The 23 Best Hard Hikes in America

Whether it’s big elevation changes, big miles, or big moves, these 23 routes prove that the best hikes are often the hardest. There’s a world of adventure out there—if you’re strong enough to seize it.

Packing for a Hard Hike

If you're planning on tackling one of these tough trails, careful gear selection can give you a leg up. Look to shave weight where you can without neglecting features and protection.

Backpack: Once you've gotten your kit pared down, consider a frameless backpack or one with a light foam backpanel. The Editors' Choice-winning Mountainsmith Zerk 40 is a good place to start. 

Shoes: Your footwear depends heavily on what kind of terrain you expect to encounter and what load you're planning on carrying. If you don't need robust ankle support, look at a lightweight trail runner. We're longtime fans of the Altra Lone Peak series, or the Timp on hardpacked or rocky trails. 

Shell: Leaving the shell at home is a rookie mistake, even in summer. Instead, bring a lightweight outer layer that you'll barely feel in your pack. We recommend the Rab Phantom Pull-on, another Editors' Choice winner.