17 Amazing Must-Trek International Trails
Fall is approaching, which means cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, and plenty of gorgeous scenery. There’s plenty of local hikes to enjoy and explore, but if you really want to do something different this year, experience different cultures and landscapes you’d never believe, and get some exercise while getting away from it all, then check out these amazing treks across the globe that should be on your bucket list.
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1. Everest Base Camp Trail, Nepal
Just because you don’t have the time, money, or physical stamina to conquer the world’s tallest peak doesn’t mean you have to miss out on Nepal's Mount Everest. The “Mother of the Earth” is famously beautiful and classic bucket list material. Hiking the trek to Everest Base Camp is a good way to discover Nepal’s rugged beauty without as much risking of life and limb. The trail is challenging, but dotted with huts and places to stay along the way. It’s about 40 miles one way, and takes a good week to reach the base camp and week to climb back down.
2. Te Araroa, New Zealand
New Zealand’s landscape is incredibly diverse for its relatively small size; in just a few hundred miles you can travel from sunny beaches and tropical oasis to rugged mountains, glacial rivers, and grassy plains. The Te Araroa trail runs through the middle of New Zealand through all of the landscape and topographical changes of the country; it's a great way to experience all that New Zealand has to offer. It’s over 1800 miles long, and takes an average of 120 days to complete. Bonus points: it’s one of the only trails in the world that has a ferry in the middle of it.
3. Urique-Batopilas Trail, Copper Canyon, Mexico
One of my favorite books, Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race The World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall details the history, the people, and the extreme allure of a canyon system much larger than the Grand Canyon yet far more remote. There’s hot springs, rivers, and miles and miles of remote trails that climb up and down over 4000 feet. The book and the culture of the Tarahumara are largely responsible for the current trends in America toward minimalist running, where runners wear as little shoes or even go barefoot, rather than use expensive padded shoes. If you’re up for the challenge, you can hike the canyon barefoot, but the rugged terrain might make boots mandatory for all but the most extreme hikers.
4. Inca Trail, Peru
Sometimes the best and most well known trails are famous for a reason. Such is the case with the Inca Trail, the famous trek that leads to Machu Picchu through Peru’s mountains. You won’t be the only one, and it’s not off the beaten path, but it is still one of the best hikes in the world, and as a plus side you’ll get to meet plenty of other fellow travelers and hiking buddies along the way.
Hiking the trail usually takes around 4 days, and you’ll visit 2 other Incan Ruins besides Machu Picchu. The trail is very well marked and easily to follow, and there’s cabins along the way to stay in. You can hike back, or take the train if you are pressed for time.
5. Romantic Road Long Distance Hiking Route, Germany
The Romantic Road lives up to its name, with fairytale castles, beautiful forested Alps, and a long line of picturesque villages and towns dotting the trail. I first discovered the Romantic Road when I couldn’t afford the train ride back from Neuschwanstein to Fussen. Being broke was the best thing that could have happened to me, as I got to hike along lakes, meadows, and mountains without running into another person on the trail.
The trail is a great way to enjoy Southern Germany’s dramatic landscape up close and in person, as well as escape the tourist hoardes. From the vineyards in Wuzburger to the fairy tale castle, the road is an easy, level hike with easy access from the trains and towns it follows. The hike will take you a few weeks from start to finish, and it's a great way to stretch your legs and discover the hidden sides of Germany.
6. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
Mount Kilimanjaro is a great first high stakes mountain climb if you don’t have the time, skill, or money to conquer other mountains that are mentioned alongside Kilimanjaro. While it is still physically demanding and people have died climbing it, it is a very walkable mountain that doesn’t require any hardcore rock climbing or fancy gear. It’s the tallest mountain in Africa, and there are several different trails you can take to the top. It takes nearly a week, but during the hike you’ll get to experience nearly every kind of landscape and climate Africa boasts. You’ll also get bragging rights for climbing the world’s tallest freestanding mountain.
7. Israel National Trail, Israel
The Middle East has so much more to offer than what you’ll see in the news. Israel's beautiful National Trail winds for over 600 miles through desert landscapes and beautiful ancient cities, like Tel Aviv. It’s a great multi-day trek for history buffs and nerds, as well as those interested in seeing more of the Jewish culture and history behind the Jewish and Christian faiths. As you walk you’ll get to see the Dead Sea and the River Jordan until you end at the beach towns on the Red Sea. There’s plenty of sacred sites and mountains as well; and plenty of towns along the hike where you can easily find places to stay en route.
8. Pacific Coast Trail, United States
The Pacific Coast Trail, or PCT, runs through Mexico, the United States, and Canada for over 2,600 miles of rugged West coast, from the southern desert scapes to the mountain lakes and into the heavily forested northern regions. It’s not an easy hike, with plenty of elevation climbs and descents along the mountain ranges, but it’s easy to pick apart and do stages for whatever level you’re on. I live just down the road from the trailhead, and there’s always plenty of backpackers willing to help each other out and share stories from the trail.
9. Laugavegurinn/Fimmvörðuháls Pass, Iceland
For 50 miles you will be star struck with Iceland’s untouched beauty around nearly every corner. There’s never a dull moment; although a somewhat shorter trail than the mega trails across the world every single mile is packed full of sights and sounds. For four days you can hike among massive waterfalls, ancient volcanoes, and colorful peaks. There’s huts along the trail for you to stay in, or if you like to rough it you can backpack in tents in designated areas.
10. Via Alpina, Europe
If you’re an avid hiker such as myself, Via Alpina is the extreme final hike you’ve always wanted to trek. The trail stretches over 3000 miles and 7 countries, including Monaco, France, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia. The trails follow along the Alps, as a way to preserve the history, culture, and landscape of the beautiful mountains. It’s not too challenging of a hike, and the trails are well marked. Instead of one single trail, there are 5 color coded routes, so you can customize your route to your abilities and desires.
You’ll be able to walk throughout Europe’s largest wilderness area and truly see firsthand the beauty and raw landscape of the Alps, as well as stumble upon gorgeous vistas, villages, and castles along the way. In some places along the trail you can camp for the night, but for the most part hikers stay in huts or hostels along route. Hiking the entire length can take about 5 to 6 months, but I guarantee it will be the best half year of your life.
11. Shackleton's Route, Antarctica
In 1915, Shackleton and his crew become landlocked by ice and tried to escape to civilization by reaching a whaling station on South Georgia Island. Shackleton’s Route is the same path that Shackleton and his crew traversed across the island, and the trail still remains nearly as untouched and ruggedly challenging as it was a century ago. The trail runs for 22 miles through glaciers, black sand beaches, and the breeding grounds and homes of plenty of wildlife. A trip down to hike the trek will cost you; lodging is expensive, and travel expenses are just as high. It’s recommended to have a guide, but despite the high price tag and extreme nature of the hike it’s also very popular due to the nature of its history.
12. Kalalau Trail, Kauai, Hawaii
The Kalalau Trail may only be 11 miles long, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t one of the most dramatic hikes on this list. There’s every element of Hawaii you could dream of, from waterfalls and rainforests to cliffs, mountains and sea turtles. You constantly are walking either up or down as you climb up to 4000 feet across cliffs and valleys. The trail can be done in a day, but if you’d like to take your time and soak up the views there is a permitted camping spot halfway through the trail.
13. Stampede Trail to Bus 142, Alaska
Nearly every college graduate has been assigned to read Into the Wild, the true story of Christopher McCandless, at some point in his or her life. For some it may just be a reading assignment, but for anyone with the wanderlust gene it’s a book that captivates the very essence of the search for exploration, freedom and disdain for materialistic driven life. Each year hundreds of fans of the book, curious about Christopher and the dream he chased to his death, try to hike the Stampede Trail in Healy, Alaska.
The trail isn’t the most beautiful in Alaska, or even in that area, but the legend behind the hike and the famous Bus 142 where McCandless camped out and ultimately died are what make the hike on this list. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is a simple day hike; the trail has plenty of challenges that should be taken seriously, including crossing the Teklanika River There’s bears, and there’s mosquitos the size of bears, but there’s plenty of beautiful Alaskan scenery as well. At the end you can step inside the bus and leave your own name, along with thousands of others who have been touched by the story of the man who lived there.
14. Great Baikal Trail, Russia
If you like lakeside hiking, than trekking around the Great Baikal Trail in Siberia, Russia should be the next on on your list. It’s definitely some of the most extreme lake hiking; for one, the lake holds records as the largest, deepest, and oldest lake in the world. It’s so big and remote that the trail hasn’t even been completed yet. The best and longest completed section runs for just over 30 miles, from Listvyanka to Bolshoye Goloustnoye.
If you feel like making your hike into something much more, you can join one of the volunteer crews to help blaze the trail around the lake and be the first person to walk the new trail. It costs about $500, but meals and tents are provided. You’ll get to hike through mountains, small villages, see freshwater seals, and trek plenty of meadows and grasslands.
15. The Lost City Trek, Colombia
Colombia’s Lost City Trek, is just as challenging as you might expect something with the word “lost” in the title. It’s definitely off the beaten track, and while the path is well marked there’s plenty of steep assents, muddy and slippery surfaces, and rivers to cross through along the way. Just because it is physically challenging doesn’t mean you should disregard it; those who conquer the trail are rewarded with some of Colombia’s most lush tropical rainforests, breathtaking mountain vistas, and the ancient city of Teyuna, which is even older than the more famous Machu Picchu.
The trek in takes around 4 days, and you’ll probably want to hire a guide unless your Spanish is top notch and you have no fear of being alone in the Colombian jungle. During those 4 days you’ll meet Indignas who still reside in the remote valleys, and you can rest up each day in cabins along the route before climbing up the final 1200 steps to the top.
16. West Highland Way, Scotland
If you want a hike among the mountains without the physical assent up the mountain, West Highland Way through Scotland’s Highlands is the perfect hike for you. For nearly 100 miles, the trail winds easily through the landscape, allowing you to be surrounded by peaks without having to have the skill or equipment to climb them. If you want to extend your trek, the trail is part of the larger International Appalachian Trail, which is part of the same trail system that runs through the eastern United States. The international version was made to fit the land routes that would have existed in Pangea.
17. Yoshida Trail, Mount Fuji, Japan
It’s a short 8 mile trek to the top of Mount Fuji, which makes it an easy way to enjoy Japan’s beauty and take part of an ancient Japanese tradition. The trail is very popular and well marked, and you can easily reach the trailhead, thanks to Tokyo’s public transportation that run straight to the base. There’s plenty of huts and places to rest along the way as you summit the climb, and thanks to its massive popularity, you’ll never be lonely for company. Summer is the best time to climb, thanks to the snowfall in the winter, and it’s a great hike pre-sunrise for some of the most beautiful scenery in Japan.
Ready to lace up those hiking boots? Trekeffect has everything you need to plan the perfect hike this year.
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