Hikers often compile a list of the most amazing places on the planet that they dream of hiking. Take a look at these wonderful hiking routes around the world.
Glacier National Park, Montana, USA
Located in the state of Montana and along the Canadian border, this beautiful mountainous region is one of the most important wildlife habitats in the American park system. You will share this 104km hike with the animals, from the small ones (more than 200 species of birds) to the biggest ones (elk, elk and bighorn sheep, black bear and grizzly bear). If you go there before the middle of August, you will see colorful wildflower meadows as a bonus. Pass through the 37m (120ft) long Ptarmigan Tunnel and detour to Iceberg Lake. You can even get to a trailhead by boat from Waterton National Park, Canada. With over 1125km of trails, you may want to return to this park more than once.
When to go: the best time is from July to September
Difficulties: the level of difficulty is medium, but the trails are well marked.
Good to know: book your passes well in advance. You’ll also need to reserve your campsite for each night of the hike, and park officials expect you to be where you planned. Although summer daytime temperatures are pleasant, they often drop below freezing overnight. You’ll do well to brush up on your knowledge of bears so you know how to avoid them and understand their behaviors. This park is theirs, you are only a guest.
The Appalachian Trail, USA
Bill Bryson has committed an understatement by entitling his book dedicated to this impressive journey “a walk in the woods”. It’s hard to imagine that you are in the Eastern United States when you travel through this almost entirely wild region for 3500km. There are access points all along the Appalachian Trail , making it perfect for day hikes or overnight hikes. Following the mountain range, a walker can feel far removed from civilization, leaving the deep forest only on rare occasions along the trail from Georgia in the south to north in Maine. The ultimate challenge is to complete the entire route during the summer season.
When to go: the best times are spring and autumn. If you’re attempting the full hike (over 9,000 people have done it), consider starting in the north so you’ll get some warmer weather near the end of the trail, about 6 months after you start!
Difficulties: some sections are flat and easy, others are of the uphill and downhill type that boosts your heart rate. Other sections of the course require you to use your hands. Check guides and websites to make sure you know where the right segments are located for you.
Please note: some sections of the trail can be quite “overcrowded”. Other sections can be muddy during rainy periods, or simply infested with mosquitoes. Find out which section of trail you are targeting with the Appalachian Trail Conservancy .
Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
At 5895 meters, Kilimanjaro is the highest peak in Africa and number 1 on the list of trekkers who visit the continent. A minimum of 5 day tour will take you to the roof of Africa for the best view of Tanzania. The hike begins in the rainforest, continues into the plateau region and then gets tougher as it climbs severely in altitude on the final stage, through snow and summit glaciers.
When to go: Avoid going from March to May, as it is the rainy season. Otherwise, expect cool temperatures on the slopes throughout the year, but hot days at the start and finish. There are more hikers during the weekend who arrive on Saturday for a Sunday climb.
Difficulties: This is a strenuous hike with some risk due to weather and wildlife, but also due to acute mountain sickness (altitude sickness).
Namely: the most popular path is the Marangu Route where you will meet more travelers. Other options are the Umbwe, Londorossi and Machame routes. Altitude sickness can be a problem and, without being alarmist, you should know that it can be fatal if not taken seriously. Certified guides are mandatory.
The Annapurna circuit, Nepal
This 206km circuit , in the shape of a horseshoe, goes around all that the Annapurna region has to offer. Rice terraces, jungle, pine forests, deep canyons, torrents and, of course, the glorious snow-capped peaks that form an ever-changing backdrop throughout your journey. Add to that the typical people encountered along the way, the tea houses-inns, the yak cheese, the yak butter candles at nightfall. It’s a whole world unto itself in a setting you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
When to go: October is the best month for warm temperatures and clear blue skies.
Difficulties: The climb is gradual and the track is good, but it takes about three weeks to complete the circuit and the highest points are over 5,000 meters.
Good to know: you must obtain a hiking permit which is easily purchased in Kathmandu. Accommodation and meals are facilitated thanks to the tea houses found all along the track.
The Inca Trail, Peru
Another of the most popular hiking trails in the world: the site of Machu Picchu , perched high in the Andes, is a mythical place that is worth discovering. Is there a better way to do this than by hiking through the mountains? Disappear into cloud forests, traverse valleys and ridges, and stop at archaeological sites along the way. Plan the time of the last stretch in order to arrive at Machu Picchu for sunrise. And the journey does not end there: you still have to climb Huayna Picchu, the green peak in the center of this typical photo of part of the ruins. At the very bottom you will hear the Urubamba River winding around the base of the mountain.
When to go: it is better to go from April to October to avoid the rainy season. The track is closed in February.
Difficulties: more than a walk in the park, but less than an alpine ascent. If you are in average shape, this 4 day hike will be perfect. Wear good shoes since, on some occasions, it is hard on the ankles.
To wit: you should spend some time in Cusco to get used to the altitude and avoid getting altitude sickness on the trail, since the trail climbs above 4,000 meters. Secure the services of an approved guide. There are entrance fees for the trail and for the Machu Picchu site. These fees should be included in the hike package, along with your return train ticket to Cusco. Get the trail pass well in advance, as the number of hikers per day is limited.
The West Coast Trail, British Columbia
The coastal portions of this hike are riddled with caves, coves and cliffs all along the shore. You can come across sea lions on the beach or see whales, but there is no risk of seeing other hikers. With abundant wildlife (both in the sea and on land) and ancient forests, this is the perfect Canadian wilderness not too far from civilization. Step over logs and rocks, get your feet wet in streams and tidal pools, and walk along beautiful beaches and through misty forests. Cable cars, ladders and roped passages add to the adventure.
When to go: The trail is only open from May to September. The bulk of the season is in July and August, so get your pass early.
Difficulties: the variety of terrain represents a good challenge. You must be prepared at all times against cold, water and humidity.
Please note: there are only 52 hikers allowed per day and required passes may be declined at times. The track is open from May to September.
Mont Blanc, France, Italy, Switzerland
Here is a European multicultural travel destination. This alpine trek is located around the highest point in Western Europe. This 4807m mountain is surrounded by other snow-capped peaks and glaciers. Spend each of your nights in huts, while doing a 170km circular hike for 2 weeks through the Alps of three European countries. On the program: fabulous landscapes of green meadows, valleys, blue glaciers and white peaks, excellent food and material comfort when you leave for the day.
When to go: Enjoy the European summer from June to September.
Difficulties: From easy prairie to intense uphill, at one point or another there is something for all levels.
Good to know: book your accommodation along the trail in advance, especially during the high season of July and August. You can camp if you prefer. It is possible that it rains, especially in the afternoon. There are ladders to climb and for those who want to lighten the challenge a bit, there are also cable cars and chair lifts. Unless you are experienced, it is better to retain the services of a guide or take part in a group excursion.
The Northern Circuit of Tongariro, New Zealand
There are three volcanoes in the center of New Zealand’s North Island and this stunning expedition takes you around one of them: Mount Ngauruhoe. But the landscape here is much more than just the mountains. You will walk through two volcanic deserts, a grassy plain and a lush forest. You will also see the red crater, emerald lakes and even some boiling mud. The highest point is at 1886 meters and the loop extends over 34km.
When to go: December to March.
Difficulties: the climbs are not too demanding, but you will always go according to a medium degree of challenge and some sections are difficult. The path is clearly marked, so there is no need for a guide.
To wit: it’s a popular place so, for better or for worse, you won’t be alone. Although the trip can be done in three days, you can add the ascent of Mount Tongariro and the Mount of Doom from The Lord of the Rings trilogy : Mount Ngauruhoe. A visitor center pass is required. Movie buff, these hidden messages in The Lord of the Rings may have escaped you!
The John Muir Trail, California, USA
John Muir is a nature lover’s idol and while he lends this trail his name, it is also Ansel Adams territory. If these two names create certain expectations, chances are you won’t be disappointed . Attractions include Yosemite Valley and Half Dome, the Redwoods, and Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the continental United States. The trail crosses six ecological zones and 11 passes.
When to go: August and September are the best months. There is still snow in the upper portions during the summer.
Difficulty: moderate to intense, with Half Dome only for more experienced people.
Namely: the first thing is to protect your food from bears. You also need a pass which you can pre-order, the sooner the better. Otherwise, for the rest, it is first come, first served. There are a lot of things to prepare for this hike: from equipment, to supplies and safety; a list of items too long to list here. Do your research and plan your expedition carefully. Public transportation to the trailheads allows this challenging trip to be done in segments and even reversed in some cases (downhill rather than uphill).
Circuit Torres del Paine, Chile
Topping the list of the best hiking trails in the world is Torres del Paine National Park. With its characteristic jagged pink granite walls that reach up to 3,048m (10,000ft), its glaciers and clear, pure blue lakes, it forces you to stop often along its 84km loops to take a picture or catch your breath. Complete the full route in 10 days, take 5 days to hike the ‘W’ circuit, or enter the park for day trips to the highlights. Altitude sickness won’t be a problem since the highest point in this UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is 1219m (4000ft). But you’ll be close enough to the glaciers and you can even camp by a lake where the ice crashes into the water. You will see lots of wild animals, especially birds, guanacos (a kind of llama), rhea (a kind of ostrich) and, if you’re lucky, cougars. This is Patagonia at its best.
When to go: If you like to cover a lot of ground in a day, the best time is between December and January, when the sun doesn’t set until 10 p.m. At this time and until March, it is the hottest season with little rain.
Difficulties: the route covers all technical levels. Some trails can be strenuous, but not particularly intimidating. You don’t necessarily need a guide either.
To know: you can sleep in a local hostel near the park entrance or simply pitch your tent. A great way to go too, if you have the money, is to stay in one of the adventure pensions, like La Remota, with top-of-the-range care and experienced guides every day.