Sometimes you just want to walk a really long distance without many other humans polluting your scene, disturbing your wa. This is not an unreasonable desire, nor an unusual one. It’s why we flock to the long-distance hikes that wind through this country’s landscape like great networks of veins. There are a few that receive the most attention: the PCT, the AT, and to lesser extent, the Continental Divide Trail. It’s time these trails are abandoned. They are like wilderness versions of L.A.’s 405 Freeway at rush hour. Just try and escape the mobs…you’ll be trampled. Yeah, all right. An exaggeration. Still, if you’re looking for some long-distance trail time on less trendy routes, it may serve you well to consider one of the following.
Pacific Northwest Trail
The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail weighs in at 1,200 miles and runs the distance from the Continental Divide all the way to the Pacific Ocean. This is no slouch of a long-distance hike. It begins in the Rocky Mountains and passes through the Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades and Olympic Mountains to end in the Wilderness Coast for a total crossing of three National Parks and seven National Forests.
Some say Colorado is a moderately attractive state. Great looming peaks, Aspen groves and trout-filled streams maybe rank two on a 10-scale for attractiveness levels, but if you’re in the area you may as well see its worst. The Colorado Trail tramples through approximately 500 miles of pristine Colorado wilderness: six different wilderness areas and passes above 13,000 feet. If you need to get from Denver to Durango, this is the way to go.
Tahoe Rime Trail
Some people can’t stay away from the PCT. If that’s you, rest assured that about 50 miles of the 165-mile Tahoe Rime Trail intersect with the PCT. The rest circumnavigates Lake Tahoe along High Sierra ridgelines and passing through both Nevada and California. Once you hit the Nevada border, it’s a wise decision to take a break to win it big at the Tahoe Casinos…nothing like hiking as a new millionaire.
Ice Age Trail
Lucky customers of Wisconsin’s Ice Age National Scenic Trail have ridden atop Woolly Mammoths and defeated Raptors as part of their 1,000-mile journey. Indeed, the Ice Age Trail contains Ice Age remnants, reputedly among the world’s finest examples, of how continental glaciation has sculpted the planet.
Benton MacKaye Trail
The Benton MacKaye Trail passes through some of the most remote backcountry of North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee, running through the Appalachian Mountains of the southeast for nearly 300 miles. You’ll start from Springer Mountain in Georgia and end at Davenport Gap on the northern edge of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
By Bryan Schatz