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Hiking is so much more than the act of walking. It can be a profound experience just as much as a rewarding form of exercise, being a discipline through which intrepid walkers can discover incredible landscapes and areas of sublime natural beauty.
Hiking is also something of a gateway. It is an entry point to a much more involved form of walking, that can enable you to immerse yourself fully in the world around you. If you’ve been on a few hiking trips in the past and you’re looking for the next step in your journey, you may be ready to consider a long-distance hike.
But long distance hikes are not for everyone. Day hikes are a beautiful way to spend a day, and they can also be a refreshing form of exercise – an added bonus.
Long distance hiking, though, is much more of an endurance sport – and also requires a willingness to rough it in some of the most impressive landscapes on the planet. If you’re ready for the challenge, though, where should you go?
The Best Long Distance Hikes
The Pacific Crest Trail, U.S.
The Pacific Crest Trail is around 2,600 miles long, snaking up from the bottom of California to the top of Washington. The route takes in seven national parks and scores of natural landmarks, from Kings Canyon to Yosemite, Sierra Nevada, and beyond.
The route is certainly not for the faint of heart, running through a wide variety of terrains and climates including deserts and mountainous terrain. The reward, though, is seeing the best of the U.S. West Coast as part of an eight-month trekking experience.
Camino de Santiago, Europe
The Camino de Santiago is a unique long-distance trek, borne of religious tradition as opposed to a quest for natural beauty or civilized expansion. The Camino de Santiago is not a linear route, per se, but rather a collection of routes – all of which point to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain.
The routes exist as a historic pilgrimage path for Catholics; the Cathedral hosts a shrine to St James, which itself hosts relics of St James.
The routes span Europe, with multiple pathways that all converge on a central path to Spain’s northwest. Nowadays, the pilgrimage is as much a cultural one as a religious one – and a wonderful opportunity to tailor a walking tour of Europe to your own desires.
Bruce Trail, Canada
The Bruce Trail footpath in Canada is the country’s oldest trekking route, spanning nearly 560 miles of beautiful Ontario landscape.
The route starts in Niagara, on the banks of the Niagara River, before following the Niagara Escarpment up and along, past landmarks like Beaver Valley, to Tobermory on Ontario’s peninsula.
While it is the shortest long-distance hike on this list, it still represents weeks of travel – and takes in some of the most majestic views in the north of the Americas.