I shall walk into the wild...
September 25, 2006 6:25 PM   Subscribe

I shall walk into the wild maybe for a week or so, depending on the weather, blisters, etc. Who has recommendations for (relatively safe) *long* solitary walks in the U.S. or Canada? Specifically, I'm looking for a hike/trail/path that I can follow -- walking 7-10 hours a day, for 5-7 days in a row. No cell phone, no computer, no schedule. This would be a sort of annual retreat/walk/vacation/time-to-reset-my-body, that I'd like to do every year. Time to think, lose a few pounds, kick-up my metabolism, detox, chill out, regroup, spiritually recharge, etc. Assuming I don't want to carry a gun into the wild (to protect against critters or humans), where are some interesting, safe destinations??? I'm not a survivalist and I'm not looking for an adventure per se. Prefer a minimum of life-threatening hazards and/or 100+ degree temperatures or freezing nights.
posted by pallen123 to Travel & Transportation (23 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Gatineau Park (in the Ottawa area) has 165 kilometres of trails, and is 15 minutes away from downtown Ottawa.
posted by Jairus at 6:36 PM on September 25, 2006

I spent 7 days hiking up the back of Holy Cross Mtn in Colorado. Rather, it was about a 5-6 days hike in (uphill), a one-day hike out (downhill). You could definitely choose to do it faster or slower. Winter Park was where I started out from.

I saw 6 other people in that time, in only two parties so it felt like fewer. One of the parties was across a large meadow and we didn't speak. This was in July, probably one of the busier months. Weather was great - warm in the day, a quick popcorn-snow-fall most afternoons around 3pm, then cool nights. Defintely colder at night up at the top of the valley, but I sleep cold and don't like to camp when it's too cold, and I was fine with the right gear.
posted by cocoagirl at 6:38 PM on September 25, 2006

Depending on your desire for changing scenery, you could walk appropriate portions of the coastline of the United States or Canada. Much of it is still pretty wild, but accessible on public ways, and nearly everywhere, below the high tide mark, your access is guaranteed. Still, you regularly come to civilization directly along your way, and with a modicum of planning, you need carry very little with you, to remain comfortable and safe.

The downside, of course, is that your view is nearly always of the sea, and your menu choices will lean heavily to seafood, if you consider that a downside.
posted by paulsc at 6:40 PM on September 25, 2006

You want a long trail? Pick a nice part of the PCT, AT, or maybe even the CDT (although that may be a bit more primitive than you're thinking of). Pick an area you'd like to see and find out when the weather is nice.
posted by xil at 6:41 PM on September 25, 2006

It is a bit late now, but Vermont's Long Trail is an amazing trailsystem. The mountain tops are often watched over, and friendly hikers are always available to help if needed.
posted by SirStan at 6:41 PM on September 25, 2006

I've done parts of the AT in New York/Penn. I was on the trail for three days, sleeping at various campsites. Pretty awesome and all, I'd recommend it.

As for safety, I never even thought about that, most of the time my and my peeps were by ourselves, except for the occasional person/group going the other way.

I guess thats also good for you in terms of a health perspective (if you break something you know there will be someone along decently soon).

Check it out
posted by jourman2 at 6:50 PM on September 25, 2006

When I was in high school, I did hikes into the Mt. Jefferson Wilderness Area and the Three Sisters Wilderness Area in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon. The Eight Lakes Basin area between South Sister and Broken Top is particularly beautiful, but it's getting a bit late in the season for hiking in that area. The monsoons will be starting soon.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 6:54 PM on September 25, 2006

Where are you and what time of year would you like to go?

Vermont's Long Trail mentioned above is a less crowded alternative to the AT. The hundred mile wilderness in Maine is increasing in popularity, but if you go in the late spring it's not likely to be too crowded.

The Pemigewasset Wilderness in NH is another option. Lots of trails, some fairly deserted, quite beautiful.

The John Muir Trail from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney is another beautiful trail.
posted by justkevin at 7:13 PM on September 25, 2006

West coast trail? Never been myself but heard good things.
posted by aeighty at 7:18 PM on September 25, 2006

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson is an excellent (and funny) account of his hike on the Appalachian Trail. You might want to read it, it might inspire you.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:34 PM on September 25, 2006

Are you planning on pitching a tent each night or would you like to do day trips? There are a bunch of hiking trails in Algonquin Park in central Ontario where you can camp (it's getting cold though and July-Sep is the best time to go). There is the Bruce Trail out of the Niagara region where you might be able to stay at B&Bs and then go for day trips. The same goes for the Trans-Canada Trail which is a work in progress, but probably worth investigating.

If you are hiking anywhere in Ontario you don't need a gun. If you are really worried about animals (ie bears), you can carry pepper spray.

Recently a friend of mine went to the San Bernardino Mts in California - he found it technically challenging, but good (probably also a gazillion times warmer than northern ontario).
posted by commissioner12 at 7:38 PM on September 25, 2006

the North Cascades in WA state (and Canada) offer a huge network of pack-mule trails. They are frequently patrolled by rangers, are safe, nice and offer the closest thing in the US to the Alps. Pick up the National Geographic map of the North Cascades (on untearable tyvek) next time you are at REI, and visit the many web sites focusing on this marvelous place.

Here's a big web site with a lovely map as home page.

And here's the official web site of the North Cascades National Park Service

There's something there for every hiker of every stripe - from the valley dwellers to the vertigo-loving alpinists
posted by seawallrunner at 7:55 PM on September 25, 2006

The Ozark Trail is 350 miles of hilly terrain in Southern Missouri. In the fall, the weather is cool and crisp and the foliage is gorgeous. I've done parts of it several times and enjoyed it immensely.
posted by chrisamiller at 8:01 PM on September 25, 2006

100 mile wilderness is a good one. The best part might be the finish (assuming you will start in Monson, ME) at Mt. Katahdin, the tallest mountain in Maine - and the best, most dramatic, above treeline hiking in the east IMHO. Read as you go "The Maine Woods" by HD Thoreau, and you might have the perfect experience.
posted by eirelander at 8:07 PM on September 25, 2006

I don't have a suggestion of my own, but you should be aware, the West Coast Trail (suggested above) is definitely not what I would describe as a "walk" - it's a strenuous hike with a great deal of climbing (ladders, ropes, handholds), and there is frequent potential for life-threatening falls. If you are envisioning something out of Thoreau, it's not your best bet.
posted by Urban Hermit at 8:22 PM on September 25, 2006

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore has utterly fantastic scenery (self-link to pics I took there). You could stretch out a trip there for a week I think and you never feel totally isolated- there are drive-in campsites every few miles. The back-country sites, though, certainly make you feel like you're out in the wilderness (which you are). I highly recommend it.

And nothing I've seen beats Isle Royale as a sheer, unspoiled wilderness. A bit difficult to get to though.
posted by PhatLobley at 8:32 PM on September 25, 2006

I disagree, Urban Hermit: the WCT is a very well cared-for trail. It is very well suited to pallen's requirements. It's a week's walk, just about 75 km full length. There's some up and down, but no major elevation change. Most of it is boardwalk now, to protect the forest floor.

The major hazards, in my opinion, are slips on wet boardwalk. It's a good deal safer than most of the other longer hikes in BC: if you bust a leg someone will be along in fifteen minutes. The CCG overflies the whole trail at least twice a day looking for people in trouble and rangers walk the trail regularly.

The biggest operational problem on the trail can be weather. Mid-to-late summer is the best time to go, but you'll most likely see rain for a couple of days of the trip.

The WCT is a well-travelled trail. You will probably need reservations to get a trip permit when you want to go. If you want something less structured in the same area, try the Olympic penninsula in Washinton or Cape Scott on the Notrthern tip of Vancouver Island.
posted by bonehead at 8:42 PM on September 25, 2006

I suppose we will have to agree to disagree, bonehead. I think your description of the trail (boardwalk, ranger patrols) is only accurate for the much easier, flatter northern section (say Bamfield to Tsusiat Falls or even Nitinat Narrows). I think this site provides a good overview, and this is a decent travelogue.
posted by Urban Hermit at 9:20 PM on September 25, 2006

You could certainly take a long hike into the Olympic mountains of Northwestern Washington. It would take about a week to hike from Park Avenue in Port Angeles to hike up to the mountains and back. And never speak to another soul while you're on your walk about.
posted by ptm at 11:09 PM on September 25, 2006

Lacking a definitive cite or link for this, I didn't make it part of my upthread suggestion, but on the topic of a long walk on the seashore, I'll offer this favorite aphorism:

"God does not deduct from a man's allotted time the days spent fishing, or by the sea."
posted by paulsc at 11:29 PM on September 25, 2006

I worked for a few summers (89-91) as a canoe/interior ranger at Lake Superior Provincial Park in Ontario and part of my job was maintaining the coastal trail. This follows the shoreline of Superior, and is (I've hiked the WCT and the Otter Trail in South Africa, for comparison) absolutely superb and world class. The landscape is stunning, like a Japanese water colour - sculpted white granite, wind-bent trees, crystal clear water, the odd long sandy beach and sand dunes, plus cool old native sites and pictographs ... and all rather unknown and unused - you might see the odd person or sea kayaker but you'll mostly have it to yourself. If it were me, this is definitely where I would go, and I would love to - I think it's one of the most beautiful places on earth. The trail, just within the park, would probably be 5 days of walking, although it has since been extended and now I think you can continue more or less up the coast to the (even more isolated) trail in Pukaskwa National Park - there was a local club from Wawa that was clearing this connection. This could mean weeks of hiking.
It's about 2 hours north of Sault Ste. Marie Mich..7? N. of Detoit. E-mail me if you'd like any more info about access, safety, cool bits.
posted by Flashman at 3:16 AM on September 26, 2006 [4 favorites]

The High Sierra Loop in Yosemite is pretty good, plus it has camps at locations along the route, so that if you don't want to actually backpack it, you don't have to (reservations for these camps are highly coveted, however, and must basically be made by lottery). The entire trip is in Yosemite, and avoids the crowds of the valley while still taking in some awesome scenery.

Decent description here.
posted by LionIndex at 10:32 AM on September 26, 2006

I have hiked some of the aforementioned trails (WCT, Superior, Algonquin) and would recommend any of them for back-country hiking.

One trail that should definately be included on this list is La Cloche Silhouette, a 100km trail located in Killarney Prov. Park in Ontario. It passes through what is left of the La Cloche mountain range and is absolutely stunning. Campsites are generally on a lake, and are very private. (often 1 campsite per lake).

Most days on the trail I would see only one or two couples hiking along as well. (this was during a very hot week in July)

The hiking is very upanddown, and may be a bit more strenuous then you're looking for. Ontarioparks.ca should have some information on this and some of the other ontario parks previously mentioned.
posted by skinnydipp at 10:55 AM on September 26, 2006

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