15 Adventure-Worthy Backpacking Trips for Beginners

15 Adventure-Worthy Backpacking Trips for Beginners  | You may have heard me say this before, but it’s worth repeating: I believe that outdoor backpacking is the gateway into epic outdoor adventure. That’s why I’m really excited to share these 15 adventure-worthy backpacking trips for beginners with you. In this list you’ll find an assortment of backpacking trails including some easier international thru-hiking trails and easy 2 day backpacking trips that aren’t too far off from civilization. A bit of adventure for every comfort level!| shedreamsofalpine.com

You may have heard me say this before, but it’s worth repeating: I believe that outdoor backpacking is the gateway into epic outdoor adventure. That’s why I’m really excited to share these 15 adventure-worthy backpacking trips for beginners with you. What do I mean when I say that backpacking is the gateway? I mean that, if you can learn the skills you need and gain confidence in using them outdoors on the trails via backpacking, your outdoor adventure options will open wide up! For instance, my first backpacking trip was backpacking Half Dome in Yosemite, and that trip was one of the biggest catalysts in me eventually saying yes to bigger and epic adventures such as rock climbing, mountaineering and even canyoneering. Backpacking gave me the confidence I needed to push myself even further and see what else I was made of. I found I had a love for the outdoors that extended well beyond 3-4 day backpacking trips.

Now I didn’t want “beginner backpacking trips” to be exclusively “easy” backpacking trips, because I believe that many of you (newbies) are probably capable of quite a bit more than you can imagine. So in this post you’ll find a variety of mileage and difficulty options, but I did purposefully chose trails that were not technical or overly exhausting. As you go through this post, read a bit about each of the trails and choose what fits you (and where you are starting out physically) the best. Each and everyone of us are starting from different points when we pick up backpacking, and that is 100% OK my friend! I knew absolute zero about backpacking when I started!

This post is also split up into 2 main sections, a United States focused listed of backpacking trails for beginners and some International backpacking trails for beginners as well. Right now this backpacking trip list has only 15 trails (which is obviously small in comparison to how many good trails may exist out there for beginners), but it’s meant to inspire you but also not overwhelm you with ideas. I may choose to add more trails to this list as time progresses, but I chose a few of my favorites for starters. I also reached out to a few bloggers for an extended variety of backpacking trails, so you’ll see that a few of the suggestions below come from other outdoor adventure bloggers.

Let’s get after it, shall we?


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Best Backpacking Trails in the US for Beginners

First up on this list are some excellent backpacking destinations for beginners in the United States. You’ll notice many of these are in California, and well, that’s because I know California the best and have backpacked in California the most! With time though, I’ll be sure to add some more diversity to this US list, but I promise you these backpacking trails are SO worth doing!

1. Half Dome - California

Half dome is one of the best backpacking trails in the US

Backpacking Half Dome Quick Facts:

  • Location: California (Yosemite National Park)

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: ~ 14.5 miles via the Mist Trail, ~16.5 miles round trip via the John Muir Trail, or you can choose to go up the Mist Trail (7.25 miles) and down the John Muir Trail (8.25 miles) for a round trip of around 15.5 miles. Its easier on your knees to go down the John Muir Trail, because the mist trail is stair steps the practically the whole way.

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~5000 feet of elevation gain (though, when I took my GPS, It said more around 5,600 feet of gain)

  • Time Needed to Backpack: As a beginner, plan to spend 3 days and 2 nights backpacking this trail.

  • Permit Needed? Yes! You must have a backpacking permit and a Half Dome permit to hike this trail. Read more about permits here.

About the Trail:

Many people attempt the Half Dome hike as a day trip, but I also think it makes an absolutely fantastic backpacking trail! Half Dome is hands down one of the most unique hiking experiences you can get in the United States, so spending more time on this trail feels like a no-brainer to me.

You’ll start your first day by hiking up the Mist Trail. Its a brutal uphill stair-stepping workout, but its quicker and more efficient. Make sure to bring plenty of water, particularly if you are hiking this in the summer. You will get very thirsty. Your first night you’ll want to camp at Little Yosemite Valley Campground after your long uphill trudge up the Mist Trail. This is a really nice campground, and it even has pit toilets (which is not common on most backpacking trails). Enjoy your evening here and rest up for day 2 when you will tackle the Half Dome cables.

On day 2, make sure you have plenty of water as you head up to conquer Half Dome. You’ll want to leave the bulk of your backpacking gear at your campsite so you can tackle half dome with a smaller and lighter pack (bring a small day-pack if you want to). There’s not much downhill on this hike as you make your way up sub-dome. Its an uphill battle until you make it to the top! At the bottom of Half Dome you’ll hesitate, the hike up the cables is nearly vertical, and your only protection is your grip on the cables, and your footing against the planked “stairway” to the top. DO NOT attempt the cables without propper gloves or good-gripping shoes. DO NOT attempt the cables if you are very terrified of heights. I also advise against using a “harness” system to go up the cables. In my opinion, harnesses are just a false sense of protection here, because you would need a very specific set up in order for this to actually be “safe”, and most people are not going to have that set up. Having to fuss with carabiners and your harness system is going to do you more harm than good in getting up the cables. Just take your time, focus on going plank to plank, and hanging on with a strong grip. There WILL be a lot of people on this hike, and really the only best way to avoid crowds would be to get there around sunset or very early in the morning. The views are worth it though, and I think it is a super-exciting backpacking trip all-in-all. Making it to the top of Half Dome is so extremely gratifying! Then you can rest easy because the rest of your backpacking trip will be downhill. Make it back down to Little Yosemite Valley Campground on Night 2 and rest up for your hike out on Day 3.

On day 3, enjoy your final morning in Little Yosemite Valley and then make your way back with all your gear back down to your car! On your way down, consider taking the the John Muir Trail instead of the Mist Trail (they intersect!). Even though the John Muir Trail will add on about an extra mile, it is much easier on your knees to go down this trail than the stair-stepping Mist Trail.

Why Half Dome is a great backpacking trip for beginners: Backpacking up to Half Dome instead of tackling it as a day hike helps make this monster of a hike more manageable, and frankly (more enjoyable) especially if you are brand new to hiking and backpacking! While this trip won’t necessarily be the easiest backpacking trip you could go do, it certainly will be very, VERY memorable! In fact, Half Dome was my very first backpacking trip too! It’s where my whole outdoor adventure life got kick started, so you could say I’m a little biased! If you’re up for the elevation gain and tackling the Half Dome Cables, you certainly won’t regret doing the Half Dome Hike as a beginner backpacking trip!

Read more about the Half Dome Hike and other Yosemite hikes:

2. Havasu Falls - Arizona

The Havasu Falls trail makes an excellent beginner backpacking trail.

Backpacking Havasu Falls Quick Facts:

  • Location: Arizona

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: Roughly 25 miles roundtrip (from parking lot to Beaver Falls and back).

  • Total Elevation Gain: The beginning of the trip is all downhill, you descend about 2,500 feet into the grand canyon, but that means the total elevation gain for the trip is about 2,500 feet when you hike back out.

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 3 nights/4 days

  • Permit Needed? Yes! Very strict on permitting for this trail.

About the Trail:

I’m not going to lie to you, the Havasu Falls trail is one of the most beautiful backpacking trails I’ve ever gone on. Definitely in the top five, if not in the top three. Over the course of 3 nights and 4 days you’ll get to spend some your time backpacking in one of the most surreal and beautiful places in the United States.

People come from all over the world in order to see the beautiful, crystal blue waters and the 5 amazing waterfalls along this iconic trail. The hike is roughly 25 miles long round trip if you hike all the way down to Beaver Falls which is the final waterfall of the hike. The hiking is relatively easy, but there are some tricky sections to the trail that you’ll want to take extra caution on. The effort is worth it though! All 5 of the waterfalls along the trail are absolutely breathtaking and like nothing else you can see in the United States.

I have a complete guide (linked below) to backpacking Havasu Falls, and it’s definitely one of the top go-to sources on this trail, so if you’re interested be sure to read that post, because getting backpacking permits can be tricky!

Read my full Havasu Falls Trail Guide!

Why Havasu Falls is a great backpacking trip for beginners: I think Havasu falls is one of the best backpacking trips for beginners for so many reasons! First, it’s not too difficult, especially if you break it up into 4 days of backpacking. Second, the views and waterfalls are simply insane! It’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. Third, there are quite a few amenities here, like established campgrounds and toilets, so if you are still new to backpacking this can help ease you into it all. The hardest part about this trail is getting the permits!


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3. The Lost Coast Trail - California

The Lost Coast Trail makes for a good beginner backpacking trip thanks to it’s minimal elevation gain.

Backpacking The Lost Coast Trail Quick Facts:

  • Location: California

  • Type of Trail: Most people hike this trail Point-to-point (which requires a shuttle), though you could hike it out-and-back styled

  • Total Mileage: Roughly 25 miles long if hiking point-to-point.

  • Total Elevation Gain: Negligible!

  • Time Needed to Backpack: Most people backpack this trail in 2-3 days.

  • Permit Needed? Yes!

About the Trail:

The Lost Coast Trail is probably one of the most unique backpacking trips I’ve ever gone on. It is so complete different from the backpacking trips I’ve gone on in the Sierras. The Lost Coast trail lies along one of California’s most beautiful rugged coastlines and follows some of its most isolated and breathtaking beaches. It’s stunning, to put it lightly!

There are 2 primary sections to the Lost Coast Trail, but most people are primarily familiar with the Northern section which goes from Mattole beach to Black Sands Beach (near Shelter Cove), and is the most well known portion of the Lost Coast trail. The beauty of the Lost Coast Trail hike is that it can be practically hiked year-round thanks to the fabulous nature of California coastal weather, and your entire backpacking trip will be hiking the coastline. It doesn’t get more epic than that!

I have a complete guide to backpacking The Lost Coast Trail, and it’s definitely one of the top go-to sources on this trail, so if you’re interested in backpacking the Lost Coast Trail, be sure to read my full Lost Coast Trail Backpacking Guide.

Why The Lost Coast Trail is a great backpacking trip for beginners: This trail is great for beginners because there is practically no elevation gain involved. However, beginners need to be sure to do plenty of research on this trail because there are some “tricky” sections to the hike where you want to watch the tide schedule. Again, you can read all about that in my backpacking trail guide above.

4. The Cottonwood Lakes Trail - California

Backpacking the Cottonwood lakes makes for a really great introduction to backpacking.

Backpacking The Cottonwood Lakes Trail Quick Facts:

  • Location: California

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: This can vary depending on how many lakes you decide to go see, but this is in the 18 miles round trip range, and roughly 26 miles round trip if you decide to tack on Mount Langley (which would be considered more difficult of a backpacking trip then).

  • Total Elevation Gain: Roughly 1,000’ to the lakes, 5,900 to Mount Langley.

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 2-3 days if only backpacking the lakes

  • Permit Needed? Yes!

About the Trail:

The Cottonwood Lakes Trail is one of the best backpacking trails for beginners because it is an absolutely stunning (and relatively easy) trail in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The trail to the main Cottonwood lakes is easy to follow and fairly flat with minimal elevation gain. It makes for a nice way to get acclimated to the altitude of the mountains.

Once you make it to the main lakes you can do some excellent wilderness camping around the area. There are 5 main lakes known as the Cottonwood Lakes. The best camping options are around Eastern portions of Cottonwood Lake Four and Five. There aren't really any good camping options near Cottonwood Lakes One and Two.

Make camp here and do some short day hikes exploring the area, or Alternatively, plan to go visit one of the higher alpine lakes known as Long Lake. Long Lake is where most backpackers will camp if they are planning to summit Mount Langley via the New Army Pass. There are a ton of great options for dispersed camping here.

I have a complete guide to backpacking the Cottonwood Lakes Trail (Plus a summit of Mount Langley), and it’s a great resource on this trail, so if you’re interested in backpacking the Cottonwood Lakes Trail, be sure to read my full Trail Guide on the Cottonwood Lakes Trail and Mount Langley.

Why The Cottonwood Lakes Trail is a great backpacking trip for beginners: This trail is so lovely and beautiful, its one of my favorite places to go in the Sierras. You could bring a group of multiple-levels of backpackers here and it would have something for every skill level. Take it easy and explore the lakes, go fishing even, or take it to the next level and summit Mount Langley (a California 14,000 foot peak).

5. The Trans-Catalina Trail - California

Catalina Island offers a fantastic backpacking destination for beginners.

Backpacking The Trans Catalina Trail Quick Facts:

  • Location: Santa Catalina Island, California

  • Type of Trail: Point to Point (typically)

  • Total Mileage: ~38.5 Miles Round Trip (Avalon to Parsons Landing to Two Harbors) is the official mileage from Catalina Island. My GPS logged just over 39 miles though.

  • Total Elevation Gain: 8,329 feet total elevation gain for trip, 8,475 feet total descent

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 4-7 days if a beginner

  • Permit Needed? Campground Reservations needed!

About the Trail:

Santa Catalina Island, located off the coast of California, offers some amazing hiking and backpacking opportunities all across the island, but the Trans-Catalina Trail is it’s crown jewel. 

Most people start their backpacking trip in the town of Avalon and continue to hike across the length of the entire island, camping all along the way in the designated campsites they reserved ahead of time for the trip. The terrain is rugged, and sometimes tough, but it is well worth the trouble. The biggest obstacle of getting to this trail is coordinating all of your ferry rides to and from the island, so be sure to do your research in advance!

Basically this trail is perfect for you if you're looking for a trail that is challenging but beautiful, "mountainous" but near the ocean, isolated feeling but still very close to civilization! It is one of a kind, and one you aren't likely to forget, from the boat ride over to the island, to the hilly sea-side views. In fact, this would be a great trail to go do solo, particularly if you were looking to hike your first solo-backpacking trip.

I have a complete guide to backpacking The Trans-Catalina Trail, and it’s definitely one of the top go-to sources on this trail, so if you’re interested in backpacking the Trans-Catalina Trail, be sure to read my full Trans-Catalina Trail Backpacking Guide.

Why The Trans Catalina Trail is a great backpacking trip for beginners: This trail has so many itinerary options, it’s fantastic! So while you can certainly make this a very difficult backpacking trail (by doing this trail in fewer days), you can also spread your trip over multiple days and make it a much more easy-going and enjoyable backpacking trip. You’re also never too far from civilization in case something goes wrong!

6. Tuolumne to Devils Postpile - California

This section of the JMT is one of the most beautiful sections, and a great backpacking trip.

Backpacking Tuolumne to Devil’s Postpile Trail Quick Facts:

  • Location: California

  • Type of Trail: Point to Point

  • Total Mileage: ~37.6 Miles

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~5,000 total elevation gain for trip

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 4-5 days for beginners

  • Permit Needed? Yes!

About the Trail:

If you’ve ever had your sights set on backpacking the John Muir Trail, but don’t have the vacation time to allocate to tackling the full trail (which can take about 4 or more weeks for newer backpackers), then doing “sections” of the JMT is another fantastic option.

One of my favorite (and relatively easier) sections of the JMT it the portion from Lyell Canyon in Tuolumne to Devil’s Postpile (near Mammoth Lakes, California). You’ll spend your first 2 days making your way uphill towards Donahue Pass (11,031 feet), and then the remainder of your trip will be a beautiful downhill hike towards Devil’s Postpile (worth making the extra short sidetrip to see this unique geological feature).

I have a complete guide to backpacking from Lyell Canyon to Devils Postpile, so if you’re interested in backpacking this section of the JMT, be sure to read my full Lyell Canyon to Devil’s Postpile Trail Guide.

Why the Tuolumne to Devils Postpile Trail is a great backpacking trip for beginners: It’s a beautiful section of the John Muir Trail, to give you a nice taste of what to expect if you ever decide to hike the full JMT thru-hike one day!

7. Isle Royale National Park - Michigan

Backpacking trip to Isle Royale National Park

Backpacking Isle Royale National Park Quick Facts:

  • Location: Isle royale National Park, Michigan

  • Total Mileage: varies depending on trails you decide to connect

  • Total Elevation Gain: varies depending on trails you decide to connect

  • Time Needed to Backpack: Can string trails together in this area from anywhere from 1 to 10 nights.

About the Trail:

Isle Royale National Park in Michigan is the perfect backpacking destination for those new to backpacking or for a first-time solo backpacking trip. There are two main trails that traverse the length of the island: the Minong Ridge trail and the Greenstone Ridge trail. Using these two trails, backpackers can string together an itinerary for anywhere from one to ten or more nights. In 2014, I spent 8 days and 7 nights backpacking on the island. Although I was with a group of friends, it occurred to me at the time that it would be the perfect place to try solo backpacking. The trails are really well marked, with very few trail intersections. There are no real predators to worry about on the islands. Wolves and moose are here, but no bears or cougars to keep you up at night. You can plan your itinerary to fit the mileage and elevation that best suits your skill level. There are even three-sided shelters at some of the campgrounds, which is a fun option to have, although they fill quickly in the day.

Being on an island, there is plenty of water to filter every day. Many of the campgrounds are located on scenic coves, with boat docks perfect for swimming and relaxing. The park is closed in the winter, and can be pretty buggy mid-summer, making autumn the best time to visit. The most difficult part of planning a backpacking trip to Isle Royale is coordinating your arrival and departure. Most visitors arrive by ferry, however the ferries don’t run every day, so it can be tricky to line up your backpacking itinerary with the ferry schedule. Fortunately, there is also a lodge on Isle Royale, and backpacker showers for a small fee. Even if you don’t stay at the lodge, it’s a great place to grab a burger before hopping the ferry back to the mainland.

Why backpacking on Isle Royale National Park in Michigan is a great backpacking trip for beginners: The trails are really well marked, with very few trail intersections. There are no real predators to worry about on the islands. Wolves and moose are here, but no bears or cougars to keep you up at night.

This backpacking trail was submitted by Leigh of Campfires and Concierges, to read more about this trail, check out her post here.

8. Ancient Lakes - Washington

Backpacking Ancient Lakes makes for a nice and easy backpacking trip.

Backpacking Ancient Lakes Quick Facts:

  • Location: Washington

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: 4 miles roundtrip (or more if you decide to explore side trails)

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 2 days at minimum

  • Permit Needed? You will need a Discover Pass to park at the trailhead

About the Trail:

Ancient lakes is the perfect trail for those wanting to test out backpacking for the first time. It’s a flat two-mile trip to camp near these beautiful lakes in Eastern Washington. The short distance to camp makes it easy to pack up and hike out if you decide backpacking isn’t your thing. It also offers 12 miles of trails to explore in the basin so you don’t get bored while you are there, just bring along a map or a GPS to get you back to camp or your car.

You will need a Discover Pass to park at the trailhead and remember to pack in all the water you need as it’s not advised to drink the water from the lakes—even if you filter it. It’s accessibility and the remaining snowpack in the mountains make it a little crowded on weekends in early spring, so arrive early in the morning if you want one of the prime campsites!

Why Ancient Lakes is a great backpacking trip for beginners: The short distance to camp makes it easy to pack up and hike out if you decide backpacking isn’t your thing.

This backpacking trail was submitted by Kaelee from Seattle Bred, to read more about Kaelee and her blog, check out her out here.

9. Coast Camp in Point Reyes - California

The Coast Camp backpacking trip gives you a unique backpacking experience without having to feel overly committed.

Backpacking Coast Camp in Point Reyes Quick Facts:

  • Location: Point Reyes National Seashore, California

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: ~4 miles round trip

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 2 days minimum

  • Permit Needed? Yes!

About the Trail:

Located an hour north of San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore is the Bay Area's off the beaten path national park. Despite being relatively unknown, most of the backpacking permits here are booked out months in advance. Coast Camp is one of those popular spots.

It's the closest you'll get to camping on the beach. It's an easy 2 miles on a fire road to get to camp. Coast Camp has water spigots and vault toilets. This makes it the perfect weekend trip for beginner backpackers.

Why Coast Camp in Point Reyes is a great backpacking trip for beginners: There's no cell service, so it feels remote, but should things go awry, you're only a short hike from civilization.

This backpacking trail was submitted by Paulina from Little Grunts, to read more about this trail, check out her post here.


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International Beginner Backpacking Trails

Backpacking need not be limited to the United States either, the below posts details some great beginner backpacking trails that are located outside of the US!

10. Cape pillar Track - Tasmania

Backpacking trip on the Cape Pillar Track

Backpacking the Cape Pillar Track Quick Facts:

  • Location: Tasmania

  • Type of Trail: Out and Back

  • Total Mileage: ~17 miles

  • Total Elevation Gain: minimal

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 2 days minimum

  • Permit Needed? You’ll only need the Tasmania parks pass to park your car at the Cape Pillar trail, which gets you access to every national park in Tasmania for a month for just $60 per car.

About the Trail:

Many people taking a road trip around Tasmania will want to try one of its amazing hiking trails. However, some of these aren’t for the faint hearted; many involve summiting mountains with no clear pathway or hiking with gear for six days straight! Luckily, there are plenty of beginner hiking trails in Tasmania as well. Many of these are short walks, but the Cape Pillar track is ideal for the backpacker wanting to go on an overnight hike and see some beautiful scenery without too much exertion.

The 30km route spans Cape Pillar, traveling through a variety of different terrains – grassland, dense forest, a coastal path – before finally arriving at the cape’s rocky outcrop, where the you can enjoy two views, one out to sea and another back to land. 

Although there are a few ups and downs, this isn’t a hike with much elevation due to its proximity to the sea. The cape sits at 300 meters above the water and that’s about the maximum altitude you’ll experience.

The Cape Pillar track is best done as a 2 day hike; free camping is available in Wughalee Falls and it is recommended that hikers head here first to leave overnight packs before hiking the rest of the trail as a day hike. This means that the first day is a 22 km hike and the subsequent day is an easy 8km. There are chalets en-route – these are for private tour groups, but they are happy for backpackers to fill up with water there.

Tasmania doesn’t feel the same heat as the rest of Australia, so the best time to do this trail is the summer (December to February). Spring and Autumn are also plausible times – although do be aware that camping can be very cold in these months, and even colder in winter!

Why the Cape Pillar Track is a great backpacking trip for beginners: Experience the beauty of backpacking in Tasmania without too much physical exertion required!

This backpacking trail was submitted by Claire from Claire’s Footsteps, to read more about this backpacking trail, check out her post here.

11. The Wicklow Way - Ireland

Backpacking the Wicklow Way makes a great thru hike backpacking trip for beginners.

Backpacking the Wicklow Way Quick Facts:

  • Location: Ireland

  • Type of Trail: Long Distance hike

  • Total Mileage: 79 miles

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~10,500ft total gain

  • Time Needed to Backpack: ~1 week

  • Permit Needed? Yes!

About the Trail:

The Wicklow Way is one of Ireland’s best long distance backpacking trails. It is 79 miles (or 127 kilometers) of stunning green countryside. The landscape is pleasantly varied, though it all maintains that quintessential Irish charm! While there is some elevation gain in the more mountainous sections, you don’t need to be in tip-top shape.

The Wicklow Way stretches from Dublin’s suburbs in the North, to the village of Clonegal in the South. You can choose Northbound or Southbound—I recommend the latter because the elevation game isn’t as difficult in the Southern foothills of the Wicklow Mountains. As you head North, you hike into the mountains and encounter steeper daily climbs. The highest point is about 1900ft/600m, with a 3200m total aggregate elevation gain across the entire hike.

For average backpackers, the Wicklow Way wouldn’t take more than a week. There are plenty of villages along the way with accommodations to fit any budget, as well as a few wooden shelters along the trail. I think it’d be inconvenient to camp every night on the Wicklow Way, as there are long stretches of private land where camping is forbidden. It’s also sometimes difficult to tell if you’re on private land or not. Plus, a warm meal and hot shower in a B&B is literally heavenly after days of walking in the Irish rain!

Besides plenty of rain gear for the aforementioned inclement weather, you don’t need to worry about carrying a ton of gear. You can stock up on snacks and such in the villages along the way. One particularly special stop is in Glendalough, where you walk through lakes and ruins, and Park Rangers educate the public on the area’s fascinating history. Take your time here, and everywhere along the Wicklow Way for that matter, and you’ll have a backpacking trip out of an Irish fairytale!

Why Wicklow Way is a great backpacking trip for beginners: Its proximity to Dublin and main roads and the option to mix camping and hosteling/B&B-ing, all make the Wicklow Way a great choice for beginner backpackers.

This backpacking trail was submitted by Kaisa from Glam Granola Travel, to read more about her and her blog, check her out here.

12. The Highlands Backpacking Trail - Canada

Backpacking the highlands trail in Canada

Backpacking The Highlands Trail Quick Facts:

  • Location: Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada

  • Type of Trail: Loop

  • Total Mileage: 12-22 miles (depending on which loop you choose)

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~5,000 feet

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 2-3 days

  • Permit Needed? Yes!

About the Trail:

The Highlands Backpacking Trail in Algonquin Provincial Park provides one of the best routes for beginner backpackers in Central Ontario. The trail can be completed as a 19 km or 35 km loop (11.8 mi or 21.7 mi) in either direction, and is easily accessed year-round.

Strong hikers can do one of the loops in a single day, though most take two days to do so, staying at one of the many beautiful lakeside campsites available on the trail. Beginner hikers and backpackers would be comfortable completing the trip in 3 days, spending a night on either side of Provoking Lake (19 km loop), or spending a night on either Head Lake or Harness Lake (35 km loop).

The trail has some rolling sections of elevation gain and loss, following contours carved out by glaciers. Over the entire 35 km loop, elevation gain totals just under 1550 meters (5085 feet). The steep sections of the trail are easy to manage, though can become quite slippery after a rain or in the fall mud season. Water is easily found along the trail, as the majority of it follows lakes that are clean and clear. Bring along purifying tabs and dip your water bottle straight into the lake to fill up!

Because of the popularity of Algonquin Provincial Park, permits should be booked well in advance through the Ontario Parks website. Pick up your permits at the West Gate or Mew Lake Campground and drive straight to the trailhead that offers ample parking. If you’re looking for something scenic, pick early October to go - it’s peak colour season, and the mix of maples, aspens, and birch trees will awe you as they change.

Why The Highlands Trail is a great backpacking trip for beginners: Low mileage mixed with an easy to follow loop trail and fantastic views!

This backpacking trail was submitted by Emma Harris from Trailheads and Trail Mix, to learn more about her blog, check out Emma out here.

13. West Highland Way - Scotland

Another beautiful backpacking trip for beginners is the West Highland Way.

Backpacking West Highland Way Quick Facts:

  • Location: Scotland

  • Type of Trail: Long Distance hike

  • Total Mileage: ~96 miles

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~10,200 feet

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 7-10 days

About the Trail:

West Highland Way is probably the most famous trail in Scotland. It takes you from Milngavie on the outskirts of Glasgow all the way to Fort William, 154 km (or 96 miles) to the North covering about 3100 m of elevation gain. It was opened in 1980 and became the first officially designated long distance footpath in Scotland. Thousands of people walk the WHW each year, and for a good reason – it takes you through an excellent variety of terrain and breath-taking views. There is really no surprise why WHW is such a popular trail. It can be done very fast in four days or leisurely over nine or ten days. You can adapt it to your own physical strengths or length of vacation time.

What is great about the West Highland Way’s popularity is that for most of its length it has an outstanding accommodation base – B&Bs, hotels, and campsites – every tourist can find something that matches their budget or preferences.

When you add to it the Scottish approval for wild camping (except for a stretch along the Loch Lomond), you are free to spread your daily hikes as long or short as you want. This is of particular importance when you are a beginner, and you are not really sure if 10 km a day is a lot or not.

Additional help is luggage transfer services. If you are not up to carrying a heavy backpack over the many miles, you can just grab a daypack and send your big bag to the next destination. On the way, you pass many streams (burns), so it's easy to refill your water bottles as long as you carry a water filter with you.

Why West Highland Way is a great backpacking trip for beginners: The West Highland Way is a fantastic introduction to the variety of landscapes in the Scottish Highlands. It does not require extreme climbing, yet provides beautiful views. It's safe, never far from civilization, and an excellent destination for beginner and solo hikers.

This backpacking trail was submitted by Owca from A Woman Afooot , to read more about this trail, check out her post here.

14. the Salkantay trek - peru

The Salkantay Trek is a beautiful beginner backpacking trail!

Backpacking the Salkantay Trek Quick Facts:

  • Location: Peru

  • Type of Trail: Point to Point

  • Total Mileage: ~46 miles

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 5 days

About the Trail:

The Salkantay Trek, located a few hours outside of Cusco, Peru is a perfect introduction to high altitude hiking. This 5 day hike takes you past glaciers, jungle, over the Salkantay Pass - the highest point on the trail at 15,090 feet, with your final destination being Aguas Calientes and Machu Picchu.

The trail can be hiked solo or with a guide. If you are a first time hiker at altitude I would recommend hiring a guide in case you have an adverse effect to the altitude. If you're looking for a guide check out Mountain God's Peru, a company owned and operated by an amazing woman named Elizabeth. 

The trip breakdown is as follows ,but can be changed based on accommodation and timing:

· Day 1: Mollepata to Salkantaypampa: 8.08 miles

· Day 2: Salkantaypampa to Collpapampa: 13.67 miles

· Day 3: Collpapampa to La Playa: 9.94 miles

· Day 4: La Playa to Aguas Calientes: 11.81 miles

· Day 5:  to Machu Picchu: 2.49 miles

The Salkantay Trek is one of my favorite hikes in the world. I've done it twice and will be heading back to Cusco in May to do it again. The view of Salkantay glacier takes my breath away. On the last day you get a sneak peek, if the sky is clear, of Machu Picchu across the valley.

Why the Salkantay Trek is a great backpacking trip for beginners: While at points this trail can be challenging - especially on day 2 the longest hiking day and reaching the highest point - I feel it is a great trail for beginners wanting to push themselves to do more hiking at altitude. With diverse terrain of steep uphills, rocky trails, and a combination of hot and cold environments it provides a push for a beginner hiker to gt to the next level. 

This backpacking trail was submitted by Retha from Roaming Nanny, to read more about this trail, check out her post here.

15. Abel Tasman - new zealand

Backpacking Abel Tasman in New Zealand

Backpacking Abel Tasman Quick Facts:

  • Location: New Zealand

  • Type of Trail: Point to Point

  • Total Mileage: ~ 37 miles (60km)

  • Total Elevation Gain: ~3,000 feet of gain

  • Time Needed to Backpack: 2-4 days

  • Water: Each campground provides water from a spigot though there are signs that recommend that you boil the water before drinking

About the Trail:

Abel Tasman isn’t what you typically picture when you think of backpacking.  The Abel Tasman coast looks like a lush, tropical island except with a mild climate. The track runs along the coastline from cove to cove, each of which is filled with crystal clear blue water and granite cliffs jutting out into the sea. These coves are absolutely beautiful to go for a swim in and secluded shores are perfect to relax on between your long hikes.

This is a great trip for beginners because the overall elevation gain isn’t too much, you can cut it shorter at anytime if you aren’t having fun by hoping on one of the many charter boats that drive into the cove, and there is water, a pit toilet and even shelters to prepare your food at most campsites along the 60km Abel Tasman Coast Track.  This isn’t just a walk in the park though.  Abel Tasman does have a few occasional steep parts but they’re very brief and don’t last long. This is also a great intro backpacking trip because among the 18 different campsites, 4 of them have huts that you can choose to stay in if you’d rather not camp in a tent. 

While you can choose to make this just a one night trip, I recommend doing 32km of the trail and going for 3 nights so that you can take your time and enjoy the scenery. There are many campsites along the way but if you only have time for a one night excursion, I recommend camping at the secluded beach, Onetehuti.

Abel Tasman is best experienced as a one way hike which can be done by taking a water taxi out to your chosen starting point and hike back to the town of Marahau.  The taxi ride in itself was one of our favorite parts of the whole experience of backpacking here. 

Why Abel Tasman is a great backpacking trip for beginners: Little elevation gain, amenities all along the trail!

This backpacking trail was submitted by Robyn from Nomads with a Purpose, to read more about this trail, check out her post here.


DOWNLOAD My Complete BACKPACKING CHECKLIST PDF BELOW

Before you go on any outdoor backpacking trip, I recommend that you download and print off my backpacking checklist for quick reference. Just keep it close to your gear, and then you’ll always have it handy to review when packing for a trip. My backpacking checklist below is a full detailed list of what you should consider bringing with you on any backpacking trip (particularly trips in the 3-5 day range). However, I also gave you a few extras, My download includes not only a backpacking packing list, but also a tip-sheet on layering outdoors, and 25+ backpacking food ideas!

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I hope you enjoyed this post and that it gave you some fun new backpacking trip ideas for your next adventure outdoors. I’m sure to add to this list with time, so be sure to save it for later for new ideas!

Looking for even more backpacking related goodness? Check out these articles on the site!

Have a backpacking trip that you think would be a great idea for beginner backpackers? Let me know in the comments below!

Cheers,

Allison - She Dreams of Alpine

 
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