The Longest Trail In The United States
This one is for all my adventurous hikers out there! We know you are always looking for a new adventure or a new trail to try. And what better adventure than hiking along the longest trail in the United States? If you were a hiking enthusiast and had done walking a few times before, then going for the longest trail in the United States would be an excellent way of pumping adrenaline through your veins.
Did you know: The United States is the 4th largest country by area worldwide? It has 50 states and Washington DC, with numerous trails that are worth visiting.
About 1337 trails in the United States that are more than 88,600 miles make the US an ideal place for alpinists. But which route is the longest in the United States?
As there are many well-known trails in the United States, the longest trail is a tie between the Great Western Loop and the American discovery trail. Both are a whopping 6,800 miles long and are counted among the world’s longest trails.
1. The American Discovery Trail
The view from Cripple Creek, one of the locations along the American Discovery Trail
This trail stretches from the Cape Henlopen state park and ends in California. It is the longest trail in the US, starting from the Atlantic Ocean and ending at the Pacific Ocean. The trail is formed through the collection of various roads and recreational paths.
This coast-to-coast trail has different notable adjacent regions that keep attracting the visitors’ attention. The American discovery trail passes through cities, forests, small towns, deserts, and mountains. So you can experience a wide variety of environments on a single track!
History Of The American Discovery Trail
For many decades, outdoor visionaries dreamed of finding a trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific for hikers. After some years, in 1989, this dream came true when the American hiking society started the project of the American discovery trail. The route of this trail was mapped by a scouting team in 1990-91.
They found a trail that would provide a continuous way for hikers, horse riders, and bicyclists to explore nature and not be distracted by big highways.
The big variety of ecosystems and environments add interest to the path and makes it an attractive destination for those looking for a trail where they will be able to explore different regions, cultures, history, and surroundings.
Over time, it is becoming one of the most famous trails in the world.
The American discovery trail is over 6,800 miles (10,944 km) in length. It divides into two segments, the northern and southern segments. The north path of this trail covers 4,834 miles (7,780 km), while the south track is spread over 5,057 miles (8,138 km).
American Discovery Trail Pass-Through Routes
The longest trail in the United States does not only pass through mountains, forests, and small towns. Instead, it makes a complete route through various cities as well. As already discussed, this trail divides into two segments, thus making two different routes to reach the ocean.
- The southern middle west makes its way through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.
- The northern middle west path passes over Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.
At the west of Cincinnati, both the northern and southern paths join and lead through Kentucky, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC.
The American discovery trail also connects to many other trails. It makes its path through The Pacific Crest, East Coast Greenway Trails, Appalachian trails, 12 historical trails, 36 recreational trails, and five national trails.
It also adjoins the North Country Trail, the Buckeye Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Colorado Trail.
American Discovery Trail Through Different States
Glaciner National Park on the Continental Divide Trail, one of the trails that intersect with the American Discovery Trail
Out of 50 states in the US, the American discovery trail passes through 15 states where hikers, horseback riders, and bikers can experience in this utterly isolated path a bubble of life made by several landscapes, weather, plants, and animals.
Here are all the 15 states through which the American discovery trail passes:
The American discovery trail length in California is 276 miles (444 km).
The 593 miles (954 km) part of the American discovery trail passes through Utah.
This trail also makes its way through Colorado and lets the visitors discover Colorado through a 1,153 miles (1,856 km) long path.
The American discovery trail also passes through the natural beauty and rolling hills of Kansas State for 570 miles (920 km).
If you go hiking on the American discovery trail, you will observe the unique geographical features and historical attributes of Missouri state. The length of the American discovery trail in Missouri is approximately 343 miles (552 km).
The 8.7 miles (14.0 km) American discovery trail through Kentucky shows the renowned culture of this state.
On the map, you will observe that the American discovery trail covers a massive path of 250 miles (400 km) through Indiana.
When moving through the American discovery trail, and you see the rugged land, it means you have reached west Virginia. The American discovery trail covers 288 miles (463 km) of this state.
The state on the eastern seaboard of Delaware contributes through a 45 mile (72 km) region into the American discovery trail. Delaware is also famously known as the diamond state.
270 miles (430 km) away through American discovery you can find Maryland. You can stay in Maryland for fishing as it is a famous fishing spot.
The American discovery trail takes up 524 miles (843 km) of the area by the length of Buckeye State: Ohio.
About 219 miles (352 km) of the American discovery trail passes through the most populated state in the country, Illinois.
Iowa is also among 15 states through which the American discovery trail makes its path of 512 miles (824 km).
The unique attractions in Nebraska state make the 523 miles (842 km) of the United states’ longest trail more fascinating.
Four hundred ninety-six miles (798 km) of the total American discovery trail passes through the eye-catching desert landscape of Nevada.
Notable Adjacent Regions
Certain notable places are located near the American discovery trail route:
- Cape Henlopen State Park
This park is located on the eastern end of the American discovery trail in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Delaware.
This is a high mountain pass with an elevation of 13,207 feet. This makes it the highest point in the American discovery trail where it crosses the central mountain range called the Rockies.
The westernmost terminal of the United States’ longest trail is Limantour Beach. This beach is a park reserve of 71,028 acres in the Point Reyes Peninsula California.
Whenever thru-hikers plan to do to the American Discovery Trail, they must make sure not miss the opportunity of making unforgettable memories at these points!
A Multi-Use Trail
The American Discovery Trail is used for various purposes throughout the year. Some of the most common ways of utilizing it are:
- Mountain biking
- Horseback riding
Remarkable Records At American Discovery Trail
The longest trail in the United States is famous for its remarkable history of records in hiking:
- Ken Powers and Marcia from Pleasanton, California. They were the first couple who completed this long trail in one unbroken walk. They traveled 5,058 miles by foot, starting the journey from Delaware and ending in California.
- Mike “Lion King” Daniel. Mike backpacked the entire 6,800 miles trail in one continuous hike. He started the journey from Cape Henlopen State Park and ended in California.
- Matt Parker, who covered the entire equestrian route on horseback.
- The first to backpack the complete official path of the American discovery trail were Pete Cottrell and Joyce. In two years, they hiked the routes out of sequence.
Along the long American Discovery Trail there are many prominent places that attract attention. For instance, these sites make the trail a great experience for hikers, horseback and motorbike rides.
Some of these prominent places include parks, forests, deserts, mountain ranges, and various other points of interest. These spots are distributed throughout the 15 states where the longest trail of the United States makes its route.
Main Features Of American Discovery Trail
One of the many great qualities of the American Discovery Trail is that it has an old-fashioned appearance. Its the kind that reminds you of a monastery or a civil war battlefield that has been the same since the 15th century.
Additionally, you will encounter various attractive and mind-boggling views that keep your attention on the journey. The main feature of this trail is that it passes through 14 national parks and 16 national forests.
Some of the very famous forests along the longest United State trail are:
- Hocking State Forest
- Scioto Trail State Forest
- Pike State Forest
- Tar Hollow State Forest
- Wayne National Forest
- Shawnee State Forest
And the wonderful national parks that are on the American discovery trail path are:
- Ferne Clyffe State Park
- Burr Oak State Park
- Canyonlands National Park
- Indiana Creek Preserve
- Davis Memorial
- Giant City State Park
- Logan State Park
- Pike Lake State Park
- Hueston Woods State Park
- Devou Park
- Capitol Reef National Park
- Hocking Hills State Park
- Shawnee State Park
Uncover The Secrets Of Nature
The American discovery trail is the best source to spend quality time in nature. This is because the trail is full of fascinating fauna and flora along the whole path from coast to coast. The trail uncovers several tall grass meadows, spectacular glens, limestone canyons, and caves.
Furthermore, many unique and familiar species are present throughout the trail. One can encounter tufted deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, bears, red pandas, elks, foxes, and various birds.
This incredible trail connects people to people, community to community, and urban areas with forests, deserts, and mountains.
The Highest Point Of American Discovery Trail
The peak point of the longest United States trail is the Argentine pass, also known by the old names Sanderson Pass and the Snake River Pass. It has an elevation of 4,025 m and is one of the highest mountain passes in Colorado.
The Lowest Point Of The American Discovery Trail
The California Delta is the lowest point of this trail between Isleton and Antioch in California. It is an inland river estuary and delta.
2. Great Western Loop
After the origin of the Great Western Loop in 2006, it appeared to be the most gratifying long-distance path ever discovered. This is because its elegant wilderness experience and the scenery are unmatched.
The tremendous Western Loop is a 6,875 miles long and it is considered among the more challenging routes in the US.
The great western loop links specific trails. These include the Arizona Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Northwest Trail.
Interesting Sites Throughout The Great Western Loop
This hiking trail passes through different cherished and wholesome wildlands, including over 75 wilderness areas and 12 National Parks.
Other Long Trails In The United States
There are many other prominent trails in the United States that are known for being among the longest trails in the US. Some of these trails include:
This trail is about 3,100 miles long and is a rocky hills hike. It passes through various parts of Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and a part of Idaho. A 567 miles part of the Colorado Trail is also included.
This footpath is the most remote and highest of all the trails, which is why it is among the most challenging trails in the country. Route finding is considered a great challenge, and it takes approximately four to six months to pass through the whole Continental Divide Trail.
This is a 4,800 miles hiking trail network in North America. Clingmans Dome is considered the highest point of this hiking trail. While the lowest part of the Eastern Continental Trail is Key West, Florida.
The most attractive sights along the eastern continental trail are Hudson Valley, Appalachian Mountains, Mount Katahdin, Everglades, Springer Mountain, Florida Keys, McAfee Knob, Amicalola Falls State Park, Gaspé Peninsula, Clingmans Dome, and Lake Okeechobee.
The 2,185 miles long Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states of the US and is not considered a very long trail. However, it is still very well known and popular because it is one of the most convenient trails.
Various services are available along the path, and this trail is also not as complicated as others. Sleeping shelters at multiple points throughout the trail are also designed to save the hikers from putting heavy weights of tents on their backs.
If you are a hiker, you definitely have to check out these long trails to hike through the United States
Exploring nature through long routes away from the vehicle’s noise is what every hiker dreams of. The American Discovery Trail and other longest trails in the United States are perfect for this purpose. The two longest hiking trails in the US have been explained in this
It takes months to cover the full path of the American discovery trail. Whether you do a part of the trail for an hour, a day, a week, or the entire trail, the American Discovery Trail will cherish you with a memorable experience. If you dream of hiking on a long trail in the United States, no other pathway can compete with the American Discovery Trail.
Thank you for reading also have a look at our other articles about the USA.
Major U.S. Hiking Trails: A List of the Longest Hiking Trails in America
Some of us are born with a restless soul; to quench that thirst for adventure many have taken to thru-hiking long-distance trails throughout the United States. The freedom of taking the road less traveled, and completing one of these scenic trails is something that attracts thousands of diehard outdoorsmen, backpackers, and ramblin’ men every year.
If you’re looking for an adventure, or simply looking to test yourself and your limits, these long-distance trails might be the exact thing you’ve been looking for.
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT)
Clocking in at 2,663 miles, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) stretches from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. The PCT passes through 25 national forests and seven national parks, with elevations ranging from just above sea level to 13,153 feet.
The PCT is one of the original National Scenic Trails, established in 1968 with the passage of the National Trails System Act. In 1993, the PCT was officially finished.
To hike the entire trail in one thru-hike, most hikers will take somewhere around 4-6 months to complete the trek. Somewhere around 300 people attempt it every year, with a little over half of them is finishing the entire PCT.
The Appalachian Trail (AT)
The Appalachian Trail, or better known as the AT by those who hike it, is probably the most well-known of the National Scenic Trails. The AT is approximately 2,190 miles of iconic trails that stretch from the Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
The trail, which was completed in 1937, passes through 14 states — Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. Over 3 million people travel through various parts of the smaller trails every year, but only a couple of thousand people attempt to thru-hike the entire trail. Out of those who attempt to hike the entire route, fewer than 30% actually finish it.
The trail has more than 250 shelters and campsites, making it one of the best maintained and hiker friendly trails in the country. There are also a number of trail towns that thru-hikers can stop at to either re-supply or take a break from the trail.
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT)
The Continental Divide Trail is 3,100 miles of trail that is constantly changing, so much so that the exact route is often disputed and or changed because of weather or problems with the trail. Sections of the trail are built or changed so frequently that most USGS maps don’t even bother to label the exact route.
To date, only 70% of the route is officially complete, so those that do try to complete the hike can expect to be doing a lot of trail finding and hiking outside of designated routes. The trail takes about six months to finish, but the running joke between CDT hikers is that it’s because you can expect to be lost for about 4 hours a day.
The CDT runs between Mexico and Canada. It roughly follows the Continental Divide along the Rocky Mountains and passes through five states — Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Somewhere around 250 people start the trail every year, but only a third of them actually make it to the end.
The Pacific North West Trail (PNNST)
The Pacific North West Trail runs 1,200 miles from Glacier National Park in Montana to the Olympic Peninsular in Washington. The Pacific Northwest Trail has recently become one of the United States newest National Scenic Trails. Hikers and equestrians primarily use it, and it ranks among the most scenic, rugged and wild trails in the world. The trail crosses three National Parks, seven National Forests and seven mountain ranges.
American Discovery Trail
At an estimated 6,800 miles, the American Discovery Trail is one of the longest hiking trails in the world. Stretching from coast-to-coast, the American Discovery Trail passes through 15 states — Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California.
The American Discovery Trail is unique because it is made up of a collection of both hiking and biking trails, with most of the trail allowing horses as well. It passes through 14 national parks, 16 national forests, and uses trail sections from 5 other National Scenic Trail systems.
Only a few people have actually completed the entire trail; most notably was Mike “Lion King” Daniel who was the first person to backpack the entire 6,800 miles in one continuous hike.
The Great Western Loop
The Great Western Loop is a 6,875-mile trail that links five long-distance trails — the Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, and Arizona Trail. The trail passes through 12 National Parks and seventy-five wilderness areas.
Although the trail is not officially recognized, on April 9, 2007, adventurer Andrew Skurka became the first person to attempt the trek. 208 days later he completed what is now known as the Great Western Loop. To date, Skurka is the only person to have ever actually completed the entire trail.
Eastern Continental Trail
The Eastern Continental Trail connects multiple trails as it winds through 5,400 miles across the entire eastern United States coast. Starting at the Southernmost Point of the United States, in Key West, Florida and making its way through the Appalachian Trail and up into Canada, the trail takes you through multiple climates before ending on Belle Island.
The trail utilizes five existing trails, from north to south: International Appalachian Trail (New Brunswick and Quebec), Appalachian Trail, Benton MacKaye Trail, Pinhoti National Recreation Trail (Georgia and Alabama), and Florida National Scenic. A thru-hike of the Eastern Continental Trail takes almost a year to complete.
John Muir Trail
Running through the High Sierras from Yosemite National Park to the summit of Mount Whitney, the John Muir trail is 215 miles of wilderness, adventure, and high altitude trails that will test your limits but also give you a time you’ll never forget.
With trails that never dip below 7,000 feet and numerous sections of the trail that will have you hiking above 11,000 feet, this trail is not for the faint of heart. There are no shelters, large parts where you will not be able to resupply your food or gear, and numerous sections that will have you wishing you stayed home; that being said, if you complete this trail you will have a once in a lifetime experience, unlike anything you’ve probably ever experienced before.
The trail starts in Yosemite and continues through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King Canyon National Park, and ends at an altitude of 14,496 feet at the peak of Mount Whitney.
The Long Trail
Completed in 1930 by the Green Mountain Club, the long trail is one of the original long-distance hiking trails. The trail is 272 miles long, and it runs from the Massachusetts state line in the south to the Vermont-Canada border.
The trail is one of the more difficult trails on the list and will have hikers trekking through remote, rugged mountains that are often muddy and plagued with black flies. If you’re just getting started in hiking, you will want to hike at least a couple smaller trails before setting out on this one.
For anyone who loves the Desert Southwest, the Hayduke trail will bring you through some of the most beautiful but challenging terrains you can set your feet on. Beginning in the Arches National Park, and stretching 812 miles through the southwestern desert landscape, the Heyduke trail will take you through the Canyonlands, Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Zion National parks.
This trial is definitely not for beginners and is not for people who haven’t acclimated themselves to desert hiking. Water is scarce, and the ability to be able to navigate trails without a lot of markers is essential. Only ten people have ever actually completed the full trail, so if you manage to find your way to the end, you will be among a small but elite class of hikers.
The Ice Age Trail
The Ice Age Trail stretches for 1200 miles through Wisconsin’s unique glacial landscapes. From Interstate State Park on the Minnesota border to Potawatomi State Park on Lake Michigan, the Ice Age Trail traverses some of the most scenic views in the U.S.
This is probably one of the least hiked long distance trails in the country, so if you like to go it alone this is one of the top trails for those who like their seclusion
The Florida Trail
The Florida Trail is one of the eleven congressionally designated National Scenic Trails. It runs approximately 1,300-miles long, beginning on the edge of the Everglades ecosystem in Big Cypress National Preserve and ending at the white sands of Gulf Islands National Seashore at historic Fort Pickens
The North Country Trail (NCT)
The North Country Trail runs for over 4600 miles through America’s rugged northern heartland. The trail runs through seven Northern states, from New York to North Dakota.
The trail is one of the least traveled of the National Scenic Trails, and also holds the destination of being the longest. Whether you’re a die-hard fisherman seeking to fish the numerous rivers, lakes, and stream that cross the trail or a winter enthusiast looking to snowshoe through some of the most scenic lands in the heartland, you will be sure to find an adventure along this path.
11 Best Long-Distance Hiking Trails In The US
The American landscape has always provided ample fodder for wanderlust spirits. Something about following in the steps of strangers, past, present, and future, helps shine light on who we really are. Perhaps that is why fitness buffs, naturalists, artists, gap-year students, people recovering from a loss, or those just wanting to hit the pause button for a while can all find value in committing to a long-distance hike. No matter who you are, traversing any chunk of the country will be a trying experience. But perhaps the biggest challenge is just getting started; the first step is to pick your path. So here are 11 of the biggest and best treks to choose from.
North Country Trail
A man walking in the Ott Preserve park that is part of the North Country Scenic trail.
Traversing 4,800-miles across the Northeastern United States is the North Country National Scenic Trail – the longest entry in the National Trails System. The NCT covers large portions of eight states, as well as the totality of the 310-mile Superior Hiking Trail, a majority of the 1,445-mile Buckeye Trail, and roughly half of the 560-mile Finger Lakes Trail, all of which are well-deserving of their own spotlight. Between North Dakota and Vermont, the NCT visits the shores of three Great Lakes (Superior, Michigan, and Huron), protected forests, wide-open prairies, and dense cities.
American Discovery Trail
Two female hikers walking down a foggy beach at Point Reyes National Seashore on the American Discovery Trail.
This colossal, almost unimaginably long trail spans 6,800-miles, coast to coast through the heart of the country, from Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware, to Point Reyes National Seashore (near San Francisco), California. Along the way, the totality of the ADT passes through 16 states. That said, there is a Northern and Southern option throughout the central region, and so anyone crazy enough to tackle “the whole thing” will most likely pick one route, thereby skipping some states and some total mileage. The Northern route works out to be 4,834-miles, while the Southern is 5,057-miles. Whichever the path, most thru-hikers also opt to trek from East to West. Given the immense breadth of the trail, scores of unique ecosystems (natural and manmade) and conditions can be expected throughout the long haul.
Early fall colors on the misty Wonderland Trail in Mount Rainier National Park.
Bringing the scale back down to a digestible level, The Wonderland Trail scratches the itch for long-distance hiking while still being a reasonable undertaking for many people. This 93-mile trek gains 22,000 feet in cumulative elevation as it circumvents Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park, Washington. The circuitous route and the 18 backcountry campsites that provide ample options for breaking up the journey instantly make planning this hike much easier. Each day promises to reveal new aspects of pristine nature, including crisp glaciers, verdant meadows, roaring waterfalls, and volcanic ridges stretching out from the omnipresent and iconic Mount Rainier.
A man hiking through the forest in the Appalachian trail.
At over 2,180-miles, the Appalachian Trail is the country’s and the world’s longest hiking-only trail. The approximately 4,000 annual thru-hikers that (attempt to) conquer this famous footpath meander through 14 states throughout the Eastern United States, from Georgia to Maine or vice versa. Completed in 1937, the Appalachian Trail owes its longevity to the National Park Service, the US Forest Service, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and countless state-level organizations/volunteers. Vast stretches of ubiquitous woods, hidden lakes, farmland, rolling hills, steep mountains, and intermittent splashes of towns, quirky communities, and popular national parks are amongst the many features one can expect throughout the trek. If that still is not sufficient, zealous vagabonds can add on the Pinhoti Trail, which goes another 339-miles South of the Georgia trailhead.
Pacific Northwest Trail
A cyclist on a trail in the Rocky Mountains.
The Pacific Northwest Trail is deemed “America’s wildest National Scenic Trail” not only for its immense distance (1,200-miles), but also because of the rugged and remote terrain that it crosses. The PNT bridges the gap between the Continental Divide and the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, it passes through seven mountain ranges, three National Parks, and deep sections of National Forests. Hikers will also get to uncover hidden trail towns and cute, waterfront communities. Of the many challenges that the PNT presents to prospective hikers, transportation and resupplies rank near the top of the list, but possibly outdone by bear preparedness. Over 400-miles of the trail traverse grizzly bear territory, and black bears frequent 94% of the established route.
Pacific Crest Trail
North Cascades National Park – Pasayten Wilderness on the Pacific Crest Trail.
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of the most romanticized treks in the country. It is not only the magnitude of this, 2,650-mile (4,265-kilometer), point-to-point, 4 to 6 month endeavor that makes the PCT intriguing, but the range of conditions also keeps hikers on their toes. The trail passes through the Mojave Desert, long stretches of dense forests, and snow-capped peaks in the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Range. This presents ever-changing weather conditions, as well as logistical challenges regarding gear and provisions. Even if everything goes to plan, the PCT still demands a stoic heart in order to transcend not only the whole of California, but also Oregon and Washington. Not many people can say they have walked from Mexico to Canada, let alone over mountains and deserts.
John Muir Trail
A hiker enjoying the view at Long Lake in Little Lakes Valley on the John Muir Trail.
For an immersive taste of the PCT that does not require a mid-life crisis, take to the John Muir Trail. This 211-mile hike, which parallels part of the PCT as it spans from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, can be done over a standard 2-week vacation (if you hustle). This trek receives its name from the legendary conservationist and inspired nature-writer. Muir was so taken aback by the beauty of Yosemite Valley that he became a lifelong champion for the creation of national parks and the preservation of America’s organic marvels. Hikers of the JMT can expect a generally pleasant climate, but a grueling effort, as the trail ascends six mountain passes in the High Sierra range.
Continental Divide Trail
Hikers on the Continental Divide Trail.
East of the PCT is another North-South, Trans-American footpath known as the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. The 3,100-mile journey passes through the better part of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, plus a sliver of Idaho. It also includes a significant portion of the 567-mile Colorado Trail, which is yet another excellent addition to the long list of long-distance trails throughout the country. The CTC traces the backbone of the Rocky Mountains, and as the name suggests, follows the Great Continental Divide. Of the 10 other National Scenic Trails, the CTC is the highest, most remote, and therefore, one of the most challenging. Every year several hundred bold thru-hikers set out, and only about one-third successfully reach the end.
Tahoe Rim Trail/Tahoe 200
View of Echo lake from Tahoe Rim Trail.
Have you ever looked out over the majesty of Lake Tahoe and thought, “I wonder if I can hike around the whole thing?” Well, the good news is you can! But the humbling news is that it will require a big effort. Over the course of about 10 to 15 days, you will have to cover 173.6 miles, with a total elevation gain of 28,053 feet. As a point of reference, Mount Everest is 29,029 feet tall. The cruising altitude is no slouch either, which means thru-hikers will want to take some time to acclimatize before setting out. The elevation ranges from between 6,231 feet at Tahoe City (a common starting point) to the 10,285-foot Relay Peak (which is in Nevada). For those looking to up the ante even further, the Tahoe 200 (205.5 miles) is an annual ultramarathon that also circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, with a few extra twists thrown in for good measure.
Big Cypress National Preserve along the Florida Trail.
The Florida National Scenic Trail flows for just over 1,500-miles from Big Cypress National Preserve (South) to the Gulf Islands National Seashore (North), near Pensacola. This lesser-known mega-trail can be broken down into four sections. The Panhandle Region traverses along the Gulf of Mexico, bringing sandy stretches and also a stark contrast of both hills (including the highest points in the state) and low, boggy areas. The Northern Section harkens back to 18th-Century plantations and civil war battlefields interspersed amongst flatwood forests before splitting into one of two East/West options. The Central Region circumnavigates Orlando, showcasing different features depending on which branch hikers choose to take. The Southern Region brings the swamps, old-timey cattle country, and another choose-your-own-adventure fork in the trail.
Trail Marker for the Mountains To Sea Trail in Asheville, North Carolina.
And finally, if hiking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in the fashion that the name beckons one to, then hikers will cover the 1,175-miles starting in the Great Smoky Mountains and ending at the Outer Banks on the North Atlantic Coast. Unlike many extra-long entries on this list, the entirety of the MST is within a single state, North Carolina. This fact does nothing to mute the diversity of the landscape, once again, as the very name suggests. At this time, approximately 725-miles of the trek are on blazed wilderness trails, with the remainder of the impressive network consisting of backroads, bike paths, and even an optional paddle segment.
As you can see, there are enough long-haul trails across the U.S. to cover multiple lifetimes. And this just scratches the surface. Thankfully, there are no wrong answers.
Each of these stupefying treks will bring out the highs and lows, elation and exhaustion, bug bites, bruises, friendships, and personal revelations. Without a doubt, embarking on one of these hikes will mark a thorough chapter in everyone’s personal history.