If you have the time, finishing the Appalachian Trail is bucket list-worthy. But there are plenty of hikes that don’t require quitting your job. These three backpacking trips will give you a taste of adventure, and they’re all doable in weekend-long chunks.
The Long Trail, Vermont
This 272-mile trek runs from the Vermont-Massachusetts border to Canada, taking you over the Green Mountains’ ridgeline. Hike it on weekend-long sections—there are about 70 campsites along the way—or take it on in a big three-week block, from spring to fall. Along the way, you’ll bag the tallest peaks, on the path that inspired the Appalachian Trail.
The 14ers, Colorado
Haven’t summited any of Colorado’s more than 50 mountains exceeding 14,000 feet? Start here: Plan a three-day summer weekend to tag the top of 14,345-foot Blanca Peak, where you’ll begin in dry dunes and hit lush, high alpine meadows crisscrossed by streams and dotted with lakes at the tree line. Camp at Lake Como so you can move fast and light for the final five miles to the summit.
Opal Creek Wilderness, Oregon
Known for its swimming holes, Opal Creek is in the largest area of temperate-zone rain forest, with 90 inches of rain annually. Visit in the dry season, from July to September. Hikes range from 6.25 to 17.5 miles: Head in, splash around, and stay at a campsite, many of which are spread among massive Douglas firs and western red cedars.