13 Thru-hikes to Explore on the West Coast

The West Coast is the perfect place to explore and go on a thru-hike! Our 11 hiking guides offer an abundance of diverse and beautiful hikes.

A jeep road extends through a desert landscape towards distant mountains on the Wild West Route.

1. Arizona Trail

The Arizona National Scenic Trail is one of the top trails to explore on the West coast. The Arizona National Scenic Trail stretches 800 scenic miles (1280 km). The trail crosses the state of Arizona from Mexico to Utah. It passes through some of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes in the state. This includes multiple National Forests, Saguaro National Park, and Grand Canyon National Park. Our hiking guide is the official app of the Arizona Trail Association, stewards of the Arizona Trail. The guide includes the hiking route and the mountain biking route. As a result the guide is perfect for a day-hike, thru-hike, or a mountain biking trip.

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A hiker on the Colorado Trail.

2. The Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is a challenging and rewarding hike of 485 miles (780 km). The trail stretches from Denver to Durango, passing through six National Forests and six wilderness areas on its way. Thru-hikers will traverse eight mountain ranges, including the Colorado Rocky Mountains.  The trail climbs to over 13000 feet (3900 meters). The trail is also perfect for day-hikers and mountain bikers. Our data for The Colorado Trail guide was collected in partnership with Bear Creek Survey Service, LLC. For more information about their work, visit their website at bearcreeksurvey.com!

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A view from the trail along the Continental Divide Trail. The CDT is one of the famous trails to explore on the west coast.

3. Continental Divide Trail

Considered by many to be the most remote and challenging of the Triple Crown trails, the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail is a 3000+ mile adventure from Mexico to Canada, traveling through five western states. It passes through many ecosystems, 25 National Forests, 21 Wilderness Areas, 3 National Parks, and 1 National Monument. The CDT offers an incredible experience to all who visit, including thru-hikers, section-hikers, and day-hikers. Our data for the Continental Divide Trail guide was collected in partnership with Bear Creek Survey Service, LLC and is updated by the Continental Divide Trail Collation. For more information about Bear Creek’s work, visit their website at bearcreeksurvey.com!

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4. John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail runs for over 210 miles through the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range of California. It starts in Yosemite Valley and travels to the summit of Mt. Whitney. The JMT is one of the most popular hiking trails in the United States and is an incredible adventure for thru-hikers, section-hikers, and day-hikers. It passes through beautiful and scenic protected areas including Yosemite National Park, Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, and two national forests.

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Lost Coast Trail

5. Lost Coast Trail

The Lost Coast Trail is one of the only coastal wilderness experiences in the contiguous United States. Earning its name after California’s HWY 1 had to be routed around this rugged section of the coastline, the 24-mile trail follows the beach of the King Range Conservation Area and is one of the most unique backpacking experiences in the world. Daily encounters include whales, elephant seals, coyotes, and bears; while the trail shows off tide pools, wildflower-covered mountains, and stunning waterfalls from the adjacent cliffsides into the ocean.

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6. Mount Whitney Trail

At an elevation of 14505 feet (4421 m), Mt. Whitney is the highest peak in the continental United States. The Mount Whitney Trail, starting at the Whitney Portal, is the most popular route to the summit. The trail one way is 10.4 miles (16.7 km) with an elevation gain over 6000 feet (1820 m). It lies on the boundary of Sequoia National Park and Inyo National Forest. Hikers come from all over the world to experience this permitted summit hike and its commanding panoramic views of the surrounding area. The Mt. Whitney trail is likely the most traveled of all the hikes you can explore on the west coast. Thru-hikers and day-hikers should be aware of the effects that a hike can have on those not accustomed to the high altitude.

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Pacific Crest Trail Winter

7. Pacific Crest Trail

The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail is an epic journey of over 2650 miles (4260 km) in length. The PCT is one of the most popular thru-hiking trails in the United States. Its path travels from the US-Mexico border to the northern US-Canada border. The trail passes through California, Oregon, and Washington. The trail offers desert sun and heat, challenging and snowy high-elevation passes, and all of the amazing views and experiences in between. As one of the Triple Crown trails, the PCT is an amazing hiking adventure for long-distance hikers and thru-hikers, yet it is also perfect for day-hikers and section-hikers looking to enjoy a world class wilderness experience.

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8. Pacific Northwest Trail

The Pacific Northwest National Scenic Trail is one of the youngest National Scenic Trails. The PNT traverses some of the most beautiful lands in the country. This includes three National Parks and seven National Forests. This spectacular journey of over 1200 miles (1930 km) takes you from the Rocky Mountains of Glacier National Park, Montana, to the coastal wilderness of Washington State. The PNT ranks among the most scenic and rugged long-distance trails in the world, and is an incredible hiking adventure for thru-hikers, backpackers, section-hikers, and day-hikers.

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9. Tahoe Rim Trail

The Tahoe Rim Trail is a circular journey of over 170 miles (270 km) that circumnavigates Lake Tahoe, crossing into both California and Nevada. The TRT traverses the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges of California and Nevada, and shares about 50 miles of its western section with the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail. On the Tahoe Rim Trail, there is no defined beginning or end. Thru-hikers and backpackers can begin anywhere on the loop. Along its path, the trail offers many stunning views of Lake Tahoe, which makes it perfect for day-hiking. Hikers and visitors wishing to give back to the Tahoe Rim Trail can adopt a mile or vista through the Tahoe Rim Trail Association.

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10. Trans Catalina Trail

The Trans Catalina Trail is a 39 mile hike, traversing Santa Catalina Island off the coast of southern California. The trail starts at the eastern terminus in Avalon to Parson’s Landing on the West end. It then loops back to Two Harbors. The trail explores flora and fauna unique to Catalina Island while offering exceptional coastal views. The Trans Catalina Trail is a less known trail to explore on the west coast.

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11. Wonderland Trail

The Wonderland Trail is an adventure of about 90 miles (145 km), encircling Washington State’s Mt. Rainier. The loop is a challenging hike with lots of elevation change, taking travelers from high alpine peaks, to glaciers and glacial valleys, to sub-alpine meadows, to temperate rainforests, to cascading rivers, affording spectacular views of Mt. Rainier all the while. Situated in Mount Rainier National Park, the trail was built in the early 1910s and was designated a National Recreation Trail in the 1980s. As the trail circumnavigates the mountain, hikers will be treated to astonishing views of the different sides of Mt. Rainier, colorful wildflowers, and much more. The trail is ideal for thru-hikers, backpackers, and section-hikers..

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12. Timberline Trail

The Timberline Trail is a 41-mile trail around Mount Hood in northern Oregon, and one of the most spectacular hiking trails in the world. The trail dips in and climbs out of canyons carved by the rivers that form from the many glaciers on the mountain. Most of the trail is in the Mount Hood Wilderness Area and the only developed areas are the two ski areas that the trail crosses, Timberline and Mt Hood Meadows. This highly-detailed and comprehensive guide has been created in collaboration with Sonia Buist, the author of Around & About Mount Hood, 4th ed. The guide is broken into 8 sections and is friendly to all hikers, whether day-hikers or thru-hikers.

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A dog standing on a mountain near the four pass loop trail

13. Four Pass Loop Trail

Four Pass Loop is a popular and beautiful backpacking trip located in the Maroon Bells/Snowmass Wilderness area of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. Its name comes from the fact that it goes over four mountain passes: West Maroon at 12,500 ft., Frigid Air at 12,415 ft., Trail Rider at 12,420 ft., and Buckskin at 12,500 ft. The variety of terrain encompasses scenic forests, mid to late summer wildflowers, challenging river crossings, and provides spectacular views of the Maroon Bells and numerous other peaks of the Elk Mountain Range. The loop is 23.4 miles, though the total trip length varies based upon your entry point. The most popular entry from Maroon Lake results in an approximately 27 mile trip.

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