Types of Hikes

So many choices, what to do?

Loop hike
Point-to-point / shuttle

How do you make the decision?

Logistically speaking, the loop hike and out-and-back are the easiest.

A loop hike is what it sounds like, you start at a trailhead, start hiking in one direction, and you make a loop and arrive at the same place you started. This has always been my favorite type of hike because I don't like seeing the same stuff I just saw. Since you are making a loop, you are always seeing new sights.

After speaking with a National Park Service Park Ranger, though, she made me realize that an out-and-back can provide the same sense of seeing new sights. An out-and-back, again, is exactly what it sounds like. You start at the trailhead and hike to a stopping point, then, turn around and retrace your steps. How can you get the sense of seeing new sights? When you are headed out, you are facing one direction and will typically see things from that vantage point only. Sure, you may turn back occasionally, but for the most part, you will see things going out in a particular way. Coming back will give you a whole new visual experience. After my talk with the Park Ranger, I have a whole new outlook on the out-and-back hike.

The most difficult hike to pull off logistically is the point-to-point / shuttle hike. This type of hike starts at one trailhead and finishes at a different location. In order to accoplish this, you need to prepare ahead of time how will you handle transportation from one trailhead to another. In some of the more established park systems, such as the National Parks, they have free shuttles that run on a scheduled basis that can get you where you need to be. Oftentimes, you will need to arrange for paid shuttle services. Check with the park for recommended vendors. Another option in some of the parks, including Grand Tetons National Park, hitchhiking is allowed. Finally, you can use the two-car method. Park one at each trailhead and you are good to go. If you are renting cars. It definitely increases the costs, though.

One other type of hike, not mentioned above, is what is known as a thru-hike. A thru-hike is a special hike. It is one that is reserved for those not faint of heart. Those individuals who wish to strap on a pack for hundreds and thousands of miles, will be doing a thru-hike. There are many "long trails" in the US. The big three are the 2,160 mile Applachian Trail (AT), the 3,100 mile Continental Divide Trail (CDT), and the 2,655 mile Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). There are many others as well, but these are the most commonly known and attempted. Many people will spend 4-6 months on a thru-hike. It takes a lot of planning and preparation to pull one of these off. I'm not sure I will ever do it, but if you have the time, energy, money and desire, have fun. I'm sure it would be a fantastic time.


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