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10 Amazing Backpacking Trips with Teens in the US

10 Amazing Backpacking Trips with Teens in the US

Are you looking for amazing backpacking trips with teens in the US?  Whether you are new to backpacking or are experienced packers, there are so many amazing options across the United States for you and your teen to explore. We’ve pulled together some of our favorite US backpacking trips for you and your teen.

Planning Backpacking Trips with Teens 

Planning backpacking trips with teens in mind takes a little extra effort, but getting your teen outside is always worth it.  It’s important to plan a backpacking trip that challenges your teen but also provides a sense of accomplishment at the end – when you can, make sure you choose a rewarding and beautiful destination. 

Anytime you are heading out into the backcountry, it is important to make sure you are completely prepared since you will be carrying everything you need with you.  If you are new to backpacking, check out our article on How to Take your Teen Backpacking to help get started with the right gear, food, and planning.  Taking your teen backpacking is an adventure you and your teen will never forget.

What Makes a Great Backpacking Trip with Teens?

Exactly what type of backpacking trip you are looking for depends on you and your teen, your experience, and the time you have for the trip.  The backpacking trip ideas listed below vary in length from many day adventures to shorter overnight hikes.  If this is your first backpacking trip, start small with one of the shorter backpacking ideas or look close to home for a first overnight.  On my first solo backpack with my daughter we did just a few miles and about 2 miles into the hike in the middle of a blueberry bush patch, she decided she wanted to read a book.  We didn’t make it far, but she had such a great time that she now asks to go backpacking. Keep your first backpacking trip fun and rewarding.

If you are already seasoned backpackers, it’s time to step it up to a longer and more challenging backpack trip. Choose a few day adventure that will challenge both you and your teen.

10 Amazing Backpacking Trips with Teens in the US

1. North Coast Route – Olympic National Park

Distance: up to 73 miles (but lots of shorter options)
Days: 2+ days
Highlights: beautiful beaches and marine life, ocean view campsites, rugged coastline

Backpacking along the rugged Washington coastline is breathtaking with offshore sea stacks, gorgeous sunsets, rocky scrambles, and abundant sea life.  The entire stretch of the North Coast Route provides several options for backpacking, and while the coastline is surprisingly challenging with the changing tides and often cool and foggy weather, the sense of adventure makes for a perfect backpacking trip with your teen.  If this is your first backpacking trip, you can plan a single out and back overnight on one of the beaches, or for a longer trip, you can link several nights together.  

This backpacking trail is unique in the fact that you will be travelling down to beaches and over coastal heads and down to the next beach.  It is important to wear a sturdy hiking boot and pay close attention to the tides.  Most of the campsites are right on the beach so are somewhat exposed to the elements.

Special Considerations: plan ahead with camping permits and bear canisters.  

2. Rim to Rim – Grand Canyon

Distance: 21-24 miles (depending on your route)
Days: 2
Elevation: over 4,400 feet of elevation change
Highlights: epic canyon hike, multiple ecosystem, extreme temperature changes

An epic descent and ascent through one the of the world’s most amazing features – the Grand Canyon makes this an amazing backpack trip for your teen.  If you and your teen are not experienced backpackers, you may want to save this trip for after you have a few backpacking trips under your belt. The trail itself is well marked, wide and maintained, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a long and strenuous backpack that can have extreme temperature variations from the bottom of the canyon to the rim.  There are several route options for this hike, but most people choose to hike from North to South.

Special Considerations: book your campground at least 6 months in advance, prepare for temperature extremes, will need a shuttle to get back to your car.

Taking a Break from Backpacking in the White Mountains, NH

3. AMC Hut Trip – White Mountains, NH

Distance: Varied
Elevation: Varied
Highlights: gorgeous mountain views with the comfort of staying in a hut

The rugged White Mountains of NH offer some of the best hiking in the Northeast US.  If you are looking for a great starting backpacking trip with your teen, consider backpacking to one or more of the AMC huts.  The huts are nestled in the mountains and provide a comfortable place to sleep and eat after a long day on the trail.  Since you don’t need to carry your own tent or all your own food, you will have a lighter pack.  Learn more about the White Mountain hut system.

If you are looking for a single night, short backpack for a first backpacking trip, consider Lonesome Lake.

Special Considerations: book your hut early as they fill up

4. Lake Aloha – Central California

Distance: 12 miles
Elevation 1,000 feet
Days – 2-3 days
Highlights: Beautiful mountains and stunning lakes

Lake Aloha in the Desolation Wilderness of California is an excellent beginner backpack for you and your teen.  With just 1,000 feet of elevation, this is a relatively easy trail with an incredible reward for the effort.  You can do this as a day hike, but spending the night and taking a dip in Aloha Lake is the perfect end to a day on the trail.  The trail is an out and back but it is also possible to add on additional distance and make this a longer trip.

Special Considerations: Book a backcountry permit in advance

Camping at Alpine Lake in Idaho

5. Cascade and Alpine Lake – Sawtooth Mountains, Idaho

Distance: 10 miles
Elevation: 1700 feet
Days: 2 days
Highlights: stunning alpine lakes and mountain views

The backpack into Sawtooth and Alpine Lake is stunning and easily worth the effort.  This was one of the first backpacking trips we did with our teens and everytime they started to get tired, we would round the corner to another amazing view.  While your final destination at Sawtooth Lake is worth it, the camping is just as good at Alpine Lake and you can easily drop your pack and set up camp and then head off without packs for the final steep climb up to Sawtooth Lake.  Even in the summer this hike can be cold and when we were there is August there was some snow near the top.

Special Considerations: Backpacking permit required but can be purchased at the trailhead

6. Paintbrush and Cascade Canyons, Grand Tetons National Park

Distance: 22 miles
Elevation: 4,000 feet
Highlights: epic mountain scenery and wildlife

This loop trail is an amazing backpacking trip for you and your teen with mountains, streams, lakes, and wildlife.  The Grand Tetons are stunning and this trail gets you away from the crowds to enjoy the backcountry.  You can do the backpack in either 2 or 3 days but will need to get a backcountry camping permit in advance.  You can also cut off some distance by taking the water taxi across Jenny Lake from Cascade Canyon.

Special Considerations: Book a permit in advance and you will need a bear cannister

7. Sunrise Lake to Clouds Rest, Yosemite National Park

Distance: 19 miles (there are also several variations you can do)
Elevation: 1800 feet
Highlights: panoramic views of Yosemite Valley

Exploring Yosemite National Park is an amazing backpacking adventure for you and your teen.  This trail is less popular than Half Dome but offers stunning views and a great option to camp at Sunrise Lakes.  There are several sections of steep switchbacks on this trail with some flatter sections to catch your breath.  The final summit of Clouds Rest is well above half dome and gives you panoramic views in every direction.

Special Considerations: reserve in advance

Mountain View

8. North Inlet Trail, Rocky Mountains

Distance: 20 miles
Elevation: 2,300 feet
Days: 2-3
Highlights: stunning 14,000 foot mountain peaks, alpine lakes, waterfalls

This stunning trail in Rocky Mountain National Park combines beautiful scenery with a relatively gentle hike that crosses several streams and meadows as it winds through 14,000 foot peaks.  You can do the trail in either 2-3 days and since it is an out and back you don’t need to worry about shuttling your car.  You can also combine this trail with several other backpacking trails to make it longer.  Since the trail is within Rocky Mountain National Park, you will need a permit and should book far in advance.

Special Considerations: Permit required

9. Mount LeConte, Smokey Mountains

Distance: 12.6 miles
Elevation: 3,600 feet
Highlights: Amazing views of the Smokey Mountains and Alum Cave

This is an incredible hike and one of the best in the Southeastern US.  There are 2 trails to reach Mount LeConte – Alum Cave (5.5 miles) and the Trillium Gap Trail (6.7 miles) so you can do it as an out and back or a loop hike.  There are also several options for camping, including staying at the LeConte Lodge in a rustic cabin that includes dinner, a backcountry shelter, or several camping sites.  You will need to book all these options in advance.  

Special Considerations: permits for lodging and possibly spotting a car

Bryce Canyon National Park

10. Under the Rim Trail, Bryce Canyon, UT

Distance: 22.4 miles
Elevation: 4,366 ft

Doing an overnight backpacking trip in Bryce Canyon is a great way to escape the crowds in this small National Park. This trail winds through the famous hoodoos of Bryce Canyon with stunning clear skies for start gazing. The rock formations make this hike especially perfect for a backpack adventure with teens and you can adjust the overall length in several places. This trail is considered strenuous and can be hot in the summer.

Special Considerations: Permit required

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