April 15, 2022 | ACTIVE LIFE | By Kristen Richards | Photo by Gracie Roe
- Oregon Coast Trail (OCT)
The Oregon Coast Trail stretches 425 miles along the Pacific Ocean, passing through beaches, parks, and small coastal towns. The trail starts in Fort Stevens State Park at the Columbia River and ends in Arch Cape. According to the Oregon Coast Trail Foundation, this particular trail is considered a town-to-trail experience due to its close access to the nearby coastal communities.
The OCT is a wilderness hike close enough to the seaside towns to enjoy a warm meal every once in a while throughout your adventure. For a full thru hike, the OCT will likely take around four weeks to complete. The best time to hike the trail is late spring through early fall, much like many of the long trails in the western United States.
Beach camping is only allowed in some areas along the trail, but there are first-come first-serve campsites at most of the state parks that the Oregon Coast Trail passes through. Because the trail is along a coastline, the timing of high and low tides can be very important. More information about the Oregon Coast can be found on the Oregon Coast Foundation website!
- The New England Scenic Trail (NET)
Way out east, the New England Scenic Trail runs 215 miles from Long Island Sound, Conn., to the Massachusetts and New Hampshire border. This trail offers a landscape quite different from the many hikes in Colorado. The NET goes through deep green forests and up rocky-faced mountains. With a net elevation gain of over 30,000 ft., the New England Scenic Trail, though at sea level, is not an especially easy trail.
During the summer, the trail can be humid and buggy, as many places in the northeast are in July and August, so the best time to hike this trail is spring or fall. In fall, the trees change color and the foliage is absolutely stunning.
Camping is only allowed in designated sites along the way, and the trail is estimated to take anywhere from two or four weeks, depending on your pace. The New England Trail website has a lot of information and tips on thru hiking!
- Wonderland Trail
As popular as it is among thru hikers, the Wonderland Trail is not very well-known to casual explorers. This 96-mile long trail circumnavigates Mount Rainier in Mount Rainier National Park. The one drawback of the Wonderland Trail is how difficult it is to get a backcountry permit – much like the John Muir Trail in Yosemite.
Mid-July through early September is the best time to hike the Wonderland Trail. Only taking 10-14 days to complete, the Wonderland Trail is a perfect option for a shorter thru hike. It is quite challenging, but doable. Most people hike the trail clockwise, but you do have the option of hiking either direction.
The National Park Service website for Mount Rainier National Park has more details about the Wonderland Trail and how to begin your journey of a thru-hike through this incredible place!
- Arizona Trail
The Arizona Trail, unsurprisingly, runs through the entirety of Arizona. 800 miles long, the Arizona trail starts at the Coronado National Memorial, close to the U.S.-Mexico border, and ends in the Kaibab Plateau Region near the Utah border. The trail can be hiked either southbound or northbound. For northbound hikers, the best time to begin the trail would be in March or April, while southbound hikers will want to hike in October and November.
The winter – wet season in Arizona – and the intense heat of the summer are two times when it’s best not to attempt a thru-hike of this trail. Water is rare on the trail, and the most reliable water sources are found in the springtime. The Arizona Trail is likely to take 30 to 40 days, or longer, depending on how fast you choose to hike it.
The Arizona Trail Association website offers many tips and tricks on thru hiking the trail, as well as other ways to get involved!