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Backpacking through the wilderness requires desire,  planning and preparation. If you’ve got all three, any reasonably healthy person can enjoy trekking through the backcountry for a few days, weeks or even longer!

I’ve been backpacking since I was a teenager, and my favorite stomping grounds are the Sierras. When I graduated from high school, I took a month and backpacked the entire length of the John Muir Trail — from Yosemite to Mt. Whitney — and continued on to Cottonwood Lakes. The solitude, the beauty, and the experience of striking out and knowing you can manage on your own is an unforgettable combination.

While the primary focus of SoCal Hiker is on the varied and beautiful local trails in Orange County (and bits beyond), I can’t help but share my love for backpacking. There are many excellent resources for backpacking. What I will share here are local backpacking trips that I’ve personally taken — like the Trans-Catalina Trail –and what I’ll call epic backpacking adventures. The John Muir Trail is one such epic adventure, and thirty years later, I’m heading back to hike it from end-to-end once more.

What Next?

How do you top a trip like the JMT? I’m not sure that’s possible, but for 2011 and beyond, I am eyeing the following epic backpacking adventures. I’ll do all of them at some point; it’s just a matter of when.

The Coast-to-Coast Walk spans the country of England. You start by dipping your toes in the Irish Sea on the west coast, and end by dipping them in the North Sea to the east. As an added bonus, you hike from inn to inn, get a hot meal for breakfast and dinner and sleep in a bed each night. Not too shabby!

Thumbing through Backpacker magazine I learned about the Via Alpina through the Alps. The complete trail system is only five years old and extends nearly 3,500 miles through 8 countries — a bit more than I care to tackle (at least at the moment). But there’s a beautiful 100 mile section through the Swiss Alps that sounds perfect. And like the Coast-to-Coast walk, this can also be hiked from village-to-village.

Finally, I will eventually hike to Machu Picchu in the Peruvian Andes. Maybe not in 2011 (my hiking partner is favoring Europe) but possibly in 2012. This trip can actually be easily done in one week.

Yes, I know there are plenty of other great, epic trips here in North America, and I’ll get to those, too. I’ve toyed with the idea of someday hiking the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, but at this point of my life, it’s out of the question. As it is, hiking the John Muir Trail will take a little over three weeks — the longest stretch of vacation time I’ve ever taken!

What about you? What’s on your life list? Any epic adventures I should consider adding to my list?

21 Responses

  1. I share most of the locations on your list. I keep thinking of Switzerland and Austria but have done very little research. I grew up in central PA so the Appalachian Trail is high on my list too. I am not at a point in my life where extended trips are viable. I think section hiking may be the closest I get for now. I think the Lost Coast is a big one too given the threat it faces today from the logging industry.

    Love this post and I am very excited to read your report from the JMT trek.

  2. I think that coast to coast walk just jumped to the top of my list. That sounds fantastic! A couple others are the Annapurna trail in Nepal and Milford track in New Zealand. Oh, and I really want to do Kilimanjaro at some point. These are all distant dreams for now. Who knows if I’ll ever get to them..

    1. I had never heard of the Annapurna trail before, but a quick search on Google turned up this great overview. Definitely an epic trip!

      And the Milford Track in New Zealand also sounds like a good one. My grandparents travelled around the world and New Zealand was one of her favorite places. I’ve always wanted to go, but didn’t know much about it.

      Kilimanjaro would be fun, too. I haven’t travelled to Africa at all, and I really ought to.

      I’ll add them all to the list!

  3. Machu Picchu is one of the most amazing places in the world , so it is considered one of the 7 Wonders . some say they lost city of the Incas , but you must visit this amazing Inca citadel to see its majesty

  4. Our Salkantay Trek 5 days is a customized alternate to the usual Inca Trail. Not on the usual gringo trail path, this is an innovating adventure for action travelers who want a little more solitude and credibility. With more impressive views, the Salkantay to Machu Picchu Trek gives you the privacy and peaceful reflection such a sacred path deserves.

  5. Hey,
    My husband and I are coming out to Southern California at the end of March, we are looking for a good 3 to 4 day backpacking trip. We have looked at the Trans- Catalina trial and we are wondering if there are any other options we should look at besides this trail. If you recommend this trial over others let me know.

  6. Lets see, since my scouting days I had a list to complete:

    Pacific Crest Trail, Appalaichian Trail, and Great Divide Trail (all three get you the Triple Crown), all the big peaks of Socal, McKinley (sp), Shasta, Lassen, Rainier, the various trails of the Anasazi, and then maybe the trails of South America, including the trails of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations.

    No idea if all of those have actual trails designated yet. Lol. May need to trailblaze. One step in front of the other…I’ll figure it out.

  7. I live in ireland and grew up here . There is some beautiful countryside but the weather is very unpredictable all year . There are only a few trails officially but hiking through the countryside isn’t usually a problem if you don’t leave gates open etc. However there can be issues with land owners telling you to get off their property. I am going to do the jmt in the next couple of years. I would love to hear if there is any cross Sierra trails to get a feel for it

  8. Very nice, step by step, blog.
    We are right now in Cusco and you / me found each other on Facebook, in the Nomadic Group. Thanks for sharing your experience with other people. It helps !

    It is funny, because we have almost the same Name ?
    My wife calls Lea and me Alexandros, so we call our one-year Honeymoon alealife

    Take care and keep blogging.

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