The Top 10 Long Distance Walks that will have a massive positive impact on your life and the lives of the people you meet along the way.
For a lot of people the idea of walking anything more than a mile might sound like some sort of cruel punishment. For the rest of us who enjoy the peacEful meditation of walking, hold onto their childhood dreams of going on adventures across the seven sea’s and climbing the highest peaks. With a big wide world out there, here are some of the most spectacular long distance walks that have been created with a true purpose to exhibit nature in all it’s glory. Enjoy.
1. The Pacific Crest Trail
From Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington, the Pacific Crest Trail spans 2,650 miles of desert, glacier, deep forest, volcanic peaks and mountain ranges. The route is mostly through National Forest and protected wilderness. The trail avoids civilization, and covers scenic and pristine mountainous terrain with few roads. A parallel route for bicycles, the Pacific Crest Bicycle Trail (PCBT) is a 2,500-mile route designed closely parallel to the PCT on road.
Most Northbound walkers start in late April or early May while Southbound hikers generally start in the last two weeks of June. Taking the best part of 4-6 months of the snow free season. Extreme weather and snow conditions play a big part in some parts of the hike and so staying up to date with weather patterns is of some importance.
The most popular and up to date guide books and maps are K. Scott Parks Pacific Crest Trail Guidebook series. The walk is broken down in to three sections plus an additional data book;
2. The Te Araroa Trail
The Te Araroa Trail is New Zealand’s continuous 3,000km tramping route from Cape Reinga on the Northern IsLand to Bluff on the Southern Island. Te Araroa is the ultimate New Zealand experience and has approximately 300 sections ranging from walks of 1–2 hours through to a 9-day route in the South Island where full equipment must be carried.
The path winds along coastal sand, forest ranges, across farmland and volcanoes in the North Island and across the beautiful National Parks, high country stations and mountain passes in the South Island. Taking anywhere from 100 to 145 days depending on your walking style and stop off rate. If travelling Southbound, a September-December start is generally recomMended, you wouldn’t want to risk being in the South Island much later than mid April. If you wanted to head Northbound, late November-January starts are your best bet.
The one and only Te Araroa Trail walking guide that covers it all is written by, also worth a mention is the Lonely Planet Travel Guide;
- A Walking Guide to New Zealand’s Long Trail
- Lonely Planet Hiking & Tramping in New Zealand (Travel Guide)
3. The Great Himalaya Trail (High Route)
The GHT hIgh route stretches over a distance of about 1,700km and passes through spectacular, high altitude mountain landscapes, visiting some of the most remote villages on earth. Proper trekking gear and mountaineering equipment is needed and anyone attempting this trek should be physically fit and have trekking and ideally some mountaineering experience.
Nepal’s high route starts North of the Kanchenjunga Base Camp and ends in Hilsa at Nepal’s Tibetan border in the Western district of Humla. Launched in 2010, the GHT spans the Nepalese Himalaya, passing rhododendron forests, high-altitude lakes, 8,000m peaks and the remote communities that call them home. There is a long season between March and November and you can do it all in less than 160 days, there has never been a better time to go.
4. The Pacific Northwest Trail
The Pacific Northwest Trail is 1,200 miles running from the Continental Divide in Montana, through the Northern Panhandle of Idaho to the Pacific Coast of Washington‘s Olympic Peninsula. A scenic trail which crosses 3 National Parks and 7 National Forests. Traversing the Rocky Mountains, Selkirk Mountains, Pasayten Wilderness, North Cascades, Olympic Mountains, and Wilderness Coast.
Less than 100 people attempt this 1,931km hike each year which is considered to be one of the most challenging trails in the National Scenic Trail system. One section of the route requires bushwhacking your own path, encounters with grizzlies are possible, and there are times where you will need to carry a fair amount of supplies. You can expect to finish in around 60 – 70 days walking at 15 miles a day with a one day break every 10 days or so. Traveling westbound, the best time to start is the last week of June or early July, as soon as the snow on Glacier National Park’s high pass is manageable.
The founder of this trail, Ron Strickland has written a fantastic book about his journey;
he also wrote the best selling and most trusted guide book aswell;
5. The Camino De Santiago
At just under 800km the St. James’s Trail starts in St Jean Pied de Port in France and officially ends in Santiago de Compostela in North West Spain. The route passes through a few major cities, Pamplona, Burgos and Leon and is well supported along the way. Most people aim for around 32 days however a guide of 4-6 weeks is more realistic and takes away any pressure that takes away from the beauty.
During most years more than 100,000 people walk this particular route however there are alternative routes that are less crowded during the busy periods. The Silver Route (Via de la Plata) is about 1,000km and runs South to North, The Northern Route is 825km and has the advantage of travelling along the coast where there are multiple opportunities to swim along the way. May, June and September are the best times to walk any of the Camino de Santiagos and avoid the busy months of July and August.
This cheap and cheerful guide book has enough information to see you from start to finish and whilst it doesn’t go in to lots of detail, it gets the job done better anything else out there;
6. The Bibbulmun Track
The Bibbulmun Track is a long distance walking trail in Western Australia named after the Indigenous Australians from the Perth area. It runs from Kalamunda, East of Perth to Albany and is 623 miles from start to finish. The track consists of 58 sections and is marked at regular intervals with triangular pointers, most of which have an image of the ‘Wagyl‘, a mythical creature from Aboriginal Dreamtime stories.
The Track is almost all through State Forest, National Parks and other reserves, with only a few small sections of farmland. The first half of the track is through the Jarrah Forests of the Darling Range. It then moves through flatter tall Karri Forests until reaching the coastline near the town of Walpole. The remainder of the track is through coastal forest and scrub along the south coast, in some sections routed along sandy beaches. Taking just 6-8 weeks, it is a good idea to walk during the cooler months, so any time between April and early November.
There is no official guide book for the Bibbulmun Track however the Lonely Planet guide to Australia has proven over time to help make the most of your time;
7. The Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail is one of the longest continuously marked footpaths in the world, measuring roughly 2,180 miles in length. Running from Springer Mountain in Georgia, through North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and finishing in Maine. The walk is expected to grow in popularity with the popular book, A Walk In The Woods by Bill Bryson being made into a feature movie.
While 2 to 3 million visitors walk a portion of the walk each year, roughly 2,000 people attempt the full thru-hike in one go with only 1 in 4 successfully complete the journey. The Appalachian Trail is home to an impressive diversity of plants and animals. Maintained by 31 trail clubs and multiple partnerships the majority of the trail is in forest or wild lands, although some portions traverse towns, roads and farms. Taking an impressive 5-7 months to complete the best time to start is between March 1st and April 14th.
The Appalachian Trail Guide is without question the most comprehensive, easiest to use, and most creatively formatted Appalachian Trail guide available to hikers;
8. The South West Coast Path
The South West Coast Path National Trail is rated as one of England‘s best long distance walks and is fast growig worldwide acclaim. 630 miles of stunning coastline and scenery starting in Somerset‘s Minehead on the edge of Exmoor all the way around to the shores of Poole Harbour in Dorset.
In the 19th century, banditry and smuggling was so rife that guards had to patrol England’s entire south coast. Today, those old patrol paths are the UK’s longest National Trail, tracing every cove, cranny and cute fishing village in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and Dorset. It takes 8 weeks non-stop, including 35,000m of climbing, a good excuse to buy a Cornish pasty from almost every bakery on the way.
Written by the well-known outdoor writer, Paddy Dillon, the guide provides a wealth of detailed knowledge to help tackle this immense route with confidence;
9. The Baekdu Daegan Trail
While the Korean mountain range of Baekdu-Daegan runs for 1,400km, this trail is cut short at 735km at the border of North Korea where they may not take kindly to hikers, so stick to South Korea. The route follows the Taebaek [Grand White] Mountain Range along the east coast through Geumgang-san, Seorak-san and Odae-san down to Taebaek-san, and then it follows the Sobaek [Smaller White] Mountain Range across Sobaek-san (passing below Worak-san) to Sogni-san, and then down through the center of the peninsula’s southern quarter, passing through Hwangak-san and the south east corner of Deogyu-san, ending at Jiri-san.
Here, the ridge is deeply spiritual, a symbol of nationhood, and small shrines dot the mountainscapes: walking this path will show you what this land is all about and give you a personal connection to Korea’s soul. Some of these trails can sometimes close due to weather conditions and some of the national park ridge trails are closed from end of January to end of April to protect the dry environment from fire hazard. May – August seems to be the best time to take the hike allowing around 2 months to reach the border.
This one and only guide will get you packed up and ready to hit the road from anywhere in the world;
10. The Lycian Way
Turkey’s Lycian Way is one of the shortest walks on our top 10 long distance walks list but takes you on a beautiful tour around part of the coast of ancient Lycia. It is approximately 540km long and stretches from Ölüdeniz, near Fethiye, to Geyikbayırı, about 20km from Antalya. The trail consists mainly of Roman roads, old footpaths and mule trails, often hard and stony underfoot and not suitable for mountain bikes.
Trekking is best in Spring or Autumn – February–May or September–November. Summer in Lycia is too hot for long walks, except for 3 high-level sections. Every night you can find accommodation in village houses or small hotels, Independent trekkers will find plenty of wild camping places with nearby water. The 30 day route is way-marked all the way and the public transport is fairly good too, all in all you will have fun with this one.
This new 2014 edition guide book includes all route updates and is designed to be used with the new Lycian Way iphone app;