I was thinking of travelling North America for a couple months maybe in the new year. I haven't really been able to organise people to go though. Is it harder for travellers there than Australia/NZ? Where would start if you were planning without going with a group of friends where you wouldn't be totally by yourself?
Independent, backpacker style travel is not all that common in many parts of the US / Canada. You can certainly do it, but don't try hitching and hostels are nowhere near as popular as they are in Aus /NZ. Personally, I would hit the southwest, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Colorado etc., but expect huge distances between places and not much public transport. If you have the money hire a car, but that's not backpacking, is it? Another place would be hiking in he Rockies or Sierra Nevadas, lots of great trails but camping would be your main options for the night.
I have a visa through bunac so will be going to Canada to travel by myself aswell. However as Im going through a work programme, I will be going on a group flight and staying in hostel until I find my feet.
I know that it is much more common to travel in oz but the canadians are all very friendly people so perhaps you will get a chance to experience more of a rural adventure. There are plenty hostels to be found in the major cities so sure you will meet people in the same situation!
You could join a camping/adventure tour. It makes getting around the States really easy, you meet great people and see some awesome sights. I can recommend Trek America. They do both camping and lodging tours so depending on your style (and budget ), they can offer something that appeals to most people. I've also used Amtrak to get around the States but I found the service a little unreliable and the scenery a bit average (although that could have just been the particular states I was travelling through)
Ya, backpacking in the United States and Canada isn't all too common. Lots of people backpack for a day or two on a trail, but to many major ones. A great hiking area is in the Great Lakes area. In Canada and the United States, there are many back-woods hiking trails along the costline. Such as the Supior Hiking Trail in Minnesota runs from the tip of Lake Supior all the way into Canada.
I don't know the above posters get the idea that backpacking isn't common here-in fact it's wildly popular
In addition hitching is common ir rural areas-I pick up people all the time have since I learned to drive, have hitched across the country & back twice as well.
Check out Timbit Nation by John Stackhouse http://www.digihitch.com/canada57.html hard info from someone who has been there/done that.
There's a company that organizes tours for backpackers in Canada, but they only cover a few places: http://www.moosenetwork.com/
Western Canada, British Columbia & Alberta are the most backpacker friendly as well as Quebec and Ontario(south part only)
If you plan on getting off the beaten track, the reality is you need a car. Also, aside from major cities, youth hostels are not common in Canada. And hotels that are safe/clean can be pricey. Canada is massive and if you plan on going from coast to coast, you need a lot of time. You may want to consider some sort of flight pass, not cheap, but maybe practical, if you plan on visiting both coasts.
Canada has many National Parks that are worth visiting, however, the major bus lines do not bring you to most parks, you would need to rent a car. You may get a deal on a holiday car if booked from your country.
Important to know that you cannot cross the US/Canada border with a rented vehicle. If this rule has changed, I am not aware of it.
In a nutshell Canada has a few big cities and many small towns, some extremely isolated and not known for tourism, but can be quiet lovely if visited with locals. Lots natural landscapes and huge spaces between cities. Expect to travel 5 hours while staring at trees the entire time. And there may be one truck stop along the way.
Note about hitch hiking. You can easily hitch hike clear across the country. But you may have long waits at times. And where hitch hiking is most common, it is also most dangerous. Many people go missing every year on the West Coast. Be prudent if you choose this option, and never be afraid to turn down a ride if the person looks dodgy.
outdooren above... the only problem crossing the border with a rental car is that Canadian residents are not allowed to bring a US-registered car into Canada. Other than that the rental agency may put a ban on it, but customs do not.
Thanks for the info Bogman