Top Five Best Backpacking Trails In the National Parks

Narrowing down the best backpacking trails in the country is no small task. If the United States has one thing to offer, it’s definitely its beautiful vistas and views of grandeur. Often, the Country’s  62 national parks offer some of the best views.

With such a variety of landscapes and parks to explore, we attempt to include some diversity in this list. Ranging from snow-capped Rocky Mountains to red rock canyons, there is sure to be a hike to cater to all adventurers.

  1.  Thunder Lake- Rocky Mountain National Park

    Being one of the lesser traveled trails in the park, this trail offers the perfect balance of solitude and adventure. This trail will take you to the banks of thunder lake, where one can admire the bright emerald waters. It gives you a chance to explore alpine meadows, forests, talus fields and across some sections of the famous Continental Divide Trail. 

Considered a Strenuous trail, going up to about 12,000 feet elevation and covering 22 miles and can be completed in 3-4 days. Some areas are not made up of designated trail and some navigation is required.

Read more here

  1. Rim to Rim- Grand Canyon National Park

Hiking Rim to Rim is a true once in a lifetime experience. You can view the size and significance of the canyon from above, however once you make the trip down and out, only then can one appreciate its grandeur fully, offering perspectives few can come to value. 

You can start at the North or South Rim of the canyon, but keep in mind that you will only be hiking end to end. So, you should arrange for transportation at the opposite Rim for your trip ending. 

The Rim to Rim trail is 24 miles long and can take 4-5 days. We recommend not rushing this one, taking extra time to appreciate your surroundings is a rewarding experience.

Read more here.

  1. John Muir Trail- Yosemite National Park

    Named after Naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, the John Muir trail lives up to its namesake well. The John Muir trail is only for those of true conviction and strong of heart. Hiking the JMT requires much planning and preparation, as the trail is 211 miles, crosses no roads, and takes on average three weeks or more to complete the strenuous hike. Despite its difficulty, this trail is one of the most rewarding in the country, as there are no shortcuts to any place worth going.  

The John Muir Trail covers some of the most beautiful mountains in the world, from stunning, glacier-chiseled Yosemite, to the jagged spires of the Minarets, to the highest mountain peak in the contiguous United States. You’ll hike over numerous high mountain passes, pass ancient glaciers, cross fast-moving mountain streams while surrounded by giant peaks.

Read more here.

  1. Ocean Path trail- Acadia National Park

    Although the shortest and easiest trail on this list, Acadia is a treat. The coastal trail offers photo quality views. Witness conic pink granite formations,plenty of wild blueberry bushes and plenty of wildlife along the way. The trail passes Thunder Hole, a shallow sea cave. When there are large ocean swells, on an incoming tide, the waves trap air in the cave making a thunderous boom. Truly a one in a kind experience.

Ocean Path is a moderate trail, only going 3.5 miles and gaining just over 500 feet elevation.

Read more here.

  1. Enchanted Valley- Olympic National Park

This moderate hike in Olympic National Park is truly enchanting. The locals refer to the Enchanted Valley area as the “Valley of 10,000 Waterfalls.” Hike into a world one would envision J.R.R. Tolkien building. As you make way through damp mossy woodlands, cross cold gurgling streams and rivers, and emerge into spacious mountain meadows swallowed by the clouds.

The trail is roughly 26-30 miles round trip depending on the route taken, and can be completed in 2-3 days. This river valley has some unique features to be enjoyed, including ancient rain forests, waterfalls, and plenty of wildlife including bears. Read up on wilderness food storage and wildlife safety before your hike.

Read more here.


Note: This list only captures a handful of worthwhile sites worth seeing in the American back-country. To say this list only skim the top of the iceberg is an exaggeration and one should only really use this as a starting point to bring some worthwhile places to attention. Go find additions to this list or make your own, the outdoors are meant to be discovered!

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