Appalachian Trail in Georgia
The Appalachian Trail, conceived by Benton MacKaye in 1921, travels 2,178 miles from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. It can be easy to underestimate Georgia, thinking it has a milder climate, but the Appalachians in Georgia have several peaks over 4,000 feet, including Blood Mountain. Springer itself is 3,782 feet high, and requires an eight-mile approach hike from Amicalola Falls State Park. A good Thanksgiving weekend goal would be to hike from the southern terminus of the A.T. to Woody Gap, a distance of approximately 30 miles. This allows for a leisurely pace of just under eight miles per day. Those looking for more can continue from Woody Gap to Neels Gap, an additional 10.7 miles. Water is scarce at some of the campsites and shelters in this section, so carry a water filter to filter water from streams, and consider bringing extra fuel to melt snow if there is any. Hunting season in Georgia runs from October 18 to January 1, so wear bright clothing.
Salt Creek-Lavender Canyon Loop - Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands National Park, located outside of Moab, has some of the most stunning desert views in the state, especially at Island in the Sky, 1,000 feet above the rivers that cut the gorges. Backpacking in Canyonlands presents several challenges, especially water, as many of the springs are unreliable. The National Parks Service suggest that hikers pack in as much of their water as they can. It may also be possible to melt snow, depending on the conditions. Permits are required for all overnight trips in Canyonlands, and are available at the Ranger office.
This Salt Creek-Lavender Canyon Loop hike takes you through the Needles District with a total of 24 miles and an elevation gain of approximately 1,200 feet. The route starts from the Cathedral Butte trailhead and passes several sandstone arches and Anasazi sites. There are no prebuilt shelters, so hikers will need to carry their own tents.
Canyonlands National Park
2282 SW Resource Road
Moab, UT 84532
Pacific Crest Trail - Southern California
The Pacific Crest Trail is one of three National Scenic Trails. The PCT travels 2,600 miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through California, Oregon and Washington. Through-hiking the PCT is more difficult than the Appalachian Trail, as there is far more elevation gain and hikers need to plan to hit the High Sierras after the snow melt, but reach Washington before the snows fall. The southern section offers numerous multi-day backpacking opportunities best done in the fall, as the weather can often be blazingly hot.
A good 26-mile jaunt starts at Highway 78 and travels through the San Felipe hills to Warner Springs; it is referred to as CA Section 4 at backpacker.com. Those looking for more distance can start the hike further south, at Laguna Meadow, making it a 50-mile hike. There are some water caches and springs in this section, but carry a filter.