Snow is melting, trails are drying out, and nights are warming up. Backpacking season is upon us, so you’re probably already planning which Fridays and Mondays to play hooky and hit the trail. America’s public lands are chock-full of fantastic weekend backpacking trips, and if you’ve got an extra day to spare, you can really get into the goods. Here are a few of the best routes to add to your summer wish list.
North Coast Route, Washington
Olympic National Park’s 20-mile North Coast Route, which runs from Lake Ozette to Rialto Beach, is widely considered among the best beachside backpacking trips anywhere in the country. Expect to climb over enormous piles of washed-up driftwood, explore tidepools, and scramble over rocky bluffs. It’s more a route than a trail, so you’ll need good route finding skills for this one. The Ozette River, which you should only attempt to cross at low tide, is often altogether impassable in winter and after the heavy shoulder season rains, so this trip is best done in summer.
Timberline Trail, Oregon
Originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the 41.5-mile Timberline Trail circumnavigates volcanic Mount Hood and is an excellent long weekend backpacking objective. While the Timberline Trail itself is 24.5 miles one-way, it shares another 17 miles with the Pacific Crest Trail to get all the way around Mount Hood. Most of the trail is at or above treeline, and passes waterfalls and alpine meadows. Have your camera ready for the postcard-worthy views, and be prepared to ford a few rivers along the way, too. For the full experience, begin and end at the historic Timberline Lodge (site of the outdoor shots in The Shining), where you can get a Forest Service-issued parking permit.
Tuolumne Meadows To Yosemite Valley, California
Just about every backpacker has a trip through world-famous Yosemite National Park on his or her bucket list. This hike begins in picture-perfect subalpine Tuolumne Meadows and follows roughly 28 miles (one-way) to the iconic Yosemite Valley, where you’ll get sweeping views of Half Dome and El Capitan. If you’re lucky, you’ll even snag a campsite where you can see the granite behemoths after dark, potentially spotting the headlamps of climbers high on the wall.
Resurrection Pass Trail, Alaska
A thru-hike of the 38-mile Resurrection Pass Trail is a southcentral Alaska rite of passage. You can hike the trail between Hope and Cooper Landing in either direction—both ways offer stunning views and access to cozy US Forest Service-maintained backcountry cabins. Summer is a great time to visit, as several of the cabins are on breathtaking alpine lakes, and the USFS provides boats for visitors to borrow for fishing or paddling in the warmer months.
Paintbrush And Cascade Canyons Loop, Wyoming
There’s no shortage of awe-inspiring views in Grand Teton National Park, so being among the best hikes in the park is a serious distinction, and the 19.2-mile loop that tags Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons deserves it. Much of the Teton Range is under snow well into spring, so this is an ideal summer backpacking trip. In addition to the canyons, the hike serves up views of the Cathedral Group (including Teewinot and the iconic Grand Teton), gorgeous Lake Solitude, and countless wildflowers bursting into bloom in the summer
Four Pass Loop, Colorado
You’ll want to hike some stairs (and maybe even train at altitude) to get ready for this one. Colorado’s beloved Four Pass Loop heads up and over four high alpine passes in the 12,500-foot range. Start the trip off right at the Maroon-Snowmass Trailhead at Maroon Bells, which is among the most photographed landscapes in the Centennial State. You’ll pass several pristine lakes along the 26-mile route, and the wildflowers are particularly vibrant in summer. Though stream crossings are more passable than in the spring, you’ll want to brush up on your technique. (It’s well worth it.)