10 Best Long-Distance Hiking Trails in the U.S. to Escape Civilization

10 Best Long-Distance Hiking Trails in the U.S. to Escape Civilization

I’m always looking for ways to lead a healthier, happier life, whether it’s making sensible changes to my eating habits or finding time to fit a workout into my day. But I’m also a big believer in disconnecting from the daily grind occasionally, spending a few days, a week, or even longer away from the pressures and temptations of the modern world. One of the healthiest and most affordable ways to do this is to embark on a long-distance hike, taking advantage of the tens of thousands of miles of hiking and multi-use trails that crisscross the United States’ vast wilderness areas.

It helps that many long-distance trails and trail networks run close to major cities. There are probably a few, including some you’ve never heard of, within easy driving distance of your hometown. And since trail accommodations are typically rustic campsites and shelters that cost less than budget hotels and motels, the experience may not cripple your wallet.

If you’re fit enough to handle an extended period of exertion, like the idea of trekking through beautiful, quiet landscapes with few other human occupants, and don’t mind a sleeping bag and tent at night, consider taking a long-distance hike for your next vacation.

Appalachian Trail Georgia

Pinnacle Mountain State Park in Arkansas, starting point of the

The Ouachita National Recreation Trail (ONRT) straddles the spine of the low, rugged Ouachita Mountains in Arkansas and Oklahoma, roughly bisecting Ouachita National Forest from east to west. Along its 223-mile length, the trail winds through lush forests, past burbling streams, and across rocky crags.

Despite its beauty and convenient location – the eastern terminus, at Pinnacle Mountain, is less than a half-hour drive from Little Rock – the ONRT remains a well-kept secret. Backpacker Magazine, a respected authority for serious hikers, ranked it the third-best U.S. long trail for solitude.

Rocky Mountains Colorado

Once you’re mentally and physically prepared, the Colorado Trail is well worth the effort. It boasts stunning views from its high peaks, plus countless lakes, streams, and flower-studded alpine meadows. And though it doesn’t technically summit any “14ers,” as 14,000-foot peaks are known locally, it passes close by 14,005-foot Mount of the Holy Cross, which can be reached by an aggressive day hike (or more leisurely overnight jaunt) on the Half Moon Pass Trail.

It is important to note that the Colorado Trail is also open to mountain bikers and equestrians. Don’t be surprised if you’re overtaken by faster users during busy periods.

Camels Hump Long Trail

Jockey's Ridge State Park

The Mountains-to-Sea Trail is still a work in progress. About half the trail has a dedicated right-of-way, but the rest still utilizes country roads and rural tracks, so use caution on these segments. Given the trail’s length, most hikers don’t complete the entire thing in one go anyway.

Oregon Coast Trail

Like the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, parts of the Oregon Coast Trail still follow other rights of way, mostly county roads. Stay on the shoulder wherever possible, observe posted warnings, and wear bright colors to enhance your visibility in frequent coastal fogs.

Pacific Northwest Trail

Though the trail passes through generally rugged and remote areas, mostly within a day’s walk of the Canadian border, it’s well worth the effort to reach. Since the Pacific Northwest Trail is a dedicated footpath for the majority of its length, you probably won’t have to worry about jockeying for position with other users.

Pacific Crest Trail

North Country Trail New York

Much of the North Country Trail runs along designated rights-of-way, but there are some busy road tandems and crossings. Use cautions in busier sections near populated areas, especially near Lake Erie and in lower Michigan.

Lake Tahoe Rim Trail

In today’s fast-paced world, not everyone has a week – let alone a month – to get away from civilization with an outdoorsy fitness vacation. But if you’re lucky enough to have a generous vacation allowance at your job or make your own schedule as a freelancer, spending an extended time away from the pressures of the daily grind can be a truly life-changing experience.

If you make time for one of these long-distance hikes every year, you’ll hit all 10 in a decade. And you’ll come away fitter, wiser, and with a lot of great stories to tell your loved ones.

What’s your favorite long-distance hike?

Categories: Health and Fitness, Lifestyle, Travel

Brian Martucci writes about frugal living, entrepreneurship, and innovative ideas. When he’s not interviewing small business owners or investigating time- and money-saving strategies for Money Crashers readers, he’s probably out exploring a new trail or sampling a novel cuisine. Find him on Twitter @Brian_Martucci.

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10 Best Long-Distance Hiking Trails in the U.S. to Escape Civilization

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