Need a vacation? Experience nature and leave your everyday stresses behind with an epic hiking trail. Whether you’re a skilled backpacker or an average Joe who wants to really see what Mother Nature has to offer, there’s a gorgeous trail out there just waiting to offer you the experience of a lifetime. These 30 hiking trails are among the most beautiful in the world.
1. Colorado Trail
Location: Colorado, United States
Spanning 486 miles, the Colorado Trail runs from the mouth of Waterton Canyon southwest of Denver to Durango, through historic mining towns and along ancient Indian trails. For the “short version,” stick to the most beautiful 68 miles between San Luis Pass and Molas Pass. Expect to see a lot of wildlife and plenty of gorgeous wildflowers.
2. Buckskin Gulch
Location: Utah, United States
Prepare yourself for some absolutely incredible rock formations. The Bucksin Gulch is one of the most popular destinations for slot canyon hikers, clocking in at 13 miles. In some places — like the 2-foot-wide Wire Pass — you’ll need to remove your backpack just to squeeze through. Plan about three to four days for this one.
Also known as “The King’s Trail,” Kungsleden, this 275-mile trek will give you a tour of some of Sweden’s most beautiful landscapes — it runs through four national parks and a nature reserve. Unless you want to spend a month hiking, stick to the northernmost 65 miles.
4. The Snowman Trek
A challenging but rewarding high-altitude hike, the Snowman Trek passes beneath six mountains and crosses nine passes. Highlights include Buddhist monasteries, small villages like Laya and unique wildlife like Himalayan blue sheep.
5. Mount Kilimanjaro
Reaching 19,340 feet into the sky, Mount Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak. And believe it or not, this trek is possible for even the inexperienced climbers and requires no special equipment — which is one of the reasons why 35,000 people climb it every year. Backpacker magazine describes it as a “volcanic hulk [that’s] so massive that it supports five distinct eco-zones, from the banana trees growing at its base to the glaciers draping its upper slopes. … After 27 miles of climbing, you’ll watch Kili’s pyramidal shadow disappear as dawn spreads across an auburn sea of savanna that’s home to lions, elephants and more.”
6. Paine Circuit Trek
Location: Torres del Paine, Chile
If you want the view of a lifetime, look no further than Chile’s Torres del Paine Circuit. One of the most popular ways to experience Patagonia, the 75-mile hike offers surreal panoramas of icy lakes, blue glaciers, mountains and forests. Most people opt for the three- to four-day “W” route rather than the full five- to eight-day circuit.
7. Roan Highlands
Location: North Carolina-Tennessee border, United States
Ranked No. 23 in National Geographic’s “50 Best American Adventures,” Roan Highlands consists of a 48-mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail between the Nolichucky River and U.S. Highway 19E. This area is known for its breathtaking views and rhododendrons, and contains the largest expanse of “balds” — openings in the forest along ridges and mountaintops — in the Appalachian range.
8. Superior Hiking Trail
Location: Minnesota, United States
Named one of the five best hikes in America by Readers Digest in May 2005, the 275-mile Superior Hiking Trail overlooks Lake Superior and passes through forests of birch, aspen, pine, fir and cedar. Highlights include rushing waterfalls and a plethora of wildlife.
9. Everest Base Camp Trek
Location: Khumbu, Nepal
Face the world’s highest mountain without actually climbing the whole thing. The Everest Base Camp Trek takes hikers to the easily reached high point of 18,513-foot Kala Pattar, through terraced villages, by rushing rivers, over suspension bridges and to the famous Khumba icefall.
10. Santa Cruz Trek
Location: Cordillera Blanca, Peru
The most popular hike in the White Mountains of Peru, the Santa Cruz Trek is about a four-day, 31-mile hike for people of all experience levels. Hot springs can be found near the start of the trek, and hikers enjoy beautiful views of snow-capped peaks, meadows, turquoise lakes and red quenua trees.
11. Tongariro Northern Circuit
Location: Ruapehu, New Zealand
This round-trip hike encircles Mount Ngauruhoe, New Zealand’s most active volcano, with 61 eruptions since 1839. About 25 miles, the Northern Circuit takes approximately three to four days and is suitable for those without much experience. Between the lava flows, explosion pits, Emerald Lakes and glacial valleys, the circuit is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
12. Yellowstone’s Wild Southwest
Location: Wyoming, United States
The southwest corner of Yellowstone National Park offers a 27-mile trail through Bechler Meadows, picturesque mountains and lush forests. The trek is known for its big waterfalls and trailside hot springs, like the famous Mr. Bubbles, in which hikers can enjoy a good soak after a long walk. Another highlight: the Lone Star Geyser, which erupts every three hours.
13. Gospel Hump Loop Trail
Location: Idaho, United States
This 68-mile trail is not for the inexperienced. The terrain is rugged, with steep ups and downs and few hikers. But those who take on the challenge will be rewarded with spectacular views as they hike through sandy beaches along the Salmon River and wildflower-covered meadows; pass by shimmering high mountain lakes; and camp out next to Salmon River tributaries. Wildlife are more common than people — the area is inhabited by black bears, elk, moose and bighorn sheep.
14. Inca Trail
The ultimate way to visit Machu Picchu, this 27-mile trek combines Andes Mountains scenery with the subtropical Amazon jungle, ending at the Sun Gate on Machu Picchu mountain. Only 200 trekkers are allows on the trail each day in order to prevent erosion, so plan ahead and expect a four- to five-day journey through cloud forests, alpine tundra, settlements, tunnels and Incan ruins.
15. Tour du Mont Blanc
Location: France, Italy and Switzerland
This three-country, 105-mile hike circles the 15,770-foot Mont Blanc Massif, the highest peak in Western Europe. One of the most popular long-distance walking trails, the Tour du Mont Blanc takes hikers through mountain passes, snowfields, lush forests, glacial valleys and secluded Alpine villages over a span of about 10 days.
16. Presidential Traverse
Location: New Hampshire, United States
Only the most adventurous backpackers attempt the Presidential Traverse, an extremely difficult and sometimes dangerous climb through New Hampshire’s White Mountains. It’s so named for the summits of peaks named after U.S. presidents that must be crossed to complete the journey: Mount Madison, Mount Adams, Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Mount Monroe, Mount Eisenhower and Mount Pierce. About 23 miles long, most people need two to three days to climb the whole thing — and only the luckiest travelers get decent weather. The area is known for unpredictable rain, snow and whiteouts, and the winds exceed 100 miles per hour every four days in the winter.
17. Israel National Trail
One of National Geographic’s “20 most epic trails,” the Israel National Trail crosses the entire country of Israel, clocking in at about 580 to 620 miles. Experienced backpackers generally spend about 45 to 60 days trekking from Israel’s northern border with Lebanon to the Red Sea, through major cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and through the Israeli desert. The hike passes through mountains, valleys, forests, craters and orchards, varying from very easy to vary difficult, and crosses biblical sites and historic places like Nazareth, as well as archeological sites.
18. Zion Narrows
Location: Utah, United States
The Zion Narrows, part of Zion National Park, is a gorge carved out by the Virgin River, stretching 16 miles long, reaching about 2,000 feet deep and spanning only about 20 to 30 feet wide in some areas. Ranked No. 5 in National Geographic’s “America’s Best 100 Adventures,” the Zion Narrows is no easy feat. The river marks the route, so there really isn’t a maintained trail, and at least 60% of the hike involves wading and sometimes swimming in the river. Highlights include natural springs, hanging gardens and ponderosa pines.
19. Tiger Leaping Gorge
Location: Yunnan, China
Legend has it that a South China tiger once leapt 25 meters across the Yangtze River to escape a hunter, giving this gorge its name. One of the deepest gorges in the world, it clocks in at about 9.3 miles long and 18,360 feet deep in between the snow-covered peaks of the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the Haba Snow Mountain. Backpackers can spend anywhere from three days to a week trekking the narrow winding trails beneath waterfalls and through pine and bamboo forests, visiting quiet rural villages along the way.
20. Pembrokeshire Coast Path
Location: Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, Wales
The National Trails website for England and Wales describes this breathtaking coastal trek well: “From St. Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the south, the trail covers almost every kind of maritime landscape, from rugged cliff tops and sheltered coves to wide-open beaches and winding estuaries.” The 186-mile path is an estimated 35,000 feet of ascents and descents, but some 130 shorter circular walks exist for the not-so-hardcore hikers. The Pembrokshire Coast Path passes through 58 beaches and 14 harbors, giving backpackers views of volcanic headlands, red sandstone coves, flooded glacial valleys, and a plethora of coastal flora and bird life along the way.
21. Sentiero Azzurro
Location: Cinque Terre, Italy
Pass through picturesque fishing villages, vineyards and terraced hills on this 7.5-mile path that follows the Italian Riviera coastline and connects five villages: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare. Far from a challenging hike, the Sentiero Azzurro is almost completely flat and usually requires only about five hours — though you should allot plenty of time to stop in each village and enjoy the local cuisine and wine.
22. Muliwai Trail
Location: Big Island, Hawaii
Named “Best Hike in Hawaii” by Backpacker magazine, the Muliwai Trail stretches 9 miles from the Waipio Valley to the Waimanu Valley, allowing hikers to explore old ruins, swimming holes and a black sand beach on the way.
23. Haute Route
Location: France and Switzerland
The Haute Route, also known as the High Route or Mountaineers’ Route, can be traversed on foot or by ski touring. It begins at the foot of Mont Blanc in France’s Chamonix Valley and takes backpackers through the Swiss Alps to the foot of the Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland. Distant Journeys — a company offering guided hikes — best describes the incredible trek on its website: “Hike beneath imposing peaks and glaciers of the Swiss Alps, wander though alpine meadows and larch forests, cross high, barren passes and descend into lush green valleys. We’ll picnic beside cool mountain lakes, stay in remote mountain huts, visit bustling Swiss villages and relax in the tranquility of isolated old-world hamlets.” Expect at least 12 days if trekking on foot and at least seven days if skiing.
24. Long Range Traverse
Location: Newfoundland, Canada
Located in Gros Morne National Park, the 23-mile Long Range Traverse takes experienced backpackers through the Long Range Mountains, offering spectacular views of glaciers, waterfalls, fjords, verdant meadows, granite cliffs and coastal landscapes. The rugged terrain makes this a difficult hike, and most backpackers need about four to five days to complete the trek.
25. Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex
Location: Montana, United States
This wilderness preserve is home to 17,000 miles of trails, which are traversed by all sorts of adventurers, from day hikers and backpackers to horseback riders and cross-country skiers. The complex consists of three wilderness areas: the Great Bear, the Bob Marshall — so named for Robert “Bob” Marshall, the forester, conservationist, writer, wilderness activist and one of the founders of the Wilderness Society — and the Scapegoat. Explorers will find themselves surrounded by rugged peaks, alpine lakes, grassy meadows, lush forests and cascading waterfalls. One of the highlights of the area is the Chinese Wall, a 22-mile-long limestone escarpment that averages 1,000 feet and is part of the Great Divide. The preserve has the highest population density of grizzly bear in all of the United States outside of Alaska.
26. Bibbulmun Track
Location: Torndirrup National Park, Australia
Though there are plenty of smaller hikes — including day hikes — available, the full, long-distance Bibbulmun Track spans 620 miles of Western Australia, from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to the historic town of Albany on the south coast. Attempting the full trek takes approximately 60 days and leads backpackers through forests, tranquil farmland, vineyards, waterfalls, wild beaches and granite boulders. Named after the Bibbulmun Nyoongar — an aboriginal group that traveled long distances on foot for ceremonies — “the Bibb” passes through 22 national parks and other reserves, offering glimpses of beautiful coast scenery, wildflower displays and wildlife, such as emus, kangaroos, seals, dolphins and whales.
27. North Drakensberg Traverse
Location: South Africa
Aaren Adventures best describes this strenuous five- to six-day trek through South Africa’s highest mountain range: “A trek across this epic landscape begins by ascending chain ladders to reach the top of this barrier and the plateau of Mount-aux-Sources, where the Tugela River plunges 3,110 feet off the top in a series of five cascades that make for the second highest waterfall in the world. From here, the trek crosses the high plateau — broken by rock formations, views out across the cliffs, and the huts of Sotho herdsman — before it works its way down past more waterfalls and river crossings before meeting up with the welcome civilization of the Cathedral Peak Hotel.”
Photo source: Aaren Adventure
28. Sierra High Route
Location: Sierra Nevada, United States
A true wilderness-lover’s adventure, the 195-mile Sierra High Route runs north to south through the Sierra Nevada, crossing 33 passes without any clearly marked trails. Most backpackers choose to tackle one of its five segments, though Backpacker magazine editor Steve Howe hiked the entire thing in one month in 2006. Also known as the “Roper Route,” this hike is “the brainchild of mountaineer Steve Roper, who sought an alternative to the heavily pounded John Muir Trail,” says National Geographic. It passes through Kings Canyon National Park, the Inyo National Forest and Yosemite National Park and involves a good deal of boulder hopping and long stretches of peaceful solitude.
29. Half Dome
Location: California, United States
The ultimate way to experience Yosemite National Park, the 14- to 16-mile round-trip hike up the Half Dome — Yosemite’s famous granite dome — can be accomplished by even the average, in-shape person with some preparation. Most hikers need about 10 to 14 hours to get to the top and back, and the trek offers some incredible views of Vernal and Nevada Falls, Yosemite Valley, the Half Dome, Liberty Cap and the High Sierra. Perhaps the most popular part of the hike is the last 400 feet to the summit — two metal cables allow hikers to climb without rock-climbing equipment.
30. Haiku Stairs
Location: Oahu, Hawaii
What began as a wooden ladder installed on a cliff for workers stringing antenna cables evolved into an incredible — and challenging — trail consisting of approximately 3,922 steps. Unfortunately, the Haiku Stairs were closed to the public in 1987, but there’s still a way to legally access them — and it’s not for the amateur hiker. Expert hikers can climb to the top of the stairs from the other side of the island and take the trail down.