Beyond the big cities, the eastern USA is criss-crossed with glorious hiking trails that take you from lush forests to mountain meadows, or from rugged peaks to tumbling waterfalls. Whether you’re after a day hike or a long-distance trek, Donna Dailey has the best routes for discovering America’s great outdoors.
1 Appalachian Trail
Best for: bragging rights
Total distance: 2,200 miles (3,540 km)
Total duration: 5–7 months
The East Coast’s most famous long-distance trail features on every keen hiker’s bucket list. Known as the A.T., it passes through 14 states on its way from Springer Mountain in northern Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Thru-hikers generally begin in the spring, and tackle the route from south to north. Running through green forestland or along mountain ridges, the trail is well-marked and easy to navigate, often emerging near roads and towns.
A good section for novice hikers parallels the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive in Virginia’s Shenandoah National Park, which boasts splendid mountain-top views.
2 The Long Trail, Vermont
Best for: solitude
Total distance: 272 miles (438 km)
Total duration: 20–30 days
Completed in 1930, the Long Trail is the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the United States. It runs up the spine of Vermont’s Green Mountains, from the Massachusetts state line to the Canadian border.
Known as the “footpath in the wilderness”, this backcountry route can be steep as it crosses most of the chain’s major summits, including Camel’s Hump and Mount Mansfield. It is especially awesome during the fall foliage season.
The southern section, which overlaps the Appalachian Trail, offers some easier terrain, while the rugged north is particularly peaceful.