|NATIONAL PARKS QUICKLINKS|
Backpacker Magazine – September 2009
Hike these paths before the masses find them.
North Coast Trail, BC
Consider the North Coast Trail–with its rain-soaked ferns and spruce, rock-bound beaches, and deserted sand spits–a crowdless version of its more famous cousin, Vancouver Island's popular West Coast Trail. The 27-mile extension to the Cape Scott Trail, opened last year, traces the coast from Nissen Bight to Shushartie Bay. You'll meander through inland hemlocks, teeter along rocky shorelines, and cross beaches accessible only at low tide. At Stranby and Nahwitti Rivers, you'll cross on pulley-operated cable cars built just for this trail. Time the last day's 7.5-mile hike for low tide, then thread through old-growth forest to the dock at Shushartie Bay.
Info gov.bc.ca/env; (250) 949-6888 and northcoasttrailwatertaxi.com for trail shuttles
Moosic Mountain, PA
The Nature Conservancy saved this Pennsylvania peak from development and, since 2008, completed 16 miles of new trails. Low-growing huckleberry and blueberry bushes allow huge views over the Lackawanna Valley. For an eight-mile loop, start on Bruised Ego Trail and follow the Conglomerate Loop as it weaves among lichen-covered boulders and ledges. Continue on the Stonehenge Trail to explore a corridor of tall, towerlike boulders. Then curve west on the Waterfall, High Voltage, and Gene's Trails, descending to a rock ledge overlooking a bog where rhodora blooms fuschia. Some of these trails are so new they were just named in May.
Lake Ouachita Vista Trail, AR
Construction began in 2007 for this 44-mile trail, which winds along the southern shores of Lake Ouachita, west of Hot Springs. With 18 miles now complete, you can hike through dogwood groves with views across 40,000 acres of gin-clear water. A two-day, 14.5-mile trek starts at trailhead P1B and ends at Joplin trailhead. Camp at Tompkins Bend (501-767-2108), and look for blue herons, coots, kingfishers, and wintering bald eagles en route.
Ring the Peak Trail, CO
This 80-mile route, when finished, will circumnavigate Pikes Peak and give Colorado an answer to Rainier's Wonderland Trail (a 15-mile gap remains). To sample the newest section, hike five miles between Fourmile Creek and Horsethief Gulch. The path spans Putney Gulch, a broad valley filled with meadows and beaver ponds that remained anonymously off-trail until 2006. Start at Raspberry trailhead and hike south, through the valley, and climb to views of Sentinel Point's distinctive rocks.
Trans-Catalina Trail, CA
Traverse a rugged island just off the Los Angeles coast.
Opened in May, this 37.2-mile path crosses mountainous Catalina Island, where a handful of boating towns dot the shoreline–and nature rules the rest. The route extends from 1,563-foot East Mountain to Starlight Beach, with four campgrounds along the way. Hike 15.6 miles from the Renton Mine Road trailhead to Blackjack Campground; the 1,600-foot perch offers expansive ocean views and likely bison sightings among the eucalyptus and pines. Next day, cruise 12.3 miles, mostly downhill, through Cottonwood Canyon and scrublands that shelter the Catalina quail, to Isthmus Cove. Here, the island measures just a half-mile wide–and hikers can resupply at Two Harbors. Day three, savor solitude along the rocky canyons and open ridgelines of the island's deserted west end; it's an easy three miles to the quiet oceanside camp at Parsons Landing. The last day, continue 4.6 miles to Starlight Beach. Note: Water spigots are provided at all campsites except for Parsons Landing (where you can reserve a 2.5-gallon supply).
Info catalinaconservancy.org; (800) 618-5533 (for ferry)
Great Eastern Trail
Two years ago, visionary hikers established an organization with an ambitious goal: complete the 1,800-mile Great Eastern Trail, a collection of paths (about two-thirds built, but many connecting trails still needed) that will run from Alabama to New York. The route, which lies west of the Appalachian Trail and is generally more remote, will ultimately connect some 10,000 miles of trail–the Appalachian, Florida, Potomac Heritage, and North Country Trails. (Info greateasterntrail.net) Got a new path of your own? The American Hiking Society funds trail-building projects with annual grants. Check americanhiking.org this fall for news on 2010 grants.