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5 Weekend Thru-Hikes You Should Do in 2024

by Staff

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This time of year is among the best for scheming up new hiking goals. Sure, that may be because of a certain resolution-focused holiday, but it’s mostly because it’s colder than a brass toilet seat on the shady side of an iceberg in most places and there’s not a whole lot else to do. So, many of us while away the winter coming up with new pipe dreams—like thru-hiking. Well, allow us to break the news: it doesn’t have to be a pipe dream anymore. 

Thru-hikes don’t have to extend the length of a country to count. They don’t even have to be that long, really: All you have to do is hike a full trail, terminus to terminus. The trails on this list may be short, but each one of them fits that description, making it a legitimate (if bite-size) thru-hike in our opinion. Many, including the Art Loeb and the Enchantments, also come with an established thru-hiking culture—like finisher patches and local bragging rights. They give you the whole experience, but in just a two- to three-day outing. 

So, if you’ve always dreamt of becoming a thru-hiker, try one of these. One word of warning: tiny thru-hikes can be a gateway drug. The triumph of ticking off a full trail might leave you feeling fulfilled—or it might just whet your appetite for something longer. Regardless, there’s only one way to find out.

This trail is named after avid hiker and Carolina Mountain Club member Arthur Loeb. (Photo: Zoe Gates)

Art Loeb Trail, North Carolina

The Art Loeb Trail is a lush, 30-mile tour through some of the best views in western North Carolina. Named for a prominent local conservationist and located just southwest of Asheville, this trail is a local classic—and a bonafide butt-kicker. The Art Loeb zig-zags over wide-open balds, jagged mountain ridges, and plunging valleys, racking up about 10,000 feet in total elevation gain. Between the quad-burning climbs and the abundance of scenic snack stops, most people take at least three days for a full thru-hike. You can go either northbound or southbound, but hiking SoBo (from Camp Daniel Boone to the Davidson River Campground) frontloads some of the bigger climbs.

Gore Range Trail, Colorado 

The Gore Range was once one of Colorado’s best-kept secrets. Now, the word is out, but this alpine landscape is so vast that you’ll still have moments where you feel like you’re the only soul on earth. Located in the Eagle’s Nest Wilderness area west of Silverthorne, Colorado, the Gore Range is a Rocky Mountain paradise. Wildflower-speckled meadows, glassy lakes, and snow-mottled peaks lie tucked around every corner. And on the Gore Range Trail, you’ll take in every bit of it. The route traverses the entire range from south to north, clocking in at about 45 miles and 7,600 feet of elevation gain. Campsites are easy to come by, but the terrain is rugged. We recommend doing it over a long weekend—at least three days total. 

enchantments washington trail
There are over 700 alpine lakes and ponds in the Enchantments. (Photo: Zoe Gates)

The Enchantments, Washington 

The 18-mile route bisecting Washington’s Enchantments might be one of the most coveted hikes in North America. Cobalt lakes, silvery granite, and stands of ancient larch trees make this place every bit deserving of its name. The elevation gain is considerable—a whopping 4,500 feet over the length of the hike—but the biggest crux is securing a permit. This year, the area’s competitive lottery system opens February 15. If you can nab a winning ticket, however, you’re all but guaranteed a life-changing weekend in paradise. Most thru-hikers complete the hike over two days, starting at the Stuart Lake Trailhead, which eliminates some 2,500 feet of uphill. 

Gaia GPS outline of the knobstone trail
Knobstone Trail hikers begin at Deam Lake. Click on this map to see more of the trail on Gaia GPS. (Photo: Gaia GPS)

Knobstone Trail, Indiana

The 48-mile Knobstone Trail is Indiana’s longest continuous footpath—and one of the best long-weekend-length backpacks in the Midwest. Sometimes called “The Little Appalachian Trail,” this route weaves through the leafy hardwoods of the Clark and Jackson-Washington state forests, tracing the spine of the eponymous Knobstone Escarpment to some truly incredible views. The high point is only about 1,000 feet above sea level, but don’t let that fool you; the ups and downs here are no joke. From terminus to terminus, the Knobstone Trail notches nearly 10,000 feet of elevation gain. Between that and the mileage, we recommend doing it over at least three days. Camping permits aren’t required, and maps are available for free online through the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.

Wapack Trail, New Hampshire

Located just over an hour northwest of Boston, the Wapack Trail is a short-but-sweet sampler of classic New England scenery. The 21-mile route, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2023, connects Massachusetts’s Mt. Watatic to North Pack Monadnock in Greenfield, New Hampshire. Along the way, it rambles through blueberry fields, open pastures, hardwood forest, and verdant wetlands alike. This area of the country is a patchwork of private and public land, which means camping can be tricky. Fortunately, there are several primitive shelters available at Windblown Camping near the trail’s halfway point (book online; advanced reservations required). 

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