Five “Other” Long Hiking Trails

by | Apr 23, 2024 | Hiking and Travel Tips

There are 11 National Scenic Trails in the USA. While gaining popularity in recent years most are familiar with the two oldest and most popular ones. (The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail.) There are also countless other trails that are long but don’t qualify with the Scenic Trail Status. The proximity and ease to get on these trails can be better than a far off and hard to reserve US National Park. In this article we share Five “Other” Long Hiking Trails we love!

The Arizona Trail is a long hiking trail that stretches 800 miles from Mexico to Utah.
Hiking Community Stickers up at Shaw’s Hiker Hostel in Maine.

Now don’t get me wrong. I love hiking on the AT and the PCT. In fact my partner and I spent a whole summer living in a van with no AC on the East Coast to hike the Appalachian Trail in the mud and the rain. But there are other less popular trails. There are closer long hiking trails to where you currently live. Or maybe you want something different. Or you want to do a short hike on all of them. Whatever your reasons there are tons of other long hiking trails in the USA that don’t have award winning books written about them.

First things first…

It’s a privilege to go hiking on public lands. Especially while you are taking a trip, on vacation, or on a holiday somewhere you don’t live. Giving love and respect to the culture is vital and while we are at it…Leave No Trace and Pack Your 10 Essentials :)!

Now onto the long trails stuff…

Five Other Long Hiking Trails.

  1. The Arizona Trail. 800 Miles. Arizona (Mexico to Utah.)
  2. The Buckeye Trail. 1,444 Miles. Ohio (Loop.)
  3. The Ice Age Trail. 1,000 Miles. Wisconsin.
  4. The Pacific Northwest Trail. 1,200 Miles. Idaho, Montana, Washington (Continental Divide to Pacific Ocean.)
  5. The Mountains to Sea Trail. 1,175 Miles. North Carolina (Smoky Mountains to Outer Banks.)

The Arizona Trail

I am day hiking several hundred miles of this trail during the writing of this article. It has several spots to access the trail from Tucson, Phoenix, it goes right through Flagstaff, and more. Some parts are very remote, some are not. You get to hike Rim to Rim of the Grand Canyon if you thru-hike it. Or you can hike the AZT by doing the Rim to Rim Hike!

The Arizona Trail Association is an outstanding resource for how to hike this trail in small chunks. It’s probably more well put together than any other trail website I have ever encountered. It’s also opened me up to all the different beautiful towns, animals (jaguars live in Arizona I didn’t know that), the history of the areas, and plants of this state.

Hike 8 or 800 miles and you’ll learn something while enjoying a walk in the desert or the mountains! The founder came up with the idea while being a school teacher in his 30’s in Flagstaff. Fast forward just a few decades later and it’s complete. Way to go Dale, thank you!

The Buckeye Trail

The Buckeye Trail is not a National Scenic Trail but the North Country Trail, which is, connects with it. I have hiked the Buckeye Trail near Hocking Hills Ohio and Cuyahoga Valley National Park. I have trail run it in races in various Ohio state parks, biked on it near Yellow Springs Ohio, and stumbled upon it near the city of Dayton while out for a walk.

The first thru hike happened just a few years ago by Andy Niekamp. It’s the longest circular loop trail in the US and it is over 1,400 miles long. Most day hike it or slowly section hike it. The Buckeye Trail also includes stunning sections of nature, fun trail towns, lots of road walking miles, and some sections that aren’t always well maintained.

The first miles of the trail were dedicated to the famous female hiker Grandma Gatewood (who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail 3x while as a “senior citizen” and with little to no hiking experience!)

The Ice Age Trail

This hiking trail was actually the inspiration for this article. As part of our Happy Hiking Club we are reading a book by a woman who attempted to break the FKT (Fastest Known Time) by a female thru-hiker on this trail. It’s a fun book and at the time there had only been two finishers so she thought why not go for it!

The Ice Age Trail moves through Wisconsin’s old glacier regions. It is unique with only the Florida Trail (which I left out due to a few friends who have done it and felt there are spots that might make some members of the hiking community feel unsafe) that it has a split off option where you can take different routes for very long periods of time.

Located near lots of towns, not always perfectly marked, and full of great hiking options in a state not known for hiking makes this a super interesting and fun “long hiking trail” option to me!

The North Country trail is a long hiking trail that stretches over 4,000 miles in the US!

The Pacific Northwest Trail

The PNW Trail barely edged out the Long Trail in Vermont primarily because I think more people are aware of the Long Trail in the VT. Not many know about the PNW Trail. Heck I even hiked a dozen miles of it repeatedly before I discovered I was hiking on it.

That hike was via the Oyster Dome Hike near Bellingham Washington. One day when coming off of the trail (that I was hiking a few days a week) I noticed a little plaque and sign. It designated the mileage to Montana and to finish the PNW Trail along the Pacific Ocean. (In fact the map of the trail looks like you more or less reach the ocean then take a hard right for several hundred miles walking North in Washington State along the ocean!)

For all of the hikes I have done when I lived in Washington and all the people I know talking about hiking in the PNW this trail gets very little buzz. So if you aren’t looking for crowds, you might have found your spot!

The Mountains to Sea Trail

We are considering the state of North Carolina as our next residence after being nomads. I stumbled upon this trail when looking up information about the state. It turns out you go a smidge under 1,200 miles from the Appalachian Mountains out to the Atlantic Ocean. There are options to hike, road walk, bicycle, and even kayak/canoe this trail.

I’d never heard of it but there’s a ton of information out there about it.

If we head to NC you bet I’ll be sharing some adventures on this trail!

The PCT and the AT are great, but there are TONS of other long hiking trail options in the US.

While the US botched the first century or two post stealing the land of the Native Americans when it came to preservation and conservation they have improved that recently. Many countries don’t have this much land set aside for people to dwell in and enjoy nature and the outdoors. And while there is much more work to do it’s light years ahead of where it was even a few decades ago.

These long hiking trails don’t often lead to iconic waterfalls or jaw dropping vistas. But they are puzzles and mind games to me. The trailheads are sometimes hidden, they require gates and keys to unlock, they aren’t always marked perfectly, and sometimes you aren’t hiking to anywhere in particular. But that’s the beauty of it for me.

A hike to just hike. That’s all these trails are. But maybe that’s all we need.

And what I love about some of these trails are the lack of crowds, fees, and that many have proximity options that make it much more doable for anyone who has an hour or two to get outside. Contrary to the National Parks that have reservations that are often first come first serve that the most privileged can get the fastest and afford to pay for. And that are often long drives or airplane flights to reach.

These “other” long hiking trails are for those looking for something a bit different. A part board game, part meander, and part solitary walk through what is not always the prettiest place. There’s a reason they didn’t become National Parks and there’s a reason they didn’t create a “scenic drive” through it, because they would if they thought people would visit!

But they are unique, full of quirky generous funky people, often can easily be done in bite sized chunks, and are a chance to see the country in a different way. For instance I’ll be spending a weekend in the wine region town of Patagonia Arizona population 900 to hike the Arizona Trail. I likely wouldn’t have found Patagonia (at least the Arizona version) if not for the AZT.

Thanks for reading and supporting Happy People Hike, comment below with any questions about these “other” long hiking trails and any sections you have done.

Happy Hiking,
Mike R

Mike Rudd

Mike Rudd

Nomad, Dood Dad, Planet Lover. Hashtag59 & Happy People Hike Lead Intern. Freelance Writer and Content Creator. Health and Wellness Curator.

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