Tranquil forests, litter-free coastlines and desolate trails that have seen fewer hiking boots than a ballroom dance floor – this is outdoor adventure at its finest.
If you’ve already tackled the big-name treks that lure swarms of eager travelers every year, consider searching for a lesser-known trail that hasn’t been stomped smooth yet. Less crowded hikes may not offer the same stunning scenery as more developed routes, but travelers can instead bask in glorious solitude as they explore remote wilderness.
Finding these gems isn’t always easy; it takes time and dedication to root out hidden hikes. But all that research will be worth it once you’re chugging along an incredible trail that isn’t packed with people. So channel your inner Magellan and follow these tips for discovering trails less traveled.
Scrutinze your mapbooks
Scour map books and backcountry trail guides for potential routes you won’t find in visitor brochures. Look for any interesting features that might make for an interesting trek, such as mountain lakes or potential viewpoints.
Any trails located near an open campground should be crossed off the list. Even if the hike isn’t well-known, campers will likely be frequenting the trail simply because it’s close by. Use Google Earth to zoom in on your potential path. Are there any cabins or lodges nearby? Could active logging or other industrial activity be taking place in the area? No sense avoiding crowds only to listen to the rumble of tractor-trailers.
Reach out online
Most hikers won’t hesitate to share stories about their most thrilling treks. This enthusiasm for the outdoors makes online trekking forums a valuable resource for gleaning details about trails that have remained off the mainstream tourist’s radar.
Post a question on where to find little-known treks and see where it gets you. Many online communities, such as Club Tread, allow users to access message boards focused on specific regions. Popular outdoor publications often feature useful online forums: try Backpacker Magazine, for example, if you’re looking for advice on a trek overseas. Of course, Twitter is a great way to hook those unexpected tips.
Make friends with locals
Store clerks, gas jockeys and even those old guys who never seem to leave the coffee shop: any one of them could potentially tip you off to a deliciously remote hike. Start chatting up locals as soon as you arrive in the town closest to the backcountry area you’d like to explore.
If you can’t drive to the area before planning the trek, just pick up the phone and call local businesses such as guide outfitters, fishing supply stores and other outdoor retailers. And don’t neglect the local visitor information center. Although the people staffing these places are often college students who may not have deep roots in the community, you never know what kind of information they could provide.
Do it differently
Still unable to find that one-of-a-kind trek that’s dropped off the typical tourist’s map? It might be worth hiking one of those big-name hikes after all. But do it differently.
Begin your hike extra early or extra late, avoid long weekends and other tourist-heavy times and consider hitting the trail during less-than-ideal weather. That’s right: hike in the rain. It’s understandable if you’d like to avoid a torrential downpour, but a light sprinkling of rain can be refreshing while keeping more temperamental hikers at bay. Enduring a little moisture will be worth having a world-class trail all to yourself.
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