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The Best National Parks for Backpacking Trips

The Best National Parks for Backpacking Trips

Backpacking through national parks offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in nature, challenge your physical limits, and experience the beauty of the wilderness. North America is home to some of the most stunning national parks, each offering a variety of landscapes and experiences for backpackers. From rugged mountain trails to serene coastal paths, these parks provide unforgettable adventures. Here’s a guide to the best national parks for backpacking trips in North America.

Yosemite National Park, California

Yosemite National Park is a backpacker’s paradise. Renowned for its towering granite cliffs, giant sequoias, and breathtaking waterfalls, the park offers a range of trails for all skill levels. The John Muir Trail, one of the most famous hiking routes in the United States, runs through Yosemite. This trail takes you through the heart of the Sierra Nevada, offering stunning views of Half Dome, the Cathedral Range, and Tuolumne Meadows. For a shorter trip, the Yosemite Valley Loop provides a 20-mile journey through the park’s most iconic landscapes.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona

Few places offer the awe-inspiring vistas of Grand Canyon National Park. The Rim-to-Rim hike is a bucket-list trip for many backpackers, traversing the canyon from the North Rim to the South Rim. This challenging trek spans 24 miles and descends over a mile into the canyon, passing through a variety of ecosystems and offering unparalleled views of the canyon’s layered rock formations. For those seeking a longer adventure, the Grand Canyon’s Tonto Trail runs parallel to the Colorado River, providing a more remote and rugged experience.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

Straddling the border between Tennessee and North Carolina, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is famous for its rich biodiversity and mist-covered mountains. The park boasts over 800 miles of trails, including a segment of the Appalachian Trail. The Smokies’ Hazel Creek Trail offers a journey through lush forests, cascading streams, and historic settlements. For a more challenging route, the Alum Cave Trail to Mt. LeConte provides stunning panoramic views and a taste of the park’s rugged terrain.

Glacier National Park, Montana

Glacier National Park, known as the “Crown of the Continent,” features over 700 miles of trails winding through alpine meadows, dense forests, and around glacial lakes. The Highline Trail is a must for backpackers, offering spectacular views of the Continental Divide and the chance to spot wildlife like mountain goats and bighorn sheep. For a more secluded experience, the North Circle Route takes you deep into the park’s wilderness, showcasing Glacier’s rugged beauty and pristine landscapes.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park offers a dramatic landscape of towering peaks, alpine lakes, and abundant wildlife. The Longs Peak Trail is a challenging but rewarding trek that takes you to the summit of one of Colorado’s famous “fourteeners.” The Continental Divide Trail, which passes through the park, offers extensive backpacking opportunities with breathtaking views and varying terrain. For a less strenuous trip, the Loop Trail around Bear Lake provides a scenic and accessible introduction to the park’s beauty.

Olympic National Park, Washington

Olympic National Park is a diverse landscape featuring rugged coastlines, temperate rainforests, and alpine mountains. The Enchanted Valley trail is a popular backpacking route, taking you through lush forests and along the Quinault River, with views of waterfalls cascading down steep cliffs. For a coastal adventure, the Ozette Loop offers a trek along the Pacific Ocean, with opportunities to explore tide pools and sea stacks. The park’s diverse ecosystems provide a unique and varied backpacking experience.

Zion National Park, Utah

Zion National Park’s red rock canyons and soaring cliffs create a stunning backdrop for backpacking adventures. The West Rim Trail offers one of the best backpacking experiences in the park, with breathtaking views of Zion Canyon and a challenging but rewarding trek. For a unique adventure, the Subway is a semi-technical slot canyon that requires rappelling, swimming, and navigating narrow passages. This challenging route rewards backpackers with striking geological formations and a true sense of adventure.

Denali National Park, Alaska

Denali National Park offers a truly wild and remote backpacking experience. With limited established trails, backpacking in Denali involves navigating through unmarked terrain and relying on map and compass skills. The Wonder Lake area provides stunning views of Denali, North America’s highest peak, and opportunities to see wildlife like grizzly bears and moose. The Teklanika River area offers a more accessible but equally rewarding experience, with chances to explore the park’s vast wilderness.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Acadia National Park, located on the rugged coast of Maine, offers a unique blend of mountain and coastal hiking. The Precipice Trail is a challenging route that takes you up iron rungs and ladders to the summit of Champlain Mountain, providing stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. For a longer trek, the Park Loop Road offers a 27-mile journey through the park’s diverse landscapes, from rocky shorelines to dense forests. Acadia’s mix of terrains provides a dynamic backpacking experience.

Isle Royale National Park, Michigan

Isle Royale National Park, located in Lake Superior, offers a remote and rugged backpacking experience. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, the park features over 165 miles of hiking trails through dense forests, rocky shorelines, and serene inland lakes. The Greenstone Ridge Trail is the park’s most famous route, running 40 miles from one end of the island to the other. Along the way, hikers can enjoy the solitude and natural beauty of this isolated wilderness.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, situated between Cleveland and Akron, offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural heritage. The Towpath Trail, which follows the historic Ohio & Erie Canal, provides a scenic route through the park. For a more immersive backpacking experience, the Buckeye Trail offers a journey through the park’s diverse landscapes, including lush forests, rolling hills, and picturesque waterfalls. The park’s accessibility and variety of trails make it an excellent destination for backpackers of all skill levels.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Shenandoah National Park, located along the Blue Ridge Mountains, offers over 500 miles of trails, including a section of the Appalachian Trail. The park’s Old Rag Mountain hike is a challenging route that involves rock scrambling and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains. For a more extended backpacking trip, the Big Meadows area provides access to several trails that wind through scenic meadows, dense forests, and along mountain streams.


Backpacking through national parks in North America offers a chance to explore some of the continent’s most stunning and diverse landscapes. From the towering granite cliffs of Yosemite to the remote beauty of Isle Royale, each park provides unique challenges and breathtaking rewards. Whether you’re seeking a remote wilderness experience or a scenic coastal trek, these national parks offer unforgettable backpacking adventures.

For more tips and resources on backpacking trips and other outdoor adventures, visit the Outdoor Adventures Connection website at www.outdooradventures.pro. Happy backpacking!

For comprehensive guides and recommendations on outdoor adventures, don't forget to check out the Outdoor Adventures Connection website. Explore the best of North America’s national parks and embark on your next backpacking adventure!

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