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Backpacker Magazine – January 2009

Readers' Choice Awards 2009

Discover the best hike in every state, as voted by BACKPACKER readers. Plus: your essential gear, most desirable tentmate, worst-ever adventure movie, and our picks for the best reader-submitted photos.

by: The Backpacker Readers

Snowmass Mountain, Colorado (David Muench)
Snowmass Mountain, Colorado (David Muench)
The descent to Hawaii's Kalalau Beach (Matt Hage)
The descent to Hawaii's Kalalau Beach (Matt Hage)
Mt. Thielsen (Donna Ikenberry)
Mt. Thielsen (Donna Ikenberry)
Big Creek in the Smokies (Jeff Zimmerman)
Big Creek in the Smokies (Jeff Zimmerman)
An alcove in Davis Gulch. (James Kay)
An alcove in Davis Gulch. (James Kay)


TOP STATE HIKES:
We asked you to rank your favorite hikes in all 50 states and you delivered. Here, see the winners and download the hikes for yourself to trail-blaze a new hike or revisit an old one.

Alaska See glaciers on a Harding Icefield Trail eight-miler in Kenai Fjords National Park.
Alabama Cool off in waterfalls on the Land Trust Loop near Monte Sano Mountain.
Arkansas Traverse massive limestone bluffs and deep, secluded hollows on the Ozarks' Buffalo River Trail.
Arizona Discover Grand Canyon solitude and red-rock splendor in Thunder Canyon.

CALIFORNIA
Pacific Crest Trail
The best hike in the Golden State may just be the best hike in the whole country.

In the 209 miles from Kennedy Meadows in Sequoia National Forest to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite, the PCT passes through three national parks, ascends numerous high passes with heavenly views, bisects two stunning wilderness areas–and never crosses a single road. En route you'll also find countless alpine meadows, granite-lined cirques with life-list campsites, and lake after lake after lake. Not to mention the opportunity to detour up Mt. Whitney, the tallest peak in the Lower 48 (for beta on climbing the stunning and crowd-free Mountaineer's Route, see page 32). Farther north, you'll cross 13,153-foot Forester Pass, the highest point on the entire PCT, and hike by such deep-Sierra icons as the Ritter Range, Evolution Valley, and Yosemite's Lyell Fork. See more photos and download a map and tracklog at backpacker.com/hikes/28659.


COLORADO
Snowmass Mountain
Bag an easy fourteener and enjoy a perfect glissade on this weekend hike in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness.

To call this 20.8-mile loop one of the most spectacular routes in all of the Rockies is not hyperbole. Which is why it's also one of the most crowded come July. The secret is to go in June, when the campsites at trout-filled Snowmass Lake are readily available and acres of snow still span the east-facing basin between 14,092-foot Snowmass Mountain and 13,841-foot Hagerman Peak. It's like climbing a big glacier in the Alps–without the crevasse danger. Wait until the morning sun softens the snow and you won't even need crampons to reach the granite peak. Best part: the glissade. In good conditions, you can slide more than 1.5 miles and nearly 3,000 vertical feet. See photos and download a map and tracklog at backpacker.com/hikes/30696.

Connecticut Hike 15.9 miles of the rugged Appalachian Trail.
Delaware Sorry, friends, your best hike is in Virginia.
Florida Sublime beaches highlight this three-day hike in the Everglades
Georgia See five waterfalls in 10.8 miles on the Panther Creek Trail.


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David
Nov 26, 2012

The "Pacific Crest Trail" in this article is actually the John Muir Trail.....the PCT runs from Mexico to Canada, along the way it covers some of the same ground as the JMT. Wanted to clear that up. It is an amazing hike, it is in my top 3 backpack trips of all time!

David
Nov 26, 2012

The "Pacific Crest Trail" in this article is actually the John Muir Trail.....the PCT runs from Mexico to Canada, along the way it covers some of the same ground as the JMT. Wanted to clear that up. It is an amazing hike, it is in my top 3 backpack trips of all time!

mike
Nov 22, 2012

thank you Jaafar for actually naming a best hiking trail (not canoeing) for Florida.

Eric Nelson
Aug 03, 2011

Well, I would say that the Wind River range is the best hiking in WY, however, for those that just want a weekend hike try the hike up to Big Sandy then the next day head to the Cirque. If you want a flavor of the remoteness of WY without the big miles, then the Cirque is the place to go.

Eric Nelson
Aug 03, 2011

Well, I would say that the Wind River range is the best hiking in WY, however, for those that just want a weekend hike try the hike up to Big Sandy then the next day head to the Cirque. If you want a flavor of the remoteness of WY without the big miles, then the Cirque is the place to go.

Len
Aug 01, 2011

Best adventure book by Bill Bryson? Good lord. Has nobody ever read Edmund Hillary, Eric Newby, Shackleton, Roosevelt, Capstick, or any of the dozens of other classics? Bryson is funny, but best adventure? No way.

Patrick
Jul 25, 2011

"Best" hiking trail is highly subjective. My favorite is actually pictured on this page: Big Creek waterfall in the Smokies. Memorable--recognized the waterfall immediately.

Jaafar
Jul 25, 2011

Sorry, but why on earth is the "best hike in Florida" actually a canoe trip in the Gulf of Mexico?

It's not like there isn't plenty of trail in Florida: there's the Florida Trail snaking North-South through the state, plus a bunch of smaller side trails maintained by the Florida Trail Association running East West, in addition to the trails in Everglades National Park and various state parks, national forests and wildlife management areas.

To pick a canoe trip as Florida's best "hike" is to feed into the mistaken belief, so common among northerners who associate hiking with mountains, that because Florida is flat, it has no hiking trails worth mention.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

I'd consider the Florida Trail segment from Loop Road to the Oasis Ranger Station on the Tamiami Trail/US-41 (about 8 miles each way) as a good contender for the "best trail," for instance.

A walk/slog (depending on the season) traveling through prairies of sawgrass and stunted bald cypress, and tropical hardwood hammocks that make you feel like you've stepped into the Amazon, it's idyllic, remote, and not at all comparable to hiking elsewhere in the 'States. I've come across alligators ON the trail, and hiked for miles in shin-deep water swimming with small fish and crayfish. Where else in the country can you do that?

There's also the Coastal Prairie Trail in Everglades National Park. The southernmost trail in the continental United States, it's about 7.5 miles each way, through shady buttonwoods and open mudflats and prairies of saltwort along the coast, ending at a backcountry campsite on an empty white-sand beach. Beautiful hiking, and unlike anything up north.

PaulG
Jul 23, 2011

Isle Royale, Minnesota??? Sorry Bonni, Backpacker's got it right. It may be closer to Minnesota, but it's still in Michigan.

PaulG
Jul 23, 2011

Isle Royale, Minnesota??? Sorry Bonni, Backpacker's got it right. It may be closer to Minnesota, but it's still in Michigan.

Bonni
Jul 22, 2011

Ummm, sorry backpacker, Isle Royale is actually part of Minnesota, not Michigan. You've gotten it right elsewhere on your site, I don't know what happened here...

JK
Jul 22, 2011

The Best Hike in NH....in my opinion.....is the Crawford Path to Mount Washington in the Southern Presidential. It is absolutely breathtaking!!!!

Bill
Jul 21, 2011

How about Michigan?

Emily
Jul 21, 2011

OK haters let me clue you in on a little secret...the word "BEST hike in..." is a better title stater than "a very good hike, maybe the best, but probably not, hike in..." So, when you see the word "BEST" keep in mind that it was one person's opinion. That person might have a very different idea of what constitutes a "best" hike. If you read the description, the author usually gives their argument for including the hike. Also, if they didn't print your favorite hike, count yourself as lucky, you will be able to enjoy that spot without all the Backpacker readers in the state racing up and down the trail complaining that your trail in not nearly as good as some other trail.

Ed 'n Lauky
Jul 21, 2011

As for your New Hampshire choice, while Tuckerman
Ravine is interesting to see, there are trails up Washington with much better overall views and with far fewer people.

However, if you really like hiking in Times Square type crowds, then The Tucks trail is definitely what you want.

Bob Hansen/Pathfinder1
Jul 21, 2011

Am I the only one who gets a "no longer exists" when I click on your site to enter the contest for gear you are giving away?

Jonathan Althaus
Jul 21, 2011

Oklahoma-Wichita Mountains
New Mexico-3 Rivers
Texas-Davy Crocket Nat'l Forest

Scott Sanders
Mar 26, 2009

Panther Creek in Georgia is nice, but try Jacks River Trail, Conasauga River Trail, the 80 or so miles of the AT in Georgia. I'll think you'll like them more.

AJ
Jan 30, 2009

You guys need to chill out. Please. How are you going to diss Backpacker? I mean, how many other magazines are there that tend to the desires and needs of a hiker/climbing/packer? The writers are human, they will make mistakes.

Rick Woods
Jan 30, 2009

The "best trail in Nevada" points at a link titled Great Basin National Park? Nope, but instead takes you to a description of a little known side trail outside of Las Vegas at Cathedral Rock. Read a map sometime. What hooey.
Great Basin National Park does have an outstanding trail. Bag Wheeler Peak at a tad over 13,000 feet for a great view of the Great Basin.

Iowa Hike
Jan 30, 2009

You list Zirbel's Trail on the Winnebago River But when you open it, it says Des Moines, IA....lol

This trail is up by Mason City, IA....A little over 120 miles to the NNE from Des Moines! And is listed on ALL maps of Iowa...lol

I know there isn't a lot in Iowa compared to a lot of other states, but who comes up with this? They aren't even close....do you even bother to check on what is being printed?

And now a web search shows all these entries with Des Moines/Zirbel Trail....Garbage in-Garbage out!

And as a future reference, the BEST trails in Iowa for a true back packer are in the Yellow River State Forest...which is about 20 miles NNW of Marquette, IA (Marquette is right across the Mississippi River from Prairie Du Chien, WI.)

Lord help us all if this is the kind of dis-information my favorite magazine prints!

Brendan Hickey
Jan 30, 2009

Delaware's best hike is in Virginia? That's ridiculous! Most of the trails at Brandywine Creek State Park will take you among ruins of the region's agricultural history and along the beautiful Brandywine River. The Swamp Forest trail at Lums Pond State Park is a muddy, often solitary 7.5 mile challenge. The nature trail at Holts Landing State Park will take you through 3 habitats (beach, meadow, and forest) in only 1.2 miles. The trails at Cape Henlopen State Park will have you walking amid the remains of a WW-II era fort. Check out the Delaware Trail Challenge for a good introduction to the state park system of trails. No need to go to Virginia for a good Delaware trail!

Matt
Jan 29, 2009

Marcy offers a spectacular view, plus the edge of saying you were at the highest point; however Colden offers a better hike and a wonderful trek through Avalanche Pass--did I mention the traffic on Marcy's summit? Colden will give you the zen you seek, and Avalanche Pass offers a great rock to eat dinner before the bear come out to play with the high peakers camping in the wilderness.

Alton Snellgrove
Jan 29, 2009

I donít know where Backpacker comes up with this best of crap. The best hike in Florida is a three day paddle in the everglades? It wasnít long ago they highlighted the bridge to bridge trail in White springs Florida, thatís a bicycle trail on the opposite side of the river from the FNST. As a volunteer trail coordinator for the Florida trail Iím offended by their lack of knowledge when it comes to hiking in Florida.

Ricky
Jan 29, 2009

I especially like the fact that Big Creek is in NC not TN

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