Exploring the Great Western Loop. An American Hiking Route

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Have you ever dreamed of embarking on an epic hiking adventure that pushes your limits and takes you through some of the most breathtaking landscapes in the United States?

If so, you’re in for a treat as we explore the Great Western Loop, an American hiking route of 7,000 miles of trail that combines the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, and more.

This challenging hike is a stepping stone for those who aspire to achieve the Triple Crown of American hiking. But what does it take to conquer this incredible journey? Let’s dive in!

The Great Western Loop is A Hiker’s Dream

The Great Western Loop is a hiker’s dream come true. It offers an unparalleled variety, combining the following trails:

  • Pacific Crest Trail

  • Continental Divide Trail

  • Pacific Northwest Trail

  • Arizona Trail

  • Grand Enchantment Trail

  • Sections of trail-less walking through the Sonoran and Mojave deserts

This 7,000-mile route takes you through a diverse range of landscapes, from the hot deserts of Arizona to the snow-capped mountains of Glacier National Park in Montana.

With such an incredible journey ahead, it’s no wonder that the Great Western Loop has captured the imagination of ambitious hikers worldwide.

The Birth of the Loop

The Great Western Loop was born in Spring 2006 when renowned adventurer Andrew Skurka and Ryan Jordan from Backpacking Light Magazine teamed up to create this epic route. The idea was to connect existing long-distance hiking trails and create a continuous loop through the western United States.

Skurka went on to become the first person to complete the Great Western Loop, setting the stage for future trailblazers to follow in his footsteps.

Notable Features

The Great Western Loop is not only about the distance; it’s about the awe-inspiring landscapes you’ll encounter along the way. From the depths of the Grand Canyon to the snowy peaks of Glacier National Park, the route offers a diverse range of scenery that includes deserts, mountains, and forests. As you navigate through the 6,800-mile loop, you’ll have the opportunity to explore segments of the Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, and Continental Divide Trail, each with its own unique challenges and rewards.

The journey through these various trails and national parks will leave you with unforgettable memories and a profound appreciation for the natural beauty of the western United States. As you conquer each section of the Great Western Loop, you’ll be stepping closer to the ultimate goal: completing the Triple Crown of American hiking.

Conquering the Greater Western Loop

For those seeking an even greater challenge, the Greater Western Loop offers a more intense experience. This expanded version of the original loop stretches to 8,000 miles by adding tail ends of trails like the Arizona Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Grand Enchantment Trail. Brave hikers who attempt the Greater Western Loop are rewarded with an unmatched sense of accomplishment and the chance to explore even more of the western United States, including the breathtaking Arizona trails.

The Greater Western Loop is a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of the western United States.


Trailblazers like Schwarze have completed impressive feats, such as a 5,300-mile yo-yo of the Pacific Crest Trail, before attempting the Greater Western Loop. These extraordinary hikers set the bar for others, proving that with determination and resilience, it’s possible to conquer even the most challenging trails.

Their experiences serve as an inspiration for those who dare to follow in their footsteps. It’s a reminder that with the right mindset and preparation, anything is possible.

Overcoming Obstacles

On the Great Western Loop and Greater Western Loop, hikers face a variety of challenges, such as:

  • rugged terrain

  • hot deserts

  • deep snow

  • dangerous river crossings

  • high mountain passes

However, with determination and resilience, these hikers push through the obstacles and continue their journey.

The key is to be prepared, adapt to the challenges, and keep focused on the end goal. After all, the incredible sense of accomplishment and unforgettable memories are worth every struggle.

Triple Crown Dreams

For many hikers, the ultimate goal is to achieve the Triple Crown of American hiking: completing the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Appalachian Trail. The Great Western Loop serves as an excellent stepping stone and training, allowing hikers to experience the diverse landscapes of the western United States while working towards the prestigious Triple Crown.

Halfway Point Accomplishments

Reaching the halfway point of the Great Western Loop is a significant accomplishment, marking progress towards the Triple Crown goal. It’s a testament to the determination and effort of the trailblazers who have come this far, overcoming numerous challenges along the way.

As hikers continue their journey, the halfway point serves as a reminder of how far they’ve come and motivates them to keep pushing toward their ultimate goal.

Building a Trail Family

Throughout their journey on the Great Western Loop, hikers often form strong bonds with fellow adventurers, creating a supportive and encouraging trail family. These connections not only make the journey more enjoyable, but also provide a valuable support system when facing challenges on the trail.

The trail family becomes an essential part of the overall experience, leaving hikers with cherished memories and lifelong friendships.

Preparing for the Great Western Loop Adventure

Before embarking on the Great Western Loop, careful planning and preparation are essential. From obtaining permits for national parks to physical conditioning, hikers must ensure they are ready to face the long journey ahead.

Let’s explore some crucial aspects of preparing for this incredible adventure.

Navigating National Parks

As the Great Western Loop passes through several national parks, such as Glacier National Park, hikers must obtain the necessary permits and adhere to park regulations to ensure the protection of these natural treasures.

Respecting and following the rules not only ensures a smooth journey, but also helps preserve these beautiful landscapes for future generations to enjoy.

Permits are available online and at park visitor centers.

Training and Conditioning

To endure the physical demands of the Great Western Loop, hikers must train and condition their bodies.

This includes building up endurance, strength, and flexibility to handle long distances, elevation changes, and harsh weather conditions.

It’s crucial to incorporate endurance training, such as hiking long distances, running, cycling, and swimming, as well as strength training exercises like squats, lunges, and core workouts.

Additionally, hiking practice is essential for familiarizing yourself with carrying a loaded backpack, navigating tricky terrain, and using a map and compass.

By thoroughly preparing and conditioning yourself, you’ll be better equipped to face the challenges of the Great Western Loop and make the most of your adventure.

Staying Connected on the Trail

Staying connected with fellow hikers and sharing the adventure with friends and family is essential for those embarking on the Great Western Loop. Whether through online communities, social media, or documenting your journey, staying connected can provide valuable support and encouragement throughout your hike.

Connecting with other hikers can help you stay motivated and inspired, and can even provide helpful advice.

Online Communities

Online communities like The Trek provide a platform for hikers to share their experiences, ask questions, and offer support. By connecting with others who share your passion for hiking, you can gain valuable insights, tips, and encouragement as you navigate the Great Western Loop.

These virtual connections can help you feel less alone and more motivated to conquer the trail.

Documenting the Adventure

Documenting your journey through blogs, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok is a fantastic way to share your adventure with others and inspire future Great Western Loop explorers. By capturing stunning landscapes, memorable moments, and personal triumphs, you can create a lasting record of your incredible journey.

Not only does documenting your adventure allow you to share your experiences with friends and family, but it also serves as a powerful reminder of the challenges you’ve overcome and the memories you’ve created. Looking back on your journey, you’ll be able to relive the excitement, joy, and pride of conquering the Great Western Loop.


The Great Western Loop offers a challenging yet rewarding adventure for those who dare to take it on. From its breathtaking landscapes to the camaraderie of trail families, this epic journey leaves a lasting impact on those who conquer it. Whether you’re working towards the Triple Crown of American hiking or seeking the adventure of a lifetime, the Great Western Loop is a testament to the resilience, determination, and passion of hikers who dare to dream big.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many people have completed the Great Western Loop?

Only two people have completed the Great Western Loop – Jeff Garmire in 2018 and Andrew Skurka in 2007. Garmier finished it in 208 days and 15 hours, while Skurka took 213 days and six hours.

What is the hiking trail that goes across the United States?

The Continental Divide Trail is a 3,100-mile long hiking trail that stretches across the United States between Mexico and Canada.

Alternatively, The American Discovery Trail is another cross-country route for hikers, cyclists and horse riders that connects people with rural and urban areas as well as wilderness, deserts, mountains and forests.

What are the 3 longest hiking trails in us?

The 3 longest hiking trails in the US are the Appalachian Trail (2,200 miles), Pacific Crest Trail (2,650 miles) and Continental Divide Trail (3,100 miles), which combined make up the Triple Crown totaling 7,900 miles of hiking.

How can I prepare for the Great Western Loop?

Plan ahead, get your permits, and physically prepare for the Great Western Loop so you can enjoy the journey to its fullest.

How can I stay connected with fellow hikers on the trail?

Stay connected with other hikers through online groups, social media, and by sharing your journey on blogs, Instagram, YouTube, and TikTok.