While everyone in the adventure world has heard of the thru-hikes that make up the coveted Triple Crown of Hiking—the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail— there is a handful of thru-hiking trails across the United States that are in need of some attention. Many of the trails are much shorter, some are longer, but each offers a unique challenge, landscape, and opportunity to connect with nature.
The Cohos Trail, New Hampshire – 165 miles
The Cohos Trail not only offers remote and rustic New Hampshire scenery, it also serves as a gateway to an unforgettable international trail experience. While the 165 miles of the Cohos Trail is a great getaway from the urban respite, if you choose to continue your journey to the connecting Sentier Frontalier’s trail in Quebec, you can take your thru-hike across an international border. Whether or not you cross borders, or just keep it local, the Cohos Trail offers a hiking experience like no other.
The Ozark Highlands Trail, Arkansas – 218+ miles
Featuring stream crossings, mountain vistas, swimming holes, and even a section of bushwhacking, this trail in northwest Arkansas is the perfect way to experience some adventure. The trail is still growing, which means you can be the first person to blaze new paths through the scenic Lower Buffalo Wilderness. Whether you are going the entire way, or just spending a weekend meandering the trails, you won’t be disappointed by the Ozark Highlands.
The Long Trail, Vermont – 270+ miles
The Long Trail might not be the longest thru-hike in the country, but it is touted as the first long distance trail in America. Featuring 270+ miles of true Vermont wilderness, the Long Trail would ultimately serve as the inspiration for the world-famous Appalachian Trail, and the two hikes share 100 miles near the southern part of the state. Once it splits from the Appalachian Trail, the Long Trail becomes a more rugged trail, without the foot traffic that the A.T. receives, making this a tough trek through beautiful wilderness.
The Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota – 310 Miles
The Superior Hiking Trail follows the North Shore of Lake Superior for 310 miles, providing hikers a trek to and from the area’s largest concentration of state parks and beautiful lake shores. Backcountry camping is free and allowed only in designated sites, but the trail is dotted every 5 to 10 miles with accessible parking, making it an easy trip for day hikers as well. The Superior Hiking Trail is a perfect backpacking trip for Midwesterners and coast-dwellers alike, the beauty of Lake Superior is reflected in its name, making this one for the memory books.
Oregon Coast Trail, Oregon – 382 miles
Spanning south to north alongside Oregon’s rugged coastline, this trail is the perfect place to lose yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells of the Pacific Ocean. The trail passes through numerous Oregon State Parks and scenic areas, offering some of the most diverse scenery on the West Coast. Most of the trail follows the beach, but every now and then crosses through shaded corridors of nearby forests, making this one of the more memorable hikes in Oregon.
The Hayduke Trail, Utah & Arizona – 800 miles
The Hayduke Trail winds throughout Utah and Arizona and offers hikers a quintessential taste of the region while highlighting some of the most dramatic scenery in the country. At 800 miles, this is no short trek, and after adding in the harsh landscape of the southwest, it is sure to test even the most experienced hikers. As you zigzag between water sources in Utah’s five National Parks, including the Grand Canyon, you’ll be sure to be stunned by the scenery the Southwest is renowned for.
The Arizona Trail, Arizona – 800+ miles
Connecting the state from south to north, the Arizona Trail has everything the “Grand Canyon State” has to offer. Within the 800+ miles, you can expect to see saguaro cacti, big canyon walls, and testaments to human history, including the Roosevelt Dam. Designated as a National Scenic Trail, this seemingly straightforward hike through Arizona offers has an array of challenges that come with desert environment. You’ll want to manage your water and supplies appropriately.
The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, North Carolina – 1,150 miles
It’s all in the name for the Mountains-to-Sea Trail in North Carolina. Extending from the Great Smoky Mountains, this trail traverses through some of the state’s most scenic landscapes and eventually makes its way to the Outer Banks, leaving hikers with lasting memories of the state’s varied terrain. It’s best to tackle this demanding hike in the fall or spring, each season offering the perfect escape from harsh temperatures and nagging insects.
Offering yet another amazing opportunity to experience the vast terrain that is the Pacific Northwest, this trail (not to be mistaken with the Pacific Crest Trail which runs from north to south) spans from Montana to Washington and offers a full dose of northwest scenery. Crossing through three National Parks (Glacier, North Cascades, and Olympic), seven National Forests, and a huge number of mountain ranges and high alpine environments, the Pacific Northwest Trail was specifically designed as one of the most scenic and awe-inspiring hikes in the country.
The Buckeye Trail, Ohio – 1,444 miles
Not everyone knows that there is a hiking trail that circumnavigates the borders of the state of Ohio, but sure enough, there is. Spanning an impressive 1,444 miles, the Buckeye Trail is only rivaled in its uniqueness by the history it holds within the state. Spurred by a 1958 article in the Columbus Dispatch, a 20-mile trail was created linking Lake Erie to Cincinnati, and the idea caught on throughout the state. Nearly 60 years later, the Buckeye Trail has grown to capture the entire state in a circuital track. Even if Ohio isn’t the first state on your bucket list, this trail is still a must see for anyone looking for adventure.
The North Country Trail, North Dakota to New York – 4,600+ miles
You can follow the blue blazes of the North Country Trail for 4,600 miles as it traverses the wide and varying landscape of the northeastern United States. Spanning across seven states, each with their own unique geographical landmarks, this hike is one of the most renowned in the country. The distance, plus some serious winter weather, make this thru-hike a tough one to conquer in one go. However, with hundreds of access points in each state, the North Country Trail is the perfect hike for the backpacker or the weekender.
The American Discovery Trail, California to Delaware – 6,800 miles
The granddaddy of all thru-hike trails, the American Discovery Trail is a coast-to-coast, Forest Gump-esque journey which, if you can finish it, will leave you stunned like no other. Stretching from California to Delaware, the American Discovery Trail offers the most varied trail terrain of any hike in the nation, ranging from the High Sierras to the Blue Ridge Mountains. This hike is not for the faint of heart or someone short on time—the fastest trek took 231 days—conquer this trail and you’ll earn yourself a spot in the thru-hiker hall of fame.