Before tackling the longest hiking trails in the US, it's best to prepare yourself physically and mentally by hiking low-mileage trails first and then gradually building your endurance and skills along with distance and difficulty. Preparation helps avoid injury as you reach peak condition physically and mentally.
Eight of the Longest U.S. Hiking Trails
If you're looking for a challenging hiking adventure, consider one of the longest hiking trails in the United States. Here are eight of the most well-known and popular options.
1. Appalachian Trail
The well-marked Appalachian Trail is popular among the longest hiking trails in the US. The 2,175-mile trail can be hiked in portions or as a thru-hike. This scenic hike stretches through 14 states from Maine to Georgia and takes hikers through a variety of landscapes.
In 1970, Ed Garvey completed the hike and wrote Appalachian Hiker: Adventure of a Lifetime which ignited interest in the challenging hike and coined the term "2,000 milers." In 2008, the 10,000th completed hike through the Appalachian Trail was recorded and the number continues to grow.
If you choose the Appalachian Trail for your hiking pleasure, use maps to help track how far you've hiked. Whether you hike a section at a time or hike the entire trail straight through, when you finish, you'll be able to count yourself among the "2,000-miler" elite. Before you head out for your hike, you can get a real feel for what the trail is like through a number of journals and blogs online that allow you to communicate with other hikers.
2. Glacier National Park
The Glacier National Park provides a 700-mile hiking trail rich with wildlife. This trail reaches across millions of forested acres, alpine meadows and clear picturesque lakes. If you decide to hike in this park, make sure to visit the park visitor center and pick up a copy of warnings and recommendations. This will help keep you safe and also protects park resources.
3. Yosemite National Park
Yosemite is located in the Sierra Nevada and offers hikers breathtaking views including meadows, waterfalls and forests which consist of groves of giant sequoias. Like many parks, it offers a variety of trails ranging in difficulty. The table below shows some of the longer more strenuous trails.
|1. Alder Creek||12 miles|
|2. Mile Trail||9.6 miles|
|3. Half Dome||17 miles|
|4. Nevada Fall||7 miles|
|5. Ostrander Lake||12.7 miles|
|6. Panorama Trail||8.5 miles|
|7. Smith Peak||13.5 miles|
|8. Upper Yosemite Fall||7.2 miles|
|9. Vogelsang High Sierra Camp||15.8 miles|
4. Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon hiking trails allow hikers to take in the amazing topography and views. Along the way, hikers enjoy the turbulent Colorado River snaking through the valley, but one element hikers need to factor in as they make this hike is that the high elevations will affect your endurance and contribute to fatigue.
5. Pacific Crest Trail
The 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail is counted among the longest hiking trails in the US. This hiking trail crosses three western states - California, Oregon and Washington. Online resources including frequently asked questions about the Pacific Crest Trail are available online.
6. Continental Divide Trail
Although the 3,100 mile-long Continental Divide Trail runs from Mexico to Canada, for those who want to stay in the United States, they can pick up trails passing through five western states:
- New Mexico
This trail is open not only to hikers on foot but also horses. However, motorized vehicles and bicycles are not allowed.
7. North Country National Scenic Trail
This premier trail provides about 1,700 miles of certified off-road hiking trails across seven northern states. If you're longing for a hike with the natural beauty of crystal streams, woods, prairie and pristine lakes along with historic elements of interest, this trail is for you. The entire trail runs approximately 4,000 miles and ranges from easy terrain to more strenuous treks.
8. Zion National Park
If you are looking for a place to plan a hiking vacation to help you prepare for a longer hike-thru, the 229 square miles of Zion National Park offers a variety of trails with stunning canyon views and towering cliffs. One popular trail known as The Narrows offers a 15-mile off-trail hike. There are also many shorter trails.
|1. Angels Landing||5 miles|
|2. Canyon Overlook||1 miles|
|3. Hidden Canyon||2 miles|
|4. Lower Emerald Pools||1.2 miles|
|5. Lower West Rim||10 miles|
|6. Middle Emerald Pools||2 miles|
|7. Pa'rus Trail||3.5 miles|
|8. Riverside Walk||2 miles|
|9. Sand Beach||3.6 miles|
|10. Taylor Creek||5 miles|
|11. Timber Creek||1 mile|
|12. Watchman||2 miles|
|13. Weeping Rock||.5 miles|
This park is located where the Colorado Plateau, Great Basin and the Mojave Dessert provinces overlap. It's a great place to gain hiking experience. On these trails, hikers will experience drop-offs and will have to stay alert and careful. It's a great place to hone your hiking skills, challenge yourself to new levels and prepare for some of the longest hiking trails.
Preparing for Your Hiking Adventure
If you decide to tackle one of these trails, do your homework and be prepared. Each of the above trails features unique aspects and challenges, and if you are going to have a successful hiking trip, you must educate yourself about the climate, terrain, and any other pertinent information. Never underestimate the power of the outdoors, or your exciting excursion can quickly turn into a trip filled with disaster. Plan for and anticipate the unexpected, and your hiking adventure may turn into all and more than you ever dreamed about!