Let's face it, sometimes section hikes just aren't as fulfilling as a thru-hike. So let's get the most thru-hiking bang for your buck with our list (presented in no particular order) of some of our favorite shorter thru-hikes that can be done in two weeks or less (based on being able to average 15 miles (24 km) per day for 14 or less days.)
1) John Muir Trail - California
The John Muir Trail is a world-renowned backpacking trail that spans 211 miles (339 km) through the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California, United States. It starts in Yosemite Valley and ends at the summit of Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. The trail takes about 2-4 weeks to complete and requires a permit to hike. The trail is named after the famous naturalist, John Muir, who was instrumental in the creation of Yosemite National Park.
The John Muir Trail is considered a difficult trail, as it has an elevation gain of over 47,000 feet (14,000 meters) and passes through high-altitude terrain. The trail is well-maintained and has designated campsites for hikers to rest at each night. Hikers should be experienced and well-prepared for the challenging terrain, including river crossings and high-altitude hiking.
The scenery on the John Muir Trail is breathtaking and varied. Hikers will encounter stunning alpine lakes, towering granite peaks, lush forests, and expansive meadows. The trail passes through three national parks: Yosemite, Kings Canyon, and Sequoia, each with its own unique beauty. Wildlife is abundant on the trail, including black bears, mountain lions, deer, and various bird species.
One interesting fact about the John Muir Trail is that it shares a portion of the trail with the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), which extends from Mexico to Canada. The two trails merge for about 30 miles (48 kilometers) near the middle of the John Muir Trail, providing hikers with an opportunity to meet other long-distance hikers on the PCT.
In conclusion, the John Muir Trail is a challenging and rewarding hiking experience that offers hikers some of the most spectacular scenery in the United States. The trail's length, location, and difficulty make it a must-do hike for experienced backpackers looking for a true wilderness adventure. The history and natural beauty of the trail make it a popular destination for hikers from all over the world.
2) Bartram Trail - Georgia & North Carolina
The Bartram Trail is a 116-mile (187 km) long trail that winds through the southeastern United States. It is named after William Bartram, an 18th-century naturalist who explored the region and documented its flora and fauna. The trail starts in Georgia and passes into North Carolina. The trail is well-marked and has designated campsites and shelters along the way for hikers to rest and recharge.
The Bartram Trail is considered a moderate to difficult trail, as it passes through diverse terrain, including steep mountain climbs and river crossings. The trail is not recommended for novice hikers, as it requires some level of experience and preparation. Hikers should also be aware of the weather conditions in the region, which can change rapidly and bring unexpected challenges.
The scenery on the Bartram Trail is varied and beautiful. Hikers will encounter dense forests, rolling hills, mountain ranges, and rivers. The trail passes through several wilderness areas, including the Nantahala and Chattahoochee National Forests, which provide opportunities for wildlife sightings and scenic vistas. Wildflowers are abundant in the spring and summer months, adding bursts of color to the already stunning landscape.
One interesting fact about the Bartram Trail is that it is part of the greater Southeastern Trail System, which includes several other long-distance trails in the region. These trails connect to form a network of hiking opportunities for adventurous hikers. The Bartram Trail also intersects with the Appalachian Trail, providing hikers with an opportunity to hike on two iconic trails in one trip.
In conclusion, the Bartram Trail is a beautiful and challenging hiking experience that offers hikers a chance to explore the natural beauty of the southeastern United States. The trail's length, location, and difficulty make it a great choice for experienced hikers looking for a true wilderness adventure. The history and natural beauty of the trail make it a popular destination for hikers from all over the world.
3) Tour du Mont Blanc - France, Italy, & Switzerland
The Tour du Mont Blanc is one of the most iconic long-distance hiking trails in the world, and is a popular destination for hikers looking to experience the stunning natural beauty of the Alps. The trail is approximately 105 miles (170 km) long and circles the Mont Blanc massif, passing through France, Italy, and Switzerland. It typically takes around 7-11 days to complete the trail, depending on your pace and how much time you spend exploring the various towns and attractions along the way.
The Tour du Mont Blanc is a challenging trail, with steep ascents and descents, rocky terrain, and unpredictable weather conditions. Hikers should be prepared for strenuous hiking, and have a good level of fitness and experience with long-distance hiking. However, the rewards of completing the trail are well worth the effort, as hikers are treated to stunning views of the Alps at every turn.
The scenery on the Tour du Mont Blanc is simply breathtaking, and hikers are treated to a variety of landscapes, including alpine meadows, rugged mountain passes, and crystal-clear lakes. The trail passes through several charming mountain towns, each with their own unique culture and history. Along the way, hikers can sample delicious local cuisine, explore quaint villages, and soak in natural hot springs.
One interesting fact about the Tour du Mont Blanc is that it is the highest and most popular long-distance trail in Europe, attracting hikers from all over the world. The trail is so popular that it is often crowded during peak season, so hikers should plan accordingly and book accommodations well in advance. Despite the crowds, however, the trail remains a peaceful and magical experience, with stunning vistas at every turn.
In conclusion, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a must-do trail for any serious hiker, offering a challenging and rewarding experience amidst some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. The length, location, and difficulty of the trail make it an unforgettable adventure for those who are up for the challenge. With its breathtaking views, rich history, and vibrant culture, the Tour du Mont Blanc is truly an experience of a lifetime.
4) Tahoe Rim Trail - California & Nevada
The Tahoe Rim Trail is a 165-mile (265 km) long-distance trail that circles the beautiful Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California and Nevada. The trail is a popular destination for hikers and mountain bikers, and typically takes around 10-15 days to complete, depending on your pace and how much time you spend exploring the various scenic spots along the way.
The Tahoe Rim Trail is considered to be a moderately difficult trail, with varying terrain that includes steep climbs, rocky terrain, and exposed ridgelines. Hikers and bikers should have some level of experience with long-distance hiking or mountain biking, and be prepared for the changing weather conditions that are common in the Sierra Nevada mountains.
The scenery on the Tahoe Rim Trail is stunning, with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe, the surrounding mountains, and the lush forests that line the trail. Along the way, hikers and bikers will pass through a variety of ecosystems, including alpine meadows, forests, and rocky ridgelines. The trail also passes through several charming mountain towns, where hikers can resupply and rest up for the next leg of their journey.
One interesting fact about the Tahoe Rim Trail is that it was largely built by volunteers, who dedicated countless hours to creating and maintaining the trail. The trail is managed by the Tahoe Rim Trail Association, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to preserving and promoting the trail for future generations.
In conclusion, the Tahoe Rim Trail is a must-do trail for any outdoor enthusiast, offering a challenging and rewarding experience amidst some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. The length, location, and moderate difficulty of the trail make it accessible for hikers and bikers of varying skill levels, and the stunning vistas and rich history of the area make it a truly unforgettable adventure. With its breathtaking views, diverse ecosystems, and vibrant culture, the Tahoe Rim Trail is truly an experience of a lifetime.
5) Unita Highline Trail - Utah
The Uinta Highline Trail is a 104-mile (167 km) long-distance trail that traverses the Uinta Mountains in northeastern Utah, USA. It is a challenging trail that typically takes around 7-10 days to complete, depending on your pace and how much time you spend exploring the various scenic spots along the way.
The Uinta Highline Trail is considered to be a difficult trail, with varying terrain that includes steep climbs, rocky terrain, and exposed ridgelines. Hikers should have some level of experience with long-distance hiking and be prepared for the changing weather conditions that are common in the Uinta Mountains.
The scenery on the Uinta Highline Trail is stunning, with breathtaking views of rugged mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and lush forests that line the trail. The trail also passes through several charming mountain towns, where hikers can resupply and rest up for the next leg of their journey.
One interesting fact about the Uinta Highline Trail is that it is the highest continuous trail in the United States, with an average elevation of over 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). Hikers will have the opportunity to explore several peaks, including Kings Peak, the highest peak in Utah, which stands at 13,528 feet (4,123 meters) tall.
In conclusion, the Uinta Highline Trail is a must-do trail for any experienced hiker looking for a challenging and rewarding adventure in a truly breathtaking landscape. The length, location, and difficulty of the trail make it accessible for hikers with experience and the stunning vistas and diverse ecosystems make it a truly unforgettable adventure. With its rugged mountains, pristine alpine lakes, and stunning peaks, the Uinta Highline Trail is a trail that any outdoor enthusiast will want to experience at least once in their lifetime.
6) Larapinta Trail - Australia
The Larapinta Trail is a 139 mile (223 km) long-distance hiking trail in Australia's Northern Territory, stretching through the West MacDonnell Ranges. The trail begins at the old Alice Springs Telegraph Station and ends at the summit of Mount Sonder. The Larapinta Trail is known for its rugged, remote beauty, as well as its challenging terrain.
The Larapinta Trail is a difficult and strenuous hike, with steep climbs and descents, rocky terrain, and few water sources along the way. The trail is generally recommended for experienced hikers, as it requires good physical fitness and navigation skills. However, there are several shorter sections of the trail that are suitable for beginners or those looking for a less challenging hike.
The scenery along the Larapinta Trail is breathtaking, with stunning views of the rugged mountains, vast desert landscapes, and ancient Aboriginal sites. Hikers can also expect to encounter an abundance of wildlife, including kangaroos, wallabies, and birdlife. The trail passes through several important Aboriginal cultural sites, including Simpsons Gap and Standley Chasm, offering a unique opportunity to learn about the rich cultural heritage of the area.
One interesting fact about the Larapinta Trail is that it is part of the longer Dreamtime Trail, which stretches over 5,000 kilometers and connects several important Aboriginal cultural sites throughout Australia. The Dreamtime Trail is an important cultural and spiritual pathway for Aboriginal people, and the Larapinta Trail plays an important role in preserving and promoting this cultural heritage.
The Larapinta Trail is also home to several unique geological formations, including the famous red quartzite ridge of the West MacDonnell Ranges. The trail also passes through several important waterholes, such as Ellery Creek Big Hole and Ormiston Gorge, which are popular swimming spots for hikers looking to cool off after a long day on the trail.
Overall, the Larapinta Trail is an incredible hiking experience that offers a unique combination of challenging terrain, stunning scenery, and rich cultural heritage. It is an opportunity to experience the beauty and diversity of the Australian outback, and to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the traditional custodians of the land.
7) Maah Daah Hey Trail - North Dakota
The Maah Daah Hey Trail, located in western North Dakota, is a 144-mile (2332 km) long trail that spans across the Badlands region. The trail was named after the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara nations, who used the phrase "Maah Daah Hey" to describe the trail as they traveled between their seasonal hunting and gathering grounds. The trail is known for its rugged terrain and stunning views of the Badlands.
The Maah Daah Hey Trail is a challenging trek that requires hikers to navigate steep climbs, creek crossings, and rocky terrain. The trail is not for the faint of heart and requires a good level of fitness and hiking experience. The trail is divided into eight sections, each with its own unique challenges and scenery.
The scenery along the Maah Daah Hey Trail is breathtaking, with sweeping vistas of the Badlands, wildflower-filled meadows, and dense forests. Hikers will also encounter an abundance of wildlife, including bison, elk, deer, and coyotes. The trail passes through the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, where hikers can explore the park's rugged badlands and view the park's famous herds of bison and wild horses.
One interesting fact about the Maah Daah Hey Trail is that it is part of the larger North Country National Scenic Trail, which spans over 4,600 miles across seven states. The trail was officially designated as a National Scenic Trail in 1980 and is one of only 11 such trails in the United States.
The Maah Daah Hey Trail also has a rich history, with evidence of Native American settlements dating back over 10,000 years. The trail was also used by early explorers and fur trappers in the 1800s, and remnants of their camps can still be found along the trail.
Overall, the Maah Daah Hey Trail offers a unique and challenging hiking experience that is not to be missed. With its rugged terrain, stunning scenery, and rich history, it is a must-do for any serious hiker looking for a true wilderness adventure.
8) Annapurna Circuit - Nepal
The Annapurna Circuit is a popular trek in the Annapurna region of Nepal. It is a 128-mile (206 km) long trail that usually takes around 14-20 days to complete. The trail starts in the lush green foothills of the Himalayas and gradually climbs up to the Thorong La Pass, which is the highest point on the trail at 17,769 ft (5,416 m). From there, the trail descends to the dry, barren landscapes of the Mustang region.
The Annapurna Circuit is located in the Annapurna Conservation Area, one of the largest protected areas in Nepal. The trail passes through diverse landscapes including rice paddies, forests, waterfalls, and glacial valleys, providing a stunning visual treat to trekkers. The trail also passes through several ethnic villages inhabited by Gurungs, Thakalis, and Manangba people, providing an opportunity to experience the rich culture and traditions of the region.
The Annapurna Circuit is considered a moderately difficult trek, with a gradual increase in altitude and plenty of time for acclimatization. Trekkers are required to have a good level of fitness and endurance, as the trail involves several steep ascents and descents. However, the trek is doable for anyone with a passion for adventure and a determination to complete it.
One of the most interesting facts about the Annapurna Circuit is that it was once considered one of the best treks in the world, but in recent years, the development of roads in the area has made the trail more accessible to vehicles, reducing its charm and popularity. However, efforts are being made to preserve the trail and maintain its natural beauty.
Despite the recent changes, the Annapurna Circuit is still a bucket-list destination for trekkers from all over the world. It provides an opportunity to witness the natural beauty of the Himalayas, experience the unique culture of the region, and challenge oneself physically and mentally. The Annapurna Circuit is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that should not be missed.
9) TGO Challenge — Scotland
The Great Outdoor Challenge is a unique event that takes place annually in Scotland, in which Challengers design their own route and hike from the west coast of Scotland to the east coast. Each route varies slightly, but always crosses through some of the most beautiful and remote areas of Scotland, including the Cairngorms National Park, the Grampian Mountains, and the Angus Glens.
The event is known for its challenging terrain and unpredictable weather conditions. Participants must navigate rough and rocky terrain, ford rivers, climb steep mountains, and contend with bogs and marshland. Every route is unmarked, and participants must rely on maps and compasses to navigate their way through the course. The event is limited to just 300 participants, which adds to the sense of remoteness and adventure.
The scenery on the Great Outdoor Challenge is truly breathtaking. Participants are treated to stunning views of the Scottish Highlands, with its rugged peaks, deep glens, and sparkling lochs. The route passes through remote villages and hamlets, and participants often find themselves alone in some of the most beautiful and unspoiled areas of Scotland. The route also passes through several nature reserves, including the Cairngorms, which is home to a variety of rare and endangered species.
One interesting fact about the Great Outdoor Challenge is that it was first held in 1980, and was originally conceived as a way to raise funds for the Mountain Rescue Committee of Scotland. The event has since become one of the most popular and respected adventure challenges in Scotland, attracting participants from all over the world. In addition to raising funds for mountain rescue, the event also supports a number of other charities, including the Scottish Youth Hostel Association.
The Great Outdoor Challenge is not just a physical challenge, but also a mental one. Participants must be self-sufficient, carrying all of their own food, water, and camping equipment for the duration of the event. They must also be able to navigate through some of the most remote and unforgiving terrain in Scotland. But for those who are up to the challenge, the rewards are immense. The Great Outdoor Challenge is a true test of endurance, skill, and determination, and is an experience that participants will never forget.
10) GR20 — Corsica / France
The GR20 is a long-distance trail that spans the island of Corsica from north to south, covering a distance of approximately 112 miles (180 km). The trail is known for its challenging terrain and is considered one of the toughest and most beautiful hikes in Europe. The trail typically takes around 14-15 days to complete and is divided into two sections, with the northern section considered more difficult than the southern.
The trail starts at Calenzana in the north and ends in Conca in the south. It covers some of the most rugged and remote terrain on the island and passes through beautiful forests, dramatic peaks, and picturesque mountain villages. Along the way, hikers will encounter several natural wonders, including rivers, waterfalls, and glacial lakes.
The GR20 is considered one of the most difficult long-distance trails in Europe due to its challenging terrain, steep ascents and descents, and unpredictable weather conditions. The trail includes several sections with rock scrambling, narrow ridges, and exposed cliffs. However, the reward for completing this challenging hike is the breathtaking scenery that awaits at every turn.
One interesting fact about the GR20 is that it is known for its iconic mountain huts or refuges, which are strategically located along the trail. These refuges provide hikers with shelter, food, and water, and are an important part of the hiking culture in Corsica. They are run by the French Alpine Club and offer a unique experience for hikers, with communal dormitories and shared facilities. The refuges also serve as a meeting place for hikers from all over the world, making the GR20 a truly international hiking experience.