Whether you’re a new mountaineer, or you’re an experienced mountaineer, there’s a trail on this list for everyone! Continue below to get an idea of where to go for your next western mountaineering trip!
Top Western Mountaineering Trails
1.) Pacific Crest Trail
If you want to have a quintessential western mountaineering experience, then check out the Pacific Crest Trail. Stretching through California, Oregon, and Washington, this 2,650-mile trail is extremely challenging to complete in one stretch. It is advised to complete a week of the trail, take a break, and return a few days or weeks later. Despite being one of the most demanding western mountaineering trails, the reward of accomplishment and the breathtaking scenery you will experience is worth it! Get ready to experience seven national parks, the Mojave Desert, a 13,153-foot summit at Forester Pass, and the Cascades’ volcanoes. This is definitely a trail you will remember forever!
2.) Sierra High Route
If you are looking for a challenging trail that is mostly done at 9,000 to 12,000 feet high, then look no further! Located in California, this 195-mile trail starts in Kings Canyon National Park and ends in the Hoover Wilderness. The Sierra High Route trail somewhat resembles the John Muir Trail. So, if you want to practice before attempting the Sierra High Route, complete the John Muir Trail. While the trail can be completed in a couple of consecutive days, it is recommended for less experienced mountaineers to break up the trail, and do it in separate trips.
To get the best experience from this trail, visit during the summer or early fall.
3.) Delicate Arch Hike
This 3-mile trail located in Utah is perfect for beginners! If you’re looking for the perfect trail to start mountaineering, and you want to see breathtaking views of canyons, arches, and various rock formations, then try this trail. Complete this trail during the afternoon, then find a place to sit back and relax, because the crimson colored sunset is something you will definitely want to see!
4.) Zion Narrows
Perfect for a beginner or intermediate mountaineer, this trail is 16 miles long. Trek alongside the Virgin River into the red colored canyons. Due to narrow pathways, rocky terrain, and the river, it is advised to wear waterproof boots and bring a walking stick. Be cautious of completing this trail during the summertime, because this location is a hotspot for flash floods and severe thunderstorms.
5.) Grinnell Glacier Trail
If canyons are not your cup of tea, then complete the Grinnell Glacier Trail to see one of the most breathtaking mountain view in the U.S. Located in Montana, this 8 mile hike is perfect for beginner mountaineers who are not scared of high altitudes. Once you gain access to the top, lay out a blanket, and soak in the view of the alpine country, along with a pure blue glacier!
6.) Limestone Canyon
Trek along the twists and turns of this 5 mile trail. Located in California, this trail is perfect for beginner and intermediate mountaineers! Between the short distance, decently even terrain, and wide paths, this is the perfect trail to do on an afternoon after work, or a group of friends. Expect to see gorgeous oak canyons, phacelias, lupines, and wild roses. Thus, this trail is perfect for sharpening your mountaineering skills and enjoying nature!
7.) Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Even though this 2 mile California trail is perfect for a new mountaineer, mountaineers of every experience level should check this one out! Located in Big Sur, California trek into the redwoods until you come to the overlook of McWay Falls, a small beach with crystal clear light blue water, small cliffs, and rock formations. Unfortunately, there is an 80 foot plunge to the beach, and there is currently no way to safely descend that plunge. So, this gorgeous view is only that—a view.
8.) Angels Landing
At only 2.5 miles, you would think this Utah trail is perfect for a beginner. While some beginners might have enough bravery and stamina to endure this trail, this trail is ideal for intermediate mountaineers. Be prepared to twist and turn up steep cliffs on a tiny path. Some people even cling onto the side of the cliffs as the complete the trail!
9) Cathedral Lake Trail
If you are an intermediate mountaineer, looking to sharpen your skills, check out the Cathedral Lake Trail located in Colorado. This 5.6 mile trail contains a 2,000 foot elevation gain that leads up to 11,866 feet. Trek around sharp turns and steep hills to make it to the summit and view the gorgeous alpines!
10.) Half Dome
Perfect for an advanced or expert mountaineer, this 8,800 foot mountain is an extremely demanding adventure. Located in California, this mountain is mainly a steep climb, and for the final 400 feet, plan to climb up using only your cables! So, if you are afraid of heights, or dangling from only a set of cables, I would sit this trail out. While the trail is not too long, but the terrain and obstacles are demanding, plan to spend at least 10 hours on this trail!
11.) Dry Creek Trail #52
Located in Sedona, Arizona, Dry Creek Trail #52 is perfect for a beginner mountaineer who is looking for a more strenuous trail, without an extremely high summit. This 5-mile trail is located in the heart of the Coconino National Forest and is full of rocky terrain and sharp turns. Even though Arizona is full of amazing trails, locals prefer Dry Creek Trail #52 because it is a moderate trail, full of breathtaking sandstone formations, various spruces and trees, and animals, such as deer.
12.) South Kaibab Trail
Located in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, this trail is an only 2 miles long! Trail along a slim and windy pathway to reach the top of the Oo-Aah Point (yes, that’s what it’s really called). Once you reach the point, look below at the gorgeously crafted canyons, or straight ahead at the never ending rock formations. While the trail is extremely easy, almost too easy, the view at the end is breathtaking, and is the perfect photo-op to pose with your significant other, family, or group of friends!
13.) Dosewallips to Lake Quinault
Located in Washington, this 34 mile trail is great for beginner to intermediate mountaineers! You will definitely want to bring along your waterproof gear because you will spend most of your time in the rain forest or near sea level. Since it’s located in Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, be prepared for lots of rain, and possibly having to reschedule your trip. If you want to complete this trail with the lowest chance of being rained out, then check out this trail from August to September!
14.) Kings Peak
This 29-mile trail is located in the heart of the Utah’s canyons. A favorite of many western mountaineers, this trail is based on the tallest mountain in Utah. This trail is perfect for the intermediate mountaineer since it is suggested to camp, at least, a night on the trail. But, the trail is not extremely strenuous, since it only has a 1,000-foot steep chute (which is short compared to other chutes). So, if you want to have a quality western mountaineering experience as an intermediate mountaineer, check out Kings Peak sometime in the fall!
15.) Oregon Desert Trail
Stretching through Oregon, Idaho, and Nevada, this 750-mile trail is not for the faint of heart! Located in the heart of the largest desert in the U.S, expect to see lots of sagebrushes, songbirds, and wildflowers. Mountaineers who have a passion for history should experience this trail because it’s full of artifacts from native tribes and cultures. Since this trail contains long stretches, with little to no options of where to restock supplies and regroup, it is recommended to complete this trail in separate trips.
16.) Mount Whitney
Located less than five hours away from the City of Angels (Los Angeles), this 22-mile trail is home to the tallest summit in the area. While an estimated 16,000 people attempt to complete the trail yearly, only about half make it. This is mainly due to the high altitude and extreme fatigue that mountaineers experience, thus they return home. But, if you can stomach the trail, you’ll be 14,497 feet above sea level once you reach the top!
17.) Moran State Park
A popular western mountaineering experience, this trail 8-mile trail is perfect for a beginner or intermediate mountaineer! Trek through the forest and around the gorgeous lakes and waterfalls of Orcas Island, Washington. After trailing around acres of trees, ascend up the 2,400-foot mountain, Mt. Constitution. From the top of Mt. Constitution, look down at the vast amount of trees, gorgeous pure blue water, and other mountains around Washington’s coast. Thus, between the easy terrain, breathtaking scenery, tourist popularity, and decently sized mountain, this trail is perfect for an inexperienced mountaineer!