The best backpacking trails in North America: Looking to plan your next backpacking adventure? North America offers some of the most incredible and diverse terrain for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts.
From the rugged Rocky Mountains to the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest, there is no shortage of awe-inspiring landscapes to explore.
In this article, we will be highlighting some of the best backpacking trails in North America that are sure to satisfy your adventurous spirit.
If you’re looking for a unique and unforgettable way to connect with nature, then backpacking is the way to go. With its breathtaking scenery and challenging terrain, North America is a backpacker’s paradise.
Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just starting out, there’s a trail out there that’s perfect for you. One of the most iconic backpacking trails in North America is the Pacific Crest Trail.
This 2,650-mile trail takes hikers through the rugged wilderness of California, Oregon, and Washington, offering stunning views of the Sierra Nevada, Cascade, and Coastal Mountain ranges.
Another popular destination is the Appalachian Trail, a 2,200-mile trail that winds through 14 states on the East Coast of the United States.
The trail offers hikers a chance to explore the lush forests and rugged terrain of the Appalachian Mountains.
For those looking for a more off-the-beaten-path adventure, consider the Wonderland Trail in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park.
This 93-mile trail circles the base of Mount Rainier, offering hikers a chance to experience some of the most beautiful alpine scenery in the country.
Or, head to the Canadian Rockies and hike the Berg Lake Trail in British Columbia’s Mount Robson Provincial Park.
This 21-mile trail takes hikers through some of the most stunning scenery in the Canadian Rockies, including glaciers, waterfalls, and turquoise-colored lakes.
So, what are you waiting for? Grab your backpack and hit the trail! Whether you’re looking for a challenging multi-day trek or a leisurely weekend hike, North America has something to offer everyone.
Make sure to do your research and plan ahead, and always remember to respect the environment and leave no trace. Happy hiking!
Explanation of backpacking
Backpacking involves hiking, camping, and carrying everything you need on your back for an extended period. It’s a way to immerse yourself in nature, get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
And challenge yourself physically and mentally. Backpacking can be done alone or with a group of friends, and it’s a great way to develop new skills and make lasting memories.
Aside from the physical and mental challenges, backpacking also provides a unique opportunity for personal growth and self-reflection.
Being surrounded by nature and away from the distractions of technology and modern amenities can give you a chance to disconnect and focus on your thoughts and feelings.
It can also teach you important skills such as self-reliance, problem-solving, and adaptability.
Additionally, backpacking allows you to explore some of the world’s most beautiful and remote areas that may not be accessible by car or other means of transportation.
From breathtaking mountain ranges to pristine beaches, backpacking can take you on a journey of discovery and adventure. If you’re new to backpacking, it’s important to do your research and plan your trip carefully.
This includes choosing the right gear, selecting a suitable route, and ensuring that you have enough food and water for the duration of your trip.
However, with proper planning and preparation, backpacking can be an incredibly rewarding and unforgettable experience.
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Snake bite kits for backpackers
Why North America is a Great Destination for Backpackers
North America offers some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the world, from the rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains to the lush forests of the Pacific Northwest.
There’s a trail for every level of backpacker, from beginner to expert, and the infrastructure and amenities available make it easy to plan and execute a successful backpacking trip.
In addition to the varied landscapes and trail options, North America also boasts a rich cultural and historical heritage, with many backpacking routes passing through sites of significance.
For example, hikers can follow in the footsteps of early explorers along the historic Oregon Trail, or traverse parts of the famous Appalachian Trail, which stretches over 2,000 miles along the eastern seaboard of the United States.
One of the greatest appeals of backpacking in North America is the sense of adventure and exploration that comes with it. With so many different terrains and ecosystems to explore, there is always something new and exciting to discover.
Whether you’re seeking solitude in the backcountry or looking to connect with fellow adventurers, the North American wilderness offers endless opportunities for growth, challenge, and personal connection to nature.
As with any outdoor activity, safety should always be a top priority. Before embarking on a backpacking trip, it’s important to research the area, check weather conditions, and pack appropriate gear and supplies.
With proper planning and preparation, a backpacking trip in North America can be a truly unforgettable experience.
Importance of Choosing the Right Trail
Choosing the right trail is essential for a successful backpacking trip. You need to consider factors such as your fitness level, the level of difficulty, the length of the trail, and the weather conditions.
You should also research the area to ensure you have all the necessary permits, maps, and gear. Choosing the right trail will ensure a safe and enjoyable backpacking experience.
Furthermore, it’s essential to take into account the trail’s elevation gain and loss, as this can significantly impact the difficulty of the hike.
Additionally, researching the area can help you prepare for any potential hazards, such as wildlife encounters or inclement weather.
It’s also a good idea to check the availability of water sources along the trail and plan accordingly. Lastly, don’t forget to let someone know your itinerary and expected return date, in case of emergency.
By carefully considering these factors and doing proper research, you’ll be able to choose the right trail for your skill level and ensure a successful and safe backpacking trip.
The best backpacking trails in North America
1. Pacific crest trail, USA
The Pacific Crest Trail stretches over 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington. The trail offers stunning views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Cascades, and the Mojave Desert.
It’s a challenging trail that requires extensive planning and preparation, but it’s worth it for the incredible scenery and sense of accomplishment.
Hikers who embark on the Pacific Crest Trail should expect a journey that will test their physical and mental endurance. The trail presents a variety of challenges, from steep ascents and descents to unpredictable weather conditions.
Hikers must be prepared for anything, from extreme heat and intense sun exposure to freezing temperatures and unexpected snowstorms.
Planning for resupplies and managing food and water is essential as well, as there are long stretches where hikers won’t have access to these necessities. Despite the challenges, the Pacific Crest Trail offers hikers a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
The trail takes hikers through some of the most beautiful and diverse landscapes in the United States, providing a sense of awe and wonder with each step.
The trail also fosters a sense of community among hikers, as many people undertake the journey together, helping and supporting each other along the way.
For those who are up to the challenge, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail is an adventure of a lifetime that is sure to be unforgettable.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a long-distance hiking trail that stretches from the border of Mexico and the United States at Campo, California to the border of the United States and Canada.
At Manning Park, British Columbia. The total distance of the trail is approximately 2,650 miles (4,265 kilometers).
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2. Appalachian trail, USA
The Appalachian Trail is one of the most popular backpacking trails in North America, stretching over 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. The trail passes through 14 states and offers breathtaking views of the Appalachian Mountains.
It’s a challenging trail that requires careful planning, but it’s a great way to explore the beauty of the Eastern United States. Along the Appalachian Trail, hikers can experience a wide range of ecosystems, from lush forests to rocky summits.
The trail also crosses several national parks, forests, and wildlife preserves, providing opportunities to see a variety of flora and fauna. With shelters and campsites spaced out along the way, hikers can choose to camp in the wilderness or stay in designated areas.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy provides resources and support for hikers, including maps, guidebooks, and volunteer caretakers.
For those who complete the entire trail, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy awards the coveted 2,000-Miler Certificate, a testament to their determination and love of the outdoors.
The Appalachian Trail is a hiking trail that extends approximately 2,200 miles (3,500 km) from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, passing through 14 states in the eastern United States.
Water filtration system for backpacker
3. West coast trail, Canada
The West Coast Trail is a 47-mile trail that follows the southwestern edge of Vancouver Island, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and old-growth rainforest.
It’s a challenging trail that requires a high level of fitness and experience, but it’s worth it for the incredible scenery and wildlife sightings.
Hiking the West Coast Trail takes around 5-7 days, and trekkers will encounter rugged terrain, steep cliffs, and slippery boardwalks. The trail also crosses several creeks and rivers, which can be challenging to traverse during heavy rains.
However, the rewards are plenty, with breathtaking sunsets, misty mornings, and wildlife sightings, including whales, seals, and bald eagles. The trail is also steeped in history, with artifacts from old shipwrecks and indigenous settlements scattered throughout.
Despite its challenges, the West Coast Trail is an adventure of a lifetime, offering a unique opportunity to immerse oneself in the rugged beauty of Canada’s West Coast.
The West Coast Trail is a popular hiking trail located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. The total length of the trail is approximately 75 kilometers or 47 miles.
4. Sunshine coast trail, Canada
The Sunshine Coast Trail is a 112-mile trail that runs along the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, offering views of the ocean, mountains, and old-growth forests. It’s a moderate trail that’s perfect for intermediate backpackers looking for a challenging yet rewarding experience.
The trail can be completed in 10-14 days, depending on your pace and the number of side trips you take. Along the way, hikers can enjoy various campsites, lakes, and streams.
The trail is well-marked, and there are several access points, making it easy to break the hike into smaller sections if you don’t have the time to complete the entire trail.
Hikers may also encounter a variety of wildlife on the trail, including bears, cougars, and deer. It’s important to be prepared and follow proper safety precautions when hiking the Sunshine Coast Trail.
Overall, this trail is a fantastic opportunity to explore the stunning natural beauty of British Columbia and challenge yourself in the process.
The Sunshine Coast Trail is a 180-kilometer (112-mile) long hiking trail located on the Sunshine Coast of British Columbia, Canada.
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5. The long range traverse, Canada
The Long Range Traverse is a 35-mile trail that runs through the Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, offering stunning views of the fjords and the Long Range Mountains.
It’s a challenging trail that requires a high level of fitness and experience, but it’s worth it for the breathtaking views and unique experience.
The trail is known for its rugged terrain and steep ascents, making it a popular destination for experienced hikers seeking a challenge.
Along the way, hikers will encounter a diverse range of landscapes, including forests, rivers, and alpine meadows.
The trail also passes through the traditional lands of the Innu and Mi’kmaq people, adding a cultural and historical dimension to the journey.
Despite its difficulty, the Long Range Traverse is a must-do for avid hikers and nature enthusiasts looking for an unforgettable adventure in one of Canada’s most beautiful national parks.
The Long Range Traverse is a hiking trail located in Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada. It covers a distance of approximately 35 kilometers (22 miles) and typically takes hikers 3-4 days to complete.
6. Laugavegur trail, Iceland
The Laugavegur Trail is a 34-mile trail that runs through the highlands of Iceland, offering views of glaciers, hot springs, and volcanoes.
It’s a challenging trail that requires careful planning and experience, but it’s worth it for the unique scenery and cultural experience of exploring Iceland’s wilderness.
The trail begins in the Landmannalaugar geothermal area and ends in the Þórsmörk valley, taking hikers through diverse landscapes such as colorful rhyolite mountains, black sand deserts, and glacial rivers.
Along the way, hikers can rest at mountain huts or camp in designated areas to fully immerse themselves in Iceland’s rugged beauty.
The trail is usually open from late June to mid-September, with the best time to hike being in July and August when the weather is more predictable.
Hiking the Laugavegur Trail is an unforgettable adventure for anyone seeking a challenging and rewarding trek in one of the world’s most stunning wilderness areas.
The Laugavegur Trail is a popular hiking route in Iceland that stretches approximately 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Landmannalaugar to Þórsmörk (or Thorsmork) through the beautiful and diverse landscapes of the Icelandic Highlands.
Personal protection accessories for backpackers
7. The narrows, USA
The Narrows is a 16-mile trail that runs through Zion National Park in Utah, offering breathtaking views of the Virgin River and towering canyon walls.
It’s a challenging trail that requires hiking through water, but it’s a unique and rewarding experience for adventurous backpackers. The trail is famous for its narrow passages that are as narrow as 20 feet, which are referred to as the Wall Street section.
This section of the trail can be quite challenging, with hikers often wading through waist-deep water and scrambling over boulders. The trail can be hiked year-round, but the best time to visit is during the summer months when the water is warmer and the weather is more predictable.
Hikers can also take guided tours through the Narrows, where experienced guides will lead them through the trail and offer insights into the geology and history of the area.
Overall, the Narrows is a must-visit destination for anyone seeking an unforgettable adventure in the great outdoors.
The Narrows is a hiking trail located in Zion National Park, USA. The trail distance of The Narrows varies depending on how far you choose to hike. The most popular section of the trail is a 16-mile (round trip) hike from the Temple of Sinawava to Big Spring.
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8. Kalalau trail, USA
The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile trail that runs along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and waterfalls.
It’s a challenging trail that requires careful planning and preparation, but it’s worth it for the incredible scenery and sense of adventure.
The trail is known for its steep and narrow sections, with some parts of the trail only a few feet wide with sheer drops to the ocean below.
Hikers are advised to wear proper hiking gear and bring plenty of water and snacks, as well as a first aid kit and a map of the trail.
It’s important to check weather conditions before embarking on the trail, as flash floods and heavy rains can make the trail dangerous.
Despite the challenges, the Kalalau Trail is a bucket list destination for many hikers and adventurers seeking a unique and unforgettable experience on the beautiful island of Kauai.
The Kalalau Trail is an 11-mile (17.7 km) trail located on the island of Kauai in the state of Hawaii, USA.
9. Chilkoot trail, USA and Canada
The Chilkoot Trail is a 33-mile trail that runs from Alaska to the Yukon Territory in Canada, following the historic route of the Klondike Gold Rush.
It offers stunning views of the mountains and glaciers and is a unique opportunity to explore the history of the gold rush era.
The Chilkoot Trail was once a bustling hub of activity as thousands of hopeful prospectors made their way to the Yukon in search of gold.
Today, the trail serves as a reminder of this historic event and allows hikers to experience what life was like for these pioneers.
Along the way, hikers can see remnants of the old mining camps and learn about the challenges that the miners faced, including harsh weather conditions and treacherous terrain.
The trail is also home to a diverse range of wildlife, including bears, moose, and eagles, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and history buffs alike.
The Rockwall Trail is a popular hiking trail in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada. The trail is approximately 55 kilometers (34 miles) long and typically takes 3-5 days to complete.
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10. The rockwall trail, Canada
The Rockwall Trail is a 34-mile trail that runs through Kootenay National Park in British Columbia, offering views of the Canadian Rockies and alpine meadows.
It’s a challenging trail that requires careful planning and preparation, but it’s worth it for the stunning scenery and unique experience.
The Rockwall Trail can be completed in 3-5 days, depending on your pace and whether you choose to camp or stay in backcountry lodges.
The trail is well-marked, but hikers should be prepared for steep ascents and descents, as well as changing weather conditions. Along the way, you’ll pass by turquoise lakes, towering peaks, and lush forests.
Keep an eye out for wildlife, such as mountain goats and bighorn sheep, and be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles to preserve the natural beauty of the area.
Overall, the Rockwall Trail is a must-do for experienced hikers looking for a challenging and rewarding adventure in the Canadian Rockies.
The Rockwall Trail is a 55-kilometer (34-mile) long hiking trail located in Kootenay National Park, British Columbia, Canada.
11. Continental divide trail
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is one of the longest and most challenging hiking trails in the United States. Spanning 3,100 miles from the border of Mexico to Canada.
The CDT traverses some of the most rugged and remote terrain in the Rocky Mountains. The trail follows the Continental Divide, which is the line that separates the watersheds that flow to the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
Hikers on the CDT will encounter a diverse range of landscapes, from arid deserts to high alpine peaks, and will need to be prepared for extreme weather conditions.
While the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail are more well-known long-distance hiking trails, the CDT offers a unique and challenging experience for those looking to push their limits and explore the wilds of the Rocky Mountains.
The CDT is not for the faint of heart, but for those who are up for the challenge, it offers the opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful and untouched wilderness areas in the country.
If you’re considering taking on the CDT, be sure to do your research and prepare yourself physically and mentally for the journey ahead.
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT) is a long-distance hiking trail that spans over 3,100 miles (4,988 kilometers) from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada, following the Continental Divide of the Americas along the Rocky Mountains in the United States.
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Tips for a Successful Backpacking Trip
Planning is essential for a successful backpacking trip. Make sure to research the trail and the area, including weather conditions, permits, and necessary gear.
Pack lightweight and essential items only, including proper footwear and clothing, shelter, food, and water. Always be prepared for emergencies and practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the environment.
Additionally, it’s important to have a detailed itinerary and share it with someone trustworthy in case of any unforeseen circumstances.
Familiarize yourself with the local flora and fauna and be mindful of potential dangers such as wildlife, steep terrain, or unpredictable weather patterns.
Consider bringing a map, compass, or GPS device to navigate your way and avoid getting lost.
And finally, make sure to take breaks and rest when needed to prevent exhaustion and injuries. By following these tips, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable backpacking trip.
1. What are the best backpacking trails in North America?
Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Canadian Rockies are popular backpacking trails.
2. What are the most scenic backpacking trails in North America?
The Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, and Continental Divide Trail are popular scenic backpacking trails.
3. What backpacking trails in North America are best for beginners?
The Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail are popular choices for beginner backpackers.
4. What gear do I need for backpacking on North American trails?
Backpacking essentials: tent, sleeping bag, backpack, stove, water filter, map, and appropriate clothing.
5. What are some safety tips for backpacking on North American trails?
Check weather forecasts, bring enough food and water, and inform someone of your itinerary.
Backpacking is a challenging and rewarding way to explore the natural beauty of North America. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced backpacker, there’s a trail for everyone.
Remember to choose the right trail, plan carefully, and pack essential gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Get out there and explore the great outdoors!
Additionally, backpacking is an excellent way to disconnect from the chaos of everyday life and connect with nature. Along the trail, you’ll encounter stunning vistas, diverse wildlife, and unique ecosystems that you can only experience by foot.
Plus, the physical and mental challenge of backpacking can provide a sense of accomplishment and personal growth. So, whether you’re looking to embark on a weekend getaway or a multi-day trek.
Backpacking offers an opportunity to escape the city and immerse yourself in the natural wonders of North America. So grab your pack, lace up your boots, and hit the trail!
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