23 of the world’s best hiking trails
From a multiday trek tracing the routes of a Japanese poet, to a classic clamber in the Argentinian Lake District, here are 23 of the best hiking trails in the world.
Walking boots and waterproof coats at the ready.
1. Pennine Way, United Kingdom
Stretching 268 miles from the Derbyshire Peak District to the Scottish Borders, the Pennine Way is the United Kingdom’s most famous long distance path.
The entire walk takes around three weeks, passing over wild moorland east of Manchester and through the picture postcard Yorkshire Dales, before crossing the ancient border of Hadrian’s Wall and on toward Scotland.
One for outdoor fanatics, camping enthusiasts and anyone who can handle the vagaries of great British weather.
2. Camino de Santiago de Compostela, Spain
Rather than following a single path, the Camino, also known as the Way of St. James, is actually a series of different pilgrimage routes, all ending at the shrine of the apostle St. James in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
The most popular modern route follows a line across northern Spain from the French Pyrenees.
While some choose to stay at monasteries along the way, plenty of operators offer hotel stays and luggage transfers.
Pura Ventura has an 11-day trip that passes through Galicia, staying in boutique inns, with bags sent ahead each day.
3. Appalachian Trail, United States
Extending for 2,200 miles, the Appalachian Trail is billed as the longest hiking-only footpath in the world.
It runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, passing through some of the most remote country in the United States.
That means it’s an undertaking, either for those with endless vacation allowance, or walkers looking to do a small chunk of a classic route.
Well-marked paths and campsites mean it can be tackled alone. But those keen on comfort can use companies like Go Shenandoah, which offers pre-booked lodge accommodation and packed lunches in the spectacular Shenandoah National Park, Virginia, home to some of the best scenery on the trail.
4. The Basho Wayfarer, Japan
Japan boasts numerous ancient trails, connecting temples and cities. This self-guided trip follows a route taken by the poet Matsuo Basho over 300 years ago.
The six-day trek starts in Sendai and works its way through the northern Tohoku region, passing through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hiraizumi and along the ancient Dewa Kaido path, with its beech and cherry forests, before heading into the mountains of Natagiri-toge and finishing at the temple of Yamadera.
Tour operator Walk Japan offers accommodation in traditional ryokan, with access to onsen baths to soothe aching bones after a long day’s hiking.
5. Refugio Frey and Cerro Catedral, Argentina
The area around Bariloche in Argentina’s Lake District is home to several stunning walks.
But for those with limited time, it’s hard to beat the one-day trek to Refugio Frey and Cerro Catedral.
A bus to Villa Catedral drops at the start of a wide, well-marked path, which winds its way into the Andes, passing through woods before emerging above the tree line into a world of spectacular, soaring peaks. Intrepid visitors can stay at Refugio Frey, either in the hut or camping in its grounds.
6. Mount Toubkal, Morocco
North Africa’s highest peak at 4,167 meters (13,671 feet), a hike to the top of Mount Toubkal isn’t for the faint-hearted.
The path upwards rises from the village of Imlil, passing over a dry river bed before rising sharply through the shrine at Sidi Chamharouch and on towards a large mountain hut.
After overnighting here, hikers strap on crampons and set off up the snowfield to the summit, where the Atlas Mountains open out and the views are relentless.
A local guide and muleteers for carrying luggage are a must, with tour operator Much Better Adventures able to arrange both, along with transfers to and from Marrakech.
7. Great Wall of China, Jinshanling section
Walking the Great Wall at the tourist hotspot of Badaling can be a stressful experience, with crowds and hawkers making it almost unbearable.
Jinshanling, situated 87 miles northeast of Beijing, offers the perfect chance to explore a steep, winding and relatively unscathed section of this true Chinese icon.
The route through to the wall at Simatai is closed, but the back and forth trip along this section makes for a strenuous workout, with truly amazing views. Hotels in Beijing can arrange tours and transfers.
8. Dragon’s Back, Hong Kong
Hong Kong may be known for its towering skyscrapers and narrow streets, but the mainland and islands are dotted with myriad hiking trails, the most famous of which is the Dragon’s Back.
Easily reached by bus from downtown Hong Kong, the path begins in a shady tree tunnel on the Shek O Road, before scaling Shek O Peak, with vistas over white sandy beaches, lush hills and tropical islands. The route ends at the beach at Big Wave Bay, its warm waters perfect for a post-hike dip.
9. The Dingle Way, Ireland
Stretching 111 miles, The Dingle Way is a circular path that offers the best way to get under the skin of wild County Kerry in Ireland’s south west.
Starting in the town of Tralee, the clockwise path follows narrow roads, known as boreens, taking in the wide sweep of sand at Inch Strand, passing along the clifftops outside Dingle town and heading around the edge of Mount Brandon, the highest peak on the Dingle Peninsula.
Ireland Ways arranges accommodation along the route, which can be tackled over as many as ten days.
10. Tergo La Trek, Bhutan
The relative inaccessibility of Bhutan and need for tourist passes means its trails are unspoiled and ripe for exploration. Tergo-La Trek, in the Haa Valley, is one of the country’s lesser known routes.
This guided trek from Bhutanese tour operator Blue Poppy rises from 3,500 meters to 4,135 meters, passing through peaceful forest paths and up wild mountain tracks, with views of Kanchenjunga, the third highest peak in the world.
Yak herders’ camps and distant villages add to the sense of being in another world.
11. Tahoe Rim Trail, United States
A 165-mile loop around the Tahoe Rim Basin, this iconic trail was established in 1981 and is regarded as one of the finest hikes in the United States.
Passing through six counties and four national forests, in land that straddles California and Nevada, the Tahoe Rim Trail is the best way to explore the Sierra Nevada and Carson ranges.
Intrepid travelers can pack a tent and get back to nature on an 11-day jaunt, best undertaken between July and September.
12. Armenia and the Silk Road
Easily overlooked, Armenia has some of the best walking trails in Europe.
The 11-day Armenia and the Silk Road trip takes in some of its finest routes, connecting the UNESCO protected monasteries of Sanahin and Haghpat, passing over limestone peaks and through verdant forests, with the opportunity to hike in the wild Geghama Mountains and climb to the top of Aragats, the country’s tallest mountain.
13. Lechweg Trail, Austria and Germany
Starting in the Bavarian town of Fussen, this nine-day route follows the Lechweg river to its source in the Austrian state of Vorarlberg.
Passing the royal castles of a King Ludwig II of Bavaria, Germany as well as crystal clear lakes, the trail heads through the Tiroler Lech National Park, a protected area with lush meadows, turquoise water and ibex at every turn.
Although the trail is self-guided, Walks Worldwide can arrange accommodation and meals, meaning visitors only need worry about putting on their boots and backpacks each morning.
14. Indus Valley, Himalaya, India
While a Himalayan trek is always going to be magical, this remote three-day jaunt in the Indus Valley takes some beating.
The hike, which is an extension of luxury operator Shakti Himalaya‘s seven-day itinerary to the region, leaves the village of Moncarmo and heads to Matho Phu and Shang Phu.
Phu translates as summer pastures, meaning this lush ground makes for pleasant walking while staring at the surrounding peaks and glaciers.
The trip includes stops at local tea houses, with dome tents pitched each evening for a comfortable night’s sleep.
15. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Uganda
Wildlife walks don’t come more fascinating than a trip into Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, where you can get up close and personal with the area’s mountain gorilla population.
As part of a wider itinerary, Yellow Zebra Safaris offers walks in which visitors are taken on hikes across the forest to meet habituated gorillas used to the presence of humans.
Groups are typically limited to eight people.
16. West Coast Trail, Vancouver Island
Canada’s wilderness and sheer scale mean it’s blessed with some truly astounding hiking trails.
The classic West Coast Trail covers 47 miles around southern Vancouver Island, with stunning ocean scenery at Bonilla Point and accessible sea caves at Owen Point.
The hike involves scaling ladders, wading through rivers and battling along muddy tracks, but with the bonus of being able to camp out in spectacular open country.
Although self-guided, walkers need to reserve a place on the trail at the start of the year, with spaces severely limited.
17. Percorsi Occitani, Maira Valley, Italy
A network of ancient pathways through the Cottian Alps, a walk in the Percorsi Occitani is like stepping back in time.
Many locals still speak the Occitan language, while the remoteness of the Maira Valley makes it one of the most unspoiled corners of northern Italy.
Linking hamlets and villages, this nine-day self-guided route scales some of the area’s more challenging hills, dipping into green valleys, with stays at traditional mountain refuges.
Luggage transfers and traditional Occitan meals can be arranged by Inn Travel.
18. Lares and Royal Inca Trail, Peru
The Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu is unquestionably one of South America’s greatest treks.
It can also feel overrun at times, which is where this excellent alternative comes in.
Lares and Royal Inca Trail, a guided three-day trek in the Lares region, follows an ancient Inca path through Andean forests, up the Huchayccasa pass and through the village of Huacahuasi, with the chance to catch glimpse of soaring Mount Veronica.
Once over, hikers can then catch a train to the Inca Trail, completing the final stretch through the cloud forest and into the famous ruins.
19. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity is best explored in the high cloud forests of Monteverde.
The reserve has a series of well-marked paths ideal for those keen on an easy stroll with the chance to see the area’s striking bird life and flora up close without having to pack for a multi-day hike. Orchids, ferns and mosses abound, with the chance of seeing a brightly colored quetzal flying high above the trees.
20. The Lycian Way, Turkey
Covering 300 miles around the coast of southern Turkey from Fethiye to Antalya, the Lycian Way gives walkers a chance to explore the former kingdom of Lycia.
Passing through the ancient town of Sidyma and the ghost town of Kaya, the route cleaves to the water, with the chance of a cooling dip after a long day’s walk.
Peter Sommer Travels offers an eight-day guided hike along the opening stretch, with the chance to stay on a traditional gulet sail boat each night.
The route is well-marked and can be followed without a guide.
21. The Balkans, Montenegro and Albania
While the Alps is renowned for classic European hikes, the Balkans’ beautiful mountains make for an excellent alternative for those who’d rather hike away from the crowds.
Kucki Kom, one of Montenegro’s most arresting peaks at 2,487 meters, is worth the trip alone, with the scramble to the top rewarded with huge views of the Komovi Mountains.
Those after a longer hike can book onto Ramblers Holidays‘ 14-day route along Montenegro and Albania’s best hiking trails, starting in Kotor and ending in Tirana.
22. Cloud Forest trek, Laos
The remote area of Houaphan in Laos is home to Indochina’s last wild tigers. Inside Asia’s Cloud Forest Trek gives hikers the opportunity to catch a glimpse of these elusive creatures, with the chance to set and monitor camera traps.
This multi-day guided trip to the summit of Phou Louey, Laos’ third highest mountain, also includes overnight stays in bamboo huts and time spent watching wildlife at the Poung Nied Salt Lick.
23. Cape to Cape Track, Western Australia
Starting at the lighthouse at Cape Naturaliste and finishing 76 miles away at the lighthouse at Cape Leeuwin, the most south westerly point in mainland Australia, this track is the ultimate way to see some of the finest scenery in Australia.
Hikers can camp along the route or arrange accommodation via the Friends of the Cape to Cape Track.
The Cape to Cape Track route is well signposted, but guides are available to those who want to learn more about the area and its beaches and forests.