Looking to Get Away? Here Are 4 Perfect Trails for a Weeklong Backpacking Trip.
These weeklong backpacking trips are the perfect length to squeeze into a vacation
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In Backpacker’s travel column, assistant editor Emma Veidt answers your hiking questions with the help of a rotating cast of experts.
I’ve gone on plenty of overnighters, and even a couple of two- to three-night backpacking trips. Now, I want to go on my first week-long hike. How should I prepare and where should I go? —Hungry For More
A backpacking trip that long gives you the chance to reach deeper, more remote areas in the backcountry without committing to a months-long thru-hike. It’s also an approachable trip length for anyone who has to balance PTO and life responsibilities with adventure. If you have your sights set on longer trails or thru-hikes too, a week-long trip is the best way to do a gear shakedown.
How Do I Plan for a Week-Long Backpacking Trip?
By now, you’ve already tackled some overnighters and a couple longer trips, so you understand how to prepare for a night or two in the backcountry. But planning a longer trip just requires a little more.
Want to train to carry a load of seven days of nutrition and gear? Follow this workout plan. Backpack way too heavy? Try these tips to lighten your load. Don’t know where to start when it comes to packing? Double-check what you have against our packing list.
Now that you’re ready to go, you can pick a spot to hike. Depending on terrain, your personal goals or fitness level, and how many miles you want to cover in a day, look for routes between 50 and 150 miles. Here are our favorite week(ish)-long backpacking trails around the country.
Wonderland Trail, Washington
Distance: 93 miles
Best time to hike: Late summer, early fall
Permit: Wilderness permit required for overnight camping in Mount Rainier National Park; enter the early-access lottery to complete a full Wonderland Trail itinerary.
This trail covers the circumference of Mt. Rainier, taking hikers through everything from lowland forests to high alpine and subalpine areas. Water features are prominent from this hike: You’ll cross rivers and have up-close views of glaciers, alpine lakes, cascading waterfalls, and, depending on the time of year, likely hike through some rain. One of the most treasured sections of the trail is between Mystic Lake and Sunrise: In these 9 miles, you’ll visit Winthrop Glacier, wander through marmot-filled meadows, and see the persistent effects from the famous November 2006 flash floods. Nearly every river and stream in the area flooded during these storms, which washed out trails, destroyed nearly every low-lying trail bridge in the park, and buried the popular old-growth tree island The Grove of the Patriarchs under 4 feet of silt.
Hikers looking to complete the full Wonderland Trail are only permitted to camp in the designated camping zones—but there are over 20 along the 93-mile loop, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding a place to tent up for the night.
100-Mile Wilderness, Maine
Distance: 100 miles (surprised?)
Best time to hike: Summer
Permit: Not required, but registration is necessary to camp in Baxter State Park
One hundred miles might seem like a lot of ground to cover in a week, but for backpackers looking for a challenge, this is a classic objective. The 100-Mile Wilderness is one of the wildest, most remote sections of the Appalachian Trail, and for many thru-hikers the final (or initial, if you’re a SOBOer) challenge of the entire route. This trek is a test not only of your mental fortitude, but your planning abilities: Once you start, there aren’t many bailout or resupply points, just a couple of hostels for emergency rations or quarters, so, it’s common to carry a week’s worth of food.
On some steeps, you’ll rise above the treeline and catch stop-and-stay-awhile glimpses of 5,268-foot Mt. Katahdin, still ponds, and craggy ridges.
North Circle Loop, Montana
Distance: 52 miles
Best time to hike: Late summer
Permit: Backcountry camping permits required; reserve at recreation.gov or ranger station for walk-in permits.
This trail is a sampler platter of everything iconic in Glacier National Park. You’ll pass through the 75-foot Ptarmigan Tunnel, complete 11 miles on the famous Highline Trail, traverse through the aptly named Many Glacier area, and scale Stoney Indian and Swiftcurrent mountain passes. Need more to see? The North Circle Loop has you covered: You can spot wildlife such bighorn rams, grizzlies, mountain goats, moose, gray wolves, wolverines, and Canadian lynx in their element.
If you’re considering camping in the Granite Park Campground one evening, it’s worth it to cheat on your tent for one night at the Granite Park Chalet. Accessible only by trail and surrounded by miles and miles of wilderness, this historic landmark is a cozy respite especially on rainy days. Reservations for 2024 open in January.
Maah Daah Hey Trail, North Dakota
Distance: 144 miles
Best time to hike: Late spring or early fall
Permit: Free backcountry camping permit required in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
The phrase “Maah Daah Hey” comes from the Mandan Tribe and loosely translates to “grandfather” or “an area that will be around for a long time.” While hiking this trail, you’ll want to stick around for a long time, too. This single-track long trail is one of the quietest, most serene places you can hike in the country. It guides you through meadows, rolling hills (and sometimes steep switchbacks), and badlands formations. One thing to know before hitting the trail: The most reliable water sources come from the forest service campgrounds every 20 miles or so, where you can get drinking water from hand-pump spigots. Between some of these campgrounds, though, there are storage boxes where you can cache water. Want more info? Check out the Maah Daah Hey Trail Association, a nonprofit that maintains this trail and also the broader recreational trail system in southwest North Dakota in collaboration with the USDA Forest Service.