Stack-based Algorithms: Stacks in DFS and Backtracking

By Anshul Pal Mar 5, 2024
Stack-based Algorithms: Stacks in DFS and BacktrackingStack-based Algorithms: Stacks in DFS and Backtracking


Algorithms play a crucial role in solving complex problems efficiently. Among the various types of algorithms, stack-based algorithms have gained significant popularity for their ability to tackle specific problems effectively. In this article, we will explore two prominent algorithms that heavily rely on stacks as an essential part of their implementation: depth-first search (DFS) in graphs and backtracking.

Depth-First Search (DFS)

DFS is an algorithm used to traverse or search through a graph. It starts at a given node and explores as far as possible along each branch before backtracking. The stack data structure is instrumental in implementing DFS.

The basic idea behind DFS is to visit a node and mark it as visited, then recursively explore its adjacent unvisited nodes. This process continues until all nodes have been visited.

Let’s take a look at the step-by-step implementation of DFS:

  1. Start with an empty stack and mark all nodes as unvisited.
  2. Select a starting node and push it onto the stack.
  3. While the stack is not empty, pop a node from the stack and mark it as visited.
  4. Explore the node’s adjacent unvisited nodes, pushing them onto the stack.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the stack is empty.

DFS is widely used in various applications, such as finding connected components, detecting cycles in a graph, and solving maze problems. Its stack-based implementation allows for efficient backtracking and exploration of all possible paths in a graph.


Backtracking is a general algorithmic technique used to solve problems by exploring all possible solutions. It is often employed when the problem has a large search space and requires finding the best solution among many possibilities.

The stack data structure plays a vital role in backtracking algorithms as it allows for easy tracking and undoing of choices made during the search process.

The basic idea behind backtracking is to build a solution incrementally, one step at a time, and backtrack when a chosen path does not lead to the desired outcome. The stack keeps track of the chosen path and allows for easy undoing of choices.

Here are the general steps involved in implementing a backtracking algorithm:

  1. Start with an empty stack and initialize the current solution.
  2. While the current solution is not a valid solution, do the following:
    • Choose the next possible option and add it to the current solution.
    • Push the chosen option onto the stack.
    • Recursively proceed to the next step.
    • If the current solution becomes invalid, backtrack by popping the last choice from the stack.
  3. If a valid solution is found, return it. Otherwise, backtrack until all possibilities have been explored.

Backtracking is widely used in various problem domains, such as solving puzzles, generating permutations or combinations, and finding an optimal solution among many possibilities.

Suggested: Navigating Graph Algorithms: A Comprehensive Guide


Stack-based algorithms, such as DFS in graphs and backtracking, offer powerful solutions to a wide range of problems. By utilizing the stack data structure, these algorithms enable efficient exploration, backtracking, and finding optimal solutions.

Understanding the principles and implementations of stack-based algorithms can greatly enhance your problem-solving skills and enable you to tackle complex problems more effectively. So, dive into the world of stack-based algorithms and explore the endless possibilities they offer!

By Anshul Pal

Hey there, I'm Anshul Pal, a tech blogger and Computer Science graduate. I'm passionate about exploring tech-related topics and sharing the knowledge I've acquired. With two years of industry expertise in blogging and content writing, I'm also the co-founder of HVM Smart Solution. Thanks for reading my blog – Happy Learning!

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