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7 Thru-Hikes on the West Coast

While many folks are familiar with the Pacific Crest Trail, the west coast of the United States is home to a number of other notable thru-hikes. Some of these trails traverse the coastline, while others explore the high Sierra and beyond. Check out our favorite of the trails the west coast has to offer!

Kenna Sarae     Explore New Trails       9/28/2020
Kenna Sarae
Explore New Trails
9/28/2020

1. Pacific Northwest Trail

1200 miles • Montana, Idaho & Washington

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.

Check out our PNT guide

2. John Muir Trail

210 miles • California High Sierra Range

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.

Check out our JMT guide

3. Tahoe Rim Trail

170 miles • Lake Tahoe, California & Nevada

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.

Check out our TRT guide

4. Lost Coast Trail

24 miles (38 km) • California

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.

Check out our LCT guide

5. Mt. Whitney Trail

10.4 miles • California High Sierra Range

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.

Check out our Mt. Whitney guide

6. Wonderland Trail

90 miles • Washington

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.

Check out our Wonderland guide

7. Pacific Crest Trail

2650 miles • California, Oregon & Washington

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is an epic journey of over 2650 miles (4260 km) 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 Pacific Crest Trail 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 the beautiful views.

Check out our PCT guide
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Mount Rainier is an imposing backdrop to a lush green meadow and stand of evergreens on the Wonderland Trail.

Wonderland Trail

95 miles | $14.99 Full Guide

The Wonderland Trail is a loop of over 95 miles around Mt. Rainier that offers substantial elevation change from ridges to valleys, with views of Mt. Rainier all the while.

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

Tahoe Rim Trail

170 miles | $14.99 Full Guide

The Tahoe Rim Trail is a circular journey of over 170 miles that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, traversing the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges of California and Nevada.

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Glenn's Lake sits in a beautiful green valley between majestic peaks in Glacier National Park on the Pacific Northwest Trail.

Pacific Northwest Trail

1200 miles | $24.99 Full Guide

The Pacific Northwest Trail is one of the youngest National Scenic Trails and travels from the Rocky Mountains in Montana to the coastal wilderness of Washington State.

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A sunrise glows behind a pale rocky ridge on the Mount Whitney Trail.

Mount Whitney Trail

10.4 miles | FREE Guide

At an elevation of 14,505 feet, Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the continental US. The trail is the most popular route to the summit.

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Lost Coast Trail

24 miles | $4.99 Full Guide

The Lost Coast Trail is a 24-mile point-to-point hike along the coastline of the King Range Conservation Area and is one of the only coastal wilderness experiences in the contiguous US.

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The John Muir Trail offers a commanding view of a rocky mountain peak with patchy snow surrounded by an evergreen forest.

John Muir Trail

Sierra Nevada, U.S. | 210 miles | $14.99 Full Guide

Named after the environmentalist, the John Muir Trail travels over 200 miles through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is one of the most popular trails in the country.

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A trail meanders through a green and mountainous landscape on the Pacific Crest Trail.

Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of three states and over 2600 miles. Its path travels from the US border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada.

Learn more
2650 mi (4260 km)       $29.99 full guide
Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp
Washington, Pacific Crest Trail
Photo by Justin Helmkamp

Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest Trail is an epic journey of three states and over 2600 miles. Its path travels from the US border with Mexico to the northern border with Canada.

2650 mi (4260 km)
$29.99 full guide
Learn more
Get our trail guide for this area!
About the Author

Kenna Sarae

Kenna-Sarae grew up in Northern California visiting her grandmother’s cabins along the PCT, which helped catalyze her love for the outdoors and interest in backpacking. She is particularly passionate about the intersection between sustainability and outdoor recreation, connecting with womxn and communities that have been historically underrepresented in outdoor spaces, and pesto pasta. You’re likely to find her having an impromptu dance party with her pup, whether it’s while backpacking, climbing, mountain biking, or just on the side of the road.