With 63 National Parks, 155 National Forests, and 20 National Grasslands, the United States is abundant with untouched wilderness to explore. Possessing world-renowned thru-hikes, from the Appalachian Trail Pacific Crest Trail to the Continental Divide Trail, there are a variety of trails and topographic features to explore. Indulge yourself in the beauty and satiate your wanderlust as you head out into the backcountry. Which one of these hikes will you explore?

The map of best long-distance hikes in the United States
The map of best long-distance hikes in the United States
  1. Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is one of the world’s most famous thru-hikes. Stretching over 2190.0mi from Georgia to Maine, this epic journey has earned the title of the longest footpath in the world. Exhibiting the diversity of the United States’ ecologies and topographies, this long-haul trek travels through a myriad of environments, from charming towns, exposed meadows, dense woodlands, farmlands, and up to alpine summits.

Appalachian Trail - Georgia
Appalachian Trail - Georgia

Reserved for intrepid spirits, this epic expedition demands determination and stamina. The Appalachian Trail or AT, though wanders through primitive terrain, is well-managed. With the help of volunteers, there are hundreds of designated campsites, shelters, and water sources along the way. Note while hiking the trail is free of charge, there are several expenses to consider when tackling this technical trek.

Check out this incredible personal Appalachian Trail experience.

Location: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and Georgia
Distance: 2190.0mi
Days Recommended: 5-7 months
When to do: Star March

  1. Pacific Crest Trail

Immerse yourself in the high country along the Pacific Crest Trail. This epic adventure boasts awe-inspiring scenery—stretching over 2653.0mi from the Mexican border up to the Canadian border. Explore 25 National Forests and 7 National Parks from the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range to the Cascade Mountain Range. Revealing the grandeur of the United States Pacific Crest, this route has been coined one of the most scenic thru-hikes on the continent.

Pacific Crest Trail - Sierra Nevada Mountain Range
Pacific Crest Trail - Sierra Nevada Mountain Range

Warranting endurance and determination, hiking this route from start to finish has the equivalent elevation change to climbing Mount Everest more than 10 times-wow! Nevertheless, this taxing trek demands proper preparation and planning, which can be a daunting task. Refer to our extensive guide to the Pacific Crest Trail, and let us take some weight off your shoulders!

Location: California, Oregon, Washington
Distance: 2653.0mi
Days Recommended: 4-6 months
When to do: Northbound: Start April / Southbound: Start June

  1. John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail is one of the most popular backpacking expeditions in the US. This beautiful adventure offers an unparalleled experience, traveling from Yosemite National Park up to Mount Whitney, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States. Named after the famous naturalist, much of the John Muir Trail wanders along a section Pacific Crest Trail.

John Muir Trail - Yosemite National Park
John Muir Trail - Yosemite National Park

Stretching from the bottom of Yosemite Valley through the alpine scenery to Mount Whitney, this revered long-haul hike has earned its title as the most famous trail in the US. Requiring a nearly-month-long dedication, this high-altitude trek demands stamina. Experienced thru-hikers can typically complete this feat in 3 weeks–-check out our guide to the John Muir Trail for conditioning suggestions and equipment requirements. Note permits are necessary and can be a hassle to get your hands on, check out the PCT Association website for tips and tricks.

Location: California
Distance: 211.0mi
Days Recommended: 2-4 weeks
When to do: June-September

  1. Continental Divide Trail

Extending from the Mexican border into Canada, the Continental Divide Trail passes through 5 states along the way. Traveling through diverse topographies and boasting awe-inspiring panoramas, this trek is incredibly picturesque. From the deserts of New Mexico to the Rockies of Colorado, this technical trek warrants an exhausting experience.

Continental Divide Trail
Continental Divide Trail

Indulge yourself in the beautiful, motivating landscapes as you wander along the CDT. Reserved for intrepid adventurers, this long-distance passage requires at least a 4-month commitment. Though there is no permit for the entirety of the hike, various wilderness areas require a backcountry permit—refer to the CDT Coalition website for additional details and prices. Be prepared to rough it, most trekkers disperse camp along this route.

Location: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
Distance: 3028.0mi
Days Recommended: 5-7 months
When to do: Start April

  1. Long Trail Vermont

The Vermont Long Trail is the oldest long-distance continuous hike in the US—established in 1910. Traveling from the southern terminus at the Massachusetts border up to the Canadian border, this scenic footpath clocks in over 272.0mi through the Green Mountain State. Boasting breathtaking scenes of rolling mountains, lush meadowlands, dense forestlands, and wildlife, the panoramas along this route are unparalleled. Traveling along rugged and technical terrain, experience thru-hikers often take just shy of a month to complete this trek.

Long Trail Vermont
Long Trail Vermont

Managed by the Green Mountain Club (GMC), there is no permit associated with the Long Trail. There are roughly 6 dozen backcountry campsites managed by the GMC: campsites, shelters, or lodges—which do come at a cost– typically $5USD per night.

Location: Vermont
Distance: 272.0mi
Days Recommended: 20-30 days
When to do: June-October

  1. Teton Crest Trail

The Teton Crest Trail is 40.0mi chock full of show-stopping vistas. At the top of many adventurers’ bucket lists, this scenic route showcases the beauty of the Grand Teton Mountains, offering views of towering granite peaks, glacier-carved canyons, alpine lakes, and wildflower meadows. Though shorter than other thru-hikes in the country, the Teton Crest Trail is no walk in the park, with a peak elevation of 10695ft.

A Hiker walking the Teton Crest Trail
A Hiker walking the Teton Crest Trail

Stretching from the Phillips Pass trailhead from Teton Pass and to String Lake, this route travels through the bear country—so backcountry permits are necessary. Request your permit online and reserve your campsites in advance. This epic excursion boasts an unreal experience—what are you waiting for?

Location: Wyoming
Distance: 40.0mi
Days Recommended: 4-6 days
When to do: July-September

  1. Colorado Trail

Immerse yourself in the high country along the Colorado Trail. Extending 486.0mi from Waterton Canyon to Durango, this epic expedition winds over craggy 13000ft+ peaks and passes through the Centennial State. Those trekking the entirety of the Colorado Trail will experience a total 82000ft elevation gain/loss. Reserved for intrepid adventurers, this thru-hike demands some stamina!

Colorado Trail
Stunning views near Durango

A shared route with mountain bikers, the undulating trail will guide daredevils over mountain passes, up craggy summits, through alpine meadowlands and dense woodlands. No permit is required to complete the Colorado Trail except for specific wilderness areas. There are no accommodations along the route, though many nearby hostels and motels offer lodging for thru-hikers, most prefer to disperse camp!

Location: Colorado
Distance: 486.0mi
Days Recommended: 4-6 weeks
When to do: June-September

  1. Oregon Coast Trail

The Oregon Coast Trail is a thru-hikers paradise. Wander along the rugged cliff above the Pacific Ocean, through the forested headlands, bustling seaside towns, and along sandy beaches. Traveling over 400.0mi from the mouth of the Columbia River to the California border, this trekking route warrants a more luxurious experience. Passing through several beach towns and cities, there are countless opportunities to stay in a hotel, grab a latte, and shower en route.

Oregon Coast Trail
Oregon Coast Trail

The shortcomings of this route are the road walking, high winds, limited campsites, and tricky navigation. With the proper preparation and organization, trekkers should be able to complete this hike in about 4 or 5 weeks! Though there is no fee associated with the trail, the lack of campsites demands booking accommodations along the way. Note there are several private boat shuttles off the shores—it’s a rite of passage to take at least one!

Location: Oregon
Distance: 425.0mi
Days Recommended: 4-6 weeks
When to do: April-June / September-October

  1. Tahoe Rim Trail

Venture around the Lake Tahoe Basin along the Tahoe Rim Trail. Traveling 165.0mi around the lake through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, this trail boasts breathtaking scenes of snow-capped craggy peaks, blue-hued alpine lakes, lush meadowlands, dense woodlands, wildflowers, and wildlife. Among one of the more accessible thru-hikes in the United States, this epic excursion is ideal for beginner trekkers.

Tahoe Rim Trail
Tahoe Lake

Circumnavigate the entirety of Lake Tahoe, weaving between California and Nevada, and several wilderness areas. Requiring acclimatization, this route travels at high elevation—the highest of which being Relay Peak at 10336ft. There is no permit required at length, but the Desolation Wilderness requires a free permit which can be picked up at trailheads along the way.

Location: California and Nevada
Distance: 165.0mi
Days Recommended: 10-15 days
When to do: June-September

  1. Wonderland Trail

Located in the Rainier National Park, the Wonderland Trail is a 93.0mi thru-hike that undulates around the edge of Mount Rainer. Circle around one of America’s most famous mountains, wandering through lowland forests and valleys into high alpine terrains. Boasting draw-dropping views of the snow-capped summit, this trek is not for the faint of heart. Tackling a series of 2000ft elevation gains and losses each day, this trail demands endurance and a comfy pair of footwear.

Wonderland Trail - Rainier National Park
Wonderland Trail - Rainier National Park

A wilderness permit is required for the Wonderland Trail. Those backcountry camping should note that they are limited only to designated campsites as the use of cross-country zones is not permitted. Do not fear though, there are over 20 sites along the path!

Location: Washington
Distance: 93.0mi
Days Recommended: 10-15 days
When to do: July-September

If you like this article, you can also check out the best backpacking trails in the United States.