When you’re planning your next backpacking trip, it can be tough to know where to start. Sure, you could peruse the internet or flip through travel magazines, but what if you didn’t have to? In this article, we’ve compiled a list of ten epic backpacking trips in the U.S., perfect for anyone looking for an adventure. From the majestic Sierra Nevada range to quaint Appalachian villages, these destinations will have your packing boots filling up quickly. So get ready to hit the trail!
The Cascades are a series of mountains in the northwestern United States. The range is approximately 150 miles long and features both high peaks and deep canyons. The Cascades are home to many endemic plant and animal species, as well as many endemic habitat types. Backpacking trips in the Cascades can be challenging but offer amazing opportunities for outdoor recreation, including hiking, camping, mountaineering, skiing, climbing, and kayaking.
The Rocky Mountains are a massive mountain range that runs east-west across the United States from Arizona to New York. The Rockies occupy most of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, as well as parts of Utah and New Mexico. They're incredibly diverse, ranging from snow-capped peaks in the highlands to arid deserts in the southeast corner. There are over 14 million acres of public land within the Rockies National Park alone!
The best way to explore these mountains is by backpacking. Backpacking is a great way to see the wilderness without having to deal with crowds or heavy gear. You can hike short distances (3-5 miles) or long distances (10-25 miles). You can also take day hikes or multi-day trips. Backpacking is a great way to experience different landscapes and meet amazing people!
Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most popular national parks in the United States. The park spans over 8,000 acres and features a wide variety of terrain, including soaring peaks, lush valleys, and dramatic canyons. There are over 600 miles of hiking trails that wind their way through the park and provide plenty of opportunity to take in its natural beauty.
Some of the most popular trails include the Appalachian Trail, which starts just outside the park boundaries and winds its way past some of the most iconic views in Appalachia; Mount Mitchell State Park’s 5,684-foot summit is home to North America’s highest mountain peak. And for hikers looking for a more challenging trail experience, try exploring Priest Lake or Cosby Campgrounds.
In addition to hiking, Smoky Mountains National Park is also home to several other activities such as fishing, horseback riding, rafting, birdwatching, and photography. So whether you’re looking for a day trip or an extended stay in this gorgeous park, there’s sure to be something for you!
The Pacific Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a region of the United States that stretches from British Columbia in the north to California in the south and from Oregon in the west to Alaska in the east. The region is home to some of America's most spectacular scenery, including mountains, forests, and lakes. There are dozens of memorable backpacking trips available in the Pacific Northwest, ranging from short loops to extensive overnights. Whether you're looking for a challenging wilderness experience or a relaxing weekend getaway, there's something for everyone in the Pacific Northwest.
Some of the best backpacking trails in the Pacific Northwest include:
- The Continental Divide Trail runs for 2,650 miles through much of Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana; it's one of North America's longest backpacking trails.
- The Oregon Coast Trail is a 234-mile trail that hugs the coastline from Brookings to Florence; it's one of America's most popular backpackers routes.
- The Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument covers about 1,500 square miles and includes some of Washington State's most beautiful mountain ranges; hiking trails wind their way through this rugged terrain.
The Great Lakes
The Great Lakes are a group of five lakes in North America: Superior, Huron, Michigan, Erie, and Ontario. The lakes are the largest group of freshwater lakes on Earth, containing 20% of the world's freshwater. The total area is 2,160,000 square miles (5,584,000 km2), making them about twice the size of France. They're also home to more than 1 billion people and a variety of wildlife.
The lakes were formed by the last Ice Age about 20,000 years ago. Over time they've been filled with sand and silt brought down by rivers flowing into them from the Appalachian Mountains. Today there are still several small rivers flowing into the lakes, but they're mostly used for irrigation. The biggest river flowing into the lakes is the St. Lawrence River which flows eastward from Canada into Lake Ontario.
There are a number of great backpacking trips you can take in the Great Lakes region:
- Superior National Forest: This forest covers about 350 square miles (945 sq km) in Minnesota and Wisconsin and includes portions of both large and small bodies of water: Blue Jay Lake, Thoreau Creek Reservoir, Rice Lake Reservoir, and Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge. There's plenty to explore here including trails that run along creeks and streams as well as through old-growth forests with towering trees.
- Mackinac National Park: This park is located on Mackinac Island in Michigan and covers more than 1,700 square miles (4,900 sq km). The island is surrounded by water on three sides and there are trails that run through the park leading to many different viewpoints. There's also a number of lakes and ponds in the park that you can explore on foot or by boat.
- Apostle Islands National Lakeshore: This national lakeshore is located in Wisconsin and includes eight islands including Isle Royale which is the largest island in the Great Lakes region. There are hiking trails that lead to beautiful overlooks and along the shores of several lakes.
- Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore: This national lakeshore is located in Michigan and covers more than 200 square miles (508 sq km). The dunes here are some of the tallest in the United States, reaching heights of more than 500 feet (150 meters). There are several trails that wind through the dunes, providing access to a variety of different ecosystems.
The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail extends for 2,181 miles from Georgia to Maine and is the longest National Scenic Trail in the United States. It was originally conceived in 1921 as a footpath for hikers and backpackers. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy manages the trail and provides information about the trail, permits, and services.
To hike the entire Appalachian Trail, you would need to purchase a permit for each day you plan to hike, carry enough food and water for your entire journey, and be prepared for extreme weather conditions including blizzards and high altitude sickness. Some of the most scenic sections of the trail are located in North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee's Grand Canyon National Park, Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest, New Hampshire's White Mountains National Forest, Maine's Mount Katahdin National Monument, and Georgia's Chattahoochee National Forest.
If you're interested in hiking or backpacking on the Appalachian Trail but don't want to commit to an entire journey, some of the best shorter hikes are located near major cities such as Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Nashville, Chattanooga, Birmingham, and Huntsville.
The Texas Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country is one of the most beautiful and rugged areas in the United States. The landscape ranges from rolling hills to sharp peaks, and the weather is always temperate and fair. There are plenty of opportunities for backpacking, hiking, and camping in this area, making it an ideal place for a long-distance hike or camping trip.
Florida Keys National Park
Florida Keys National Park is located in southern Florida on the island of Key West. The park is made up of over 900 islands and reefs, with trails that meander through hardwood forests, coastal prairies, mangroves, salt marshes, and coral reefs. The varied topography and ecology makes for incredible backpacking opportunities. Hiking the well-maintained loop trails provides visitors with a rewarding experience that can be enjoyed by all levels of backpackers.
The park features both easy and difficult hikes, so there is definitely something for everyone to enjoy. For the beginner backpacker or those new to hiking, the park offers short walks that are perfect for exploring different parts of the park without getting too tired. Experienced backpackers can take on longer hikes that will challenge their stamina but offer breathtaking views along the way.
Overall, Florida Keys National Park is an incredible place to explore as a backpacking trip. With its diverse environment and easy-to-follow trails, anyone can enjoy a great hike without having any difficulty level concerns!
Zion National Park
Zion National Park is an incredible place to hike, bike, or kayak through stunning scenery. The park spans over 2,000 square miles and offers plenty of options for those looking for a challenging backpacking trip. Whether you choose to backpack the entire park or just hit some of its highlights, be sure to pack your patience and good spirits as you journey into this stunning American landscape.
Some of the most popular trails in Zion include the Emerald Pools and Angels Landing trails which traverse through narrow canyons and high-elevation plateaus respectively. For hikers looking for a more moderate challenge, trails such as the Mittens Trail offer scenic views while providing plenty of opportunities for rest and relaxation. Bicyclists will love riding on some of Zion's renowned mountain biking trails such as Angel's Landing or the Bright Angel Trail which wind their way through beautiful canyons and valleys. Kayakers will find plenty to explore on the Clear Lake, Spring Wash, and Red Buttes Lake areas which offer crystal clear waters with a variety of exciting shoreline features to explore.
If you're looking for an epic backpacker adventure, these ten trips in the U.S. are definitely worth considering. Each one is full of stunning scenery and interesting history, making them perfect for anyone who loves outdoor exploration. So if you're itching to get out there on the trail, be sure to add one (or more) of these trips to your list!