and imposing 13,000 and 14,000 feet high peaks. Even at altitude, the region is blessed with a sunny, mild climate. The walk takes about three weeks, during which you’ll encounter big hitters such as Yosemite, the Sierra Nevada’s Ansel Adams Wilderness, and Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks, where you might spot a bear or cougar amidst the magnificent sequoia trees.
The Appalachian Trail
Extending from Georgia’s Springer Mountain to Mount Katahdin in Maine, the Appalachian Trail is the longest hiking-only path in the world. At 2193 miles it traverses 14 states and passes through spectacular wilderness including the Great Smokey Mountains and the Blue Ridge Mountains. A quarter of the entire trail runs through Virginia, whilst the highest peak is Clingman’s Dome in Tennessee, at 6643 feet. You’d need six to seven months to complete the hike in its entirety. Popular shorter sections include the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia, or if you’re looking for an easy option, the banks of the Potomac River in Maryland offer some of the trail’s gentlest terrain.
The Continental Divide Trail
A mammoth trail spanning 3,100 miles from Montana’s Glacier National Park to west of El Paso on the Mexican border. The route showcases the mountains that divide the waters of the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. Higher, more remote and less frequented than the Appalachian and Pacific Crest routes, the trail passes through Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. You’ll experience wonderfully diverse scenery, including volcanic geysers in Yellowstone National Park, the craggy peaks of the Tetons, and the spectacular Rocky Mountain National Park. Here you’ll journey through pine forests then climb above the treeline for some incredible high altitude panoramas at 12,300 feet.
The Ozark Highlands Trail
Arkansas’ Ozark mountain region is the highest mountain range in the Midwest and this scenic 270 mile route features 200 miles of its rolling heights. Unlike some higher altitude walks, this mountain trail can be enjoyed all year round, and is especially popular from autumn through to springtime. The route traverses the beautiful and rugged Boston Mountains, then follows the picturesque Buffalo River past soaring limestone bluffs to a secluded 15 mile stretch of the Lower Buffalo Wilderness. Keep your eyes peeled for deer and black bears, as well as herds of elk grazing by the riverbanks.
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