Hiking by yourself can be a risky but rewarding endeavor. For safety purposes, you should hike only on well-marked trails that don’t have many challenging or dangerous obstacles.
You should also tell friends and family members where you’re hiking and when you expect to return. For added security, consider purchasing a two-way satellite communicator. That way, you can text others and signal your location to emergency responders in the event you get lost or experience an injury.
As long as you take these and other cautionary measures, solo hiking can be an enjoyable and gratifying experience. Spending time in nature has been shown to improve mental health, boost the immune system, and enhance cognitive functions. It is also linked to decreased risk of disease. Moreover, the freedom and solitude of a solo hike can help clear your mind and instill a sense of confidence.
Here are six of the best solo hikes you can take in North America:
1. Cabot Trail
Cabot Trail is a roadway and not actually a hiking trail, but there are several scenic highland paths and loops along the 185-mile stretch of road. Located in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, the Cabot Trail has 26 trails of varying difficulty and length.
Popular trails include the Franey Trail and Skyline Trail, the latter of which is a three-hour hike that offers incredible sunset views. It is also recognized as a Signature Experience by Destination Canada. The 2.5-mile trek up the nearby Roberts Mountain is an ideal way to conclude a full day of hiking.
Some of the other more prominent hikes along the Cabot Trail include Aspy Trail, Fishing Cove Trail, and Middle Head Trail. The Ruins Walk, meanwhile, is a 1.44-mile trail that ventures through what’s left of the 18th century Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site. Those who prefer to hike with a group can take part in the annual 10-day Hike the Highlands Festival.
2. John Muir Trail
Boasting incredible mountain scenery, the 211-mile John Muir Trail starts in Yosemite National Park and extends through the High Sierra mountain range until reaching Mount Whitney, which is the highest peak in the continental US. The challenging route passes through six high-elevation mountain passes, climbing almost 46,000 feet in elevation.
It takes around three weeks to complete and a wilderness permit is required to enter the trail. It should also be noted that only 3 percent of thru-hike permit applications are accepted due to the length and difficulty of the hike.
Fortunately, navigation is relatively easy once on the trail. There is an abundance of signage and the trail itself is well-maintained. Highlights along the trail include picturesque views of lakes and mountain peaks, incredible stargazing opportunities, and unmatched backcountry campsites. The best time to hike the trail is between July and October.
3. Superior Hiking Trail
Starting at the border of Minnesota and Wisconsin, the Superior Hiking Trail runs in excess of 300 miles along the Lake Superior shoreline to the Canadian border. It’s a long journey to hike the entire trail by yourself, but there are numerous entry points along the trail for those who are interested in shorter day hikes.
There are, however, several free-to-use backcountry campsites along the trail if you intend to stay for an extended period of time. The trail offers views of the Great Lakes and passes through mountain and forest regions. A large portion of the trail is remote, but close enough to the coast and highways that it’s difficult to get lost.
4. Turtlehead Peak Trail
Unlike the prior two trails, the Turtlehead Peak Trail is a relatively short 5-mile up-and-down hike that can be completed in one day. It’s fewer than 20 miles from the Las Vegas Strip and offers a stark contrast to the bright lights and glamor of casino-and-hotel-lined streets.
Instead, it offers beautiful desert scenery that includes the Red Rock Canyon rock formations and a variety of wildflowers. The trail is part of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, which features an additional 25 miles of trails.
5. Teton Crest Trail
Found in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, Teton Crest Trail is 37 miles in length and takes about six days to complete. It’s among the most popular trails in the park due in part to its alpine lakes and Hurricane Pass.
Hikers can get an unblemished view of all three peaks that comprise the Teton Range. Other natural attractions along the trail include glacier-carved canyons and wildflower-filled meadows.
6. Trans Catalina Trail
The 38-mile Trans Catalina Trail loops around Santa Catalina Island, which can be reached via a 90-minute ferry ride from Los Angeles, California. There are campgrounds along the trail for those who intend to complete the multi-day hike.
However, this should only be done by physically fit and experienced hikers. The trail features drastic changes in elevation, is subject to unpredictable weather, and is home to many rattlesnakes. Other wildlife found along the trail include bison, foxes, and eagles.