America’s 10 Best Backpacking Trips

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This vast country has an abundance of wilderness – start planning your next trip now!

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees,” wrote Environmentalist John Muir. Muir, who died in 1914, was perhaps America’s first environmental activist. The Scottish son of a clergyman, Muir believed in nature’s capacity to revitalize the human spirit and lobbied for the first national parks so ordinary people could reconnect with the wild. In today’s increasingly over-scheduled, screen-based world, Muir’s vision has never seemed more prophetic. Here are ten great places to rediscover the importance of nature.

1. ALASKA: KESUGI RIDGE IN DENALI STATE PARK

Denali Mountain and Wonder Lake at sunrise

The Kesugi Ridge trail offers days of stunning panoramas of the Alaska Mountains including Denali (also known as Mount McKinley), America’s tallest mountain. The hike can be accessed at several points with the longest route roughly 36 miles. It is important to research your route because some access points may be closed due to flooding or an excessive number of bears. Which brings up another point, bear spray is a must. Because this trail is in Alaska, timing is important. This a trail best hiked during the summer and fall – late August and September are considered fall. The trail itself is easy to follow, although fog can be an issue so a compass is recommended. In good weather the views are unobstructed for days.

2. CALIFORNIA: THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL

Nevada Falls along John Muir Trail, Yosemite National Park, California

Named after the naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, the iconic John Muir Trail features 211 miles of wilderness in California’s High Sierras, with much of the trail above 10,000 feet – the highest point is just under 14,500 feet. The trail passes through three national parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks. The required permit can be obtained from the national park or national forest where you begin. Most people hike the trail from July through September, although snow may linger in the higher passes into August. A heavy snowpack, icy slopes and swollen streams are issues earlier in the season. Because bears are plentiful in some areas, storing food in bear-proof containers is recommended.

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