5 Amazing Overnight Backpacking Trails
Sometimes we need to go deeper into the woods-farther off the proverbial beaten path. The only way to accommodate this is to plan for an overnight backpacking adventure. We have highlighted some of the best overnight backpacking trails in America's national parks.
GUNSIGHT PASS TRAIL, GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA
Park at the Lake McDonald Lodge and catch the first shuttle to Logan Pass for another shuttle down toward St. Mary Lake. The trail runs between Saint Mary Lake and Lake McDonald and passes glacial lakes and through surreal, diverse terrain. Look for Gunsight Lake along the trail, with its turquoise color caused by "glacial flour" suspended in water. Backcountry campsites are located at Gunsight Lake, Lake Ellen Wilson, and near the Sperry Chalet.
CORRAL CREEK TRAIL TO MIRROR LAKE, ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK, COLORADO
The out-and-back trail begins and ends at the Corral Creek Trailhead just outside Rocky Mountain National Park, along a flat dirt road that turns into trail along Corral Creek. About 1.3 miles in, enter RMNP and then turn south into a gorge carved by the Cache LaPoudre River, which it parallels for the half mile to the Mummy Pass Trail Split, and then climbs steadily for .75 miles before offering a brief .5-mile break.
The main climb leads you up through a forested ridge for the 4.3 miles to the Mirror Lake Trail Split. If you're spending a couple of days or feel like trekking more once you set up camp, hike to Sky Pond about a quarter mile past Mirror Lake.
HOH RIVER TRAIL TO GLACIER MEADOWS, OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK, WASHINGTON
The Hoh River Trail will lead you through temperate rainforest, subalpine meadow, meadow basin, montane forest, across one river and a few other small streams. The trail is well-maintained and generally flat for the first 13 miles before the climb to Glacier Meadows.
Possible campgrounds along the way include gravel bars on the Hoh River or pre-existing sites, such as Tom Creek, Five Mile Island, Happy Four, Olympus Guard Station, Lewis Meadow, Elk Lake, and Glacier Meadows.
COSBY KNOB, GREAT SMOKY MOUNTAINS, TENNESSEE AND NORTH CAROLINA
Both the Appalachian Trail and Low Gap Trail II lead to Cosby Knob. Start from the Cosby Campground and climb Low Gap Trail for almost three miles. Either follow Cosby Creek for the a half mile or hike through the campground to the Low Cap Trail. The trail is marked difficult due to a steep, short climb of nearly 2,000 feet with switchbacks over several ravines.
At the ridge, take a right where Low Gap Trail joins the Appalachian Trail, and follow the Appalachian for 0.9 miles (another 500-foot ascent) to the Cosby Knob Shelter, which is just across the state line in North Carolina.
LYELL CANYON-VOGELSANG LOOP, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
The trail is part of the Pacific Crest Trail, so you're likely to see thru hikers on much longer hikes than this. After crossing the river, turn east (you'll run into the returning trail coming down from Vogelsang). Continue along the John Muir/Pacific Crest Trail toward Lyell Canyon and Donohue Pass through fields of wildflowers within the flat canyon. When you reach the junction at Ireland Creek, you'll leave the John Muir Trail and turn toward Vogelsang and Ireland Lake.
The trail becomes a lung buster as you climb through the forest to the top of the ridge between Lyell Canyon and Rafferty Creek, gaining an expansive view of the Cathedral Range.
From the trail drops to Tuolumne Pass, then descends into the valley of Rafferty Creek before one last drop to the Tuolumne River and, incidentally, the trail you started on.