No matter how appealing the escape of a 6-month thru-hike may be, a 2,000-mile trek remains a pipe dream for most people. The time and money needed, plus the crowds on America’s popular long-distance trails are dealbreakers for many potential thru-hikers. While we love the classics—the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail—as much as the next person, there are more long-distance trails in the US than most avid hikers can conceivably complete in a lifetime (and most you probably haven’t heard of!).
Here are our top picks for unique hikes found across the country. Whether you have a week or a month, we think you’ll find one of these lesser-known thru-hiking trails calling your name, so grab your Osprey pack and start planning your trip!
1. UINTA HIGHLINE TRAIL, UTAH
Distance: 83 miles
Best For: Experienced hikers looking to get up in elevation and escape crowds
Description: This trail’s moniker is appropriate—hikers rarely dip below 10,000 feet once you get to the ridgeline in the High Uintas Wilderness. Abundant wildlife includes elk, coyote, deer, and mountain goats, so be prepared to add hours onto your day to stop and admire the herds. High elevation (expect to summit peaks over 13,000 feet) comes with obvious risks, including challenging terrain, exposure, and very remote areas. Interested? Check out one thru-hiker’s experience here.