Discover the Best Hidden Gem Backpacking Destinations Near You
Where can I go backpacking near me? If you’ve ever asked yourself that question, you’re in the right place!
As a fellow backpacker, I know the urge to hit the road and get lost in the wilderness can be overwhelming. But taking off on a multi-day adventure across the country or worldwide is not always realistic.
The good news is that there are probably some amazing backpacking destinations near you that you’ve never heard of!
In this post, we’ll cover a few of the best-hidden gem backpacking destinations in the United States, Canada, and Australia, and I’ll show you how to find even more hidden gems near you using the AllTrails app.
Backpacking in the Southeast
The Southeast is a backpacker’s paradise, with miles of trails crisscrossing the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains.
You can go on an epic multi-day trek on the Appalachian Trail or choose from one of the area’s hundreds of loops and out-and-back trails.
Backpacking in the Southeast offers a unique blend of lush, green forests, cascading waterfalls, and stunning sunsets.
The Southeast is also a great place to go backpacking in the winter, with temperatures staying relatively mild in the lower elevations.
Backpacking in the Northeast
The 2,000+ mile Appalachian Trail is a rite of passage for many backpackers, but with the exception of the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine, you’ll have to venture off-trail to find the best backpacking destinations in the Northeast.
The Catskill Mountains of New York are home to the Escarpment Trail, a 23-mile point-to-point trek boasting some of the region’s most stunning views. The trail is well-marked, with several lean-tos and primitive campsites available for backpackers.
The White Mountains of New Hampshire are home to the Presidential Traverse, a 20-mile route that summits seven peaks over 4,000 feet. The trail is often done in a day, but it’s a tough trek, so many backpackers split it into two days and spend a night at one of the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) high mountain huts. If you want to avoid the crowds and sleep under the stars, you can find several backcountry campsites along the route.
Vermont’s Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States and stretches 272 miles from the Massachusetts state line to the Canadian border. The trail has over 40 backcountry shelters and campsites, making it great for a multi-day backpacking trip.
Backpacking in the Midwest
The Midwest is another region that is often overlooked regarding backpacking. But, with its lush forests, rolling hills, and hidden lakes, the Midwest is a great place to get lost in the great outdoors.
One of the best spots for Midwestern backpacking is the Shawnee National Forest in Illinois. This forest is home to the River to River Trail, a 160-mile trail that winds through the forest and offers some of the best backpacking in the state. On this trail, you’ll find stunning rock formations, hidden waterfalls, and plenty of peace and quiet.
The Hoosier National Forest in Indiana is another great spot for backpacking. With over 260 miles of trails, you can easily explore this forest for a week or more. The Knobstone Trail is one of the most popular trails in the forest and offers challenging terrain, stunning views, and plenty of solitude.
Backpacking in the Southwest
The Southwest is home to some of the country’s most unique and beautiful landscapes. If you want to escape the desert, consider backpacking in Zion National Park.
While the main canyon can get crowded, the Kolob Canyons area in the northwest corner of the park is much less visited. Hike the La Verkin Creek Trail to Kolob Arch, one of the largest freestanding arches in the world.
For a more challenging trip, head to the Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness. Here you’ll find the longest slot canyon in the world, Buckskin Gulch. This 20-mile trek requires a permit, but you can do a shorter day hike to the first bend of the canyon without one.
If you’re looking for a high-elevation adventure, backpacking in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado is hard to beat. This area is home to the country’s largest concentration of 14,000-foot peaks.
The Ice Lakes Basin Trail is a popular hike that can get crowded, but the views are well worth it. The Highland Mary Lakes Loop is a great option for a longer, more secluded trip. This 7-mile trail takes you past several alpine lakes and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains.
If you’re looking for a true hidden gem, consider backpacking in the Grand Mesa National Forest. This is the largest flat-topped mountain in the world and is home to over 300 lakes. The Crag Crest Trail is a challenging 10-mile loop that takes you along the top of the mesa with incredible views in every direction.
Backpacking in the Northwest
The Pacific Northwest is a backpacker’s paradise, with its lush forests, snow-capped peaks, and stunning coastlines. There are so many incredible backpacking destinations in the Northwest it’s hard to pick just one! But if you want to get off the beaten path, check out the Pasayten Wilderness in Washington.
This 531,000-acre wilderness area is the largest in Washington and boasts over 600 miles of trails to explore. The Pacific Crest Trail also winds through the Pasayten, so you can easily incorporate a section of the famous trail into your backpacking route. With its diverse ecosystems, you’ll find everything from alpine meadows and old-growth forests to high mountain passes and rugged peaks.
You can also hike along the Canadian border and experience some of the most remote and wild countries in the Lower 48. The Pasayten Wilderness is truly a hidden gem for backpackers!
Backpacking in the Mountains
If you want to be alone with nature, get ready to hike into the mountains. High-altitude backpacking is a great way to escape the summer crowds that flock to the front country trails and campgrounds.
The mountains are a hiker’s paradise, offering various terrains, ecosystems, and wildlife. The higher you go, the more diverse the terrain becomes, and you’ll likely find everything from dense forests to alpine meadows and rocky peaks.
Backpacking in the mountains is a great way to see more and go farther than day hiking allows. And it’s a great way to escape the heat and humidity of the summer months.
If you are new to backpacking, you may want to start with an easy overnight trip to see how you like it. Then, you can work your way up to more challenging multi-day trips.
Backpacking in the Desert
Desert backpacking is a whole different beast. The desert is a place of extremes, with high temperatures during the day and cold temperatures at night. The desert is also a place of solitude, where backpackers can find large areas of remote wilderness all to themselves.
The Grand Canyon is the most famous backpacking destination in the desert, but it’s not the only place to go. Joshua Tree National Park and Death Valley National Park are two other great places to explore the desert on foot.
Backpacking in the Forest
Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Washington
The Gifford Pinchot National Forest offers a wide range of backpacking experiences. You can spend a week trekking across the forest’s vast wilderness or take a short, one-night trip to a beautiful viewpoint. One of the most popular backpacking destinations is the Goat Rocks Wilderness. The Goat Rocks are geologic formations that resemble a herd of goats, and they are one of the most prominent and iconic features of the Pacific Northwest.
The Goat Rocks Loop is a 31-mile trail perfect for a three-day backpacking trip. The trail takes you through various ecosystems, from lush green valleys to high alpine ridges. You’ll also pass by several beautiful lakes, including Goat and Tieton. The most popular time to hike this trail is in the late summer when the wildflowers are in full bloom. The wildflower meadows in the Goat Rocks Wilderness are some of the best in the country!
Backpacking in the Backcountry
If you’re looking for a little more solitude and a lot more stars, head to the backcountry. Backpacking is a great way to explore the wilderness and spend quality time with the people you love.
You’ll need to plan more for a backpacking trip, but don’t let that intimidate you! You can have an incredible adventure with some research and the right gear.
The biggest difference between car camping and backpacking is that you must carry everything on your back. That means you must ensure your pack isn’t too heavy and only bring the essentials.
Don’t worry; you’ll still have a comfy sleeping bag and a delicious meal at the end of the day. You’ll just have to be a little more mindful of your gear.
Backpacking is a great way to explore the best-hidden gems in national parks and forests. Most of these areas have designated campsites for backpackers, so you can still take advantage of the amenities and safety of a developed campground.
We hope you find this list of hidden gem backpacking destinations valuable! We also hope you enjoyed our tips and tricks to help you get the most out of your trip. You can use the blog builder to create your own blog post online. We aim to help you save time and sanity, so you can return to doing what you love!
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