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The Best Long Backpacking Trails in the World

Long-distance trailFeel like going for a REALLY long walk? I do. And I have — a 2,169-mile hike on the Appalachian Trail. Thing is, I didn’t get it out of my system with that long-distance adventure. It only made me want to do more.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be another two thousand miles; a couple hundred will do.

The following are some of my favorite long trails and treks around the world, a few that I’ve done all or part of and others that I’d really like to try.


Appalachian Trail: (United States) This is the oldest and longest National Scenic Trail in the country, stretching more than two thousand miles from Georgia to Maine, through 14 states and over more than 400 named peaks. Each year, roughly 2,000 people attempt to hike the entire length of the “A.T.” in one continuous journey, called a thru-hike.  Give or take 10% actually complete the journey. As mentioned, I was one of those who hiked the whole Appalachian Trail in one hiking season, finishing on the summit of Mt. Katahdin in Maine after 5 months and 3 weeks on the trail, with plenty of “zero days” along the way. For more information on this amazing and often rugged trail, see AppalachianTrail.com and The Appalachian Trail: What You Really Need to Know.


Arizona Trail: (United Sates) I’ve hiked parts of this 817-mile trail, which ranges from the Arizona/Mexico border to the northern border with Utah. I live in Arizona, so part of this trail is literally just a few miles from my front door. This often primitive trail crosses deserts, mountain ranges, and populated communities, showing its travelers–some on foot, some on mountain bike, some on horseback–the diversity of Arizona. The “AZT” was granted National Scenic Trail designation on March 30, 2009. For more information, visit the Official Arizona Trail website.


Bibbulmun Track: (Australia) I remember reading a journal on Trailjournals.com by a long-distance backpacker who did this 598-mile trek through some of the most beautiful national parks in Southwest Australia, from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to Albany. That journal piqued my interest and stirred my wanderlust, so this is now one of the many long walks on my bucket list. For information on this journey, visit the website of the Bibbulmun Track Foundation.


Inca Trail: (Peru) This adventure is not only on my bucket list, but it’s in the works for June, 2012. Don’t tell, though! The trip is a surprise to the person going with me. The Inca Trail isn’t particularly long at just 26 miles, but it’s such a famous walk, I’ve decided to include it. The Inca Trail leads through the mountains above the Urubamba river, roughly following the course of an old Inca road to the former city of Machu Picchu. Most hikers take up to four days to do this mountainous jungle walk to take it all in. And there’s a longer, 10-day option as well. For information about the Inca Trail, see IncaTrailPeru.com.


Pacific Crest Trail: (United States) At 2,650 miles from the Mexico/California, through Oregon and Washington to the Canadian border, the “PCT” is another of our National Scenic Trails.  The Pacific Crest is often the long trail that A.T. thru-hikers “graduate” to. This trek takes hikers through hot, hot desert up to more than 13,000 feet in the snow-covered Sierra Mountains, through lush green forest, past waterfalls, and over jagged peaks in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. This is a long-distance trail on my to-do list, but I’ll most likely do this one in pieces. For information on the PCT, visit the PCT Association website.


Pennine Way: (England) Across the pond I’ll go for this one, a 268-mile walk from Peak District National Park along the Pennine ridge through the Yorkshire Dales, up into Northumberland, across the Cheviots, and ending at the border of Scotland. There are quite a few youth hostels along the route and many private lodging accommodations. For information see the Pennine Way section of the National Trails website.


Superior Trail: (United States) I’ve done a couple of pieces of this one, one of the best-maintained long-distance trails in the country. Stretching 205 miles along the ridgeline above Lake Superior from Two Harbors, Minnesota, to the Canadian border with an additional 39 miles of trail through the City of Duluth, the “SHT” has 82 backcountry campsites with no fees, reservations or permits required to hike or camp on the trail. There are trailheads roughly every 5 to 10 miles, so it’s ideal for both day-hikers and long-distance trekkers alike, with easy access to vehicle “support” for end-to-end hikers to resupply. For information, visit the Superior Hiking Trail Association website.


And that’s only a glimpse of the many long-distance footpaths there are to choose from. For more lengthy adventures all over the globe, see Great Long-Distance Walks of the World.

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Meet The Author

Deb Kingsbury

I'm an avid hiker, a prolific writer, and a Search & Rescue volunteer with a busy, awesome team here in the Arizona high country. You can read some of my trail journals, articles, short stories and excerpts from my novels on my Hiking Writer website.

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