There are few things more magical than a hike through a rainforest, spotting local wildlife, and soaking up the sounds and smells of the earth. The abundance of wildlife and beautiful greenery is fabulous for the soul and can give you some great headspace from your everyday stresses and strains. While making up only about 6% of the earth’s surface area, rainforests are home to over half of the world’s plant and animal species. Hiking rainforest trails promise a memorable experience as it offers opportunities for adventures, wildlife spotting, relaxation, and even cultural exchange. In this post, we cover some of the best rainforest trails in the world.
Fun facts about rainforests
- Rainforests are areas of tall and green trees with high rainfall levels. Even though we often refer to rainforests as tropical rainforests, there are actually 2 main classifications of rainforests: Tropical Rainforests and Temperate Rainforests.
- Rainforests are known to be the oldest living ecosystems on the planet, with a history that dated back 70 million years ago.
- The largest rainforests in the world are the Amazon rainforests in South America and the Congo rainforests in Africa.
- Rainforests are often called the lungs of the planet for their role in absorbing carbon dioxide, and producing 40% of the planet’s oxygen, upon which all animals and humans depend for survival.
- Up to 70% of rainforest plants and animals are not found on the forest floor. They live in the leafy world known as the canopy, which can sometimes be explored from a hanging bridge walk.
Why you should go hiking in rainforests
Witness exotic wildlife at different elevations
Rainforests’ signature is a vertical vegetative structure, with layers like the canopy, overstory, shrub layer, and ground level. Canopy animals fly or jump to move through treetops. The forest floor provides decomposition support for taller trees and houses the rainforest’s most famous species: tapirs, gorillas, tigers,… Hiking in rainforests ensures the chance of encountering a variety of floras and faunas.
Meet the local tribes
Hiking in the rainforest is a wonderful experience where you’ll not only see unique wildlife but also learn about various medicinal plants that have been used by tribal peoples for decades if not centuries. Indigenous peoples’ knowledge of medicinal plants remains unmatched. They have a great understanding of the ecology of the rainforests. Indigenous villages are also wonderful examples of living a low-impact, environmentally conscious lifestyle.
Listen to the symphony of nature
The rainforest is teeming with animals and insects, so you would hear a concert of humming, thrumming, buzzing and chirping, alongside with water falling sound. Howler monkeys, frogs, and birds contribute to some of the loudest rainforest sounds.
The best rainforest trails
Rainforests are filled with beauty that’s so spectacular, you could easily plan a whole vacation around one. For a one-of-a-kind tropical hiking experience, explore one of these 20 rainforest trails!
El Yunque, Caribbean National Forest, Puerto Rico
The actual name of this natural reserve is the Caribbean National Forest. El Yunque refers to the forest’s second-highest peak (3,469 ft.) and also the forest’s recreational area. Regardless of names, it is undoubtedly the crowning jewel of Puerto Rico’s nature reserves. Nearly half of the 28,000-acre park area contains some of the only virgin forest remaining on the island. This is home to one of the world’s most accessible rainforests, where the aural assault of the 21st century is replaced by a palpable hush and the restorative, sensual sounds of water dripping, gurgling, rushing, and raining. The 8-km trail takes you all the way to one of the highest points in the Forest: El Yunque Peak. Starting at Palo Colorado forest, you will ascend through sierra palms to eventually reach the cool mist of the rainforest at the peak.
Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica
Costa Rica’s Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve is one of the country’s most fascinating destinations, housing more than one hundred mammal species, four hundred bird species, and thousands of various insects and plants. Its name suggests a special phenomenon: clouds often wander around the forest canopy before turning into mist droplets and clinging onto tree leaves. You’ll feel as though you are walking through a cloud mist wonderland. There are several linked trails in the park that offer beautiful viewpoints over the Continental Divide, where you will see the Pacific and the Caribbean.
Khao Sok National Park, Thailand
In very stark contrast to the famous beaches of Thailand, Khao Sok National Park is Thailand’s rainiest spot. At 160 million years old it is thought to be one of the oldest rainforests on Earth. Green terrain, woodland, and waterfalls are the signature themes of the park. Established in 1962, Khao Yai is the first national park in Thailand. It boasts more than 40 waterfalls, 112 mammals, and 400 bird species and is an indisposable part of the renowned Dong Phayen mountain range.
Jungle trek from Bukit Lawang, Sumatra, Indonesia
The island of Sumatra exhibits 98,555-hectare of extremely biodiverse rainforests. It offers shelter to the endangered Sumatran tiger, the Sumatran rhinoceros, the orangutans, and some 300 different species of birds. Doing a jungle trek from the riverside village of Bukit Lawang is probably the most popular way to enjoy Sumatra. Hikers can do a guided, half-day “rainforest discovery trek” that’s around 4 miles round trip or opt for multi-day treks.
Son Doong Cave, Central Viet Nam
Son Doong, the world’s largest cave, is amongst the most exotic destinations on the planet. Located in the heart of Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park (Central Viet Nam), it is a masterpiece of nature with otherworldly landscapes, signified by enormous stalagmites, an ecosystem of its own, and lakes and jungle that will amaze adventurers in every way. Imagine trekking into the depths of a cavern so massive that its largest part allows a 747 to fly through. Adventurers must trek through jungles, cross underground rivers, explore two gigantic cave ceiling collapses, traverse through underground rainforests and sleep in some magnificent campsites. The one-of-its-kind trail takes about 5 days to complete and is meant for only those in excellent physical shape.
Canopy Walk, Nyungwe Forest National Park, Rwanda
Covering about 1600-2000 square kilometers, the Nyungwe forest is one of the largest protected mountain forests in Africa. The 160m suspended bridge walk of Nyungwe Forest National Park takes you through the lush montane rainforest of Rwanda at 70 m high from the forest floor. Visitors to Canopy walk are provided with a walk to the Igi Shigi Shigi trail, which is 2.1km long and is named after the huge majestic tree ferns found along the trail. This extraordinary activity offers a spectacular view of the ancient forest treetops, bird watching, and animal spotting opportunities. The forest floor is dominated by purple orchids while the forest upper canopy is signified with hardwood trees.
Guided jungle treks in Loango National Park, Gabon
Dubbed ‘The Last Eden’, Loango National Park in Gabon may be a tantalizing glimpse of how the globe once was. It contains a number of the most pristine virgin forests on the African continent, housing gorillas, forest elephants, water buffalos, and hundreds of other species of mammals, birds, and reptiles. With over 175km of uninhabited shoreline, it is believed to be one of Africa’s last great coastal wildernesses. Loango National Park is the gem among Gabon’s 13 parks, offering the world’s most exhilarating safari experiences, boasting an irresistible combination of scenery and wildlife. It takes several-hour hiking to spot a gorilla. Hiking in the forest may include walking through mud, small streams, and swamps, so expect to get wet and muddy.
MacRitchie Trail, Singapore
Located in the tropical rainforest of Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Singapore, the mesmerizing trail has a total length of 11km. The steep climb and stunning sight will render you breathless. With many other easy trails, the park attracts visitors from all walks of life. This refreshing trek also offers an amazing chance to spot some rare animal species like macaque monkeys and monitor lizards, who inhabit the thick part of the forest. This trail is worth a try when visiting Singapore, whether you’re a nature lover or an adventure seeker. Treetop Walk, a 250-meter long suspension bridge connecting the two highest points in the park, is the ultimate highlight of the trail.
Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo
Bako National Park packs an awful lot within its rather humble 27 square kilometer area. Dense rainforests, steep coastlines, tropical beaches, exotic rock formations are just some of the exciting sights you’ll get on your hike. The park exhibits the largest population of Borneo Proboscis monkeys and 16 marked hiking trails of different lengths. Lintang Loop Trail, one of Bako’s most beautiful trails, takes you through the park’s diverse ecosystems and habitats, offering the best chance to spot Proboscis monkeys and the largest flower in the world, the Rafflesia. On a lucky day, you may come across flying lemur, tarsier, pangolin, bats, slow loris, and palm civet hiking in the park.
Yasuni National Park, Ecuador
Yasuní, a tropical rainforest in Ecuador’s northeastern region is considered to be the most biologically diverse place on the planet. Many indigenous tribes, more than 4,000 plant species and 173 mammals thrive in Yasuni. Yasuni National Park is at the center of a zone where birds, mammals, and vascular plant diversity all reach their maximum peak. This is the largest protected area of continental Ecuador and embraces impressive biodiversity in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. The Napo Wildlife Centre is located within the park, offering lodging for hikers. Stay in one of the lodges and join organized trips deep into the rainforest in search of jaguars, toucans, turtles, and caimans, and maybe a meeting with local indigenous tribes, the Tagaeri and the Taromenane.
Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
Guyana is renowned for its rich cultural heritage and its breathtaking natural beauty. Here you’ll find rainforests in their pristine form, providing habitats for pumas, red howler monkeys, and an array of birds, such as the iconic toucan. Trekking to Kaieteur Falls allows you to immerse in one of South America’s most unique landscapes, the wild ecosystems of the Iwokrama RainForest, the Burro-Burro River, and, finally, the world’s highest single-drop waterfall. Stay in a combination of lodges, camps, and even hammocks, while crossing mountain streams and jungle bridges to explore the virgin forests.
Vale do Pati, Chapada Diamantina National Park, Brazil
The Pati Valley is right in the center of the Chapada Diamantina National Park. Its landscapes are of incomparable beauty, with immense mountains, different rock formations, deep valleys, flowered fields, and spectacular waterfalls. Molded in the middle of the Sincorá Mountain, the path can be traced by several routes, between the Capão Valley (Palmeiras), Guinea (Mucugê), and Andaraí. Inhabited by only a few families, the valley has been beautifully preserved. The multi-day trek through the Vale do Pati is one of the best hikes in Brazil, tackled with a guide. It takes you through the jungle and by native villages where the locals may offer you accommodations.
Lost City Trek to Teyuna National Park, Colombia
If you’re searching for an undiscovered rainforest trail few have traversed, a journey to Colombia’s northernmost wilds is for you. Beginning in Santa Marta, discover the lush jungle of the Sierra Nevada Mountains on this challenging trek to Ciudad Perdida, an ancient Colombian city developed by the native Tayrona people. Requiring 1,200 steps to reach the final entrance of Teyuna, it’s estimated that only 10 percent of the ruins are unearthed, lending to the mysterious appeal of this forgotten city. Highlights of the trail include swimming in the Buritaca River, watching hummingbirds flutter through the trees, and sleeping in open-air hammocks.
Inca Jungle Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru
The Inca capital of Cusco is known as the gateway to the most unspoiled and biodiverse place on Earth – the Amazon rainforest. The Inca Jungle Trek, one of the world’s most famous hikes, is the best option for those who prefer a more adventurous and adrenaline-pumping way to hike to Machu Picchu. The trail brings you along narrow ancient paths deep into the Peruvian countryside and high into the Andes mountains and is dotted with gorgeous excellent Incan ruins, cloud forest, and majestic natural views. It combines trekking with mountain biking and takes 4 days to complete. One of the highlights of the trek is a visit to the Amazon thermal baths in Santa Teresa hot springs.
Sanje River Waterfall, Udzungwa Mountains, Tanzania
Harboring one of East Africa’s great forests, Udzungwa Mountain National Park supports a diverse mammal community including elephants, buffaloes, lions, leopards, African wild dogs, elands, waterbucks, and sable in an area of 1990 sq km. It is a paradise for hikers and nature-lovers alike. Numerous breathtaking day-hikes can be organized along with multiple day excursions into the dense rainforest or onto the high plateau. Walking safaris to the Sanje River waterfalls is one of the most popular activities in this park.
Forest walks in Odzala National Park, Congo
Odzala National Park preserves a large swathe of Congo’s magnificent tropical rainforest. Daily expeditions in he park feature jungle hikes, adventure walks, and gorilla treks under experts’ guidance. The lodges here are relaxed and comfortable, and the hospitality is warm and generous. Hiking gives you access to places where vehicles have trouble reaching, offering close approaches to rare species, which are often shy and elusive. Shallow waterways, open grasslands, and large natural mineral licks are parts of these special adventure walks. You’ll also be crisscrossing the forest floor in search of western lowland gorillas, with the help of a professional. When you find them, you share profound moments of mutual curiosity with these gentle goliaths.
The Otway Treetop Walk, Victoria, Australia
Step away from your day-to-day worries and under the lush canopy of Australia’s tallest rainforest, the Otway Ranges. This wildlife wonderland offers sights of ancient plant life, treetops, and cascading waterfalls on one side. And on the other, you’ll find limestone cliffs and beautiful blue bays. At 600 meters long and 30 meters above ground level, the Tree Top Walk in Otway is the longest and tallest canopy walk of its kind. The walk is a 1.9-kilometer round trail that takes less than 1 hour to complete and offers a bird’s eye view of the forest. The abundance of wildlife adds more to Otway’s charm, with cute sleepy koalas, the elusive platypus, and southern right whales along the coast in the winter months.
Mossman Gorge, Daintree National Park, Australia
Daintree National Park lies on the northeast coast of Queensland in Australia, with landscapes ranging from tropical rainforests, white sandy beaches to fringing coral reefs. It is home to a huge variety of unique flora and fauna. The Daintree Rainforest is the oldest living rainforest on Earth – older than the Amazon Rainforest by 65 million years! Mossman Gorge is one of the most accessible features of Daintree National Park, where the limpid waters of the Mossman River rush over mossy granite boulders in the quiet and cool of the rainforest’s lower canopy. The Mossman Gorge Rainforest Circuit Track is a moderate 3.1-kilometer trail that includes the boulders, waterfall views, and birdwatching.
Boiling Lake Trail, Dominica
Still being formed by geothermal volcanic activity, Dominica, the ‘Nature Island of the Caribbean’, is almost entirely covered in rainforest. The island has lush mountains, many rare plant, animal, and bird species, making it a haven for hikers and nature lovers alike. The Morne Trois Pitons National Park boasts luxuriant rainforest as well as a volcano, fumaroles, hot springs, and the world’s second-largest ‘boiling lake.’ Steaming away like a sorcerer’s cauldron, Dominica’s Boiling Lake, a World Heritage Site, is a bewitching and historic hiking destination. The 6-mile arduous path traverses a tropical rainforest overflowing with medicinal and edible flora.
Tongass National Forest, Alaska
Yes, you are not mistaken! There is rainforest in Alaska! The US largest national forest, the Tongass National Forest covers most of Southeast Alaska, surrounding the famous Inside Passage. The Tongass contains some of the most intact expanses of temperate rainforest remaining in the world. It offers a unique opportunity to view bears, eagles, spawning salmon, and, above all, the breathtaking scenery of the Alaskan wilderness. Tongass has over 700 miles of trails, including some incredible rainforest trails. From short accessible boardwalks to rugged alpine trails, one of which is the Ward Creek Trail. This 3-mile trail is slightly rolling and climbs to an elevation of about 500 feet, traversing a gentle mountain slope. Along the way, you will see a variety of wildlife and hear the rushing waters of Ward Creek.
Situated on a variety of landscapes: scenic mountain ranges, giant lowland rivers, and sometimes even beautiful beaches and coral reefs, rainforests offer exceptional recreational experiences for hikers and nature lovers alike. But hiking in rainforests often means enduring high temperature and humidity levels (if not soaking rain!), watching out for insects and leeches, navigating your way through the jungles… So before your visit to any of these rainforest trails, there are a few things you should check in advance, including weather conditions, what to pack, and outdoor navigation skills.
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