Top 55 Long Distance Hiking Trails | USA

Virginia Creeper TrailThe list of Top 55 hiking trails is reproduced in part, and with permission, below. I’ve included just the ones that are multi-state trails some of which meet the ‘epic’ criterion.
I’d encourage you, if this is your thing,  to have a look at the full list here (link to: authorizedboots.com) where the trails are organised by region rather than a list of 1 to 55 with 1 being the best.
For any hikers reading I’d be intrigued to know what navigation devices  you use for the longer routes. Coming from the sporty world of gadgets I would imagine the usual suspects would be the Garmin Fenix 3/5X and a Suunto Spartan/Ambit3. But instead surprise me with your tales (trails?!) of the Garmin Foretrex…or whatever you use.
Happy Hiking

44. Warrior Trail

Starting Point: Monongahela River in Greensboro, Pennsylvania

Ending Point: Ohio River south of Moundsville, West Virginia

Distance: 67 Miles

The Warrior Trail is one of the most interesting trails on this list. To begin with, it was not built by a railroad company, but rather by Native Americans. The trail has been in use for over 5000 years, mostly by Native Americans going to Flint, Ohio to congregate. It is not a wilderness trail, but rather a trail that takes you along a well-used historical path that includes views of old farms and amazing rural environments.

There are three shelters along the way, and you will never be too far from help if you need it. There are no streams to ford, not much in the way of extreme terrain, and the trail is pleasant and filled with history.

If you hike the Warrior Trail, you must be aware that the entire 67 miles exists on private property. Volunteers maintain the trail, and they do so with the cooperation of the owners of this private property. Please conduct yourself accordingly, because a failure to do so may result in property owners denying passage on their property and deprive us all of a wonderful trail.

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45. Foothills Trail

Starting Point: Table Rock State Park, South Carolina

Ending Point: Oconee State Park, South Carolina

Distance: 76 Miles

The Foothills Trail is a lovely trail that goes through South Carolina, into North Carolina, and then returns to South Carolina. As such, it is obviously going to take you through beautiful scenery and bountiful pine trees, as well as a lot of mountainous areas. This is a trail appropriate for foot traffic, not so much biking or anything else, because the trail is not well-paved and mostly consists of most grass, dirt, mud, and the occasional rocky terrain, and it has been built and maintained by the US Forest Service in conjunction with Duke Energy, who wanted to use it for recreation while building a hydroelectric plant in the area.

As with many mountain trails, the trail can vary from an easy hike to a strenuous hike. It has a few road crossings, but other than that you’re not likely to run into many people while on the trail, which can be both a blessing and a curse. You’ll be pretty easily capable of finding spots to sleep, but mind the weather and remember that water runs downhill.

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46. Grand Enchantment Trail

Starting Point: Phoenix, Arizona

Ending Point: Albuquerque, New Mexico

Distance: 730 Miles

The Grand Enchantment Trail runs mostly east to west from Phoenix to Albuquerque, allowing you to both enjoy a hike through interesting parts of the country that most people never hike through while also being able to repeatedly make jokes about having taken the wrong turn at Albuquerque like Bugs Bunny.All joking aside, the trail is a very interesting combination of climates. You have your canyons, your desert-ish areas, and your bluffs, but these lead into more wooded areas, mountains, and even forests that you will walk through. There are ample water sources spread throughout, and there are fourteen towns that you either pass through or pass near to, meaning with careful planning and a good pack, you can carry your materials. Most of the area is in wilderness, and you only need a permit to camp in one area, so you can make camp almost anywhere you like along the vast majority of the trail. A great hike, but one that requires decent preparation

47. International Appalachian Trail

Starting Point: Mount Katahdin, Maine

Ending Point: Newfoundland

Distance: 1900 Miles

The International Appalachian Trail picks up where the American trail leaves off, extending all the way through the North of Canada. In the last few years, it has been extended to include mountain ranges that were once connected back in the Pangea years of Earth, which includes most of coastal Europe and even parts of Northern Africa, along with Greenland and the United Kingdom. However, we’ll just be looking at the portion from Maine to Newfoundland. Sadly, because the trail is ever-changing and not yet well-defined, it’s a hard one to plan for. You’ll mostly be experiencing mountainous regions, and likely very cold climates, especially as you get deeper into Canada, so warm gear is needed. You’ll be moving through so many different legal systems that you’ll need to plan in advance for appropriate permits for camping, and the further you go in Canada, the hard it will be to resupply, so make plans for that beforehand. That being said, if you want to venture across the US and into Canada on a once in a lifetime trip that can take upwards of 120 days, this is a great hike for you.

48. Appalachian Trail

Starting Point: Springer Mountain, Georgia

Ending Point: Katahdin Mountain, Maine

Distance: 2200 Miles

The Appalachian Trail is widely considered to be one of the greatest trails in the United States for hiking. Complete in 1937, the trail runs through 14 states, including the majority of the original colonies, and this is one intense hike. It has dangerous fordings, it has limited water sources, it has bears and chiggers, and yet people try to complete the 2200-mile hike in a season so as to not be caught in the mountains when the storms come. Speaking of the mountains, the elevation of the trail goes from 124ft above sea love in Bear Mountain State Park to 6643ft at Clingmans Dome in North Carolina. The trail has 250 shelters and campsites along the way, most of which are near a water source (though how potable that water is is up for debate). Lest this scare you off, the Appalachian Trail also has a lot of supply points, and is littered with many trail towns, and is generally a safe place to hike. With proper planning and enough time, you can conquer the Appalachian Trail, but be prepared to spend half of a year there doing it.

Review: Suunto Ambit 3

49. Pacific Coast Trail

Starting Point: Manning Park, British Columbia

Ending Point: Campo, California

Distance: 2654 Miles

Technically, a bit of this trail is in other countries, but the Pacific Crest Trail is the perfect trail for anyone looking to walk from Canada to Mexico through the west coast states. The Pacific Coast Trail, like the Appalachian Trail, is one of the ‘triple crowns’ of thru-hiking in the US, and is considered a real achievement. It passes through such well-known parks as Yosemite National Park, Crater Lake National Park, Mount Hood National Forest, and many more. There are dozens of resupply points on the route, and there are ample camping sites, though you will need three permits to make the trip; a California Campfire Permit, a Permit to Enter Canada, and a Thru-Permit. Luckily, all these can be gotten easily and cheaply. If you want to enjoy the west coast and their mountain ranges, you will find that this is the trail for you.

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50. Continental Divide Trail

Starting Point: Glacier National Park, Montana

Ending Point: Crazy Cook Monument, New Mexico

Distance: 3100 Miles

The Continental Divide is the third crown of the triple-crown of American long-distance hiking, and what a trail it is. It follows the Rocky Mountains from Montana to New Mexico, and ranges from elevations of 3900ft to 14270ft (Grays Peak, Colorado). In some areas, like New Mexico, water is scarce, but the farther north you get, the less of a problem that is. The terrain is mostly mountainous, with some walking on paved roads required as the trail is not ‘complete’. There are hundreds of places to resupply, but you may still want to resort to caching food just in case. There are also many places to make camp, but you must be aware of local laws concerning where you can and can’t camp. Still, if you want to traverse the Rockies, this is the place to do it.

51. Great Western Trail

Starting Point: Montana-Canada Border

Ending Point: Arizona-Mexico Border

Distance: 4455 Miles

The Great Western Trail is a bit different than most of these trails, because it allows for hikers as well as those using motorized vehicles to traverse it. Because it is so long, it features many types of terrain, from hills and deserts to woodlands and mountains and even rock formations. The trail passes through many parks, some private lands, and even through tribal lands, so be aware of that when making plans for camps, as everyone has their own rules about where and when you can make camp. If you’re going to hike entirely through, you will need to find supply points for yourself, as the trail is not established as many other trails in more common use. For someone who wants to see the west, though, especially Utah, this is a fantastic trail choice, and one that comes with extreme bragging rights.

52. North Country Trail

Starting Point: Crown Point, New York

Ending Point: Lake Sakakawea State Park, North Dakota

Distance: 4600 Miles

The North Country National Scenic Trail, the longest scenic trail recognized by Congress, takes you from Crown Point to Cincinnati, then up to the Upper Peninsula, before finally turning west again to North Dakota. It travels through a multitude of national forests, state parks, nature preserves, wildlife refuges, and even six Army Corps of Engineers impoundments. It traverses mountains, falls, lowlands, coastal areas, forests, and more, and the views range from monotonous (Ohio) to incredible (Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, North Dakota). For camping in public areas, most are designated, and some private areas require permits or reservations. The trail passes through many cities, enough that you could likely make it from one city to the next without needing additional food or water. All told, the hike is an easy hike with a few strenuous areas, and the stress on your body is mostly from the length. Truly a great way to see the Northern portion of the US near to the Canadian border, but definitely a trip that needs planning.

53. American Discovery Trail

Starting Point: Cape Henlopen State Park, Delaware

Ending Point: Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Distance: 5000 Miles

The American Discovery Trail is a 5000-mile trek across much of the United States from Delaware to California, along with 1800 miles of alternative routes. For most people, the trek will take a year or more, and the elevation varies between -17ft and 13207ft where it crosses the Rockies. The trail has almost every kind of climate and terrain that you could imagine; plains, forests, mountains, plateaus, desert, arid regions, and more. Near Cincinnati, the trail splits into a northern and southern path, meeting again in Colorado. The trail is littered with places to get food and water, but you should still be sure to carefully plan for your trip. That being said, if you want to trek across America, this is certainly the trail to do it, especially if you have a year and a few months to spend on it.

54. Eastern Continental Trail

Starting Point: Key West, Florida

Ending Point: Bell Isle, Newfoundland

Distance: 5400 Miles

The Eastern Continental Trail is a long-distance trail composed of various other trails, most of which we’ve already discussed. It begins in the Florida Keys, following the Overseas Heritage Trail, then meets with the Florida Trail, progressing to the Alabama roadwalk, which meets the Pinhoti trail, which then becomes the Benton MacKaye Trail, which finally leads into the Appalachian Trail and then the International Appalachian Trail. If you’re looking to plan such a hike, you’re going to experience almost every imaginable climate and terrain that North America has to offer, but you will also see the most beautiful trails in the United States, as well as traveling through almost every one of the thirteen original colonies. Not a trail for the beginner, but a worthwhile endeavor for those with the experience for the hike.

55. Great Western Loop

Starting Point: Anywhere along the trail

Ending Point:

Distance: 6875 Miles

This trail is a loop through the western states in the country that takes 6875 miles to complete. It strings together five other long-distance hiking trails; the Pacific Crest trail, the Pacific Northwest trail, the Continental Divide trail, the Grand Enchantment trail, and the Arizona Trail. Only one person, a professional backpacker, has ever completed the trail, and he did so in 208 days, at a pace of approximately 33 miles a day. Most people can expect to get a decent fifteen miles a day out of themselves, on the other hand, so for many this trail will take a year or more to complete, even without taking into consideration the strenuous portions. Not recommended for novices or anyone who hasn’t accomplished the triple crown, and definitely not something to undertake without planning for resupply along the way, but the land you will see is gorgeous and the trip will be something to brag about for the rest of your lifetime.

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