By: Korrin L. Bishop
If you’ve reached the point in your adventuring where being a weekend warrior isn’t enough, but spending several months thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail isn’t an option, it’s time to meet the world of the “Goldilocks” hike. A Goldilocks hike is not too short. It’s not too long. It’s just right. It’s essentially a short thru hike. There are many short thru hikes that can be done over the course of a week, two weeks, or just a month or two.
Short thru hikes have many advantages. Completing short thru hikes provides a unique opportunity to delve a little deeper into your experience of the backcountry, but while also not having to quit your day job to do so. Short thru hikes can also help you see less explored regions and avoid more crowded, popular trails. They offer the same chances to soak in beautiful scenery and to physically push yourself.
If you’re ready to take on a trip that gives you a bit more of a taste of what it might be like to hike thousands of miles, try some short thru hikes. Below are six short thru hikes to consider.
- Length: 300 miles
- Location: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee
- Description: This short thru hike shares its trailhead with the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, but heads west away from the AT soon after. It gives a taste of the AT terrain, but with fewer crowds.
- More Info: http://www.bmta.org/
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Trail
- Length: 185 miles
- Location: Maryland, District of Columbia
- Description: This short thru hike follows the historic route of the C&O Canal. It offers an easy, accessible grade, ample campsites, filtered water pumps, lush Mid-Atlantic forests, and the rocky beauty of the Potomac River’s banks. If traveling north to south, it also ends in Georgetown, D.C., providing excellent opportunities for post-hiking brews.
- More Info: https://www.nps.gov/choh/index.htm
Lone Star Hiking Trail
- Length: 128 miles
- Location: Texas
- Description: This trail is through the Sam Houston National Forest, about an hour north of Houston. It can be hiked year-round and offers magnolias, hardwoods, and excellent wildlife.
- More Info: http://lonestartrail.org/hikeguide.html
Oregon Coast Trail
- Length: 425 miles
- Location: Oregon
- Description: From the mouth of the Columbia River to the border of California, this short thru hike covers both scenic coastline, as well as inland forested stretches. Given tides and the evolving nature of the trail, ample pre-trip planning is important.
- More Info: http://www.coasttrails.org/oregoncoasttrail.html
Ozark Highlands Trail
- Length: 230 miles (and growing!)
- Location: Arkansas
- Description: This short thru hike runs through northwest Arkansas from Lake Fort Smith State Park to Lake Norfork. It will eventually connect to the Ozark Trail in Missouri. It offers a chance to see the beautiful Buffalo River and to have a truly remote experience.
- More Info: http://ozarkhighlandstrail.com/
Toiyabe Crest Trail
- Length: 72 miles
- Location: Nevada
- Description: This short thru hike follows the ridges of the Toiyabe Range, generally staying above 8,000 feet. It requires carrying lots of water and having excellent navigation. Hikers can expect solitude and vast eco-diversity.
- More Info: https://www.americantrails.org/NRTDatabase/trailDetail.php?recordID=447
Short Thru Hikes: The Goldilocks Option
Hiking for thousands of miles isn’t for everyone. Sometimes that’s because of other life commitments, and other times it’s just not what you’re into. However, you don’t have to go on a yearlong hike to experience some of the benefits of a thru hike. Short thru hikes can offer the “just right” option for adventurers looking for a deeper backcountry experience.
Korrin L. Bishop is a freelance writer with a focus on the environment, outdoor recreation, and social justice. She has publications in Misadventures, Adventure Journal, and Sierra Magazine. Learn more about her work on her website.