The 8 Best Long-Haul Backpacking Trails

You can probably name The Big Three long-distance trails in the U.S. by their acronyms: the AT, the PCT, and the CDT. They’re all thousands of miles, life-list items, and personal-paradigm-shifters. But you don’t have to walk for half a year to have a formative experience (although it’s probably nice) – there are plenty of tremendous 100-plus-mile trails in the U.S. that will kick your ass and adjust your attitude, and you won’t go through six pairs of shoes on your way to mental clarity.

Here are our favorites:

1. Arizona Trail

Almost no state in the U.S. can beat Arizona’s north-to-south eco-diversity, from saguaro-lined desert floor to 12,000-foot peaks. Oh, and there’s the Grand Canyon, too. The Arizona Trail does its best to take in as much of that terrain as possible, stretching 817 miles from Coronado National Monument near the Mexico border all the way to the Utah line, through the Grand Canyon on the same trails used by hikers doing the classic Rim-to-Rim hike.

adventure journal best long distance hikes arizona trailAZ Trail. Photo by Charles Miles/Flickr

2. Cohos Trail

The Cohos Trail, a 33-year vision of New England hiker Kim Nilsen, was finished in 2011. It starts near Crawford Notch, New Hampshire, in the White Mountains, and heads toward Canada, delivering over its 150 miles the solitude that can’t be found in other, more popular hiking destinations in the Northeast. Nilsen and his friends started cutting it in 1996 and celebrated its completion three years ago.

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