Mountains along the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest footpaths in the world.
Photo Credit: Getty Images

Lace up Your Hiking Boots and Set Out on 15 of the Best Hiking Trails in the World

See Some of the Most Beautiful Landscapes in the World

You can always identify keen hikers and outdoors enthusiasts by what they have on their bucket lists. Instead of aspiring to visit the world’s most beautiful cities, ticking off the most luscious beaches or dreaming of combing through the most prominent museums, hikers set their sights on the best hikes in the world.

Whether it is to explore a new country or culture, complete some kind of personal pilgrimage or simply set a challenge for yourself, completing a bucket list hike is always a rewarding experience.

There are countless trails around the globe that traverse mountains, forests, deserts and even active volcanoes. You can find trails that are suitable for single day hikes, week-long excursions and expeditions that take half a year. It’s all up to your comfort level as well as how much time you have to spare. Not everyone has the knowledge, skill and grit to complete a 2,000-mile journey.

Still, many of the longer trails are accessible to less intense hikers who just want to get a taste of a section of the trail. You can hop on and off at various access points and just hike for the day, or even spend a night or two on the trail to gain some experience.

Of course, this isn’t an option for some of the trails in more remote locations. It’s all or nothing on trails like these! So it’s best to know what you’re getting into.

Of all of these options, these 15 stand out as the best hiking trails in the world. Make sure these are all on your hiking bucket list!

The Appalachian Trail, USA

The Appalachian Trail is undoubtedly one of the best long hikes in the world. It is a continuously marked footpath that stretches for a whopping 2,180 miles. Walking this track is no mean feat and can take up to seven months to complete. If you complete it successfully, you’ll end up walking through 14 states.

It stretches all the way from Springer Mountain in Georgia up to Mount Katahdin in Maine.

You need to plan for a hike of this length carefully — it’s no beginner’s stroll. Even so, approximately three million people hike at least a section of the trail each year. However, only about one in four thru-hikers (those attempting to walk the entire trail) end up completing their mission.

There are about 250 huts located along the length of the track, so you can feasibly walk the entire Appalachian Trail without carrying a tent.

Woman hikes Inca Trail in PeruThe Inca Trail is challenging but rewarding. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Inca Trail, Peru

The Inca Trail is one of the best hiking vacations available, as you not only get to complete a multi-day trek but you arrive at magnificent ruins at the end of it. Walking all the way to Machu Picchu is a great way to appreciate the mystery of how the Incas constructed a city so high in the mountains.

The citadel was built in the 15th century, and the sophistication of the construction is as impressive as the panoramic views surrounding it.

The Inca Trail is 26 miles long and takes four days to complete. There are grueling inclines — including what feels like never-ending stairs — but the mountain scenery and jungle do a great job of distracting you from your aching legs. On the final morning, you’ll arrive at a viewpoint looking out over Machu Picchu just as dawn breaks.

Trekking the Inca Trail is tightly controlled, with a limited number of permits available. These often sell out months in advance, so this trip will require a little forward planning. It’s worth noting as well that the busiest months at Machu Picchu are June, July and August, so avoid this time if you don’t like crowds.

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Man hiking W circuit in Torees del PaineThe Torres del Paine is full of lakes and glaciers. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Torres del Paine “W” Circuit, Chile

There are multiple hiking options in the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, but the most popular is the “W” circuit. This track is named after its shape — it zig zags its way through the park, past glaciers, lakes and volcanic peaks.

Torres del Paine is located in Patagonia, right at the southern tip of Chile. Nearly at the bottom of the world, the landscapes here are vast and untouched. This trek will give you the chance to disconnect properly and dive deep into unspoiled nature.

Depending on your exact route, this track is between 37-50 miles long and can take four to six days to complete. The W circuit takes you past all of the highlights of the Torres del Paine, including the rocky spires that the park is named after.

emerald lakes on tongariro crossingFind out why this is called the best day hike in the world. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

The Tongariro Crossing has been dubbed the best day hike in the world, and with good reason. The eight-hour hike traverses the moon-like landscape around Mount Tongariro. The trail winds its way through volcanic craters, past bright turquoise pools that seem surreal, as well as occasional ancient lava flows and steaming vents hissing in the ground.

There is an optional detour up Mount Ngauruhoe — better known as Mount Doom to “Lord of the Rings” lovers.

This day hike is long and challenging but extremely rewarding. Unless you are experienced at hiking in snowy conditions, it is best attempted during the summer season. It is an immensely popular hike, so you can expect to see a lot of other hikers on the trail. The glorious beauty of the region make it worthwhile, though — this is a must-do for all keen hikers!

prayer flags and tents at everest base campEverest Base Camp is an achievable hike on the world's highest mountain. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Everest Base Camp Trek, Nepal

Climbing to the summit of Mount Everest is reserved for all but the most enthusiastic and wealthy climbers. A much more manageable option is to hike to Everest Base Camp. You’ll still climb to a very respectable 18,193 feet.

As well as setting foot on the highest mountain on the planet, you’ll get to absorb the fascinating culture of Nepal. The Himalayan mountains and valleys are home to the Sherpa, who have managed to preserve their culture and traditions. This makes Everest Base Camp one of the most culturally insightful hikes in the world and one of the best treks in Nepal.

To get the most out of the Everest Base Camp Trek, you typically need to allow at least 20 days. You don’t want to rush to reach Base Camp due to the altitude. Taking longer routes gives you time to adjust, as well as more opportunities to explore the valleys and communities on the way.

Also be aware that Nepal’s Kathmandu Tribhuvan International Airport is considered by many to be one of the worst airports in the world, so approach flying in and out of here with caution.

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hikers climb kilimanjaro at sunriseKilimanjaro is definitely bucket-list worthy. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

Mount Kilimanjaro is the stuff of dreams. The tallest mountain in Africa and the highest freestanding peak in the world, reaching Kili’s snowy cap is a huge lure for hiking enthusiasts. This is probably the best hiking vacation in Africa.

Climbing the 19,340 feet to reach Kilimanjaro’s summit takes seven to nine days, depending on which route you take. There are several options to choose from, with the longer paths recommended for anyone who hasn’t experienced altitude before — it will give you more time to adjust.

You’ll need to tackle Kilimanjaro with the help of a trekking company. Porters usually carry everything you could need and more, so you will enjoy the luxury of having someone else put up your tent and cook all your meals.

Before attempting this hike, know that you only have 15 minutes right on top of the mountain. If the weather is not in your favor, you’ll miss seeing the panoramic views the mountain is famous for.

mountains on the pacific crest trailWatch Wild to get inspired to hike the Pacific Crest Trail!Photo Credit: Getty Images

Pacific Crest Trail, USA

Made famous by Cheryl Strayed and her autobiography “Wild,” this hike is up there with the Appalachian Trail in competition for the title of best long hike in the world. Spanning the USA from Mexico all the way up to Canada, it traverses seven national parks, countless wilderness areas, national forests and smaller state parks.

The terrain varies from mountainous to the arid expanse of the Mojave Desert. At 2,650 miles in length, you’ll need at least six months to spare to tackle this trek.

You can still get a taste of the wild beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains and other features of the PCT even if you don’t have half a year free. You can choose one of the many trail sections for day hikes, or expeditions of just a few days.

view from routeburn track in new zealandHike the Routeburn Track for some of the best views of New Zealand. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Routeburn Track, New Zealand

The Routeburn Track weaves through the Southern Alps in New Zealand’s South Island. The alpine scenery is fabulous, with endless views of deep valleys and jagged mountains. There are also plenty of rolling meadows and lakes that soften the scenery.

It crosses both Fiordland National Park and Mount Aspiring National Park — two of the most stunning wilderness areas in a country famous for its landscapes.

You can only walk the track between October and April — in winter snow makes it impassable. Between May and September there is also a considerable risk of avalanches. At 20 miles in length, the track takes two to four days to complete, depending on your chosen itinerary.

The whole track is clearly marked and the huts along the way are well-serviced, so it’s easy enough to walk the Routeburn Track without a guide.

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tasmanian overland trackDiscover Tasmania's wilderness. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Tasmania Overland Track, Australia

The Overland Track is the best way to experience Tasmania’s rugged beauty. It’s one of the best hikes in Australia and around 9,000 people set foot on the trail each year.

This hike connects Cradle Mountain and Lake Saint Clair with a 40-mile track. The terrain ranges from alpine plains to temperate rainforests, with plenty of mountains thrown in. It usually takes about five to six days to walk the entire track.

The Overland Track should only be attempted by fit, well-equipped and experienced hikers. The trail passes through remote areas and weather conditions can change quickly.

Two backpackers with hiking poles on trail with mountains in background.The Tour du Mont Blanc passes through Italy, Switzerland and France.Photo Credit: Getty Images

Tour du Mont Blanc, France, Italy and Switzerland

The Tour du Mont Blanc is an epic long-distance hike that circles Mont Blanc. At 110 miles in length, it passes through three countries: France, Italy and Switzerland. It takes 10 to 11 days to complete. However, there are plenty of comfortable accommodation options along the route, so you can break the trail up into sections to suit your fitness level (and enthusiasm!).

The highest point on the trail is 8,743 feet, so you won’t suffer from altitude sickness. Even so, you’ll get some incredible mountain views and be challenged physically!

One of the best things about this hike is the outstanding cuisine of the countries it passes through. Between Swiss, French and Italian goodies, you’ll be well-fueled for this journey.

kalalau trail in HawaiiSee Hawaii's wild side. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Kalalau Trail, Hawaii

The Kalalau Trail is the only way to access a particularly rugged part of Hawaii’s coast by land. That means for 11 spectacular miles you have unspoiled views of lush foliage, rocky coast and azure water. The track crosses five valleys before finishing up on Kalalau Beach.

The Na Pali coastline is undoubtedly a natural wonder, and you’ll be open-mouthed in awe for most of the hike. Isolated beaches, plunging cliffs and sea caves are just a few of the highlights you’ll encounter along the hike.

You can hike the first two miles as a day hike, or attempt the whole 11 miles in one day if you are an experienced hiker. Camping overnight lets you take more time and enjoy the wild views. To do this, you’ll need to obtain an overnight permit from the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources.

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Autumn of the narrows and Virgin River in Zion National Park Zion, usaHiking in the Narrows means getting your feet wet!Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Narrows in Zion National Park, USA

The Narrows is the narrowest part of the surreal Zion National Park in Utah. It’s the most popular hike in the whole park, and one of the best canyon hikes in the world. The Narrows is a fun and easy day hike. There is a definite sense of adventure to it as you’ll have to walk in the river that carves through the canyon — there’s no actual trail, so you just follow the river bed.

At times you’ll only be up to your ankles, at other times up to your waist. The shade from the canyon walls and the refreshing water make this a great hike for the summer months. In some parts, the walls of rock soar up to a thousand feet high.

You can combine a walk through the Narrows with any of the other shorter walking trails in Zion National Park. The red-hued canyons and cliffs are so unique you’ll want to spend as much time as possible in the park!

Wooden walkway along beautiful scenic mountain lakeFeel like a royal on the King's Trail. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Kungsleden, Sweden

Kungsleden translates to ‘The King’s Trail.” It’s royal indeed and definitely one of the top hikes in the world. It covers 270 miles of stunning Swedish countryside. It takes roughly one week to hike the whole trail, otherwise you can choose one of the many entry points and just walk one section of it.

The Arctic landscape is pure poetry, with wide-open tundra and massive glaciers encircling Sweden’s highest mountain, Mount Kebnekaise.

The Kungsleden is mostly visited during summer, when long days and warmer weather make the countryside a little more inviting. If you don’t mind the cold and like a bit of a challenge though, you can also explore this trail on skis in the wintertime. It’s not technically hiking, but skiing the King’s Trail is still worthy of any nature lover’s bucket list.

The warm glow of the setting sun is reflected in the layers of the walls at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona.Be captivated by the colors in the Grand Canyon. Photo Credit: Getty Images

The Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim Hike, USA

Less than 1% of the 5 million people who visit the Grand Canyon annually venture below the rim. Yet if you really want to experience this natural wonder in its full glory, that’s where you need to go. The Rim-to-Rim hike is one of the great bucket list items in the United States.

The recommended route is from the North Rim to the South Rim, covering a distance of 24 miles. This is the easier direction as the North Rim is a thousand feet higher than the South. This version of the hike usually takes three to four days and requires a permit.

The best time to hike Rim-to-Rim is in spring and early summer. During March, April and May, temperatures are still mild and crowds are manageable. Later in summer, the heat makes walking difficult and even dangerous. Over winter, snow can transform the look of the canyon, but the cold is bitter and hiking is tough.

It is possible to go for a day hike in the Grand Canyon without a permit. If you go for this option, make sure you bring at least three liters of water and a good sunhat with you.

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Lake with dead trees and snow capped mountains in background.Scotland's landscapes will impress even the most avid explorer. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Scottish National Trail, Scotland

The Scottish National trail is a 536-mile long walking route running the length of Scotland. It’s a deep dive into Scotland’s starkly beautiful scenery, so if you loved the scenes from the film “Skyfall” where Bond drove through those jaw-dropping landscapes, you’ll love this hike. The trail was only launched in 2012, so it’s still a bit of a novelty in long-distance hiking circles.

Scotland doesn’t have the towering mountains of some of the other locations on this list, so it’s a relatively easy hike. If you plan on walking the entire length in one go though, you would need at least five weeks.

Day hikers can also tackle sections of the trail — Scotland’s narrow shape means you’re never that far from an entry point and can easily make a day trip of it from Edinburgh or other cities.

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