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By Diane Spicer
You don't want to waste your time on junky trails: poorly maintained, requiring a PhD in bushwhacking, or downright dangerous.
(Well, maybe you do. Read about remote hiking here.)
You need sources for easily finding great trails, right?
Well, let's get started!
Here in the U.S. we have fairly easy access to well maintained routes into the wild places.
Government money was used in the past to build and maintain trails in some locations.
Roads are at least maintained, if not paved.
In other places, it's the volunteers and private organizations who keep hikers happy on the best hiking trails.
Sometimes, it's a combination of both!
It would be nice to see even more time and money funnelled into this activity, but at least we have intact systems to enjoy.
Foot-only trails may exist in an historical context:
Or perhaps there's a longer view of historical context: humans used these best hiking trails to move seasonally, generation after generation, until a beat in path was evident - and is still used today.
And did you know that some hiking routes are super secret, just barely boot worn, faint paths into hidden gems of lakes or peaks in the back country?
Consider yourself lucky if you can weasel one of these best hiking trails out of a seasoned hiker! And no, I'm not telling! (although I am susceptible to bribes with high quality hiking chocolate.)
For beginning hikers, trails need to be:
Great places to try out a new sport!
Hikers of moderate skill levels can tolerate more gains and losses in elevation, longer distances, more difficult terrain with some map reading thrown in just to keep things interesting.
Highly experienced hikers use popular trail systems as access points to off-the-chart destinations for scrambling, wildlife viewing, photography, exploration, or solitude seeking.
For more information about staying safe on any trail, read the full article here.
Every hiker, regardless of skill level, has deep affection for the happy memories built up during hiking rambles and scrambles.
And hopefully, every hiker makes time to give back by volunteering for trail maintenance.
There's no way to give credible and useful regional advice on this page about how to find suitable hiking opportunities to suit your particular needs.
As just one hiker, I have personal experience with most of the trails in the Cascades (Washington State), a bit of experience in the Rogers Pass area in British Columbia, and a smattering of experience in various assorted places across the United States (Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Joshua Tree in California, Gila Wilderness in New Mexico).
If only I could boast deep knowledge of every region in the country!
But I know where to get my hands on some of the best hiking trails information there is.
Over the years, I've built up an extensive collection of websites focused on most corners of North America, and some for other continents.
For instance, what about a classic leg stretcher in North America, such as tackling a long distance trip hiking the Appalachian Trail?
Or the Pacific Crest Trail?
Wonderland Trail hiking (only 93 miles, but gorgeous!) around Mt. Rainier might also be calling your name.
Other less advertised, but gorgeous and challenging long trail options in the United States:
To find out if you have the mindset of a long distance trail hiker, read this.
Interested in something a lot off the beaten path?
Consider Minnesota hiking trails along Lake Superior.
Or maybe you want to hike in Lake Superior.
And I can't resist a "shout out" to a way off the beaten path area where I began my journey as a hiker:
All are hidden hiking jewels!
Another spectacular and less traveled area for the best hiking trails is the Gila Wilderness in New Mexico. Read my tips here.
But let's get back to generalities.
Here's a page of resources I've put together on North American hiking trails in general.
If you're interested in exploring the options in the Pacific Northwest, I've put together some tantalizing resources for you right here.
For a state by state list of trails, go here.
I hope you enjoy the learning process as you sort out which agency is responsible for your favorite hiking areas - it's fatiguing but worthwhile! (Sort of like hiking, no?)
Now you have a system for finding the best hiking trail system!
If you're hiking in Canada, or plan to, use these resources:
This website, National Trails, allows you to specify the number of days, total distance, difficulty, landscape type, and even the theme of a hike!
Now that's customization!
Hadrian's Wall, Cotswold Way, Pennine Way... so many intriguing places to hike.
Would you like to chime in on your favorite hiking trails?
Or share your enthusiasm for a recent "find"?
Here's your chance!
You know the best trails for day hikes in your area, so please share your knowledge & how YOU define "best".
And if you've been on a recent multi-day hiking adventure and would like to share your enthusiasm for the outdoors, it would be an honor to read your words.
Best Hiking Trails