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When Can We Start Backpacking/Talking About Backpacking Again?

Is it okay to go backpacking again? Especially if I have to fly to a far away trailhead?

REI Member Since 1979
19 Replies

@Philreedshikes Go West, Young Man!  I see by your profile that you are on the East Coast, which is unfortunate since you (and I) like western terrain,

For me, flying sucked big time, even before Covid 19 (quite a change from earlier times, when I loved to fly the friendly skies).  I've got rarely traveled trails about 45 minutes from my door.  West is where it's at!


@Philreedshikes Yes, it's OK to go backpacking again.  The flying is your call alone, however.  

But no matter where you live there are trails to be discovered and explored within a few hours drive.  Listen to Stephen Stills "Love the One You're With" and you'll understand what I mean.

And if you ever do make it out west again, perhaps we'll meet on a trail.  I'll bring my guitar.



I had a thought this morning that was immediately followed by, 'I should ask @Philreedshikes @johnt @hikermor @OldGuyot @Rob6 @KenBrenner and @Hikes_in_Rain this question!'

Why aren't there more long trails that run east-west?

I'm not even sure what the qualifications are for a trail to be considered 'long' but I feel like most of them run, generally, north-south (PCT, AT, CDT, Arizona Trail, Vermont's Long Trail, etc). I was talking with a friend who was part of The Alaska Range Traverse Expedition and we both mused that it felt somewhat rare that such a long trail ran east-west. It seemed fitting to tap into all of your collective wisdom here before asking google because you are all much more interesting and experienced!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

@REI-JohnJoff the top of my head, I'd say it's a pure geological situation.  Not sure about plate uplifts, but the orogony which took place left the mountain ranges going north south, bad places to build cities, good places for forests.  Looks like the higher the elevation, the less population also.  And...that's where we find the most public lands, where we can design long trails.

Another factor, our population is not at all dense, like, say, Switzerland, we still have plenty of room. flat, wide open spaces, to expand.

And, it seems to me, that our main expansion is more likely to occur in population centers, i.e. cities. 

That said, there's massive - slow- encroachment into previously vacant areas, thank goodness for national forests, parks, wilderness areas, national monuments....America's Best Idea!

Off, course, this is all off the top of my head.

REI Member Since 1979

My own first thought of a reply to this was to suggest placing a sheet of paper on a table then quickly crunching it from the right and left sides. 

Add the general human inclination to follow the path of least resistance (while building towns and cities next to rivers) and voila! 

Here's a list of the Long Trails in the US.

There are some east west ones. Here's a selection...

The American Discovery Trail goes coast to coast.  No one does it.

The Pacific Northwest Trail.  People do this one

The Great Enchantment Trail.  Andrew Skurka has done it as part of the Great Western Loop but I hadn't heard of it until now.

In the East the Allegheny Trail is basically East West.  Lots of people do this.

There are a few other loop trails which necessarily have East West sections.

While the big 3 were inspired to follow mountain ranges that is not the only criteria for a long trail.  In general these other trails, East-West, or not are not as popular/well known.  I'd guess it is mostly lack of funding for them.  Even the big 3 are barely funded.  They may become more popular as time goes on since long distance hiking has become more popular.  In the nineties there were probably only about 200 long distance hikers a year on the is hard to say for sure... with about 40 a year claiming to finish.  Now, 2020 excepted, there are around 8000 long distance permits issued, with 4000 through hike permits and over 1000 claiming to finish according to the PCTA.

Hi @REI-JohnJ !  I haven't a clue!  At least not one rooted in any verifiable fact.  But, I think that @Philreedshikes has really good points.  The mountains tend to run north/south, and I think that's the main determining factor. The bulk of open land follows along them, so it's easier to create a continuous trail through this open land.  

Here on the east coast, even the short local trails get interrupted by property owners, both private and commercial, unwilling to allow access.

I think @Philreedshikes hit the nail on the head.  Mountain range direction and public land access.  Looking at a map of US public lands you see N-S orientations.  And I wholeheartedly agree with America's Best Idea!

@johnt @Rob6 @OldGuyot 

Are we sure we aren't just giving credit to @Philreedshikes because he used the word 'orogeny' and I had to look it up? Thanks for the insight everyone!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.