I have compiled what I believe to be a thru-hiking trails bucket list (USA edition). If you see any that I have left out (and I am sure I am missing a lot), please comment below with the trail name and state it is located in and I will get it added. I have broken the trails into sections: short (under 500 miles), mid (500-1000 miles), and long (over 1,000 miles) to make it easier to find what you are looking for.
Short Thru-Hiking Trails
Many will think short means easy, which is not the case. Many of these trails are strenuous and not for a beginner hiker. Rather these trails are shorter than the traditional long distance trails that take months to complete. These trails are under 500 miles long, with many under 100.
Many of these trails are great trails to start out on and do some gear shakedowns before tackling the longer trails. However, make sure you thoroughly research the trail before heading out, so you can make sure your skill level is up to par with the trail difficulty level.
Lone Star Hiking Trail – Located near Cleveland, Texas this 129-mile trail is a 96-mile long hiking trail with an additional 32 miles of loop and crossover trails of “foot-path only” trails. Camping is permitted anywhere along the trail except September 15 through February 1, in which you must camp at designated spots. Water is scarce to caching of water is recommended.
Long Trail – Located in Vermont, it runs the length of the state, coming in at 273 miles and is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States.
Superior Hiking Trail – Located in Minnesota there are currently 2 definitions of a thru-hike with this trail. A traditional through hike is 260 miles long and a total thru-hike is 310 miles long. This mileage does not include the spurs.
Sheltowee Trace Trail – Located in Kentucky and Tennessee this 319-mile National Recreation Trail spans the Daniel Boone National Forest and Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area.
Colorado Trail – Located in Colorado this long distance mountaineering trails spans 486 miles from Denver to Durango.
Wonderland Trail – Located in Washington this 93-mile long trail encircles Mount Rainier. It is a strenuous hike with lots of elevation gain and loss.
Tahoe Rim Trail – Located in California and Nevada this 171-mile trail loops around Lake Tahoe.
John Muir Trail – This 215-mile trail is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountain range of California. Starting at Yosemite National Park and ending at the highest peak in the continental United States, Mount Whitney. The trail is rated moderate to strenuous.
Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail – This 70-mile hiking trail is located in Western PA and is part of the Potomac Heritage Trail. The trail runs from Ohiopyle State Park to Laurel Ridge State Park.
Cohos Trail – Located in New Hampshire this trail has 170 miles of wilderness hiking from southern Crawford Notch in the White Mountain National Forest through the Great North Woods to the Canadian border at far-flung Pittsburg, New Hampshire.
Ozark Highland Trail – Located in Northwest Arkansas this 165-mile trail starts at the visitor’s center of Lake Fort Smith State Park and eventually gives you the opportunity to connect to the Ozark Trail in Missouri.
Ozark Trail – Located in Missouri this 230-mile trail winds through the Missouri Ozarks and will eventually run from St. Louis to the Arkansas border where it will connect to the Ozark Highland Trail.
Ouatchita National Recreation Trail – Located in Arkansas and Oklahoma, this 192-mile trail is the longest in the Ouachita National Forest. The trail runs from Talimena State Park on Highway 271 near Talihina, Oklahoma to south of Perryville, Arkansas on Highway 9.
Foothills Trail – 80 miles, one-way. Rated as moderate to strenuous, the trail begins and ends in South Carolina, however, does cross over into North Carolina a time or two. The trail features camping areas, waterfalls, scenic overlooks, and points of interest. Find the map and more info here.
Katy Trail (Missouri) – Not to be confused with the Katy Trail in Dallas. The Katy Trail in Missouri is 239.5 miles long and is rated easy and spans almost the entire length of Missouri on an old trail route.
Northville-Placid Trail (NPT) – Located in New York it is referred to as the hidden gem within the Adirondacks. 133 miles of primitive, poorly marked trails that span from Northville, New York to Lake Placid, New York with amazing beauty though! Make sure to do a lot of research before setting out. I am told you will need a compass and a map to navigate this trail.
Oregon Coast Trail – This 382-mile trail runs along the Oregon Coast. Most of the route is on the beach, although some segments wind through state parks or public lands.
New England National Scenic Trail – Spanning 215 miles from Connecticut’s Long Island Sound shore to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border.
Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail – At a little over 60 miles long, the trail is split up into 5 separate trails through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.
Bigfoot Trail – Located mainly in the Klamath Mountains of Northwestern California this 360-mile trail briefly passes through southwestern Oregon.
Do you know of any “shorter” (under 500 miles) trails that should be added? Comment below and let us know!
Mid Range Thru-Hiking Trails
These are trails that range in distance from 500-1000 miles in length. If you know of any others that should be added, comment below with the info.
Hayduke Trail – This challenging 800-mile trail is located entirely on public land and links six of the National Parks on the Colorado Plateau in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. A word of caution: This trail traverses intensely rugged terrain and you should be an experienced desert backpacker in top peak condition before attempting any part of the trail.
Long Distance Thru-Hiking Trails
Trails ranging over 1,000 miles are located here. If you have any more to add, please comment below and we will get them added!
Florida Trail – Located in Florida this 1,300-mile trail spans Florida from one end of the state to the other. It is the nation’s only subtropical National Scenic Trail.
Appalachian Trail – Located in the Eastern United States, the Appalachian Trail is one of the most famous thru-hiking trails with a length of 2,190 miles as of 2018.
Pacific Crest Trail – Located in the Western portion of the United States this roughly 2,650 mile trail begins at the border of Mexico and California and travels through California, Oregon, and Washington before reaching the Northern terminus at the Washington/Canada border.
Continental Divide Trail – Also located in the western portion of the United States, it spans 3,100 miles along the spine of the Great Continental Divide from Mexico to Canada and traverses through 5 states (New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, & Idaho). It is the highest, most challenging, and most remote of the National Scenic Trails in the United States ranging from 4,000 to 14,000 feet.
American Discovery Trail – Spanning more than 6,800 miles this coast to coast trail spans 15 states and is the only coast to coast non-motorized recreational trail in the United States.
Pacific Northwest Trail – Spanning 1,200 miles from Washington to Montana this trail follows along the Canadian / U.S. border and spans three states. It is one continue path from the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean.
Ice Age Trail – Located entirely within Wisconsin this roughly 1,200 mile national scenic trail highlights the features carved out be remnants of glaciers from 12,000 years ago.
North Country Trail – Stretching 4,600 miles over 7 states (North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, & New York) this trail goes through National Grassland, 10 National Forests, more than 150 federal, state and local public lands; and through the Adirondacks.