Summer is one of the most popular times of the year to get out and enjoy nature. Hiking remains one of America’s favorite past times, and finding a hiking trail close to home is either very easy or very difficult depending on where you live. The United States is huge, and it offers a number of vastly different landscapes; from majestic mountains and the rolling plains and prairies of the Midwest, to the forests of the Appalachians and the undeniable splendor of each coast. America is beautiful, and what’s a better way to see her beauty than by hiking it. Feel like embarking on the greatest adventure? Here are the seven longest hikes in America.
Sitting at 6,875 miles, the Great Western Loop is the longest hike in the United States. This loop begins and ends in the Grand Canyon, combining the Pacific Crest Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. The loop passes through nine states (California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona) and parts of Canada. Andrew Skurka, who has made a name for himself as a professional backpacker, is the only known person to have completed the loop.
This trail sits in the Eastern U.S. and begins in Key West, Florida. At a length of 5,400 miles, the Eastern Continental Trail is the second-longest in the U.S. The trail ends in Newfoundland and passes through 14 states, incorporating six different trails, of which one is the Appalachian Trail. The first person to complete the hike was John Brinda, from Washington state, in 1997.
The third-longest hike in the U.S., the American Discovery Trail is 5,000 miles long and crosses the United States. Beginning in Delaware and ending in California (or vice-versa depending on which coast you start on), the trail crosses 15 states and the District of Columbia. The trail has a number of hiking records; Joyce and Pete Cottrell are the first hikers to complete the trail, but they did it in sections in 2002 and 2003. The first thru-hikers were Marcia and Ken Powers, and they completed the trail in less than eight months in 2005. The trail has a northern and southern route, which puts it at 6800 miles should a hiker double back, and the first person to complete the full 6,800 miles was Mike “Lion King” Daniel from June 2007 to November 2008.
A diverse trail that passes through seven states and totals 4,600 miles, the North Country Trail begins in New York and ends in North Dakota and is the longest of the National Scenic Trails authorized by Congress. The trail crosses through 57 state parks, and it’s estimated 10,000 people have been involved with the trail in some way, either through its creation or through a membership in a trail association.
Beginning in Mexico and ending in Canada, the Great Western Trail passes through five states (Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana) and hales at 4,455 miles long. The trail was first completed (thru-hiked) in 1988 by Simon Cordial and James Mayberger when they set out to hike from Canada to Mexico. They started on June 1, 1988 and finished on October 15, 1988. The trail has since been designated a National Millennium Trail, awarded in 2000, for its place as a visionary trail, defining aspects of America’s history.
Running 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada, the Continental Divide Trail follows America’s Continental Divide along the Rocky Mountains. The trail crosses a total of five states: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. The trail has been designated a National Scenic Trail, and it’s said about 200 people per year attempt the trail. The trail was first thru-hiked in 1978 by Dave Odell, and the youngest person to complete the trail is Reed Gjonnes, who hiked the trail in less than five months with her father in 2013 at the age of 13! The Continental Divide Trail, the Appalachian Trail, and the Pacific Crest Trail have been designated as the Triple Crown of Long-Distance Hiking for hikers in America.
Not necessarily a hiking trail, the East Coast Greenway was started in 1991 as a way to connect major cities of the Atlantic coast for non-motorized transportation. Beginning in Calais, Maine and ending in Key West, Florida, the greenway is roughly 2,900 miles long and is still in development, but it includes over 100 trails through 16 states. In 1999 the greenway was designated a National Millennium Trail.
Feeling inspired for a long-distance hike? The natural beauty of the United States should be seen by all, and if it happens to be with a pair of hiking boots on your feet, even better. Get out there and go for a hike!