USA Walking Trip, where?
June 14, 2021 1:53 PM   Subscribe

Let's say I and Mrs J0 want to do a weeklong walking trip in the continental USA. We would carry our clothes and necessities and just stay in hotels or bnbs each night. This would not be a hiking trip - we would not carry tents, extended days' food and water, etc. Where could you recommend we do this?

Expanding to North America I suppose would be fine, but there are travel restrictions sometimes when crossing borders currently (pandemic)... We live smack dab in the middle of the USA and can probably get anywhere relatively easyish to start the trip.

We would both be considered physically fit, middle aged, white, cisgender folks. We consider ourselves avid walkers, day-hikers, and especially flaneurs. I know there are some cities that we could easily spend a week walking around in, but I like the idea of "going somewhere"... This idea comes from thinking about Camino de Santiago and not for any religious reason. Thank you.

I think 10-20 miles per day would be plenty(?)...
posted by J0 to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total) 46 users marked this as a favorite
Here's a previous question with some continental U.S. suggestions in the answers.
posted by toastedcheese at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2021

The East Coast Greenway goes from Maine to Florida, though much is on roads. The site has some information on planning your trip.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 2:20 PM on June 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There are annoyingly few places in the US with the population density to support this, and fewer good walking routes with protected paths where you aren't just breathing highway fumes all day.

How about NYC to Philadelphia?

It's about 100 miles, which is just about right for a weeklong trip. You would start with the George Washington Bridge pedestrian path (or ferry/train to NJ) and could take city streets to Jersey City, followed by a brief highway interlude (with this scary pedestrian path over a bridge, but this is the worst of it) through Kearny and then you're in NJ suburbia. There will be a lot of two-lane roads without sidewalks; wear high-viz! You could spend the night in Montclair or Newark or Elizabeth.

Next nights could be New Brunswick, Princeton, Trenton, somewhere in suburbia northeast of Philadelphia, and then Philly proper. Six nights in all, no day longer than 20 miles and some as short as twelve. I'd take a day in NYC on the front end too if I were you!

The East Coast Greenway map from Mr.Know-it-some will be helpful but you will have to deviate significantly to ensure that you have accommodations every night -- it skips most of the larger towns in NJ.

You could also email Matt and ask if he has any suggestions, though he tended to camp or stay in people's houses which made the route planning much easier.
posted by goingonit at 2:26 PM on June 14, 2021 [7 favorites]

Best answer: There are lots of places in New England and the Northeast where you could do this, in particular the Berkshires in Massachusetts, much of Vermont and New Hampshire, and coastal Maine. The Adirondacks in NY, especially up around the Keene Valley and Lake Placid would be very nice for this too. The Catskills definitely have a good density of villages and inns, as do the Poconos in Pennsylvania.

I know family members who've done treks like this in northern California in the vicinity of the Bay Area and northward around Point Reyes and Wine Country, but it was like a couple decades ago. I imagine the Central Coast of California might be viable too.

Other parts of the country where I've heard this kind of trekking is possible: the Front Range in Colorado and the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia.

Google for walking tours or "inn-to-inn" tours of these areas.
posted by theory at 2:41 PM on June 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I love this question. And am very wistful that our nation does not make this concept easy. You might look into the San Juan islands. While this itinerary is for cyclists, you might be able to adapt it to foot travel by eliminating the loops.
posted by oxisos at 2:50 PM on June 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

Natchez Trace not an exact match but I thought interesting enough to mention.
posted by notned at 2:52 PM on June 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I can't say I know enough about it to know whether it would fit all of your criteria, but it might be worth taking a look at Northeast Ohio's Towpath Trail, or, relatedly, the 24,000 acres of parks, trails, and nature preserves included in the Cleveland Metroparks system.
posted by soundguy99 at 2:55 PM on June 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

You might also want to look at the Great Lakes region, such as the northern parts of lower Michigan (like around Traverse City) and Door County in Wisconsin, both of which have a good density of towns and inns and vineyards and stuff.

The Superior Hiking Trail in northern Minnesota could also be good for this, though it's more wilderness-y. The trail itself is mostly in the uplands a couple miles inland from Lake Superior and is oriented toward backcountry camping, but there are lots of access points near towns on the shore that would make it easy to stop along the way.
posted by theory at 3:10 PM on June 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Probably not what you were thinking, but you could try a section of the Inman 300-- 218 miles with 344 public stairways in Los Angeles County.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 3:20 PM on June 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I asked a similar question years ago that might be helpful.
posted by monologish at 3:25 PM on June 14, 2021

The Katy Trail in Missouri might be an option.
posted by 10ch at 3:31 PM on June 14, 2021 [3 favorites]

Here is some information on sections of the Appalachian Trail where inn-to-inn hiking is possible.
posted by Redstart at 3:48 PM on June 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: These section hikes on the A.T. may be interesting.

Taking the Pinellas Trail from St. Pete -> Honeymoon Island -> Tarpon Springs (with a side beach trip) might be fun. Or walk the beach on the FL east coast, for example: Flagler Beach -> New Symrna (connect by water taxi), Cape Canaveral -> Melbourne Beach. Though you want to plan around low tide, and probably not in the dead of summer.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 3:54 PM on June 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Marin County is made for this.
posted by rdc at 3:59 PM on June 14, 2021 [4 favorites]

There's the Great Allegheny Passage between Pittsburgh and Washington DC along a former rail route.
posted by ShooBoo at 4:33 PM on June 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

National Trails Map
posted by notned at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2021

There is a lot of history to be seen along the Erie Canalway Trail. The Erie Canal is the main east-west portion of the Empire State Trail, which also has Hudson Valley and Champlain Valley sections that stretch from lower Manhattan to the Canadian border.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:46 PM on June 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

I just walked in the door from a long weekend in Flagstaff and on multiple occasions saw fully-loaded hikers outside fast food restaurants and hotels along I-40, and we had an airbnb on 89N across the street from a trailhead parking lot (less than a mile up the highway from the Flagstaff Mall, but I didn't catch the trail/lot name).

To be fair it did kinda look like the hotel hikers were waiting for an Uber (or maybe waiting for other people, but the posture was "waiting for a cab/shuttle/car of some kind"), and that may be the reality of last-mile service for hikes that otherwise would scratch the itch you're looking for. I can certainly vouch for the general area, but do be warned it's at 7200 feet and you will feel it if you generally reside at sea level like I do. But you get a long season of mild pleasant weather up there. It's worth looking into to see what actual hikers are saying about the area.
posted by Lyn Never at 4:51 PM on June 14, 2021

I just recently did an "inn-to-inn" (really should be "lodge-to-lodge") hike/walk on the Appalachian Trail within Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

There may be multiple routes that support this, but we started at the Lewis Mountain campground, staying in one of the cabins there, then hiked to Big Meadows Lodge, spent the night there, then the next day went to Skyland, where we spent the final night. Food is available at Big Meadows and Skyland; we self-catered at Lewis Mountain (easy enough since we started there).

The only trick was that, since there's no public transportation within the park, we had to use two cars and preposition one of them at Skyland, and then at the conclusion of the trip we had to drive back to Lewis Mountain and retrieve our other vehicle. Perhaps there are more elegant ways to solve this problem, but we just brute-forced it.
posted by Kadin2048 at 4:53 PM on June 14, 2021 [2 favorites]

Some parts of the Ice Age Trail would fit the bill. I'm biased because a lot of this is in my state, but I'll put its scenery up against almost anything anywhere.
posted by humbug at 5:30 PM on June 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Trail of the Coeur d'Alenes has lodges and BnBs along the way, but there are some stretches of 15+ miles between them.
posted by Hatashran at 6:16 PM on June 14, 2021

Best answer: You can do this on parts of the Katy Trail but other parts, it is a l-o-n-g way between towns that even have plumbing, let alone a hotel or B&B.

Also, the Katy has a good number of reliable shuttle services available. There are also some amtrak connections that can be made. So you could use shuttle to drop off/pick up and also perhaps to jump across some difficult or remote sections.

Also, the trail is often across the river from nearby towns, but hotels in those towns usually provide a nice shuttle service for trail users. The Katy Trail site I linked above has extensive listings of services & places to stay in each town along the route.

Sample itinerary:
* Drive to Kirkwood, stay near Kirkwood Amtrak station (not sure where to leave car - maybe park at your hotel?) Or you could fly in, then it's probably Uber (or a shuttle) to get to/from the airport
* Shuttle drop off at Machens, walk 15 miles to stay at St Charles
* Walk 15 miles to stay near Weldon Springs or Chesterfield (might need a shuttle for Chesterfield)
* Walk 8 miles to stay at Defiance
* Walk 8 miles to stay at Augusta (various Inns & B&Bs)
* Walk 12 miles to stay at Marthasville (or shuttle to Washington & back from Marthasville)
* Walk 22 miles to McKittrick (then shuttle into Hermann). Or, take the Amtrak to Hermann from Washington.
* Walk 7 miles from Hermann to Rhineland (You'll need the rest after yesterday's walk)
* Walk 5 miles to the Bluffton Barn
* Walk 21 miles to the Tebbetts Shelter (likely your roughest accommodations - it's something like a hostel. There is a restaurant right next door I believe.)
* Walk 15 miles into Jefferson City (several hotels near downtown).
* Take Amtrak back to the Kirkwood Amtrak Station (or shuttle).

One advantage here is you're walking right through Missouri Wine Country, the Missouri German Cultural Heritage Area, etc. St Charles, Augusta, Washington, Hermann, Holt's Summit, etc are all nice stops if you like to visit wineries and such.

If you look at this nice listing of accommodations on/near the trail you'll see some other possibilities--as well as the large gaps with no services.

You could also look at the Great Allegheny Passage/C&O Towpath system in a similar way.
posted by flug at 12:46 AM on June 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: North Carolina's Mountains-To-Sea Trail would work well for this. It is already broken into roughly 70 mile segments. Note that parts of it are true trails, while others are walks along roadsides. Most of the mountain segments are probably rougher than what you have in mind and only have camping available, but several of the piedmont segments would be lovely (I'm partial to the textile tour from Greensboro to Hillsborough and the Eno/Falls Lake trail through Durham), and check out the coastal plain, too. If you have the budget and go at the right time of year, the Outer Banks segment would be amazing.
posted by hydropsyche at 5:09 AM on June 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

The AMC has cabins in New Hampshire:
posted by bdc34 at 6:09 AM on June 15, 2021

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the answers! I know this was a little bit "let me google that for you" and I apologize for that :) but I wanted the personal wisdom of the individual members of the hivemind!

I actually just finished a 4 day bicycle trip across Missouri utilizing most of the Katy Trail and this question was inspired in part by that... a very cool piece of infrastructure, but even for cycling distance, still pretty sparse and underdeveloped (not a wilderness, by any means).
posted by J0 at 6:34 AM on June 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

I did a weeklong backpacking trip from Harper's Ferry to DC along the C&O Canal. It's a strip of nature in a highly developed area, so it's easy to hop off the trail for a hotel or restaurant, and you can also stay in the Lockhouses along the way.

One surprise I encountered was how hard it was on my body to walk on flat land in a straight line for such a long time - AT trails with varying surfaces and grades that give all your muscles a turn are much easier than the flat towpath after the first day. Even so I highly recommend it. Tons of history and that strip of nature supports an astounding variety of wildlife.
posted by headnsouth at 8:16 AM on June 15, 2021 [5 favorites]

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