Have you ever wanted to go on a grand adventure?
Maybe you just watched The Hobbit and, like me, thought, “I’d love to go on a quest like that!”
I know I have. Although we won’t be confronting Smaug in an ancient dwarven kingdom, ya just might spot Sasquatch.
Ok, maybe not, but tackling one of these massive hiking trails will guarantee that you see wonderful sights and travel huge distances. Completing any of these is an impressive achievement.
Photo by Arbron
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir
America’s Longest Hiking Trails
(In order of total distance.)
- American Discovery Trail – 6,800 miles – Stretching from coast-to-coast, the American Discovery Trail is listed as being about 6,800 miles but that’s a bit misleading. The trail splits in Ohio and Colorado giving you the option of taking the northern or southern route. The longer southern route is 5,057 miles while the northern route is 4,834 miles. If you are seeking solitude this may not be the best trail as it passes through towns and cities along the way and sometimes follows roads. Still, it’s like the modern Oregon Trail which makes it seem rather exciting to me. Just watch out for dysentery! [More Information]
- Great Western Loop – 6,800 miles – So far it appears only Andrew Skurka, a well-known adventurer, has completed this beast. It took him 208 straight days, averaging a whopping 33 miles per day! [More Information]
- Eastern Continental Trail – 5,400 miles – Like the Great Western Loop, the Eastern Continental Trail connects multiple trail systems. Combined they stretch from Key West, Florida to the Appalachian Trail and up into Canada, ending on Belle Island. Wikipedia states the elevation change is only 6,643 ft (2,025 meters), that seems a little low. This would be a cool hike though, from sunny beaches to the mountains and up to a cold island. Quite a variety of climates. [More Information]
- North Country National Scenic Trail – 4,600 miles – This trail stretches from New York to North Dakota. I’d never heard of this trail until I started writing this article. This would be a cool trail to do because it passes through 5 states I haven’t visited yet. Since it’s located in northern states, you’d really have to keep your pace up to avoid getting caught in bad weather. [More Information]
- Great Western Trail – 4,455 miles – Hike through Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. You’ll experience everything from desert to alpine lakes. Interesting fact: The Great Western Trail is one of 16 designated as National Millennium Trails by the White House. [More Information]
- Continental Divide National Scenic Trail – 3,100 miles – Start in New Mexico, hike through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. The CDT is one of the big three along with the PCT and AT. Complete all three for the hard-earned Triple Crown. Hiking through Colorado would be great, the mountains there are so tall and rugged, like Tolkien’s Middle Earth. [More Information]
- Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail – 2,638 miles – The PCT tops my list of long-distance trails because it passes through two states I love plus my home state – Washington. The trail starts in Mexico and ends in Canada. As with the Appalachian Trail, section hiking is also popular. [More Information]
- Appalachian National Scenic Trail – 2,174 miles – The AT is the classic long-distance hike and one of three for the prestigious, but informal, Triple Crown (other two are Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide). A little less wilderness than the PCT but that can be helpful if you need to restock food or take a break in town. [More Information]
- Buckeye Trail – 1,444 miles – Have you ever heard of the Buckeye Trail? If you’re outside of Ohio, then probably not. The history of the Buckeye Trail is pretty interesting. It started as a 20-mile trail in 1959 and grew until 1980 at a final distance of 1,444 miles. [More Information]
- Florida National Scenic Trail – 1,400 miles – From south Florida to the panhandle, you’ll see most of what sunny Florida has to offer. [More Information]
- Ice Age National Scenic Trail – 1,200 miles – The Ice Age Trail zig-zags across Wisconsin, from Interstate State Park in the west to Potawatomi State Park in the east. [More Information]
- California Coastal Trail – 1,200 miles – Although the official trail network is not complete, it will span from Oregon to the Mexican border. When finished, the trail will be able to accommodate a variety of users from beach walkers to equestrians (horse riders). [More information]
- Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail – 1,200 miles – Hike from the peninsula of Washington through the panhandle of Idaho and into Glacier National Park. The majority of the trail is in my home state of Washington. Over 1,200 beautiful miles, the trail goes through 3 National Parks and 7 National Forests. Will you start in Montana or Washington? [More Information]
- Iditarod Trail – 1,025 miles – Rugged and wild, like all of Alaska. The Iditarod Trail follows the historic trail from Anchorage, Alaska to Nome, Alaska. [More Information]
- Mountains-to-Sea Trail – 1,000 miles – Trek from the Great Smokey Mountains to the Outer Bank, for an amazing tour of North Carolina. According to FMST, the largest number of thru-hikers to complete the trail was 10 in 2012. [More Information]
“Hike your Own Hike” or HYOH is a popular saying on the Appalachian Trail.
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” – John Muir
Planning for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) seems fairly straightforward thanks to a helpful resupply strategy guide from the Pacific Crest Trail Association. Likewise, there is a lot of information about planning logistics for the Appalachian Trail (AT). It’s hard to imagine the logistics that go into planning a journey on one of the top 5 trails, all of which are 2-3+ times as long as the PCT and Appalachian Trail (AT).
If you’re unable to get large blocks of time off of work, these shorter trails may interest you. They could also be good training for the classics like the AT, PCT or Great Divide.
Other (random) long hiking trails:
- Arizona National Scenic Trail – 807 miles – The Arizona Trail basically runs up the center of the state, with a small loop near Flagstaff. It stretches from the border with Mexico to the border with Utah. [More Information]
- Potomac National Scenic Trail – 700 miles – Running from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania through Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. I’ve hiked through the section in Great Falls National Park which is a great place to visit. [More Information]
- Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail -450 miles – This isn’t just one trail, it’s a collection of trails that cuts through Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. [More Information]
- New England National Scenic Trail – 220 miles – Get a feel for the Northeast by hiking through Connecticut and Massachusetts. [More Information]
- Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail – 175 miles – Ala Kahakai is a series of broken trails that circles two-thirds of the Big Island of Hawaii. [More Information]
- Wonderland Trail – 93 miles – A very popular hike around Mount Rainier in Washington State. [More Information]
- Timberline Trail – 40.7 miles – Circumnavigate Mount Hood in Oregon. [More Information]
Have you thru-hiked any of the 15 longest hikes? Do you plan to?