While hiking with friends is fun, sometimes solitude pulls us into nature for a day hike or even a hike on the trail for days alone. Sometimes something happens in life that pushes us to set out on a path alone. Whatever it is, some trails are worth doing solo, as long as you prepare thoroughly and pack the right gear.
It’s critical that you leave your itinerary and plans with a friend or relative. A solo hike is not the time to vanish without letting someone know where you’re going. Anything can happen when you hike alone. You could fall, get injured, or even be attacked by a wild animal. Nature is beautiful, but it has inherent dangers.
Don’t push yourself on your first solo hike. It’s not the time to test your limits, so start small and pack the essential gear and safety equipment. However, you don’t want to carry too much stuff or the wrong accessories. For instance, a sturdy duffle bag is a must-have for anyone, but it is awkward for hiking. On the contrary, not carrying enough supplies could result in death.
Shelter comes in many forms. It can simply be a tarp thrown over a rope to keep you dry or a high-quality tent. There are also a lot of natural shelters on the trail, but don’t rely on finding one adequate to keep you safe. Even if you’re only doing a day hike, prepare to stay at least overnight in case something happens. So, a tent or a hammock are excellent choices. Look at durability and weight when choosing your shelter.
Backpack or Pack
Thankfully, bags and camping gear are getting lighter every day, as newer technology allows the use of lighter material to construct them. Today, the ideal capacity of your pack is between 40-liters and 65-liters. This capacity depends on several factors, such as how compact your gear is and how much food you need. Durability and weight are critical elements to consider when choosing your hiking bag.
Other supplies you’ll want to consider include:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping pad
- Clothing suitable for a range of weather conditions
- Suitable hiking boots
- Water bottle or reservoir
- Water purification supplies
- Waterproof stuff sack to protect your sleeping bag
- Hygiene and first aid items
- Knife or multitool
- Self-defense products or reliable firearm and critical accessories, depending on state and local regulations of the hiking location
- Cookware and stove
- Electronics, such as a camera, phone, notetaker, flashlight, and e-book reader
- Camping pillow
The Best Solo Hiking Trails
Now that you know the necessities to bring with you on your hike, here are some of the best hiking trails for solo adventures. Some are single day trips while others take several days.
1. John Muir 211 Mile Trail
Construction began on the 211 Mile Trail in 1915 after nature conservationist John Muir passed away. The trail’s namesake was responsible for the conservation of most of the land the trail passes through, as well as other wild places all around the world. Muir also founded the Sierra Club. It was finished in 1938 and stretched from Yosemite Valley in California to America’s highest mountain peak, Mount Whitney.
It’s 211 miles of breathtaking scenery with beautiful lakes, streams, and wildlife. It’s not an easy trail and climbs over 11,000 feet. Granite pushed into the mountains millions of years ago, shaping them and making the path a challenge. Most people start at Happy Isles in Yosemite National Park, the Northern Terminus. The end of the trail is the toughest part, where it climbs nearly 5,000 feet over seven miles. The scenery and the trail will leave you breathless for sure.
2. Death Valley National Park
There aren’t many trails here, but this place is so isolated that you won’t need them. Death Valley is the hottest, lowest, and driest place in North America. For real seclusion, avoid hiking on the weekends. November through March is the best time frame to target for the best weather. Fall Canyon is an optimal area to trek, and there are plenty of places to explore around Titus Canyon.
Summer temperatures are sweltering and extremely dangerous in lower elevations. Most people can’t even tolerate the heat in the fall and spring. Hike lower areas during the winter. The higher places during summer are a beautiful escape from the extreme heat.
Since Death Valley is such a dry climate, you’ll need more water than for other hiking trails around the United States. You’ll need at least a gallon of water for overnight trips in the warmer season and at least two liters for a day hike. There aren’t many water sources. If you come across a spring, you’ll need to treat it or boil it before you drink.
So, if the heat is so extreme, why hike in Death Valley? Well, the scenery is gorgeous. Almost one million people visit this national park every year.
3. Lost Lake Oregon
Lost Lake has been a popular tourist destination for over a century. The 14-mile round trip starts in a magnificent spruce forest that gives way to verdant meadows. Snow can linger into July, and there may be no other hikers for miles if you decide to hike off-trail in the area. This trail is a short one-or two-night hike, so bring camping and other gear essentials.
Motorized boats are prohibited, so you can immerse yourself in the tranquil scenery. There’s fishing and old cabins and lodges. There is a nominal $8 entrance fee that goes to a non-profit agency in charge of upkeeping the land and old cabins and lodges.
The view of the northwest face of Mount Hood is fantastic. The vision reflected in the water of the mountain surrounded by red cedar boughs has appeared on many postcards, t-shirts, keychains, mugs, prints, and calendars. The best time to photograph this beautiful lake is late afternoon and evening or in the early morning when the light is soft and casts long shadows.
4. Winsor Trail Santa Fe, New Mexico
Winsor Trail has some of the finest hiking trails in the southwestern United States. The journey is challenging, but the hike is worth it. This trail is a 13-mile adventure through magnificent alpine meadows, lazy streams, and pine forests. The Windsor Trail is one of the most popular trails to hike in Santa Fe.
Your hike begins at Ski Santa Fe and, over time, the trail gets more rugged in a few places. You’ll explore streams and forests and end your journey at the Tesuque Village Market, where you can grab a quick meal. Then hop on a shuttle that will take you back to your car.
The trail is also well-liked by mountain bikers. Winter is beautiful here, and you’ll find some of the best snowshoeing in the state of New Mexico. Trek through snow-covered woodlands and past frozen creeks. It’s an excellent place for people who aren’t the best at down-hill skiing.
The Lake Katherine Trail consists of 13.1 miles located close to Tererro, New Mexico. Lake Katherine is an alpine lake nestled in a glacial valley. It’s surrounded by the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and lies just below Mount Baldy. It’s the deepest and largest lake located in the Pecos.
5. Southern Tip of the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail runs 2200 miles from Georgia to Maine. The beautiful southernmost part in Georgia is Springer Mountain. Hike along mossy creeks and churning waterfalls, with spectacular views. This end of the trail leads you around 78.6 miles of Georgia, but there are many shorter trails to enjoy for day hikes.
Wildlife such as black bears, wild hogs, deer, wild turkeys, and beautiful songbirds are prevalent along the trail. Laurel, hardy redwoods, tall pines, rhododendrons, and wildflowers flourish here. The path offers a dynamic mix of other tree and plant life. Its stunning beauty makes the Appalachian trail a popular hiking trip.
There are trails with parking on each end for convenience. Once you visit the Appalachian forest, you’ll experience the true beauty of these ancient mountain ranges and forests.
6. Teton Crest Trail-Grand Teton National Forest
Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming offers three ecological zones and a glacier. The Teton Trail winds through meadows filled with lupine, penstemon, western coneflower, and monkshood and is moderately difficult. Ambitious hikers can extend that trip for approximately 75 miles, using side trails.
Lofty granite peaks, crystal clear lakes, and canyons caused by glaciers make some of the terrain steep and rugged. The mountains are home to bighorn sheep, elk, deer, mountain lions, grizzly bears, wolves, and moose, so be cautious. Some of these animals can be extremely dangerous.
You’ll need a permit, and it’s a competitive process. The weather changes rapidly here, so be prepared. You’ll need to bring microspikes and an ice ax and know how to use them. The Teton Trail is one of the most scenic hikes in the United States. If you’re up for a long solo trek, this is the perfect place for your adventure.
7. Cabot Trail Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia
Cape Breton Island is on every nature lover's bucket list and shows the natural splendor of the highlands. Cabot Trail is around 186 miles and crosses over the northern tip of the island. However, there are over 26 hiking trails to choose from, so there’s plenty of choices for your adventure.
The Parks Canada has a hiking challenge. They challenge you to hike in one day ten short trails that lead you through several habitats such as Taiga, Acadian, and Boreal. The dramatic coastline provides stunning scenery, and you can travel to the Louisbourg Lighthouse through wetlands and forests, where soldiers once guarded the Fortress of Louisbourg.
The short Old Town Trail lies outside the fortress, where interpretive panels describe the people who once worked and lived there. History intermingles with magnificent beauty for truly amazing adventures.
8. Timberline Trail Oregon
This gorgeous trail loop is approximately 40 miles and gives you a first-hand experience of the majestic beauty of Mt. Hood. You’ll see a pristine landscape of alpine waterfalls, tall, craggy glaciers, rugged volcanic scenery, and meadows filled with pretty wildflowers.
The trail isn’t an easy hike, however. There are plenty of dips and climbs, but the view makes the intense hike worth it.
Timberline Trail is easy to access, and most of it is well-maintained and marked well. Be prepared to ford a river, and there are seasonal bugs and snow to deal with. There may also be little solitude since the trail is well-traveled. No permit is necessary for the summer season.
9. Wilcox Pass Hike Alberta, Canada
This hike provides easy access to towering mountain peaks and glaciers, as well as scenic alpine meadows. The trails aren’t well-marked, and there may not be much solitude since many people vacation in these areas to experience the beauty.
The trail starts at the Wilcox Pass Informational Kiosk and takes you past a small pond and wetland area. Bighorn sheep frequent the pass and can be seen on the south-facing slopes of Mt. Athabasca and Snow Dome.
A large rock cairn signifies the Wilcox Point lookout, where there is a 180-degree scenic view of the glaciers and mountains that create the eastern side of the Columbia Icefield. It’s a real adventure you don’t want to miss.
A solo hike is both peaceful and adventurous at the same time. Hiking alone gives you time to reflect while taking in splendid natural beauty. Along most of these trails, you’ll find fellow hikers if you need socialization, and then you can continue your journey in solitude. Just make sure to let someone know your itinerary and where you’re going. Pack all the necessities and plan to stay overnight even if it’s only a day hike. Your solo hike will be much better if you travel the road prepared.