Three Incredible Long Trails That Are Far Off the Beaten Path

Find solitude on thru-hikes with A-list scenery and B-list crowds.
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Find solitude on thru-hikes with A-list scenery and B-list crowds.
Lake Owyhee at Leslie Gulch, near the eastern end of the Oregon DesertTrail. Photo by  Greg Vaughn

Lake Owyhee at Leslie Gulch, near the eastern end of the Oregon Desert Trail. Photo by Greg Vaughn

Hayduke Trail

Utah and Arizona

Length 800 miles

Route Arches National Park to Zion National Park

Best for Experienced thru-hikers looking for a challenge

Payoff Snaking through the contorted canyonlands of the Colorado Plateau, the Hayduke connects a half dozen national parks on a tour of some of the Lower 48’s harshest yet most sublime terrain. “Even Triple Crowners guarantee that it will change your life,” says Mike Coronella, the route’s creator and cheerleader-in-chief.

Season Start in early spring or the beginning of fall.

Permit Required in all national parks; plan your trip around availability.

Ouachita National Recreation Trail

Arkansas and Oklahoma

Length 223 miles

Route Talimena State Park, Oklahoma, to Pinnacle Mountain State Park, Arkansas

Best for Hikers who can only afford a month off

Payoff With its creek-laced forests, well-spaced trail shelters, and regular maintenance, you’d expect the Ouachita (wa-she-ta) to have lots of foot traffic. But it’s quiet even in the fall, when the South’s largest national forest gets a Crayola makeover as orange sugar maples, purple ash, and red black gums transform whole hillsides.

Season Fall and spring

Permit None, but Forest Service rangers request you sign in at all registration boxes along the way.

Oregon Desert Trail

Oregon

Length 750 miles

Route Oregon Badlands Wilderness to Lake Owyhee State Park

Best for Geothermal junkies who are expert navigators

Payoff Traverse Oregon’s sage-strewn high desert, dip into rocky canyons, and cross 9,000-foot peaks on this recently established route. Along the way you’ll pass a dozen hot springs (though water sources in general are scarce). Bonus: good chance of pronghorn sightings.

Season Spring and fall

Permit None