Alternatives to the Appalachian Trail
November 21, 2013 8:32 AM   Subscribe

I want to go on a long hike before my wife and I buy a house or have kids, sort of a 'final big adventure by myself' before completely settling down. The Appalachian Trail is tempting but 5 months is a long time to be away from home (not to mention it'll be expensive). Please suggest some alternative long hikes. Maybe in the 1-2 month length range. Bonus points if your suggestion is in Canada.

I'm looking for a backpacking trail where I can occasionally get back to civilization to re-supply on food/essentials. I love camping in my tent, so the trail doesn't need to have shelters but a few here and there would be nice, so I could be social with other hikers in the evenings sometimes. Also reliable clean water sources along the way would be great. I'll have iodine tablets/a giardia filter to treat river water with so natural water is okay too. I'd like to see some natural beauty. Mountains, lakes, rivers... I'm not really picky about the terrain. Mountainous, flat, whatever. I live in Montreal so if a trailhead is within a few hours' drive that'd be great. Thanks in advance!
posted by signsofrain to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (27 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
Not in Canada but the Tahoe Rim Trail fits your needs. It's 165 miles.
posted by HeyAllie at 8:42 AM on November 21, 2013

I don't think you are required to do the entire Appalachian Trail. You can hike for a weekend, week, or month if that is what you want to do. The same goes for any trail system, whether it is the Ice Age Trail or any other trail system in the country or world.
posted by JJ86 at 8:42 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

The Long Trail in Vermont is a month-ish end-to-end hike that winds up North Troy Vermont which is not that far from you (2 hour drive).
posted by jessamyn at 8:42 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

My first reaction is to suggest that you do a 1-2 month portion of the Appalachian Trail. Others here will probably be able to tell you the best parts.

Second, is the Pacific Crest Trail on the west coast. Oregon and Washington are my homeland, and I know that there is a lot to offer there.
posted by BearClaw6 at 8:43 AM on November 21, 2013

The John Muir trail? It may not meet all of your criteria, but it is 215 miles of awesome natural beauty. From the above link:
The John Muir Trail is the premier hiking trail in the United States.The trail starts in America's treasure, Yosemite National Park, and continues 215 miles through the Ansel Adams Wilderness, Sequoia National Park, King's Canyon National Park, and ends at the highest peak in continental United States, Mount Whitney at 14,496 ft.
It can also be extended in either direction, if 215 miles isn't long or challenging enough for you.

My wife and I did a more modest version of this quest before we had our first child (one week, ~60 miles of Sierra Nevada high country, including ~10 miles of cross-country hiking) and that's probably the best backpacking trip I ever did. Enjoy this :)
posted by mosk at 8:43 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

What about the John Muir Trail (in California- Yosemite to Mt. Whitney). It's a defined chunk of the Pacific Crest Trail, 210? miles.

If you want the AT feel, though, why not just do a month-long chunk of it?
posted by charmedimsure at 8:43 AM on November 21, 2013

Bruce Trail!
posted by windykites at 8:50 AM on November 21, 2013 [3 favorites]

The Colorado Trail. Choose some contiguous fragment. The 'middle' is a lot of Continental Divide above treeline.
posted by j_curiouser at 8:53 AM on November 21, 2013

The Bruce trail here in Ontario is gorgeous, according to their site it takes about 30 days to complete at 8 hours a day.
posted by Harpocrates at 8:53 AM on November 21, 2013


It is on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

aka Heaven.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:57 AM on November 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

The Superior Hiking Trail is 275 miles long and it follows the ridgeline overlooking Lake Superior. I've only day hiked small sections, but those have been well-marked. The scenery is terrific. I believe it only has campsites, not shelters, so that's one downside.
posted by Area Man at 9:03 AM on November 21, 2013 [4 favorites]

You could try the Bruce Trail in Ontario or the East Coast Trail in Newfoundland.
posted by fimbulvetr at 9:03 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'm with windykites that the Bruce trail is a good match. if you start at the harder, more isolated part near Tobermory you can end up in civilisation (Niagara Falls) to meet up with your wife (find a tacky honeymoon motel!). Or, if you start in spring at Niagara Falls the nice weather will follow you northward. Hiking 8 hours/30k a day means you finish the trail in 30 days (one guy recently ran it in 12 days).edit - whoops, didn't preview!
posted by saucysault at 9:07 AM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

A bit shorter than you want, but maybe a place to try out first? The Laurentian Trail.
posted by mareli at 10:39 AM on November 21, 2013

And another in Quebec: Les Sentiers de l'Estrie.
posted by mareli at 11:27 AM on November 21, 2013

Seconding the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island.. which is shorter than you 1-2 month range by a few weeks, but I wanted to note that many hikers extend that route by first doing the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail.

You would not be disappointed!
posted by wats at 12:05 PM on November 21, 2013

West Coast Trail + Juan de Fuca, even combined, would only take about 10-15 days. Great hikes though.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 12:11 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

The continental divide trail! They run trail building camps really cheap, and in exchange get a chef to do all the campfire meals. okay, a bit different than what you'relooking for... but it still looks like fun!
posted by jrobin276 at 12:53 PM on November 21, 2013

I say just hike the lovely parts of the AT (and I say this as someone who has section-hiked most of the AT and lives ~30 miles from it).

Start a bit late for good weather (and to avoid the crowds), skip Georgia, maybe starting halfway into the NC/TN border section, and hike north. The Virginia section is gorgeous and not terribly difficult and you'd hit Harper's Ferry near D.C. in about two months. That gets you off the trail before the mind-numbing slog that's most of Pennsylvania, etc.

You can shorten or lengthen the trip by arbitrary amounts since there are easy jumping-on and jumping-off points most everywhere. (Damascus to Harper's Ferry is only about a month long, for example.) You can hike north-to-south and avoid even more folks if that's your thing.

If you prefer mountains of a different (and generally harder) character, start up in New England. Vermont to New Hampshire is probably about a month of hiking, etc. This requires starting a lot later in the season to avoid the coattails of winter, but that could work for you depending on your schedule.
posted by introp at 1:37 PM on November 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Camino de Santiago.
posted by Wet Spot at 2:02 PM on November 21, 2013

You can do part of the AT; some people hike a portion of it every year.
posted by theora55 at 2:37 PM on November 21, 2013

It's probably not long enough but the Chilkoot Trail is kinda interesting. SEA Trails may give you a couple of SE Alaska ideas.
posted by Foam Pants at 4:46 PM on November 21, 2013

There's the Rideau Trail - we did it several times during March break during high school.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 8:43 PM on November 21, 2013

I've done 40 miles of the Superior Hiking Trail and really recommend it. At the time I went, I believe Backpacker Magazine was calling it the second best trail in the US.
posted by TrialByMedia at 9:33 PM on November 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Algonquin Park in Ontario?
posted by syncope at 10:22 PM on November 21, 2013

The John Muir trail has been mentioned - See this recent documentary about the John Muir Trail for inspiration.
posted by belau at 4:59 AM on November 22, 2013

Response by poster: Guys, thank you so much, there are so many excellent ideas here. I'm very tempted by the John Muir trail (so beautiful!) and the east coast trail looks awesome as well! (Tip of north america!) The Rideau trail looks pretty perfect too, nice length and near home... also the Bruce Trail looks like a lovely challenge!

I'l have to do more research and narrow it down, but this is great stuff! Thank you all again. I cannot wait to unchain myself from this desk and start hiking!
posted by signsofrain at 7:31 AM on November 22, 2013

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