The best long hikes around the world - August 9, 2021
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A hike can certainly mean different things to different people, but for some, the call of the wild means seeking out trails that cover some serious miles. This month, we are going to discuss 5 hikes that when completed, cover distances between 500-3100 miles. No small feet! (pun intended) This is not going to be a gear post, but rather a brief overview of some amazing hikes that many probably haven’t heard of before!
Appalachian Trail - 2193 Miles
OK, we aren’t going for originality points here -- but we had to start with this one because the end of the Appalachian Trail is less than 2 hours from SunHeist HQ! If you are an east-coast hiker, there is a good chance you have racked up some miles on at least part of the trail. The AT winds its way to Springer Mountain in Georgia all the way from northern Maine. In all, if you hike the whole thing, you will cover 14 states! As far as time needed to complete the trail, you’ll probably need to set aside between 5.5 - 7 months to complete it. Why so long? Well, despite the mountains being much lower than other destinations on this list, you’ll still be going up and down… a lot. To the tune of about 465,000 feet of elevation change, believe it or not. This makes the Appalachian Trail one of the most challenging hikes on this list. If you are interested in trying the whole thing, do your research--but you can also be comforted in the fact that there is a huge community of hikers, and trail towns ready to support you.
*image credit Appalachian Conservancy*
The Camino de Santiago de Compostela - 74-514 Miles
This pilgrimage certainly got a little Hollywood notoriety “boost” when a movie titled after the trail's commonly used nickname, The Way, was released in 2010. A little late to the party, many movie watchers had no idea that trips from across Europe to Santiago began as early as the 9th century when the tomb of Saint James the apostle was located there. An interesting aspect of this hike is that it is a pilgrimage; meaning there are several routes all over the Iberian peninsula. The most famous route (and the one covered in the movie) is the Camino Frances--starting in the SW corner of France in the Pyrenees mountains, and crosses through north central Spain. Almost 70% of yearly pilgrims travel this 480 miles route to Santiago--so it may be a bit crowded. If you are seeking a quieter, slightly more challenging route, the camino del Norte, or northern route, may be the way to go. Starting in the Basque area of Irun, you’ll follow this 518 miles trail across the northern Atlantic coastline of Spain. Quick confession:, this is HIGH on our blog author and Marketing guy Phil’s bucket list--but while he hasn’t hiked the trail, he can promise the region has some of the most incredible food, wine, and views in all of Spain!
Continental Divide Trail - 3100 Miles
Bringing it back to North America, we head to the center/ west of the continent to another famous trail, the CDT. This spains from Mexico to Canada through 5 US states: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. Straddling the tallest mountains in the continental US, the Rockies, the trail offers incredible views at high elevation, and takes you through many diverse ecosystems--from high desert to tundra. Due to the varying technical terrain, complex weather conditions, and natural predators like Grizzly bears and wolves, we would certainly put this trail towards the advanced side. Another consideration is that while the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Coast Trail have physical shelters along the way, the CDT does not--so you will be spending a LOT of time in your tent. Time commitment-wise, many are able to complete the trail in under 6 months including some extra days built in for rest. That being said, if you are one of the approximately 150 or so people that try to through-hike the trail each year and FINISH, you will be part of a really exclusive club!
Hokkaido Nature Trail - 2848 Miles
One of the “youngest” trails in this post, the Hokkaido Nature trail in Japan just received its official status in 2003. At almost 3000 miles, it is certainly no sleeper--and offers hikers unique experiences on Japan’s north island of Hokkaido. About the size of the country of Austria, Hokkaido is sparsely populated and has active volcanoes. Many hikers enjoy the island in the summer as the temperatures are cooler, and unlike the AT and CDT, this is more of a group of trails traversing some of Japan’s most beautiful landscapes. For a challenging multi-day hike, the Daisetsuzan National Park Traverse point-to-point hike covers 46.2 miles. While difficult, you will get to traverse Mt. Ashai: the tallest on the island. Finally, if you decide you want to participate in some other types of recreation, you certainly will have hit the jackpot here! Hokkaido is also known for canoeing and rafting, cycling, fishing, and snow sports.
Te Araroa - 1894 Miles
Walk the entire length of New Zealand? Why not! Translated to “the long pathway,” it officially begins at the tip of the north island at Cape Reigna, and ends in Bluff, at the bottom of the south island. The Te Araroa is unique in that it is not solely wilderness based; it connects towns, communities, and hikers to the diverse landscapes and cultures of the entire country. Terrain will include everything from beaches, to volcanic mountains, and rivers--so it is recommended you do a good bit of equipment research before you go. Officially recognized as New Zealand’s trail in 2011, it now sees around several hundred hikers a year attempting a through hike. Time commitment? You should expect to need about 4 months if you walk an average of 15+ miles per day--and a bit longer with more rest days or a slower pace. If you have ever seen Lord of the Rings, you know that New Zealand’s beauty inspired it to be chosen for the hobbit homeland of the “Shire”. So, if you are looking for a little magic… this might be the trail for you!
And what is the longest hiking trail you might ask? In 2017 Canada officially revealed its Great Trail covering a MASSIVE 16,700+ miles! At an ambitious clip of 30 miles a day (and assuming no breaks or bear / moose attacks), you would be hiking for over a year and a half straight! You can see why we left this one off the list… but adventurers can dream, can’t we? Remember: always exercise proper trail/ hiking safety, and get out there!