13 Best Backpacking Trips on the East Coast

by Flora Backup
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Are you ready to embark on an adventure through some of the East Coast’s most breathtaking backpacking trails? Strap on your hiking boots and prepare for a journey filled with natural beauty and exhilarating experiences! We’ve curated the ultimate list of the East Coast’s top backpacking trips, each offering its own unique blend of adventure and scenic splendor.

The backpacking experiences here are as varied as they are thrilling. You could be scaling the demanding heights of New Hampshire’s White Mountains or soaking in the peaceful vistas of Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Each trail offers a unique adventure, whether it’s the adrenaline of a challenging climb or the tranquility of a forested path.

So, pack your gear and let’s set off on a journey of breathtaking landscapes and unforgettable adventures!

Here's all the best backpacking trips on the East Coast that you should know about.

Best Backpacking Hikes on the East Coast

We’re about to take you on a journey through the East Coast’s most breathtaking backpacking trails – from hidden wilderness gems to awe-inspiring vistas, and those unforgettable moments of discovery. Lace up your hiking boots and join us on an adventure-packed journey that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime!

1. The Appalachian Trail: Mahoosuc Notch, Maine

The Mahoosuc Notch section of the Appalachian Trail in Maine is calling your name. But beware, It’s known as the toughest mile of the entire Appalachian Trail. We’re talking about a 1-mile stretch that’s all about scrambling over massive boulders and squeezing through tight spaces. It’s like nature’s own obstacle course! It deserves to be listed among the best hikes in New England.

Now, where does this epic adventure start? You’ll want to head to the Notch Trailhead, located near Grafton Notch State Park. From there, you’re in for a few hours of intense, exhilarating hiking. This section is usually tackled as part of a longer journey, so if you’re planning a multi-day hike, Mahoosuc Notch is a must-do.

Successfully navigating Mahoosuc Notch is a highlight for East Coast backpackers seeking a challenge. Image Credits: Northeast Hikes
Successfully navigating Mahoosuc Notch is a highlight for East Coast backpackers seeking a challenge. Image Credits: Northeast Hikes

The best time to hit this trail is during the summer or early fall. Why? The weather is more predictable, and trust me, you don’t want to be navigating those boulders in bad weather.

Pack light but bring the essentials – good boots, plenty of water, and snacks. And remember, the weather can change quickly, so be prepared for anything. Conquering Mahoosuc Notch is a serious achievement and a highlight for anyone into backpacking on the East Coast.

2. The Long Trail, Vermont

Let’s talk about The Long Trail in Vermont – the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the US. This trail is a whopping 272 miles of pure wilderness bliss, stretching from the Massachusetts-Vermont border all the way to the Canadian border. Most hikers kick off their journey at the southern terminus near Williamstown, Massachusetts. Depending on your pace and how many scenic stops you make (trust me, there will be a lot), this hike can take anywhere from 3 to 4 weeks to complete. It’s a serious commitment, but oh so worth it. It’s one of the most rewarding activities in Vermont in winter, offering breathtaking views and a sense of peaceful solitude.

The best time to hit The Long Trail is from late spring to early fall. You’ll want to avoid the muddy season in early spring and the heavy snow in winter. There’s no fee to hike, but some overnight sites have a small charge for maintenance.

Explore the historic Long Trail in Vermont, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the US. | Image Credits: Green Mountain Club
Explore the historic Long Trail in Vermont, the oldest long-distance hiking trail in the US. | Image Credits: Green Mountain Club

This trail is perfect for seasoned backpackers looking for a real challenge. It’s also a hit with nature lovers who appreciate the trail’s rich history. Here’s a pro tip: pack for all weather conditions and bring a reliable map or GPS. Get ready to immerse yourself in the beauty of Vermont and create memories that will last a lifetime on one of the most iconic backpacking trips on the East Coast!

3. Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Get ready to fall in love with the great outdoors at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. This park is a backpacker’s paradise, with over 500 miles of trails, including a stunning section of the Appalachian Trail.

The moment you lay eyes on Shenandoah National Park, you’ll understand why it’s one of the most beautiful places in Virginia. Your adventure starts at one of the park’s four main entrances, but a popular choice is the Thornton Gap Entrance near Luray. How long you spend here is up to you, but with so many trails, you could easily spend a week exploring. The park’s famous Skyline Drive offers easy access to numerous trailheads, so you can mix and match your hikes.

Gear up for an unforgettable backpacking adventure in Shenandoah National Park—exploring the beauty of the East Coast's natural wonders!
Gear up for an unforgettable backpacking adventure in Shenandoah National Park—exploring the beauty of the East Coast’s natural wonders!

Spring and fall are the best times to visit, thanks to the mild weather and stunning foliage. There’s an entrance fee for the park, but it’s a small price to pay for such incredible beauty. And if you’re camping overnight, check out the park’s designated backcountry camping areas.

Insider tip: Don’t miss the Old Rag Mountain hike – it’s a tough climb, but the panoramic views are out of this world. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just someone looking for an epic day trip, conquering Old Rag is an unforgettable experience in Shenandoah Valley. Just remember to pack plenty of water and snacks, and get ready for an unforgettable backpacking experience in one of the East Coast’s most beautiful national parks!

4. The Foothills Trail, South Carolina

Looking for another East Coast gem? Next up, let’s head to the stunning Foothills Trail in South Carolina. This 77-mile beauty is a hidden gem, winding through the picturesque Appalachian foothills. You’ll be treated to a mix of waterfalls, river crossings, and lush mountainous landscapes.

Most folks begin at either Oconee State Park or Table Rock State Park. The trail can take about 5 to 10 days to complete, depending on your pace and how much you want to soak in the scenery. Spring and fall are ideal times to visit, offering pleasant weather and vibrant colors.

The Foothills Trail beckons with a harmonious mix of adventure and tranquility, making it a must-experience for East Coast backpackers.
The Foothills Trail beckons with a harmonious mix of adventure and tranquility, making it a must-experience for East Coast backpackers.

There’s no fee to hike the Foothills Trail, but some of the state parks it passes through might charge a small entrance fee. This trail is a fantastic pick for intermediate to experienced backpackers who enjoy a bit of everything – from challenging climbs to peaceful nature walks.

Don’t miss the stunning views from Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina. And remember, while the trail is well-marked, carrying a map is always a good idea. The Foothills Trail offers a perfect blend of adventure and tranquility in South Carolina, making it a must-visit for anyone looking for memorable backpacking on the East Coast.

5. The Florida Trail, Florida

Let me tell you about a trail that’s unlike anything else you’ve probably hiked before – the Florida Trail. This is a whopping 1,300-mile journey from the wild Everglades all the way to the sunny shores of Pensacola Beach. Imagine trekking through swamps, dense forests, and some of the most unique wildlife habitats Florida has to offer.

So, where do you start this epic adventure? A lot of folks begin at the Big Cypress National Preserve, a must-visit attraction in South Florida which is just a stone’s throw from Miami. Depending on how much of the trail you’re up for, you could be exploring for several weeks.

The Florida Trail caters to hikers seeking a bit of everything. | Image Credits: Florida Trail Association
The Florida Trail caters to hikers seeking a bit of everything. | Image Credits: Florida Trail Association

Now, here’s what sets the Florida Trail apart: it’s one of only eleven National Scenic Trails in the U.S., and it shows you a side of Florida that’s way more than just beaches and theme parks. We’re talking about getting up close with gators, spotting rare birds, and maybe even crossing paths with a panther if you’re super lucky.

This trail is perfect for hikers who love a bit of everything – diverse landscapes, wildlife galore, and some good old Florida sunshine. Just make sure to pack your water, insect repellent (trust me on this one), and plenty of sun protection. This East Coast getaway awaits you!

6. The Mountains-to-Sea Trail, North Carolina

Next up is North Carolina’s spectacular Mountains-to-Sea Trail. This ambitious trail stretches an impressive 1,175 miles from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks. It’s a journey that takes you from majestic mountain peaks to serene coastal landscapes, offering a taste of North Carolina’s diverse beauty.

You can start this epic trail at Clingmans Dome in the Smokies and end at Jockey’s Ridge State Park on the coast, one of the stunning locations in the Outer Banks. Depending on your pace and the sections you choose, this adventure can take several weeks or even months.

Embark on North Carolina's Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a spectacular journey from majestic mountain peaks to serene coastal landscapes.
Embark on North Carolina’s Mountains-to-Sea Trail, a spectacular journey from majestic mountain peaks to serene coastal landscapes.

One historical highlight is the Eno River State Park near Durham. This area is rich in Native American and early colonial history, with several well-preserved historic structures like grist mills and homesteads.

As you approach the coast, the trail passes through the historic town of New Bern, one of North Carolina’s oldest towns, where you can explore colonial architecture and visit Tryon Palace, the first state capitol.

This trail is perfect for long-distance hikers and those who enjoy a mix of landscapes. Be sure to plan your stops and resupply points, as the trail traverses both remote and populated areas.

7. The Pinhoti Trail, Alabama and Georgia

This amazing 335-mile trek through Alabama and Georgia is like a nature lover’s paradise. Picture yourself hiking through everything from rugged mountain ridges to peaceful pine forests. It’s the kind of variety that keeps every day on the trail fresh and exciting.

So, where does this adventure start? You’ll kick things off at Flagg Mountain in Alabama, near the quaint town of Weogufka. From there, you’re winding your way all the way to the Georgia state line.

Whether seeking solitude in nature or wildlife encounters, the Pinhoti Trail is a must-hike destination. | Image Credits: Alabama Trails Foundation
Whether seeking solitude in nature or wildlife encounters, the Pinhoti Trail is a must-hike destination. | Image Credits: Alabama Trails Foundation

Now, let’s talk about the cool creatures and plants you’ll meet along the way. The Pinhoti Trail takes you through some seriously biodiverse spots, like the Talladega National Forest which is a must-see in Alabama for anyone passionate about nature and conservation. Keep your eyes peeled for deer darting through the trees, hawks circling overhead, and maybe even a fox if you’re lucky. And for you birdwatchers out there, this trail is a goldmine – you might spot everything from woodpeckers to warblers.

Remember to plan out where you’ll grab supplies, as the trail weaves through both remote wilderness and charming small towns. Whether you’re looking for some quiet time in nature or eager to spot some wildlife, the Pinhoti Trail is a must-hike.

8. The Benton MacKaye Trail, Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee

Have you heard about the Benton MacKaye Trail? It’s like the Appalachian Trail’s quieter cousin, stretching over 300 miles through some seriously gorgeous parts of the Southern Appalachians.

So, where does this adventure start? Springer Mountain in Georgia – yep, the same place the Appalachian Trail kicks off. But here’s where things get different. The Benton MacKaye Trail winds its way all the way to the Big Creek Campground in Tennessee, right on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. If you’re up for it, this trek could take you a few weeks, but trust me, it’s worth every step.

Explore Benton MacKaye Trail—a serene journey along the East Coast's tranquil landscapes. | Image Credits: Benton MacKaye Trail association
Explore Benton MacKaye Trail—a serene journey along the East Coast’s tranquil landscapes. | Image Credits: Benton MacKaye Trail association

Now, here’s a cool bit: the trail is named after Benton MacKaye, the guy who dreamt up the Appalachian Trail. It’s a bit more off the beaten path, so you can really soak in the peace and quiet of the wilderness.

This trail is perfect if you’re into a rugged, back-to-nature kind of experience. It’s a bit less developed than the Appalachian Trail, so come prepared for a real adventure. Pack your gear, bring your sense of wonder, and get ready to explore one of the East Coast’s most tranquil and beautiful trails.

9. The Northville-Placid Trail, New York

Head to the Adirondack Mountains in New York for our next backpacking gem – the Northville-Placid Trail. This 138-mile trail is all about serene wilderness and getting away from it all.

You’re in for about 10 to 14 days of pure hiking bliss, depending on your pace. The best times to hit this trail? Late spring to early fall. You’ll dodge the heavy snow and catch the Adirondacks at their most beautiful.

The Northville-Placid Trail is a must-do for those seeking a peaceful, nature-filled backpacking adventure on the serene East Coast.
The Northville-Placid Trail is a must-do for those seeking a peaceful, nature-filled backpacking adventure on the serene East Coast.

Here’s something cool: the Northville-Placid Trail is one of the original Adirondack trails, established way back in the 1920s. It’s less about mountain summits and more about immersing yourself in the deep, quiet woods. It’s perfect for those who love a good, long walk in the forest and want to disconnect from the hustle and bustle.

Before you set off, make sure you’re packed for backcountry camping, as this trail is all about the wilderness experience. And keep your eyes peeled for wildlife – this area is teeming with critters! The Northville-Placid Trail is a must-do for anyone looking for a peaceful, nature-filled backpacking trip on the East Coast.

10. The Superior Hiking Trail, Minnesota

I guess it’s all in the name, right? This trail is a 310-mile footpath along the ridgeline overlooking the breathtaking Lake Superior. Picture yourself hiking through dense forests, past roaring waterfalls, and taking in some of the most stunning overlooks you’ve ever seen. This East Coast lake will blow your mind!

The trail starts near Duluth and stretches all the way to the Canadian border. For those looking for the ultimate hiking experience, the Superior Hiking Trail is one of the coolest things to do in Duluth. It’s a journey that can take several weeks, but every step is packed with awe-inspiring views and natural wonders.

For the ultimate hiking experience in Duluth, exploring the Superior Hiking Trail stands out as one of the coolest activities.
For the ultimate hiking experience in Duluth, exploring the Superior Hiking Trail stands out as one of the coolest activities.

The Superior Hiking Trail is often called the “footpath to the wilderness” because of its remote and pristine nature. It’s a favorite among hikers who love a good challenge and those who are after some of the most picturesque views in the Midwest.

Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or just looking for an epic adventure, this trail has something for everyone. Just remember to pack your camera – you’re going to want to capture the incredible vistas. And keep an eye out for wildlife, as the area is known for its diverse animal inhabitants.

11. The Tuscarora Trail, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia

The Tuscarora Trail is this awesome 250-mile path that takes you through some of the coolest parts of the Appalachian region. We’re talking a journey through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia – a real mix of beautiful landscapes!

So, where does this adventure start? Well, you can hop on the trail at various points, but a lot of folks start in Pennsylvania. Depending on how fast you hike and how much you want to explore, you could be on this trail for a couple of weeks.

Choose the Tuscarora Trail for a serene exploration of the beauty of Appalachia. | Image Credits: Tuscarora Trail
Choose the Tuscarora Trail for a serene exploration of the beauty of Appalachia. | Image Credits: Tuscarora Trail

This Trail is part of the Great Eastern Trail system, so it’s like a hidden gem for those looking to avoid the crowds of the more famous Appalachian Trail. It’s got everything from dense forests to rolling hills and even some cool streams to chill by.

Just make sure to bring a good map or GPS – some parts of the trail aren’t as well marked as others. The Tuscarora Trail is a fantastic pick for anyone looking to experience the beauty and tranquility of Appalachia in a more unique and peaceful way.

12. The Cohos Trail, New Hampshire

You’ve got to head to the rugged and remote northern part of New Hampshire to explore the Cohos Trail. This 165-mile trail is a true wilderness experience. Think stunning mountain views, dense forests, and wildlife encounters that’ll make your hike unforgettable.

The trail starts in the small town of Crawford Notch and stretches all the way to the Canadian border. You’re looking at about 2 to 3 weeks of hiking, depending on how much ground you want to cover each day. The best time to tackle the Cohos Trail is from late spring to early fall, when the weather is more favorable, and the trails are clear of snow.

Cohos Trail is ideal for adventurous hikers who relish exploring off the beaten path | Image Credits: Cohos Trail
Cohos Trail is ideal for adventurous hikers who relish exploring off the beaten path | Image Credits: Cohos Trail

The Cohos Trail is one of the newest long-distance trails in the East, so it offers a sense of discovery and exploration in New Hampshire that you might not find on more established trails. It’s perfect for hikers who love a bit of adventure and don’t mind going off the beaten path.

This trail is great for experienced backpackers who are prepared for backcountry camping and navigating through less-traveled areas. Make sure to pack your essentials and be ready for a variety of terrains. Is this one of the top New England hikes? Absolutely!

13. The International Appalachian Trail, Maine

Last but certainly not least, we have The International Appalachian Trail. This trail picks up where the original Appalachian Trail leaves off at Mount Katahdin in Maine and keeps the adventure rolling all the way into Canada. It’s one of the best hidden vacation spots in the US for those who love nature and hiking.

Starting your hike at Mount Katahdin, you’ll trek through some seriously stunning landscapes. How long you hike is totally up to you, but every mile is packed with amazing views and new experiences.

The International Appalachian Trail offers an East Coast adventure that promises a journey | Image Credits: International Appalachian Trail Maine
The International Appalachian Trail offers an East Coast adventure that promises a journey | Image Credits: International Appalachian Trail Maine

Now, here’s the fun part: this trail crosses international borders! That means you’ll get to experience the natural beauty and culture of both the U.S. and Canada. It’s like two epic hikes in one. Just remember to bring your passport for the Canadian part.

This trail is a fantastic choice for seasoned hikers looking for something a bit different. You’ll need to be ready for a variety of terrains and weather conditions, so pack smart. The International Appalachian Trail is an adventure that takes you beyond borders. Ready to add an international twist to your backpacking experiences on the East Coast? Let’s hit the trail and make some unforgettable memories!

The best backpacking trips on the East Coast for all types of travelers
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