The Definition of a Good Hiking Trail
For a trail to be a good hiking trail, rather than just a not-totally-awful trial, it must have all of the following characteristics.
A good hiking trail is long. It must be possible to hike the better part of a day at a moderate pace. A hike is hardly worthy of being called a hike unless it is at least five miles long, and a good hike is at least eight miles long.
A good hiking trial is roadless. It must be out of sight and hearing of paved roads and even dirt roads with any significant traffic. When you have hiked three miles, you should be at least two and a half miles, as the crow flies, from the nearest pavement.
A good hiking trail is uncrowded. A hike where you have to hear other people gossiping, or put up with other people’s bratty kids is hardly worth taking. The people you encounter on a trail should be few enough that each is pleasant surprise rather than part of a general crowd. If you see four individuals or small groups in an entire day, that is just about right.
A good hiking trail is quiet. By the time you have hiked an hour, it should have been at least forty-five minutes since the last time you heard a truck or a motorcycle or a leaf blower.
A good hiking trail is wild. Housing developments, shopping malls, and industrial farms should be miles away. Any man-made structures which are visible must be small, rustic, or in ruins (and preferably all three). If the area the trail passes through is not a pristine natural state, then any farming or logging should be many years in the past.
A good hiking trail is for hikers only. Bicycles, horses, dog walkers, hunters, and especially off-road vehicles of all kinds should be banished.
I have lived in Illinois for twenty-six years, and have searched and searched that entire time. I have yet to find a good hiking trail within 200 miles of where I live now. I will kiss the hiking boots of the first person who will tell me where I can find such a place.