drive the usa map

50 Hikes. 50 States.

A project to hike one hike in every state in the U.S.

Every state in the country has a beautiful trail to hike
Every state in the country has a beautiful trail to hike

 

Hiking the USA was the most thrilling way we could imagine to experience our own backyard. There is a map at the end of the post for how to drive the entire USA, one state at a time.

Lucky. I live in a beautiful country filled with millions of miles of trails through thousands of beautiful places organized around 50 states. As a resident of the United States, I am more than lucky to have the freedom to move around this great country to explore its grandeur. And now, I’m off to see it again. But first, some back story. (Jump to the bottom of the post to see the driving map.) 

50 States by age 35

My sister claiming her side of the car before heading off on a summer road trip.

 

By 35, I had visited all 50 states. I grew up in a family with a father who insisted I see the US before I ventured into other countries. Our family vacations put my sister and me in the back of the car as my dad bulleted the car as fast as he could from point A to point B on our two-week long family vacations each summer.

A rare photo of my sister and me actually smiling together on a family road trip.

 

We’d leave from San Diego and head north or east–the only two choices available to us–and journey for a week then turn around. The only things I really saw during the trip were my sister’s dirty looks. We would draw a line with shoe string in the back seat of the car.

Her side. My side.

Crossing the line with even a pinky resulted in fights and nastiness. The bickering bellowed from the back seat non-stop. One time my dad even threw us out of the car and made us walk. Along the highway. In the heat. We had to promise to “be good” before we could get back in the car.

Recently, I stumbled upon my old journals and found evidence of this crazy memory. It simply stated, “Dad was mad. He threw us out of the car and made us walk.”

The Beginning of a Travel Writing Career

One of my first attempts at travel writing
One of my first attempts at travel writing

 

But they were great times.

My journal of gas prices, national parks, swimming pools and meals launched my writing career. It’s fun to look back and see how mad mom and dad were or how much a Big Mac cost. The miles flew by on some days, dragged on during the others. If we fell asleep, dad would pull the car over and demand we wake up. After all, we were there to SEE the country, not sleep through it. He was a bit of a tyrant, but his heart was in the right place.

Through these family trips from San Diego to Vancouver, San Diego to Wyoming, and San Diego to West Virginia, we clicked off about 35 states. I picked the rest of them up through business travel or personal visits to friends.

To the World and Beyond!

My mom, sister, and I on a cruise to Mexico!

 

From there, I jumped into the rest of the world and covered over 50 countries by the time I was 50. I’m currently at 62 countries. But after my jaunt through Latin America for 5 months, I discovered I missed my beautiful U.S.A. and decided that it’s time to revisit this amazing land, again. Thus, I launched my 50 Hikes 50 States Hiking Project.

50 Hikes 50 States Hiking Project

Here’s the goal: to hike one hike in each state over the next two years. How will we do it?

My wonderful husband has a companion pass on Southwest Airlines, so we’ll fly Southwest as often as we can. He’ll come with me on most trips. We’ll do 2-4 states every time we land, and we should be able to do one trip a month. The only state we won’t be able to do via Southwest is Alaska. We’ll fly someone else for that trip.

We’ll stay in a combination of AirBnBs or hotels we book, and we’ll rent cars or use public transit to get around.

Hiking and Traveling in the Time of COVID

We started the project in May 2019 and finished almost half of our hikes in 2019 an early 2020. Then COVID hit. Despite shutdowns and quarantines, we continued to do one trip a month. Most of the time during COVID, we drove, knocking out many of the western hikes in that time frame. When COVID wasn’t spiking, we flew. You’ll see we didn’t fly from November 2020 to January 2021. In March 2021, we got vaccinated. The entire COVID time, we masked, socially distanced, and carried food with us so we avoided restaurants for the most part.

Who Are We?

Chris and Steve from Eat Walk Learn, just a typical couple out for a hike
Chris and Steve from Eat Walk Learn, just a typical couple out for a hike

 

I am in my early fifties, fit, active, and I walk 16000 steps a day. He is in his late fifties, fit, active, and bikes regularly. We are not super athletes. We have knee problems, toe problems, and hearing problems.  We like a good hike which is 4-6 miles long, has some elevation, allows for some gain (where we might use poles), and affords great views. We’re not scramblers, extremists, or record breakers. We just want to get out on the trail and enjoy some fresh air.

How Do I Pick Our Hikes?

I started this project by reading Outside magazine’s 50 trail recommendations. I then combined that with several similar lists, added in Southwest airport geography, and routed logistics so we could knock out 2-4 hikes each time we fly and not end up driving more than 3 hours to a trailhead. It hasn’t been easy, and it’s certainly not perfect.

Here’s Our Itinerary and Where Hiked

Below is our itinerary. It changed drastically from when we first started planning. In fact, although I had preselected 50 hikes, we only actually did 3 of the preselected hikes. Geography, flights, and logistics played more of a role in picking our hikes than listicles of great hikes. None the less, we did our best to stick to our criteria for hikes (see above) and our criteria for travel restrictions (see above, too.)

See the map here.

DateSeasonStateAirport CityName of Trail

June 2019

July 2019

SummerNevada

 

Indiana

Illinois

Rhode Island

Las Vegas

 

Chicago

Boston

Valley of Fire

 

Indiana Sand Dunes

Midewin Prairie

Cliff Walk

July 2019SummerConnecticutBostonAT Lions Head to Bear Mountain (Could’t find trail!)
July 218SummerMassachusettsBostonBash Bish Falls
August 2019SummerMontanaBillingsFour Dances
August 2019SummerWyomingsouth pass citySouth Pass City Loop
August 2020FallColoradoDenverSouth Valley Trail
February 2020WinterUtahDenverFisher Towers
September 2019FallNew JerseyPhiladelphiagreat swamp national wildlife refuge orange trail
September 2019FallPennsylvaniaPhiladelphiatyler state park
September 2019FallNew YorkPhiladelphiaHarriman State Park
November 2019FallOhioCincinnatiMt Airy
November 2019FallWest VirginiaCincinnatiBeech Fork State Park
April 2020FallTexas Atlanta State Park
February 2020FallUtahDenverFisher Towers
August 2020FallMarylandWashington DCC&O Canal
August 2020FallVirginiaWashington DCPrince William Forest Park
December 2019WinterMississippiNew OrleansSand Hill Crane NWR
December 2019WinterLouisianaNew OrleansBarataria Preserve trails of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park
January 2020WinterAlabamaNew OrleansDauphin Island
January 2020WinterFloridaTampaCape Canaveral NS
February 2020WinterTexasLittle RockAtlanta State Park
February 2020WinterNew MexicoSanta FeRio Grande Norte NM
     
April 2021SpringHawaiiHonoluluHau’lua Loop Trail
April 2020SpringSouth CarolinaAtlantaYellow Branch Falls
February 2020SpringGeorgiaTampaOkefenokee Swamp
November 2019FallKentuckyLexingtonJefferson Memorial Forest
April 2020SpringArkansasLittle RockHot Springs NP
June 2020SummerNorth DakotaBismark, NDTeddy Roosevelt NP
June 2020SummerSouth DakotaRapid CityNotch Trail
July 2020SummerMinnesotaDuluth, MNSuperior Hiking Trail
July 2020SummerMichiganGrand RapidsPresque Isle River Trailhead
July 2020SummerWisconsinMadison, WIApostle Islands National Lakeshore
February 2020WinterArizonaPhoenixWater Wheel Trail
August 2020SummerDelawareDCCape Henlopen
September 2020SummerVermontManchester, NHHurricane Forest
September 2020SummerNew HampshirePortland, MERed Hill Fire Tower
September 2020SummerMainePortland, MERachel Carson NWR
October 2020FallKansasDenverTall Grass Prairie
October 2020FallNebraskaDenverScott’s Bluff
November 2020FallIdahoBoiseMilitary Reserve
September 2020FallIowaTulsa, OKSunset Ridge Trail
March 2021WinterCaliforniaSan DiegoTorrey Pines
January 2021WinterOregonPortland, ORPortland Urban
January 2021WinterWashingtonSeattleLime Kiln Point
     
July 2020SpringNorth CarolinaHendersonvilleCove Creek
July 2020SpringTennesseeKnoxvilleWest Prong Trail
May 2021SummerAlaskaSewardHarding Icefield Trail
September 2020FallOklahomaTulsaRiverside Trail
November 2019FallMissouriSt LouisLewis & Clark Tail

Come Along on this USA Map of All 50 Hikes

I’ll be blogging about each hike here and posting in social media under my EatWalkLearn handles. You can also follow the hashtag #50hikes50states. First up, Nevada.

See you on the trail,

~Chris

drive the usa map
If you were to drive to our hikes, this is the route

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