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Top 10 Backpacking Destinations in the USA

Your own idea of a fantastic backpacking adventure is what makes it the winning trek. In general, most backpackers opt for gorgeous scenery and enough rough, steep or rocky terrain to make hiking a challenge. Although long treks are attractive, many backpackers choose shorter hikes, often covering less than 50 miles. Of course, your level of backpacking experience is also a major element to consider. Shorter hikes over varied terrain can be best for beginners and the occasional trekkers. Fortunately, you can select your ideal venue from the top 10 hiking trails in US today.

To excel at and enjoy longer, more strenuous treks lasting for several days, you must pace yourself well. In order to reach your final destination on schedule, you need to know your own capabilities and limits. To ensure making good time while staying energized and well-hydrated, plus enjoying the journey, you need to plot your progress. By targeting your trekking distance goals for each day, you can stay on schedule without experiencing fatigue. At the same time, you can complete a health-enhancing hike and take in the breathtaking wilderness beauty surrounding you. You can select your favorite from among the top 10 backpacking destinations in the USA today.

Locating the Top 10 Hiking Trails in the US

By researching different backpacking terrain and the favorite trekking locales of experts, you can best choose your own ideal hiking trails. Highly recommended wilderness backpacking venues that are popular choices among experienced trekkers include the following:

1. Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park

This picturesque trail offers stunning views of large streams of ice falling from rugged mountain cliffs. Nearby are lush green woodlands and more than 760 shining lakes. Here you can see mountain goats, moose, bighorn sheep and grizzly bears passing by. Located in the Northern Rockies of Montana, this region is extremely popular with backpackers of all levels of experience. It rates highly among the top 10 backpacking locations in the US. 

You can trek over either the primary or alternate trails of this venue that stretches past Glacier from Chief Mountain Trailhead near Canada to Two Medicine. Experienced backpackers like the high altitudes of the alpine trail that includes Pitamakan Pass and Dawson Pass. In this area, you can often catch sight of stately elk and hear their “bugle” soundings in early morning and at nightfall. This trek has a difficulty rating of 3, offering you the option of trekking nearly 95 miles or deciding on a shorter hike. Here you can enjoy trekking on one of the top 10 long distance hiking trails in the US.  

2. Backpacking North or South in Yosemite National Park

Many trekkers consider Yosemite the ideal national park for backpacking today. There is an abundance of spectacular wilderness terrain to view and explore in this region. Well-known spots include the famed John Muir Trail and the lofty Half Dome and Clouds Rest peaks. When trekking south of Tuolumne Meadows, you can marvel at the 65-mile long scenic stretch, the first leg of your amazing tour. These venues are undoubtedly among the top 10 backpacking trails in the US. In addition, you can enjoy trekking on one of the top 10 long distance hiking trails in the US.

To the north, you can backpack along the more remote regions of Yosemite. This second leg of your trek equals approximately 87 miles of breathtakingly beautiful terrain. You may even arrive at the park’s very core, a huge expanse of majestic canyons with granite walls. Here, there are summits reaching higher than 12,000 feet interspersed with serene mountain lakes. Yosemite offers trails suitable for all backpackers, from beginners to rugged level 5 trekkers. These locales are well-qualified to be among the top 10 hiking trails in US.    

3. John Muir Trail in the John Muir Wilderness of California

Backpacking on the John Muir Trail toward Silver Pass in the splendid wilderness region of California is an unforgettable adventure. Stretching for nearly 212 miles, this trail reaches from Yosemite Valley upward to the highest peak in the Lower 48 range. It includes the monumental Mount Whitney at a height of 14,505 feet in Sequoia National Park. This area is often referred to as the “most beautiful trail” for hiking in the US. It is, without doubt, one of the top 10 backpacking destinations in the USA. 

To backpack through the High Sierra range of California requires hiking at an altitude of over 9,000 feet through razor-sharp mountain peaks. Abundant with glorious waterfalls and shimmering lakes filling granite basins, these trails include lofty passes. Stretching from 11,000 to nearly 14,000 feet, these areas offer endless views of unbelievable natural coloration and beauty. This is the captivating Granite Park region of the John Muir Wilderness, where every backpacker dreams of trekking. Although much of this region is trekking level 4, there are hiking opportunities for backpackers with all degrees of experience. This venue definitely offers one of the top 10 backpacking destinations in the USA.

John Muir Trail — Courtesy of

4. Teton Crest Trail in Grand Teton National Park

A very popular backpacking venue is the Teton Crest Trail in Wyoming. Located in the Grand Teton National Park, this area is perfect for lengthy trekking excursions and day hikes. It also offers ideal locations for adventurous rock climbing, backcountry skiing or canoeing. The sharp-edged mountain peaks form a skyline of rugged beauty, and the trekking terrain is varied and inspiring. It should certainly be considered as among the top 10 backpacking trails in the US.

For a lengthy stretch, the Teton Crest Trail remains above the treeline, providing spectacular views of the surrounding lofty peaks. Eventually, it drops downward into the glorious South Fork and North Fork areas of Cascade Canyon. Nearby are the higher forks of Granite Canyon. Here, there are multiple trekking options with various trails to choose from. Traveling each of them will offer one of your most memorable multi-day hiking adventures. You can easily trek over 33 to 40 miles here while immersed in the stunning views. The average trekking difficulty level throughout is grade 4.

5. From South Kaibab to Lipan Point in the Grand Canyon

Backpacking in the Grand Canyon offers all possibilities of a fabulous trekking adventure in a completely unique, grand locale. If you choose to trek along the stunning Tonto Trail, you can cover 74 miles of unequaled rugged landscape. The ideal trail to take is the South Kaibab. In fact, it is a favorite of backpackers throughout the entire network of national parks. This locale surely qualifies as one of the top 10 backpacking destinations in the US.

This trail not only offers stupendous beauty, but it also is a trekking venue filled with adventurous bends and surprises. Along the Escalante Route, you encounter some challenging areas that require some skill and scrambling to navigate. Also along the scenic trail is the more difficult, yet enticing, Beamer Trail with its riverside path. You also encounter the Tanner Trail with its top-quality campsites for a peaceful, welcome night’s rest. Most of these trails offer a more difficult level 5 grade of trekking and are among the top 10 hiking places in the US. This exciting venue definitely provides one of the top 10 backpacking destinations in the USA.    

Grand Canyon National Park — Courtesy:

6. The Narrows of Zion National Park

In Utah’s Zion National Park, the Virgin River’s North Fork has an unusually deep, narrow and splendid canyon of red rock. Its walls reach over 1,000 feet in height and are only about 20 feet distant from one another in places. Spring water rushes through wall cracks and crevices, irrigating charming natural wall-gardens. In areas with lower water levels, trekkers can more easily master the downhill hike, which takes two days. This unique location is one of the top 10 hiking places in the US today.

As you descend The Narrows, the water can vary from ankle-deep to waist-high. Since cobblestones line the riverbed, the going is slow. However, a deliberate pace is welcome here in this unique natural haven. The first two days of this enchanting excursion are usually quiet and serene. Near the end of your trip, you are likely to encounter an abundance of day hikers eager for adventure. This lovely trek covers just 16 miles of pure, natural beauty and offers a backpacking difficulty grade score of 3. 

The Narrows of Zion National Park – Utah — courtesy: National Park Service (

7. Island Lake and Titcomb Basin Located in the Wind River Range

Although the Wind River Range in Wyoming is far from unknown, parts of this region still provide some genuine solitude. This mountainous range is found amid some of the most majestic summits and pure, clear lakes in the US. This is undoubtedly one of the most elegant, breathtaking areas of great scenic splendor in North America. To visit every lake in this mountain range would require many years of backpacking excursions. These venues are among the top 10 hiking spots in the US today.  

After enjoying the spectacular hike through the Cirque of the Towers found in the Winds, you can visit Titcomb Basin. This truly awesome locale has monumental peaks reaching higher than 13,000 feet amid lakes at altitudes upwards of 10,000 feet. There are glorious clusters of shining lakes that make you want to relocate to this spectacular venue near the unequaled majesty of Knapsack Col at nearly 12,250 feet of altitude. Total backpacking distance here is about 41 miles with a trekking level of difficulty of grades 3 to 5 depending on your chosen route.   

B07HK54MKP - TheFitLife Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
TheFitLife Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

8. Strawberry Point of Olympic Coast, Washington

Hiking the 17.5 miles northward along the Hoh River to La Push Road in Olympic National Park, Washington, is inspiring. You can relax while dipping your feet in the cool, refreshing ocean surf. Nearby is one of the world’s grandest rainforests with its huge trees and lush green foliage. Gigantic boulders jut from the ocean to heights of 200 feet or more. The beach is filled with mussels and sea stars, and you can catch sight of sea otters, seals and even whales. This area is undoubtedly among the top 10 backpacking destinations in the US.

Rope ladders are provided for climbing to access cliff-side heights. This venue offers the advantage of being less crowded with hikers than areas of the Olympic coast farther north. A splendid finger of land stretching out into the Pacific Ocean safeguards the coastline. It also provides one of the most unique seaside venues for adventurous, scenic backpacking in the country. The total distance of this hike is about 17.5 miles with a trekking difficulty of grade 3. 

9. Timberline Trail in Mount Hood, Oregon

The popular Timberline Trail winding around the 11,239-foot-high Mount Hood in Oregon offers a healthy 41-mile hike. Its larger neighbor is the Wonderland Trail that stretches 93 miles to encircle monumental Mount Rainier. Both trails provide breathtakingly beautiful scenic views abundant with sights of Mount Hood’s glaciers mixed with waterfalls and wildflowers. The Timberline also includes some tricky creek fords that require some skill to navigate. This is certainly among the top 10 hiking trails in the US.

Both the Timberline and the Wonderland have barren volcanic areas, as well as lush meadows and dense rainforests. However, trekking through regions of the Wonderland requires obtaining a treasured backcountry permit. Due to the fame of Mount

Timberline Trail on Mount Hood, Oregon — courtesy of

10. Alice Lake in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho

The Sawtooth Mountains are truly under-celebrated giants among western mountain ranges in the U.S. Although they offer gorgeous scenic venues, they are not nearly as popular with backpackers today as some other national park ranges. One spectacular trek in this area is a 36-mile stretch between Redfish Lake and Tin Cup Trailhead located on Pettit Lake. This trek takes about five days and includes a splendid extra excursion to one of the most scenic lake regions in this range. It is sure to be among the top 10 hiking spots in the US. 

More backpackers are beginning to show interest in exploring the Sawtooth Mountain trails. To reach this range, you need to take a brief shuttle ride. The hike itself encompasses four separate mountain passes reaching above an altitude of 9,000 feet. Nearby, you will find amazing campsites located on some of the most scenic lakes in the Sawtooths, with majestic mountain ridges above. The total distance of this trek is roughly 36 miles with a backpacking difficulty grade of just 2.           


These top 10 backpacking locations in the US offer a wide variety of terrain, climates and degrees of backpacking difficulty. Yet many of them offer trekking opportunities for all backpackers with shorter, less challenging trails for beginners and occasional hikers. Of course, your choice of backpacking venues is entirely your own. After discovering the benefits and options available in different states and locales, you can decide on your favorite locations and terrain.

We wish you safe, happy trekking in the wondrous world of countrywide wilderness backpacking. 

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