With spring and summer just around the corner, it's time to start prepping for backpacking trips. The American wilderness offers a wealth of trails in almost every imaginable terrain and length. From week-long trails to five-month trip, here's five trails that every backpacker should put on their bucket list.
1. John Muir Trail
The John Muir Vista
Located in the California's Sierra Nevada Range, the John Muir Trail is a 221-mile trail that starts at Yosemite National Park's Happy Isle Bridge and ends at Donahue Pass. The long-distance trail cuts through several meadows basin, cliff, alpine, and high-mountain terrains in the Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. The vast majority of the trail is above 2,400 m in elevation and peaks at 14,505 m on Mount Whitney— the highest point in the United States. If climbing a fourteener is on the bucket list, this is the trail to do. A trail permit is required to hike the John Muir Trail, which is part of the longer Pacific Crest Trail. The complete trail takes the better half of three weeks.
2. Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Trail on Newfound Gap
One third of the Triple Crown of Hiking, the Appalachian trail cover a distance of 2,200 miles and passes through 14 states. The "grand trail" was forester Benton MacKaye's bright idea in 1921. The trail has been rerouted to include Roan Mountain, Pochuck Creek swamp, Thundering Falls and Saddleback Mountain. The highest point is Cling Mans Dome at 2,025 m. A thru-hike takes approximately five to seven months. If that's not possible, try the one-day 8.8 mile Appalachian Approach Trail.
3. Hayduke Trail
Horseshoe Bend of Lake Powell
Although not an official trail, the 810-mile Hayduke Trail is a studied pass through Utah and northeast Arizona developed in the early 2000s. Named after Edward Abbey's fictional George Washington Hayduke, meanders through canyon country's six National Parks. The desert trail is not for tender-heart as it travels rugged ridge lines, canyons and rivers. If a two-to-three month thru-hike seems impossible, the trail is broken into 14 sub sections that can be easily completed in two-to-five days.
4. The Lost Coast
The Lost Coast Trail, California
One of the quietest beach trails, California's Lost Coast trail is 25 miles of beaches, vistas and cliffs. The Mattole Beach and Black Sands Beach, near Shelter Cove, are trail heads in the Kings Range National Conservation Area. The trail takes approximately three-to-four days one way.
5. The Grand Loop
Flattop Mountain Trail
Located in one of the most popular parks, the Grand Loop starts at Bear Lake on the east side of the Continental Divide and the trail works it's way toward Flattop Mountain and ends at Grand Lake. The most dangerous parts of the trail are the quick, but deadly lightning storms that occur in the afternoons on the peaks. The 45-mile hike takes approximately four-to-seven days.