Best Hiking Trails in the US – Thru-Hiking Edition

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Thru-hiking is an incredible way to clear your mind, build and test your stamina, and stay connected with nature.

There is something to be said about spending weeks, or even months, on a trail putting in miles and accomplishing a goal. The challenges are immense as well – from mental breakdowns, to physical ailments, to mother nature throwing twists and turns your way – thru-hiking in not for the faint at heart.

Luckily, the rewards are just as immense – from spending time in rural country not many get to explore, to learning about yourself and your body, to the experiences had and the relationships built – thru-hiking will leave you with a lifetime of unforgettable memories.

Are you planning, or thinking about planning a thru-hike in the near future? Here are some of the best thru-hiking trails in the US. Some you definitely will know, but others may be new.

The Hiking Triple Crown:

Known as the “Hiking Triple Crown” the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail are three of the longest, and most famous, hikes in the US.

Appalachian Trail (AT)

Thru-Hiking Trail Map - AT
  • Location: Eastern US
  • Start & End Points: Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Katahdin, Maine
  • Length: Roughly 2,190 miles

The granddaddy of them all, the famous Appalachian Trail. While the AT is not the oldest, or the longest, trail in the US it is certainly the most famous given it’s proximity to large parts of the population. The AT is also fairly close to many towns and businesses, which makes thru-hiking a bit easier than than some of the more rugged western trails.

For more information, visit appalachiantrail.org

Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)

Thru-Hiking Trail Map PCT
  • Location: Western US
  • Start & End Points: Canadian Border to the Mexican Border
  • Length: 2,650 miles

Taking roughly 6 months of planning and another 6 months of hiking, the Pacific Crest Trail – or PCT as it is affectionately known – is not for the faint of heart. In fact, fewer than 200 people complete the thru-hike each year. If you can do it, however, it will truly be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The PCT has some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes, deserts, forests, and everything in between.

For more information, visit www.pcta.org

Continental Divide Trail (CDT)

Thru-Hiking Trail Map - Continental Divide
  • Location: Western US
  • Start & End Points: Canadian Border to the Mexican Border
  • Length: 3,100 Miles

Following the Rocky Mountains from Canada to Mexico, the Continental Divide Trail effectively splits the nation’s water supply in half. All water on the western side drains to the Pacific Ocean while all water on the eastern side drains to the Atlantic Ocean. Thru-hiking this trail also makes you a certified badass. With roughly only 70% of the trail posted and very few resupply points, the CDT is not only long, it’s a battle.

For more information, visit continentaldividetrail.org

Other Notable Trails:

While these trails aren’t the hiking triple crown, they’re certainly worth keeping on your radar for future hikes. Varying in distance from a short 210 miles to the extremely long 6,800 miles, the trails below cover some of the most beautiful and diverse scenery that the US has to offer.

American Discovery Trail

Thru-Hiking Trail Map American Discovery
  • Location: Middle US
  • Start & End Points: Maryland to California
  • Length: 6,800 miles

Hell, since we’re on the topic of long trails, why not just walk across the country? Afterall, cross country roadtrips are on most bucket lists, right? The only catch is that you need 18 to 24 months to do so in vastly different terrain.

For more information, visit discoverytrail.org

John Muir Trail

Thru-Hiking Trail Map - John Muir Trail
  • Location: Western US
  • Start & End Points: Part of the longer PCT Trail in California
  • Length: 210 miles

Running through the Sierras from Yosemite to the summit of Mt Whitney, the John Muir Trail contains some of the most beautiful mountain landscapes in the entire country. Most hikers attempting this trial will travel from North to South and complete the trek in about three weeks. This trek is fairly rural, with roughly 100 miles of wilderness with very little supply points, so hikers must do a little bit of preplanning to ensure that their food supply is adequate.

For more information, visit pcta.org/discover-the-trail/john-muir-trail

North Country Trail

Thru-Hiking Trail Map - North Country Trail
  • Location: Northern US
  • Start & End Points: New York to North Dakota
  • Length: 4,300 miles

At roughly twice the length of the Appalachian Trail, the North Country Trail is serious business. Typically hiked from east to west, hikers will leave in the Spring in New York State and finish in the Fall in North Dakota. Typically, the North Country Trail takes about 10 to 12 months to finish and has significantly less travelers than the AT or PCT does.

For more information, visit northcountrytrail.org

The Long Trail

Thru-Hiking Trail Map - The Long Trail
  • Location: North Eastern US
  • Start & End Points: Length of Vermont
  • Length: 272 miles

Running lengthwise through Vermont, The Long Trail follows the ridgeline of the Green Mountains and is one of the oldest long distance hiking trails in the US. The trail was completed in 1930 by the Green Mountain Club and has a fairly well built infrastructure that features shelters that are spaced about a days walk from each other. Fairly rare for East Coast hiking, the northern portions of the Long Train are relatively quiet, so if you like solitude, this might be a good trail to check out.

For more information, visit greenmountainclub.org/the-long-trail

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