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Classic American hiking trails

By: Josh Lew on May 30, 2012, 5:48 p.m.
Pacific Crest Trail

Photo: Bruce Chambers/ZUMA Press

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Pacific Crest, Continental Divide trails

The Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail make up, along with the AT, the unofficial Triple Crown of long-distance hiking in the U.S. Both of these trails are designed to run from the border with Canada to the border with Mexico. The Pacific Crest Trail actually starts across the border in British Colombia and passes through the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges as well as numerous smaller ranges. This Washington-Oregon-California journey provides months'-worth of backcountry hiking because the trail avoids civilization for almost its entire length (which is more than 2,600 miles). The Continental Divide Trail is arguably the most challenging of the three long-distance headliners because it includes high-altitude hiking (over the 14,000-foot peaks of Colorado and Wyoming). The nation-spanning path runs from Montana to New Mexico, stretching for more than 3,000 miles. Only a few people try to hike the Continental Divide Trail from end to end each year, but certain sections (including a part that runs through Wyoming's Yellowstone National Park) can be accessed relatively easily.