9 of The Most Loved Trails in North America – Hints for a Backpacker
North American Trails
9 most loved trails of all time in North America may seem like a lofty and ambitious claim to make and it is, but we believe what we have here is the definitive list of top trails. Moreover, North American Trails are some of the most traveled trails on our continent and there is a good reason for that. They are beautiful, exhilarating, and adventurous.
That is why we set out on this mission to bring you the top 9 North American Trails and what better way than through an infographic?
The result is an interactive visual guide to North American trails where we highlight each of the 9 best trails in short summaries with links to more information on them and why they are world-class. We hope that you enjoy it and will share it with your friends and family!
Let’s Have a Look at The 9 Most Loved Trails of All Time in North America
1. The Lost Coast, Sinkyone Wilderness SP
With a never-ending scenic view, the Lost Coast Trail is one of North America’s most loved trails. On this six-day hike, you will explore the remaining wild coast of Northern California, with no highway or road nearby. The trail follows along cliffs above crashing ocean waves where the bluffs of crumbling sandstone and shale have been molded into contorted shapes by endless erosion. It leads through a lush coastal rainforest filled with giant redwoods and traversing cascading creeks bubbling fresh water right out of the rock. The pilgrimage over hilltops offers striking views over offshore stacks, sea stacks, arches, and spires all framed by a backdrop of lush forest.
The Lost Coast Trail starts near Shelter Cove at Mattole Beach on Hwy 1 between Cape Mendocino and Cape Blanco. Although the trail is mostly flat, it has some steep grades at times. The trail crosses 11 streams in its 18 miles that are usually not very difficult to cross but you do need to watch for slippery rocks when they are wet. There are no water sources on this trail so be sure to bring enough water with you before setting out.
This hike is only available during the summer months, early May through September; camping in the wild isn’t for any other time of year due to potential stream crossings and bear activity.
2. Wild River Campground
This amazing trail is one of the 9 most loved trails of all time in North America for many reasons. It offers everything: coastal and forest hiking, wild rivers, and waterfalls. The trail starts at the Campground and ends at an overlook point about a mile south of Panther Creek Falls; it follows along the river for its entire length. Although short in distance, this hike is moderate to strenuous in difficulty because of its steep incline and rocky surface.
The trail begins by following alongside the river through an old-growth forest until it reaches Tiger Creek (a small creek running into the south end of Big Lagoon). It then climbs up a hillside before coming back down again towards Little Niagara Falls after 0.75 miles. If you continue on from there you will come to a series of three waterfalls: Panther Creek Falls, Upper Panther Creek Falls, and Middle Panther Creek Falls.
The trail is approximately 3 miles in length; the last 0.5 miles are on an old road that is not open to vehicles. Along with waterfalls, it offers majestic views of Big Lagoon (a picturesque little fjord) and the surrounding lush forest. To get there, take HWY 101 south of Texada Island towards Vancouver Island; turn off onto Highway 19 east towards Port McNeill, then right again onto Central Coast Road which leads all the way up to the Campground where you will find the trailhead for this amazing hike.
3. Timberline Trail
Popular as the best hike in the Pacific Northwest, the Timberline Trail runs along with the beautiful Mount Hood and is one of North America’s most respected trails. Although it’s only a measly 25 miles total, this mountain range is home to some serious vertical elevation: 11,239 feet at its peak. The glacier-covered north side of Mount Hood has a surrounding of an immense wilderness area known as the Eliot Branch State Park which is also home to two popular campgrounds (Timberline and Cloud Cap).
The Timberline Trail can be done in 10 days but there are plenty of campsites along the way if you wish to take your time on this difficult hike; however, these places fill up quickly during the busy season (July and August). It does offer stunning views of the emerald foothills around Mount Hood, as well as glaciers and waterfalls. The best part about this hike is that it’s dog-friendly.
4. Pilgrim Creek Trail, Bridger-Teton National Forest
The well-maintained trail goes up and down gently at first before becoming extremely steep at mile 6 for almost a quarter of a mile; after that, there are only slight inclines again until you reach Hanging Valley Lake where you will find plenty of great areas to camp. If you are looking for more solitude, you can hike an extra 10 minutes to get to the Salmon Lake Trailhead. To get there, take Highway 34 north of Dubois for 26 miles until you reach the small town of Frannie; then turn left on FR 319 and drive one mile towards Grassy Lake. At this point, turn right onto Grassy Lake Road (FR 319) and continue about 6 miles before turning left onto RD 434 at the Elk Refuge sign. This road will lead you all the way down to Hanging Valley Lake.
5. Skyline Trail, Jasper National Park, Alberta
Considered as one of the 9 Most Loved Trails of All Time in North America, this challenging 27km hike is well worth the view. The Skyline Trail offers everything from coastal forest to alpine tundra in Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. It is known for its views, with much of the hike being above the treeline. It is also known for its challenging weather conditions above the tree line which is problematic for hikers who lose sight of trails.
The trail begins at an elevation of about 2200 feet near Highway 93 and goes up to 6300 feet along ridges with views out towards Mount Athabasca (on a clear day) and down into the Columbia Valley below. The steep cliffs are extremely dangerous because they drop off almost 2000 feet on either side; this makes it very difficult to get back down the trail (or to the parking lot for that matter). There is a section on this trail popular as The Blow-down and it is considered as one of the most difficult parts of the hike; at this point, you will bypass an area where a large portion of trees was downed by high winds.
6. Jewels Route, Grand Canyon National Park
This amazing national park allows plenty of time for sightseeing and hiking; although if you can’t make it to all 9 hikes, we highly recommend the South Bass Trail that links up with the West Tonto Trail. The hike takes about 5 hours in total (one-way) and offers breathtaking views of the canyon along the way (although not as beautiful to look at when compared to other trails in Arizona). You can enjoy depths between 4200 feet at Yuma Point where you will find waterfalls every season.
The trail is very popular with backcountry hikers but much less visited by day hikers; this makes it somewhat difficult (and sometimes dangerous) to get off the trail when there are large groups of people hiking up or down together. There are plenty of campsites along the way, but be sure to get your permission beforehand if you plan on camping.
7. Mount Eielson, Denali. National Park
Located in the Alaska Range, Mount Eielson is the fifth highest peak in North America. It’s a fairly easy, non-technical hike that offers amazing views of the surrounding landscape. This trail will lead you through a boreal forest and towards a lake which makes for a great place to take a break or set up camp (please keep in mind that camping isn’t allowed on the actual summit). It is also dog friendly (both on and off-leash) so be sure to bring Fido along too!
8. Titcomb Basin Trail
This is one of those trails that every backpacker must complete at least once in his lifetime. Titcomb Basin is located 10 miles beyond Indian Creek Camp to the east (after you pass the junction). It’s an 8-mile hike to get there, but it’s one of those hikes where you’ll be sad when it comes time to turn around and go back home.
The area is not just great for picturesque views, fishing, and camping; but also because of its accessibility. Although it does receive a lot of traffic between March-October since many people come here just for the fishing season which lasts until October 31st, the trail still gets plenty of attention during other months too.
9. Mount Whitney
Sightseeing and climbing Mount Whitney is not for the faint of heart. It’s one of the most difficult trails on this list, but also one of the best views you can get of Mount Whitney (if not THE best). There are multiple campsites along the way where backpackers will stop to rest and camp; another great reason why it’s so popular!
Now that you know the 9 most loved trails of all time in North America, what’s stopping you from going on a long-awaited backpacking trip?! Get your backpack and map ready, and start inviting friends to come along with you on these unbelievable adventures! Further, follow these tips to travel with confidence!
Good luck on your new adventure, and feel free to post photos of your trips in the comments section below.