Hiking is not only an excellent way to challenge yourself physically, it’s beneficial even mentally. From hiking the Inca Trail in Peru to trekking Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the world is littered with bucket list worthy routes and trails that’ll take you to some of the most gorgeous spots of nature out there. While hiking isn’t everyone’s favorite choice of activity, it’s undeniable that sometimes it’s simply what’s needed to get to the magnificent destination awaiting you at its end–and that it’s 99.9% of the time totally worth it!
On this list I’ve included the 25 best backpacking treks and hikes in the world that you ought to go on; it’s a combination of bucket list worthy locations and strenuous challenges that’ll make you feel on top of the world upon completion. They may not be easy, but they will be rewarding.
The Best Backpacking Treks and Hikes in the World
1. Alamere Falls, Point Reyes, California
Alamere Falls are beautiful and dramatic waterfalls, with its water cascading right onto the south end of Wildcat Beach. Hiking here is considered tough, as it is at minimum 13 miles (20 kilometers) round trip, on top of which the trail is not a nicely maintained one, requiring extreme caution on your part as you juggle through the terrain of eroding cliffs, poison oak, and ticks, not to mention lack of cell service in case something goes awry. Nevertheless it remains a popular trail to hike thanks to the reward of the beautiful falls that await you at your destination.
Most people complete the journey in one day, bringing a picnic lunch to enjoy at the falls.
2. Alta Via 2, Dolomites, Italy
Alta Via 2, located in the Dolomites of Italy, one of the most dramatic mountains Europe has got, is another hike deemed a rather physically demanding one. There are a lot of changes in altitude – both gain and loss – along with steep slopes and narrow rocky portions to navigate through, complete with long sections of climbing paths equipped with cables, iron rungs, and ladders.
Alta Via 2 is also a long hike, possibly taking you as much as 2 weeks to complete; although most of the hike does come with incredible views of the Dolomites, with huts for food and campsites for rest along the way.
3. Angel’s Landing Trail in Zion Wilderness, Utah
Although a rather short hike relative to the most of the others on this list (about 5 miles), Angel’s Landing Trail in Utah is thought to be one of the most unforgettable one you could go on. While it does offer its hikers some steep zig zagging and nearly vertical drop offs, this trail should be doable for anyone in average physical health and above. The gorgeous and ancient views of the Zion Canyon are not to be missed, making this trail one of the best backpacking hikes out there – and you’ll get to have a super light backpack when you go on this one!
4. Appalachian Trail United States
In its entirety, the Appalachian Trail extends all the way to 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers), existing between Georgia’s Springer Mountain and Maine’s Mount Katahdin, going through 14 states as a whole. Along this trail you can find forests and other types of wild lands, but also farms, roads, and towns.
This hike is epic due to its lengthiness, as well as the amount of states it passes through, which is why the amount of thru-hikers (those who intend on hiking the trail from beginning to finish in one singular season) attempting to conquer this massive trail keeps increasing each year.
5. Arctic Circle Trail Greenland
The Arctic Circle Trail in Greenland, which is 160 kilometers long at full length, is likely the best way to explore Greenland. It’s a beautiful trail to discover, filled with gorgeous nature and wildlife. By hopping onto the Arctic Circle Trail, you’re also taking yourself properly off the beaten track.
6. Bartolomé Island, Galapagos
For some of the best views on Galapagos, you’ll want to get to the top of Batolomé Island. The hike isn’t a lengthy one, and the peak isn’t as high up as many other trails on this list, but the 360-degree lunar-like lanscape surely take your breath away—in more ways than one!
You can read up on my personal experiences doing this hike right here: Bartolome Island in the Galapagos
7. Camino De Santiago Spain / France / Portugal
Originally Camino de Santiago, a medieval trail taking you through three European countries, was an important pilgrimage, starting from Spain’s Galicia. But today it’s considered even more than that, it’s considered one of the best backpacking hikes you can take in your life, and not just if you happen to be religious. Scattered along the trail are numerous historic sites, monuments, and showcases of culture, with the terrain including mountains and vineyards, and even hamlets.
For inspiration read or purchase some wonderful spiritual and walking guides written by my friend Stacey Wittig.
8. Cinque Terre Hike, Italy
Cinque Terre consists of a group of five towns existing right next to each other on the coastline of Northern Italy. All of the towns can easily be visited by various public transportation, but they’re close enough to one another that for the best experience you’ll want to hike through them. All in all the trail is 11 kilometers long and is perfectly possible to get through in a day—although you might be inclined to spend more time than that in each of the gorgeous towns!
9. Dana to Petra on the Jordan Trail, Jordan
Dana to Petra covers a specific section of the Jordan Trail, often considered to be one of the most breathtaking parts of the trail. It has even received the honor of being listed as one of the top 15 best backpacking hikes in the world by National Geographic! The Dana to Petra trek is an 84.5 kilometer portion of the 675 kilometers total Jordan Trail length. It is an incredible hike of both valleys and mountains, various climates, and rich ecosystems, complete with dramatic backdrops along the way.
Other Bucket List Experiences Nearby
10. Everest Base Camp, Nepal
A classic among hikes, trekking the Everest Base Camp will make you feel like you’ve reached the top of the world. The camp, resides at 5545 meters above sea level, even without tackling the magnificent and deadly Mount Everest itself.
On this hike you’ll pass through the Sagarmatha National Park, and its tiny Sherpa villages and Buddhist monasteries, with gorgeous wintery mountainous nature to immerse yourself in with every step you take. From the start to reaching the base camp, it’ll take approximately 11 days (the entire trek is 80 miles/130 km) round trip, though thankfully only a fraction of that time is to get back down.
11. Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim
Hiking Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim is certainly the most epic and bucket list worthy way you could visit the world famous natural marvel. It’s a 24 mile hike one the way, and certainly considered a tough one to accomplish. But if you feel up to the challenge, and you’d be among the 1% of all the visitors to Grand Canyon who would be, you absolutely would not regret taking yourself through such a strenuous hike. The views and environment around you are surely some of the most fascinating ones you could be laying your eyes on.
The Grand Canyon is on the US National Parks Bucket List: 61 Beauties to Visit in America!
12. Hadrian’s Wall Path England, United Kingdom
Taking you coast to coast in England, Hadrian’s Wall Path is a hike that passes through some awesome ancient sites and places. A 7-day hike of 135km, you’ll get to take in the beautiful rolling hills and rugged lands, combined with the buzzing cities of Newcastle and Carlisle. Hadrian’s Wall Path is also one of the easiest hikes on the list, with clearly marked routes and not overly difficult terrain to trek through.
13. Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California
Located at Yosemite Valley’s eastern end, Half Dome is a famous granite dome that got its name from its unique shape. At 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome offers a dramatic and challenging hike that many love to take on as an adventure, thanks to it only taking 10 to 12 hours to complete the entire thing.
And yes, there is a section with cables, so if Half Dome is of any interest to you, better start getting mentally prepared right now!
14. Inca Trail, Peru
Leading you to the magnificent Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail is filled with culture and history, taking you through ruins, mountains, and even cloud forests. Even if it may feel too strenuous at points (I’m talking to you Dead Women’s Pass!), getting the first glimpse of the ancient Machu Picchu after 3 to 5 days of hiking will be your reward.
And even if the hike itself may not be on your bucket list, Machu Picchu absolutely has to be! It was named one of the new 7 wonders in the world (alongside of Petra, which you’ll reach on the Jordan Trail mentioned above) and it truly is breathtaking.
Before heading out, don’t forget to read my Insider Tips to Conquering Peru’s Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Hike.
15. Kalalau Trail Kauai, Hawaii
Going along the Kauai coastline, the Kalalau Trail is a 11 mile hike that starts from Ke’e Beach and leads you to the secluded Kalalau Beach; in fact, hiking this trail is pretty much the only way you even can reach this jaw dropping gorgeous part of Kauai. On your way you’ll cross through and above valleys and sea cliffs, as well as the beautiful Hanakapi’ai Falls. You’ll need a permit to do the hike all the way to the Kalalau Beach, as well as be prepared for the fact there’s only two camping spots along the route, one of them being the beach itself.
16. Kungsleden (The King’s Trail) Sweden
A world famous hike in Northern Sweden, the Lapland region to be specific, Kungsleden takes you approximately 440 kilometres (270 mi), through the dramatic and diverse landscape of Sweden’s Lapland’s mountainous area between Abisko and Hemavan. Passing through four national parks as a whole, there are different sections of Kungsleden that you can choose from, or them all in about a months time.
17. La Ciudad Perdida (Lost City Trek), Colombia
Complete with a dramatic name, the hike of La Ciudad Perdida is a difficult and adventurous route that’ll take you to a sacred site that’s far older than Machu Picchu. And while La Ciudad Perdida does not take you to the highest altitudes, the 44 kilometer hike is challenging due to its combination of heat, humidity, and jungle environment. Oh, not to mention there’s a lovely little finish of 1200 steps before you can finally get to the lost city, definitely marking this trek as one that’s not for the faint hearted. But it will be one of the most incredible things you’ll ever put yourself through if you’re tough and fit enough for it.
18. Laugavegur-Skogar Trail, Iceland
From black volcanic ash to frozen liquid lava, the Laugavegur-Skogar Trail won’t have to show you much to take your breath away and absolutely convince you it’s one of the best backpacking hikes in the world to go on. This seven day trek will take you through some of the most stunning landscapes Iceland has to offer, with you coming across gullies, canyons, valleys, glaciers, and even waterfalls along the way.
19. Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania
At 5,895 metres (19,341 feet) above sea level, Mount Kilimanjaro is the tallest free standing mountain in the world, an intriguing combination of volcanic cones and glaciers, complete with wildlife sightings and pristine nature. Because it’s way more than an easy hike, taking on Mount Kilimanjaro is assuredly an ambitious task. Nevertheless, it is actually one of the easier big mountains to ascend (you don’t even need specific mountain climbing equipment!), but it will take five to eight days to complete.
20. Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala
Another incredible hike I’ve had the opportunity to go on, Pacaya Volcano is a popular active volcano to tackle for the adventurous. It’s fairly safe to hike up, though, with an option to roast marshmallows along the way. Beware however that, while it only takes you 2 or so hours to get to the top, it is a fairly strenuous ascend.
Just like skiing and mountaineering is a part of the culture of the Swiss Alps, volcano hiking is huge chunk of the culture in Guatemala. The country has 37 officially named volcanoes, three of which that are still active. And you can hike up one-the Pacaya Volcano. What makes this experience even more bucket list worthy is that once you’re at the top, you can toast marshmallows with the heat from the volcano!
Just like skiing and mountaineering is a part of the culture of the Swiss Alps, volcano hiking is a huge park of the culture in Guatemala. The country has 37 officially named volcanoes, three of which that are still active—and you can hike up one of them.
The Volcano of Pacaya is one of the most accessible volcanoes in Guatemala, which makes it very popular. You will be sharing the trail with many others. This, along with the food stands that you will find on different segments of the trail and the marshmallows you will get to toast on the heat of the volcanic rock, make the experience much more fun. Bring some graham crackers and chocolate if you want to make your marshmallow a s’more!
FYI: while it only takes you 2 or so hours to get to the top, with the incline and altitude it is a fairly strenuous ascend.
21. Panorama Ridge Garibaldi Provincial Park, Canada
The Panorama Ridge hike is short (only 12km), but sweet. From Panorama Ridge you’ll get a full panoramic view of the jaw dropping gorgeous Garibaldi Lake below you, a treasured sight of turquoise waters with a mountainous backdrop. Not that you have to wait until you get to the top to enjoy some natural beauty! While it’s possible to do the hike in a day, it is time consuming enough you might enjoy it more by making a camping trip out of it instead.
22. Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton NP
Teton Crest Trail is seen as a difficult 40+ mile hike, but also one of the most beautiful ones in the States. It offers hikers diverse and stunning views all the way, from canyons to lakes, you’re touching on several ecological zones, and may even be lucky enough to spot some moose and bears along the way.
23. The Great Ocean Walk Victoria, Australia
This 8-day and 100 kilometer walk will take you through the legendary coastline of the Great Ocean Road, which you may have thought could only be added on your bucket list as a trip traversed by car – think so no more! Consisting of various landscapes, from forests to rocky shores, this incredible 100km journey will take you to some rarely visited, remote parts of Victoria. And of course you’ll get to take in sights such as Wreck Beach and Twelve Apostles as you tackle the Great Ocean Walk.
24. Tiger’s Nest Hike Bhutan
The Tiger’s Nest Monastery, a group of buildings standing perched off a cliff at 900 meters above ground, is an architectural marvel that should totally be scribbled down into your bucket list already! The hike there and back makes for a magnificent day trip, being easy enough to complete even if you’re nowhere near a professional athlete. Mind you, though, that while the hike itself will be relatively effortless, getting to Bhutan is not quite so, as Bhutan is only slowly opening itself up to tourism and, at least for the time being, requires a daily fee from every tourist coming into the country.
25. Tongariro Alpine Crossing New Zealand
Having been given the honor of the best 1-day hike to go on in New Zealand, this 19,4 kilometer trail is both gorgeous and vicious. It’ll take you through glacial valleys and volcanic landscapes, not to mention the vivid crater lakes along the way! Although tough and challenging, Tongariro Alpine Crossing is also incredibly picturesque.
26. Torres del Paine W Circuit, Patagonia, Chile
The most famous of trails in Torres del Paine, the W Circuit takes you to the granite towers after which Torres del Paine was named—you’ll also get to see other iconic highlights and sites of Patagonia along the four to five day route. You can camp each night, but there is also the option to stay in shared dormitories, if you choose. You can finalize your amazing trek with some horse riding or kayaking, among other activities.
27. Tour du Mont Blanc France / Italy / Switzerland
Known to be one of Europe’s most famous trekking routes, this 170 kilometer trail takes you around Mont Blanc’s highlands, passing through three countries while doing so. You get to enjoy views of mountain tops, valleys, glaciers, and even numerous animals as you conquer the route. Warning: be prepared to switch between ascending and descending at multiple points of the hike!
28. Trolltunga Hike, Norway
Finally, there is the hike in Norway that takes you to one of its most mesmerizing places: the Trolltunga Cliff. Hovering over Lake Ringedalsvatnet makes the cliff a sight to see even from below, but you’ll get the best views from the top, which can be hiked to and back in 8 to 12 hours. The route there is considered rather demanding, so you’ll want to be in shape by the time you go conquer it!
Whether its a multi-day backpacking hike or one that takes a few hours, spending some time active in nature will surely reward you in many ways. Sure, some of the best hikes in the world are viewed so in part because of how demanding they are, but a day’s worth of hiking can sometimes be all you need to get to a truly bucket list worthy location. From Camino de Santiago to Mount Kilimanjaro to Tiger’s Nest, there is a legendary hike out there for any type of a traveler to go on. For even more options check out National Geographic’s 100 Hikes of a Lifetime.
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More Bucket List Adventures
Ultimate Travel Bucket List: 50 Best Experiences & Must See Destinations
Insider Tips to Conquering Peru’s Classic Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Hike
Guatemala’s Pacaya Volcano Hike: What to Expect
Hike to the top of Bartolome Island in the Galapagos