Words John Gray
Hiking outdoors is both a pleasurable activity and an excellent physical workout. The breathtaking views, fresh air, and the sounds and smells of nature engage all our senses and enable us to detox from stress. From towering, majestic trees and hidden lakes to gorgeous mountain views, hiking trails expose us to a wealth of natural wonders. Here we look at several fantastic hiking destinations from around the world, which offer exhilarating outdoor adventures and a taste of the location’s history and culture.
Pacific Crest Trail, California, Oregon,
and Washington – USA
Distance: 4,265 kilometers
The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) takes you from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington. It reveals the beauty of the Mojave Desert, the glaciated expanses of the Sierra Nevada, deep forests, and it provides commanding vistas of volcanic peaks in the Cascade Range. This hike is a real challenge – especially the weather conditions – but the reward is a grand tour of seven national parks and a continent’s worth of national forests, state parks, and wilderness areas. This long hike is normally begun in April and finished in October, and most hikers begin on the Mexican border. The trick is to miss the spring snow in the Sierra Nevada and the fall snow in the Cascades.
The Ancascocha Trail, Peru
Distance: 49 kilometers
Located near the world famous Inca Trail to Machu Pichu, the Ancascocha Trail in the Peruvian Andes is far more strenuous, less crowded, and a more rewarding path. It has the most amazing panoramic views of the Andes Mountain range, complete with waterfalls from melting snowcapped-mountains, and it includes tours of several Inca ruins. The trek takes roughly five or six days, meandering through traditional villages such as Chillipahua and Ancascocha, which are located at an altitude of 3,900 meters. Along the way, it climbs over big passes, including a high point of roughly 4,900 meters on Inca Chiriaska, and takes in views of the towering, 6,300 meter-high Salcantay Mountain. This trail, however, doesn’t actually end at Machu Picchu, so you need to take a short bus and train ride to get there. Spring and fall months are the best times for this hike.
Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal
Distance: 64 kilometers
This two-week trek to Everest Base Camp and back has become increasingly popular. It is an achievable goal for people from all walks of life who want a glimpse of the world’s highest peak. The route passes through the heart of the Khumbu region and enters its lively, little capital, Namche Bazaar. From here, the trek heads up past smaller villages, such as Pangboche, with its famed Buddhist monastery, before topping out at 5,400 meters at base camp, with the summit towering over 3,400 meters above. Aside from breathtaking scenery, travellers to the region can experience unique Sherpa culture by visiting monasteries and museums along the way and experience the warm Nepalese hospitality.
The best time to go is in early spring until the monsoons start in May. However, September to November after the monsoon season can be beautiful as well, and less crowded.
Overland Track in Tasmania, Australia
Distance: 64 kilometers (82 kilometers with the hike around Lake St. Clair)
Part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, this trail takes you through some of the wildest and most beautiful natural terrain in the world. As nearly half of Australia’s southern island state is protected, it’s a living ecological laboratory. Its incredible wildlife includes the wombat, platypus, and the famous Tasmanian devil, the largest carnivorous marsupial on the planet. It’s also an incredibly diverse landscape, encompassing everything from highland mountains, alpine lakes, and Eucalyptus groves to rain forests. The trail and surrounding park are well managed by Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, which breaks it down into a six-day event.
The prime season for this hike is October to May, while the winter months can be a bit rough.
Laugavegurinn/Fimmvörðuháls Pass, Iceland
Distance: 55 kilometers (80 kilometers with Skógar extension)
This four-day hike runs between the Landmannalaugar hut in the north and Thórsmörk Park in the south, with an option to start or end at the stunning 60- meter high Skógafoss waterfall.
Few hikes offer the pure wilderness experience of Laugavegurinn, which passes through spectacular volcanic landscapes, paired with stays at comfortable huts each night. In between, there are steaming fumaroles, expanses of lichen-covered volcanic rocks, and gorgeous views of copper-colored rhyolite peaks.
The best time to do this hike is in summer, when the huts are open in late June until early September.
MacLehose Trail, New Territories, Hong Kong
Distance: 100 kilometers
One normally does not associate Hong Kong with hiking, as it is one of the most densely populated places on the planet. However, the surrounding New Territories are rural and quiet, dotted with rugged peaks, remote valleys, and ocean coastlines. The MacLehose Trail is divided into ten sections, starting at the stunning eastern beaches before climbing up into tropical mountains (where monkeys chatter from the branches) and then winding past 1,000 meter-high Tai Mo Shan, the highest peak in the area. It takes five to six days to complete the trail, which has stone steps and paths, free campgrounds, and occasional food vendors offering some comfort along the way. The best time to go is in the winter season, as the summer can be very humid.
The Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail, South Sudan to Uganda
Distance: 805 kilometers
One of the longer trails, which retraces the expedition of Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker — the first Europeans to arrive in Lake Albert and name it after Queen Victoria’s late husband — 150 years ago.
Carefully researched for historical accuracy, the trail begins in South Sudan’s current capital city of Juba and follows the Bakers’ routes along the White Nile into Uganda, ending at Baker’s View, over Lake Albert, and takes in natural wonders such as Murchison Falls, which interrupt the Nile with a 43-meter drop as it flows to Lake Victoria.
Most of the trail goes through Uganda, which is relatively safe for hikers considering the previous civil war that raged on the Sudanese side. Winter months are recommended for making this historic hiking trip.
Lebanon Mountain Trail, Lebanon
Distance: 470 kilometers
The Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT) is the first long-distance hiking trail in Lebanon. It extends from Qbaiyat in the north of Lebanon to Marjaayoun in the south, a path that transects more than 75 towns and villages at altitudes ranging from 670 meters to 2,011 meters. The LMT showcases the natural beauty and cultural wealth of Lebanon’s mountains, and it’s managed to promote environmentally and socially responsible tourism. Many locals even open their homes as guesthouses along the route.
On a hike, the days pass with the wind, the sun,
the stars; (…) On a hike, you’re less a job title
and more a human being….A periodic hike not
only stretches the limbs but also reminds us:
Wow, there’s a big old world out there.”
– Ken Ilgunas,
The LMT is divided into 26 sections, each of which is 12–20 kilometers long and can be hiked in one day, mostly trekking through oak and pine-forested paths. Included in the LMT is the spectacular Shouf Biosphere Reserve, which contains the largest natural Cedar reserve in the country and covers 50,000 hectares (five percent of the total area of Lebanon).