The Top 10 Hiking Trails Around the World
I absolutely love to go hiking. The great outdoors is a wonderful place to explore and to go to for some peace of mind. There are so many spectacular views, vistas, scenic areas and landscapes around the world; all of which are definitely worth seeing. Unfortunately, it may be impossible to hike all those trails in one lifetime. So, I’ve compiled a list of the top 10 hiking trails around the world. This list comes from many sources and much research. The trails that have ended up on the list are ones that have been favored the most.
10. The Appalachian Trail
If you live along the eastern side of the US, you’ve probably heard of this trail (or at least the Appalachian Mountains). The Appalachian Trail spans 2,178 miles (3,505 km) from the state of Georgia all the way up to Maine. The nice part about this trail is you don’t have to walk the entire thing. There are many breaks throughout the trail, so if you only want to go several miles instead of the whole grueling trek, you can. It is the first national scenic trail and also one of the three greatest long-distance trails of the US. Throughout your journey on the trail, you will take over 5 million steps, cross through 14 states, and see 8 National Forests and 6 National Parks. Many say it’s the best way to see the eastern states, and I couldn’t agree more.
9. Tour du Mont Blanc
This is one of the most popular trails in Europe; passing through France, Italy and Switzerland. It goes around the Mont Blanc Massif and is about 106 miles (170 km) long with a 6 mile (10 km) ascent. Typically, people walk the trail in an anti-clockwise direction and the walk takes about 7-10 days. Along the trail, you will pass through 7 valleys. There are also numerous stopping and starting areas, plus accommodations available along the trail. The trail also offers several options for hiking—different paths are available for those who want more of a challenge and for those who want to take it easy. This trail is definitely worth checking out if you ever find yourself in Europe.
8. Torres del Paine
This is actually a National Park located in the Patagonia region of Chile (at least 2,500 km–1553 miles–south of Santiago). On this trek, you will see fields of wildflowers, beautiful panoramas, mountains, valleys, and glacial views as far as the eye can see. Andean Condors, guanacos, and foxes are among the many animals that can be seen throughout the park and trail. As with the previous hikes, this one also offers several starting and stopping points. It’s certainly a trek you don’t want to miss.
7. Mount Everest Base Camp
If you enjoy the cold, this trail is perfect for you. Lukla, Nepal, is your starting point on this journey and the total trek can take about 2 weeks. There are a number of strenuous ways to travel about Mount Everest, though most seem to prefer the “easier” routes, which provide food and rest along the way. As you travel on your journey, you’ll see mountain peaks lost to the clouds above, while wildflowers and homes are scattered about below. Sherpa guides are available if you desire one; though if you go it alone, you can always ask for direction along the way. If you decide to take on this challenge, be prepared for cold temperatures and high altitudes.
6. John Muir Trail
Who is John Muir? He was a naturalist, author, and advocate of wilderness preservation in the US. He saved a number of well-known areas, including the Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Park, and he also founded the Sierra Club (Hawaii getaway, anyone?). Given his devotion to nature and conservation, not to mention all the things he wrote about them, it’s no wonder one of the best western US trails would be named after him. The trail starts in Yosemite National Park. This 215 mile (346 km) journey will pass through a number of national parks and natural areas. Your destination is the highest peak in the continental US: Mount Whitney, which stands at 14,196 feet (4327 m). Expect to see forests, glaciers, mountains, fields, lakes and even wild animals along the hike. The trail is divided into segments, so you can walk a little bit at a time or do it all in one go (which will take about a week).
5. Monte Fitzroy
This trek is another located in the Patagonia region of South America and also a nice alternative to the Torres del Paine. Located in Los Glaciares National Park, this is one trek you don’t want to pass up on. The distance traveled may vary, as there are a number of routes you can take, but expect an average of 40 miles (64 km) and nearly a week to complete the whole thing. Along the way you will see lakes, mountains, glaciers, spires, and of course, the awesome Monte Fitzroy. Although it may look a bleak, dull, grey color during the day time, when sunset hits you will see a beautiful tinge of red and orange instead—definitely a great photo opportunity!
4. West Coast Trail
Now we travel north, all the way to Vancouver, Canada. While you may remember this as the location of the 2010 Winter Olympics, it’s also the location of one of the top rated hiking trails in the world. The 75 mile (121 km) long West Coast Trail is part of the Pacific Rim National Park. You will start at Bamfield and travel all the way to Port Renfrew. Along the way, you will see a diverse range of ecosystems, from forests to beaches, and waterfalls to bogs. Designated camping areas are available along this rugged path, and you will be required to cross a few areas by boat, bridge, and even fallen logs. Stopping and starting points are available along the trail if you do not wish to hike the entire way. There are also many wild animals that can be encountered, including bears, wolves and cougars, so be careful! Tidal pools with fish, mollusks and sea anemones can be found at the beach portions of the trail, plus you may catch a glimpse of an orca or sea lion! The trail is only open from May 1st until September 30th, so plan your adventure accordingly!
3. Annapurna Circuit
We are heading back over to Nepal and the Himalayas for this little adventure. The Annapurna is the 10th highest mountain in the world. On this hike, you will pass through 4 regions: Lamjung, Manang, Mustang, and Myagdi. The first and last regions consist of lush subtropical valleys and terraced farming; while in the Manang and Mustang regions you’ll find yourself amongst higher elevations and colder climes. You will pass through the world’s deepest gorge and you’ll also have the opportunity to visit Buddhist villages and Hindu holy sites on the way. The journey can go for about 3 weeks and parts of it are rather grueling. Fortunately, there are lodges and restaurants along this great trail.
2. Mount Kilimanjaro
Although this inactive volcano is located in Tanzania, it is known for its snow-covered peak. Mount Kilimanjaro is the world’s tallest free-standing mountain and you have 6 options for hiking about it: Machame, Marangu, Rongai, Lemosho, Umbwe and Shira. There is also the Mweka route, but that is only for descending the mountain. Each of the 6 routes vary in distance and difficulty. If you are up for an adventure and some beautiful scenery, then check out the Machame route. If you wish to go the more popular way and stay in huts overnight, then the Marangu route is your trail. And if you’re up for a bit of danger and excitement, you’ll definitely want to go by way of the Lemosho route, where an armed ranger will accompany you on the first day. It’s on this route where you may encounter elephants, buffalo, and other big game animals. Whichever path you take, this hiking adventure is sure to be a great experience.
1. Inca Trail
Finally, we come to the number one hiking trail in the world: The Inca Trail of Peru. While there are many different Inca Trails you can take your journey on, the most popular by far are those that lead to Machu Picchu. The most traveled of these trails is the “Classic”, which starts in Cuzco. On this trail, you will see the ruins of Patallacta, the Incan tambo of Runkuraqay, and a view of Sayaqmarka. Expect to see a river, lakes, and much jungle vegetation on this trek. You will also see an Incan tunnel, mountains and drop offs, and there may be some steep climbs in some areas. Generally, this trek takes several days to complete, though there is also a One Day trek and also the Mollepata—the longest of the 3 main routes. If you plan on doing the number one trail in the world, be aware that going in February is out of the question—the trail is closed every year at that time for cleaning. Also, booking reservations in advance for this trail is mandatory. Why? Only 500 people—including guides and porters—are allowed to be on it per day.
That’s it for the list! I am personally surprised at the number of other great trails around the world that did not make the list, though that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t visit them, too! However, there are a few honorable mentions also worth mentioning here: The Overland Track of Australia, Ausangate Circuit of Peru, Mount Kenya of Kenya, Tongariro Northern Circuit of New Zealand, and the Haute Route of France and Switzerland are all awesome trails worth traveling, as well. My personal favorite hiking areas thus far (apart from local trails) have been the Grand Canyon and the Red Rocks area of Sedona, Arizona. Both of those places offer amazing desert views that you won’t want to miss!
If you decide to venture out on any of these great hikes (or any others on the planet), remember to leave only footprints and take only photographs!
By Heidi Marshall