BackpackingOutdoor Trips

Best National Parks for Backpacking – 6 Amazing Trails to Experience!

Most national parks in the United States offer the best backpacking experience. However, it is actually difficult to choose which national park to visit because there are about 62 wilderness areas in the US. These are all protected as national parks within the country. With that, it is a good idea to look for the best national parks for backpacking.

In this blog post, I listed here 6 of the most diverse and amazing national parks where you can do backpacking. I personally visited some of the national parks mentioned below during my previous hiking and trekking activities. See which one gives you the most breathtaking experience!

List of the Best National Parks for Backpacking

Generally, the official list of amazing parks and diverse landscapes include a plethora of beautiful areas to hike into. There are high alpine trips within the Rocky Mountains and famous canyons. No doubt, all of those parks and areas will generally offer an epic adventure that highly suits your style.

Once you decide to go backpacking on the best national parks, always keep in mind that there is a standard entrance fee to pay. This fee is for the hiking activities within the areas of the wilderness located on the best national parks for backpacking. You may consider visiting the website of the national parks if you want to get detailed information about their standard fees.

1-Mount Rainier National Park

best national parks for backpacking
Image courtesy of Mount Rainier National Park

Backpacking at the Mount Rainier National Park will let you experience the Wonderland Trail that surrounded the park. This is actually located for about a 93-mile trek via alpine areas valleys and lowland forests. Well, be ready as backpacking on this national park may give you a strenuous adventure.

Generally, hikers usually finish the trail for this long hike for around 5 to 10 days. The length of hiking basically depends on the speed of the hikers and their everyday mileage. Within this national park, there are two camp divisions. These are wilderness camps which count about 18 trailside and the 3 non-wilderness camps.

It is really challenging to hike in this national park for backpacking. Why? It s because hiking here may allow you to gauge your speed in hiking as well as your hiking destination. Moreover, hikers are only permitted to camp in the park’s designated areas.

Best Time to Hike:

Planning to go and experience hiking at the Wonderland Trail? Then, go here around mid-July until September. This is actually the best time to witness the snow on the higher elevation trails of this national park. In case you want to hike here in the month of August, plan and get a permit ahead. August tends to be included on the trail’s busiest months. 

In case you want to plan earlier, visit the Mount Rainier National Park website for permits and fee details. You can also make your reservation there.

Location: 39000 State Route 706 E, Ashford, WA 98304

2-Grand Canyon National Park

A 4-day trip is already enough to hike the Rim to Rim trail of the Grand Canyon National Park. This is around 24 miles in length but you also have an option to go for Rim to Rim to Rim. And that would give you a 47-mile hike and back activity. Because of that, hikers generally feel the real once-in-a-lifetime experience. Being that said, the Grand Canyon National Park is no doubt one of the best national parks for backpacking.

Looking from above the Rim, you will basically see the massiveness of the canyon. And you will generally appreciate it completely by taking the time to go down hiking. Well, all up to you if you want to start at the canyon’s North or South Rim. But, don’t forget that you will are only allowed to hike end to end. So, better plan for the transportation where to pick you up on your expected trip ending.

How to Get There:

There are actually there gateway cities in which you can get access to this national park. The following cities are Las Vegas, NV, Phoenix, AZ, or Flagstaff, AZ.

Flagstaff – this actually remains an option because it is a smaller airport compared to the two other gateway cities. However, this will also be an excellent area to lodge in prior to your trekking activity. Additionally, here in this city, you will also find the departure area for Wildlife Trekking backpacking trips. From here, it also needs about a 4-hour drive to be able to reach the trailhead located at the North Rim.

Las Vegas – one of the largest airports to land on. Here, you have an option to lodge in St. George, UT, or stay at the North Rim campground prior to hiking. Going to the North Rim from this gateway city, you will need 4 hours to 45 minutes. Yet, lodging in St. George only takes about a 3-hour drive going to the North Rim.

Phoenix – from here, you need to get a shuttle or rent a car so that you can able to go to the Flagstaff.

Again, it is always better to check on the Grand Canyon National Park website to make your reservation. Moreover, you will also have a detailed guide regarding the fees and permits that you will have to get and pay for.

Location: 20 South Entrance Road Grand Canyon, AZ 86023

3-Olympic National Park

best national parks for backpacking
Image courtesy of Olympic National Park

The hike at the Olympic National Park will only give you a moderate one but a truly enchanting experience. Here, you will discover the Enchanted Valley area which is considered by the locals as the “Valley of 10,000 Waterfalls”. Once you’re here, it feels like you are hiking into a real-life fairy-tale. This because you will trek within the mossy woodlands, traverses within the streams and rivers, and go deep down the magnitude of the mountain meadows.

In general, the round trip over this Enchanted Valley will take you to trail for 26 to 30.6 miles. Well, it will depend on the route that you decided to take. But, whether the route you choose, you will enjoy the unique features that this river had offers.

Basically, you are amazed by the old-growth rainforest, a plethora of waterfalls, a momentous chalet, and lots of bears. That’s the reason why this becomes one of the best national parks for backpacking.

Best Time to Hike:

Although open year-round, visiting here from the months of June to September are the best time for hiking. However, regardless of the time of the year, you opt to go here, the most important thing is to get updated on the current weather conditions. The weather here at this backpacking national park can suddenly change in any season.

Another best option is to visit the Olympic National Park website to know which season is the ideal time for going here. Moreover, you can also start making your reservation by checking on their website.

Location: 3002 Mount Angeles Road Port Angeles, WA 98362

4-Zion National Park

At Zion National Park, you will see one of its preeminent hikes, the Narrows. Over that hike, you have an option if you want to make a 3.6-mile hike within the day or an overnight trek traversing the 16-mile hike. Most of the hike will allow you to go through the Virgin River. Well, there is no steep terrain but expect a strenuous hike here on this one of the best national parks for backpacking.

Moreover, hiking here requires you to equip yourself with the proper footwear. This is because of the gloomy water that is responsible for the difficulty of seeing the rocks at the bottom. Trekking poles are also recommended here in order to maintain the balance within the slippery rocks. Well, the astounding panorama here at the Narrows outweighs all the difficulties of hiking here.

Best Time to Hike:

Large numbers of hikers visit here during late spring or summer. During this time, the water level at this national park is at its lowest and warmest temperature. Although you can also choose hiking here during the fall yet, expect shorter hiking days due to the colder temperature of the water.

Flash floods may also occur any time within the canyon, so it is always better to get updated. To get more climate and weather information at this national park, check on the Zion National Park website.

Location: 1 Zion Park Blvd., State Route 9 Springdale, UT 84767

5-Grand Teton National Park

If you are looking for a backpacking national park, don’t forget the Grand Teton National Park. This national park in Wyoming generally cradles the Teton mountain range. Here, you will discover massive counts of the astounding wilderness of the United States. You will be welcomed by the fantastic view of the Teton Crest Trail of the region.

Moreover, you would have the chance to glance on the jaw-dropping views of alpine lakes, glacier-carved canyons, and granite peaks. This is should be credited to the elevated route trail trek on this national park. Generally, you will hike about 30 to 45 miles trail within this Grand Teton National Park. Yet, it still depends on your preferred route.

Regardless of the mileage, you will have to hike, it is always important to be ready for a strenuous hike here. Expect to encounter steep ups and downs and will also get the chance to be below 8,000 feet of elevation. Moreover, connecting to the side trails of the route will usually extend the journey here at Grand Teton National Park to 75 miles.

Best Time to Hike:

The months of July to September are the ideal time to challenge yourself hiking the trail of this national park. Although this also tends to be the busiest months in the park, this timeframe will also offer the best weather here. Moreover, there are times in a year that the Teton Crest Trail became passable during October. While in summer, expect some drastic temperature drops and episodic freezing temperatures in this national park.

So, it is always better to plan your trips and trekking here. Check the Grand Teton National Park website for more weather condition details and reservations.

Location: 103 Headquarters Loop Moose, WY 83012

6-Great Smoky Mountain National Park

best national parks for backpacking
Image courtesy of Great Smoky Mountain National Park

Within the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, you will find the Little River Trail that is around 12-mile out. There is also a back trail along the Elkmont region. The trail will generally give you astounding sceneries of the rivers, fireflies, and signs of the historic age of the areas.

Moreover, the trail also offers extended covert camping options. This will usually cater to your preferred camping area within your trip. However, make sure that you are only camping within the specified areas stated by the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Additionally, always make it a camping habit to comply with all the regulations and policies of the national park.    

Don’t get surprised by the strict laws and policies of this backpacking national park. Since they are one of the most visited parks, they are just ensuring patron safety and protecting the natural areas. So, be very careful while visiting here as you may be subjected to a hefty fine once failed to comply with their policies.

With its 412 feet of elevation gain, the hike through the Great Smoky Mountain National Park is basically moderate. In just 2-days time, you can generally complete this trail. But, you still have an option to extend and enjoy the trail camping experience. You will also encounter occasional river crossing so expect to have wet feet.

Best Time to Hike:

If seeing wildflowers is your goal, then opt to go hiking here on mid-March to April. Yet, the pleasant hiking temperatures in this trail may also be experienced during summer and fall. Moreover, within the summer season, this national park will be highly crowded and also tends to experience the most humid days.

Generally, the trail here is highly accessible in any time of the year. But, you won’t have a favorable weather and temperature conditions here during the winter season. Still, don’t forget to visit the Great Smoky Mountain National Park website to check the weather conditions here prior to your hiking activity.

Location: Sugarlands Visitor Center 1420 Little River Road Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Final Thoughts

Backpacking is actually a great outdoor experience and hiking and trekking on national parks will allow you on this once-in-a-lifetime adventure. There are actually plethoras of national parks where you can enjoy having your camping trips. Yet, be very mindful of their policies and regulations and make sure that you comply with those. Failure to do so will subject you to pay fine fees.