Forming the basis of many an adventurer,s daydream, the following hikes are high up on the 'must-do' list of anyone who lives to conquer the outdoors.
To truly experience the world at its most pure, nothing compares to sliding your feet into a pair of hiking boots and heading off to trek some of the planet’s most iconic environments. The simple act of walking exposes us to the variety of climates, species and landscapes that are all so different it’s almost impossible to hold one above the other in terms of praise and appreciation. The following list is compiled of some of the world’s most beguiling routes, which boast not only exquisite vistas but also the opportunity for monumental memories and lessons. All of the following require calculated preparations, but if you take the plunge and embark on these expeditions, you’ll be rewarded in more ways than one. Read on for some inspiration that’s sure to stir the adventurous spirit inside of you.
EVEREST BASE CAMP, NEPAL
Distance: Approx. 130km round trip
When to go: March to May/September to November
Most of us never acquire the means to reach the highest point on the planet, atop the mighty Mt Everest. The resources required to accomplish this daunting feat are considerable, including extensive physical training, financing, and freedom from a rigid 9-5 roster. However, while still strenuous and requiring detailed preparation, the trek to Everest Base Camp is an attainable goal for most folks of all backgrounds. Sherpas and porters guide the way and take some of the hard yards out of the equation, by offering bag transport at affordable rates. As such, all that is left in the hands of the hiker is remaining a willing pedestrian with an appreciation and readiness for a stark rise. A lovely bonus of the endeavour is first hand insight into Himalayan lifestyle, with the Sherpas exhibiting a contagious fervour that rivals the mountains themselves.
MT KILIMANJARO, TANZANIA
Distance: Approx. 37-90km, depending on route
When to go: January to March and June to Octobe
At almost 6000m above sea level, Africa’s highest peak is no small venture. The handsome king of the Eastern Rift mountains, the dormant volcano is robed in five separate climate zones, which gives it a varied appearance from base to summit. While the peak is still on the to-do of every serious alpinist, the enormous hill is dotted with established camps and navigated along designated routes requiring little technical skill. The only knowledge necessary to scale this legendary piece of rock is of the self, and Kilimanjaro will put even the most resilient mental fortitude to the test. Even if you are reasonably seasoned to weather extremes, the mental demands and the physical requirements extend far beyond endurance and strength alone. The ease with which some can meander up the gradual incline makes acclimatisation a huge priority to keep in mind. Altitude sickness can hinder even the most conditioned muscles and organs, so don’t get in too great of a hurry to saunter onwards and upwards.
W ROUTE, TORRES DEL PAINE, PATAGONIA, CHILE
Distance: Approx. 60km
When to go: October to April
Patagonia is widely regarded as one of the most pristine natural sanctuaries on the planet, and is home to the iconic W Route (named so for the shape it forms). Patagonia's fame does not come from heavy conservation ties alone, though. Torres Del Paine is among the most recognisable mountain range silhouettes in the world, due to its staunch peaks dominating the landscape with their rugged outline. Flaunting a widely varied biome comprised of everything from to glaciers and volcanoes, to waterways and plains, the scene possesses an unrivalled array of eye candy. The colours, patterns, and geometry Mother Nature boasts here are a sight to behold by themselves, not to mention the wildlife. With a bit of good fortune, the native guanacos- predecessor to the modern llama- may make an appearance amid the waving grasslands beneath the foreboding ridge lines above.
ANCASCOCHA TRAIL, PERU
Distance: Approx. 42km
When to go: Dry season is May to September.
It is with good reason the Peruvian high country is world renowned as a bucket list head liner. Adorned by the crown jewel of Machu Picchu, the Andes has quickly become an iconic journey for hikers and travellers from across the globe. The famous Inca Trail is the most common route taken to the highly coveted destination, though many argue it leads there a bit too directly. For those wanting to take a few scenic detours, the Ancascocha Trail is a lovely alternative that bypasses a large portion of heavy traffic present on the Inca, while also showcasing some of the most stunning views the range has to offer. Slightly more strenuous than its more popular counterpart, portions of intensive ascents/descents on the hike add an additional element of challenge to the experience. Thankfully, the track ends only a short shuttle ride from the ruins at Machu Picchu.
Distance: Approx. 440km
When to go: August to September
The full Kungsleden (The King’s Trail) route is 440km in total, weaving through some of the most unique and remote terrain in all of Scandinavia. With such a massive distance requiring at least a month-long commitment, many avid Swedish (and foreign) trekkers instead opt for the stint furthest North, between Abisko and Kvikkjokk, about 105km. This leg of the legendary journey features its wildest landscapes, ranging from a series of long valleys with formidably undulating inclines and declines, to full – blown Arctic tundras stretching beyond the reaches of eyesight. Kungsleden’s narrow path through the wilderness rises above tree – line after the fifth day of hiking, offering tremendous views of the surrounding mountains in every direction. Conveniently, there are huts every few hours along the walk, so minimal camping gear is required in comparison to other treks of a similar nature.
RWENZORI MOUNTAINS (MOUNTAINS OF THE MOON), UGANDA
Distance: Approx. 62km
When to go: December to March
Contrary to popular belief, not all of the African continent is a flat, desert expanse. The Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda are as fertile and lush as it gets, and serves as an arena for what many would argue to be the most bizarre contrasts that exist on our planet. As the rainforests of the Congo sprawl westward to meet the very glaciers that source the Nile River, they harmoniously fuse to create the picturesque peculiarity of the Mountains of the Moon. With its highest peaks permanently capped in snow, the Rwenzori range still manages to support a flourishing food supply for its infamous elephant population. Combined with its characteristic shrouds of mist that seem to perpetually migrate from valley to valley, all of these unusual qualities lure many hoping to bear witness to the bizarre charms of the area. Be warned though, the tense political and social spheres of the land make it a daunting destination to reach. Nonetheless, it is still certainly one well worth a lesson or two in diplomacy and 4WD hire.
GRAND CANYON RIM-TO-RIM, ARIZONA, USA
Distance: Approx. 37km
When to go: March to May/September to November
The breathtaking grandeur of the Grand Canyon has been hushing crowds and topping lists of Earth’s greatest natural wonders for centuries. It is with good reason that flocks of nature-frothers, travellers, and photographers from all corners of the planet seek out the fantastic carvings of the Colorado River. Within its massive dimensions (446km long, 1800m deep and 29km wide) a nearly infinite number of vantage points exist to gaze upon the canyon from. The Rim-to-Rim hike allows visitors to truly absorb the vast beauty and scale of scenery awaiting their admiration, enriching the experience with up close and personal moments amongst flora and fauna, a full spectrum of fluctuating sunlight accentuation from dawn to dusk, as well as some of the brightest night-sky displays visible from the ground.
YOSEMITE GRAND TRAVERSE
Distance: Approx. 97km
When to go: July to September
With an unrivalled line-up of jaw-dropping features in the competitive collection of National Parks across the United States, Yosemite flaunts its symphonies of granite, trickles with its bubbling brooks transformed into striking waterfalls, and dazzles with reflections of the very essence of life atop the surface of its mirror-still lakes. Aside from the sheer face of Half Dome – an unforgettable sight to behold and, a nearly vertical gruelling ascent, and reason enough alone to complete the Grand Traverse – the ridge lines and serene forests of this adventurous amble will not fail to charge you with a vigor for life and all its wonder. Of all the exceptional landscapes West of the Rockies, Yosemite undoubtedly has the most restorative power, tantalising its audiences with a lovely intertwining of both Nature’s intensity, as well as its calm. The Grand Traverse does not simply give access to the most incredible portions of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, it sets the stage for deep connection.
CHILKOOT TRAIL, ALASKA, USA/BRITISH COLUMBIA, CANADA
Distance: Approx. 53km
When to go: June to October
Established during the Klondike Gold Rush, this historical hike marks the voyage across the American/Canadian border to and from the Yukon mining fields. In eras past, the area was characterised by suspect characters and the pursuit of fortune. In modern times, the wilds of Alaska and B.C. still pose equal opportunities for triumph and disaster, in only a slightly different fashion. Small margins for error exist anywhere with such volatile weather, harsh elements, and bears commonly encountered. Amid a teeming ecosystem, the Chilkoot is equivalent to a North American safari. Sporting healthy populations of bear, caribou, bison, mountain goats and moose, this majestic expedition will have you feeling like you’re in a natural zoo. Take care though, as there are no barred fences of restraint between you and the rugged environment. Deep in the heart of bear country, some of the locals are less neighbourly than others and may not enjoy attempts at friendly conversation. Although visitors should proceed with caution, keep in mind that the Chilkoot’s fierceness should inspire respect rather than instil fear.
KALALAU TRAIL, HAWAII
When to go: May to September
The Na Pali coastline of Kauai – the fourth largest island in the archipelago of Hawaii – is renowned for the dramatic structure of its fluted pali cliffs. The Kalalau Trail leads walkers along these infamous gulches and ridgelines, through one of the most stunning stretches of earth rising out of the Pacific Ocean, and ends with the highly esteemed Hanakapi’ai Beach as a grand finale. Littered with formidable switchbacks and intrepid precipices like “Crawlers Ledge”, few who have completed the full hike could ever honestly attest to any ease prior to its sandy climax. Compensating for its harshness, the Kalalua provides an abundance of sweet sustenance on the branches of a broad variety of fruit-bearing trees along the way, including mango, guava, coconut, rose apple, and papaya. The volcanic nutrients of the dense Hawaiian soil breed a diverse and plentiful selection of non-edible plants as well, the canopy of Banyan trees providing shelter for enough vines and flowers to fill every fairytale ever dreamt.
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