The western US is well recognized for its many camping and fishing spots. However, it is a mecca for hiking and backpacking. From marathon treks like the Pacific Crest Trail to the simplest of day hikes in the Los Angeles Mountains, you will have your hands full trying to decide which ones to sample and in what order you want to walk them. Out of the hundreds of recommendations we could make, the following 4 are ones that you should explore first.
Oregon and Washington Cascades
This includes the areas of the Northern Cascades and the Columbia River Gorge. It rains a lot on the western slope whereas the eastern side of the range is considerably drier. For the avid backpacker that wants to experience some serious mountainous adventures, there are the summits of Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, and the Three Sisters. These peaks are oftentimes snow-covered year round, so just be aware of that when planning your trip.
Oftentimes referred to as Backpacker Heaven, there are very few hiking and backpacking regions that can compete with the beauty and ruggedness of this area other than parts of the Rocky Mountains. The following are the top choices to consider:
- Glen and Kearsarge Passes
- KingsCanyon National Park
- Pine Creek
- SequoiaNational Park
- YosemiteNational Park
You will find that most of the grades of difficulty range from moderate to strenuous. There is no such thing as a backpack adventure in the High Sierras that does not require you to drastically change elevations. In many instances, trailheads will start between 6,000 and 7,000 feet and wind up going over passes that are 11,000 to 12,000 feet in elevation. So the more fit you are the better.
Rocky Mountains and into Canada
Without a doubt, the Rockies are the prototype that so many other mountainous regions were patterned after. In the state of Colorado alone, there are 7 subranges of the Rockies that contain 58 peaks with 14,000 foot plus summits. That should keep you busy for a while if you are into high elevation backpacking adventures. However, we can’t rule out hiking/backpacking opportunities in the other areas. These include:
- Absoroka-Beartooth Wilderness (Montana)
- Sawtooth Range (Idaho)
- Wind River Range including the Green River Lakes, Highline Trail, and Titcomb Basin (northern Utah and Wyoming)
Oregon Coast and Southeast Oregon
Last but not least is the Oregon Coast and the southeastern region of the state. You can start off with Bagby Hot Springs or the Malheur Wildlife Refuge. Other areas worth experiencing are the Central Oregon Coast, the Eagle Cap Wilderness, Reedsport, the Umpqua Dunes, and the Wallowa Mountains. There is something for every type of hiker, whether its day hikes or overnight backpacking adventures that you are craving. One way or the other, you are certain to have an enjoyable experience, no matter which one of these venues you choose.