Top Ten Long-Distance Hiking and Biking Trails - Page 2

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Hiker on the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado
Hiking the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado  (Aurora Open/Peter McBride)

5. Confederation Trail
The Canadian Pacific railroad that once connected Prince Edward Island's small villages last roared through the interior in 1989, leaving in its wake hundreds of kilometers of track. By 2000, the tracks were pulled and the line replaced with a surface of finely crushed gravel, creating a biking and walking thoroughfare called the Confederation Trail. Crossing the entire island, the trail starts in Tignish in the west and rolls 279 kilometers to the eastern terminus in Elmira. One of the most scenic stretches starts in Mt. Stewart in King's County along the sinuous Hillsborough River. You'll soon reach St. Peter's Bay, a large inlet dotted with mussel farms and lobster traps. After crossing a bridge that rewards you with glimpses of the island's fabled red cliffs, you'll arrive at the undulating Greenwich Dunes.

4. Desert Trail
Since 1997, when Steve Tabor was approached by a small organization in Oregon called the Desert Trail Association to help design a route through the Western desert, the man has been relentless. The inveterate tramper has spent every weekend away from his accounting job in the Bay Area hiking through this land of pinons, junipers, and joshua trees. The result is a 1540-mile route approved by the Bureau of Land Management that starts at the Mexican border, snaking like a rattler through some of the least visited but best known desert hot spots in the country—the Mojave, Death Valley, Nevada's Great Basin—before ending in eastern Oregon. The goal of the organization is to bring to the desert the same recognition the Appalachian Trail once brought to the mountains, one of respect and awe. To sample part of the route, grab one of the eight guides published by the DTA.

3. Great Allegheny Passage and C&O Canal Towpath
Take the pride of Pennsylvania, the Great Allegheny Passage, and combine it with the C&O Canal, which runs along the north shores of the Potomac River in Maryland, and you get a 320-mile bike path that connects Washington, DC, to Pittsburgh. They're still completing the last bit of trail between Duquesne and Pittsburgh, but in the interim you can ride traffic-free along the Potomac, Youghiogheny, and Casselman Rivers, stopping to camp in state parks or the numerous B&Bs that line the route. The Allegheny Trail Alliance posts updates on the trail, along with a detailed trailbook. For updated C&O info, check out BikeCandO.com.

2. Pacific Crest Trail
If an avid backpacker could create his or her own dream trail through the Western United States, they would arrive at the Pacific Crest Trail. The 2,650-mile romp weaves through glorious national park scenery, including Yosemite, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, and North Cascades. You want diversity of terrain? How about trekking amidst six of the seven ecozones in America, from the desert to the tip of a 14,000-foot peak? Only a handful can endure the entire end-to-end route. For a good introduction, try the last 40 miles of the trail from Hart's Pass to Canada in Washington's Pasayten Wilderness. You'll find far more grizzlies, wolves, and lynx than humans and you'll be rewarded with glorious views of Mount Baker.

1. Continental Divide Trail
In the mid-60s, the same Benton MacKaye who founded the Appalachian Trail urged Congress to create a long-distance route straight through the Rockies. The result is the Continental Divide Trail, a 3100-mile journey that hits all the highlights like Rocky Mountain, Yellowstone, and Glacier National Parks. Unlike the AT, however, whose white blazes are clearly marked, some of the Continental Divide Trail is still not in place. So if you're planning to go from Mexico to Canada, you better have a good map and compass to get you back on the route. If you want a sublime taste, it's hard to top the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, a remote outpost that easily seduces with its wide-open vistas and sparkling night sky.

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