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Best one week hike in lower 48
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James McIntosh

Locale: Near Bass Strait
Best one week hike in lower 48 on 01/14/2012 19:58:21 MST Print View

I'm planning to head across from Australia to New York for a conference in late August, and a looking for somewhere to do a hike of about one week on the way. Looking for recommendations of where to go, remembering that I may never get to the USA again so I'm after something special.

The one previous hike I've done in the US was 4 days from Yosemite Valley to Lake Tenaya and Mt Hoffman in early spring. I found this a very straight forward walk in great country, (though it would have been an even better ski tour).

Preference for mountains and lakes. Preference for somewhere I can get to without having to hire a car. Getting off the 'plane at Denver and heading up to the Rockys seems like a possibility but even there I don't know about transport. I usually prefer to walk where I'll see nobody, but will compromise to get somewhere special. I have about 35 years hiking and ski touring experience, can navigate and look after my self in bad weather - not used to dealing with bears though.

Having been to Yosemite (which I loved) my preference is for somewhere else in the lower 48.

Recommendations / debates invited.



Edited by JamesMc on 01/14/2012 19:59:44 MST.

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: Best one week hike in lower 48 on 01/14/2012 20:29:43 MST Print View

Wind River Range is a terric wilderness full of lakes, mountains, rivers.

Hardly anyone ever goes there, either!!! ;) Depending on the trail and time of the year, might see only a few hundred people in a week. That might be an exaggeration, since I've only gone there after Labor Day -- once the trails have cleared.

Haven't ever used a shuttle to get to, from, or around the Winds, but researched it a few years ago and found a shuttle service that can pick you up at the airport in Jackson Hole, drop you off at a trail head in the Winds, pick you up whenever and where ever you want upon coming out of the wilderness, and drive you back to the airport in Jackson Hole.

Denver or Salt Lake City are probably the closest major airports providing access to the Jackson Hole airport.

Here's a link to the outfit that provides that shuttle service, an outdoor store in Pinedale, WY, about an hour and a half from Jackson Hole.

Drive time from Jackson to Pinedale is about an hour and a half (about two hours once distance from Jackson airport to town of Jackson is added).

Drive time from Pinedale to a trailhead depends on which trailhead. Closest is likely Elkhart (half an hour or so at most); furthest might be Big Sandy (an hour and a half at least). These trailhead drive times from Pinedale are in addition to the drive time to/from Pinedale and Jackson airport.

For us, cost of the shuttle added up to an amount that made renting a car at Jackson Hole airport more cost effective. But if money were no object . . .

Edited by JRScruggs on 01/14/2012 20:35:43 MST.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Place to go on 01/14/2012 20:39:34 MST Print View

Well since you've done the Sierra's maybe you want to try the Rockies? Denver has a big airport but is a ways from their too good hiking so you'd still need transportation. There are buses out of Denver to some areas but mostly they will go to the popular ski towns not real wilderness area.
If you do stop in Denver see if you can get to one of the REI stores. Good place to look at gear and more importantly buy a map.

1. Durango, Colorado. Get a shuttle from the airport to town (about 20 miles). Take the Silverton Durango Railroad up to Elk Park than hike into the Wimenuche Wilderness. You will see some people but its a very nice area. In the summer you can expect thundertorms most afternoons high up.

2. Jackson Hole Wyoming. There is an airport there which puts you close to Yellowstome Park, the Grand Tetons and several large wilderness areas. I don't know about transportation here but I'm sure you could figure something out. From here you have several options
A. Tetons - probably see more people but close to the airport.
B. Yellowstone - Not really mountainous but lots of animals (and people).
C. Wilderness Areas - A bit harder to get too perhaps but less people than a park. If you pick your area right and go remote you probably won't see many at all.

3. Seattle, Washington. This puts you close to the Olympic Mtns. Haven't done this one but there might be options.

4. Glacier Park, Mtn. I don't know where the nearest airport is but this is a good area.

There are more but those are a few highlights. I don't know if you use them or not but websites like and orbitz have deals on car rentals too.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
People? on 01/14/2012 20:42:34 MST Print View

You were joking right when you said "a few hundred people a week?" Certainly on a popular trail in some areas but I know lots of places I'd only expect to see two or three per day.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Place to go on 01/14/2012 20:44:20 MST Print View

"4. Glacier Park, Mtn. I don't know where the nearest airport is but this is a good area."

Kalispell, Montana, is the airport, at least where the turboprops land. I like Glacier. The only problem is that the snow season lasts through too much of the summer, at least as judged by 2011. I had all sorts of plans to go from Logan Pass, and it just couldn't happen because of the snow.


Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Bears on 01/14/2012 20:46:36 MST Print View

"not used to dealing with bears though"

You might look up bear bagging techniques but don't worry much. If you're in grizzly country just stop in at a sporting goods store and buy a 13 oz can of bear spray keep it handy and forget about it. Me, my brother, and my dad have all camped for years without any problems.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Re Re Places to go on 01/14/2012 20:49:05 MST Print View

James said late August. Bob don't you think thats late enough? Some snow adds to the beuaty as long as you can hike. What I don't like about hiking in Colorado in August and September is that almost all of the snow is gone.

Dave Marcus
(Djrez4) - F

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Re Re Places to go on 01/14/2012 21:31:36 MST Print View

It's difficult to worry about a lack of snow in August when we don't have any in January.

Linking Indian Peaks and James Peak wilderness areas would be a gorgeous hike. I know someone who did it in 24 hours, but the 60 miles is more than ample enough for a week.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Best one week hike in lower 48 on 01/14/2012 21:35:50 MST Print View

If not having to pay for a car or shuttle is a serious consideration, the Maroon Bells Wilderness should be high on your list. That is why I chose there last year. Read my trip report. You will have crowds the first several miles but will thin out once past the Bells, but you'll still see people in most spots unless you go off trail.

The Winds are really nice but would definitely need transportation. I personally enjoyed the scenery there more. I have videos of both areas (see my post).

Chris Wheeler
(ChrisW) - MLife

Locale: Stratford, Ontario
Best one week hike in lower 48 on 01/14/2012 21:44:19 MST Print View

Not quite in the lower 48, but how about coming to Canada. In the Canadian Rockies
from Banff to Lake Louise is a high mountain trail called the Sawback. Seventy five KM
of mountain passes, high valleys, glaciers, lakes, and very few people.

The best kept secret about the Sawback is it's easy to get to. Fly into Calgary, take a bus from the airport to Banff, spend a night in Banff and the next day take a short taxi ride to the trailhead. It takes 5-7 days to walk the trail that comes out very close to the bus station in Lake Louise. Spend the night in Lake Louise or take the bus back to Banff. Then take the bus back to the airport in Calgary.

In late August expect moderate temps, no snow, and some rain.

See this link for more details:

Richard Scruggs
(JRScruggs) - MLife

Locale: Oregon
Re: People? on 01/14/2012 21:53:06 MST Print View

Luke, re: "You were joking right when you said 'a few hundred people a week?' Certainly on a popular trail in some areas but I know lots of places I'd only expect to see two or three per day."

Yes, I was joking -- although I've read accounts of some areas in the Winds (Island Lake in particular) that do get very crowded in August, after snow melts away and before schools start back up.

We've been to the Wind River Range well after Labor Day to minimize any crowds. The most people we've encountered in any one trip has been two or three parties, with a total of maybe a half dozen or so people. This was within a 5 or 6 day period.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Go canyon instead of mountains on 01/15/2012 01:03:51 MST Print View

For me Colorados mountains are a little boring compared to the Sierras, Tetons, Glacier or Canadian Rockies. So since you have scene the Sierras I am not sure how outstanding Colorado would be. My suggestion would be to skip the mountains all together and go to the cayons in Zion national park. I havent backpacked there but have done day hikes and cayoneering trips. It is a competely different place then anywhere else in the world. I am sure there are a few peopke around here with good backpacking trips in that area. Just google som pictures of the area to see how different and amazing it is.

As f or the Canadian Rockies Banff the best weeklong hike is starting at twin lakes, hiking through Egypt lake, and out through mount Assinaboine. I would put this hike against any in the world. There are companies who run shuttles from banff for these hike and you can shuttle from the Calgary airport to banff.

Richard Lyon
(richardglyon) - MLife

Locale: Bridger Mountains
Absaroka - Beartooth Wilderness on 01/15/2012 08:15:26 MST Print View

The Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness is best known for its Lake Plateau, which offers endless possibilities for a weeklong backpack. Some of the access trails are are busy, including the occasional stock party, but once on the plateau it's easy to find solitude. The Absaroka side of the Wilderness area is even less traveled, though its water sources tend to be streams rather than lakes. Check out Bill Schneider's Hiking the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness ( or Best Backpacking Vacations in the Northern Rockies ( from Falcon Press. Three Passes in the Absaroka, off the Boulder River Road, is about as good as it gets.

You would need a car or a shuttle to/from the trailhead. Best airports are Billings or Bozeman, Montana. Late August is the perfect time of year for the A-B - best weather and hunting season hasn't started.

Though more popular (but still not really heavily trafficked) the Teton Crest, in Grand Teton National Park, might be my choice for a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Rockies. This is described in the Best Backpacking Vacations book listed above. As another poster has noted Jackson, Wyoming is the closest airport, and in the summer there are many flights in and out of there. Jackson also has enough guides, outfitters, people looking to make a few dollars, etc so that you could arrange for transportation to/from the hiking venue. Note that campsites must be reserved in the Park, which sometimes can be done online:

Keep us posted on your planning!


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: one week in the US on 01/15/2012 08:58:26 MST Print View

As I imagine you've already realized James, the not needing a car bit will be tough. Public transit in the US is generally non-existent.

You can do Glacier NP without one though. Commercial flights go into Kalispell regularly, and during August a shuttle runs from the airport to West Glacier. From there (actually 2 miles in at Apgar) you can ride the park shuttle and start your hike. The problem is that August in Glacier is rather popular. You will need to apply in advance for permits. If you're interested in pursuing this option I'd love to provide more guidance on a route that would get you away from the masses.

Last year was a record snowpack, and the latest GTTSR has opened since it was built. Was BC skiing about 5 miles as the crow flies from Logan yesterday and we've got less than half the snow we did this time last year. That doesn't necessarily mean anything, but points towards the road having a more typical opening day sometime in June.

Of course, just cause the road is closed doesn't mean you can't access the backcountry, though I'm more than happy to let Bob perpetuate that myth.

The Abs-Beartooth is pretty amazing in August, and would provide some solitude pretty easily. Hiring a car in Billings and driving up to a TH near Cooke City might be worth the bother. No permits either.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
one week hikes in U.S. on 01/15/2012 09:36:10 MST Print View

White Cloud Range of Idaho, very secluded

Sawtooth Range of Idaho, where you can have a lake to yourself on 4th of July.

Titcombe Basin in the White Clouds, Teton Range, Wyoming

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: re: one week in the US on 01/15/2012 09:58:57 MST Print View

"Of course, just cause the road is closed doesn't mean you can't access the backcountry, though I'm more than happy to let Bob perpetuate that myth."

I've been to Glacier three times. On two of the three times, I could not get far enough into the park to get to my trailhead. On the third time, the road was open, but the snow closed the trails, as least as far as NPS was concerned. That may be a small sample, but it is big for me.


Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Glacier on 01/15/2012 10:17:57 MST Print View

Out of curiosity, Bob, what were the dates, and the particular years, of those 3 trips? Which trailheads were you trying for?

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Glacier on 01/15/2012 10:29:57 MST Print View

Dates? I don't remember the exact dates. I'm typically trying to get there in early season when the wildflowers are at peak. Typically I have been trying to get from Logan Pass to Granite Park and beyond. The Many Glacier side was my target once.

I find it difficult to extract good trail condition information from NPS. Either they have no trail reports that they will make public, or the trail reports that they have are old, or if they do have current reports, the reports are totally different from anybody else's, mostly too conservative.


Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Best one week hike in lower 48 on 01/15/2012 10:42:20 MST Print View

The Wonderland Trail, circumnavigating Mt. Rainier, is considered one of the best hikes in the U.S. and it's close to a major airport.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
re: NPS trail reports on 01/15/2012 10:46:04 MST Print View

The trail status page on the Glacier NP backcountry site is updated somewhat often in May-June, as the BC rangers are getting back on the job, installing bridges, opening campgrounds, etc. Some trails are closed due to bears (Ptarmigan Tunnel, often) or to keep tourists from killing themselves on snowfields (Grinnell Glacier), but those are strictly occasional. I've gotten permits for the some rather excentric non-summer trips with minimal questioning from the BC office. The BC rangers have liability concerns of their own, and not all of them are climbers or have avalanche training. Thus they're not always going to get back into the high country (or be authorized to do so) as soon as many might like.

As far as TH access, you might have to bike, walk, crampon, or snowshoe a bit, but thems the dice to get in before the hungry hordes. If you ask about doing what you want and don't sound dangerously incompetent in the process the park will be very helpful.