4 Hardcore Hiking Trips for the Most Extreme Trail Warriors

There are thousands of beautiful trails around the country and around the world, and they come in all shapes and sizes. There is no way to just come up with a list of trails without some kind of list of parameters, but even those can be tricky.

For this list, the first rule is that the trail has to be long, really long: There needs to be some sense of pride in finishing the entire trail in one shot, or at least in finishing certain sections. The second rule is that it had to be accessible for a lot of people: Not everyone can just drop in to Machu Picchu or Mount Hua Shan for a weekend. The third rule is that the trail has to have a draw beyond just the hike itself, whether it is natural beauty alone, or what the trail represents or holds in the world of trail through hiking. In other words, I can walk out my front door and walk for 20, 50, or even 100 miles, but there are going to be a whole lot of suburbs, strip malls, and other crap I don't want to see along the way. These trails need to have more than just a sign and a distance. They also needed to have enough "hike" in them to not just be the local nature trail where Grandma Ethel gets her mile a day in. Finally, they all had to go great with beer, which isn't tough, because everything goes great with beer. Let's Go!

Flint Hills Nature Trail

The Flint Hills Nature Trail is less a hike than it is a walk, but it's still a 117 mile walk, which makes it a good introduction to some big time hikes. It would be great preparation for a truly massive through hike, or just a great way to see the beautiful Flint Hills of Kansas. My recommendation is to stop in at Sunflower Outdoor and Bike in Lawrence for any gear and advice you might need, and then head down to Osawatomie, Kansas to hit the trail. There are multiple camping spots along the trail, and the towns of the Flint Hills are known for their hospitality to people coming through on adventures, be it by bike, hike, or whatever the hell else you want to travel on/in/with. The FHNT is currently the longest rail trail in the state of Kansas, so that alone earns it a notch in the belt buckle of hardcore hikes.

Colorado Trail

The Colorado Trail is beautiful, majestic, epic, and also home to a shit-ton of rattlesnakes, bears, and occasional mountain lions. I'm not talking about Simba, but about bad-ass, eat your face mountain lions. The last time I was there, I dodged three rattlesnakes on the gravel road ride to the trailhead. When I got there, rangers had posted two photos taken by motion activated wildlife cameras of recently spotted mountain lions. On that particular day, I rode my mountain bike a few miles into the trail, then turned my happy ass around, got back in the car, and drove back to Denver to drink at the Falling Rock Tap House. That was one of the better decisions I made that day. True badasses through hike the CT's 486 mile route, and if you head to the official Colorado Trail Foundation website, you'll find an absolute goldmine of information on any and every way to get on the trail and enjoy anything from a day hike to a true attempt at an almost 500 mile trek through some of the most beautiful nature this country has to offer.

Pacific Crest Trail

If you have ever felt the need to hike from Canada to Mexico, or Mexico to Canada, along the west coast of the United States, then the Pacific Crest Trail is the option least likely to kill you. That doesn't mean there isn't a good chance you'll suffer immensely, but if you are planning on hiking 2,600 miles, then suffering probably doesn't bother you that much. Much like the Colorado Trail, the PCT takes great pride in its list of through hikers, which currently stands at 4,862, with 88 people having done it more than once. Do your research on this one, using one of the most updated and helpful official websites of all of the ultra-trails.

Ouachita National Recreation Trail

One of the jokes about the Ouachita Trail is that it is one of the longest trails (223 miles) that nobody knows about and nobody is sure how to find. Ok, it's not really that hard to get to, but a trail that stretches through national forest land between Oklahoma and Arkansas isn't exactly on everyone's hot travel list. "Hey kids, Disneyland or Ouachita?" probably is not a a real common dinnertime conversation. That's ok though, because it means you will not have to fight the Disneyland crowds that you would find at some of the more popular trails. What you will not have to search for is challenging terrain and some of the most beautiful land this country has to offer. The Ozarks get kind of a hokey rap as a low-rate family vacation destination, which is completely unfounded (unless that is what you are looking for, in which case you won't lack for go-kart tracks and mini-golf courses) and unfair. The Ouachita is a great place to attempt a first truly epic 200+ miler due to the predictable weather, compared to the higher elevations of many other long range trails, and there is a lot of information if you look in the right places that will help you enjoy this gem of a trail.

Drew loves getting out into nature, and there is no better way to do it than on foot.