Hiking is an unparalleled way to explore the outdoors, challenge yourself, and appreciate nature’s beauty. For adventurers seeking new heights and stunning vistas, certain hikes stand out as truly exceptional. This guide will highlight some of the world’s most remarkable hikes and provide tips for embarking on your own epic adventures.
Why Hiking is Unparalleled for Adventurers
Hiking offers adventurers unique benefits that make it the ideal activity:
- Complete immersion in nature: On a hike, you are fully surrounded by the sights, sounds, and smells of the natural environment. You can experience nature up close in a way that is impossible in a car or on public transit.
- Ability to reach remote destinations: Hikes allow you to access places that are inaccessible by other means, like mountaintops, waterfalls, and deep forests. This opens up new frontiers to explore.
- Physical challenges: Hiking difficult trails tests your endurance, willpower, and fitness. Pushing your limits on the trail builds strength and confidence.
- Incredible rewards: After completing a tough hike, you are rewarded with breathtaking vistas and a deep sense of accomplishment. Those views and feelings make the effort worthwhile.
- Time for self-reflection: Hiking’s slower pace and quiet surroundings provide the perfect opportunity for introspection and meditation. The trail is a place to clear your mind.
World-Famous Hikes for Adventurers
These epic hikes offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences for bold adventurers:
Inca Trail, Peru
- 26 miles, 4-5 days
- Takes you to the ancient city of Machu Picchu through the Andes Mountains
- Passes other Incan ruins and expansive vistas along the way
- Requires permits to limit ecological impact
- Combines cultural history with stunning scenery
Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
- 19,000+ ft elevation gain over 5-9 days
- Summit is the highest point in Africa with views of surrounding plains
- Passes through 5 ecological zones from rainforest to alpine desert
- Challenging due to altitude, cold conditions near the top
- Bucket list hike with the reward of immense satisfaction
Pacific Crest Trail, USA
- 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada
- Passes through California, Oregon, and Washington wilderness areas
- Hiked continuously over 5-6 months or in sections over years
- Backpacking-style hike with resupply stops in towns along the way
- Ultimate long-distance thru-hike across diverse ecosystems
Tour du Mont Blanc, France/Italy/Switzerland
- 105 miles, 10-12 days
- Circles the Mont Blanc massif passing alpine villages and sights
- Truly international hike crossing three countries and cultures
- More comfortable hut-to-hut hike with great food options
- Spectacular views of glaciers, peaks, and wildflowers
Zion Narrows, Utah, USA
- 16 miles end-to-end
- Follows the Virgin River through the narrowest section of Zion Canyon
- Often wading and swimming through chest-deep water
- Incredible up-close views of thousand-foot rock walls
- Like hiking through a remote, natural water park
|Inca Trail||Peru||26 miles||4-5 days||Ancient ruins, mountain views|
|Mt. Kilimanjaro||Tanzania||Varies||5-9 days||Summit of Africa|
|Pacific Crest Trail||USA||2,650 miles||5-6 months||Diverse ecosystems|
|Tour du Mont Blanc||France/Italy/Switzerland||105 miles||10-12 days||Alpine villages and sights|
|Zion Narrows||Utah, USA||16 miles||1-2 days||Slot canyons|
Gear You’ll Need for Epic Hikes
Taking on ambitious hikes requires having the right gear and apparel to stay safe and comfortable in challenging environments:
- Sturdy hiking boots – Protect your feet and ankles on uneven terrain
- Poles – Increase stability, reduce strain on your knees during descents
- Backpack – Carry adequate food, water, layers, first aid, and navigation
- Breathable layers – Stay cool but can add insulation when stopped or at higher elevation
- Water filtration – Clean potable water from natural sources to stay hydrated
- Sun protection – Shield yourself from harsh alpine sun exposure
- Emergency shelter – Lightweight tarp, bivy sack, or space blanket for unexpected weather
- Lightweight stove – Prepare hot meals and melt snow into water
- Headlamp – Illuminate trail before sunrise and after sunset
- Navigation – Map, compass, GPS help you follow trail and not get lost
Proper gear makes challenging hikes safer and more enjoyable. Research and test gear before embarking on long-distance treks.
Physical Preparation for Strenuous Hikes
Embarking on grueling, multi-day hikes requires planning and dedication. Here are some tips to physically prepare:
- Train – Months before your hike, incrementally increase your mileage and elevation gain on walks and hikes
- Strength train – Develop muscle strength in your core and lower body with bodyweight exercises
- Go backpacking – Get used to carrying a loaded pack over long distances
- Break in boots – Wear new hiking boots consistently so they mold to your feet
- Altitude acclimation – Spend time at higher elevation if attempting peaks like Kilimanjaro
- Mental toughness – Cultivate perseverance and discipline through meditation or long training sessions
- Dial in nutrition – Determine foods and calorie intake that best fuels your body over long distances
- Prevent injury – Rest adequately between workouts, stretch, and maintain ideal body weight
With diligent training over an extended period, your body will adapt and grow stronger for the immense challenge of trekking for days over technical terrain.
Staying Safe on Challenging Hikes
While exhilarating, difficult hikes in remote wilderness come with risks that must be managed:
- Research route – Study topographic maps and read trip reports to understand terrain and hazards
- Check weather report – Reschedule if extreme weather like heavy snow or electrical storms are forecasted
- Share itinerary – Provide family or friends details of your planned route and check-in schedule
- Bring sufficient supplies – Carry more food, water, layers than you think you need in case of emergency
- Turn back if conditions deteriorate – Never summit a peak or continue hiking if weather worsens or you are injured
- Carry emergency communication and locator devices – Satellite messenger, personal locator beacon, satellite phone for areas without cell service
- Hike with a partner or group – Safer and more enjoyable than solo hiking
While risk can never be eliminated, preparation, good judgment, and caution will help you trek responsibly into remote wilderness.
Leave No Trace Principles for Responsible Hiking
To protect beautiful natural areas for the future, follow Leave No Trace principles when hiking:
- Plan and prepare – Research regulations, prepare gear and supplies to minimize impact
- Stay on trail – Avoid trampling fragile vegetation and causing erosion off-trail
- Dispose of waste properly – Pack out all trash, bury human waste away from water sources
- Leave nature as you found it – Do not disturb plants or wildlife, do not build structures
- Respect other visitors – Be courteous, yield right of way, avoid loud noises
- Leave campsites pristine – Clean up food scraps and trash before decamping
|Plan and prepare||Research regulations, prepare gear to minimize impact|
|Stay on trail||Avoid trampling fragile vegetation off-trail|
|Dispose of waste properly||Pack out trash, bury human waste away from water|
|Leave nature as you found it||Do not disturb plants, animals, or build structures|
|Respect other visitors||Be courteous, yield right of way, avoid loud noises|
|Leave campsites pristine||Remove all food scraps and trash when leaving|
We all share the responsibility to protect these special places so they remain unspoiled for generations to come.
Frequently Asked Questions About Epic Hikes
How long does it take to hike the Appalachian Trail?
Most thru-hikers take 5 to 7 months to complete the entire 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail. Hiking 10 to 15 miles per day, it takes about 4 to 6 months for the average hiker. The speed record is just over 41 days!
What is altitude sickness and how can you prevent it?
Altitude sickness is caused by reduced oxygen at high elevations. Symptoms like headache, nausea, and fatigue can occur above 8,000 ft. Prevent it by ascending slowly, drinking lots of water, taking it easy the first few days, and using medications like Diamox.
Do you have to camp out while long-distance hiking?
Most long trails require backcountry camping to complete them. But some longer routes like Tour du Mont Blanc offer more lodging options like mountain huts and hotels along the way. Choosing to stay in towns periodically can provide comfort after many nights on the trail.
Is it safe for a woman to hike alone?
Women absolutely can and do hike solo safely. But take some extra precautions like letting others know your itinerary, taking a satellite communication device, keeping your dog with you, and being extra aware of your surroundings. Pepper spray is also an option against wildlife or criminals.
The Pinnacle of Adventure Awaits
For adventurers seeking to explore nature at its wildest and test their limits, these iconic hikes offer once-in-a-lifetime experiences. With careful preparation, responsible practices, and respect for the outdoors, hikers can embark on truly unparalleled journeys. The epic trails highlighted here as well as countless others across the globe beckon the bold individual ready to seize the reward of journeying through awe-inspiring terrain.