Recreational Challenges in the US

At times a person needs a break for reflection and recreation. The “journey quest” is a time-honored way of testing yourself against the elements, against the quirks and whimsies of the real world, and against your own weaknesses. Below are a few maps of trails and journeys that may whet your imagination, and put you in a state of mind for preparing yourself to do something unusual and even something expansive. The journey can take many forms, but it must take a person out of the normal state of mind for an extended period of time.

America’s Best Long Distance Hiking Trails

… Not only do we have long trails, we’ve got a country of them. Of course there’s the Triple Crown—the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail—and dozens more, spanning tens of thousands of miles. Whether you want to hike for six days or six months, start your search here.

The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail, are all long distance north-south trails — two of them going from Mexico all the way to Canada. The American Discovery Trail (see map) is oriented in the east-west direction, taking hikers/cyclists/horse riders from the Atlantic to the Pacific (h/t Borepatch).

Before you set out, spend many months getting prepared. Talk to others who have made the trip, and read all you can about your proposed route, and useful preparation and outfitting. Hike some short representative segments of the trail (or very similar trails) as part of your pre-hike training.

Long Distance US Cycling Routes

Since mapping our first route in 1976, the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail, the Adventure Cycling Route Network has blossomed to include the most scenic and historically significant bicycling routes in North America. With so many routes to explore, you’re bound to find your next great adventure.

Like most great adventures, these routes are best traveled in groups.

New Great American Rail-Trail

Once it is completed, the Great American Rail-Trail will connect more than 3,700 miles of repurposed train routes and multi-use trails—all separate from vehicle traffic—across 12 states from Washington, D.C., to Washington State.

It will be years yet before all the long gaps in this trail are filled in and ready for cycling. But once this route is ready, it will be mostly free of automobiles and motor traffic.

Popular Mountain Bike Trails in US

The popularity ratings for mountain bike trails are compiled yearly by Singletracks. The western US mountain bike trail systems are generally the longest and most challenging.

The Great Loop (Boating)

The Great Loop
The Great Loop is a continuous waterway that recreational mariners can travel that includes part of the Atlantic, Gulf Intracoastal Waterways, the Great Lakes, Canadian Heritage Canals, and the inland rivers of America’s heartland. Anyone who completes the journey is then named an official ‘Looper.’

Averaging 2,000-miles longer than the Amazon and Nile rivers, America’s Great Loop is not only epic; it is the ultimate voyage of freedom, discovery and achievement. While the average Looper cruises very near 6,000-
miles, many Loopers report cruising closer to 7,000-miles and a few have reported making side-trips and cruising over 8,000-miles. In fact, depending on your route and the side trips you can make, your Great Loop voyage could exceed the distance of Columbus’ first voyage discovering America. Now that’s epic!

While most Loopers spend very near a year on this adventure. Cruising America’s Great Loop averages cruising approximately 140 days at an average distance of only 40-miles per day. __

This trip will require significant boating experience along with detailed preparation and research.

Climbing etc.

100 Best sport climbing routes in US

Top 10 Mountaineering destinations in North America

Wikipedia has a list of the highest major mountain summits in North America for climbers.

Nice list of high points on all continents and islands from

You can explore wild caves, canyons, deserts, mountains, glaciers, lava tubes, coral reefs, and a wide range of other environments, if you plan ahead.

Locator for free campsites across North America

Extreme Coast to Coast Road Trip

When done as a round trip this route is referred to as the Ultimate Coast to Coast to Coast Insanity Ride by motorcyclers. It is also popular among some RVers and even some bicyclists. Photos and descriptions of the trip here.

The TransAm Trail is for off-road motor vehicles:

TransAm Trail for Off-road Vehicles

As you can imagine, the number of possible road and off-road trips across North America is very large. Such a trip should be configured to the interests of individual participants.

And for something really different:

First Americans Migratory Route?

America was discovered many times, both accidentally and on purpose. Different discoverers took different routes.

These ancient migration routes allow for both inland and coastal travel. The coastal migration can be done by land or by harbor-hopping along the coast by boat.

Popular consensus identifies the first Americans as coming from Siberia. But if you have other hypotheses to test, you may want to follow in the path of Thor Heyerdahl’s Kon-Tiki expedition or his Ra I and Ra II expeditions. Explorers also discovered America across the North Atlantic.

If you choose any of the above routes, be sure to do your research first. And prepare wisely.

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