Whether you’re an avid adventurer who loves hiking or just someone who enjoys a good view, there’s no doubt that a backpacking trip is a great way to explore the great outdoors. And what better time to spend a few days camping under the stars than in the summer? If you’ve been wanting to take on a backpacking trip this summer, we’ve got just what you need—whether you’re looking to stay out for one night or a few weeks. We’ve rounded up some of our favorite places for backpacking in the US.

Mount Sterling Loop in Great Smoky National Park, NC

backpacking us

Distance: 17 miles, 1-2 days

Loop: Yes.

Permit Required: Yes, for overnight camping.

Skill Level: Beginner.

Since this loop trail can be easily completed over two days, it’s a great place to take a first backpacking trip. The trail starts at Big Creek Campground in Waynesville, NC. The trail has some steep uphill sections as you make your way up to Mount Sterling, but you’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and park from the top. It’s also a loop trail, so no need to find shuttles or other ways to get back your car at the starting trailhead. And the trail itself is easy to follow as well.

Trans-Catalina Trail in Catalina Island, CA

backpacking california

Distance: 46 miles, 3-4 days

Loop: Not quite.

Permit Required: Nope, but you’ll need to make campsite reservations in advance.

Skill Level: Beginner-Intermediate.

Although often overlooked with the plethora of other hiking on the West Coast, the Trans-Catalina trail is the perfect place for a long-weekend backpacking trip! This stunning hike crosses the entire Santa Catalina island, located off the coast of Los Angeles, and provides amazing green hills and cliffside ocean views along the way. Most people begin at Avalon and hike across to Parson’s Landing. It’s not a loop trail, but you can loop back on the trail from Parson’s Landing to Two Harbors, where you can catch a ferry back to LA.

Mount Rainier National Park’s Wonderland Trail, WA

backpacking mt rainier

Distance: 93 miles, 8-10 days

Loop: Yes.

Permit Required: Yes. Here’s how to get a permit for overnight hiking/camping in Mount Rainier National Park.

Skill Level: Intermediate-Advanced.

This is a stunning hike through Washington backcountry, where you’ll be able to see glaciers, waterfalls, meadows, wildflowers, mountain lakes and more—no two days are alike! Longmire is the most popular starting point, but since it’s a loop trail, you can plan an itinerary from several trailheads along the route. Keep in mind that you’ll need to plan your route prior to applying for a wilderness permit, so be sure to do your research before the application period. Since it’s a long hike with plenty of elevation changes throughout, it’s perfect for anyone who’s up for a challenge—with plenty of scenic views to make it worth it.

Bowman Lake Loop in Glacier National Park, MT

backpacking glacier national park

Distance: 35 miles, 4-5 days

Loop: Nope.

Permit Required: Yes, here’s how to get a backcountry permit.

Skill Level: Intermediate-Advanced

This classic backpacking trail features some of the best that Glacier National Park has to offer: alpine passes, waterfalls, rivers and lakes, wildflowers and campsites with amazing views. The trail stretches between Bowman Lake and Kintla Lake, so it’s easy to start at either end. While there is quite a bit of climbing and elevation gain, we think the views are definitely enough to make up for it. Be sure to check the trail conditions and weather before you head out—higher sections of the trail can still be snowy even during the summer, so be prepared!

Teton Crest Trail, WY

best places to backpack

Distance: 50 miles, 5-6 days

Loop: Nope.

Permit Required: Yup. Here’s how to get one.

Skill Level: Intermediate-Advanced.

Since this is one of the most iconic backpacking trails in the US, if you want to pay it a visit, you’ll need to start your planning early. Permits and campsites fill up quickly since the hike is so popular. But the amazing views along the entire trail will make all of your planning worth it! Aside from seeing some of the most stunning mountains in the US every day, you’ll also get to hike around lakes, meadows, glaciers and forests. Most hikers start at the Phillips Pass Trailhead and end at the Leigh Lake Trailhead—although if you want to save yourself some elevation gain, you can take the Aerial Tram to Rendezvous Pass and get started from there.

The Pemigewasset Loop in the White Mountains, NH

best backpacking new england

Distance: 31.5 miles, 3-4 days

Loop: Yes.

Permit Required: Nope.

Skill Level: Advanced.

The “Pemi Loop,” as it’s known locally, highlights some of the best of what New Hampshire’s White Mountains have to offer—including a trip to the summit of eight of New Hampshire’s 4,000-foot peaks! Not surprisingly, the views throughout the trail are amazing. The trail itself can be quite rocky in sections and a bit of ankle-wrecker if you’re not careful! You’ll start the loop at the Lincoln Woods Trailhead and then can hike the loop in either direction. Most of the campsites along the trail are first-come, first-served, so no permits required.

John Muir Trail, CA

backpacking john muir trail

Distance: 211 miles, 3 weeks (but it’s easy to hike just segments for a shorter trip!)

Loop: Nope.

Permit Required: Yup. Here’s how to get one.

Skill Level: Advanced.

The John Muir trail is another one of the most famous backpacking trails in the US—and although it’s quite long in its entirety, it’s easy to hike sections of it for a shorter trip. The hike from Yosemite Valley to Tuolumne Meadows is a great way to see some of Yosemite’s most iconic sights. Plus at just 20 miles, it can be completed in 2-3 days—perfect for a weekend trip! Think you’re ready to hike the whole thing? The summer months are the perfect time to do it, especially if you have a long break from school (or work). Do your research and get ready for several challenging and amazing weeks!

Havasu Falls, AZ

hiking havasu falls

Distance: 25 miles, 3-4 days

Loop: Yes.

Permit Required: Yup. Here’s where to get one.

Skill Level: Beginner-Intermediate.

This is a great trail for beginners: not too long or difficult while still providing amazing scenery. As a result, though, it’s often very crowded—especially during peak summer months and weekends. Also, keep in mind that even though the trail is shorter, new campground rules require all reservations to be for 3 nights/4 days. Despite the advanced planning required for Havasu, it’s still definitely worth the time and money! Seeing and swimming in the bright blue waterfalls and lakes (yes, there’s several!) along the trail feels like being transported to another world.

Grafton Loop, Maine

best backpacking us

Distance: 39 miles, 4-5 days

Loop: Yes

Permit Required: Nope.

Skill Level: Intermediate.

Grafton Loop is another way to soak up some stunning New England views—you’ll cross nine peaks in just under 40 miles! There’s also enough different kinds of scenery—from forests to mountaintop summit views, you’ll get a bit of both worlds in one trip. Although it’s a challenging hike, there’s plenty of campsites along the way, meaning it’s easy to break the trip up into smaller portions if you want. And, as a lesser-known and slightly newer backpacking loop, you’ll find less crowds (and less campsite fees as well!)

West Rim Trail in Zion National Park, Utah

backpacking zion

Distance: 19 miles, 1-2 days.

Loop: Nope.

Permit Required: Yes, for camping. Here’s how to get one.

Skill Level: Beginner.

This trail starts at Lava Point and works it way down to the Grotto in the main canyon of Zion. The trail is relatively short, with several campsites along the way, so you can break up the hiking as you wish. Plus, it has the added benefit of being downhill for the majority of the trail. As you hike to the end of this trail, you’ll pass part of the famous Angel’s Landing hike, so if you want to tick that off your bucket list as well, it’s easy to add it onto this hike.

The A.T. and the PCT

best backpacking routes

The Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail (known as the A.T. and the PCT) are two of the most famous trails in the US. They’re both 2,000+ miles long, with the PCT stretching from Southern California to Canada and the A.T. stretching from Georgia to Maine. Although attempting a thru-hike—hiking from end to end in one long backpacking trip—is a massive undertaking that takes months, hiking sections of these trails is easy to do. In fact, finding a small section of these trails to explore is a great way to find places to do shorter backpacking trips.

Try hiking the Mau-Har Loop in Virginia (at 14 miles, it’s perfect for an overnight trip!) or the Presidential Range in New Hampshire on the A.T. Want a West Coast hike? Try the John Muir Trail in California or hike the Alpine Lakes Wilderness in Washington.