Are you planning to walk across the U.S., or perhaps are you just curious how long it would take? Let us explore together the available routes out there and find out how long it would take to walk across the U.S. using the different routes.
How long would it take to walk across the U.S.? If you walked for about 6 hours a day, in a straight line from New York to L.A. (2,448 miles), it would take about 4 to 5 months. But walking in a straight line is not possible due to obstacles and private property. 6 to 9 months is a more common timeframe depending on the route.
I’ve listed below 6 routes that span from coast to coast (East-West). Most of these routes are along a highway, so meant for driving. Walking on a highway is illegal in the U.S., but you can walk alongside the highway or near to it in order to follow the route.
I also list 4 North-South routes. If you don’t want the longer coast-to-coast trek, you can choose a North-South route instead.
Read on to learn more about how long it would take to walk across the US using 10 different popular routes.
How Long Would It Take to Walk Across the US?
From America’s coast to coast, the distance is greater in the northern latitudes than southern latitudes. If we measure the distance between New York and Los Angeles, it is 2,448 miles / 3,940 kilometers.
A comfortable walking speed on flat ground is about 3 miles per hour. Let’s say you walked 6 hours a day, so 6 hours x 3 miles per hour = 18 miles per day. So to walk the New York to L.A. distance of 2,448 miles, divide 2,448 by 18 to get 136 days, about 4.5 months.
This straight path distance from New York to L.A. is unrealistic due to the terrain and private property. So a more realistic estimate, if you walked about 6 hours a day, would be about 6 or more months. Some people have walked across the US in about 6 or 7 months, and some stretch out their hike to a year to enjoy their journey. The length of time will increase based on how much you want to walk each day and how long you want to stop in an area to sightsee.
The length of time it’ll take you to walk across the US also depends on the route you choose. Below is a list of routes you can take if you’re planning to dive into this journey.
East-West U.S. Routes (Coast to Coast)
1. U.S. Route 20
U.S. Route 20, also known as U.S. Highway 20, is an east to west route that stretches 3,365 miles / 5,415 km from Massachusetts to Oregon. U.S. Route 20 is considered the longest highway that offers a transcontinental journey. The road offers you a glimpse of popular cities and must-see landscapes in the country.
Route 20 goes through Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Oregon. This path takes you to the Boston Post Road in Massachusetts, which was the path taken by those people carrying mail from Boston to New York City during the 17th and 18th centuries.
In New York, you’ll pass through lakes and rural landscapes. As the route continues west, it takes you to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore , to the industrialized Gary, Indiana, urbanized South Side Chicago, to Wyoming and the amazing Yellowstone National Park.
The route allows you to pass through Montana, Idaho, to the Craters of the Moon National Monument , and finally to Oregon. The route takes you less than a mile from the Pacific, where it ends.
This route is designed for driving; however, if you were to walk this route, it would take at least 5 or 6 months. Remember though that it is illegal to walk on the highway in the US, unless for someone with emergency car trouble. So you would need to walk alongside or near this highway, not on it, to follow this route.
2. American Discovery Trail
The American Discovery Trail (ADT) is a coast-to-coast non-motorized route (the one and only route that is specifically designated for non-motorized, so for traveling on foot) that gives people a glimpse of states, deserts, cities, small towns, and National Parks.
This trail is different from the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trails because it does not pass through only the wilderness. Instead, as mentioned, this trail allows you to pass through farmlands, towns, cities, etc.
This trail is one of the most popular trails for this reason, and for being the most accessible trail in the country. What makes it more popular is that this route is open for activities such as hiking, biking, and horseback riding. ADT links up with other existing national trails such as the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Santa Fe trails.
To cross from one side of the U.S. to another, you have an option to take the route that is 4,834 miles long and the other route which is 5,057 miles long. The trail is about 6,800 miles in total. Whichever option you choose, you are still passing from Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware to Pt. Reyes National Seashore, California.
Along the trail, you’ll be able to have a glimpse of Devonian-age fossil beds, a Native American village, Abe Lincoln’s childhood home, the world’s second-largest clock, and lastly North America’s largest inland boat builder.
3. Southern Route
If you want a route that will not require you to hike elevated areas (except for the Appalachians), choose the Southern Route. The route is about 2,671 miles and starts in San Diego, located between the border of California and Mexico. This route allows you to go through the arid deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and northern Texas.
The route will eventually lead you through the cotton fields of northern Louisiana, the plantations located in Mississippi, and the prairies of Alabama. The route ends in Georgia, located in the coastal town of Savannah.
4. U.S. Route 6
U.S. Route 6, otherwise referred to as the Grand Army of the Republic Highway, is a historic route that honors the American Civil War veterans association. The original route runs from the waterfront in Long Beach, California, and stops at Provincetown, Massachusetts, which can be found at the tip of Cape Cod.
If you choose this path, you will be able to pass 14 states and travel about 3,652 miles long, with a high point of 11,990 feet. The route is estimated to have 100,000 prehistoric archaeological sites, including volcanic peaks that existed a long time ago. There are also areas along this route where they allow you to set up camp overnight.
5. Route 50 or the U.S. 50
Route 50 or the U.S. 50 is the longest road you can take from the east coast to the west coast. This route is dubbed as the loneliest road due to miles and miles of mountains, sand, and sky. Route 50, which is about 3,200 miles, passes through the middle of the country, which is why it also earned the nickname, the Backbone of America.
The route starts in San Francisco and will pass through the deserts of Nevada and Utah, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, the prairies of Kansas, and the fields of Missouri and Illinois. Indiana and Ohio. The route continues as you climb the Appalachians and pass through Washington, D.C.
The route ends in the fishing communities of Maryland. If you choose to walk across this road, you’ll be transported to the old version of America due to the old gas stations, diners, and buildings.
6. Great Western Loop
The Great Western Loop is a 6,875-mile journey that links trails such as the Pacific Crest Trail, the Pacific Northwest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, the Grand Enchantment Trail, the Arizona Trail, and the Sonoran and Mojave Deserts. These trails offer you a glimpse of the beauty of west America, the wilderness, the highest elevations in the U.S., and National Parks. At present, only one person has ever completed this trail, and he is the professional backpacker Andrew Skurka.
North-South U.S. Routes
7. Pacific Crest Trail
Pacific Crest Trail, whose official name is Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT), is about 2,653 mi (4,270 km) long. The route is a hiking and equestrian trail where you can pass through 25 national forests and seven national parks. There also exists a route for bicycles which is called the Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail (PCBT). The bike trail, which is 2,500 miles long (4000 km), runs parallel to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT).
The southern part of the trail can be found on the U.S. border with Mexico (south of Campo, California) and its northern terminus can be found on the Canada–US border near the edge of Manning Park in British Columbia. The midpoint of the trail is near Chester, California. This trail can take about four and a half months or more to complete depending on your speed and trekkers usually take about four to six months to prepare for this long journey.
8. Continental Divide Trail
Continental Divide Trail (CDT), also known as Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, is a trail that is located between Mexico and Canada. Every year only about 30 people follow this route. The CDT trail will allow you to pass through five states, including Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico, by hiking through the Rocky Mountains.
CDT is still not completed, but people still follow this journey for the thrill and experience. Through CDT you can weave through Yellowstone and Glacier national parks. It is not as popular as the Pacific Crest Trail but is a great North-South journey to walk for those looking for another adventure.
9. Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is about 2,200 miles in length. This number varies every year due to reroutes and modifications. The trails cover 14 U.S. states, including Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The trail can take you about 320-2,080 feet above sea level. On average, people take about 165 days – about 5.5. months – to complete this journey.
10. East Coast Greenway
The East Coast Greenway is a 3,000-mile-long journey. The route is a walking and biking route that bridges cities off the Atlantic coast of the United States, from Calais, Maine, to Key West, Florida. This route covers about 15 states.
About 32 % of this route is out of the road or on protected greenways. It will take you about two and a half months or more, depending on your speed to completely walk through this path.
Other trails that you can explore include the Eastern Continental Trail (5,400 miles), the North Country Trail (4,600 miles), the Great Western Trail (4,455 miles), the Desert Trail (2,223 miles), and the International Appalachian Trail (1,900 miles).
Who Has Walked Across the US?
A lot of people choose to walk across the U.S. no matter how long they take because they love the thrill of the unknown, of hiking through pine-needled paths, canyons, meadows, and a lot more.
Below is a list of people who dared to walk across the U.S., including the distance of their walk and how long it took them to walk the route:
- Nate Damm walked from the Atlantic Ocean in Delaware to the Pacific Ocean in California. It took him about seven months to walk the entire 3200-mile journey.
- Aaron Huey walked from Encinitas, California, 3349 miles to New York City, in 2002. He walked along with his dog named Cosmo.
- Mike Posner, an American singer, and songwriter walked across the U.S. in 2019. He started his journey in Asbury Park, New Jersey and ended in California. His walk was paused when he was bitten by a rattlesnake in Colorado and airlifted to hospital.
- Doris Haddock, also known as Granny D., completed her walk across the U.S. in 1999/2000 at the age of 90. She walked across the U.S. to show support for financial reform. It took her 400 days to complete a 3200-mile walk traversing through nine states (California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Maryland).
- Helga and Clara Estby walked from Spokane to New York City in 1893, a 4000 mile and seven-month-long journey to save their family’s 160-acre farm. An unknown person or group of people offered to give them $10,000 if they managed to finish the journey. After finishing the journey, they weren’t given the money since they did not arrive on time.
Conclusion – How Long Would It Take to Walk Across the US?
The distance from the East Coast to the West Coast of the United States can vary from 2,800 miles to about 3,200 miles. This variation depends on the route you will take. The vertical distance of the United States is about 1,582 miles. But walking in a straight line across the United States is not possible due to privately owned properties that cannot be accessed.
Luckily, there are existing trails out there you can choose from depending on the scenery you want to see and the level of difficulty of the trail you want to take. Walking from one side of America to another would take about four to five months if you walked for about 18 miles a day in a straight line.
But walking in a straight line is not possible due to the terrain or private property. Therefore, a more realistic estimate for walking across the US would be about 6 months or more, depending on the route you take.
Remember if you plan to walk across the US, make sure that you have everything you need, such as a passport, credit card, water, walking stick, first-aid kit, batteries, flashlights, hat, cash, matches, or lighter.