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Backpacking for a Happy Heart and Healthy Mind

travel - backpacker

With the demands of work, friends and family, and the constant chime of apps, text messages and social media alerts, our high-stress society has left more and more people looking to unplug and unwind. While a 2-week getaway in Saint Lucia would be ideal, not everyone has the funds (or the time) to make it happen. So how do you take a quick break on a budget? Backpacking nearby!

The health benefits of backpacking

With such a strong link between stress, high blood pressure, and decreased heart health, finding therapeutic activities to help manage your stress levels is always a good idea. According to Harvard Medical Publications, some studies suggests that spending time in green space can help ease stress and anxiety. While it’s still up for debate whether this effect is caused by the fresh air and serene settings, or by the freedom to finally ditch those smartphones, one thing is certain. With beautiful views and nature’s chorus of trickling streams, rustling leaves, and chirping birds, backpacking is the perfect pick-me-up. Plus, with its wide range of health benefits, including decreased stress levels and boosted mental health, there’s no reason not to enjoy this activity.

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Where to go backpacking?

Autumn is in full swing and now is the perfect time to start looking for a few of those local backpacking destinations. Handpicked for their views and amenities, the list below has some of our favorite weekend trips in the Northeast.

Cranberry Lake 50, N.Y.
Length: 50 miles, 2-5 days (depending on your pace)

Skill level: Moderate

With beautiful shoreline views, this 50-mile loop around the 7,000-acre Cranberry Lake is breathtaking. Visitors can leisurely walk across a mesmerizing landscape, which includes everything from old-growth forests and backcountry ponds, to sandy beaches and islands. Along the way, gorgeous campsites beckon weary backpackers. Take a break and rejuvenate. Then, head out to enjoy some fishing, biking, paddling or other outdoor activities. During the Winter, there’s skiing. And as a bonus, CL50 passes through two “trail towns,” giving history buffs a chance to explore the Adirondacks community and culture. For an easier first day (when your pack is heaviest) start traveling the trail counterclockwise.

Cadillac Mountain, Maine

Length: 8.8 miles, 1-2 days (depending on pace)

Skill Level: Difficult

Many of the short, scenic hikes on Mt. Desert Island overlook Acadia National Park’s 40 miles of beautiful, rocky shoreline. And Cadillac Mountain – the highest peak in Acadia National Park – highlights some of the best. Visitors can expect views of island clusters along Maine’s coast and the deep blue of the sprawling Atlantic. The trail begins in the lower, winding slopes of Dorr Mountain, past interspersed views of the Porcupine Islands and Frenchman Bay. Backpackers can enjoy the sights, explore the area and spend a night at one of the campgrounds. Depending on the season, backpackers can wander off to enjoy a range of activities, like swimming, boating, leaf peeping, skiing and more. On day 2, be sure to climb Cadillac Mountain, where at 1,530 feet, you’ll be the first person in North America to see the sun rise.

Lucky for us, the Northeast has plenty of scenic spots perfect for a backpacking getaway.

Metacomet Trail, Conn.

Length: 51 miles, 1 -2 day (depending on pace)

Skill Level: Moderate

This 51-mile section of the New England National Scenic Trail, heads north from the Hanging Hills of Meriden to the Massachusetts border. Along the path, backpackers are rewarded with snap shots of history as they pass through different Revolutionary War sites. There’s also beautiful views of the Connecticut River and stunning basalt or “traprock” cliffs that were formed almost 200-million-years ago (quite a sight during the fall). Most decide to trail the hike for a day or two, taking advantage of loop-back hikes, where Metacomet intersects other major trail systems like the Timberlin Park in Berlin.

Pine Creek Rail Trail, Pa.
Length: 62 miles, 2-3 day (depending on pace)

Skill Level: Easy

Hugging Pine Creek for a majority of the route, this trip offers beautiful views of the water and dramatic rock outcrops of the Pine Creek Gorge. The trail’s small grade (two percent), runs uphill towards Ansonia and downhill towards the Jersey Shore, making Pine Creek Trail perfect for an easy, scenic walk or bike ride. Backpackers headed on a longer trek can stop at one of the numerous comfort stations, campgrounds, and small towns along the route. Be sure to make time for one of the many outdoor activities, like whitewater rafting, kayaking, fishing and canoeing. During your travels, look out for eagles, osprey, coyote  and more, on nearby hillsides.

There’s nothing more magical or relaxing than a few days spent in nature. And there are even more peaceful and beautiful destinations for backpacking trips in the Northeast. Check out Massachusetts’s 90 miles of the Appalachian Trail, or hike sections of New Hampshire’s Presidential Traverse. The Long Trail, which begins at the Massachusetts-Vermont state line and travels along the main ridge of the Green Mountains, has some pretty unique history. Wherever you decide to go backpacking, remember to do it safely!

Thinking about a camping or backpacking trip? Visit AAA.com and see what our travel services can do for you.

Do you have a favorite place to go for backpacking and hiking? Let us know in the comments below.


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