Over the last year and a half, there has definitely been an uptick in camping and hiking and the pandemic is partially responsible for that. While some people enjoy observing nature via a day trip with the option to go back home after a long day spent in the wild, others are curious enough to be fully immersed in it for days. When a trip spans longer than that, it's called backpacking, and it's one of the greatest means we have of exploring the natural world.
Choosing a backpacking trip that's beginner-friendly can be challenging because there are so many trails that prove worthy of seeing. The best chance a novice backpacker has at being prepared for their first trek is to start off with a destination that's not too challenging. Contrary to popular belief, there are many trails that offer a reprieve from steep elevations and rough terrain in the U.S., and even in the country's most beautiful national parks and along its shorelines.
Point Of Arches In Olympic National Park
For those who are very hesitant about striking out on their own backpacking, Point of Arches is truly the best place to start out. Washington is a beautiful state and backpacking your way down one of its most beautiful Pacific landscapes doesn't get much better than this.
With only eight miles on this out-and-back trail, the hike shouldn't take longer than three days to complete if you really take your time and covers an elevation gain of only 200 feet. It could be done with only overnight but being so close to the Pacific Ocean has a way of calling hikers for a second night under its stars.
Golden Cathedral, Utah
The great thing about Golden Cathedral and Grand Staircase is that while hikers will have the privilege of spending the night nestled between red rock canyon walls, there's also no shortage of water in this desert setting.
Camping isn't allowed within Golden Cathedral but hikers can set up just outside, with the second day left to explore the surrounding area. The hike as a whole is roughly ten miles and can take three to four days if you're spacing out mileage, but can be done in as few as one or two nights. With an elevation gain of 1,100 feet, this terrain is only slightly more challenging.
Shining Rock Wilderness, North Carolina
Shining Rock Wilderness will have backpackers committed to a trek that's 22 miles total in length, but it goes by faster than you'd expect with a timeline of four days minimum. According to Wildland Trekking, the Blue Ridge Mountains running through North Carolina give way to some of the most spectacular backpacking views on the East Coast.
With an elevation gain of roughly 2,300 feet, this trek is more technically challenging but still beginner-friendly due to its extended overnight stay. With stunning views of the quartzite outcropping on Shining Rock, as well as numerous waterfalls to enjoy, this hike is so much more than a walk through the woods.
White Mountain, New Hampshire
New Hampshire is known for its technically challenging day hikes which is why White Mountain is a great place to practice. While the trek is only 15 miles in length, the elevation is what slows most hikers down with a gain of 3,600 feet to the summit.
This hike is unique because, along the ridgeline of the mountains, hikers will be able to stay in mountain huts rather than camping outdoors. This ridgeline follows part of the Appalachian Trail, as well, so you might meet some friendly neighbors along the way.
Tuolumne Meadows Area, Yosemite
As one of the most popular national parks in the country, it's not surprising that Yosemite is also home to many major backpacking trails. However, it's also home to the Tuolumne Meadows Area which happens to be the perfect 20-mile trek for beginners.
It can be completed in two or three days and has an elevation gain of roughly 1,300 feet, which is still doable for a novice hiker over this span of time. This hike offers incredible views of Yosemite's best valleys, with low mountains in the background and the Cathedral Range spires dotting the landscape.
Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota
The total distance of the Superior Hiking Trail is actually 310 miles but, obviously, that's not very beginner-friendly. Instead, hikers can choose to backpack through a portion of it.
Any one of its sections can be done in three to four days, with elevation gains that vary depending on the section a hiker chooses to hike. Lush deciduous forests and gorgeous views of Lake Superior are will all be part of this lesser-known backpacking trip.