In my twenties and thirties, I was single and unencumbered. My life consisted of working, saving money, and taking a long hike. I walked the length of the long green tunnel, traversed the crest and followed the great divide. My life consisted of wonderful memories, experiences and moments made over the years.

Then my priorities shifted a bit. I married Mrs Mags, formed a community I care about and started to plan for more than my next-big-hike. I, frankly, don't want to be gone for four to six months at a time anymore. Four to six weeks sounds about right.


Currently, my goal in life is the creating of flexibility so I may attain my less time intense goals on a regular basis. Where I can maintain a marriage, a community and a career and still explore the backcountry for an extended period of time.

In the mean-time, I still need my outdoor fix. Working full time, while working towards a goal of more flexible time, means I have vacations that range from one week or, if I am lucky, one month.

These lesser length hikes help maintain my sanity and get my needed outdoor fix.

The type of journeys I enjoy doing in this time frame are different than the usual suspects of the Long Trail, the John Muir Trail or the Wonderland Trail. These more well-known trails are great, but I prefer trails a little more off the beaten path… or perhaps have no path at all.

Here's some suggestions that may work for people in a similar position.


One Week

The nearly 100 mile long Highline Trail in the Uinta Mountains of Utah, commonly called the Uinta Highline Trail, takes in glacier carved valleys, is within striking distance of the highest point in Utah and starts in the sage brush and traverses through alpine terrain. The Uinta Mountains themselves are said to have nearly 2000 lakes, contain the largest expanse of above tree line area in the lower 48 second only to Colorado's San Juan Mountains and is the rare range that goes from east to west.

The trail itself is not defined in many areas and does require a person to pay attention to the terrain ahead of them. But the rewards of hiking this relatively unused wilderness area, other than Kings Peak itself, are excellent. A memorable adventure for anyone.

Be sure and check out the second part of the article


Two or Three Weeks

The almost 300 mile long Benton MacKaye Trail (BMT ) is a great way to see the beauty of the southern Appalachians without the crowds of the Appalachian Trail.

Thick stands of hardwoods, groves of mountain laurel, old communities and great views off the ridges… all to be seen on the BMT.

A speedy and disciplined hiker could do the trail in two weeks. Or a more leisurely pace can be done in three weeks.

Either way, hiking the BMT is a wonderful experience that is perfect for the person wishing to experience the Appalachians with a little more solitude.


Four Weeks

Though getting more popular, being a Colorado resident, I have a soft spot for The Colorado Trail. At 500 miles long, it is something a person with a light pack and who is in shape can do in four weeks without too much trouble.

Some incredible scenery can be seen, amazing ridge walks done and by being such a well-maintained trail, The Colorado Trail is an excellent introduction to long-distance hiking in the American West.

Highlights include the San Juan range, the new Collegiate West option which follows the Continental Divide and the aspen found in the lower mountains outside of the Denver start.

colorado trail

Choose your own adventure

Another option, and one I find very satisfying, is to put together your own route. Grab some maps, see what looks promising and go. No guidebook, no iPhone app or preset waypoints needed. Plotting out something that incorporates old mining routes, off-trail travel and existing trails or similar is an excellent way to make the most use of precious time off. Miles are not as important this way. It is more about the days out. When there is no trail, mileage goes down but the exploration, sense of discovery and reveling in something unique goes up.


See what that trail-less pass on the map looks like when up high. Explore that high alpine lake with no name and see if the fishing is good. And enjoy the view from the unnamed peak that has not been scaled in a long time.

Map and compass skills are needed. Sense of adventure encouraged. And a joy in the outdoors mandatory.

This post was contributed by former Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador Paul "PMags" Magnanti

February 23, 2015 — Brian Fryer