Experience Great Fishing on These 6 Backpacking Trips

hells canyon river

Fish­ing and camp­ing have always gone hand in hand. Head to the dock of your local lake­side camp­ground, and you’ll like­ly see at least a few lines in the water. And increas­ing­ly, thanks to improve­ments in light­weight mate­ri­als and tech­nol­o­gy, back­pack­ing and fish­ing go hand in hand. Rods are lighter, stronger, and more com­pact than ever before; mak­ing fish­ing pos­si­ble on even the longest back­pack­ing adven­tures.

Those who are will­ing to try this hands-on approach will need to hike high­er and far­ther than their fel­low anglers. How­ev­er, they’ll be reward­ed with pris­tine fish­ing, jaw-drop­ping scenery, and none of the crowds one might find at the more acces­si­ble spots. The fish will be small­er, espe­cial­ly in high­er alpine lakes and streams, but they are also more like­ly to be wild. And more fun to catch.

Wena­ha Riv­er, Ore­gon
Sit­u­at­ed in the Wena­ha-Tucan­non Wilder­ness, the waters of this riv­er in East­ern Ore­gon even­tu­al­ly flow into the Colum­bia Riv­er and out to the Pacif­ic Ocean. This means that, unlike some of the oth­er areas on this list, the Wena­ha offers fish­er­men the chance to fight good-sized steel­head and salmon. Not bad con­sid­er­ing the Wena­ha trail­head begins at about 3,000 ft. in ele­va­tion. The Wena­ha Riv­er Trail itself runs par­al­lel to the riv­er, leav­ing plen­ty of oppor­tu­ni­ties to stop and make a few casts.

Wind Riv­er Range, Wyoming
The Wind Riv­er Range of west­ern Wyoming is a revered des­ti­na­tion for high alpine fly fish­ing. There are more than 1,000 lakes in the area, which is part of the Bridger-Teton Nation­al For­est. Near­ly 300 of these high alpine lakes were stocked with fish in the 1930s, mak­ing Wind Riv­er a mec­ca for the trout-addict­ed. The fish pop­u­la­tions in the area are now self-sus­tain­ing, thanks in no small part to the remote­ness of the Wind Riv­er Range and the effort need­ed to reach the lakes.

Gold­en Trout Wilder­ness, Cal­i­for­nia
The Wind Riv­er Range also sus­tains a sta­ble gold­en trout pop­u­la­tion. But, if the goal of a fish­ing trip is to catch this endan­gered species, head to the Sier­ras. The Pacif­ic Crest Trail pass­es through a por­tion of this apt­ly-named wilder­ness area, as do anoth­er 400 miles of bare­ly touched trails. This is the orig­i­nal habi­tat of the gold­en trout, and as any angler can attest, there’s cer­tain­ly an added ful­fill­ment that comes with catch­ing a native species of fish.

men fishing on a dock at a lake

Ozark Nation­al For­est, Arkansas
With the high­est point that falls shy of 3000 ft., the Ozarks of Arkansas don’t exact­ly qual­i­fy as “high alpine.” But for all this nation­al for­est lacks in ele­va­tion, it more than makes up for with serene nature and great fish­ing. Rain­bow trout and brown trout can be caught in many of the rivers and streams that wind through this region. Access to many of these spots is no prob­lem thanks to the hun­dreds of miles of trails in the for­est.

Hells Canyon, Ore­gon
The name is no joke. The hikes around the Snake Riv­er Gorge, also locat­ed in east­ern Ore­gon, can be down­right gru­el­ing. But it’s a small price to pay once you fac­tor in the fish­ing. Trout fish­ing is year-round, and steel­head oppor­tu­ni­ties real­ly pick up in the fall. There are, of course, less chal­leng­ing routes in the area. Hikes for all skill lev­els can be found in the more than 1,000 miles of trails in Hells Canyon. And ele­va­tion is low at the bot­tom of the canyon, mak­ing this a great first back­pack­ing trip of the sea­son for those of us who aren’t in peak phys­i­cal fit­ness.

Estes Park, Col­orado
Tucked away in Rocky Moun­tain Nation­al Park are some incred­i­ble spots to doing a lit­tle back­pack­ing and fish­ing for trout. There are plen­ty of easy-access spots at var­i­ous lakes and rivers along roads. But the wis­est anglers will ven­ture away from the asphalt in pur­suit of rain­bow, brown, and brook trout.