The Hardest Hikes on the East Coast – Hiking & Trail Running

While it isn’t known for it’s mountains. The hardest hikes on the east coast have earned the nickname of the Beast Coast for a reason. With trails that are steep, uneven, rooty, rocky, and often covered with leaves hiding these obstacles. Switchbacks are a rarity for climbs so grades reaching 30%+ add to the fun. So if you’re looking for a challenge and some elevation I’ve got you covered with the most difficult trail in the east.

These are not in any specific order or ranked by difficulty. I’ll continue to grow this list as I find more worthy of being on the list of the hardest hikes on the east coast. If you feel like I have left your favorite trail off this list, let me know in the comments below!

Hardest Hikes on the East Coast

The Pemi Loop

Distance: 30.3
Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: 9,589ft
All Trails Link: Click Here
Features: Eight 4,000ft peaks and wide open views.

The Pemi Loop is a legendary loop for for north east hikers and runners. Located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire the trail is notoriously difficult. Taking you to the top and over eight 4,000ft mountains as you navigate around the bowl like ridgeline. The wide open views make the juice worth the squeeze. And knocking this one off in less the list will give you some major east coast bragging rights. 

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The Presidential Traverse

Distance: 22+
Type: Point to Point
Elevation Gain: 9,500+
All Trails Link: Click Here
Features: 9 Peaks over 4,000ft

You had to know it would be on the list. Located in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, The Presidents Travers is probably the most famous east coast hike in the world not named the Appalachian Trail. Featuring miles of hiking above the tree line you will tag 9 total peaks over 4,000ft, and seven of those stand over 5,000ft. Known for weather that can change at the drop of a dime, and wind that can blow a runner off the steep trails. Summer storms have cost many hikers and runners the goal of completing the trail unbroken. And if you’re making a winter pass make sure you have the correct gear.

The Great Range traverse

Distance: 20.7
Type: Point to Point
Elevation Gain: 8,500+ (reports of up to 10,000ft)
All Trails Link: Click Here
Features: 12 peaks, 8 over 4,000

Let’s take a trip to the great state of New York with the Great Range Traverse. While the Presidential Travers may get all of the attention, this may give it a run for it’s money when it comes to pure pain per mile. Going over 12 total peeks in the Adirondacks Mountains. Eight peaks are over 4,000ft with the other two over 2,000ft. Be prepared for a trail that is ruggedly cut into the mountain side and for any type of weather. The better the view, the windier and colder it get in the north east.

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Devils Path

Distance: 24
Type: Point to Point
Elevation Gain: 8,172ft
All Trails Link: Click Here
Features: Brutal trails with epic views.

Located in Elk Park, New York in the Catskills Mountains, The Devil’s Path is a brutal point-to-point hike with over 8,000ft of gain. You can expect sections of 40%-50% grades where you will be using your hands to help pull you up steep rock walls. And there is a reason Backpacker Magazine called this the second hardest hike on the east coast. Devils Path is one of the most famous trails for ultra runners in the north east and it’s considered a right of passage to complete.

Black Mountain Crest Trail

Distance: 11.3 Miles
Type: Point to Point (Often done as an Out and Back)
Elevation Gain: 5,147ft
All Trails Link: Click Here
Features: The two highest peaks in the east coast.

Climbing the ridgeline of North Carolina’s Black Mountains. The Black Mountain Crest Trail is a point-to-point featuring the two highest peaks on the east coast. Culminating at the tallest, Mt Mitchell at 6,684ft. Much of this hike is completed at above 6,000ft making it the highest on the east coast. With a lot of the ridge line featuring narrow exposed trail. If you’re looking for a real challenge you can turn this into an out-&- back for 22+ miles.

You also might be interested in:

  • Alabama’s Hardest Hikes
  • Georgia’s Hardest Hikes
  • Kentucky’s Hardest Hikes
  • North Carolina’s Hardest Hikes
  • South Carolina’s Hardest Hikes
  • Tennessee’s Hardest Hikes
  • Virginia’s Hardest Hikes
  • West Virginia’s Hardest Trails

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About the Author: Tung Chi