Brand-New Trails | New Long Trails | Secret Hikes
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.
Infogov.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.
Brand-New Trails | New Long Trails | Secret Hikes
America's biggest hikes get bigger.
Continental Divide Trail, CO
Go high on the CDT's new Stony Pass section.
The CDT used to sink down into the drainage bottoms along this 12-mile section between Stony Pass and Cataract Lake, but a reroute puts the trail high on the Divide, entirely above timberline–thus delivering epic views of the San Juan Mountains' sea of Thirteeners stretching from Lake City to Silverton. From Stony Pass at 12,588 feet, hike north to savor views of Sheep Mountain's gemlike orange rock framed by thick fields of rainbow-hued wildflowers; the blooms in Maggie Gulch grow waist-deep in summer. Peer down from the trail into the sweeping alpine basins to watch elk herds (often 100 to 200 strong) munch meadow grasses. Above Cuba Gulch the CDT jogs east, following the Divide to a rocky perch overlooking Cataract Lake.
Info (719) 658-2556
National Scenic Success
In March, President Obama signed a bill establishing three new National Scenic Trails and 22 new National Recreation Trails. The federal recognition brings resources and funding that should help organizers complete trail-building efforts. Info nps.gov/nts
- Pacific Northwest This mountainous 1,200-mile path links the CDT with the Pacific Ocean. pnt.org
- Arizona Get a PDF with key water sources for this 817-mile trail from Mexico to Utah. aztrail.org
- New England East Coast history and scenic hiking blend together on this 200-mile path. newenglandnst.org
Florida Trail, FL
Hike this new 20-mile segment east of Pensacola, opened just last year, and you might spot a rare ivory-billed woodpecker: Auburn University researchers have reported 14 sightings of this near-mythical bird along the nearby Choctawhatchee River. Start at Seven Runs trailhead and hike west along the hills bordering Lafayette Creek, threading through juvenile longleaf pines and along the root-braided edges of swamps for 7.5 miles. Pitch your tent among the cypress and magnolia trees at Forgotten Creek campsite. Day two, roll from the tops of ravines down to hardwood-shaded bottoms for eight miles to the Steep Head Ravine campsite, on the edge of the pines overlooking open meadows frequented by coyotes. Next morning, continue 3.7 miles to the unsigned trailhead at US 331.
Mountains-to-Sea Trail, NC
One of the newest segments of the MST allows hikers eastbound access to Linville Gorge, the deepest chasm in the East. The 14-mile route features spectacular views of Mt. Mitchell to the west and Lake James on the east end. Leave a car at Kisler Memorial Highway, on the west rim of Linville Gorge, then drive to Woodlawn Park and hike east, climbing 1,998-foot Bald Mountain and descending to the North Fork Catawba River. Cross it via a new 200-foot-long pedestrian bridge. Continue east, sweating up through a spruce forest to 3,500-foot Bald Knob: Soak in wide-open views of Table Rock, Hawksbill, and Grandfather Mountains, then head north around Dobson Knob for 1.2 miles to pitch your tent. Day two, descend two miles to Linville Gorge.
Superior Hiking Trail, MN
This northern long trail extended its eastern reach by 39 miles in 2007. The addition skirts Duluth, following the ridgeline above downtown, and allowing a sweet two-day escape into the Emerald City's surrounding wilds. Hike east from Jay Cooke State Park on a 19.5-mile segment through dense pines and open ridgetops providing views over Lake Superior. (For the best vista, take a spur trail at 7.8 miles and detour 300 feet to the grassy, 1,250-foot summit of Ely's Peak.) Then ramble on through old-growth oaks, sugar maples, and yellow birch to Spirit Mountain Recreation Area at mile 12; a half-mile spur trail leads to the campground (800-642-6377, spiritmt.com). Next day, hike 7.5 miles, bobbing between rocky outcroppings and ducking through a pedestrian tunnel beneath I-35 to the Skyline Parkway trailhead.
Brand-New Trails | New Long Trails | Secret Hikes
Disappear on these unknown hikes.
Pine Ridge Trail, NE
Hike through America's most surprising forest.
Even Nebraskans assume corn and grasslands dominate the state, so the panhandle's Pine Ridge surprises everyone with its tall ponderosas. Sample it on a 12.5-mile stretch of the Pine Ridge Trail. From East Ash trailhead, climb to a high meadow before dropping down to the forested headwaters of Cunningham Creek. Camp just downstream, among a stand of bur oaks. Next day, hike east to the Roberts Loop Trail, a side trip overlooking amber-colored sandstone formations. Continue east past Turkey Track Spring, scale a pine-topped ridge, and finish at the Coffee Mill trailhead.
Info (308) 432-0300
Mt. Edgecumbe Trail, AK
The U.S. Forest Service spent more than one million dollars to build this seven-mile trail up 3,021-foot Mt. Edgecumbe, a dormant volcano off the Sitka coast. But since the trail's completion in 2003, it's seen precious few hikers–mostly because reaching the trailhead requires a half-day paddle or 30-minute boat shuttle to Kruzof Island. Land at Fred's Creek Cabin (reserveusa.com) and climb through a patchwork of forest and muskeg–prime bear and deer habitat. From the volcano's bare cinder cone, gaze out over the Pacific and the peaks of Baranof Island. Return to the cabin or camp at the three-sided wooden shelter just off the trail, midway down.
Infofs.fed.us/r10/tongass; puffinsandwhales.com (for boat shuttle)
Comanche Bluff Trail, TX
You wouldn't expect recreational opportunities from the U.S. Armed Forces, so most hikers miss the Comanche Bluffs Trail near Austin. This 4.8-mile (one-way) path meanders alongside Granger Lake on land managed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Fittingly, the trail's bridges put wooden planks to shame: 100-yard-long Hoxie Bridge, a quarter-mile from the trailhead, once spanned the San Gabriel River. Hike across prairie-covered hills and along the oak-lined lakeshore. The trail ends at the creekside Fox Bottom campsite, where pecan trees provide shade (and snacks, in November).
Info (512) 859-2668
Chadwell Gap Trail, VA
Closed for eight years due to private land issues, the 2.6-mile Chadwell Gap Trail reopened in April–and has barely been hiked. The path offers low-mileage access to the historic Hensley settlement atop Cumberland Mountain, and slices through a gorgeous corner of Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, which straddles the Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee borders. Start on a packed-dirt trail and walk through jack-in-the-pulpit flowers that grow waist-high in summer. The route gets rockier as you climb, gaining 2,000 feet over two miles before intersecting with the Ridge Trail. From there, follow the faint, unofficial path northeast for a few hundred feet to a rock ledge affording stop-awhile views over the Powell Valley. Retrace your steps and hike one mile west, to Chadwell Gap at 3,385 feet, then on to the century-old Hensley cabins, built from massive, 40-foot chestnut logs. Retrace your steps, or camp among the oaks at Chadwell Gap (free permit required).
Klickitat Trail, WA
Each year, almost half of the 31-mile Klickitat Trail is closed from June through September–the height of hiking season–due to the risk of wildfires in the low-elevation terrain. Result: The 12.5-mile hike through Swale Canyon has literally dropped off the radar screen. Go in April, May, or October to hike this rail-trail segment through the steep-walled gorge. Hiking west from mile 28.5, you'll cross a railroad trestle (left) and spy Mt. Adams's gleaming glaciers in the distance before the grassy canyon walls rise to more than 1,000 feet above your head. In spring, swaths of yellow desert parsley and purple lupine decorate the hills. The easy grade makes for fast going–fit hikers can do the 25-mile out-and-back in a day–or turn around midcanyon.
Escape New York
Who would think to look for a quiet campsite in the shadow of skyscrapers? Apparently no one, which makes the Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness–60 miles from Manhattan–a treasure. "You're guaranteed to find solitude hiking and camping in the wilderness," attests park ranger Joe Flynn. Hop a train from Jamaica Station to Patchogue and take the Watch Hill Ferry (May to October; 631-475-1665) to the visitor center. From there, hike east into the seven-mile-long wilderness, following the south shore's open beach. Look for carnivorous sundew plants, seals, and, in fall, migrating monarch butterflies. Camp on the beach (keeping close to the dunes) or inland among sparse pines that offer protection from sea breezes.