Backpacking the US National Parks: 8 Great Parks for Backcountry Hiking

Backpacking Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

We’re on a quest to visit all 59 US national parks. (42 down, 17 to go.) We do have our favorites, but even the ones that we visited primarily to check off of our list have been pleasant surprises. With all of this national park travel  under our belts, we’re sometimes asked by national park neophytes: just what do you DO at a national park?

The great thing about our national parks is that there’s so much TO do! Snorkeling, hiking, swimming, skiing, birding, photography, bicycling, canoeing, wildlife watching, boat tours, camping, rafting, kayaking, fishing, rock climbing, horseback riding, and more. One of Jeff’s favorite things to do in our national parks is backpacking. Most US national parks are quite rural, containing wilderness areas far from the nearest road, and backpacking offers access to magnificent vistas that simply cannot be seen from a car.

In addition to some spectacular state parks and national forests, I’ve backpacked in these US national parks:

Lassen Volcanic NP

Lassen Volcanic NP

It’s impossible to choose a favorite from the list. Channel Islands and Olympic offered unique settings: the first atop an island with panoramic ocean views, the second walking in the sand on the beach. Grand Canyon offered perhaps the greatest sense of accomplishment: traversing the canyon from the North Rim to the South Rim. Sequoia, Lassen, and North Cascades offered alpine lakes and minimal crowds. Kings Canyon and Mt. Rainier offered mountain views and diverse topography. Each park has its own charms, but every one offers wilderness, solitude, and spectacular scenery.

I’m still contemplating where to backpack in 2015. The Appalachian Trail has been calling my name ever since I read Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods, and part of that trail snakes through Great Smoky Mountains National Park

If you have any suggestions for national parks with great backpacking trips or questions about trips I’ve done, leave a note in the comments, and enjoy your week or your weekend on the trail!


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