10 Wilderness Backpacking Trips

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There’s something about striking out from a trailhead with your food and overnight gear strapped to your back – nothing more. Traveling light, the anticipation of the hike is exciting and step-by-step, you slowly find yourself becoming part of the wilderness landscape around you.

Overnight backpacking is an activity that should be done by accomplished hikers, familiar with backpacking techniques and travel (PDF). From individual thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail to a family adventure into Desolation Wilderness – with careful planning and some experience, the backpacking journey can be both enjoyable and rewarding.

In honor of these special places and landscapes, we’ve highlighted 10 one- to two-night backpacking trips into wilderness across the country.


Desolation Wilderness

A summer afternoon thunderstorm approaches in Desolation Wilderness. (Sarah Gustafson, Share the Experience)

Nestled between Sacramento, California, and Reno, Nevada, Desolation Wilderness offers the epitome of backpacking in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The name says it all, desolation – high mountain terrain with granite peaks, erratics and shallow alpine lakes. Try heading in at the Loon Lake trailhead from the Eldorado National Forest side of Desolation Wilderness. Rockbound Lake is located just inside the wilderness boundary and can be reached in just under seven miles (11 km), one way. Desolation does require permits for overnight and day use, and the quota season begins on May 23 with advance reservations available for overnight permits.

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