Spring, summer, and fall are fantastic seasons for a good hike in most of the United States. Even better, there are a wide variety of places that you can go to enjoy a hike, whether you live in a big city or you’re out in the middle of nowhere.
However, not all hikes are created equal. There are short hikes, trails that anyone can go out and walk right now without any training or real preparation besides a bottle of water or something similar, and then there are long distance hikes, hikes that require planning, preparation, and even a bit of training.
Today, we’re going to be talking about the 55 best long distance hiking trails in the United States. But what makes a long distance hiking trail? For the purpose of this article, we’ll be talking about the best trails that are over 50 kilometers (31 miles) long, which is the generally accepted definition of ‘long distance hiking trail’.
Before You Go
Now, I know that many of you will be wanting to run off and explore the trail right away. However, 31 miles is a long way to hike, and you can’t treat it like you would a walk around the block at your house. Before you go on a hike like this, you need to take a few steps.
Firstly, you need to make sure you know the route. You need to know how high you’ll be going, how far you’ll be going, what you’re likely to encounter, and what you’ll need to be safe on the route. Studying the route has never been easier, thanks to modern technology. Keeping up with the changes and the weather is also easy, thanks to the advent of cell phones and wind-up radios.
Secondly, you need to pack appropriately. What is appropriate can be different depending on the trail and the season, but a few things you’ll want include:
- Waterproof Clothing
- Waterproof Tent
- Medical supplies
- Sturdy Hiking Boots
- Phone or Radio
- Extra Power For Phone or Radio
To better prepare for your hiking trip, make sure that you get advice from one of the many long distance hiking forums, or from someone with experience in making such long distance trips. Survivalist forums may also yield good advice, and in some cases even military forums can be helpful for figuring out what you’ll need (and what you should bring) on a long distance hiking trip. Proper preparation can be the difference between having a great trip and memories you’ll never forget and becoming a cautionary tale for other hikers.
For ease of use, the list will be split up into sections by the region that the trail is in. Extremely long trails that cross multiple regions will be in their own section at the end.
1. Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway
Starting Point: Mount Monadnock, New Hampshire
Ending Point: Mount Sunapee, New Hampshire
Distance: 50 Miles
The Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway (MSG) is a trail through rural lands that traverses highlands in New Hampshire, connected Mount Monadnock to Mount Sunapee. The trail is not part of a rail line or anything like that, and it is mostly maintained not by a government agency or a company, but by the Monadnock-Sunapee Greenway Trail Club. The trail passes through a few classic New England towns, but aside from that it is mostly rural, dotted with bodies of water, and rough going through open areas and forested areas.
The trail has an interesting history. It was laid out in 1921, but a hurricane in 1938 and then World War II caused the trail to fall into disuse and disrepair. In the 70s, the route was remade, and it has been well-maintained ever since.
2. Midstate Trail
Starting Point: Ashburnham/Ashby town line, MA
Ending Point: Douglas State Forest, MA
Distance: 92 Miles
Massachusetts’ Midstate Trail is considered a very scenic trail, and a very rural trail, which is amazing when you consider how close to Boston it is. This 92-mile trail is also accessible to almost any hiker, being a generally easy trail with a handful of slightly difficult portions.
The trail was created by volunteers in the 70s and is maintained by them to this day. It is mostly a grass, dirt, and rock trail, with some mountainous areas that may present limited challenge, and if you’re looking for a trail to hike for a few days while being able to see some of the sights in Massachusetts, this is the trail for you.
3. New England National Scenic Trail
Starting Point: Guilford, Connecticut
Ending Point: New Hampshire Border
Distance: 233 Miles
Mattabasett trail system that comprise it, the New England National Scenic Trail stretches from Connecticut through Massachusetts, stopping at the New Hampshire Border. It runs basically from the coast of Connecticut straight North, more or less. The trail includes bodies of water, mountain ridges and summits, and forested areas aplenty.
There are eight sites on the trail for spending the night while you travel, and because the trail runs on mostly private property, you cannot spend the night off the trail in the woods. You can reserve the cabins and other sleeping areas online, or at least announce your intent to stay, and donations are always appreciated.
4. Long Trail
Starting Point: Massachusetts State Line near Williamstown, MA
Ending Point: Canada/US Border near North Troy, Vermont
The oldest long distance trail in the United States, the Long Trail has been in operation since its completion in 1930. It coincides with the Appalachian Trail for a hundred miles or so, and the trail includes the obvious mountains, as well as some bodies of water and the usual dirt and grass. The trail is closed during the late spring to prevent additional erosion and damage to the local fauna. There about 70 sites for you to spend the night at along the trail, ranging from a clearing to a cabin. Some sites charge a rental fee, others do not, but all have water sources, though some sources may be untested. You will need to carry your own food with you, but water should not be an issue so long as you bring something for filtering and cleaning your water. A strenuous but fun hike, and one that can take you to the Canadian border.
5. Long Path
Starting Point: George Washington Bridge, Fort Lee, New Jersey
Ending Point: Altamont, New York
Distance: 375 Miles
Unlike certain other trails we’ve reviewed, the Long Path is not a continuous trail, and you will have to resort on road walks in some areas, so plan accordingly for solid road terrain. The Long Path consists of all sorts of terrain, from salt marshes to forests to mountains and rolling hills and more. You will need to make sure you have food scheduled along the path, or you will run out, and you will also have to bring along something for cleaning water. Camping along the path can be similarly challenging, with the limited camping areas and the fact that some of the land is private land. If you’re going to take the Long Path, be sure to prepare thoroughly for your excursion.
6. Finger Lakes Trail
Starting Point: Catskills, New York
Ending Point: Western New York Border
Distance: 584 Miles
The Finger Lakes Trail is a footpath, not a trail for people with bikes, motorized vehicles, or anything like that. It is not a continuous trail at this point, so there will be times when you need to walk a bit in a road to connect to other parts of the trail.The trail is on both public and private land, like many of these longer trails, and it is important that you know which you’re on when you make camp. You are allowed to camp anywhere on public land, within reason, but on private land you can only utilize designated camp areas. The laws concerning where you can light a campfire also change for public and private land, so be sure to check up on them before you go. The Finger Lakes Trail is a strenuous hike that consists of wooded areas, mountains and rocky paths, and a lot of mud trails, and without proper planning you will not get very far.
7. Northern Forest Canoe Trail
Northern Forest Canoe TrailStarting Point: Old Forge, New York
Ending Point: Fort Kent, Maine
Distance: 740 Miles
The Northern Forest Canoe Trail is mostly a water-bound trail. There are, however, around 53 miles of ‘portages’ to contend with, so I’ve included it on the list as a hiking trail. It crosses through multiple states, and even through part of Quebec, before terminating at Fort Kent, Maine. The trail takes you through multiple watersheds, and the trail has been split into 13 sections covering 58 lakes and ponds, 22 rivers and streams, and 63 portages. Camping is available at multiple sites on the side of the river, and there are multiple places to stop and get water and food to replenish your stores. The trail, while by no means short, is much quicker when you consider you spend the majority of time on the water, and the views of the North-East of the US just cannot be beaten.
8. The Chilkoot Trail
Starting Point: Dyea, Alaska
Ending Point: Bennett, British Columbia
Distance: 33 Miles
The Chilkoot Trail was once a gold trail, allowing miners an access route from the coastal city of Dyea to the Yukon Gold Fields which, in the 1890s, were being heavily mined. In 1978, the American portion of the trail was declared a national landmark, and in 1987, the Canadian portion of the trail was declared a National Historic Site of Canada. In 1998, the two nations merged the trails to create the Klondike Gold Rush International Historic Park.
The Chilkoot Trail is not officially open year-round, with Rangers and crew only present from May to September. You can still hike it outside of those months, but it’s not intelligent and there is risk from snow and even a risk of avalanche. The trail passes through three climate zones, starting with a Coastal Rainforest along the Taiya river, leading into a High Alpine Zone, and finishing off in a Boreal Forest Zone. Bears are a concern, but other than that and the obvious snow issues, it’s a wonderful trail starting in Alaska and ending in Canada.
9. Timberline Trail
Starting Point: Loops around Mount Hood, Oregon
Distance: 40.7 Miles
Timberline Trail is a trail that loops around Mount Hood in Oregon. It is almost entirely in wilderness, but it does pass very close to Timberline Lodge, Cloud Cap Inn, and the Mount Hood Meadows ski area. It was constructed in 1934 by the Civil Conservation Corps, but since then there have been changes to the trail made due to issues like landslides. Even today, the trail has to be rerouted from time to time due to things like washouts and flooding, and water remains a worry. It's recommended that if making camp, you do so at least 200 meters away from any body of water. In 2006, the Eliot Creek section of the trail was washed out, so you are now either climb higher onto Eliot Glacier or walk on loose and hazardous slopes to go down. There are claims that it has since been rerouted, thankfully.As should be obvious, this is a more serious hiking trail. It may be short, but it can be rough, and it will most likely take you three to four days to hike the trail to completion. Definitely not for the inexperienced.
10. Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail
Starting Point: Starvation Creek, Oregon
Ending Point: Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Distance: 60 Miles
The Mark O. Hatfield Memorial Trail is named after Senator Hatfield, a US politician who played a big role in conservation of land in the United States, including the land through which the trail runs. The trail itself is beautiful, and prominently features several waterfalls, as well as mountains and valleys and even some forested terrain. The problem is that many of these beautiful landmarks lie within the Bull Run Watershed, which it is illegal to access according to the Bull Run Act. There are ways around, of course, but be warned that the enforcement of the Bull Run Watershed is very real.
It’s a beautiful trail, and it can be fun to hike it, especially since it is not so treated as most rail trails, but be very careful about where you go or you may end up under arrest.
11. North Umpqua Trail
Starting Point: Swiftwater County Park, Oregon
Ending Point: Maidu Lake, Oregon
Distance: 79 Miles
The North Umpqua Trail is a lot different from many of the other trails on this list because it is very far away from civilization. It is also a trail that is broken up into 11 different sections, and the altitude varies by about 500 meters over the course of the trail. The trail is inside the Umpqua National Forest, and it is generally maintained and cared for by local Parks services. Throughout the length of the trail, it stays very near the North Umpqua River, and save for structures at the starting and ending points of the trail, it avoids all man-made structures. The trail more or less steadily rises in altitude throughout the whole hike.
This is a very primitive trail. There are campsites, but you should count on bringing all the materials with you that you will need for the hike, not on being able to find food and water, or even shelter, while you are walking. You should also probably hike this in a group, and not alone.
12. Pacific Northwest Trail
Starting Point: Glacier National Park, Montana
Ending Point: Cape Alava, Olympic National Park, Washington
Distance: 1200 Miles
Designated a National Scenic Trail in 2009, the Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail is a 1200-mile trail that mostly follows the northernmost border of the United States, ending on the west coast of Oregon. It traverses mountains, valleys, and rivers, and it is a Grizzly bear habitat, and crosses through 18 towns along the way, so if you’re careful with your food and can carry about a four day’s supply, you may be able to avoid caching or supply drops for your food. Along the trail, there are campsites that you can use with a permit on public land, as well as lodging in most of the towns. On private land, you cannot camp, so make sure you’re careful about where you set up your tent. If you’re looking to see the north of the United States, and to do so on a trail that provides plenty of challenge and can take up to 80 days to finish, the Pacific Northwest Trail is the trail for you.
13. Trans-Catalina Trail
Starting Point: Avalon, California
Ending Point: Starlight Beach, California
Distance: 37.2 Miles
The Trans-Catalina Trail, as the name suggests, crosses Catalina. Catalina is an island off the coast of California, and the trail leads from one ferry landing to another. If you were to walk the full distance of the trail, plus the distance to the ferry, however, the trail actually becomes close to fifty miles. This is definitely a multiple-day hiking trail, so bring along a nice tent. However, to stay the night, you need to be sure that you have a permit from the Catalina Island Conservancy, and there are five campgrounds along the trail.
The trek is mostly mountainous and hill country, with a lot of forestation. It’s very safe, and the trail is well-traveled and well-cared for by the Catalina Island Conservancy. Getting a permit is very easy to do through their website, and the permit is free (though they won’t say no to a donation to make sure that the trail keeps running smoothly).
14. Iron Horse Regional Trail
Starting Point: Concord, California
Ending Point: Pleasanton, California
Distance: 40 Miles
The Iron Horse Regional Trail is yet another rail trail, this time located in California. It follows an old right of way line that was operated by Southern Pacific Railroad starting in 1891 and that was abandoned in 1977. In 1986, two counties purchased the old line and established the trail for public use. As with so many of these rail trails, it includes a handful of converted railroad bridges that cross creeks and rivers.This is another great starter path, because it leads not only through such gentle land, but also because it runs through or near to so many cities. This means that if you’ve had enough while you are walking the path, it is easy to get to a place where you can stop and catch a ride to return to your vehicle. Large sections are paved, too, so if you don’t want to spend a day or two hiking, you can spend a few hours biking instead.
15. High Line Canal Trail
Starting Point: Douglas County, Colorado
Ending Point: Denver, Colorado
Distance: 58 Miles
The High Line Canal Trail began as a canal used for irrigation and servicing the Aurora and Denver metropolitan area. Once actually an operating canal, today it is mostly used for the sixty miles or so that are open to non-motorized traffic. This includes the portion that is the hiking trail. Today, five different agencies maintain the trail to make sure that people can enjoy it.
Though there is nothing difficult about this hiking trail, there is a bit of hassle encountered in certain areas. There is a private golf course, for example, that forces you to abandon the trail for a bit to avoid walking through it, and there are sections unmaintained because they’re owned by private owners. The trail shouldn’t take more than five days for even a novice crew to complete, and aside from occasional mountain lion sightings, it is very safe.
16. High Sierra Trail
Starting Point: Crescent Meadow in Sequoia National Park, California
Ending Point: Mount Whitney, California
Distance: 61.5 Miles
The High Sierra Trail, as the name would suggest, is a trail that crosses the Sierra Nevada, passing over the Great Western Divide at Kaweah Gap. Located mostly in Sequoia National Park in California, the trail is well-maintained, if not a bit difficult to traverse simply due to its nature and its overwhelmingly mountainous region. Most of the trail is unpaved, and though there are amenities along the way as well as places to camp, hikers are going to need to bring their food along with them.The entire trail to Mount Whitney consists of the High Sierra Trail mixed with the John Muir Trail. The beginning of the trail, the first dozen miles, are very difficult, and they can take up to two days on their own due to rough terrain. Around the end of this rough patch is a tent hotel, the Bearpaw Meadow High Sierra Camp, which has been in operation since 1934.
The High Sierra Trail provides one with some great views and bragging rights, but it is a difficult trail in places, especially for the inexperienced. The trail takes five or six days on average, though some have claimed times as short as fifteen hours.
17. Backbone Trail
Starting Point: Point Mugu State Park, California
Ending Point: Will Rogers State Historic Park, California
Distance: 68 Miles
The Backbone Trail is a 68-mile long trail that goes across the length of the Santa Monica Mountains in California, open to those on foot, those on bikes, those with four-legged friends, and some portions are even open to those on horseback. The Backbone Trail began its life as a series of unconnected trails that traversed portions of the Santa Monica Mountains, connected together by the National Park Service in 2016 with land acquisitions. It provides beautiful mountain views of the areas it passes through, including Echo Cliffs and Ventura County.
If you’re looking to hike this trail, understand that it is not a simple one. It goes from moderate to strenuous in its difficulty, and it is a mountain trail, first and foremost. Some areas are easier than others, but it is manageable if you take your time. One problem will be camping; the campsites are not well-spaced out, and that may force you to hike a ways off-trail to find a campsite for the night. If you’re looking for a beautiful trail, and a new one, you can’t beat the Backbone Trail.
18. Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway
Starting Point: South Plains Terminal MM, Texas
Ending Point: Estelline Terminal MM, Texas
Distance: 68 Miles
Caprock Canyons State Park and Trailway is about 100 miles southeast of Amarillo, Texas, and is almost entirely a Badlands climate. It’s in West Texas, so it’s a semi-arid region; imagine what you think of when you conceive of an old cowboy town, and that’s pretty much it. There’s a lot of brush, a lot of hard dirt, and a lot of sun with very little protection from said sun. It was created in 1993 when the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department acquired about 65 miles of land from an old rail line. Bison roam throughout the Caprock Canyons State Park, a herd that has never been domesticated and contains no cattle DNA, and there is always good fishing at Lake Theo for those who are interested.
The trails range from easy to extremely challenging, and there are a wide variety of amenities. Depending on the trail you’re on, you may encounter mountain bikers or horses. Camping can range from modern to primitive. Some trials have cliffs and steep drop-offs and other dangerous conditions. One important point to make; there is NO POTABLE WATER on the trails. Bring as much water as you can carry, and you’ll have a great few days hiking through West Texas.
19. Lone Star Hiking Trail
Starting Point: East of Richards, Texas
Ending Point: Northwest of Cleveland, Texas
Distance: 96 Miles
The Lone Star Hiking Trail runs east to west through Sam Houston National Forest. Completed in 1978, it has been in use since as a scenic trail through the forest North of Houston. As such, it is mostly unpaved, and almost entirely in forest. The trail has unlimited camping throughout much of the year, allowing you to find a place to bed down almost anywhere, but during hunting season they switch to camping in designated areas only to prevent accidental injury. There are some wet areas, some bridges, and the southern portion of the trail follows an old tramway, but none of these things should pose too much of a hassle to a seasoned hiker. There is limited water available near the trail, so be sure to carry plenty with you if you choose to enjoy the Lone Star Hiking Trail.
20. Oregon Desert Trail
Starting Point: Oregon Badlands Wilderness, Oregon
Ending Point: Lake Owyhee State Park
Distance: 750 Miles
The Oregon Desert Trail is a path that meanders through the majority of Oregon the state of Oregon, bringing you close to the southern border and then the eastern border. It provides you one of the best chances to see the majority of the state of Oregon on foot. This trail crosses through desert and various arid climates that exist in Oregon, as well as some fairly mountainous regions, and it has one major issue for most; there is a lack of easily accessed water and supplies. You’ll pass through about five cities during the trail, but that isn’t enough for most parties to stay supplied, and you’ll need to make arrangement for supplies. As a fun aside, the oldest human remains were found along this trail. Think about that when making sure you plan properly for it, and you’ll have a great time.
21. Arizona National Scenic Trail
Starting Point: Mexico-Arizona Border
Ending Point: Utah-Arizona Border
Distance: 790 Miles
The Arizona National Scenic Trail is exactly what it sounds like; a designated National Scenic Trail that goes through the state of Arizona, almost precisely from North to South or vice-versa. Beginning at the Coronado National Memorial on the border and ending in the Kaibab Plateau region, it will allow you to walk through the state of Arizona from one end to another. It’s a primitive trail, with limited access to clean water, so be sure to bring something to clean up your water on your own. It has ample resupply points along the trail, or very close to the trail, and as with most wilderness trails, you can camp almost anywhere, although a handful of areas do require that you have a permit to use a campground designated by them. Make sure to be especially careful of abiding by rules when in the Grand Canyon, as it is very well-patrolled by Park Rangers and they will hand you a huge fine for failure to get a permit. With proper planning, this trail will allow you to see all the varied climes of Arizona, as well as the Grand Canyon, and it can be a fun, though somewhat challenging, hike.
22. Idaho Centennial Trail
Starting Point: Near Murphy Hot Springs, Idaho
Ending Point: Upper Priest Falls, Idaho
Distance: 883 Miles
The Idaho Centennial Trail takes a hiker along a series of existing trails, as well as primitive roads, taking you from one end of Idaho to the other extreme end. The trail is a moderate to strenuous trail, crossing mountains, flat lands, deserts, and more. The trail is not often hiked, and even more rarely is it hiked in its entirety, so you’re not likely to encounter too many other parties while on the trail. Camping is mostly done in the wilderness, with a handful of sites along the way that are designated for such use, and most replenishment of supplies can be done by utilizing the various towns and cities you will be near as you make your way through the trail. It’s a great hike that can take you through a beautiful and often overlooked state.
23. Wild Azalea Trail
Starting Point: Woodworth, Louisiana
Ending Point: Valentine Lake Recreation Area
Distance: 31 Miles
The Wild Azalea Trailis located inKistachie National Forest in Louisiana. From its starting point near Woodworth, Louisiana, it winds its way past State Route 488 and ends near a lake in the Valentine Lake Recreation Area. It’s the longest running/hiking trail in the state of Louisiana, and is something that even a novice should be able to do in a day without exerting too much effort. It’s a beautiful trail that includes hills, hardwoods, creeks, and a nice path through the forest.Expect mud and insects along the trail almost any time of year, as well as local animals. This is a much shorter trail than the longest trails we’ll be looking at, but you should still be sure to bring enough food and water to keep you going through at least a full day’s travel.
24. Chief Ladiga Trail
Starting Point: Georgia State Line
Ending Point: Weaver, Alabama
Distance: 33 Miles
The Chief Ladiga Trail is a rail trail in the state of Alabama. The trail is named for Chief Ladiga, a Muscogee chief who gave up his tribal lands and signed the Treaty of Cusseta during the Jackson presidency. At the Georgia State Line, the trail continues, but becomes the Silver Comet Trail, which continues for about sixty more miles to the west into the Atlanta area. Combined, the two trails make up the longest paved trail in the United States.
The Chief Ladiga Trail runs through wetlands, forests, and farmlands, often with a view of the mountains in the distance. It’s a safe trail, and one without any major difficulties to it. If you’re looking to walk the Chief Ladiga Trail, it’s a trip you can easily make in a day, traveling through Cleburne and Calhoun county in Alabama.
25. Virginia Creeper Trail
Starting Point: Abingdon, Virginia
Ending Point: Whitetop, Virginia
Distance: 35 Miles
The Virginia Creeper Trail is another trail that is built on the bones of an old railway line. Originally used by the Abingdon Coal and Iron Railroad, then transferred to the Virginia-Carolina Railway, and finally abandoned when the Norfolk and Western Railroad Company petitioned the state to allow them to abandon the line in 1974. Since then, it has been unused by rail car, but it operates as a rail trail for those wanting to explore a bit of Virginia.
Along the trail are a handful of restored rail stations which provide shelter. Something nice on this trail that you won’t see on many smaller trails is the installation of Emergency Call Boxes at five locations along the trail, which are a great help to those who are ill-prepared or who suffer catastrophe. The trail mostly leads through forest and hills and even a bit of mountain, and it is in a fairly warm climate. There are also old trestles that you can ride a bike across or walk across.
26. Washington & Old Dominion Raildroad Trail
Starting Point: Shirlington, Virginia
Ending Point: Purcellville, Virginia
Distance: 44.7 Miles
The Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Trail is located within the Washington and Old Dominion Railroad Regional Park in Virginia. It runs through almost entirely Urban and Suburban areas, meaning that you are never far from civilization or from help if things go wrong. The trail is an old rail trail that is not very wide, but that is to be expected from an old rail trail.
The trail takes you past ponds, civilized areas, over trestles, and along the old rail lines. It’s a pleasant enough trail, and if you’re walking with a light pack, you will not be wanting for places to get food or drink. There are a handful of places where you can make camp, and the hike shouldn’t take you more than three days.
27. New River Trail State Park
Starting Point: Pulaski, Virginia
Ending Point: Fries, Virginia and Galax, Virginia
Distance: 57 Miles
Another southern rail trail, the New River Trail State Park follows a lot of the ‘New River’, which is said to be one of the five oldest rivers in the world. The trail was created from the bones of a right-of-way owned and operated by Norfolk Southern Railway, who donated the land to the state of Virginia. In 1999 the trail was designated a ‘Millenium Legacy Trail’, due to it passing by various towers, furnaces, and other points of interest.
The trail is mostly crushed stone appropriate for a variety of uses. The park is wooded, of course, and the trail is dotted with various ranger stations and other usual entities that the park provides. If you’re looking for a good walk through a park that can be done in three or four days, this is the place to be, and the hike should not prove to be too much for even a novice party.
28. Florida Trail
Starting Point: Gulf Islands National Seashore
Ending Point: Big Cypress National Preserve
Distance: 1000 Miles
The Florida Trail was first dreamed up by a man who had hiked part of the Appalachian Trail and began to ask ‘why don’t we have our own trail here in Florida?’. Work on the trailblazing began in 1966, and by 1983 it was designated as a National Scenic Trail. The trail runs through the majority of the state of Florida, starting in the peninsula and running through the panhandle and almost to the border. It’ll take you through the Gulf Island are, through river areas, through woodlands, and through forests, and you’ll enjoy every minute. Take care, though, and makes sure you get your permits in order, especially if you plan on following the trail when it goes through Eglin Air Force Base or anywhere near it, since they will arrest you.
29. Mountains-To-Sea Trail
Starting Point: Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky Mountains, North Carolina
Ending Point: Jockey’s Ridge, Outer Banks, North Carolina
Distance: 1000 Miles
The Mountains-To-Sea Trail is nothing if not aptly named. The thousand-mile trail’s westernmost point is Clingman’sDome, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, and it runs all the way west through North Carolina to the Outer Banks. The trail winds near Asheville, Greensboro, Durham, Raleigh, Jacksonville, Morehead city, and more, which is good for those looking to resupply, but a thousand-mile trail like this will still be better if you set up some cache points or get a supply drop here and there. Camping laws will vary along the path, so be sure that you’re aware of the change in the laws, and be sure to pack something for purifying water if you don’t want to dehydrate yourself through expelled fluids. With proper planning and training, this can be a fun, if challenging, trail, and it has some beautiful views of one of the most gorgeous of the original colonies.
30. Midwest Trails
Rock Island Trail
Starting Point: Peoria, Illinois
Ending Point: Toulon, Illinois
Distance: 32 Miles
Rock Island Trail is in Rock Island Trail State park, which is a bit north and to the west of the exact middle of the state of Illinois. As it currently exists, the Rock Island Trail is the remnant of an old railroad path, from the Peoria and Rock Island Railroad built in 1869-71. The railroad hasn’t been in use for well over half a century, and has been in use as a public trail since 1989.
This trail is more of a flat prairie-land kind of trail. You can walk, or you can ride a bicycle if you’re so inclined. There is no provision for equestrian or motorized traffic along the trail. There’s a primitive campground between the Dunlap and Alta portions of the trail, if you want to camp, but you should be able to make the trip in less than a day if you keep moving at a fair clip.
31. Ghost Town Trail
Starting Point: Ebensburg, Pennsylvania
Ending Point: Black Lick, Indiana County, Pennsylvania
Distance: 36 Miles
Ghost Town Trail is another rail trail. In this case, it was established in 1991 on the right-of-way of what was once the Ebensburg and Black Lick Railroad, this trail is open year-round and is available for hiking and bicycling, as well as for cross-country skiing. The trail is named the Ghost Town Trail because it follows the Blacklick Creek, and it passes through many ghost towns in Pennsylvania. It passes through, in particular, Wehrum and Claghorn, both of which were mining towns in Pennsylvania, and both of which were closed by the mid-1940’s, when the mines were closed and the towns no longer had business. It also goes past two furnaces that were constructed in the 1800s.
Ghost Town Trail is a fun trail that goes alongside a creek for most of its length, and it can be a good one or two-day trail for any hiking party. It’s also a great trail for those who would like to see a bit of mining history in Pennsylvania.
32. Tecumseh Trail
Starting Point: Morgan Monroe State Forest, Indiana
Ending Point: Monroe Reservoir, Indiana
Distance: 38.2 Miles
The Tecumseh Trail he signature trail of the Hoosier Hikers Council (for those who don’t know, Hoosiers is how people from Indiana refer to themselves), the HHC built the trail in 1998-2002. Unlike most of the trails that have been listed here thus far, there is not really some amazing story behind the land or the formation of the trail; a bunch of guys in Indiana who wanted somewhere to hike built the trail.This is a good trail, though, if you’re looking for a training trail. In fact, on their website, the HHC talks about how the Tecumseh Trail is ‘often considered a gentler version and training ground of the Knobstone Trail’. At 38.2 miles of large but gentle hills, forest, and verdance, it is an ideal place to train for a tougher hike without the risk of injury, and being just a short trip south of Indianapolis, it’s ideally located for anyone living in the Greater Indianapolis Area.
33. Greenstone Ridge Trail
Starting Point: Windigo Ranger Station
Ending Point: Rock Harbor, Michigan
Distance: 40 Miles
Greenstone Ridge Trail is located on Isle Royale, in Lake Superior. That makes it a part of Michigan. It is a small island that is just a little ways off the coast of the Upper Peninsula, and the entire island (Isle Royale) is a national park. As the name would suggest, the Greenstone Ridge Trail follows the Greenstone Ridge.Those who frequent this trail say that it is a great multi-day trail for preparing to hike a more serious trail, and that it is an excellent view throughout. There are some hills with steep grades, however, that will require bending your knee when you walk to get up them. Those hills are close to the Windigo Ranger Station, so if you’re looking to get them out of the way first, you may want to start there. If you’re looking to build up to them, starting at Rock Harbor may be your best bet.
34. Fox River Trail
Starting Point: Algonquin, Illinois
Ending Point: Oswego, Illinois
Distance: 44 Miles
The Fox River Trail, as its name would suggest, runs along the side of the Fox River in Illinois, connecting the communities of Algonquin, Carpentersville, Dundee, Elgin, South Elgin, St. Charles, Geneva, Batavia, North Aurora, Aurora, Montgomery, and Oswego. The trail is an interesting combination of purpose-built trail along with form right of use railway lines that have long since fallen into disuse.
This is another great trail to start out on. Even though it will take two days or more and will present some challenge, it is near enough to civilization at almost all times that you will never be too far away from help in the event of an emergency. It also makes it easier to hike with a light pack if you’re willing to pay inflated prices for food close to the trail. As it currently stands, the trail is mostly light hills, forested areas, and plains or civilized areas.
35. Tunnel Hill State Trail
Starting Point: Harrisburg, Illinois
Ending Point: Karnak, Illinois
Distance: 48 Miles
Tunnel Hill State Trail is a bicycle trail that, as with so many trails in the Midwestin particular, runs along an old railroad. In this case, it’s a trail that runs along what was once the Southern Railway, up until it shut down in the 1900s. The trail as it exists today is about 48 miles and can handle biking and hiking, with a surface that is made from crushed limestone.
This is a trail that isn’t too far from civilization, but if you’re hiking, you are going to need to bring all your food with you, because there are only grocery stores nearby at Harrisburg and one in Vienna. There are places to sleep along the trail, and there are also limited services along the trail, but if you’re going to hike it, be sure to bring with you all the food that you will want. It’s an enjoyable ride through rocks and plains, but it can feel a little lonely.
36. Des Plaines River Trail
Starting Point: Wisconsin State Line
Ending Point: Melrose Park, Chicago, Illinois
Distance: 55 Miles
The Des Plaines River Trail is a multi-use trail. It allows for the usual hiking and bicycling, sure, but it also allows for equestrian, cross-country skiing, and even snowmobile use (when the weather is appropriate, of course). It’s a very calm, very safe trail, where the biggest worries are the weather and ticks and mosquitoes (which, in the area, have been found to carry Lyme Disease and even encephalitis).There are plenty of places along the trail that offer restrooms, food, and other comforts, and you can easily walk the trail without ever being more than a few hours away from help or shelter. The trail ends in Melrose Park in Chicago, and much of the trail leads through protected forests. The one big danger to watch out for is that underpasses are prone to flooding during rain and during the spring in general. It’s an easy and safe hike and shouldn’t take more than four days for most parties to hike.
37. Wabash Cannoball Trail
Starting Point: Montpelier, Ohio
Ending Point: Liberty, Ohio
Distance: 63 miles
The Wabash Cannonball Trail is yet another rail trail, this time in the Northern part of Ohio. It is a part of a pair of larger trail systems as well, the North Coast Inland Trail and the North Country National Scenic Trail. The trail follows the old Wabash Railroad line, which was in use from 1855 until it finally fell into disuse and was abandoned in 1990. In 1994, the corridor was purchased for public use from Norfolk Southern. Its name has nothing to do with the trail system or even really the railroad, but rather a local folk song about an imaginary train named the Wabash Cannonball.
This is a very flat trail. Over the course of the entire 63-mile trail, the elevation only changes by 66 meters. About a fourth of the trail is paved, but the rest is unpaved, including the southern fork of the trail. The trail is well-serviced, with ample stops, ranger stations, and even bicycle repair stations and shops along the way. If you’re looking to enjoy a great trail and a very safe one, this is a trail for you, and if you are looking to get used to a long and flat trail, you should definitely look into the Wabash Cannonball Trail. Also a great trail for families.
38. Willard Munger State Trail
Starting Point: Hinckley, Minnesota
Ending Point: Duluth, Minnesota
Distance: 63 Miles
Yet another rail trail, it is of the Hinckley to Duluth segment of the Willard Munger State Trail that we will be talking, which is by far the most popular portion of the trail. It runs for 63 miles and is the fifth longest paved trail in the United States, and passes through one state park, near to another, and through a number of small Minnesota cities before the terminus in Duluth.
The rail follows what was once the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad, which was later absorbed into the Northern Pacific Railway. The final section leading to Duluth is extremely scenic and beautiful, bringing you through forested areas and rock cuts. At the end of the trail in Duluth, you will find the Willard Munger Inn, operated by the Munger family to this day. The trail provides bathrooms, designated campsites, and the cities provide a few opportunities to restore your provisions and your potable water as needed. Be aware that this trail does see horse traffic, as well as snowmobile traffic, and so you will need to wary of where you step if horses have been using it and be cautious of motor vehicles on the path. The trail is also closed until the end of August, 2017, but it will reopen shortly thereafter for use.
39. Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail
Starting Point: Peru, Illinois
Ending Point: Romeoville, Illinois
Distance: 69 Miles
The Illinois and Michigan Canal Trail is based around what was once the Illinois and Michigan canal. This canal was in use until 1933, when the Illinois Waterway was completed and was found to be a much more effective means of transporting cargo. In 2003, the Chicago Park District, with help from other organizations, turned the old canal into a park and museum, along with turning parts of the land into a long hiking and bike trail, which runs along where the mule tow paths were situated.The trail itself is almost entirely flat, without much deviation in altitude, and it is a very easy hike. Camping sites are plentiful, and the hike should not challenge anyone with any experience. There are plenty of buildings associated with the old canal that have been preserved and are still in operation, mostly as museums.
40. Little Miami Scenic Trail
Starting Point: Springfield, Ohio
Ending Point: Newtown, Ohio
Distance: 75 miles
The Little Miami Scenic Trail connects Newtown, Ohio with what was once a big industrial city for the state in Springfield, Ohio. The third longest paved trail in the United States, this is a popular trail that is utilized by everyone from hikers and bicyclists to the occasional horseback rider, running along the Little Miami River, which runs into the Ohio River. The scenic trail, mostly through forested areas, is itself part of a semi-contiguous and semi-connected trail that runs 330 miles, starting in Cincinnati on Ohio’s south-western border and connects Cincinnati, Dayton, and Columbus.
This is a flat and easy trail, and not one that you will have to worry about being too challenging. It’s also a great trail for beginners looking to get into longer-distance hikes, because you are never too far from civilization. It passes very close to many major cities in the Southwest Ohio region, and it even goes near Kings Island theme park. There are plenty of places for rest, restocking supplies, and for help if needed, so you don’t have to worry about carrying everything in your pack. I have even seen hikers on the trail with friends in wheelchairs able to keep up without much effort. A great training trail for anyone who wants to explore Ohio without being too far from society.
41. Standing Stone Trail
Starting Point: Greenwood Furnace State Park, Pennsylvania
Ending Point: Tuscarora State Trail, Pennsylvania
Distance: 80 Miles
Also sometimes known as the Link Trail, the Standing Stone Trail connects a handful of other trails in Pennsylvania together. Originally laid out in the late 1970s by volunteer hiking enthusiasts, it is now 80 miles long if you include the Greenwood Spur. Starting at Greenwood Furnace State Park , the Greenwood Spur Trail connects to the Mid State Trail, which brings you all the way to the junction with the Tuscarora Trail. The real draw is the view that you can get while hiking from the variety of ridgelines, including a great view of the Thousand Steps, a cultural landmark.
Interestingly, the trail consists of a mix of private and public lands. The trail is unpaved, consisting of a lot of stone and a lot of dirt, and if you are looking to enjoy a primitive trail, this is one that you may consider. Camping arrangements are sparse, and you will need to carry with you all the food and water that you hope to consume during your time on the trail. But the beautiful views and the chance to see lands almost untouched for hundreds of years is well worth the trip, and you’re never too far from a state park if you need to utilize their utilities.
42. Ice Age Trail
Starting Point: Potawatomi State Park, Wisconsin
Ending Point: Interstate Park, Minnesota-Wisconsin Border
Distance: 1200 Miles
The Ice Age Trail is a 1200-mile long National Scenic Trail that manages to stay in the state of Wisconsin -the entire time, terminating on the Wisconsin/Minnesota border. Being in Wisconsin, it can get very cold, so be sure to prepare for that, especially in cooler months. The trail takes you along the Lake Michigan shoreline, through many parks and reserves, and even through the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Although the trail is very long, it is an easy to moderate difficulty trail, meaning you will never be in too much danger from the terrain. Camping can be done in a variety of places, from primitive sites that need only be 200 feet from the trail and from water to designated areas for camping that have lean-tos and similar considerations. The trail is never too far from water or food sources, but you will still want to make sure you pack a good supply to carry with you unless you plan to make common use of supply caches. It’s a beautiful trek and an easy one, but to walk the whole trail can be extremely time-consuming.
43. Buckeye Trail
Starting Point: Headlands Beach State Park, Ohio
Ending Point: Eden Park, Cincinnati, Ohio
Distance: 1444 Miles
The Buckeye Trail in Ohio basically loops around the entire state before ending in Cincinnati, which is in the southwest corner of the state. The trail consists of wooded areas and roads, and it often follows old canals like the Miami and Erie Canal and the Wabash and Erie Canal. Though the trail is hilly, the vast majority of the trail is through wooded areas and nothing too strenuous, and there is ample cover from the elements. The trail passes through or near most of the major cities in Ohio, as well as a number of small towns, but there are still long stretches without much by way of chance to resupply, so plan accordingly. There are plenty of campsites near the trail that you can use, but be sure that you are aware of the laws in your area before camping off the trail, and as always, don’t anger private landowners or they may stop allowing people on their portion of the trail. It’s a great trail if you want to see most of Ohio, but the downside is that a lot of the trail looks very much alike, and it’s mostly hill and plains country that you’ll be walking through.
44. Warrior Trail
Starting Point: Monongahela River in Greensboro, Pennsylvania
Ending Point: Ohio River south of Moundsville, West Virginia
Distance: 67 Miles
The Warrior Trail is one of the most interesting trails on this list. To begin with, it was not built by a railroad company, but rather by Native Americans. The trail has been in use for over 5000 years, mostly by Native Americans going to Flint, Ohio to congregate. It is not a wilderness trail, but rather a trail that takes you along a well-used historical path that includes views of old farms and amazing rural environments.
There are three shelters along the way, and you will never be too far from help if you need it. There are no streams to ford, not much in the way of extreme terrain, and the trail is pleasant and filled with history.
If you hike the Warrior Trail, you must be aware that the entire 67 miles exists on private property. Volunteers maintain the trail, and they do so with the cooperation of the owners of this private property. Please conduct yourself accordingly, because a failure to do so may result in property owners denying passage on their property and deprive us all of a wonderful trail.
45. Foothills Trail
Starting Point: Table Rock State Park, South Carolina
Ending Point: Oconee State Park, South Carolina
Distance: 76 Miles
The Foothills Trail is a lovely trail that goes through South Carolina, into North Carolina, and then returns to South Carolina. As such, it is obviously going to take you through beautiful scenery and bountiful pine trees, as well as a lot of mountainous areas. This is a trail appropriate for foot traffic, not so much biking or anything else, because the trail is not well-paved and mostly consists of most grass, dirt, mud, and the occasional rocky terrain, and it has been built and maintained by the US Forest Service in conjunction with Duke Energy, who wanted to use it for recreation while building a hydroelectric plant in the area.
As with many mountain trails, the trail can vary from an easy hike to a strenuous hike. It has a few road crossings, but other than that you’re not likely to run into many people while on the trail, which can be both a blessing and a curse. You’ll be pretty easily capable of finding spots to sleep, but mind the weather and remember that water runs downhill.
46. Grand Enchantment Trail
Starting Point: Phoenix, Arizona
Ending Point: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Distance: 730 Miles
The Grand Enchantment Trail runs mostly east to west from Phoenix to Albuquerque, allowing you to both enjoy a hike through interesting parts of the country that most people never hike through while also being able to repeatedly make jokes about having taken the wrong turn at Albuquerque like Bugs Bunny.All joking aside, the trail is a very interesting combination of climates. You have your canyons, your desert-ish areas, and your bluffs, but these lead into more wooded areas, mountains, and even forests that you will walk through. There are ample water sources spread throughout, and there are fourteen towns that you either pass through or pass near to, meaning with careful planning and a good pack, you can carry your materials. Most of the area is in wilderness, and you only need a permit to camp in one area, so you can make camp almost anywhere you like along the vast majority of the trail. A great hike, but one that requires decent preparation
47. International Appalachian Trail
Starting Point: Mount Katahdin, Maine
Ending Point: Newfoundland
Distance: 1900 Miles
The International Appalachian Trail picks up where the American trail leaves off, extending all the way through the North of Canada. In the last few years, it has been extended to include mountain ranges that were once connected back in the Pangea years of Earth, which includes most of coastal Europe and even parts of Northern Africa, along with Greenland and the United Kingdom. However, we’ll just be looking at the portion from Maine to Newfoundland. Sadly, because the trail is ever-changing and not yet well-defined, it’s a hard one to plan for. You’ll mostly be experiencing mountainous regions, and likely very cold climates, especially as you get deeper into Canada, so warm gear is needed. You’ll be moving through so many different legal systems that you’ll need to plan in advance for appropriate permits for camping, and the further you go in Canada, the hard it will be to resupply, so make plans for that beforehand. That being said, if you want to venture across the US and into Canada on a once in a lifetime trip that can take upwards of 120 days, this is a great hike for you.
48. Appalachian Trail
Starting Point: Springer Mountain, Georgia
Ending Point: Katahdin Mountain, Maine
Distance: 2200 Miles
The Appalachian Trail is widely considered to be one of the greatest trails in the United States for hiking. Complete in 1937, the trail runs through 14 states, including the majority of the original colonies, and this is one intense hike. It has dangerous fordings, it has limited water sources, it has bears and chiggers, and yet people try to complete the 2200-mile hike in a season so as to not be caught in the mountains when the storms come. Speaking of the mountains, the elevation of the trail goes from 124ft above sea love in Bear Mountain State Park to 6643ft at Clingmans Dome in North Carolina. The trail has 250 shelters and campsites along the way, most of which are near a water source (though how potable that water is is up for debate). Lest this scare you off, the Appalachian Trail also has a lot of supply points, and is littered with many trail towns, and is generally a safe place to hike. With proper planning and enough time, you can conquer the Appalachian Trail, but be prepared to spend half of a year there doing it.
49. Pacific Coast Trail
Starting Point: Manning Park, British Columbia
Ending Point: Campo, California
Distance: 2654 Miles
Technically, a bit of this trail is in other countries, but the Pacific Crest Trail is the perfect trail for anyone looking to walk from Canada to Mexico through the west coast states. The Pacific Coast Trail, like the Appalachian Trail, is one of the ‘triple crowns’ of thru-hiking in the US, and is considered a real achievement. It passes through such well-known parks as Yosemite National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood National Forest, and many more. There are dozens of resupply points on the route, and there are ample camping sites, though you will need three permits to make the trip; a California Campfire Permit, a Permit to Enter Canada, and a Thru-Permit. Luckily, all these can be gotten easily and cheaply. If you want to enjoy the west coast and their mountain ranges, you will find that this is the trail for you.
50. Continental Divide Trail
Starting Point: Glacier National Park, Montana
Ending Point: Crazy Cook Monument, New Mexico
Distance: 3100 Miles
The Continental Divide is the third crown of the triple-crown of American long-distance hiking, and what a trail it is. It follows the Rocky Mountains from Montana to New Mexico, and ranges from elevations of 3900ft to 14270ft (Grays Peak, Colorado). In some areas, like New Mexico, water is scarce, but the farther north you get, the less of a problem that is. The terrain is mostly mountainous, with some walking on paved roads required as the trail is not ‘complete’. There are hundreds of places to resupply, but you may still want to resort to caching food just in case. There are also many places to make camp, but you must be aware of local laws concerning where you can and can’t camp. Still, if you want to traverse the Rockies, this is the place to do it.
51. Great Western Trail
Starting Point: Montana-Canada Border
Ending Point: Arizona-Mexico Border
Distance: 4455 Miles
The Great Western Trail is a bit different than most of these trails, because it allows for hikers as well as those using motorized vehicles to traverse it. Because it is so long, it features many types of terrain, from hills and deserts to woodlands and mountains and even rock formations. The trail passes through many parks, some private lands, and even through tribal lands, so be aware of that when making plans for camps, as everyone has their own rules about where and when you can make camp. If you’re going to hike entirely through, you will need to find supply points for yourself, as the trail is not established as many other trails in more common use. For someone who wants to see the west, though, especially Utah, this is a fantastic trail choice, and one that comes with extreme bragging rights.
52. North Country Trail
Starting Point: Crown Point, New York
Ending Point: Lake Sakakawea State Park, North Dakota
Distance: 4600 Miles
The North Country National Scenic Trail, the longest scenic trail recognized by Congress, takes you from Crown Point to Cincinnati, then up to the Upper Peninsula, before finally turning west again to North Dakota. It travels through a multitude of national forests, state parks, nature preserves, wildlife refuges, and even six Army Corps of Engineers impoundments. It traverses mountains, falls, lowlands, coastal areas, forests, and more, and the views range from monotonous (Ohio) to incredible (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Dakota). For camping in public areas, most are designated, and some private areas require permits or reservations. The trail passes through many cities, enough that you could likely make it from one city to the next without needing additional food or water. All told, the hike is an easy hike with a few strenuous areas, and the stress on your body is mostly from the length. Truly a great way to see the Northern portion of the US near to the Canadian border, but definitely a trip that needs planning.
53. American Discovery Trail
Starting Point: Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware
Ending Point: Point Reyes National Seashore, California
Distance: 5000 Miles
The American Discovery Trail is a 5000-mile trek across much of the United States from Delaware to California, along with 1800 miles of alternative routes. For most people, the trek will take a year or more, and the elevation varies between -17ft and 13207ft where it crosses the Rockies. The trail has almost every kind of climate and terrain that you could imagine; plains, forests, mountains, plateaus, desert, arid regions, and more. Near Cincinnati, the trail splits into a northern and southern path, meeting again in Colorado. The trail is littered with places to get food and water, but you should still be sure to carefully plan for your trip. That being said, if you want to trek across America, this is certainly the trail to do it, especially if you have a year and a few months to spend on it.
54. Eastern Continental Trail
Starting Point: Key West, Florida
Ending Point: Bell Isle, Newfoundland
Distance: 5400 Miles
The Eastern Continental Trail is a long-distance trail composed of various other trails, most of which we’ve already discussed. It begins in the Florida Keys, following the Overseas Heritage Trail, then meets with the Florida Trail, progressing to the Alabama roadwalk, which meets the Pinhoti trail, which then becomes the Benton MacKaye Trail, which finally leads into the Appalachian Trail and then the International Appalachian Trail. If you’re looking to plan such a hike, you’re going to experience almost every imaginable climate and terrain that North America has to offer, but you will also see the most beautiful trails in the United States, as well as traveling through almost every one of the thirteen original colonies. Not a trail for the beginner, but a worthwhile endeavor for those with the experience for the hike.
55. Great Western Loop
Starting Point: Anywhere along the trail
Distance: 6875 Miles
This trail is a loop through the western states in the country that takes 6875 miles to complete. It strings together five other long-distance hiking trails; the Pacific Crest trail, the Pacific Northwest trail, the Continental Divide trail, the Grand Enchantment trail, and the Arizona Trail. Only one person, a professional backpacker, has ever completed the trail, and he did so in 208 days, at a pace of approximately 33 miles a day. Most people can expect to get a decent fifteen miles a day out of themselves, on the other hand, so for many this trail will take a year or more to complete, even without taking into consideration the strenuous portions. Not recommended for novices or anyone who hasn’t accomplished the triple crown, and definitely not something to undertake without planning for resupply along the way, but the land you will see is gorgeous and the trip will be something to brag about for the rest of your lifetime.
Wherever you may go to hike, be safe, be careful, stick to the trail, and most importantly, remember that preparation is key.