We've spent a couple of summers traipsing around the backcountry of Western Canada and a few select parts of the States. For us, there is nothing quite like backpacking to really get a feel for a wild place. Backpacking is that perfect combination of self sufficiency and hard work that make the indulgences (vistas and meal times) just that much better. Throw in some beautiful scenery and perhaps a wildlife sighting and you're in for one hell of a good time.
Here's our list of the best multi-day treks in North America.
Tombstone Territorial Park, Yukon Territory
Most visitors to Tombstone are there for one thing: as a scenic stop on their way up to Inuvik on the Dempster Highway. For us Tombstone was the most highly anticipated destination of the Alaskan Odyssey. Boy oh boy did it live up to expectations.
The Tombstone park is characterized by stunning volcanic mountains, beautiful sub-arctic vegetation and ice cold lakes. Though there are opportunities to just trek out into the wilderness, we did the established Grizzly Lake trail which takes you to the most dramatic parts of the park. If you manage to tear your eyes away from Mt. Monolith or Mt. Tombstone for a moment or two, there are good chances of seeing grizzly bears, wolves and mountain sheep. At night, the Northern Latitudes bode well for a sighting of Aurora Borealis. I know what your thinking; is there anything Tombstone doesn't have?
Kluane National Park, Yukon Territory
This trail encompasses everything hiking in the North is all about: temperamental weather, big mountains, big glaciers and big bears. In fact the trail is often closed due to bear activity, so if your planning on heading out there, have a contingency. If things do work out for you, well you're in for a treat.
The at times wet (river/marsh crossings) at other times brackish (bush bashing) trail in is beautiful in its own right, but the real draw to this trek is the bear infested campsite and the ability to hike to Observation Mountain. The spine tingling sight of the Kaskulwash Glacier is one I will take with me to the grave.
The Bomber Traverse
Hatcher Pass, Alaska
We ummed and ahhed about adding this one to the list. Not because it doesn't deserve to be here, it absolutely deserves to be here. We just know how the members of the Alaskan Mountaineering Club like this quiet paradise. We figure we'll remove it once we're Hollywood famous.
The Bomber Traverse is a really, really fun route that crosses high alpine passes, supposedly inactive glaciers, and necessitates taking on some thorny bush bashing. The name comes from an old war plane that crashed on one of said glaciers, you can visit it as a little side trip. Not your average hiking sight. A good map, routefinding skills, crampons and a sense of adventure are highly recommended. You'll be justly rewarded with 3 stunningly located alpine huts to cosy up in each night.
Mt. Assiniboine Provincial Park, British Colombia
This is probably the most popular backcountry spot in the Canadian Rockies. This is due in part to the popularity of being able to helicopter in and stay in relative luxury of a fully catered lodge, but it is also due to the absolutely gorgeous Mt. Assiniboine. Often called 'The Matterhorn of the Rockies', Assiniboine is the jewel in the crown of the region, but the crown ain't bad either.
After the long hike in from any of 4 trails, the park affords visitors plenty of great day hikes offering different views of the massif. The mountain is well known as creating its own weather systems so a bit of luck is required for optimal viewing. Visit in the autumn/fall months for a chance to see the Larch trees in their golden brilliance.
Grand Staircase Escalante NM, Utah
Often skipped over due to the nearby National Parks of Zion and Bryce Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante is surely one of the gems of Utah's canyon country. The benefits of Coyote Gulch not being designated as national Park are three fold for the prospective backpacker. One: it's free. Two: You can camp where you please. Three: Its not as popular as other nearby parks. Not yet convinced?
Let me try to convince you. Coyote Gulch is how I would imagine a garden of Eden. Dreamy Cottonwood trees line a cool stream that snakes through a deep red canyon. The curving walls tower above and are dotted with arches and caves that provide protection from the hot desert sun. There are ample opportunities for exploration up amongst the cliffs or relaxation by one of the many waterfalls. Don't miss it.
Kootenay National Park, Canada
Kootenay National Park is probably the least visited of the 4 parks that encompass the Canadian Rockies. The Rockwall is its backpacking gem and is a classic Rockies trek really. It features teal blue lakes, craggy peaks, abundant wildlife, pine trees and if you're lucky; mind blowing wild flower displays.
The highlight of the trek is without a doubt the near perfect Floe Lake. Watching the sunrise light up the enormous vertical rock wall that rises from the lake shore is a must. As with all treks in the Rockies, get in early to book your sites because they fill up fast.
I know, I know. Its a short list, we're missing a few etc. etc. But we're just getting started really, se here's a few treks we're eyeing off. In the meantime if you've done any deserving of this list send us an email! firstname.lastname@example.org
- The Skyline (Jasper NP, British Colombia)
- The Tonquin Valley (Jasper NP, British Colombia)
- Berg Lake (Mt. Robson PP, British Colombia)
- The Donjek (Kluane NP, Yukon Territory)
- Denali Wilderness (Denali NP, Alaska)
- The John Muir Trail (Yosemite NP, California)
- The Enchantments (Washington)
- Bouche Rapids (Grand Canyon NP, Arizona)