By Michael Lanza

Olympic, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Glacier, Zion, Grand Teton, Mount Rainier, Canyonlands, Sequoia, Great Smoky Mountains. To backpackers, these names read like a list of America’s greatest cathedrals in nature—and no surprise, because these parks harbor some of the most scenic wilderness trails in the country. Hike any of them and it will earn a spot on your personal top-10 list. Knock off every trip on this list and you will experience some of the finest landscapes not only in the nation, but on the planet.

Over the past three decades—including more than 10 years running this blog and for many years previously as a field editor for Backpacker magazine—I’ve had the good fortune of backpacking dozens of trips in our national parks—and multiple trips in the most-beloved parks. Thousands of miles later, this list represents my picks for the very best multi-day hikes you will find in America’s national parks.

Ready to be blown away? Read on and discover your next unforgettable trip.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

The descriptions below have links to feature-length stories about those trips, with numerous photos and often a video plus some details on planning them. Get a paid subscription to The Big Outside, for as little as $7, to read those stories in full. See my E-Guides page for my detailed e-guides to several of the trips described below, and my Custom Trip Planning page to learn how I can help you plan any trip you read about at my blog.

Remember that all of these parks have permit systems that often require applying for a reservation months in advance. Find the smartest strategies for navigating that application process in my “10 Tips For Getting a Hard-to-Get National Park Backcountry Permit.”

Want to start with a fairly easy trip? See “5 Perfect National Park Backpacking Trips for Beginners.”

Please share your thoughts on my list and offer your own suggestions in the comments section at the bottom of this story. I try to respond to all comments and answer any questions.

A young boy backpacking the wilderness coast of Olympic National Park.
” data-image-caption=”My son, Nate, backpacking the wilderness coast of Olympic National Park.
” data-medium-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Olym5-112-Hiking-to-Strawberry-Point-Olympic-coast-WA.jpg?fit=300%2C158&ssl=1″ data-large-file=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Olym5-112-Hiking-to-Strawberry-Point-Olympic-coast-WA.jpg?fit=900%2C475&ssl=1″ width=”900″ height=”475″ src=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Olym5-112-Hiking-to-Strawberry-Point-Olympic-coast-WA.jpg?resize=900%2C475&ssl=1″ alt=”A young boy backpacking the wilderness coast of Olympic National Park.” class=”wp-image-18635″ srcset=”https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Olym5-112-Hiking-to-Strawberry-Point-Olympic-coast-WA.jpg?resize=1024%2C540&ssl=1 1024w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Olym5-112-Hiking-to-Strawberry-Point-Olympic-coast-WA.jpg?resize=300%2C158&ssl=1 300w, https://i0.wp.com/thebigoutside
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