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The Longest Trail In The United States

The Longest Trail In The United States: The American Discovery Trail
The Longest Trail In The United States: The American Discovery Trail

Attention all you fearless adventure seekers out there! If you’re the type who’s always on the hunt for your next exhilarating escapade, we’ve got a challenge that’s bound to set your heart pounding. Picture this: embarking on a trek along the most monumental trail the United States has to offer, a journey that guarantees not just excitement but also a profound connection with the great outdoors.

Before we plunge headfirst into the heart of this epic expedition, here’s a fascinating tidbit to whet your appetite: Did you realize that the United States, with its 50 states and Washington DC, boasts an astonishing 88,600 miles of trails? It’s a veritable wonderland for outdoor enthusiasts, brimming with a variety of landscapes and terrains just waiting to be explored.

Now, let’s talk about the real adventure, the cream of the crop when it comes to hiking trails in the USA. Drumroll, please! It’s a neck-and-neck competition between two colossal giants: the Great Western Loop and the American Discovery Trail. These epic trails each stretch for a jaw-dropping 6,800 miles, putting them squarely in the ranks of the world’s longest hiking paths.

Key Points

AspectAmerican Discovery TrailGreat Western Loop
LengthOver 6,800 miles (10,944 km)6,875 miles (11,061 km)
HistoryStarted in 1989, mapped in 1990-91Originated in 2006
SegmentsNorthern and Southern segmentsSingle continuous loop
States Covered15 statesVarious western states
Notable PassesArgentine Pass (highest point)Varies along the route
Adjacent Trails ConnectedNumerous trails and routesArizona Trail, Pacific Crest Trail,
Grand Enchantment Trail, Continental Divide
Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail
Notable Features14 national parks, 16 national forestsWilderness areas, 12 National Parks
Popular ActivitiesHiking, horseback riding, bikingHiking, backpacking
Remarkable RecordsVarious record-setters completing the trailN/A
Highest PointArgentine Pass (4,025 m)Varies along the route
Lowest PointCalifornia Delta (inland river estuary)Varies along the route
Other Long Trails in the USContinental Divide Trail, EasternContinental Divide Trail,
Continental Trail, Appalachian TrailEastern Continental Trail,
Pacific Crest Trail, etc.

1. The American Discovery Trail

The view from Cripple Creek, one of the locations along the American Discovery Trail
The view from Cripple Creek, one of the locations along the American Discovery Trail

This trail stretches from the Cape Henlopen state park and ends in California. It is the longest trail in the US, starting from the Atlantic Ocean and ending at the Pacific Ocean. The trail is formed through the collection of various roads and recreational paths. 

This coast-to-coast trail has different notable adjacent regions that keep attracting the visitors’ attention. The American discovery trail passes through cities, forests, small towns, deserts, and mountains. So you can experience a wide variety of environments on a single track!

History Of The American Discovery Trail

Escape the city and hike along the American Discovery Trail and the various ecosystems along the way
Escape the city and hike along the American Discovery Trail and the various ecosystems along the way

For many decades, outdoor visionaries dreamed of finding a trail from the Atlantic to the Pacific for hikers. After some years, in 1989, this dream came true when the American hiking society started the project of the American discovery trail. The route of this trail was mapped by a scouting team in 1990-91.

They found a trail that would provide a continuous way for hikers, horse riders, and bicyclists to explore nature and not be distracted by big highways. 

The big variety of ecosystems and environments add interest to the path and makes it an attractive destination for those looking for a trail where they will be able to explore different regions, cultures, history, and surroundings. 

Over time, it is becoming one of the most famous trails in the world.


The American discovery trail is over 6,800 miles (10,944 km) in length. It divides into two segments, the northern and southern segments. The north path of this trail covers 4,834 miles (7,780 km), while the south track is spread over 5,057 miles (8,138 km).

American Discovery Trail Pass-Through Routes

This trail goes from coast-to-coast
This trail goes from coast-to-coast

Furthermore, this isn’t just your typical trail winding through mountains, forests, and quaint towns. On the contrary, it weaves its way through diverse cities, adding an intriguing urban dimension to the journey. As previously mentioned, this trail is divided into two distinct segments, giving you two distinct routes to reach the ocean.

  • The southern middle west makes its way through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.
  • The northern middle west path passes over Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana.

At the west of Cincinnati, both the northern and southern paths join and lead through Kentucky, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland, and Washington DC.

Adjoining Trails

The American discovery trail also connects to many other trails. It makes its path through The Pacific Crest, East Coast Greenway Trails, Appalachian trails, 12 historical trails, 36 recreational trails, and five national trails. 

It also adjoins the North Country Trail, the Buckeye Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Colorado Trail. 

American Discovery Trail Through Different States

Glaciner National Park situated along the longest trail in the US
Glaciner National Park on the Continental Divide Trail, one of the trails that intersect with the American Discovery Trail

Out of 50 states in the US, the American discovery trail passes through 15 states where hikers, horseback riders, and bikers can experience in this utterly isolated path a bubble of life made by several landscapes, weather, plants, and animals.

Here are all the 15 states through which the American discovery trail passes:

  • California

The American discovery trail length in California is 276 miles (444 km).

  • Utah

The 593 miles (954 km) part of the American discovery trail passes through Utah.

  • Colorado 

This trail also makes its way through Colorado and lets the visitors discover Colorado through a 1,153 miles (1,856 km) long path.

  • Kansas

The American discovery trail also passes through the natural beauty and rolling hills of Kansas State for 570 miles (920 km).

  • Missouri 

If you go hiking on the American discovery trail, you will observe the unique geographical features and historical attributes of Missouri state. The length of the American discovery trail in Missouri is approximately 343 miles (552 km).

  • Kentucky

The 8.7 miles (14.0 km) American discovery trail through Kentucky shows the renowned culture of this state.

  • Indiana

On the map, you will observe that the American discovery trail covers a massive path of 250 miles (400 km) through Indiana.

  • West Virginia

When moving through the American discovery trail, and you see the rugged land, it means you have reached west Virginia. The American discovery trail covers 288 miles (463 km) of this state.

  • Delaware 

The state on the eastern seaboard of Delaware contributes through a 45 mile (72 km) region into the American discovery trail. Delaware is also famously known as the diamond state. 

  • Maryland

270 miles (430 km) away through American discovery you can find Maryland. You can stay in Maryland for fishing as it is a famous fishing spot.

YouTube video
  • Ohio

The American discovery trail takes up 524 miles (843 km) of the area by the length of Buckeye State: Ohio.

  • Illinois 

About 219 miles (352 km) of the American discovery trail passes through the most populated state in the country, Illinois.

  • Iowa

Iowa is also among 15 states through which the American discovery trail makes its path of 512 miles (824 km).

  • Nebraska

The unique attractions in Nebraska state make the 523 miles (842 km) of the United states’ longest trail more fascinating. 

  • Nevada

Four hundred ninety-six miles (798 km) of the total American discovery trail passes through the eye-catching desert landscape of Nevada. 

Notable Adjacent Regions

Certain notable places are located near the American discovery trail route:

  • Cape Henlopen State Park
Cape Henlopen State Park
Cape Henlopen State Park

This park is located on the eastern end of the American discovery trail in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, Delaware.

  • Argentine Pass

This is a high mountain pass with an elevation of 13,207 feet. This makes it the highest point in the American discovery trail where it crosses the central mountain range called the Rockies.

  • Limantour Beach

The westernmost terminal of the United States’ longest trail is Limantour Beach. This beach is a park reserve of 71,028 acres in the Point Reyes Peninsula California.

Whenever thru-hikers plan to do to the American Discovery Trail, they must make sure not miss the opportunity of making unforgettable memories at these points!

A Multi-Use Trail

longest hiking trails US
Most commonly known and used as a hiking trail, many people have also done the trail on horseback

The American Discovery Trail is used for various purposes throughout the year. Some of the most common ways of utilizing it are:

  • Mountain biking
  • Hiking
  • Horseback riding

Read more about Multi-day horse trekking with our dedicated article!

Remarkable Records At American Discovery Trail

The longest trail in the United States is famous for its remarkable history of records in hiking:

  1. Ken Powers and Marcia from Pleasanton, California. They were the first couple who completed this long trail in one unbroken walk. They traveled 5,058 miles by foot, starting the journey from Delaware and ending in California.
  1. Mike “Lion King” Daniel. Mike backpacked the entire 6,800 miles trail in one continuous hike. He started the journey from Cape Henlopen State Park and ended in California.
  1. Matt Parker, who covered the entire equestrian route on horseback. 
  1. The first to backpack the complete official path of the American discovery trail were Pete Cottrell and Joyce. In two years, they hiked the routes out of sequence.
YouTube video

Striking Spots

Along the long American Discovery Trail there are many prominent places that attract attention. For instance, these sites make the trail a great experience for hikers, horseback and motorbike rides. 

Some of these prominent places include parks, forests, deserts, mountain ranges, and various other points of interest. These spots are distributed throughout the 15 states where the longest trail of the United States makes its route.  

Main Features Of American Discovery Trail

One of the many great qualities of the American Discovery Trail is that it has an old-fashioned appearance. Its the kind that reminds you of a monastery or a civil war battlefield that has been the same since the 15th century.

Additionally, you will encounter various attractive and mind-boggling views that keep your attention on the journey. The main feature of this trail is that it passes through 14 national parks and 16 national forests.

Some of the very famous forests along the longest United State trail are:

  • Hocking State Forest
  • Scioto Trail State Forest
  • Pike State Forest
  • Tar Hollow State Forest
  • Wayne National Forest
  • Shawnee State Forest
The magnificent Canyonlands National Park

And the wonderful national parks that are on the American discovery trail path are:

  • Ferne Clyffe State Park
  • Burr Oak State Park
  • Canyonlands National Park
  • Indiana Creek Preserve
  • Davis Memorial
  • Giant City State Park
  • Logan State Park
  • Pike Lake State Park
  • Hueston Woods State Park
  • Devou Park
  • Capitol Reef National Park
  • Hocking Hills State Park
  • Shawnee State Park

Uncover The Secrets Of Nature

The American discovery trail is the best source to spend quality time in nature. This is because the trail is full of fascinating fauna and flora along the whole path from coast to coast. The trail uncovers several tall grass meadows, spectacular glens, limestone canyons, and caves. 

Additionally, many unique and familiar species are present throughout the trail. One can encounter tufted deer, bighorn sheep, coyotes, bears, red pandas, elks, foxes, and various birds.

This incredible trail connects people to people, community to community, and urban areas with forests, deserts, and mountains.

The Highest Point Of American Discovery Trail

The peak point of the longest United States trail is the Argentine pass, also known by the old names Sanderson Pass and the Snake River Pass. It has an elevation of 4,025 m and is one of the highest mountain passes in Colorado. 

The Lowest Point Of The American Discovery Trail

The California Delta is the lowest point of this trail between Isleton and Antioch in California. It is an inland river estuary and delta.

2. Great Western Loop

YouTube video

After the origin of the Great Western Loop in 2006, it appeared to be the most gratifying long-distance path ever discovered. This is because its elegant wilderness experience and the scenery are unmatched.


The tremendous Western Loop is a 6,875 miles long and it is considered among the more challenging routes in the US.

Adjacent Trails

The great western loop links specific trails. These include the Arizona Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, Grand Enchantment Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and the Pacific Northwest Trail.

Interesting Sites Throughout The Great Western Loop

This hiking trail passes through different cherished and wholesome wildlands, including over 75 wilderness areas and 12 National Parks.

Other Long Trails In The United States

Continental Divide Trail

There are many other prominent trails in the United States that are known for being among the longest trails in the US. Some of these trails include:

  • Continental Divide Trail:

This trail is about 3,100 miles long and is a rocky hills hike. It passes through various parts of Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, and a part of Idaho. A 567 miles part of the Colorado Trail is also included.

This footpath is the most remote and highest of all the trails, which is why it is among the most challenging trails in the country. Route finding is considered a great challenge, and it takes approximately four to six months to pass through the whole Continental Divide Trail.

  • Eastern Continental Trail:

This is a 4,800 miles hiking trail network in North America. Clingmans Dome is considered the highest point of this hiking trail. While the lowest part of the Eastern Continental Trail is Key West, Florida. 

The most attractive sights along the eastern continental trail are Hudson Valley, Appalachian Mountains, Mount Katahdin, Everglades, Springer Mountain, Florida Keys, McAfee Knob, Amicalola Falls State Park, Gaspé Peninsula, Clingmans Dome, and Lake Okeechobee.

  • Appalachian Trail:

The 2,185 miles long Appalachian Trail passes through 14 states of the US and is not considered a very long trail. However, it is still very well known and popular because it is one of the most convenient trails. 

Various services are available along the path, and this trail is also not as complicated as others. Sleeping shelters at multiple points throughout the trail are also designed to save the hikers from putting heavy weights of tents on their backs. 

Final Verdict

longest hiking trails US
If you are a hiker, you definitely have to check out these long trails to hike through the United States

Exploring nature through long routes away from the vehicle’s noise is what every hiker dreams of. The American Discovery Trail and other longest trails in the United States are perfect for this purpose. The two longest hiking trails in the US have been explained in this

It takes months to cover the full path of the American discovery trail. Whether you do a part of the trail for an hour, a day, a week, or the entire trail, the American Discovery Trail will cherish you with a memorable experience. If you dream of hiking on a long trail in the United States, no other pathway can compete with the American Discovery Trail.

Thank you for reading also have a look at our other articles about the USA.

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