Top 10 Most Legendary Hiking Trails in The World
From beginner-friendly trails to the most demanding routes in the United States, Europe, Asia and beyond: we've found 10 of the best hiking trails on the planet. Here's a guide to some of the best hiking trails in the world. Tie your shoelaces and come and discover routes you'll remember for the rest of your life.
Pacific Crest Trail
About two and a quarter miles off the Pacific coast, a route that spans three states (California, Oregon and Washington) and passes through some of the most stunning natural scenery in the United States. It starts in the California desert near the Mexican border, passes through the Sierra Nevada Mountains and into the deep forests of Oregon and Washington - truly one of the most amazing journeys in the world.
Most hikers start in the south and hike north, just as the weather improves and the cooler weather is welcome. Thus, on the southern leg you can tolerate the heat, and by the time you reach the north the rains are over (or scarcer, remember you're in the Pacific Northwest!). The Pacific Crest Trail Association has been in charge of its maintenance since 1977 and their website is a great resource full of very good information on all aspects of this legendary route.
Camino de Santiago
The Camino de Santiago was established as a pilgrimage route from the 10th century after the discovery of the relics of Apostle Santiago, and in the 16th century it was proclaimed as one of the great pilgrimages routes, along with Rome and Jerusalem.
The "Camino de Santiago" is a vague description of a route that, really, starts wherever you are when you start, and always ends in Santiago. Over the years several routes have been defined, such as the French Way, which we have already mentioned, which starts at the border between France and Spain, in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port or Roncesvalles, and passes through León.
There is also the Portuguese Way, which starts in Lisbon (610 km) or Porto (230 km), the Primitive Way that starts in Oviedo, and the lesser known Northern Way, with fewer visitors due to the mountainous terrain and the lower density of populations. But, as we have already said: the journey starts wherever it starts for you, and there have been cases of pilgrims arriving from Poland or the Baltic countries.
Kalalau Route | Hawaii
18 kilometers may not seem like a lot to you, especially if you already have hiking experience, but this route has practically not an inch of flat terrain. The route traverses the formidable cliffs and lush green valleys between beaches, with occasional stops to gaze at the crystal blue waters of the ocean.
If you want to stay a little longer, you can camp in Kalalau, the starting point of the route (although you will need a permit). You will also need a permit to do the whole route. It is one of the most rugged areas of Hawaii, but also one of the most sensitive, so the authorities want to protect it. That bit of red tape brings with it the promise of extraordinary beauty.
Wales Coast Path
When it was created in 2012, the Wales Coast Path was said to be the first to cover the entire coastline of Wales. It is made up of several shorter trails that over time have come to be connected and now have new signage and improved access from nearby towns.
The route passes through 11 national parks or nature reserves, and only 20% of its entire route is on public roads (which are usually very quiet single-car tracks): it is the perfect expression of the tempestuous beauty of Wales, and also passes very close to historic sites such as churches, ruined castles, charming fishing villages and more.
You will visit Cardiff, the capital city, tour the vast bays of the south and the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast (if you are lucky you may see dolphins), climb the mountains of Snowdonia, skirt Portmeirion, a fantastic Italian-style tourist village, and the beautiful island of Anglesey and then travel along the north coast. All along the way, you'll find comfortable camping and interesting diversions. In fact, we wouldn't be surprised if you decide to take more than three months to complete the trail.
Angels Landing Trail | Utah
This strenuous three-hour hike is one of the most popular day hikes in the United States: so much in demand, in fact, that the Zion National Park permit you'll need to access the trail is awarded by lottery.
It's easy to understand why. The place was christened by Methodist minister Frederick Vining Fisher in 1916, claiming that only an angel could live in such a beautiful place. Today, visitors hike up and down the trail to get incredible images of the canyon. The final ascent to Angels Landing is quite steep, so if you have vertigo you may want to think twice, and will almost certainly have to wait your turn, but the views from the highest point are truly spectacular.
Ngare Ndare Forest Hiking Trail | Nairobi
This is the only route we've chosen where you have to be accompanied by a ranger, and for good reason: the Ngare Ndare forest is a few hours' drive from Nairobi and is one of the country's most important wildlife corridors, with animals roaming freely. The park is also home to seven spectacular waterfalls and the trail will take you to explore them all, as well as a 450-meter walk through the forest canopy.
When you enter the park and are assigned your guide, you will see before you two natural pools with their impressive waterfalls. You can swim in them, so bring a change of clothes and make the most of this unique opportunity. Throughout the trip you will be accompanied by beautiful birds and animals such as elephants that stop to drink in the rivers and forest pools. The trail ends with a walk through the canopy ten meters above the ground, before returning to meet your ranger who will escort you back to the starting point.
Cape to Cape Hiking Trail | Australia
In the most southwestern corner of Australia, about 260 kilometers from Perth on the coast of Margaret River along the Indian Ocean, is one of the best vineyards in the country and one of its best coastal hiking trails. It is named after the lighthouses on the two headlands that mark the start and finish points of the route, all of which is within a national park and free of charge, without the need for any kind of permit or authorization. You will have to pay for camping (you cannot camp freely along the route), but it will not cost you more than about $10 per night.
Just for hitting the trail you will be rewarded with a week of wonderful fresh air, pristine beaches, ancient rock formations, spectacular waterfalls and meadows full of wildflowers and kangaroos. The blue skies and cooling breeze make this one of the least sweltering hikes in Australia, and if camping isn't your thing, there are more comfortable accommodation options such as lodges, cabins and even four-star beach resorts, so why not treat yourself to a treat in between all the hiking?
Half Dome Trail | California
Another popular day hike, and another one that has seriously restricted visitor numbers, so you'll need a permit. As with Angels Landing, you'll probably have to go through a lottery process and you won't know until the following April if you've been lucky. In the summer, steel cables and wooden planks are put up to help hikers, but they are removed at the end of October and the route becomes totally impassable.
A maximum of 300 people a day are allowed on the Half Dome route, and none of them take this route lightly. It is a tricky trek, with a 1500 meter ascent along the route and risk of dehydration, which is the most common cause of hikers often needing assistance or rescue. They recommend carrying at least four or five liters of water for the trail, so the backpack will weigh you down and make an already strenuous route even more so. Completing it is quite a feat, but there are also other less renowned routes in Yosemite National Park, which will also give you incredible views and a great sense of accomplishment.
Bukit Lawang | Indonesia
Gunung Leuser National Park is a protected region that is home to all kinds of animals, including orangutans, monitor lizards, macaques and even rhinos, tigers and snakes. Bukit Lawang Jungle Trekking organizes ecotourism programs that include three-hour trekking routes, with a child-friendly exploration of the jungle, and other routes of up to five days that traverse swampy lands and dense forests, ascending jungle peaks to reach a new campsite each night.
All routes include permits to enter the park and a guide, and on the longer routes there will be time for your guide to talk to you about the local culture, point out rare medicinal plants and tell you about the history of the park and the whole region. Also, even if you sign up for one of the more demanding routes you don't need to carry all your gear. The campsites that await you at night are already set up with a tent and locally sourced food, so you only need to bring along a backpack with many pockets where you can carry water, insect repellent, band-aids, and all other useful things.
Each sleeping stop is near a place of interest, whether it's a viewpoint, a lake, a river (so you can swim), a particularly photogenic area, or even some wildlife. Camping with the sounds of the jungle in the background only adds to the excitement of your adventure, and when you've completed the trail, you may even choose to raft part of the way back!
Harz Border Trail | Germany
We finish with a more straightforward hiking route, with (relatively) easy terrain in the wilderness of the Harz national park. The trail runs along what used to be called the "Iron Curtain" in the center of today's Germany: after the fall of the Soviet Union, a huge strip of land stretching from the Barents Sea off northern Finland to the Black Sea became a kind of no man's land that was gradually conquered by nature.
Today it is a very popular route with cyclists and hikers, and this section of the route is connected with a series of wooden shelters where you can spend the night in a building more robust than a tent, and there are also a number of small villages along the way where you can resupply or reward your efforts with a good cold German beer. There's also a little souvenir that's usually very exciting, but you'll have to earn it: the Harz mountain range has something called the Harzer Wandernadel, a sort of hiking passport that serves as a guide to places of interest in the region. If you get your Wandernadel stamped at 20 of the 222 checkpoints, you'll get a badge to remember your trip.
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