7 Dream Trails for The Global Hiker
Itching to get back on the trail after months of kicking your heels at home? Does resting your weary lonesome by the cabin fireside at Everest Base Camp sound like your idea of a good time? If it does, read on. Wherever you’re headed, we at Gibbons Hospitality have got a path paved out for you. Fit for trailblazers, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts alike, we’ve put together this list of the world’s best hiking trails. Take a look.
High Note and Overlord-Decker Trails (Whistler-Blackcomb, Canada)
For accessibility, trail variety and breathtaking alpine vistas, it’s hard to do much better than Whistler-Blackcomb’s High Note and Overlord-Decker trails. These two, world-class signature trails are doubly linked by a peak-to-peak gondola that stretches between Whistler and Blackcomb and by the two-way Tree Line Trail.
Starting in the shadows of the imposing Inukshuk on Whistler Peak, the High Note Trail wraps around the twin Glacier and Whistler Bowls before extending for six miles across rugged terrain. Flanking the side of Whistler Mountain, the High Note Trail offers hikers a beautiful view of slopes studded with alpine wildflowers and tall evergreens overlooking shimmering Cheakamus Lake below. The High Note Trail loops into Garibaldi Provincial Park through Singing Pass, which connects beyond into the Blackcomb trail system. Just an hour’s trek away from the Treeline-Overlord Trail junction lies the Decker Loop, with its world-class views of the Overlord Glacier and Decker Tern. The picture-perfect views of Blackcomb Peak will make this lung-bursting climb feel worth it.
Open from May 23 to September 20, these highly demanding trails are best suited for experienced, well-provisioned hikers.
Inca Trail (Andes Mountains, Peru)
Hallowed by hikers and cultural enthusiasts alike, the Inca Trail is one of the single most popular hikes in the world. Running 26 miles through grueling terrain and featuring steep ridge lines and cliff faces, this trail was once the principal route to the sacred site of Machu Picchu, one of the hidden wonders of the Incan civilization. With steep inclines and declines which cut through several Andean environments including cloud forest and alpine tundra, the Inca Trail is packed with people, wonderful stone-hewn settlements and colourful llama trains. The best weather is between May and September, when the Incan ruins, the jungle and the mountain scenery are at their most tantalizing.
Those who prefer to travel on less frequented trails can opt for one of either the Ancascocha or Lares Valley Hikes. The less-traveled Ancascocha Trail is open from April to May and September to October, and is a great alternative for those who don’t mind putting in the extra work for the added benefit of having the surroundings all to yourself. Both the Ancascocha and the Lares Valley Trail come to a head just a short bus ride’s distance from Machu Picchu.
Laugavegurinn Trail (Landmannalaugar-Thórsmörk, Iceland)
Living up to its tricky name, Laugavegurinn is a demanding trek that requires you to be well-prepared physically. Spanning 50 miles, the trail head begins in the Landmannalaugar region in South-West Iceland and comes to an end in the glacial valley of Thórsmörk (incidentally, Thórsmörk, with its steep valley walls and green pastures, is thought to be the original inspiration behind J.R.R Tolkien’s Middle Earth). The Laugavegurinn Trail is noted for having an uncommonly wide diversity of landscapes and rock features, given its relatively short extension.
Many trekkers decide to begin in the South and head North, starting in Skógar and taking the Fimmvörðuháls route between the stunning Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull glaciers. Accessible only between mid-June and late August, this 15 mile trail meanders through active volcano formations, rhyolite peaks and 20 full-flowing waterfalls. Descending into green Thórsmörk from the barren heights of the craggy Fimmvörðuháls Pass, the trail opens up, and passes by mountain huts, glacier-fed streams, geothermal springs and the lava field at Laugahraun. Nestled in the heart of this fiery, ice-swept country, Laugavegurinn is one of the most mind-bending, gut-testing tracks on earth.
Kepler Track (Fiordland, New Zealand)
From the country that served as the breathtaking backdrop to the Peter Jackson-inspired Lord of the Rings saga comes mountain-ringed Fiordland, one of the world’s greatest protected landform areas. Situated in New Zealand’s South Island, Fiordland National Park is packed with a criss-crossing of different mountain environments and land features, including ridges, deep gullies and glacial streams.
With boardwalks, bridged rivers and clear trail signs along the way, The Kepler Track is undoubtedly the jewel in the Fiordland crown. Spanning 37 miles, the Kepler Track begins on the shore of the crystal-blue Te Anau Lake before crossing towards the alpine peaks beyond the lake’s South Fiord. The track winds through beech woods and fern-ridden forests before climbing past limestone bluffs towards Luxmore Hut on Mt. Luxmore, where you’ll get a wonderful, 360 degree view of the surroundings. The track ventures on, losing altitude as it meanders through a hanging valley towards Iris Burn Hut and the nearby ice-cold Iris Burn Falls. Taking you through dense forest and crossing the Waiau River at Rainbow Reach, Kepler Track comes to a dramatic end at the shores of Lake Te Anau.
Kalalau Trail (Hawaii, United States)
Located along the Na Pali Coast of Kauai Island, the Kalalau Trail runs for 11 miles across rugged, forbidding terrain. The Kalalau Trail is visited by 500,000 thrill-seeking visitors every year, and owes much of its allure to the view it has of the strong sea-surges that beat the cliff-faces along Na Pali Coast. The Kalalau Trail is widely considered to be one of the most treacherous trails in the world, and with good reason; the three shallow stream fords at Hanakapiai, Hanakoa and Kalalau have been known to rise very rapidly during heavy rains, sometimes sweeping away would-be crossers.
The Crawler’s Ledge, a narrow path along a cliff-face overlooking the ocean, is particularly susceptible to mudslides and rockfalls. Cutting through gorges and straddling cliffs called palis, the Kalalau Trail winds past waterfalls on its way towards ancient, stone walled agricultural terraces tucked in low valleys. Most importantly, the Kalalau Trail provides exclusive access to the hard to reach Kalalau Beach, which is nestled in between steep pali faces. A full two miles from the Kalalau Beach, Hanakapi’ai Valley can be reached by way of a narrow dirt path. Offering glimpses of wild goats, waterfalls, tropical plants and bathing opportunities, Kalalau is the complete land-and-sea trail.
Everest Base Camp Trek (Khumbu Region, Nepal)
One of the single most revered trails in the world, the Everest Base Camp Trek is most famous for its snow-capped peaks, high-intensity trekking and epic Sherpa tales. The first to breach its snowy peak were Tenzing Norgay and Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953, and the feat has inspired countless climbers ever since. Starting in Lukla in the Kumbhu region, the Everest Trek can range anywhere from four days (to Namche Bazaar at 3440 m) to a full eight to ten-day trek to Everest Base Camp. The lung-bursting ascent to Namche from Monju takes you into Sagarmatha Park along the beautiful, ice-blue river of Jorsale. Braving altitude sickness and icy night temperatures, you’ll reach Namche Bazaar, the Sherpa Capital, on days three and four.
Set against an epic, jaw-slacking backdrop, the trail up and beyond towards Everest Base Camp takes the willing adventurer past little mountain hamlets and eateries into paths of loose rock, defiles and crevices. The Everest Track will take you beyond Dudh Kosi gorge, one of the most beautiful valleys in the world, and past the all-towering Ama Dablam mountain before sidetracking off towards Kalla Pattar and snowy Nangkartshang Peak. Nestled in the mountainside at the foot of the dazzling Khumbu Icefall, Everest Base Camp offers one of the most dramatic mountain views anywhere. The Everest Base Camp Trek is open from March to May and September to November.
Machame Route (Mt Kilimanjaro, Tanzania)
Standing tall as the highest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro’s gentle slopes, diverse wildlife and stunning scenery offers hikers some of the finest trekking experience in the world. The Machame Route, also known as the The Whiskey Route, is the most transited of the six trails that lead to Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru Peak. The trail ascends quickly by day and descends into camps by nightfall, giving hikers ample opportunity to acclimatize to altitude conditions. Starting at Machame Gate, the trek usually takes between five to seven days to complete. The Machame Trail rises quickly, leaving the dense, muddy montane rainforest behind before entering a thick but dry bushland at Machame Camp.
Perched on a moorland plateau and flanked by Mount Meru to the east, Shira Camp comes into view at the end of the second day on the trail. Moving towards the Lava Tower, an imposing raven-coloured volcanic pillar, the trail gains height quickly before descending into the treeless, craggy Barranco Valley. Negotiating its way across the Barranco Wall, comprised of glacial streams and snow-covered slopes, the Machame Route continues upwards across breathtaking scenery before reaching Barafu High Camp. A steep, six hour climb to Stella Point on the huge Kilimanjaro Crater Rim will give you an amazing view towards the icefields across Reusch Crater. After a hard couple of days’ worth of hard trekking, the trail comes to a close at Uhuru Peak.