If you’re new to backpacking, your first few trips will mostly be all about getting comfortable with your gear and learning how to survive with nothing more than the basic necessities on your back.
To familiarize yourself with the logistics of backpacking, you’ll want to purposely start with a relatively easy trail, one that’s not too technical or overly challenging. Below are some of the most popular backpacking destinations for newbies around the world.
Isle Royale, United States
The total mileage and time needed to backpack across Isle Royale may vary depending on the number of trails you want to traverse. There are 3 main tracks in the area: the Greenstone Ridge, the Minong Ridge, and the Feldtmann Loop. It’s always ideal that beginners go backpacking in Isle Royale because the 30-mile long Feldtmann Loop is highly recommended as it requires minimal physical effort. Due to the low elevation gain, it allows you to comfortably wrap your head around the logistics of backpacking while still giving you an exhilarating, outdoor adventure. This loop typically takes around 3 days to travel across.
Even if you choose to extend your adventure by picking one of the other two trails, you’ll still have a simple and enjoyable experience because both The Greenstone Ridge and The Minong Ridge are clearly marked and they also have very few trail intersections which allows you to put together an itinerary for the duration of your trip based on the mileage and elevation that best suits your skill and fitness levels.
The Wicklow Way, Ireland
Between the mountain paths, the forest tracks, and the quiet country roads, the Wicklow Way will take you through miles and miles of stunning landscapes that truly reflect the authentic, quintessential Irish charm. Stretching from Dublin’s Suburbs in the North to the village of Clonegal in the South, this long-distance backpacking trail is around 81 miles long with approximately 10,900 ft of cumulative elevation gain. Although the numbers may seem overwhelming, you don’t really need to be in tip-top shape to traverse The Wicklow Way.
It’s generally recommended for beginners to travel South because the elevation gain in the Southern foothills of the Wicklow Mountains isn’t as steep as it is in the North. For a novice backpacker with average skill and fitness levels, traveling across the Wicklow Way typically takes between 5 and 7 days. The most prominent reason that makes this track great for newbies despite the relatively long distance is the numerous budget-friendly, accommodation options that you can find in the villages along the trail.
On the other hand, the biggest downside to backpacking in this particular area is the fact that you can’t always camp there because there are long stretches of private land along the way where camping is prohibited and it’s usually difficult to identify which land is private.
The Highlands Backpacking Trail, Canada
The Highlands Backpacking Trail is one of the most popular routes for beginner backpackers in Canada. Because the trail is comprised of an easy-to-follow loop, you can determine the total distance of your hike (between 12 to 22 miles) based on the route you choose. Seasoned backpackers can complete an entire loop in a single day, but most newbies take between 2 to 3 days.
If you take the 12-mile loop, we strongly recommend that you spend a night by the beautiful Provoking Lake and if you take the 22-mile loop, you should consider camping out by the serene Head Lake or the enchanting Harness Lake. As you can see, the majority of the trail follows clean and clear lakes which means that freshwater is easily accessible on this hike.
Overall, the entire 22-mile trail has a cumulative elevation gain of approximately 5000 ft, but worry not, because even the steepest sections of the trail are still fairly simple to manage. The one tricky thing about The Highlands Trail is that it has plenty of bumps and grooves with varying elevation gain and loss which makes the track quite slippery after it rains or during the mud season when the snow starts to melt.
Besides the aforementioned trails, there are plenty of other beginner-friendly destinations that allow you to experience the ultimate backpacking adventure without pushing your limits too far, too soon. Some of the easiest, most adventure-worthy backpacking destinations around the world include the Lost Trail in California, the West Highland Way in Scotland, the Salkantay Trek in Peru, and the Cape Pillar Track in Tasmania.
As you go through the endless lists of backpacking destinations, take the time to read a little about each trail and be sure to choose the one that fits you the best.