While trail measurements differ slightly among sources, this information is pulled from Backpacker Magazine, a trusted source by avid hikers. The American Discovery Trail (6,800 miles), North Country Trail (4,600 miles) and similar long-distance hikes are not included on this list, because they are either heavily disjointed or include loops. With that out of the way, here are the seven longest hiking trails in the United States.
California Coastal Trail, 1,200 miles
The California Coastal Trail is a network of public trails for not only hiking, but biking as well. It runs the length of the state — from Del Norte County to Mexico via the gorgeous California coast. Go through San Francisco, Malibu and so many other sun-soaked coastal cities in between.
Pacific Northwest Trail, 1,200 miles
This trail in the Northwest goes from the Continental Divide (yes, near the trail of the same name) and spills out at the Pacific Ocean, some 1,200 miles away. It crosses through three national parks: Glacier, North Cascades and Olympic. You’ll even get to take a ferry to cross the Puget Sound to complete it (the only saltwater ferry crossing on a National Scenic Trail).
Florida Trail, 1,400 miles
This trail runs from the Florida Panhandle at Pensacola Beach to Big Cypress National Preserve just north of the Everglades. Popular sites along the way include Lake Okeechobee and the Lower Wekiva River Preserve State Park. You'll also pass Ocala, Osceola and Apalachicola forests and the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. It represents, perhaps, the best inland view of the state of Florida.
Buckeye Trail, 1,445 miles
The trail goes through Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Hocking Hills, the Erie Canal and Wayne National Forest. It also goes through Cincinnati and Cleveland. There are 26 sections of the trail, meaning a lot of maps or topographical knowledge of the areas are needed to hike the whole distance.
Appalachian Trail, 2,189 miles
Now we’re onto the Triple Crown of hiking, led by the “shortest” of the hikes, the world-famous Appalachian Trail, which runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia at the south terminus to Mount Katahdin in Maine. The trail was completed in 1937. Its highest point is 6,643 feet at Clingmans Dome in Tennessee and 124 feet at its lowest point, Bear Mountain State Park in New York. More than two million people are said to take a hike on a portion of the trail each year, but only 600 or so finish it (though thousands make the attempt).
Pacific Crest Trail, 2,650 miles
Known as the PCT, this is the western behemoth most closely in competition with the Appalachian Trail as most-famous thru-hike in the country. At a little over 450 miles longer, it also boats a more strenuous elevation gain (the highest point is Forester Pass in California at 13,153 feet and the lowest is the Cascade Locks in Oregon at 140 feet). It runs from the U.S.–Mexico border at Campo, California, to the U.S.–Canada border south of Manning Park, British Columbia (another trail continues into Canada for the truly adventurous). Perhaps the most gorgeous bit runs through Yosemite National Park as part of the John Muir section of the trail.
Continental Divide Trail, 3,100 miles
This one travels the Continental Divide, as its name suggests, so the lowest point on the trail is a whopping 3,900 feet above sea level in Columbus, New Mexico. It’s a Rocky Mountain hike that’s certainly not for the faint of heart and weak of leg. It traverses Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico — and like the PCT, it touches borders with Mexico (at the Big Hatchet Mountains) and Canada (at Waterton Lake in Glacier National Park). Only about 200 people even attempt this entire trail each year. It takes about six months to complete for those who do.