Backpacking is an adventure that connects individuals with nature’s beauty and offers them an opportunity to explore the most scenic hiking trails in the United States. Ranging from the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California to the Wind River Range in Wyoming, the top 10 scenic backpacking trails offer breathtaking views of forests, meadows, waterfalls, historic landmarks, and high elevations. The longest trail is the Pacific Crest Trail, stretching 2,650 miles from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in Washington State. Hiking permits may be necessary for some trails, and the best times to go backpacking depend on the trail.
Top 10 Scenic Backpacking Trails in the United States
Backpacking is a fun activity packed with adventure, scenic views, and a way to connect with nature on a deeper level. The United States is home to dozens of backpacking trails, but some stand out from the rest. From coast to coast, here are the top 10 scenic backpacking trails in the United States.
1. The John Muir Trail, California
The John Muir Trail is a 211-mile trail that runs through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California. This trail passes by several glacial lakes, granite peaks, and stunning waterfalls such as the famous Yosemite Falls. The trail is quite challenging but offers marvelous views for those willing to push on.
2. Pacific Crest Trail, California, Oregon & Washington
The Pacific Crest Trail comprises of 2,650 miles extending from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in Washington State. Hiking the entire Pacific Crest Trail typically takes five months, but shorter sections can provide shorter trips. This trail stretch will take you through remarkable landscapes, including mountain ranges, desert vistas, alpine lakes, and redwood forests.
3. The Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine
The Appalachian Trail (AT) is probably the most famous hiking trail in the United States. It is a 2,200-mile trail that cuts through some of the country’s most stunning landscapes along the Appalachian Mountains in the eastern US. Hikers on this trail will enjoy tall and beautiful trees, rare wildflowers, historic landmarks, and beautiful views atop several mountains.
4. The Wonderland Trail, Washington
The Wonderland trail encompasses Mount Rainier’s entire base, offering hikers stunning views of the mountain’s picturesque glaciers and high elevations. The 93-mile trail cuts through forests, meadows, waterfalls, and streams, with many opportunities for watching wildlife along the trail.
5. The Continental Divide Trail, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico
The Continental Divide Trail is an extensive trail that spans from the Mexican border all the way to Canada, taking hikers through the wide-open spaces of the Rocky Mountains. This trail is an excellent way to explore the beautiful wilderness of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.
6. The Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota
The Superior Hiking Trail is a 310-mile trail that traverses through Minnesota’s stunning wilderness. The trail runs along Lake Superior, beautiful waterfalls, boreal forest, and rocky ridges, showcasing the beautiful scenery of Northern Minnesota.
7. The Long Trail, Vermont
The Long Trail is the oldest long-distance trail in the US, stretching across Vermont from Massachusetts to the Canadian border. The 273 miles trail winds through small villages, high peaks and ridges, exposed alpine areas, and even passes by one of the state’s ski resorts.
8. The Highline Trail, Utah
The Highline Trail is a 77-mile trail, starting from the Logan Pass and traversing through Glacier National Park. The trail offers breathtaking views of the park’s valleys, peaks, and meadows, making it one of the most scenic hiking trails in the US.
9. The Ozark Highlands Trail, Arkansas
The Ozark Highlands Trail cuts through the Ozark Mountains, showcasing the unbelievable beauty of Arkansas. The trail is around 165 miles and has a unique ecosystem of hardwood and coniferous forests, stunning creeks, waterfalls, and rare caves for the adventurous hikers.
10. The Wind River Range, Wyoming
The Wind River Range is a rugged mountain range in Wyoming that offers several backpacking opportunities. The range has over 600 miles of hiking trails, and hikers get to enjoy the stunning beauty of the Bridger-Teton National Forest, high mountains, wildflowers, and impressive wildlife.
Q1. Which is the longest backpacking trail in the US?
A. The Pacific Crest Trail is the longest hiking trail in the US, extending 2,650 miles from the Mexican border in California to the Canadian border in Washington State.
Q2. Which are the best regions for backpacking in the US?
A. Some of the most popular backpacking regions in the US include the Pacific Northwest, the Rocky Mountains, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and the Appalachian Mountains.
Q3. Are permits necessary to hike on these trails?
A. Yes, you may need permits to access some of these trails, and it’s always advisable to check the regulations and obtain permits beforehand.
Q4. What are the best times of the year to go backpacking?
A. That depends on the trail you plan to hike on. Generally, Summer and Fall are the most popular seasons for backpacking trips in the United States. However, if you opt for a trail that goes through the deserts, you may want to consider the winter season.