1. North Country Trail
Length: 4600 milesRegion: Northern United StatesEndpoint 1: Crown Point, New YorkEndpoint 2: Lake Sakakawea State Park, North Dakota
Shoulder a pack, lace up your boots and heat out to explore this scenic and amazing trail. You can throughout the year, until snow blocks your path. It cuts through seven states, from prairies on the Great Plains to the glacier-filled landscapes in Adirondack Park. If you want to explore large sections of the U.S.A through the jungle, the North Country Trail is just what you need to follow. Cutting through more than 100 state forests and national parks, as well as 10 national forests, the trail gives millions of hikers each year, a view into some of the finest natural locations that North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York have to offer. You will experience sublime scenery in places such as Pictured Rocks, with cliffs and lighthouses over Lake Superior. During fall, experience the sight of changing leaves and the smell of grape harvest, in Finger Lakes, New York. Established more almost 40 years ago, the North County Trail is yet to be completed. Hikers follow abandoned railroad beds, miles of dirt roads, national forests and newly cut trails, giving you the best combination of what nature has to offer.
2. Continental Divide Trail
Length: 3100 milesRegion: Rocky MountainsEndpoint 1: MexicoEndpoint 2: Canada
The Continental Divide Trail, otherwise known as the CDT is one of the best and toughest hiking trails that North America has to offer. Although it is challenging, certain sections of the trail are unbelievably breathtaking. Most hikers are attracted to the CDT after testing their hiking skills in the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Trail. If you hike all 3 in your lifetime, you become a hiking royalty. No doubt about that. Few people manage that feat. Although the Continental Divide Trail is not as popular as the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Trail, it offers lots of adventure, for the 4 to 5 months that you will be in the jungle. Take the word trail with a pinch of salt because there are large sections of road walking, coupled with route finding in unmarked terrain. You can call them cross-country if you prefer. This is where your navigation skills are brought to the fore. It is not surprising that most hikers tackle the CDT after they have developed extensive hiking and navigation skills. The trail cuts through numerous terrains and ecosystems, including the Chihuahuan Desert in New Mexico, Mountains rising to over 14,000 feet in Colorado and grizzly bear territory as you step in Montana.
3. East Coast Greenway
Length: 3000 milesRegion: Eastern U.SEndpoint 1: Calais, MaineEndpoint 2: Key West, Florida
You can take a road trip or a mountain hike across America. However, no adventure is as epic and breathtaking, as hiking across the East Coast Greenway in one path. Although it is not very popular among new hikers, it is an awesome project, which is also used as a biking path. It passes through a wide range of amazing diversity, with lots of cultural and natural history along the route. It also connects diverse landscapes, from the storied rocky coast in Maine, to the palm-lined sandy beaches in Southern Florida. From the gateway to the Canadian Maritimes to historic mill cities and coastal communities, you will experience some of the best adventure in your lifetime that Maine has to offer. The northerly portion at the Canadian border offers two portions. You can either take the 85-mile Down East Sunrise Trail, passing through the blueberry barrens or take an alternate road route, if you don’t trust your navigation skills. What makes it particularly interesting, is the timeless and beautiful scenery that you will encounter along the way. It also remains one of the safest hiking trails in the U.S.
4. Pacific Crest Trail
Length: 2654 milesRegion: West CoastEndpoint 1: MexicoEndpoint 2: Canada
Have you ever wondered what it feels like to hike through some of the most outstanding scenic beauty in the United States? Well, you don’t have to imagine anymore. The Pacific Crest Trail is all yours. Thousands of equestrians and hikers enjoy this national treasure each year, and there is no reason why you shouldn’t be one of them. Spanning more than 4,000 kilometers from Mexico to Canada, it brings to you the beauty of the desert, reveals the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, and provides some of the most commanding vistas, which you will encounter on the Cascade Range of volcanic mountains. As you can see, this trail is a symbol of everything there is to love in the Western United States. Whether you are only hiking a few miles, or you intend to complete the entire trail in a single season, the choice is all yours. One of the best sections along the trail is the Snoqualmie Pass. For more than 75 miles, you don’t encounter any road. As you complete this section, you will hike through some of the most diverse and remote mountain country along the trail. It passes through a dozen of lakes, most of which are swimmable during late summer. However, the lakes are not the only attraction; you will encounter views of towering mountains, and meadows. Pure beauty, fun and adventure awaits you in the Pacific Crest Trail.
5. Appalachian Trail
Length: 2189 milesRegion: Appalachian MountainsEndpoint 1: GeorgiaEndpoint 2: Maine
Without a doubt, the Appalachian Trail is the most famous and longest hiking-only footpath in the U.S. Running from Maine to Georgia; this public footpath traverses the wooded, scenic, pastoral, wild and culturally rich lands of the Appalachian Mountains. Started in 1921, it was completed in 1937 by private citizens. With over 2 million visitors per year, the Appalachian Trail attracts hikers from all parts of the world. If you are Northbound, most people start at Springer Mountain. Being the most popular place to begin the thru-hike also means that the place is usually crowded from 1st March to around 15th April. Therefore, if you are northbound, delay your trip a little bit to avoid the stream of hikers and the overcrowding along the campsites. You can also choose to start at the middle of the trail. This gives you a gradual progression along the terrains as well as more resupply points. It also means that you will avoid the overcrowding and party atmosphere, enjoy favorable weather and reduce resource damage to the trail. If you consider yourself a hiking ninja, then you can start your thru-hike at Maine. Truth is, this is not the place for the weak. Most people who have hiked the entire trail will tell you that Katahdin is the most difficult mountain to climb on The Appalachian Trail. Whichever way you choose, just enjoy the trip.
6. Ice Age Trail
Length: 1200 milesRegion: WisconsinEndpoint 1: Potawatomi State ParkEndpoint 2: Interstate Park
If you are looking for hiking, walking or backpacking, all these activities are available on the Ice Age Trail. Spanning more than 1000 miles in Wisconsin, the trail focuses more on the natural land formations that occurred during the Ice Age. With a rich history of more than 12,000 years, this trail is a landscape of remarkable beauty, featuring glacier remnants and a wide range of unique landscape features. As you travel through some of the most beautiful natural areas in Wisconsin, there are various opportunities for wildlife viewing, bird watching and sightseeing. During winter, certain sections of the trail are open for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. A trip across the Ice Age Trail takes you through some of the most scenic Terrain in Wisconsin, including expansive prairies, mature forests and thousands of rivers and lakes, some that are swimmable during summer. The Wisconsin Glaciation on this trail is a series of ridges spread over 120 miles long. Other Geologic features include outwash plains, ice-walled lake plains, drumlins, eskers, kames, and tunnel channels, just to name a few. If you want to witness some of the most of the landforms created during the continental glaciations, then Wisconsin is the place to be.
7. Pacific Northwest Trail
Length: 1200 milesRegion: Pacific North WestEndpoint 1: Glacier National ParkEndpoint 2: Cape Alava, Olympic National Park, Washington
Regarded as one of the most scenic trails in the world, the Pacific Northwest Trail cuts across different landscapes, which include, the Rocky Mountains, the Pasayten Wilderness, Selkirk Mountains, North Cascades, the Wilderness Coast, and the Olympic Mountains. Although it is commonly confused with the Pacific Crest Trail, the Pacific Northwest Trail, commonly known as PNT among the hikers, runs perpendicular to the PCT for over 1200 miles, crossing the PCT at the North Cascades. As much as the trail is mapped out, you can say that it is relatively new, since some sections are not yet complete. It brings together old forest service roads, paved highways, dense vegetation, cow paths, and rocky ledges devoid of any paths. That unique combination of landscapes makes you really feel as if you are walking through America. The relatively short length but challenging terrain, combined with the solitude, makes it one of the best. The variety of landscape along the way will leave you in awe. From Glacier National Park to the Pacific Ocean, you will experience sagebrush deserts, dense and lush rainforests, seascapes and tidepools, cow poop and dust, rugged mountains and slow rolling hills, free loving hippies and even angry landowners. It brings together everything that you ever wished for.
8. Florida Trail
Length: 1000 milesRegion: FloridaEndpoint 1: Gulf Islands National SeashoreEndpoint 2: Big Cypress National Preserve
Florida presents a different hiking experience from what you are used to in other parts of the United States. The hiking season is somewhat backwards. While most northern hikers hit the trails during summer, hikers in Florida venture out during fall. Hiking during fall comes with various advantages like cool and pleasant temperatures as well as fewer mosquitoes. The uncomfortable moments along the way, combined with the shining moments, the forged friendships in the jungle, the majesty of the hills, the curious fauna and the sweet smell of flora, all make it a worthwhile experience. There are 8 distinct sections along the trail, which stand out. These are Alexander Springs to Farles Lake, Clearwater Lake to Alexander Springs, Pat’s Island to Hidden Pond, Hopkins Prairie to Salt Springs, Chuluota Wilderness to Joshua Creek, Mills Creek, Little Big Econ State Forest, and Seminole State Forest. Majority of long distance hikers prefer the western side of Lake Okeechobee. In this section of the trail, you will enjoy more scenic beauty. Sugar cane fields give way to vast palmetto-dotted prairies, with vast herds of cattle. Sunrises are amazing with sweeping panoramas in different directions. You will also experience wildlife sightings, interesting birds and several alligators. Give your eyes a feast!
9. Mountains-To-Sea Trail
Length: 1000 milesRegion: North CarolinaEndpoint 1: Clingman’s Dome, Great Smoky MountainsEndpoint 2: Jockey’s Ridge, Outer Banks
The MST as it is popularly known is more than just a walk in the woods. If you are a nature lover, you will experience the great diversity of North Carolina. From ancient mountains to small Piedmont farms, colonial towns to coastal swamps, barrier islands and changing textile villages, adventure doesn’t get better than this. With over 700 miles currently completed, you can now follow the trail across North Carolina, climbing the highest sand dune and the tallest mountain peak in the United States. The highest elevation is approximately 6,684 feet, which is on Mt. Mitchell while the lowest elevation is at the sea level on Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Along the trail, you will pass through two national wildlife refuges and four national parks, meander through 3 national forests, pass 3 lighthouses, including the nation’s tallest, and enjoy two ferry rides. On the MST, the only constant is change. Its location in the center of Orange County makes it easily accessible by outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Everything North Carolina has to offer, from the woods to the town is amazing and the whole trip is phenomenal.
10. Idaho Centennial Trail
Length: 883 milesRegion: IdahoEndpoint 1: near Murphy Hot SpringsEndpoint 2: Upper Priest Falls
The Idaho Centennial Trail is a very wild, incredibly scenic and extremely remote hiking trail, running for approximately 1000 miles. Whether you are planning a weekend hike or short afternoon day hike, there are numerous short hikes along the trail. You can even hike the entire trail by breaking it down into sections and hike it at your own pace. On the other hand, if you are a seasoned backpacker, just hike the entire trail and experience extended adventure into the backcountry. With close to 1000 miles of rugged and rough backcountry travel, the Idaho Centennial Trail is guaranteed to keep you on your toes. As you cross the state from Nevada to Canada, the trail traverses some of the most isolated lands. From the lush western forests, to the desert of the Snake River plain, there is everything to love about Idaho. The ICT cuts through large tracts of Idaho’s protected wilderness. With only a few completed thru-hikes since its inception in 1990, the Idaho Centennial Trail presents a challenging and unique opportunity to all prospective hikers. Come and experience the incomparable remoteness and unmatched solitude of the ICT.
How To Hike These Trails Successfully?
Did you make it all the way to the end of the page? Hats off to you, my dear fellow hiking aficionado. You are now officially ready to take on an actual trail in real life. Be sure to take good hiking boots with you. Here we’ve got a men’s selection and a women’s selection. Your footwear is easily the most important hiking item that you can’t afford to forget about. The pages I linked to show the top 20 brands for hiking boots for both men and women. I think you’re going to have a great time trying to find the best ones for your hike of choice!
Now keep in mind… these are long distance trails. If you’re planning on making camp, you’ve gotta be sure to have a way of catching some zzz’s to make the most out of resting your eyes for a bit. A cot or a hammock can really help you out. If you want to sleep under cover, then you’re going to need a tent, either one for backpacking or for camping. Since resting alone isn’t going to keep you going on the trail, I highly recommend that you also find a way to make yourself some grub.
Naturally, you’re also going to have make sure you are properly dressed for the occasion. A good night’s rest and a full tummy are nice, but what’s it worth if you’re going to be suffering from rain and cold, all throughout your hike? For that reason, you’ve gotta be wearing a proper jacket. Depending on the weather situation you are expecting, you should either go with a jacket that is waterproof, or one made of down. Once your torso is properly clad, you stand a much better chance to enjoy your hike. But don’t forget to put on a decent pair of outdoor pants as well. Oh, and don’t forget your boxers!
You’d think you’d be properly equipped with all this, right? Well, we haven’t covered one very important thing yet, and that’s your pack. Depending on how long your hike is and what you want to take with you, you’ll need to either carry a daypack, a heavy duty backpack. And, depending on how gorgeous the scenery is that you’re going to be looking at, you also might want to consider to bring a bag to put your camera in. Last, but not least… the more strenuous your trail is, the more of a chance you stand of sustaining an injury. Small injuries such as scratches can still be really painful, despite being small. Don’t let injuries ruin your hike. Bring some first aid with you. You never know when it’ll come in handy!
Some people like to stray off the beaten path and go fish in the lake. If you’re planning on fishing while you’re camping lakeside, then you may want to bring a good kayak with you, that will keep you adrift while you’re keeping a close eye on your fishing float. And if you’re not just fishing for a little R&R, but you actually want to impress your wife… then consider bringing along a fish finder to really give yourself an edge!
Well… that’s it. I can’t think of anything more you’d want to bring along for a hike. Can you? What unmissable hiking item did I miss? Leave a comment or contact me, and let me know!
24 thoughts on “Top 10 Long Distance Hiking Trails In The USA”
These are fantastic. I’ve hiked on a few of these – Cumberland Trail in TN and the Chesapeake and Ohio towpath. The Pacific Coast Trail is definitely on my short list – it looks stunningly beautiful, and I’d love the chance to explore the west coast scenery.
Wow – these are some great hikes. I’m inspired to get out on a trail this summer.
Nice article, Brian. I added a link to this page on our Colorado Hikes page. Keep up the great work!
Great collection of hikes, definitely going to put some of these on my bucket list!
Thanks for this interesting site. I am now an armchair hiker because, I am 83, have terrible back problems, and a knee replacement. I have only hiked in the Sierra as it’s nearly my backyard. Did 1/2 the Tahoe Yosemite with my sister and niece, her late husband joined for part of it, from Carson pass to Clark’s fork on the Stanislaus. Have hiked in Carson Wilderness, Emigrant Wilderness, and Southern Yosemite.
I advise all trail lovers to not let life get in the way. I miss it very much so suggest you don’t hesitate. The trails don’t wear out but we do.
Happy hiking, Barb
Truer words have never been spoken before on the Boot Bomb.
I can tell there’s a lot of experience and wisdom backing them up.
We’d all best take heed of your sage advice before it’s too late.
It’s the ultimate hiker’s dilemma.
So many trails, so little time…
Suggested addition – Northville Placid Trail in New York. Its a 138 mile wilderness experience through some of the most beautiful sections of the Aidrondacks. http://www.nptrail.org/
That one looks gorgeous. Gotta remind myself to check it out in detail sometime!
Would also like to mention the Erie Canal Trail which currently runs 360+ mi from Buffalo, NY to Albany, NY. It goes through many small towns and villages, and several long portions of it are paved, making it suitable for hiking and cycling.
Thanks for letting me know. I’ve checked out some photos on google images. Looks really nice!
The section of the Wind RIver Mountains (Continental Divide Trail) is unbelievable, breathtaking. To take it all in prepare to hike for 3 to 5 days. You can access from Elkhart Trailhead, the Upper Green RIver Lakes trailhead, or from Big Sandy Trailhead.
Yes, it sure is breathtaking. But then again, all 50 hikes on this list are, IMO.
How many times have you hiked the Wind River Mountains?
Your photo of the Great Western Trail (#46) shows the Great Western Rail Trail in DuPage County, Illinois. No mountains there!
The current image doesn’t show any mountains. I’m not sure I understand your point. Feel free to clarify.
Hi Brian…I didn’t see the AZT on your list…and I may have missed it. Do you have an opinion about it? Thinking of doing it next. Do appreciate your work on this list project. My thanks, VA
Hi Venerable Ancestor,
I love the Arizona Trail. It looks just like Red Dead Redemption 2. Although I think the Arizona Trail was probably first, so I should say RDR looks like AZT.
But I stray…
This is a list that was sorted by their length, descendingly, and cut off at 50. Arizona Trail didn’t make it on here. Nothing personal. Great trail. Just not in the top 50 longest ones!
If you have big plans and want to walk coast to coast the American Discovery Trail (discoverytrail.org) incorporates quite a few of these trails.
Thanks for pointing that out.
I checked out your site. You should put way more and bigger pictures on there, man. Great opportunity to show the trail off!
where mention of Arizona trail and grand enchantment trail?
Hey John, I reviewed these trails and there are definitely several that I want to hike. There is one that was not on the list and I was wondering if you could do a review on it. It is the Pinhote Trail that begins at Flagg Mountain, AL and runs northeast to the Benton MacKaye trail, seventy miles west of Springer Mountain and the Appalachian Trail in north Georgia. Thank you for your articles on hiking in America.
The name’s Brian, but that’s alright!
And I’m sure you mean the Pinhoti Trail. I’ve never been there myself, but I’m just now googling some images on it. It looks really sweet.
I’d love to add it to my reviews some time. Thanks for the suggestion!
There are two Mid State Trails, and while I think you did mean to include them both, the info for the first one (#23) describes the MA MST, while the photo is from the PA MST. The PA MST is much longer, which at 327 miles would fit nicely between the Long Path and the Superior Hiking Trail.
Nice list though!
Thanks for letting me know. I’ll see if I can get that sorted soon.