10 Amazing Crowd-Free Trails

Humans were born to walk. As a species, we’ve evolved a curved and forgiving spine, a skull set straight and upright, an efficient metabolism—all uniquely suited to propel us long distances. But it wasn’t until the advent of the automobile that we began hiking long distances recreationally, says Robert Moor, author of On Trails: An Exploration. “Once the predominant form of transportation was no longer ambulatory, we realized what a precious thing walking really is,” he says. “In the wilderness, hiking literally became the physical embodiment of freedom.”

And it’s never been more attractive. In 2013, about 34 million people walked our nation’s countless trails. By 2017, that number had risen to over 42 million. Meanwhile the number of people completing through-hikes on major routes is booming: last year a record-setting 4,917 people set out to tackle the Appalachian Trail, and hikers are expected to shatter that number again this year. Last year hikers from all 50 states and more than 40 countries set out to trek the Pacific Crest Trail. And the Continental Divide Trail has witnessed a steady 25 percent increase in traffic every season for the past five years, with 300 people expected to attempt it in 2018.

It’s getting crowded out there. But a sense of solitude and solace can still be found on all these trails. “Hiking lets us disconnect for a bit and reconnect with ourselves,” says Kathryn Van Waes, executive director of the American Hiking Society. “Then we are better able to go back and give our full selves to the causes we care about.”

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