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6 Amazing Long Hikes When You Don’t Have Time for the Appalachian Trail

The Appalachian Trail (AT) is one of the most epic outdoor adventures. Covering 2,190 miles through the Appalachian Mountains from Georgia to Maine is an experience like no other. However, the sad reality is that not everyone can take four to six months off for a backpacking trip.

Fortunately, there are millions of miles worth of trails in the U.S. and plenty of amazing adventures that make you feel like an Appalachian Trail thru-hiker.

Here are a few that we recommend:

The Foothills Trail – 77 Miles

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Table Rock State Park. (Source: Teresa Kopec/Getty Images)

The Foothills Trail in the Carolinas has the scenery of the Appalachian Trail but with a fraction of the miles. The 77-mile-long trail connects South Carolina’s Oconee State Park to Table Rock State Park. Along the way through thick wilderness, you’ll see amazing views and more than a handful of waterfalls. The lower elevation, combined with most of the trail in South Carolina, makes this hike accessible for most of the year. 

Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail – 70 Miles

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Ohiopyle State Park. (Source: Kathy Reasor/Getty Images)

For those living in the Northeast, the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail may be calling your name. This 70-mile trail goes through Pennsylvania from the Ohiopyle State Park to the Conemaugh Gorge. Like the AT, you’ll find beautiful views along the Youghiogheny River. There are even overnight shelters along the way where hikers can set up camp. The Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail is part of the Potomac National Heritage Trail, so technically, you can connect it to other trails and head all the way to Washington, D.C.

California Riding and Hiking Trail – 36.6 Miles

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A backpacker in Joshua Tree National Park. (Source: Hagephoto/Getty Images)

If the desert is calling your name, it may be time to head to the California Riding and Hiking Trail in Joshua Tree National Park. At just under 37 miles, this trail is shorter than any others on this list, but when you factor in the lack of places to get water, the trail isn’t necessarily easier. The path covers many miles within the national park and connects the Black Rock Canyon to the North Entrance. The hike usually takes two to three days. A campground is located in the middle of the trail and is a great place to cache water for the trip. 

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Wonderland Loop Trail – 93 Miles

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Mount Rainier National Park. (Source: David Hogan/Getty Images)

The Wonderland Loop Trail goes all the way around Mount Rainier. The nearly 100-mile hike goes up and down different terrain and through distinctly different ecosystems, from forests to high alpine. This trail is the ultimate way to experience Mount Rainier National Park. Weather is a major factor for this hike, and the window can be fairly small, so the national park has a lottery system for a permit to do the hike. The lottery opens in late February.

The John Muir Trail – 211 Miles

shorter Appalachian trail
A hiker on the JMT. (Source: David Madison/Getty Images)

The John Muir Trail (JMT) is no easy feat, and at 211 miles, it’s longer than any other trail on this list. However, it may be the best way to capture the feeling of being on the Pacific Crest Trail. The JMT goes through central California from the Yosemite Valley and ends with an epic hike up Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous United States. The trail is a great way to visit multiple national parks as it goes through Yosemite, Kings Canyon and Sequoia. Similarly to the Wonderland Loop Trail, one of the hardest parts of this trail is getting a permit.

Choose Your Own Adventure: Hike a Segment of the Appalachian Trail

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Part of the Appalachian Trail through New Jersey. (Source: Frank DeBonis/Getty Images)

One of the great parts of the Appalachian Trail is how many states are part of the adventure. As a hiker, you can jump on the trail and cover as many miles as you want. In fact, section hiking is a popular way to conquer the entire trail, even if it takes a few days or weeks every year for decades. So, which of the trails are you going to hike first?

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