If you’ve hiked iconic trails across the United States, you probably dream of lacing your boots, strapping on a pack and hiking trails around the globe.
“For a lot of Americans, me included, the idea of going out of the country for a hike can feel overwhelming,” admits solo long distance hiker Liz Thomas, author of “Backpacker Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike.”. Creating a hiking bucket list can help you narrow down the options and start crafting a plan to hit the trails, making international hiking feel more doable.
Here are four trails that should make your international hiking bucket list.
Thomas admits that the journey to the Tanzanian volcano is as arduous as the hike itself but adds, “It’s the ultimate bucket-list hike; to be able to go through all of those drastically different ecosystems back to back to back is amazing.”
Expect to spend at least a week hiking the tallest and most recognizable mountain in Africa. Climbing to the summit, which rises 19,341 feet above sea level, requires intense training and preparation. Even the “easier” trails are challenging. The Northern Circuit, for example, is the longest route, traversing almost 40 miles over nine days, winding through rainforests and meadows with views of the stunning Lava Tower rock formation.
“You definitely have to budget some time for the hike,” Thomas says.
All hikes on Mount Kilimanjaro require experienced porters and guides.
The Inca Trail in Peru is perhaps one of the most iconic hiking trails in the world. Machu Picchu, perhaps the most important cultural achievement of the Incan empire, is the ending point and an amazing reward for completing the 29-mile trail. But Chris Santella, author of “Fifty Places to Hike Before You Die: Outdoor Experts Share the World’s Greatest Destinations,” believes, “It would be a memorable trek even if the fabled settlement did not wait at the end. The scenery is breathtaking.”
You can opt to hike the entire trail, which takes four days, or do an abbreviated one-day hike that ends at the Sun Gate overlooking Machu Picchu at sunset.
Hiking the famous trail takes planning. Only 500 permits are allotted per day and they sell out quickly, especially during the peak hiking months in spring and summer. Permits are only available through licensed trekking companies; no solo hikers are allowed.
The New Zealand Department of Conservation calls this 33.5-mile trail, ‘the finest walk in the world,’ thanks to its stunning panoramas.
Santella believes the steep mountains, lush forest, snowcapped peaks, glaciers and sheer granite canyons make the trail a worthwhile destination for hikers, noting, “It might be the best way to experience the wonders of Fiordland National Park and the South Island of New Zealand.”
Hikers typically take about four days to complete the trail. Thanks to huts located along the trail, there is no need to camp (or lug a tent or cook stove). The “Great Walks Season” in New Zealand — when trails and facilities are open — runs from October to April. Outside this time, there are greater risks of avalanches and flooding, and the Department of Conservation recommends only experienced hikers hit the trail.
You’ll need permits and hut reservations so plan ahead.
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The most popular long-distance hike in Scotland wends through 93 miles (151km) from Glasgow to Fort William, the base of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the British Isles. While hiking through the Scottish Highlands, the scenery ranges from picturesque moors to rugged mountain ranges.
It’s possible to thru-hike the entire trail or hop on/off for shorter hikes. For a memorable short hike, Thomas suggests hiking around Ben Nevis, noting, “If you’re short on time or an inexperienced hiker, you can go for a day and get a feel for it.”
For longer treks, Thomas says, “The infrastructure on the trail is good,” and it’s possible to hire porters to haul gear and spend the night in accommodations ranging from campsites and hostels to hotels. Guides are also available for hikers who prefer an all-inclusive experience.
Which trails are on your hiking bucket list?