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11 Thru-hikes to Explore on the West Coast

The West Coast is the perfect place to explore and go on a thru-hike! Our 11 hiking guides offer an abundance of diverse and beautiful hikes.

Stephanie Stuehler      Trails      05/06/2021

Stephanie Stuehler

Trails

05/06/2021
A jeep road extends through a desert landscape towards distant mountains on the Wild West Route.

1. Arizona Trail

The Arizona National Scenic Trail stretches 800 scenic miles (1280 km) across the state of Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It passes through some of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes in the state, including multiple National Forests, Saguaro National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park. Our hiking guide is the official app of the Arizona Trail Association, stewards of the Arizona Trail. The guide includes the hiking route and the mountain biking route which are perfect for a day-hike, thru-hike, or a mountain biking trip.

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A hiker on the Colorado Trail.

2. The Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is a challenging and rewarding hike of 485 miles (780 km) that stretches from Denver to Durango, passing through six National Forests and six wilderness areas on its way. Thru-hikers will traverse eight mountain ranges, including the Colorado Rocky Mountains, and climb to over 13000 feet (3900 meters) during their journey. The trail is also perfect for day-hikers and mountain bikers. Our data for The Colorado Trail guide was collected in partnership with Bear Creek Survey Service, LLC. For more information about their work, visit their website at bearcreeksurvey.com!

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3. Continental Divide Trail

Considered by many to be the most remote and challenging of the Triple Crown trails, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is a 3000+ mile adventure from Mexico to Canada, traveling through five western states. It passes through many ecosystems, 25 National Forests, 21 Wilderness Areas, 3 National Parks, and 1 National Monument. The CDT offers an incredible experience to all who visit, including thru-hikers, section-hikers, and day-hikers. Our data for the Continental Divide Trail guide was collected in partnership with Bear Creek Survey Service, LLC and is updated by the Continental Divide Trail Collation. For more information about Bear Creek’s work, visit their website at bearcreeksurvey.com!

Explore the Continental Divide Trail
A rocky view overlooks a blue lake and meadows.

4. John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail runs for over 210 miles through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range of California. It starts in Yosemite Valley and travels to the summit of Mt. Whitney. The JMT is one of the most popular hiking trails in the country and is an incredible adventure for thru-hikers, section-hikers, and day-hikers. It passes through beautiful and scenic protected areas including Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and two national forests.

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Lost Coast Trail

5. Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail is one of the only coastal wilderness experiences in the contiguous United States. Earning its name after California’s HWY 1 had to be routed around this rugged section of the coastline, the 24-mile trail follows the beach of the King Range Conservation Area and is one of the most unique backpacking experiences in the world. Daily encounters include whales, elephant seals, coyotes, and bears; while the trail shows off tide pools, wildflower-covered mountains, and stunning waterfalls from the adjacent cliffsides into the ocean.

Explore the Lost Coast Trail

6. Mount Whitney Trail

At an elevation of 14505 feet (4421 m), Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the continental United States. The Mount Whitney Trail, starting at the Whitney Portal, is the most popular route to the summit, and travels for 10.4 miles (16.7 km) with an elevation gain over 6000 feet (1820 m). It lies on the boundary of Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. Hikers come from all over the world to experience this permitted summit hike and its commanding panoramic views of the surrounding area. Thru-hikers and day-hikers should be aware of the effects that a hike can have on those not accustomed to the high altitude.

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7. Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is an epic journey of over 2650 miles (4260 km) in length and is one of the most popular thru-hiking trails in the United States. Its path travels from the US-Mexico border to the northern US-Canada border, passing through California, Oregon, and Washington. The trail offers desert sun and heat, challenging and snowy high-elevation passes, and all of the amazing views and experiences in between. As one of the Triple Crown trails, the PCT is an amazing hiking adventure for long-distance hikers and thru-hikers, yet it is also perfect for day-hikers and section-hikers looking to enjoy a world class wilderness experience.

Explore the Pacific Crest Trail
A blue lake sits in front of tall snowy mountains.

8. Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail is one of the youngest National Scenic Trails and traverses some of the most beautiful lands in the country, including three National Parks and seven National Forests. This spectacular journey of over 1200 miles (1930 km) takes you from the Rocky Mountains of Glacier National Park, Montana, to the coastal wilderness of Washington State. The PNT ranks among the most scenic and rugged long-distance trails in the world, and is an incredible hiking adventure for thru-hikers, backpackers, section-hikers, and day-hikers.

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A view from a rocky outcropping on the Tahoe Rim Trail looks over Lake Tahoe through tall evergreens.

9. Tahoe Rim Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail is a circular journey of over 170 miles (270 km) that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, crossing into both California and Nevada. The TRT traverses the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges of California and Nevada, and shares about 50 miles of its western section with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. On the Tahoe Rim Trail, there is no defined beginning or end. Thru-hikers and backpackers can begin anywhere on the loop. Along its path, the trail offers many stunning views of Lake Tahoe, which makes it perfect for day-hiking. Hikers and visitors wishing to give back to the Tahoe Rim Trail can adopt a mile or vista through the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

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10. Trans Catalina Trail

The Trans Catalina Trail is a 39 mile hike, traversing Santa Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. From the eastern terminus in Avalon to Parson’s Landing on the West end, then looping back to Two Harbors, the trail explores flora and fauna unique to Catalina Island while offering exceptional coastal views.

Explore the Trans Catalina Trail
Mount Rainier is an imposing backdrop to a lush green meadow and stand of evergreens on the Wonderland Trail.

11. Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland Trail is an adventure of about 90 miles (145 km), encircling Washington State’s Mt. Rainier. The loop is a challenging hike with lots of elevation change, taking travelers from high alpine peaks, to glaciers and glacial valleys, to sub-alpine meadows, to temperate rainforests, to cascading rivers, affording spectacular views of Mt. Rainier all the while. Situated in Mount Rainier National Park, the trail was built in the early 1910s and was designated a National Recreation Trail in the 1980s. As the trail circumnavigates the mountain, hikers will be treated to astonishing views of the different sides of Mt. Rainier, colorful wildflowers, and much more. The trail is ideal for thru-hikers, backpackers, and section-hikers..

Explore the Wonderland Trail

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Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association
A lake reflects a nearby wildflower meadow and trees.
Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Download our popular hiking and biking guides!
About the Author

Stephanie Stuehler

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland Stephanie longed to one day see the Rockies. Upon receiving her Bachelors in Fine Arts with a track in graphic design she and her Frenchie, Nugget, decided to drive 1,677 miles, sight unseen to colorful, Colorado. She was left speechless (and winded) from her first hike in Idaho Springs. Steph has a huge passion for design and all things style. In her free time she enjoys working out or hiking in Boulder! Colorado is Stephanie’s happy place.