Our generation is obsessed with the road trip. Whether by lusting after #vanlife or by graduating from college and heading out on a road trip across the country, people flood their social media feeds with road trip ideas — #vanlife alone has more than 650,000 tagged photos on Instagram. We love the enthusiasm, and if you’re a hiker, you’ll want to consider planning your road trip around some of the nation’s best hikes. In this ultimate hiker’s road trip, we picked a route that tackles a good portion of the west, hitting bucket-list spots along the way. But what good is a hiker’s road trip without the gear to make the most of the world-class trails? The picks below are versatile enough to take on a number of different environments and are durable enough to last for the duration of your trip.
Explore the West and check off some of America’s best hikes.
The route you take is the most important part of any road trip. In a lot of cases, the destinations become secondary to the sights seen along the way. Not on this route, though. Ticking off one Colorado’s most beautiful 14ers right at the start, the route then heads to Canyonlands National Park, where we recommend heading out on the legendary Elephant Hill to Druid Arch hike. To capture one of the country’s most beautiful locations, the next stop is the Grand Canyon. Hike down to the base and look up to get a feel for just how massive it really is. Next it’s back to Utah and Zion National Park. While it’s tough to go wrong with trail choice in Zion, we recommend hiking the Zion Narrows. From Zion, go due west to Lone Pine, California and tackle Mt. Whitney, the tallest mountain in the contiguous US. Then, head to Yosemite for the 8.5-mile one way Panorama Trail for incredible views of the Valley. To wrap up the trip, drive north to Lake Tahoe to hike the Tahoe Rim trail. The trail takes you 165 miles around Lake Tahoe, offering incredible views of the lake below.
Essential gear for staying comfortable on the trail.
On a hike, your clothing is your most essential equipment. It keeps you comfortable regardless of the conditions and ensures that you’re ready to take any sort of trail from loose rock to soft pine needles. On a road trip, it’s not often that you have access to a washing machine, so merino wool is the way to go. It resists stench so you can stretch a few more days out of your kit.
Woolies 1 Boxer Brief by Ibex $39+
Woolies 1 Short Sleeve by Ibex $55
Crester Soft Shell Short by Stio $80
Quattro Short Sleeve by Icebreaker $125
Light Hiker Crew by Fits $21
Hike Roller Mid GTX by Salewa $189
Beta LT Jacket by Arc’teryx $349
The necessities for a comfortable night’s sleep.
On any sort of hiking trip, lightweight gear is the name of the game. Once you’re carrying everything on your back, every ounce counts. That’s why we recommend a lightweight yet roomy tent like Big Agnes’s Fly Creek HV UL3 and a featherlight and packable sleeping bag like Montbell’s Down Hugger 900 #5. Your hard goods have to be durable enough to use every day, without weighing you down on longer multi-day trips.
Fly Creek HV UL3 by Big Agnes $450
Whisperlite Universal by MSR $140
Down Hugger 900 #5 by Montbell $419
Comfort Plus Insulated Mat by Sea to Summit $200
Flash 65 by REI $199
Miniworks EX Microfilter by MSR $90
Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles by Black Diamond $160
H7.2 Headlamp by LED Lenser $60
Kickr IV+ by Enerplex $105
A few flourishes worthy of the extra weight.
When you’re out on the trail for days on end and driving from trailhead to trailhead, some carefully selected creature comforts go a long way. A nice bourbon like Bulleit, poured neat at the end of a full day of elevation gain — that’s a great feeling. Nemo’s Helio shower is the ultimate in base-camp luxury. Simply fill the container with water and sit it out in the sun. Then use the foot pump to pressurize it and use the spray nozzle as your own personal camp shower.
The perfect companion for the road trip hiker.
Audi’s A4 Allroad Quattro is the car we’d pick as our hiking road trip chariot. If you’re going to be spending significant time behind the wheel of a car, it might as well be one that’s comfortable and luxurious, but that can still get you to the trailhead in one piece. With racks, the Allroad offers plenty of roof space for any extra gear you might want to take along that won’t fit in the trunk.
Allroad Quatro by Audi $42,700