A Thru-Hike for Everyone: 5 Trails Under 200 Miles

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Recent books and movies have inspired countless hikers and potential hikers to dream about thru-hiking one of the “big three” of America’s long trails: The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, or the Continental Divide Trail. However, for many people the feat is just not feasible. Perhaps there’s that pesky job or mortgage. Six months may be too much time away from family and the lives they’ve built. Still others may want an epic hike, but just aren’t interested in one that’s 2,000+ miles.

Here are five trails under 200 miles (yes, the John Muir Trail is 210) that will satisfy the need for adventure without being too much of a commitment.

1. Shawnee State Forest Backpacking Trail

Best For: The rugged “Little Smokies” is a great spot for midwestern flatlanders to practice for backpacking trips to the mountains.
Distance: 40 miles, loop
Location: South central Ohio
How to Get There: From Cincinnati, take Rt. 125 east to the trailhead.

Description: In his book, “Backpack Loops and Long Day Trail Hikes in Southern Ohio” Robert Ruchhoft describes the hills of the Shawnee State Forest Backpack Trail as arduous, struggle, exhaustive frustration, lung buster and more. Compared to most other trails in Ohio, he is right. As the trail meanders through the 63,000 acre state forest in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, it is obvious the designers thought the direct route up and down the slopes was the best route. The reward for the steepness of the trail is great scenery without the crowds.

Self-registration permits are available at the trailhead at no cost. Seven camp areas are located along the loop and contain tent areas, a latrine and (at six of the areas) potable water. Winter is a great time to hike as the leaf free views are more open and there will be few, if any other backpackers. 

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