Backpacking is a thrilling and adventurous way to explore the beauty and wonders of the United States. From stunning national parks to epic hiking trails, the country offers a plethora of options for backpackers of all skill levels. Whether you’re an experienced hiker seeking a challenging escapade or a novice looking to embark on your first backpacking trip, the US has something to offer for everyone.
One of the great advantages of backpacking in the US is the diversity of landscapes and ecosystems. From the rugged mountains of the West Coast to the lush forests of the East Coast, there is an abundance of natural wonders to discover. The country is also home to awe-inspiring national parks, each with its own unique features and attractions.
When planning your backpacking adventure in the US, it’s important to consider the time of year and the region you wish to explore. The country spans a vast area, and the climate varies greatly from one region to another. Researching the best times to visit and the weather conditions will help you make the most of your trip and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.
In this article, we will explore some of the top destinations for backpacking in the US. From iconic hiking trails to breathtaking national parks, these locations offer unforgettable experiences for outdoor enthusiasts. Whether you’re seeking panoramic views, serene wilderness, or adrenaline-pumping hikes, these destinations are sure to satisfy your backpacking cravings.
Pacific Crest Trail
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is a legendary long-distance hiking trail that stretches over 2,650 miles from the border of Mexico to the border of Canada. It traverses through three western states: California, Oregon, and Washington. The PCT offers an unforgettable backpacking experience with its diverse landscapes, ranging from arid deserts to snow-covered peaks.
As you hike along the PCT, you’ll encounter breathtaking views of rugged mountains, deep canyons, and picturesque lakes. The trail passes through iconic locations such as the Sierra Nevada, Cascade Range, and the Mojave Desert. Backpackers can also look forward to encountering a variety of wildlife, including bears, deer, and eagles.
One of the most popular sections of the PCT is the High Sierra, which offers hikers a chance to traverse through the stunning John Muir Trail. This stretch is known for its alpine lakes, towering granite peaks, and breathtaking vistas. Backpackers can also explore the spectacular Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the contiguous United States.
Another highlight of the PCT is the scenic Pacific Northwest section, which takes you through the lush forests of Oregon and Washington. Here, you can witness the beauty of the Columbia River Gorge, Mount Hood, and the enchanting glacier-clad peaks of the North Cascades.
The PCT is a challenging trail that requires careful planning and preparation. Backpackers need to be self-sufficient and have experience with long-distance hiking. It’s important to research water sources, resupply points, and permit requirements in advance.
Whether you choose to hike a small section or attempt the entire PCT, this iconic trail promises an awe-inspiring adventure that will test your physical and mental limits. As you weave through the diverse landscapes, you’ll find yourself immersed in nature’s grandeur, with memories that will last a lifetime.
The Appalachian Trail (AT) is one of the most famous long-distance trails in the United States, stretching over 2,180 miles from Georgia to Maine. This iconic trail winds through the scenic Appalachian Mountains, offering backpackers a chance to immerse themselves in the beauty of the Eastern United States.
The AT is known for its diverse landscapes, ranging from gentle rolling hills to rugged mountain peaks. Backpackers will traverse through dense forests, cross picturesque streams, and hike along stunning ridge lines. The trail also passes through numerous charming towns, providing opportunities for resupply and cultural exploration.
One of the highlights of the AT is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the trail offers breathtaking views of the rugged peaks and vibrant fall foliage. In Virginia, backpackers can experience the famous “Wilderness” section, renowned for its pristine beauty and remote wilderness.
The AT provides a unique sense of community among hikers, with shelters and campsites scattered along the trail. These communal spaces offer opportunities for rest, camaraderie, and shared experiences with fellow backpackers.
Completing the entire AT is a significant undertaking, taking an average of 5 to 7 months. However, many hikers choose to tackle shorter sections of the trail, allowing them to experience its beauty without committing to the full journey.
Before embarking on an AT backpacking trip, it’s important to plan for adequate gear and supplies. Thoroughly researching water sources, resupply points, and weather conditions is essential. Additionally, obtaining the appropriate permits and familiarizing yourself with Leave No Trace principles will help preserve the trail’s pristine beauty.
Whether you’re an experienced backpacker seeking a challenging adventure or a beginner looking for a new outdoor experience, the Appalachian Trail offers an unforgettable journey through some of the most picturesque landscapes on the Eastern Seaboard. Lace up your boots, grab your backpack, and get ready to embark on an epic Appalachian adventure.
Grand Canyon National Park
Grand Canyon National Park is a world-renowned destination that attracts millions of visitors each year. Located in Arizona, this iconic park is home to one of the most awe-inspiring natural wonders in the world, the Grand Canyon.
Backpacking in the Grand Canyon offers a unique opportunity to explore the vastness and sheer beauty of this geological marvel. The canyon stretches for over 270 miles and reaches depths of more than a mile, providing stunning panoramic views at every turn.
There are a variety of backpacking routes within the park, ranging from easy day hikes along the rim to multi-day treks into the depths of the canyon. The popular corridor trails, such as the Bright Angel Trail and the South Kaibab Trail, offer well-maintained paths and access to water, making them suitable for backpackers of different experience levels.
For more adventurous backpackers, the park offers remote and challenging routes, such as the Hermit Loop Trail or the Thunder River-Deer Creek Loop. These trails require careful planning, as they involve steep descents, exposed cliffs, and potentially strenuous climbs. However, the rewards are well worth the effort, with opportunities to camp in secluded areas and witness breathtaking vistas.
Backpacking in the Grand Canyon requires a backcountry permit, which can be obtained through an online lottery system or on a first-come, first-served basis. It’s important to plan ahead and secure your permit well in advance, especially for popular hiking seasons.
When backpacking in the Grand Canyon, it’s essential to be prepared and carry adequate supplies, including plenty of water, as the arid desert climate can be unforgiving. Additionally, practicing Leave No Trace principles is crucial to preserve the delicate ecosystem of the canyon.
Whether you’re gazing down into the vast expanse of the canyon from the rim or venturing into its depths, backpacking in Grand Canyon National Park offers a truly awe-inspiring experience. It’s a chance to witness the power of nature on a grand scale and create lasting memories in one of the world’s most iconic landscapes.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park, located in the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains of California, is a backpacker’s paradise. This iconic park is renowned for its breathtaking granite cliffs, towering waterfalls, and ancient sequoia groves, making it a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts.
Backpacking in Yosemite offers an incredible opportunity to explore the park’s vast wilderness and experience its natural wonders up close. With over 750 miles of trails, backpackers can choose from a variety of routes that cater to different skill levels and interests.
One of the most popular backpacking routes in Yosemite is the John Muir Trail (JMT), which stretches approximately 211 miles from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney. This long-distance trail takes hikers through some of the park’s most stunning landscapes, including the famous Half Dome and the Ansel Adams Wilderness.
For those seeking shorter backpacking trips, Yosemite offers a multitude of options. The Yosemite Falls Trail provides a challenging yet rewarding hike to the tallest waterfall in North America. The Tuolumne Meadows area offers picturesque alpine lakes and meadows, with backpacking routes like the Cathedral Lakes and Glen Aulin trails.
When backpacking in Yosemite, it’s important to obtain a wilderness permit, which is required for all overnight trips. Permits can be obtained through an online reservation system or on a first-come, first-served basis at the park’s visitor centers. Planning ahead and securing your permit is crucial, especially during peak hiking seasons.
As you venture into the wilderness of Yosemite, be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles to preserve the park’s fragile ecosystems. Carry all your trash with you, minimize campfire impact, and respect wildlife and their habitats.
Yosemite National Park offers backpackers a chance to immerse themselves in the sheer beauty of nature. From hiking along stunning waterfalls to sleeping under a star-filled sky, backpacking in Yosemite is a transformative experience that will create lasting memories and a deep appreciation for the awe-inspiring natural world.
Glacier National Park
Glacier National Park, located in the state of Montana, is a true wilderness gem. Known for its pristine alpine lakes, towering peaks, and sprawling glaciers, this park offers unparalleled opportunities for backpacking and exploration.
Backpacking in Glacier National Park provides a chance to venture deep into the heart of the rugged Rocky Mountains and witness the beauty of untouched wilderness. With over 700 miles of trails, backpackers can explore a diverse range of ecosystems, from dense forests to high alpine meadows.
One of the most iconic backpacking routes in Glacier National Park is the Highline Trail. This scenic trail winds along the Continental Divide, offering breathtaking views of glaciers, deep valleys, and wildflower-filled meadows. Backpackers can also explore the renowned Many Glacier region, with trails that lead to stunning lakes and offer glimpses of wildlife, such as grizzly bears and mountain goats.
The park’s remote backcountry areas, such as the North Circle Loop and the Gunsight Pass Trail, offer more challenging and less crowded backpacking experiences. These trails lead through remote valleys, past pristine lakes, and provide opportunities to camp in solitude amidst breathtaking scenery.
Backpackers in Glacier National Park must obtain a backcountry permit, which can be obtained through an advance reservation system or on a first-come, first-served basis at the park’s visitor center. It’s important to plan ahead and familiarize yourself with specific trail conditions and safety precautions, as Glacier is known for its unpredictable weather and encounters with wildlife.
As you explore Glacier’s stunning landscapes, remember to practice Leave No Trace principles and respect the park’s fragile ecosystems. Pack out all your trash, use designated campgrounds and fire rings, and minimize your impact on wildlife and plants.
Backpacking in Glacier National Park is a thrilling and awe-inspiring experience that allows you to truly immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of the Rocky Mountains. From epic vistas to encounters with wildlife, the park offers a unique adventure that will leave you with lifelong memories.
Rocky Mountain National Park
Rocky Mountain National Park, located in Colorado, is a paradise for backpacking enthusiasts. This breathtaking park is home to towering peaks, alpine meadows, and sparkling lakes, providing a captivating backdrop for unforgettable backpacking adventures.
Backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park offers an opportunity to explore the park’s diverse ecosystems, ranging from montane forests to high alpine tundra. The park boasts more than 355 miles of trails, allowing backpackers to discover hidden gems and experience the beauty of the Rocky Mountains up close.
One of the popular backpacking routes in the park is the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), which traverses through Rocky Mountain National Park on its 3,100-mile journey from Mexico to Canada. Backpackers can trek through stunning valleys, traverse mountain passes, and witness jaw-dropping panoramic views along this iconic long-distance trail.
The park also offers shorter backpacking options, such as the Bear Lake to Fern Lake Trail, which takes you through subalpine forests and offers picturesque views of mountain lakes. The Sky Pond Trail and the Glacier Gorge Trail are other popular routes that showcase the park’s pristine beauty.
Backpackers in Rocky Mountain National Park are required to obtain a backcountry permit, which ensures a controlled number of hikers in specific areas and helps protect the park’s fragile ecosystems. It’s important to plan ahead and secure your permit, as some sections of the park have limited camping availability.
While backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park, be prepared for changes in weather conditions, as the altitude and mountainous terrain can bring sudden temperature drops and afternoon thunderstorms. It’s essential to carry proper gear, including rain gear, warm clothing, and plenty of water.
As you explore Rocky Mountain National Park, remember to respect the wildlife and adhere to Leave No Trace principles. Keep a safe distance from animals, properly store your food to prevent encounters with bears, and leave the park as pristine as you found it.
Backpacking in Rocky Mountain National Park is an extraordinary adventure that offers an intimate connection with the magnificent Rocky Mountains. Whether you’re hiking along alpine lakes or conquering mountain passes, this national park promises an unforgettable experience for backpackers of all levels.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a backpacking paradise filled with lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and remarkable biodiversity. As the most visited national park in the United States, it offers a plethora of opportunities for backpackers to explore its scenic beauty.
Backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park allows you to immerse yourself in the tranquility of nature while traversing through its vast network of trails. With over 800 miles of trails, backpackers can choose from easy day hikes to multi-day adventures that take them deep into the heart of these majestic mountains.
A popular backpacking route in the park is the Appalachian Trail (AT), which stretches 72 miles through the park and offers stunning vistas and diverse ecosystems. Backpackers can experience the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains along the AT, passing through the iconic Clingmans Dome and Charlies Bunion.
The park’s backcountry campsites and shelters provide overnight accommodations for backpackers. Additionally, trails such as the Alum Cave Bluffs, Ramsey Cascades, and Rainbow Falls offer rewarding destinations along the way.
Backpackers in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are required to obtain a backcountry permit, which can be obtained at various ranger stations within the park or through advanced reservations. Planning ahead is crucial, especially during peak hiking seasons, as the campsites have limited availability.
While backpacking in the park, you will have the opportunity to witness the diverse flora and fauna that call the Great Smoky Mountains home. Keep an eye out for black bears, white-tailed deer, and various bird species as you traverse through the park’s rich biodiversity.
Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles when backpacking in the park. Properly dispose of waste, pack out all trash, and follow fire regulations. By leaving the park pristine, you contribute to the conservation and preservation of this natural treasure.
Backpacking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park offers an unforgettable journey through the scenic beauty and natural wonders of the Appalachian Mountains. Whether you’re seeking solitude, picturesque landscapes, or a challenging adventure, this national park provides an incredible experience for backpackers of all levels.
Olympic National Park
Olympic National Park, located in the state of Washington, is a backpacker’s dream, offering stunning coastal views, ancient rainforests, and towering mountains. With its diverse ecosystems and breathtaking landscapes, this park provides endless opportunities for outdoor exploration and adventure.
Backpacking in Olympic National Park allows you to immerse yourself in the park’s natural wonders and witness the beauty of its rugged terrain. The park boasts over 600 miles of trails, ranging from easy walks to challenging multi-day backpacking routes.
One of the highlights of backpacking in Olympic National Park is the Hoh Rainforest. This enchanting temperate rainforest is home to lush moss-covered trees, crystal-clear rivers, and abundant wildlife. Backpackers can hike the Hoh River Trail and marvel at the magical beauty of this ancient forest.
The park also offers coastal backpacking along the rugged wilderness stretch of the Pacific coastline. Backpackers can traverse through sandy beaches, encounter sea stacks, and witness the power of the crashing waves. The Ozette Loop and the Shi Shi Beach to Point of the Arches are popular coastal trails in the park.
For those seeking mountain adventures, backpacking in the Olympic Mountains is a must. The High Divide Loop takes hikers through alpine meadows, glacier-carved valleys, and offers panoramic views of the surrounding peaks.
Backcountry permits are required for overnight backpacking in Olympic National Park and can be obtained at the park’s visitor centers or through the online reservation system. Planning ahead is essential, as the park has limited campsites and permits can fill up quickly during peak hiking seasons.
When backpacking in Olympic National Park, hikers should be prepared for variable weather conditions, as the park experiences heavy rainfall and the possibility of sudden storms. Proper gear, including rain gear and warm clothing, is crucial for a safe and comfortable backpacking experience.
While exploring Olympic National Park, be sure to practice Leave No Trace principles, respect wildlife and their habitats, and properly dispose of waste. By doing so, you help preserve the park’s pristine beauty for future generations to enjoy.
Backpacking in Olympic National Park is a once-in-a-lifetime experience that allows you to witness the incredible diversity of Washington’s natural landscapes. From ancient rainforests to rugged coastlines and majestic mountains, this park offers a truly unforgettable adventure for backpackers of all skill levels.
Zion National Park
Nestled in the southwestern part of Utah, Zion National Park is a backpacking paradise renowned for its towering sandstone cliffs, serene slot canyons, and breathtaking vistas. This iconic park offers backpackers a unique and awe-inspiring experience like no other.
Backpacking in Zion National Park allows you to immerse yourself in the dramatic landscapes and explore the park’s stunning natural wonders. With over 90 miles of trails, backpackers can choose from a variety of routes that showcase the park’s diverse ecosystems.
One of the most popular backpacking routes in Zion is The Narrows. This unique trail takes hikers through the narrow canyons of the Virgin River, with towering walls on either side. Wading through the water, surrounded by sheer cliffs, is an unforgettable experience that backpackers of all levels can enjoy.
For more challenging and remote backpacking adventures, the West Rim Trail offers incredible panoramic views of the Zion Canyon. Backpackers can camp under the stars and witness sunrise and sunset over the majestic cliffs.
Another highlight of backpacking in Zion National Park is Angel’s Landing. This iconic trail offers a thrilling and rewarding hike to a lookout point perched on a narrow rock fin. The panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from the top are simply breathtaking.
Permits are required for overnight backpacking in Zion National Park and can be obtained through an online reservation system or at the park’s visitor center. It’s important to plan ahead and secure your permit, as availability is limited, especially during peak seasons.
While backpacking in Zion, it’s essential to be prepared and carry adequate supplies, including plenty of water, as the desert climate can be harsh. It’s also important to be aware of flash flood risks and to check weather conditions before embarking on any hiking or backpacking trips.
When exploring Zion National Park, practicing Leave No Trace principles is crucial in order to preserve the park’s delicate ecosystems. Minimize impact, stay on designated trails, and properly dispose of waste to ensure the continued beauty and wilderness of the park.
Backpacking in Zion National Park is an extraordinary adventure that allows you to witness the grandeur of nature up close. From narrow slot canyons to towering cliffs, the park offers backpackers a chance to immerse themselves in the stunning beauty of one of America’s most breathtaking natural treasures.
Backpacking in the United States offers an incredible array of opportunities to explore breathtaking landscapes, immerse ourselves in nature, and create lifelong memories. From the rugged Pacific Crest Trail to the enchanting Appalachian Trail, and the awe-inspiring Grand Canyon to the stunning Zion National Park, each destination offers its own unique experiences and adventures.
As you embark on your backpacking journey in the US, it’s important to plan ahead, research the trail conditions, and obtain the necessary permits. Being well-prepared with the right gear, including proper clothing and ample supplies, will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Additionally, practicing Leave No Trace principles will help preserve the pristine beauty of these natural wonders for future generations.
Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker seeking the ultimate challenge or a beginner looking to venture into the world of outdoor exploration, the United States offers an abundance of options. From the remote wilderness of Glacier National Park to the ancient rainforests of Olympic National Park, there’s something for every level of expertise and interest.
So lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and set out on your own adventure. Whether you choose to hike through mountains, explore canyons, or wander along the coastlines, the United States offers a wealth of backpacking experiences that promise to leave you in awe of the country’s natural wonders.
Immerse yourself in the beauty of the diverse landscapes, encounter wildlife in their natural habitat, and find solace in the serenity of nature. Whether you’re seeking a challenging trek or a peaceful escape, the United States beckons with countless opportunities to discover its hidden gems and forge unforgettable memories through the exhilarating experience of backpacking.