Top 10 Thru Hikes in North America

Top 10 Thru-hikes in North America

Continental Divide Trail

The Continental Divide Trail is nicknamed the “King Of Trails”. This traverses the backbone of the country from Mexico to Canada. It is only  70% complete and  goes into some very rugged and exposed areas. This is generally suited for more experienced hikers looking for more challenges like navigation, bad weather and wildlife encounters.Continental Divide Trail Marker

  • 3,100 miles
  • Southern Terminus: Crazy Cook, NM
  • Northern Terminus: Waterton Lake, Canada
  • Total Elevation Gain/Loss ~ 400,000ft
  • Highest Point: Grays Peak, CO – 14,270ft
  • Lowest Point: Columbus, NM – 3,900ft
  • Traverses New Mexico, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana.

Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail traverses deserts, mountain ranges and volcanoes from Mexico to Canada.  The route has some of the most diverse terrain of any trail in the United States.  The views are dramatic and exposed every step of the way.  Pacific Crest Trail Marker

  • 2,658 miles
  • Southern Terminus: Campo, CA
  • Northern Terminus: Manning Park, Canada
  • Total Elevation Gain/Loss ~ 315,000 ft
  • Highest Point: Forester Pass, CA – 13,153 ft
  • Lowest Point: Cascade Locks, WA – 140ft
  • Traverses California, Oregon, Washington

Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail is considered the oldest and most well traveled long distance trail. Some call it the “Green Tunnel” as it keeps you in tree cover.  This path travels between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mt. Katahdin in Maine. While this trail doesn’t reach high elevations, it does have the most elevation loss/gain of any other trail and takes you through some steep terrain.Appalachian Trail Marker

  • 2,200 miles
  • Southern Terminus: Springer Mountain, GA
  • Northern Terminus: Mt. Katahdin, ME
  • Total Elevation Gain/Loss – 515,000 ft
  • Highest Point: Clingmans Dome, NC
  • Lowest Point: Bear Mountain St. Park, NY
  • Traverses Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.

Arizona Trail

The Arizona Trail  takes hikers through varying desert landscapes and climbs up to alpine “Sky Islands” throughout the state. It begins at the Mexican Border and terminates near the Grand Canyon.  This is also a popular trail for cross-country cyclists. During peak hiking season in April, you can expect to see the annual racers trekking northbound.AZT

  • 800 miles
  • Southern Terminus: Coronado National Memorial, AZ
  • Northern Terminus: near Page, AZ
  • Highest Point: San Francisco Peaks – 9,600 ft
  • Lowest Point: Gila River – 1,700ft
  • Traverses Arizona

Hayduke Trail

The Hayduke trail is famously named after George Washington Hayduke – A character in Edward Abbey’s “Monkey Wrench Gang”.  This trail is characterized as being a rugged and route-finding adventure.  It’s more of a conglomeration of game trails, jeep roads and drainage’s. You travel  from Arches National Park in Moab, UT and terminate in Zion National Park.HT

  • 812 miles
  • Eastern Terminus: Arches National Park, near Moab, UT
  • Western Terminus: Zion National Park, UT
  • Highest Point: Mt. Ellen, UT – 11,419ft
  • Lowest Point: Grand Canyon, NV – 2,000ft
  • Traverses Utah and Arizona


Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest Trail travels along the Continental Divide in Montana, heading Eastbound through the Northern panhandle of Idaho and terminates on the Pacific coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. This is a relatively new trail, established in 2009 and is characterized by having many rough, overgrown routes.  This is a route for seasoned hikers  who can expect a fair amount of bushwhacking, wet weather and grizzlies. Pacific Northwest Trail Marker

  • 1,200 miles
  • Eastern Terminus: Glacier National Park, MT
  • Western Terminus: Cape Alava, WA
  • Highest Point: Tuckhuck, MT -7751ft
  • Lowest Point: 3,600ft
  • Traverses Washington, Idaho, Montana


John Muir Trail

The JMT starts Southbound in the famous Yosemite Valley and terminates at Mt. Whitney portal, the highest mountain in the contiguous United States at 14,505ft (4421m). You can expect lots of river crossings, mosquitoes and waiting lists for permits.  This trail is also considered part of the Pacific Crest Trail. While it is a extremely worthwhile trail, it does draw a crowd during fair weather seasons.John Muir Trail Marker

  • 210 miles
  • Northern Terminus: Yosemite Valley, CA
  • Southern Terminus: Mt. Whitney, CA
  • Highest Point:  Mt. Whitney, CA -14,505 ft
  • Lowest Point: Happy Isles Trailhead – 4,035ft
  • Traverses Sierra Nevada’s in California


Ice Age Trail

The Ice Age Trail travels across 31 counties in Wisconsin, highlighting many glacial land forms that were sculpted during that last Ice Age.  There is even a Geo-caching system in place to bring hikers to points of interest along the route. If traveling Westward, the trail starts on the Eastern shoreline of Lake Michigan and terminates at Interstate State Park along the St. Croix river.Ice Age Trail Marker

  • 600 miles
  • Eastern Terminus: Potawatomi State Park, WI
  • Western Terminus: Interstate State Park, WI
  • Highest Point: Lookout Mountain, WI – 1,920ft
  • Lowest Point: Lake Michigan, WI – 580ft
  • Traverses Michigan


Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is a well established route that takes hikers through the most mountainous regions of the state. This trail is characterized by fairly regular and violent thunderstorms. While lightning is a serious concern on this trail it can be responsibly navigated if you exercise general caution and common sense. The route takes you through Rocky Mountain National Park, Collegiate East Route and San Juan’s.CT

  • 486 miles
  • Eastern Terminus: Denver, CO
  • Western Terminus: Durango, CO
  • Highest Point: 13, 271ft
  • Lowest Point: Waterton Canyon – 5,500 ft
  • Traverses Colorado

Florida Trail

Pieced together by a locals who had just came off the Appalachian Trail, hikers were looking to make a long trail connecting different segments of hiking through their state. Expect to find six different species of poisonous snakes, violent lightning storms and bears!

Florida Trail Marker

  • 1,300 miles
  • Traverses Florida



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