Top Rated Long-Distance Hiking Trails Around the World

Top Rated Long-Distance Hiking Trails Around the World

When people think of long-distance hiking trails, the AT (Appalachian Trail), PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and CDT (Continental Divide Trail) often come to mind, at least for Americans. Although these trails are three of the most spectacular long-distance trails, these are not the only ones. On the other hand, not everyone plans on thru-hiking for months on end. There is a lot more to long-distance hiking, thanks to dozens of remarkable long-distance trails around the world.

This post covers some of the best long-distance hiking trails. But if you want to learn more about long-distance hiking, you might want to have a look at our dedicated post about costs involved in thru-hiking and preparation and challenges. Although it mainly covers thru-hiking (covering the entire trail in one go), most of the information covered there also applies to long-distance hiking.

Why Long-distance Hiking?

It might be hard for many to get around the idea of hiking thousands of miles on challenging terrains and under tough circumstances. But for some it’s a way of life. These are the people who are willing to spend days without washing, eat dehydrated food and are ready for life-threatening encounters. Long-distance hikes offer an experience that short trips simply cannot. Most weekend backpackers planning on taking their adventures up a notch find long-distance hiking a better option than thru-hiking entire trails at once.

Many hikers think of long-distance hiking as regular hiking, but only longer. However, there is more to long-distance hiking, which can take a week to months and even a year. It requires a lot more endurance, physical and mental fitness and perseverance. It’s for those who only care about the next spectacular view and are ready to endure the pain and suffering that comes with it. It offers them a rare opportunity to truly experience the open nature and wilderness, something not possible when hiking only for a few days.

Important Things to Consider

Hikers interested in long-distance don’t have to be professional athletes to successfully complete a long trail. Almost anyone in good shape and health can hike a moderately long-distance trail. However, they have to be flexible and prepared to deal with whatever nature throws at them. The first week or so is considered to be the hardest part when your goal is still hundreds of miles away. But the panoramic views soon start making you forget about all your worries and everything becomes ‘normal’.

One of the most important things in this regard is picking the right long-distance trail, proper planning and being prepared for your adventure to the best of your abilities. Although the focus of this post is not on how to prepare for the challenge, we’ll still briefly go through some key points.

  • Thoroughly research the trail, purchase maps and read guidebooks that should ideally cover the entire route
  • Read blogs and stories of other hikers and try connecting with them / interest groups who have already covered the trail you plan on hiking
  • Obtaining all the necessary permits and make sure you know the deadlines and application dates
  • Plan your itinerary and know how much time you need on the trail. A lot more flexibility is possible for months-long hikes, while you have to be very specific when planning for hikes that last for a few weeks
  • Research about camping locations, water sources, resupply points, trail and weather conditions. A hike might start feeling like work if you plan on covering too much miles each day, so try not to be too aggressive when planning an itinerary
  • Get yourself in shape and do some practice hikes with a full backpack
  • Pack smart and consider ultralight backpacking for long-hikes. Be thoughtful about things you really need. Unnecessary stuff will quickly start weighing you down. Reduce weight as much as possible and carry the ultralight versions of your stuff
  • Take advantage of resupply locations instead of carrying extra weight
  • Carry only the water you need to stay hydrated if water is in easy access along the trail
  • Lock for ways to shed some weight even if you have to trim away a few inches of pack strapping, but not at the cost of your safety and comfort. Make a backpacking checklist and don’t forget to carry the essential items

Happy Feet = Memorable Hikes

Feet are perhaps the most important part of long-distance hikes, so you need to take special care about them. Picking the right socks and shoes is of paramount importance and can make or break a long hike. We have already covered the hiking boots vs lightweight shoes debate and how to choose the perfect hiking socks in dedicated posts. You might also want to have a look at our guide to blister prevention and treatment.

Top Rated Long-Distance Hikes Around the World

North America

The Appalachian Trail – USA

Distance: 2,180 miles (3,510 KM)

Time required: 5-7 months

Ideal time to hike: March-September (Northbound)

Stretching across 14 states, the AT is considered to be the grand dame of all long-distance hiking trails and one of the big-three trails in North America (PCT and CDT being the other two). Although the trail is popular among thru-hikers, it can also be done in sections. However, flat sections are few and there are constant ascents and descents with total elevation gain roughly equaling climbing Mount Everest 16 times!

Most thru-hikers don’t make it to the end due to different factors such as illness, fatigue and injury, so hiking it in sections is considered to be a better strategy. Some of the popular section hikes in the AT include:

Springer Mountain – Georgia

Distance: 75 miles (120 KM)

Time required: 7-9 days

Shenandoah National Park – Virginia

Distance:100 miles (160 KM)

Time required: Around ten days

Presidential Range – New Hampshire

Distance: 88 miles (141 KM)

Time required: 8-9 days

Pacific Crest Trail – USA

Distance: 2,653 miles (4,270 kilometers)

Time required: Around 5 months

Ideal time to hike: Northbounders prefer starting in mid-April to early-May, Southbounders in Late-June to early-July

Also known officially as The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, the PCT is the third in the Triple Crown with altitudes ranging from sea level to 4,000+ meters (13,153 feet). It waves through seven national parks and 25 national forests with its midpoint being near Chester – California. PCT is also part of the Great Western Loop, which is a 6,875-mile route in the western United States. The ‘trail culture’ of PCT is quite different than the AT, which is the preferred option for first-time thru-hikers. That’s probably why almost a third of hikers who set their eyes on the PCT have already completed the AT.

The PCT passes through protected wilderness areas and mostly through National Forests, which allows hikers to avoid civilization as much as possible. Hiking the trail northbound is considered to be more practical because of weather and snow considerations. With most hikers covering about 20 miles each day, keeping the weight as low as possible is very important when thru-hiking the PCT.

The Continental Divide Trail – USA

Distance: 3,100 miles (5,000 KM)

Time required: 5-7 months

Ideal time to hike: April – September (from North to South)

The CDT is the longest of the three trails aka The Triple Crown and spans 3,100 miles along the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada. Only around 150 hikers dare to thru-hike the trail each year because it’s no easy feat. CDT is different from AT in many ways and is more similar to PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) as both are about the same length and go through remote areas with most of them being above the treeline. Section hiking is also an option with popular options including Chinese Wall, Montana (65 miles) and Green River to Big Sandy WY (88 miles).

Bruce Trail – Ontario, Canada

Distance: 550 miles (890 KM)

Time required: 4-6 weeks

Ideal time to hike: April – Early November

One the longest marked and oldest trails in Canada, Bruce trail starts in Ontario (outside Niagara) and travels through Provence’s most populated areas before ending in Tobermory. Maintained by the Bruce Trail Conservancy, the trail can be broken into nine smaller sections each having its own subsidiary club. These clubs offer end-to-end guided hikes for their section. Hikers interested in hiking the entire trail can also consider joining these group hikes.

The Ice Age Trail – Wisconsin, USA

Distance: 1200 miles (1930 KM)

Time required: 6-12 weeks

Ideal time to hike: August-October

The trail was carved by glacial forces over a long period of time and winds through grasslands, forests and rock formations. It requires a certain level of hiking experience. There are many small towns, farms and parks along the way, so hikers don’t have to carry a lot of water and food with them. One major challenge hikers face is that camping is not allowed on much of the trail because of private properties. Hikers need great communication skills to connect with the locals to get permission for camping overnight.

The Pacific Northwest Trail – USA

Distance: 1,200 miles (1,900 KM)

Time required: 2-3 months

Ideal time to hike: June-September

The mountain-to-sea trail traverses through diverse landscapes and crosses the Cascade Range and the Continental Divide. Although relatively shorter than many other mighty long-distance trails, it’s quite demanding and the weather is also unpredictable, making it more suitable for experienced hikers.

South America

Greater Patagonian Trail – Argentina, Chile

Distance: 1,300 miles (2,092 KM)

Time required: around two months

Ideal time to hike: December – April

Being the longest trail in South America, it takes quite some time to complete and is a mix of unmarked trails, dirt roads, horse trails and rivers. It passes into Southern Patagonia through the middle of Andes and is full of stunning landscapes, culture and history.

Trans-Panama Trail – Panama

Distance: 700 miles, 1,126 KM

Time required: 3-4 months

Ideal time to hike: June-September

The trail connects a network of remote roads and hiking trails and runs through Panama’s border with Columbia and Costa Rica. It covers a diverse landscape, including rainforests and mountains. Compared to other well-known trails, it’s harder to find accurate information about this trail. Rick Morales was the first to thru-hike the entire trail and mapped its eastern route.

Europe

The E1 Path – European Union

Distance: 4,960 miles (7,980 KM)

Time required: Up to a year

Ideal time to hike: June-September

The E1 European Long-Distance Path covers a total distance of 4,960 miles / 7,980 KM, passes through seven EU countries and it can take up to 12 months to complete the whole trail. That’s the reason why most people hike it in sections. The European Ramblers Association maintains the trail, which is relatively new (established in 2011) and still expanding. More information and details about the 12 E-paths is available at the ERA website. ERA also issues certificates to hikers who hike in an ‘outstanding way’ and adhere to all the rules and regulations in place.

North-to-South Traverse – Iceland

Distance: 340 miles, 550 KM

Time required: 3-4 weeks

Ideal time to hike: June-July

The time window for traveling from Iceland’s one end to another is very short because of the climate and unpredictable weather conditions. The trail is more of a cross country trek that passes through hiking trails, unmarked paths and primitive roads. These paths pass through a diverse range of landscapes, including lush green valleys, hot springs, deserts, snowy mountaintops and volcanoes. Laugavegur Trail and Fjallabak Nature Reserve are considered to be among the most beautiful trails in the whole world, which are part of the north-to-south trek.

The Via Dinarica – Western Balkans

Distance: 1,199 miles, 1930 KM

Time required: 3-4 months

Ideal time to hike: June-September

The Baltic region remained difficult to explore because of internal conflicts between neighboring countries, but things are changing and large parts of trails can now be hiked safely. The trail passes through many countries, including Slovenia, Serbia, Croatia, Albania and Montenegro. The 783 miles (1,260 KM) White Trail is the primary path taken by most thru-hikers that follows ancient trading and previously military routes.

GR10 – France

Distance: 538 miles, 866 KM

Time required: Around two months

Ideal time to hike: May-June and August-September

GR10 is comparatively strenuous than other hikes. It starts at the Atlantic Ocean along the Pyrenees and links the region to the Mediterranean Sea. From dense forests to lush green meadows and snow-covered peaks, the trail has it all. Despite being a well-marked trail, it’s still remote and wild, and suitable for experienced hikers.

GR11 – Spain

Distance: 520 miles (835 KM)

Time required: 35-50 days

Ideal time to hike: April-October

Also known as ruta Transpirenaica, GR11 waves through the Spanish Pyrenees while briefly passing into France. The coast-to-coast track is sub-divided into 45 sections at the end of which are stopping points for refuge, camping and more. A total of 128,000 feet (39,000 meters) elevation gain makes it a tough, yet rewarding hike, which means only experienced hikers should attempt it. Injury, mental fatigue and exhaustion can make new hikers quit sooner than expected, which is not something anyone would want in the middle of nowhere.

The Grand Italian Trail – Italy

Distance: 3,831 miles, 6166 KM

Time required: Up to a year

Ideal time to hike: March-November

Sentiero Italia is the country’s national trail and provides hikers the opportunity to travel the entire country on foot from Trieste to Sardinia. From snow-capped mountains to vineyards and ancient ruins, the trail passes through stunning landscapes and areas of significant cultural importance. Most of the trail is unmarked, so hikers need a dedicated GPS device to keep on the right track. The trail is further divided into 368 sections, allowing hikers to walk the trail according to their own plan.

The King’s Trail (Kungsleden) – Sweden

Distance: 270 miles, 440 KM

Time required: 3-4 weeks

Ideal time to hike: June-September

The well-marked trail is Sweden’s longest trail that traverses through diverse landscapes, including alpine peaks, lakes and forests. Huts are available about a day apart along the route for a small fee (no reservation is required). It passes through well protected areas and four national parks and can also be hiked in sections.

Wales Coast Path – Wales

Distance: 870 miles, 1,440 KM

Time required: 2-3 months

Ideal time to hike: April-September

The trail follows the entire coastline of Wales and was developed in collaboration between the government, national parks and local authorities. It begins at Chester and ends in Chepstow and is usually hiked in sections because of its length.

Camino De Santiago – Portugal, France, Spain

Distance: 500 miles, 780 KM

Time required: 5-8 weeks

Ideal time to hike: April-September

We have already covered the Camino De Santiago in detail in a dedicated post, but it’s still worth mentioning here, especially for hikers who want to combine spirituality with adventure. Although long, it’s a well-marked trail and with resupplies in abundance along the route. There are many routes leading to the Way of St. James, so the length and time required depends on the route you take. Some of the most popular routes include Camino Frances, Camino Portugués, Camino del Norte and Portuguese Coastal Camino.

Asia

Transcaucasian Trail – Eurasia

Distance: 1,864 miles, 3,000 KM

Time required: Around four months

Ideal time to hike: June-September

The trail is not yet completed and still under development. It follows breathtaking mountains of the Greater Caucasus and Lesser Caucasus in Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan. Although it’s still under development, hikers can travel a few hundred kilometers in the national parks, including Borjomi National Park, Lagodekhi National Park and Dilijan National Park. More information about the available trails can be found at the official website.

Annapurna Circuit Trek – Nepal

Distance: 100-145 miles (160 to 230 kilometers)

Time required: 10-13 days

Ideal time to hike: Oct, Nov and Apr, May

The high-altitude trek takes determined hikers through Annapurna, one of the most incredible places along the Nepalese Himalayas. Trekking in Nepal and the Himalayas is meant for bold, free spirits who are ready to accept the challenges of isolation and remoteness. Reaching altitudes of 5000+ meters, the trail immerses hikers in mountain wilderness, giving them a real sense of accomplishment and unforgettable memories. It is considered to be one of the best, if not the best trek in the whole world as it combines a wide range of climate zones, cultural diversity and pushes hikers to their limits while still being relatively accessible with many tea houses on the way, it can be done by solo hikers without any guide.

The Snowman Trek – Bhutan

Distance: 200 miles, 322KM

Time required: 4-5 weeks

Ideal time to hike: May, Late-September to October

Although relatively short, it is considered to be one of the toughest treks that crosses eleven high passes in the Himalayan range. It climbs to 5,000 meters and is meant for experienced hikers in great physical and mental shape. That’s the main reason why most hikers complete it in guided tours.

Tokai Nature Trail – Japan

Distance: 652 miles, 1,050 KM

Time required: 6-8 weeks

Ideal time to hike: April-June

The trail is essentially a nature walk that winds from Tokyo to Osaka. It passes through many historical and cultural sites and because of its gentle slopes, it’s also suitable for family hiking. It is a great option for hikers as well as tourists who want to get away from crowded tourist destinations and truly experience the natural beauty of Japan.

Jordan Trail – Jordan

Distance: 400 miles, 650 KM

Time required: 4-6 weeks

Ideal time to hike: February-April

The trail has been an ancient path on which traders used to travel and still remains popular among hikers. It traverses 52 villages and towns and was properly developed after 1995. Formed and maintained by the Jordan Trail Association, there are plenty of hiking guides, maps and other information available at the official website.

The Great Himalaya Trail

Distance: 2,800 miles, 4,585 KM

Time required: Up to a year

Ideal time to hike: February-April, September-November

The Mighty Himalaya Trail is a proposed trail that passes through the heart of Himalayas (Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and China). The unmarked trail traverses through the Himalayas and hikers can either take the route that passes through mountains or the lower passage that passes below peaks around mountain villages.

The original concept was meant to establish 1,100 miles (1,700 KM) trail in Nepal and Bhutan which pass through some of the remotest and highest places on Earth. The Great Himalaya Trail as proposed by Nepal includes 10 sections (both lower and upper routes), which might not be uninterrupted and continuous due to difficult terrain.

Oceana

Te Araroa – New Zealand

Distance: 1,900 miles, 3,000 KM

Time required: 4-6 months

Ideal time to hike: September-April

Opened officially in 2011, the trail is relatively new and lets hikers experience the best of New Zealand’s natural beauty. From lush green forests to sandy beaches, active volcanoes and country roads, the long-distance path has a lot to offer. You can easily find the official guide at Te Araroa Trust site, but you still need a dedicated GPS device and good navigational skills to complete the trail.

Although entry is free and there are no fees involved, the trust expects a $500 donation (per hiker) for hikers who complete the full trail. Section hikers have to pay less, while hikers hiking a single island have to pay $250.

Bibbulmun Track – Australia

Distance: 623 miles, 1,002 KM

Time required: 6-8 weeks

Ideal time to hike: April-November (early)

The trail passes through some of the most beautiful locations and state parks in the southwestern Australia. Since it can be broken into 58 sections, it is also suitable for day hikers who want to do one section at a time. Campsites with a pit toilet and shelter can be found at each section, making it more accessible and suitable for hikers of different backgrounds. It is well-marked and well maintained, and passes through many national parks, state forestlands and preserves.

Kokoda Track – Papua New Guinea

Distance: 60 miles (96 KM)

Time required: 5-12 days

Ideal time: April-October

We have a dedicated guide to the Kokoda Track, which is considered to be one of the most incredible trails in the world. Although at 60 miles (96 KM) long, it’s a short trail when compared to other long-distance trails. But it’s no less challenging and waves through the remote jungles of Papua New Guinea. It’s recommended to opt for guided hikes through licensed operators because of safety concerns. It’s easy to get lost in the dense and remote jungles with heavy rains making the situation even worse.

Africa

Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail – Sudan, Uganda

Distance: 500 miles, 850 KM

Time required: 2-3weeks

Ideal time to hike: June-August, December-February

The trail is named after Sir Samuel Baker who explored the region in the 1860s and 70s along with his wife Lady Florence. It follows their footsteps and is considered to be among some of the best hiking trails in the whole world. However, the civil war and current law-and-order situation in Sudan makes it almost impossible to hike the northern section. The Ugandan section is open, but it’s hard to find up to date information about the trail and a few resources include the Baker Trail website.

Drakensberg Grand Traverse – South Africa

Distance: 150 miles, 240 KM

Time required: 2-3weeks

Ideal time to hike: Spring (Sep-Dec) and Fall (Mar-June)

The unmarked trail passes through wild SA mountains and requires hikers to pass through checkpoints instead of a predefined path. Among these eight checkpoints are also mountain peaks and you are free to choose any route you like to claim completion of the DGT. A large number of hikers try to straight line these checkpoints as much as they possibly can. Although the terrain itself is not that technical, it does require good navigational skills and physical ability because of steep ascents. Facilities and towns are few and far between, making the trail suitable for experienced hikers.

Conclusion

The point of long-distance hiking is not to prove that thru-hikers are better than ‘average’ hikers. It’s about getting out on the trail and discovering what truly brings you joy. That’s why it’s important to hike your own hike and work things you really like into your itinerary. With so many spectacular long-distance to choose from, anyone from around the world can experience nature first hand, the way it’s meant to be.

 


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