The United States is enormous. It is the third-largest country in the world by square kilometers.
The country has excellent regions that offer landscapes, mountain ranges, beaches, and beautiful cities. It’s no wonder it provides some of the best backpacking trips in the world.
Finding backpacking trips in the USA can be difficult. Most sources point to hiking trails in the country’s many national parks.
There’s more to backpacking than that – although the parks are magnificent. This guide will highlight the best destinations for backpackers all over the US.
Read on to find some of the best backpacking trails and destinations in the ‘Land of the Free.’
Best Places To Backpack in the US
The best way to tackle your USA backpacking trip is to travel by region. This will help you organize and break down your trip itinerary more easily.
America has five major geographic regions: the Southeast, Northeast, Southwest, Midwest, and West. Each region offers a unique travel experience.
The Southeast has a lovely warm climate and tons of sunny beaches. Popular beach destinations in the Southeast include Florida, Puerto Rico, and the United Virgin Islands.
This tropical destination also has rich wetlands in places like Louisiana and Mississippi.
Best Backpacking Trips In The Southeast:
Nashville is great for travelers because of its affordable living prices. Tourism in Nashville has picked up quite a bit in recent years, which means the city has now added many backpacker-friendly hostels.
The compacted city makes walking easy. East Nashville is a great place for expats who enjoy the nightlife scene and a cheap drink or two.
The tropical state of Florida isn’t only good for spring break and Disney World. However, the fact that it gets lots of spring breakers also means it has quite a few youth hostels and budget hotels.
It also has huge nature reserves and parks you can hike and explore. While it is a bit more expensive to visit, you’ll never be bored when you’re there.
Puerto Rico is a popular backpacking destination because, while small, the country is diverse in flavors and culture. It is easy to travel through if you rent a bike or car.
Start your trip in the capital of San Juan in the north to get to know the US territory. Then, move on to the islands in the east and the seaside towns in the west.
The Northeast is full of historical landmarks and museums. It’s on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and is home to New York.
Other popular states include Maryland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island. This region is excellent for history buffs and people who like the nightlife scene.
Best Backpacking Trips In The Northeast:
New York is one of the most expensive cities globally, but you can backpack through the Big Apple for cheap.
Manhattan and Brooklyn are the best boroughs to stay in for first-time visitors because they have budget hostels. They’re also not too far from the commotion of the city, either.
The Great Mountain State has many hiking trails and slopes to explore. The capital, Montpelier, has a lively art community that regularly sets up art installations and free concerts.
Burlington in Vermont has a college and a university, so you can bet that it is full of budget-friendly accommodation, entertainment, and metros.
The Southwest is where you’ll find awe-inspiring nature scenes from the Southern Rocky Mountains. This region is excellent for nature lovers because of its fantastic hiking opportunities. Popular states to see the mountains are Arizona and New Mexico.
Best Backpacking Trips In The Southwest:
Arizona is a popular attraction for hiking enthusiasts and nature-loving backpackers because of the many National Parks.
You might not need to book a hostel if you go hiking or camping instead and sleep in a tent. If you don’t like camping, you can still get some pretty cheap accommodation- especially in Phoenix.
New Mexico has a few excellent hiking trails and national parks for backpackers to visit. If you’re not a hiker, there are still plenty of affordable things for you to do and see in the state.
Soak in a hot spring in the Jemez Mountains or see free art at Canyon Road in Santa Fe.
The overall cost to visit New Mexico is cheaper than most states. Albuquerque is New Mexico’s biggest city and will give travelers great insight into the state’s history and culture.
The Midwest is nicknamed ‘America’s Heartland’ because of the region’s beautiful lakes and rolling countryside in the North. The 12 states in this region include Illinois, Wisconsin, and Michigan, which also have beautiful cities.
Best Backpacking Trips In The Midwest:
Chicago in Illinois is an affordable city to visit, which means plenty of free things to do and cheap hostels to stay in.
The Windy City is the third biggest city in the states and is far more affordable than the top two position holders, New York and Los Angeles.
Snap a picture at the famous Cloud Gate Bean or visit one of the many free museums, art centers, and trails.
Michigan is another economically friendly state to visit. Mackinac Island is a great place to hike as almost 80% of the land is designated for national parks. If you prefer cities, Detroit is a great city to visit.
Stroll to the Eastern Market for affordable food with live jazz music, or walk the streets to see it lined with artwork. The cost of life in Detroit is very affordable, and so are hostels.
Once a vast open space for cattle and mining, this region has become famous for other reasons. The popular states in this region are Hawaii, California, and Seattle.
Best Backpacking Trips In The West:
Hawaii or ‘The Big Island’ is a great place to stop by on your backpacking trip. Hawaii has a lot of free activities, including its beautiful sunny beaches, volcanoes, and waterfalls.
There are also smaller islands along the coast of Hawaii like Oahu. This island is a popular spot among backpackers because of the abundance of hostels.
Seattle is also an excellent destination to visit and can be done at quite a low cost. Hostels cost around $36 per night, and you can camp outside the city for about $20.
Its subway, streetcar, and bus systems are quite good. It also has a ferry to visit nearby neighborhoods and towns.
Best Backpacking Trails in the US
The United States has 423 National Parks for backpackers to explore. While you’re there, why not extend your trip and backpack through some of them?
The Half Dome hike is one of the best backpacking trails in Yosemite Park. This 17.2 mile trek isn’t too difficult to walk but can become strenuous in some parts.
You’ll see many natural wonders in Yosemite Park, including waterfalls, Panorama Cliffs, and the Yosemite Valley.
It’s best to visit in June and September because summer rains make the climb slippery.
You can choose which Narrows camping hike you’d like to take, but both are pretty fast.
The day hike is 3.6 miles long, whereas the overnight hike is 16 miles. The moderate to strenuous overnight hike will take you roughly two days to complete.
Most of the hike will be in the river, so choosing the proper backpack and gear is essential. This trail is closed during colder months, so the best time to visit is from May to October.
The Rim to Rim hike is shorter than The Narrows in Zion. It can take one to two days to complete. The hike is strenuous and 24 miles long.
On this hike, you’ll see the canyon from above, and you can truly appreciate the magnitude of the gorge. The best time to go is between May and October.
It is possible to extend your hike and trek all three Grand Canyon rims.
The Wonderland Trail is the longest camping hike on the list. The strenuous trail is 93 miles long and takes ten days to complete. You can take this loop hike either in a clockwise or anti-clockwise route.
During this hike, you’ll walk through mountainous regions and lowland valleys and forests. Mid-July to September is the best time to hike this route.
How to Do the Best Backpacking in the US?
The best backpacking route for you depends on what you want to see on your trip. Each of the five regions will give you a glimpse of America’s melting pot of cultures and scenic landscapes.
If you want to experience nature’s wonders, stop to do a backpacking trail in a national park in the Southwest region. There you can see the wonders of the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.
The western region is excellent for backpackers who want to experience the tropical climates of Hawaii or California.
If you like the nightlife more, the North and Southwest regions will better suit you. Places like Florida and New York are popular party states.
Backpacking through the USA is a great way to see the country at a fraction of the cost you’d pay otherwise. To travel cheaply, you need to plan and be prepared. This guide is only the beginning point to have the best backpacking in the US trip.
Essential Info: Logistical Tips and Tricks to Book your Trip
BOOK YOUR FLIGHT
Regarding cheap airfare, I highly recommend using Skyscanner and Expedia. These are two of the sites I use the most due to their exhaustive search on several websites and airlines around the world. They usually bring the cheapest fares.
Additionally, I recommend getting the WayAway Plus membership to save money on cheaper fares and earn cashback (sent straight to your PayPal) on your bookings.
BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION
For hotels, guesthouses, apartments, and other types of accommodation, I highly recommend Booking.com. They are my go-to booking site because they usually have the cheapest fares.
If you’re a registered Booking.com user (“Genius”), you can take advantage of their “Genius discount” to save even more money. I almost always book my accommodation with Booking, and I’ve saved thousands of dollars with their Genius discount.
And of course, as one of the largest travel booking sites in the world, Expedia is another excellent accommodation booking site with a free reward program and discounted member prices.
If you’re looking to save money by staying at a hostel, HostelWorld has the largest inventory of hostels with shared dorms and private rooms. On the other hand, Vrbo offers a wide variety of rooms and apartments at affordable prices.
DON’T FORGET YOUR TRAVEL INSURANCE
Travel insurance with comprehensive coverage will protect you against unexpected events like theft, cancellations, injury, and illness.
I use HeyMondo to insure my trips and recommend them. Their affordable plans offer a 24/7 assistance platform for claims, medical coverage for every traveler, adventure sports and covid-19 coverage, and more. And better yet, GloboTreks readers get 5% off their plan! Get a quote.
Alternatively, if you’re a nomad and travel often or long-term, then SafetyWing could help you save a lot of money on long-term travel insurance.
FIND THE BEST TOURS AT THE BEST PRICES
If you’re looking for the best day tours and cheapest ticket entrances to local attractions, I recommend checking Viator, as they have the largest selection of attractions, passes, and activities all around the world.
BOOK YOUR LOCAL TRANSPORTATION AHEAD OF TIME
Bookaway offers the easiest and most accessible way to book overland transportation with local operators, be it by bus, train, ferry, plane, mini-van, or even private transfers.
If renting a car, then I highly recommend DiscoverCars to get the largest car selection at the best price.
OTHER TRAVEL AND MONEY-SAVING TIPS?
Lastly, check out my resources page for some of the best products and companies to use for your trip. If you like saving money (like I do!), then this page will help.
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