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How To Find Backpacking Routes


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Adele Lockard



Backpacking is a thrilling way to explore the world, immersing yourself in nature, discovering hidden gems, and challenging your physical and mental boundaries. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a novice adventurer, finding the right backpacking route is essential to ensure a safe and fulfilling journey.


Researching and selecting the perfect backpacking route can be a daunting task, especially with the vast array of options available. However, with the right strategies and resources at your disposal, you can easily find the ideal route that matches your skill level, preferences, and desired destination.


In this article, we will explore various methods to help you find the best backpacking routes. From utilizing online resources to engaging with backpacking communities, we’ll share the secrets for discovering hidden trails and popular routes alike. Additionally, we’ll provide insights on mapping and route planning, as well as essential considerations for safety, permits, and packing.


So, let’s embark on this journey together and discover how to find backpacking routes that will create unforgettable adventures and lasting memories.


Researching Popular Routes

When it comes to finding backpacking routes, one of the best starting points is to explore popular trails that have been tried and tested by fellow adventurers. These routes often offer stunning landscapes, well-maintained paths, and reliable resources for hikers. Here are some effective ways to research popular backpacking routes:

  1. Guidebooks: Consult reputable guidebooks that specialize in backpacking, hiking, or specific regions. These books provide detailed information about popular routes, including trail descriptions, difficulty levels, highlights, and essential tips.
  2. Online Travel Websites: Visit travel websites that offer user-generated content about backpacking routes. Look for reviews, ratings, and recommendations from fellow backpackers. Websites like AllTrails, Hiking Project, and Outdoor Project provide a treasure trove of information.
  3. Social Media Platforms: Join backpacking and hiking communities on social media platforms like Facebook, Reddit, or Instagram. Engage with experienced backpackers, ask for recommendations, and seek firsthand experiences from those who have already explored popular routes.
  4. Local Visitor Centers: Contact local visitor centers or national park offices in the region you plan to visit. They can provide valuable insights into popular backpacking routes, along with essential information about permits, trail conditions, and safety guidelines.
  5. Outdoor Magazines and Blogs: Read outdoor magazines and follow reputable hiking blogs. These publications often feature articles and personal narratives about popular backpacking routes, offering inspiration and valuable insights from seasoned adventurers.

As you conduct your research, make note of the recommended routes that align with your interests, skill level, and timeframe. Consider factors such as distance, elevation gain, scenery, and any specific features you’d like to experience, such as waterfalls, alpine meadows, or panoramic views.


Remember, while popular routes are a great starting point, don’t limit yourself solely to these options. There may be lesser-known, but equally captivating routes that offer a more secluded and authentic experience. So, be open to exploring off-the-beaten-path trails and consider combining popular routes with hidden gems for a well-rounded adventure.


Utilizing Online Resources

In today’s digital age, the internet is teeming with valuable resources for finding backpacking routes. Here are some online platforms and tools that can assist you in your search:

  1. Hiking and Backpacking Websites: Explore websites dedicated to hiking and backpacking, such as AllTrails, Hiking Project, and Gaia GPS. These platforms offer an extensive database of trails, user reviews, detailed maps, and GPS coordinates to help you find the perfect route.
  2. Trail Apps: Download trail apps on your smartphone, like Komoot, ViewRanger, or Maps 3D Pro. These apps provide offline maps, route suggestions, and real-time navigation features, making it easier to navigate and discover new backpacking routes.
  3. Satellite Imagery: Utilize satellite imagery platforms like Google Earth or Bing Maps to explore terrain, identify potential routes, and get a better understanding of the topography and surroundings of a specific area.
  4. Online Forums and Communities: Engage with online forums and communities dedicated to backpacking and adventure travel. Platforms like Backpacker Forums, Reddit’s r/Backpacking subreddit, or specialized Facebook groups allow you to connect with experienced hikers who can offer recommendations and advice.
  5. YouTube and Video Content: Watch backpacking-related YouTube channels or video content created by outdoor enthusiasts. Many backpackers document their adventures, sharing tips, and showcasing the beauty of various backpacking routes. These videos can inspire you and help you narrow down your choices.

As you utilize these online resources, take advantage of the features they offer. Read reviews, study trail conditions, and check recent trip reports. Verify the difficulty level, access points, and any specific requirements or restrictions for the routes you’re considering. Additionally, save and bookmark your favorite routes or create personalized lists for future reference.


Remember to cross-reference information from multiple sources to ensure accuracy. Conditions can change over time, so always double-check recent updates, closures, or any alerts issued by park authorities or other reliable sources.


Utilizing online resources not only helps you find backpacking routes but also allows you to become part of a vibrant community of outdoor enthusiasts, where you can share your own experiences and contribute to the collective knowledge of fellow backpackers.


Engaging with Backpacking Communities

One of the most valuable resources for finding backpacking routes is the knowledge and experiences of fellow backpackers. Engaging with backpacking communities allows you to tap into a wealth of firsthand information, recommendations, and tips. Here are some ways to connect with these communities:

  1. Online Forums and Social Media Groups: Join online forums, social media groups, or communities focused on backpacking and hiking. Platforms like Backpacker Forums, Reddit’s r/Backpacking subreddit, or Facebook groups dedicated to outdoor adventures provide opportunities to ask questions, seek advice, and interact with experienced backpackers.
  2. Attend Backpacking Events and Workshops: Look for backpacking events, workshops, or meet-ups in your local area or within the backpacking community. These events offer opportunities to network with like-minded individuals, learn from experts, and gather recommendations for various routes.
  3. Engage on Instagram and YouTube: Follow backpacking-related accounts on Instagram and YouTube to discover stunning visuals, personal narratives, and tips from experienced backpackers. Leave comments, ask questions, and engage in conversations with content creators and fellow viewers.
  4. Join Local Hiking Clubs or Organizations: Connect with local hiking clubs or outdoor organizations in your area. Attend their outings, join their activities, and interact with seasoned hikers. They can offer insight into popular routes, provide support, and even organize group trips to unique destinations.
  5. Attend Outdoor Expos and Festivals: Visit outdoor expos and festivals dedicated to hiking, backpacking, and adventure travel. These events often bring together backpackers, outdoor gear companies, and experts under one roof. Take advantage of the opportunity to network, attend workshops, and gather information about backpacking routes.

When engaging with backpacking communities, be respectful and courteous. Ask thoughtful questions, contribute to discussions, and show appreciation for the shared knowledge and experiences. Many experienced backpackers are more than willing to offer advice and recommendations based on their own trips.


Keep in mind that personal preferences play a role in determining the right backpacking route. Consider factors like your fitness level, desired scenery, solitude or social interaction, and the level of challenge you’re seeking. Take the time to clarify these elements when seeking recommendations, as it will help community members tailor their suggestions to your specific needs and interests.


By engaging with backpacking communities, you not only gain valuable route recommendations but also become part of a supportive network of individuals who share your passion for adventure and the great outdoors.


Mapping and Route Planning

Mapping and route planning are essential steps in finding the perfect backpacking route. By utilizing maps and planning tools, you can ensure a well-organized and enjoyable trip. Here are some steps to help you with mapping and route planning:

  1. Choose a Mapping Tool: Select a mapping tool or app that aligns with your preferences and needs. Popular options include Gaia GPS, CalTopo, or even Google Maps. These tools provide detailed topographic maps, GPS tracking, and features that allow you to save routes and share them with others.
  2. Study Topographic Maps: Familiarize yourself with topographic maps of the area you plan to explore. Topographic maps display the contours of the terrain, including elevation changes, water sources, and landmarks. Understand how to read and interpret these maps to plan your route effectively.
  3. Identify Points of Interest: Mark points of interest on the map, such as scenic viewpoints, water sources, campsites, or landmarks. These points will help you navigate and plan your itinerary accordingly, ensuring that you don’t miss any highlights along the way.
  4. Consider Daily Mileage: Assess your physical fitness, experience level, and the desired pace of your trip. Determine a realistic daily mileage that suits your abilities to gauge how many miles you can comfortably cover each day.
  5. Plan Campsites or Accommodations: Identify potential campsites or accommodations along your route. Consider factors like proximity to water sources, terrain suitability for pitching a tent, and regulations or restrictions imposed by the local authorities.
  6. Account for Elevation Gain and Loss: Analyze the elevation profile of your route to understand the overall ascent and descent. This information will help you prepare mentally and physically for the challenges posed by steep climbs or descents.
  7. Plan for Resupply Points: If you’re embarking on a multi-day journey, plan for resupply points where you can restock food, water, and other essential supplies. Factor in the distance between these points and adjust your route and packing accordingly.
  8. Consider Alternative Routes: Explore alternative routes or side trails that may offer unique perspectives or experiences. Be open to flexibility, as unexpected circumstances like trail closures or severe weather conditions may require adjusting your original plan.

While mapping and route planning are crucial, remember to stay flexible and adapt as needed. Trail conditions, weather, or unforeseen circumstances may require adjustments to your route during your backpacking trip.


Finally, once you have mapped and planned your backpacking route, share it with someone you trust for safety purposes. Provide them with a detailed itinerary, including your anticipated start and end dates, as well as the specific trail or route you plan to take. This ensures that someone is aware of your whereabouts and can take appropriate action if needed.


Mapping and route planning not only help you navigate with ease but also enhance your overall backpacking experience by ensuring that you don’t miss any key landmarks or opportunities for adventure along the way.


Considering Difficulty and Distance

When searching for backpacking routes, it’s crucial to consider the difficulty level and distance of the trail. Understanding these factors will help you choose a route that aligns with your physical abilities, time constraints, and overall hiking goals. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Assess Your Fitness Level: Be honest about your fitness level and hiking experience. Consider the longest distance you have previously hiked and the elevation gain you are comfortable with. Use this information as a baseline to gauge the difficulty levels you can handle.
  • Research Trail Difficulty Ratings: Many hiking and backpacking trails are assigned difficulty ratings by park authorities or experienced hikers. These ratings are usually based on factors such as elevation changes, terrain conditions, and overall technical challenges. Take the time to research and understand these ratings to determine if a trail is suitable for your skill level.
  • Consider Your Timeframe: Evaluate the time you have available for your backpacking trip. Some routes may require several days or weeks to complete, while others can be done in a day or two. Assess how much time you can allocate to your adventure and choose a route that fits within your schedule.
  • Plan Your Daily Mileage: Break down the total distance of the route into daily segments. Consider your fitness level and the terrain of the trail to estimate how many miles you can comfortably cover each day. Factor in rest days or time for exploration at key points along the route.
  • Take Into Account Elevation Gain and Loss: Terrain can greatly affect the difficulty level of a backpacking route. Assess the elevation gain and loss along the trail, as steep ascents and descents can significantly impact the overall challenge. Choose a route that aligns with your comfort level in terms of elevation changes.
  • Consider Trail Conditions: Understand the condition of the trail you plan to hike. Some trails may have sections that require scrambling over rocks, traversing snowfields, or crossing rough terrain. Research any potential obstacles or hazards to ensure they are within your capabilities.
  • Factor in Physical and Mental Stamina: Backpacking requires both physical and mental endurance. Consider your ability to sustain long days of hiking, manage heavy backpacks, and navigate challenging conditions. Be realistic about your limits to ensure an enjoyable and safe experience.
  • Start with Moderately Difficult Trails: If you’re relatively new to backpacking, it’s generally recommended to start with moderately difficult trails before progressing to more advanced routes. This allows you to build your skills, confidence, and physical endurance gradually.

Remember that the difficulty and distance of a backpacking route are subjective and can vary for each individual. It’s essential to choose a route that is challenging but also within your capabilities. Pushing your limits can be rewarding, but it’s crucial to prioritize safety and enjoyment throughout your backpacking journey.


By carefully considering the difficulty level and distance of a route, you can select a backpacking adventure that provides the right balance of challenge and accomplishment.


Evaluating Terrain and Weather Conditions

When planning a backpacking trip, it’s vital to evaluate the terrain and weather conditions of the route you intend to undertake. Understanding these factors will help you prepare adequately, ensure your safety, and make the most of your adventure. Here are some key considerations:

  • Research Terrain Features: Study the topographic maps and gather information about the terrain features of the trail. Identify any challenging sections such as steep ascents or descents, rocky terrain, river crossings, or areas prone to landslides. Assess your comfort level with such terrain and whether you have the necessary skills and equipment to navigate it.
  • Assess Trail Maintenance: Find out if the trail is regularly maintained by park authorities or local organizations. Well-maintained trails usually have clear markers, well-defined paths, and safe crossings. Additionally, check if any recent reports mention fallen trees, washed-out sections, or other possible obstacles that may affect the trail conditions.
  • Consider Water Sources: Evaluate the availability of water sources along the route. Take note of rivers, streams, lakes, or springs that can provide a reliable water supply. Ensure you have adequate water treatment methods so you can safely use these water sources for drinking and cooking.
  • Weather Patterns and Seasonal Variations: Research the typical weather patterns and seasonal variations of the region. Understand the average temperatures, precipitation levels, and possible weather extremes during the time you plan to backpack. This information will help you pack appropriate clothing, gear, and shelter options to stay comfortable and safe regardless of the weather conditions.
  • Check for Seasonal Closures or Restrictions: Determine if there are any seasonal closures or restrictions imposed on the trail. Some trails may be closed during certain months due to weather conditions, wildlife protection, or ecological restoration efforts. Be aware of these closures and plan your trip accordingly.
  • Monitor Weather Forecasts: Stay updated on weather forecasts as your backpacking trip approaches. Consider any severe weather warnings or advisories that may affect your route. Be prepared to adjust your plans or postpone your trip if necessary to ensure your safety.
  • Be Prepared for Changing Conditions: Keep in mind that weather conditions can change rapidly, especially in mountainous or remote areas. Pack essential gear such as rain gear, extra layers, and navigation tools. Be prepared for unexpected changes in temperature, wind, or precipitation during your journey.
  • Consider the Impact of Weather on Trail Conditions: Understand how weather conditions can impact the trail itself. Heavy rain can create muddy or slippery sections, while snowfall or freezing temperatures can make the trail more treacherous. Be prepared to adjust your hiking strategy and pace accordingly to safely navigate varying trail conditions.

By evaluating the terrain and weather conditions, you can make informed decisions and adequately prepare for your backpacking adventure. Understanding the challenges and adapting to changing conditions will enhance your overall experience and keep you safe throughout your journey.


Safety and First Aid Preparations

Ensuring your safety during a backpacking trip is of utmost importance. Proper safety measures and first aid preparations can make all the difference in case of emergencies or unexpected situations. Here are some essential steps to consider:

  • Plan and Share Your Itinerary: Create a detailed itinerary that includes your planned route, campsites, and estimated daily mileage. Share this information with a reliable person, such as a family member or friend, and provide them with specific dates for your departure and return. In case of any unforeseen circumstances, they will know your whereabouts and be able to contact authorities if necessary.
  • Carry a Well-Stocked First Aid Kit: Pack a comprehensive first aid kit that includes essentials such as bandages, disinfectant, pain relievers, blister treatments, and any necessary medication. Familiarize yourself with the contents of the kit and ensure you know how to use them effectively.
  • Learn Basic First Aid Skills: Take the time to learn basic first aid skills before your trip. Knowing how to treat minor injuries, recognize signs of more serious conditions like hypothermia or dehydration, and administer CPR can be crucial in emergency situations.
  • Be Prepared for Common Outdoor Hazards: Research the common hazards of the area you plan to backpack in. This may include wildlife encounters, poisonous plants, insect bites, or specific geological risks. Be aware of how to prevent or respond to these hazards to minimize the risk to yourself and others.
  • Carry Essential Safety Gear: Equip yourself with necessary safety gear such as a compass, map, headlamp or flashlight, whistle, and a multi-tool. These items can assist with navigation, communication, and basic repairs in case of equipment malfunction.
  • Practice Leave No Trace Principles: Minimize your impact on the environment by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Respect wildlife, pack out your trash, and follow guidelines for waste disposal. By protecting the natural environment, you contribute to the safety and preservation of the wilderness for future backpackers.
  • Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Proper hydration and nutrition are vital for your well-being during a backpacking trip. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and replenishing electrolytes. Pack lightweight, nutritious food that provides the necessary energy for long hikes.
  • Be Mindful of Weather Conditions: Keep a close eye on weather forecasts and plan accordingly. Pack appropriate clothing and gear to protect yourself from extreme temperatures, rain, wind, or sun exposure. Adapt your hiking plans if necessary to avoid dangerous weather conditions.
  • Know Emergency Procedures: Familiarize yourself with emergency procedures specific to the area you will be backpacking in. Research the nearest emergency services, including contact numbers, and understand how to communicate your location effectively in case of an emergency.

Prioritizing safety and first aid preparations ensures that you are well-prepared to handle any potential challenges or emergencies that may arise during your backpacking trip. By taking these precautions, you can fully enjoy your adventure while also mitigating risks to yourself and fellow backpackers.


Obtaining Permits and Permissions

When planning a backpacking trip, it’s important to research and obtain any necessary permits and permissions. Many popular backpacking routes, especially those in national parks, wilderness areas, or other protected lands, require permits to manage visitor impact and ensure the preservation of natural resources. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Research Permit Requirements: Determine if the backpacking route you plan to undertake requires a permit. Visit the website of the park or land management agency where the trail is located to get detailed information about the permit application process.
  • Understand Reservation Systems: Some permits may be available through a reservation system, where you need to secure your permit well in advance. Understand the rules and timelines associated with the reservation process to avoid any last-minute complications.
  • Check for Quotas and Restrictions: Be aware of any quotas or restrictions in place for the trail. Some routes limit the number of permits issued per day or per season to regulate the visitor flow and minimize the impact on the environment.
  • Apply for Permits Early: To secure your preferred dates, apply for permits as soon as they become available. Popular trails often have high demand, and permits may sell out quickly. Set reminders to apply on the designated dates to increase your chances of obtaining the desired permit.
  • Pack Required Documentation: Once you have obtained your permit, print or save a digital copy of it and keep it with you during your backpacking trip. Some trails may require you to display the permit visibly on your gear to show compliance with regulations.
  • Follow Permit Conditions: Familiarize yourself with the specific conditions and regulations associated with your permit. This may include camping restrictions, waste disposal guidelines, campfire regulations, or specific trail rules. Adhere to these conditions to ensure the preservation of the area and to maintain a positive relationship between backpackers and land management authorities.
  • Respect Local Indigenous Communities: Some backpacking routes may pass through lands of indigenous communities. Research and understand the cultural significance of these areas and show respect for their traditions, beliefs, and land rights. Obtain any necessary permissions or follow any indicated protocols when passing through or camping on these lands.
  • Consider Additional Permits: In addition to backpacking permits, you may need additional permits for activities such as fishing, hunting, or photography. Understand the regulations regarding these activities and obtain the required permits to ensure you are compliant with local laws.
  • Support Conservation Efforts: Many permit fees contribute to conservation efforts and the maintenance of trails and visitor facilities. By obtaining permits and paying associated fees, you support the preservation and sustainable management of these areas.

Obtaining permits and permissions may involve some additional planning and administrative steps, but it ensures responsible and sustainable exploration of the backcountry. By following the regulations and conditions associated with permits, you contribute to the long-term preservation of the natural environment, allowing future backpackers to enjoy these beautiful places as well.


Packing Essentials for Backpacking

Packing the right gear and essentials is crucial for a successful and comfortable backpacking trip. The items you choose to bring will depend on factors such as the duration of your trip, weather conditions, terrain, and personal preferences. Here are some essential items to consider when packing for your backpacking adventure:

  • Backpack: Choose a backpack that is sturdy, comfortable, and appropriately sized for your trip. Consider the capacity you’ll need to carry all your gear and ensure it has features such as a waist belt and adjustable straps for an ergonomic fit.
  • Tent, Sleeping Bag, and Sleeping Pad: These items provide shelter, warmth, and comfort during your nights in the backcountry. Choose a lightweight and weather-resistant tent, a sleeping bag suitable for the expected temperatures, and a sleeping pad for added insulation and cushioning.
  • Appropriate Clothing Layers: Pack clothing suitable for the anticipated weather conditions, including moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof and breathable outer shell. Consider extra layers for warmth, a hat for sun protection, and gloves for cold weather.
  • Sturdy Footwear: Select comfortable, well-fitting hiking boots or trail shoes with good traction. Break them in before your trip to avoid discomfort or blisters on the trail. Consider gaiters to protect your feet and legs from debris, mud, or snow.
  • Navigation Tools: Carry a detailed map of the area, a compass, and a GPS device or smartphone with offline maps. These tools will help you navigate the trail and stay on course, especially in remote and unfamiliar areas.
  • Headlamp or Flashlight: Essential for night hikes, finding your way around camp, and emergencies. Choose a lightweight, durable, and reliable headlamp or flashlight with long battery life.
  • Water Filtration System: Ensure access to safe drinking water by carrying a water filtration system or purification tablets. This allows you to filter water from streams, lakes, or other water sources along the trail.
  • Food and Cooking Supplies: Pack lightweight, high-energy foods that require minimal preparation. Consider compact cooking gear such as a camping stove, cookware, utensils, and a lightweight pot or mug for boiling water.
  • Personal Hygiene Items: Include toiletries such as a travel-sized biodegradable soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, and toilet paper. Pack a small towel or wipes for personal hygiene needs.
  • First Aid Kit: Carry a well-stocked first aid kit with essential supplies for the treatment of minor injuries, blisters, and common ailments. Include any necessary personal medications or prescriptions.
  • Emergency Shelter and Communication: Pack items such as a lightweight tarp or emergency bivvy, a signaling device (such as a whistle or mirror), and a fully charged cellphone or satellite communication device for emergencies.
  • Other Essentials: Don’t forget items like sunscreen, insect repellent, a multi-tool or pocket knife, extra batteries, a repair kit for gear, and cash for emergencies or unexpected needs.

Remember to pack as lightweight as possible, eliminating any non-essential items to minimize your load. Distribute the weight of your gear evenly in your backpack, and use dry bags or waterproof containers to protect your belongings from rain or water crossings.


Before your trip, go through a checklist to ensure you have all the necessary gear and supplies. It’s also a good idea to practice packing your backpack ahead of time to ensure everything fits properly and is organized for easy access during your journey.


By packing the right essentials, you’ll be prepared for a comfortable and enjoyable backpacking experience, allowing you to focus on the beauty of nature and the adventure that lies ahead.



Embarking on a backpacking adventure is an exhilarating experience that allows you to explore the beauty of nature and challenge yourself in the great outdoors. By following the strategies and tips outlined in this article, you can effectively find the perfect backpacking routes that align with your interests, skill level, and desired destination.


Researching popular routes and utilizing online resources provide a wealth of information and recommendations. Engaging with backpacking communities allows you to tap into the knowledge and experiences of fellow adventurers. Mapping and route planning enable you to navigate with ease and ensure a well-organized trip.


When considering difficulty and distance, be honest about your fitness level and evaluate the terrain and weather conditions to find a route that suits your abilities and preferences. Prioritizing safety and first aid preparations, obtaining necessary permits and permissions, and packing the essential gear ensure a safe and comfortable backpacking experience.


As you embark on your backpacking journey, remember to embrace the spirit of adventure, respect the environment, and leave no trace. Take the time to immerse yourself in the beauty of nature, connect with fellow backpackers, and create memories that will last a lifetime.


So, lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and get ready to embark on a thrilling backpacking adventure—where breathtaking landscapes, unforgettable experiences, and personal growth await!