With 75,000 miles of trails in the U.S., choosing the perfect multi-day (or week, or month) backpacking trip can be overwhelming. So, with the help of veteran backpacker Jennifer Pharr Davis, who once held the record for fastest hike of the 2,185-mile Appalachian Trail, and American Trails, a non-profit that maintains the largest online resource for footpaths in the U.S., we set out to put together a list of the 20 most spectacular trails.
Some of these, like the Continental Divide Scenic Trail which Meriwether Lewis first crossed in 1805, are rich in history; others follow ancient geographical boundaries that shaped their region. All are wild and remote. The shortest trip, the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail can be completed in a long weekend and follows a ridgeline over the dense Pisgah forest in western North Carolina; the longest, the 3,100 mile Continental Divide National Scenic Trail which will take you from Montana to Mexico, crosses five states. “I’ve hiked in six continents and consider the U.S. the most wild of any of the places I’ve been backpacking,” says Davis. “It makes you realize there are parts of our country that are still completely untamed.”