Before we jump into the route for your backpacking USA trip I’ve got a few top tips and bits of information on how to get around and costs for you.
If you’d rather just skip ahead to the details of the itinerary however just click on the link Eastern United States below to get to the start of the route.
Top Tips | Getting Around | Costs |
the I had a tough time deciding where to go in America. This humungous country with towering skyscrapers, incredible natural scenery, and a melting pot of cultures has something to offer for every type of traveler.
When planning my itinerary, I wanted to get the best of both worlds to be fully satisfied. Exciting cities, gorgeous national parks, epic road trips, delicious food, and cultural icons were all boxes I had to check off. The places I included were New York City, New England, Louisiana, Tennessee, San Diego, Las Vegas, Utah, Montana, and Portland. Four cities that have unique personalities, a tour around the most exciting southern states and two of the country’s most beautiful states Utah and Montana.
Due to America’s size, there are a variety of climates that make it difficult to determine the best time to visit. Summers are extremely hot in places like New York City and Las Vegas, but it’s the perfect time for hiking in Montana or taking a roadtrip through New England. Winter is brutally cold in many places on this itinerary, but you’ll have the chance to witness attractions unique to the season. The shoulder seasons might have the right balance of good weather and available attractions for most travelers, but it will depend on the activities most important to you.
I’ve plotted out a full backpacking route of the USA for you below, showing the key places you may want to spend time and an overview of what to do. You can pick where to go in America based on the type of activities you’re interested in and see just how versatile this country truly is. While you are traveling this vast country I really recommend that you take the time to explore the American food culture. It is so much more than just hamburgers and hotdogs and its a great way to experience the unique culture that distinguish each area.
Annual Pass – America has hundreds of national parks and you should try to visit as many as possible during your trip. Each park charges entry fees, but an Annual Pass covers you for all of them. This will save you a ton of money by making one simple purchase. The Annual Pass price is $80 at the time of writing.
Sightseeing Passes – Many American cities offer discounts on their popular attractions by giving tourists access to them with one sightseeing pass. This lets you explore more of the city’s top sights at a lower rate than purchasing individual tickets to them all. There are often extra perks included in passes such as complimentary public transportation and restaurant discounts.
Reusable water bottle – The tap water is safe to drink in over 90 per cent of the United States, and you’ll find lots of places to refill a reusable water bottle. Bringing a thermos with you will save money on your trip and limits the amount of plastic waste in the environment.
Cultural Diversity – America is one of the world’s diversity hotspots, and it’s important to understand the way of life in the areas you plan on visiting. Not only does the country welcome millions of immigrants each year, but there are stark differences between U.S. born citizens. The Northeast, West Coast, and Deep South are only a handful of the various regions with distinct accents, culinary delicacies, and traditions. To best prepare yourself for your trip, it would be wise to research the culture of each region you plan to visit.
Be Flexible – I cannot state this enough; the United States is a massive country. Its landmass is equivalent to the size of the European continent, and it’s unrealistic to think you can complete everything on your to-do list in two or three weeks. We all travel at a different pace, but you shouldn’t rush through a diverse country like America. City slickers could spend years roaming the streets of New York City or San Diego and still not have the chance to do everything they have to offer. Nature lovers often find themselves in the same predicament with an extensive array of stunning national parks like Bryce Canyon, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon. Whatever sights are most important to you, make room so you can adjust your plans around them.
Car – For a long-distance journey like this, renting a car will offer you the most flexibility for your trip. Although there are long-distance routes via bus or train, there won’t be many chances to stop at interesting places in between. Renting a car especially comes in handy when exploring the country’s beautiful national parks like Glacier (Montana) and Zion (Utah). There’s often no public transport inside national parks, and having your own vehicle is the most logical way to get around. Just be careful at first if you’re used to driving on the other side of the road. But who doesn’t want to do an epic American road trip? Or better yet, combine your road trip with checking out Americas growing craft brewery scene in one epic craft brewery road trip.
Taxi/Uber – I would only use taxis or Uber when you’re visiting cities that don’t have the best public transportation. Cities that are spread out and not well-equipped with buses, trains, and subways make it difficult to get around without a vehicle. This is when it makes the most sense to call a taxi or Uber to reach your destination. Obviously not the most backpacker budget-friendly option in most cases though.
Plane – Booking a plane ticket usually wouldn’t cross your mind when backpacking around one country, well unless it’s India. However, a country the size of America means you may want to do that if you wish to visit multiple regions. For instance, you’ll save days on your trip if you decide to fly from New York City to San Diego.
Bus – Many American states are bigger than European countries, and individual states or regions will have their own bus providers. There are frequent routes between major cities that are usually affordable. For example, it’s easy to hop on a bus from New York City to nearby cities like Philadelphia, Boston, or Washington D.C. Cross-country bus travel is possible with companies such as Greyhound and Megabus, but you won’t have much flexibility and travel can be much slower.
Train – Similar to busses in the US, you can find train routes that cover large portions of the country, but it’ll mean giving up some flexibility during your trip. Amtrak has some coast to coast routes, and the journeys normally take a few days. Although you won’t have to worry about driving and can enjoy the changing landscapes, you’ll only see the locations on your train route.
Accommodation – For backpackers traveling around America on a shoestring budget, finding the right style of lodging can be a challenge. Hostels aren’t nearly as widespread as other places around the world. Plus, popular cities such as New York City have considerably higher accommodation rates compared to smaller cities and rural areas.
Hotel rates in rural areas usually start around $40-$50 but can easily soar over $100 per night in big cities. If you find available hostels where you’re traveling, rates for a dorm bed typically range between $20-$40 per night. When visiting cities, it’s always worth checking out rates on Airbnb and Vrbo listings. Couchsurfing is another alternative that could save you a lot of money on lodging when exploring American cities and is a great way to meet new friends but if you’re traveling solo, especially if female (sadly), it is a more risky accommodation option.
Once you reach state and national parks, the cheapest accommodation is campgrounds. Daily campsite fees tend to average around $10-$30, but it’s important to also factor in the park entry fees.
There are also some really cool places to stay in America if you want to make the accommodation the experience.
Transportation – If your plan is to road trip across the United States, you’ll need a car or RV. For backpackers, a car makes the most sense in terms of cost and flexibility. It would be more difficult to park an RV in major cities, and RV camping fees sometimes are costlier than tent camping.
Depending on your location, fees usually start around $25-$35 per day for a standard or full-size vehicle. You’ll also have to pay for insurance on your rental and the fees could vary widely for each company. To save money, I’d highly recommend not driving in the cities and doing your best to avoid renting a vehicle from airports.
Food – This will vary by a large margin, depending on how often you cook your own meals. Eating out in America can be pricy, especially in bigger cities. Even buying a meal at a fast-food restaurant can cost upwards of $5-$10 per person. If you stick to buying groceries, you’ll likely spend between $30-$40 per week. However, this could fluctuate based on your dietary habits.
Portions in a lot of the USA really are larger than those in Europe though therefore you may find you can make meals last for 2 meals instead by taking your leftovers in a doggy bag.
Sustainable travel is something that has been more on my mind lately. Sometimes being a traveler feels very unsustainable considering the constant moving around to new places and expending a lot of fuel in that way. Even if you try to avoid air travel as much as possible if you want to travel the world chances are you will hop on a flight from time to time. I know my air miles are probably more than most peoples and I do feel guilty about it from time to time. I do however try as much as possible to reduce my CO2 in other ways. As an example, I am a vegetarian and I have been most of my life.
Sustainable travel is more than just reducing your CO2 though. It also concerns the social impact tourism has, the impact on wildlife and biodiversity with wild areas being developed and animals being exploited for human entertainment. I personally don’t visit zoos or animal attractions anymore and I don’t encourage these kinds of activities through my blog posts either. I do however encourage wildlife exploration and adventures such as hiking etc. that will instead put you in contact with wild animals and nature that is protected from development. However, this still needs to be done in a respectful and mindful way where we give animals the distance and the respect they deserve as well as no littering or negative impact on the environment.
I am far from an expert on sustainable travel and I continue to educate myself on the topic. I hope this will also show more and more through my posting here as I continue to learn and understand how to reduce negative impact and how I can be more sustainable in my travels. If you like me want to learn more about the subject, here is a post I found to be very educational on what is sustainable travel and why it’s so important.
Backpacking USA Route
I’ve picked some of my favourite places to visit in the United States and plotted a route to show you how to reach them. It includes visiting New York City, New England, Louisiana, Tennessee, San Diego, Las Vegas, Utah, Montana, Portland and Louisiana. Obviously, this only scratches the surface of where you can visit in America. There are exciting cities, beautiful national parks, and distinct cultures in the numerous regions you can visit. Whether you prefer the hustle of city life or the quiet of Mother Nature, America has many places to experience both. Click the links for full details of that location, where to stay, and how to reach the next destination.
Route Duration – To hit all the places on the route and have enough time in each place I recommend spending six to eight weeks (you could certainly make it longer with all the places to go in America). If you don’t have that much time though I suggest picking a region; the eastern, the western or the southern United States. This will allow you to focus on one area, minimize the time spent traveling and maximizing your time spent exploring.
Eastern United States
New York City
New York City is a fantastic place to start your backpacking trip in the United States when skipping across the Atlantic Ocean. “The Big Apple” is the country’s biggest and most iconic city with its soaring skyscrapers, incredible food scene, and cultural diversity. Many famous attractions reside in New York, and you’ll have the chance to immerse yourself in American culture. Travelers spend most of their time in Manhattan to feel its unbelievable energy, visit fascinating museums, and explore the heart of the American economy. Don’t forget to venture outside “the city” to the lesser-known New York attractions and boroughs such as Brooklyn and Queens. Afterwards, you can continue your east coast adventures going further down south to Phili, Washington, and lesser-known beach cities like Wilmington. Backpacking New York certainly isn’t something a lot of people think to do due to its expensive reputation but you’ll still be able to find little cheap spots in New York to make it through on a budget.
Highlights of New York City include:
Brooklyn Bridge – The historic crossing between Manhattan and Brooklyn that serves thousands of daily pedestrians.
One World Trade Center – New York City’s tallest skyscraper that was constructed to replace the Twin Towers.
Times Square – Filled with humungous billboards and advertisements, this is where Manhattan’s chaotic energy reaches its peak.
Central Park – An 843-acre urban park that features walking paths, tranquil lakes, beautiful monuments, and hosts numerous live events.
Grand Central Terminal – An architectural marvel that services hundreds of thousands of regional train travelers every day.
Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) – One of the world’s largest collections of contemporary artwork.
Chelsea Market – One of New York’s famous food halls that are home to dozens of unique eateries and shops.
Coney Island – New York’s original seaside resort that rose to fame for its quirky boardwalk, carnival games, and amusement park rides.
Brooklyn Museum – An underrated museum that has one of New York’s largest art collections from cultures all over the world.
Museum of the Moving Image – Located in Queens, movie buffs will be delighted to explore the country’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the monumental impact of the film.
It would take a long time to see everything the city has to offer but a 4 day New York itinerary should give you a good amount of time to see a lot of the key attractions and weirder ones.
From New York City I recommend heading up north to visit the New England states. The easiest way to do so is to catch a train from Grand Central Station to Boston and then head out from there. I chose to see New England by way of road tripping as this provided the most flexibility and made the most sense financially considering what I wanted to see and do.
Thanks to its relatively small size, New England is one of my top picks for a road trip in America. You can drive through some states in a single day, and there’s almost always a convenient place to stop. From the sea to the mountains, the scenery changes before your eyes to create an unforgettable vacation. I put together a 14 day New England road trip itinerary for myself that hit all the spots I wanted to see.
New England Highlights include
Boston – Boston beams with culture, world-renowned universities, and American Revolution monuments. In particular, the Freedom Trail, a fascinating way to visit museums and historic sites. Boston also has one of the best craft breweriy scenes in the country and going on a tour of the Boston breweries is definitely a highlight here.
Whale watching in Maine – From Bar Harbor, Maine you can embarked on a whale watching tour to watch these majestic animals in their natural environment. Although whale watching season stretches from April-October, June-September is the best time to spot these majestic marine creatures.
The White Mountains National Forest – In New Hampshire, you find the White Mountains National Forest. Many of New England’s tallest peaks and most challenging treks are in this scenic area of New Hampshire. The Appalachian Trail cuts through the White Mountains and gives AT thru-hikers some of their most challenging days. The hiking in New Hampshire is intense, and I think it’s an underrated gem for seasoned trekkers exploring America.
Acadia National Park, Main – The Maine coastline is unlike anywhere else on the Atlantic seaboard and has endless beautiful vistas. Acadia National Park is a special place, from iconic viewpoints to hikes made for daredevils.
Surfing in Massachusetts – From Maine’s untamed coastline to the white sands of New Hampshire and Rhode Island, New England has pockets of great surfing. I think it’s the most underrated place for surfing in the United States. With about 1,500 miles of coastline, Massachusetts has dozens of beaches to take your surfboard and Cape Cod features much of the best surf in Massachusetts.
Southern United States
The southern United States have so much to offer. I however limited my trip around the southern states to just Louisiana and Tennesse as those two states offered the most variety in scenery and activities while still allowing me enough time to see the rest of the country. From the Louisiana swamps and the New Orleans cajun flare to the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennesse, I found that these two states more than satisfied my hunger for the southern USA experience.
From its wild nature to flavorful cuisine, Louisiana ranks among America’s most unique states to visit. From the Mardis Gras festival, jazz music and voodoo culture in the French Quarter of New Orleans to the heart of Cajun culture in Lafayette Louisiana has so much exciting culture for you to soak up. Louisiana also has an incredibly diverse environment. The state’s ecosystem includes swamplands, coastal lowlands, wetlands, beaches, cypress forests, and even some hills. I definitely recommend exploring Louisiana’s unique nature on foot. Hiking in Louisiana will put you face to face with wildlife such as alligators, snakes and wild boars.
Highlights of Louisiana include:
New Orleans – Most famously known for its Mardis Gras festival, celebrated on fat Tuesday in February. However, New Orleans is so much more than just Mardis Gras with everything from its Jazz Music scene, the beautiful and historic French Quarter to Voodoo culture and other occult sites and ghostly activity.
Lafayette – The heart of Cajun culture is famous for its food scene but offer a lot of other fun things to do beyond exploring the Cajun food culture. Lafayette is rich with history, and the area contains several historic sites that celebrate its Acadian culture.
Vermilionville – Nestled on the banks of the Bayou Vermilion, Vermilionville is a 23-acre historic village that portrays the life for Acadians, Creoles, and Native Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The Mississippi river – See the second longest river in the world by taking a trip on one of the iconic riverboats or take a hike along its riverbank in New Orleans.
The Wetlands – Explore the vast Louisiana wetlands and swamps. See a unique nature and meet an alligator or two.
Avery Island – The verdant landscapes of Avery Island feature subtropical flora, Spanish moss, live oaks, and sit atop enormous salt deposits. One of the island’s primary highlights is the 170-acre Jungle Gardens that nurture all sorts of plants and wildlife. Avery Island is also the birthplace of the famous Tabasco hot sauce.
Grand Island – This barrier-island is a little coastal paradise in the Gulf of Mexico. Explore the islands through its flat trails that welcome hikers of all skill levels and offers an abundance of wildlife sightings.
Oak Alley Plantation – With its beautiful and iconic entrance Oak Alley Plantation is one of many plantations you can visit to learn about the cruel and dark history of slavery in the American south.
Tennessee is an impressive state full of natural beauty from the Great Smokey Mountains in the east to the Mississippi River in the West vast fertile farmland stretches out on the plains between the mountains and the river. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the country’s most visited national park and nurtures a hotbed of wildlife. From vigorous hiking trails to enchanting waterfalls, Tennessee is a nature lover’s paradise. The state’s remarkable beauty drew European settlers searching for a new life in the 18th century. Just spend one afternoon wandering the Tennessee hills and valleys, and it’s easy to understand the attraction.
In Tennessee, you also find iconic cities such as Memphis and Nashville home and birthplace to some of Americas most influential and famous music scenes and artists.
Some Tennessee Highlights include:
Smokey Mountains National Park – You find the Great Smokey Mountains national park on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. The park is spread over several forest-covered mountain ridges and is home to a vast variety of flora and fauna as well as well kept remnants of southern Appalachian culture.
Memphis – located on the Mississippi River in southwest Tennessee Memphis is famous for birthing influential strains of blues, soul and rock ‘n’ roll. Elvis Presley, B.B. King and Johnny Cash all recorded albums at the legendary Sun Studio in Memphis.
Graceland – The former home of Elvis located on 3764 Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis Tennessee. Graceland opened to the public as a museum in 1982. As an Elvis fan, or not, it’s well worth the visit.
Dollywood- Visit the Dolly Parton theme park in the Great Smokey Mountains. Dollywood is a theme park, waterpark, resort and more in one.
Nashville – Music City, the home of Country Music. In Nashville, you’ll find iconic Country Music sites such as the Grand Ole Opry, Country Music Hall of fame and “the District”.
Grand Ole Opry – A weekly country music concert hosted ever since they opened back in 1925. The Opry attracts visitors from all over the world and showcase music such as country, bluegrass, American, folk and gospel. Being awarded membership into the Opry is one of the biggest achievements a country music artist can achieve.
Jack Daniels Distillery – The distillery was established in 1866 and is still producing whiskey today. Visit this famous Tennessee whiskey distillery for a tour around the distillery and behind-the-scenes look at how Jack Daniels whiskey No 7 is made.
Western United States
The United States is one of the world’s largest countries in both land area and population. From coast to coast, driving across the United States is anywhere from 2,000-3,000 miles, depending on the specific route you take. Even if you drive all day, it will take several days to reach the Pacific coast from the Atlantic coast. For those with limited time, you may want to consider flying from one coast to the other. If you have enough time and funds to drive across the entire country, it will be one an incredible experience.
This Pacific coast city attracts visitors with its fabulous year-round weather, beautiful beaches, and surf culture. Situated on the American-Mexican border, San Diego is regarded as the birthplace of California, and it’s now one of the 10-largest cities in the United States. Whether you wish to take a day trip across the border, drive up the coast, or venture inland, San Diego serves as a convenient launching pad. Many of Southern California’s stunning beaches reside in the San Diego metro area, and residents enjoy nearly 150 sunny days per year. For those rare rainy days, San Diego has several world-class museums that show off the city’s history, art, and architecture. There are also great restaurants in San Diego.
Highlights of San Diego include:
Old Town – Home to California’s first settlement, this delightful neighbourhood offers delicious Mexican food, historic architecture, and dozens of boutique shops.
Balboa Park – This beautiful urban park is popular with locals for its lavish gardens, architectural wonders, incredible museums, and performance venues.
San Diego Zoo – Roughly 3,500 animals reside in one the world’s largest zoos and visitors will see the innovative exhibits that make the grounds more comfortable for animals.
Torrey Pines State Reserve – A dramatic cliffside location filled with sandy beaches, hiking trails, native wildlife, and gorgeous wildflowers.
La Jolla Cove – A scenic spot on the coastline frequented by swimmers, snorkelers, and diverse marine life.
Windansea Beach – One of San Diego’s beautiful beaches that is renowned amongst surfers for its consistent swells and famous surf shack. There are lot’s of other great spots for surfing in San Diego, Blacks beach and Ocean beach being some of the more famous spots.
Sunset Cliffs – A surreal cliffside spot overlooking the Pacific Ocean that features tide pools, romantic beaches, and incredible rock formations.
San Diego Natural History Museum – One of the country’s oldest science museums that has dinosaur exhibits, an IMAX theatre, and interesting animal displays.
LEGOLAND California – The Lego-themed amusement park is filled with comical characters, kid-friendly roller coasters, carnival games, and an aquarium. And there are breath-taking national parks just outside San Diego you can visit too or do some backpacking in San Diego.
They say what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. A pit stop here will treat you to flashing neon lights, high-rolling casinos, and showstopping entertainment. Known as a hedonistic playground, Las Vegas offers partygoers thrilling nightlife, performances from famous comedians, and high-flying circus acts. The Strip is the entertainment epicentre that’s lined with extravagant hotels and casinos that shine brightly at night. If partying and gambling isn’t your thing, there are interesting museums and exciting day trips to nearby canyons and deserts. There are things to do in Vegas besides gambling, fear not. The Grand Canyon is only a four-hour drive from Vegas, and you have the option to drive there or even join a helicopter tour.
Highlights of Las Vegas include:
Vegas Strip – Neon lights, casinos, and performance venues take centre stage on this stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard.
The Mirage – This MGM resort features an erupting volcano, Cirque du Soleil shows, world-renowned comedians, pulsating nightlife.
MGM Grand – The hotel and casino has some of the top entertainment in town with acts like David Copperfield, Jabbawockeez, The Hunger Games: The Exhibition, and Brad Garrett’s Comedy Club.
Treasure Island – Guests receive five-star treatment at this luxurious hotel with its revitalizing spa, delicious eateries, exciting nightlife, and headlining events.
Mob Museum – One of the newest attractions in Vegas, this intriguing museum delves into the complicated history of organized crime within the United States.
Neon Museum – Vegas is defined by its flashing neon lights and this museum gives you a glimpse of signs that promoted former casinos.
Adventuredome Indoor Theme Park – Thrill-seekers will have a blast exploring the amusement park’s Virtual Reality Zone, Xtreme Zone, rock climbing wall, mini-golf, and more.
Springs Preserve – Take a break from the shows, gambling, and resorts by wandering the nature trails, botanical gardens, and interactive exhibits of this 180-acre preserve.
Clark County Wetlands Park – Spend the day hiking or wildlife watching at this nature centre meant to educate the public about the human impact on the environment.
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area – Approximately 15 miles outside of Vegas, the conservation area is a hiker’s dream with its rugged mountains, sandstone peaks, and red rock canyons.
Noted for its mind-blowing natural scenery, Utah is one of the best states to include in your backpacking trip across America. The versatile terrain inside the landlocked state includes red rock cliffs, sharp canyons, sweeping valleys, jagged peaks, deserts, tumbling waterfalls, and sparkling lakes. You can do an epic road trip of the Utah national parks. I definitely recommend you to go hiking in Utah through one of the many national or state parks to really get up close and personal with the states natural beauty. The Mormons were among the first groups to settle the area, and you’ll discover much of their culture throughout the state. Salt Lake City is the capital and biggest metropolis of the state with plenty of adventurous day trips and weekend getaways on its doorstep.
Highlights of Utah include:
Zion National Park – One of America’s most beloved national parks, Zion showcases a near 3,000-foot canyon with towering red cliffs, pristine rivers, coniferous forests, sharp canyons, desert, and distinct wildlife. This national park is packed with great hiking trails for anyone who want’s to properly experience and explore all the park’s natural wonders.
Bryce Canyon National Park – Famous for its colorful hoodoos, Bryce Canyon attracts hikers, rock climbers, skiers, and photographers in one of Utah’s unfathomable natural settings.
Arches National Park – Just outside of Moab, an exhilarating world of geologic formations and desert landscape awaits inside this stunning national park. Hiking in Arches National Park is the perfect way to see all it has to offer.
Canyonlands National Park – Although it doesn’t receive the fanfare of its national park brethren, Canyonlands offers awe-inspiring canyon vistas, buttes, and piercing red cliffs.
Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park – Go for an exciting ATV ride or sandboarding adventure along these mesmerizing sand dunes in southwestern Utah.
Great Salt Lake – One of the largest lakes in the United States, the otherworldly scenery creates some of the most dramatic sunsets anywhere in the state.
Bonneville Salt Flats – Walking or driving on these vast stretches of salt is one of the most unique experiences within the United States.
Salt Lake City – The capital and largest city of Utah that was formed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and set in a beautiful mountain backdrop.
Temple Square – The architectural masterpiece and its surrounding square boasts a peaceful atmosphere with beautiful landscaping, quaint shops, interesting exhibits, and friendly missionaries.
Big Cottonwood Canyon – Just 12 miles outside of Salt Lake City, this scenic canyon is filled with hiking trails, rock-climbing areas, shimmering lakes, and ski resorts.
Offering some of America’s wildest terrain, driving through the vast spaces of Montana is an unbelievable experience for nature lovers. The sparsely-populated state is decorated with snowy mountaintops, dense forests, glacial lakes, peaceful rivers, and untamed wildlife. Glacier and Yellowstone are two of America’s most famous national parks that make up part of its incredibly diverse landscapes. Some of the country’s most vibrant ecosystems reside in Montana, and animal sightings include bears, mountain lions, wolves, deer, bison, bighorn sheep, and elk. Traveling through the rugged peaks of the Continental Divide, High Plains, and national forests will give you a complete sense of awe and make you feel very small indeed.
Highlights of Montana include:
Glacier National Park – Nicknamed “Crown of the Continent,” this remarkable national park consists of over 130 lakes, snow-capped peaks, and one of North America’s most diverse ecosystems.
Going-to-the-Sun Road – Measuring roughly 50 miles, this jaw-dropping drive courses through the most dramatic sections of Glacier National Park and offers unbelievable mountain vistas.
Logan Pass – Straddling the Continental Divide, this area is one of the most popular stopping points on the Going-to-the-Sun Road and leads to numerous hiking trails inside Glacier National Park.
Flathead National Forest – Covering around 2.5 million acres, this national forest is a nature lover’s playground with its snowy mountaintops, serene lakes, cascading waterfalls, campgrounds, hiking trails, and fishing adventures.
Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park – Explore the depths of these limestone caverns to discover bats, stalagmites, stalactites, and other underground formations.
National Bison Range – Get a close glimpse of the bison that used to roam the American landscape by the millions.
Roosevelt Arch – This symbolic landmark was built over a century ago to commemorate the formation of Yellowstone National Park and is the north entrance to America’s first national park.
Yellowstone Country – Composing of five Montana counties and Yellowstone National Park, visitors have a plethora of outdoor activities, laid-back communities, and cultural events.
Museum of the Rockies – located in Bozeman, this collection of dinosaur fossils is the biggest in the United States and includes the largest Tyrannosaurus skull ever found.
Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center – This wildlife sanctuary in West Yellowstone is home to grizzly bears, wolves, bald eagles, owls, otters, and other local wildlife. There are plenty of adventurous places to visit in Montana.
Portland is Oregon’s largest city and among the most important metro areas in the Pacific Northwest. Situated in the shadows of Mount Hood, Portland is noted as a nature lover’s paradise and a hipster enclave. Bordered by the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, the city is filled with lavish gardens, beautiful urban parks, and nature escapes a short drive away. The Columbia River Gorge, Cascade Range, and the Oregon coast offer incredible day trips whenever you need a break from city life. Portland itself has thriving art, food, and music scenes with tons of independent businesses supported by the community.
Highlights of Portland include:
Washington Park – This roughly 400-acre urban park is a green oasis with its rolling hills, forested trails, picnic areas, tranquil gardens, and magnificent vistas.
Portland Japanese Garden – This traditional Japanese-style garden inside Washington Park is one of the most peaceful locations anywhere in Portland.
Portland Saturday Market – This bustling market operates on the weekends the majority of the year and hosts hundreds of vendors that sell locally-produced items.
International Rose Test Garden – Stop and smell hundreds of varieties of roses inside the oldest rose garden in the United States.
Alberta Arts District – One of Portland’s trendiest neighbourhoods that’s filled with charming boutiques, art galleries, and unique eateries.
Oregon Zoo – Discover nearly 2,000 animals and dozens of endangered species inside one of the oldest zoos in the United States.
Portland Art Museum – One of the oldest collections of artwork in the country, this art museum features Native American art, Asian art, and an extensive number of contemporary pieces.
Pioneer Courthouse Square – A lively public gathering space with tons of food trucks, farmer’s markets, and an amphitheatre.
Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area – Straddling the Oregon-Washington border just northeast of Portland, the Columbia River Gorge offers tons of recreational activities such as hiking, cycling, fishing, horse riding, and camping.
Multnomah Falls – This 620-foot waterfall is one of Oregon’s greatest natural wonders and located only a 30-minute drive outside of Portland. There is also a whole range of weird things to do in Portland for those who fancy something a little different on your USA backpacking trip.
Alaska is dubbed the Last American Frontier. It’s arguably the last place in the United States where you can unplug from the modern world and feel at one with Mother Nature. Its isolated wilderness, dramatic landscapes, and diverse wildlife make Alaska one of the world’s last outdoor escapes. But what draws me to Alaska are its adventurous activities that make your heart skip a beat.
Many call Alaska the ‘Adventure Capital of the United States,’ and I certainly agree with them. It has the country’s tallest mountains, wildest rivers, smoldering volcanoes, turquoise lakes, and densest brown bear population. With dozens of nature preserves, Alaska is for the adventure-minded traveler wishing to explore untamed nature.
Highlights of Alaska include:
Whale watching – Whale watching is a personal pastime of mine, and Alaska is a bucket list destination for wildlife enthusiasts. Every summer, whales make their long migration from the warmer waters of Mexico and Hawaii to the food-rich waters of Alaska. Alaska whale watching season stretches from May-September, and this parallels the whale migration to Alaskan waters. Whales start to arrive in Alaska in April to engorge their bodies with food before returning to warmer Pacific waters. While cruise season lasts until September, May-August presents the best opportunities to spot whales.
Wilderness camping – Camping is among my top recommendations for an adventurous Alaskan vacation. Surrounded by jaw-dropping scenery and the peaceful sounds of nature will complete an unforgettable trip to this beautiful state. When I need a break from society to clear my head, camping is the best way to do it. And Alaska has the most epic camping locations anywhere in the United States. Camping in Alaska often gets rough when you wander deep into the backcountry. Between dangerous wildlife and unpredictable weather, make sure you are prepared for it before you head out.
Hiking – Alaska is a hiker’s paradise, and anyone who loves nature will never want to leave this wild frontier. The state is home to turquoise lakes, alpine tundra, sparkling rivers, temperate rainforest, and some of the highest peaks in North America. It’s enough to leave me speechless and feels like the crown jewel of American hiking.
Denali National Park and Preserve – Home to the imposing Denali peak, this national park delves into the rugged Alaskan interior. Expect vast tundra, immense glaciers, and wildlife around every turn. And don’t leave without getting the perfect photo of North America’s tallest peak.
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve – If you’re up for the wildest adventure you can imagine, Gates of the Arctic will provide it. The park lies within the Arctic Circle and has the most unexplored backcountry in Alaska. But you’ve been warned; this remote wilderness is only for the hardiest of backpackers.
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve – Situated on the Southeast Alaskan coastline, Glacier Bay National Park is a gateway to deep-blue fjords and impressive glaciers. Tidewater glaciers retreat into the fjords while lofty peaks tower above the giant ice masses. The park is home to around 50 glaciers, and the rich waters host incredible marine life for wildlife enthusiasts
What was your favorite place to visit while backpacking USA? Got somewhere you think I should add? Let me know in the comments below.
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