Hikers step out and face the toughest climates in the world. They climb to the highest peaks and traverse the toughest terrain but it is a challenge like no other. Newcomers are yet to know the joys because there is truly nothing else like hiking; it’s unique and there is always a new challenge to face. If you are a hiker, you probably have checked out the local hiking trails but wouldn’t you like to stretch your feet further?
The following are some of the world’s best and move loved hiking trails.
Everest Base Camp
Despite the tragedies Nepal has suffered of late hiking to Everest base camp can be a wonderful experience. Hiking to Everest base camp is truly going to be the one that everyone remembers because it is a unique trail no matter how seasoned a hiker you may be. However this will not be a walk in the park.
You can reach the highest peaks of Lhotse Sar, Lhotse and Everest which is the biggest achievement any hiker can accomplish. On the way you are sure to see some breathtaking scenery and in the months of March or April, may be the best times to go but it can vary depending on the weather. Don’t go alone however, guides are needed for safety and you must approach Everest very slowly because it’s hard to acclimatize to.
Plus, you may need at least a few weeks to reach Everest as it’s a tough trek on any hiker, experienced or otherwise. Newcomers are welcomed to try this hiking trail but in all honesty, only the very best and most experienced hikers should tackle this. It’s the best but by no way easy.
The Narrows are found in the Zion National Park in the US and offers new hikers the chance to gain some experience. This hiking trail is around 16 miles but it can be very rewarding and an excellent start for those just starting out. Seasoned hikers usually complete this trail within a day, if that, but even newcomers should be able to handle The Narrows within a day also because it isn’t too tough to handle.
There are camping grounds dotted around too in case you get tired or aren’t able to complete in one go. Be warned however, there are some parts of the trail that must be swum so you need to be a competent swimmer.
Found in Sweden, The Kungsleden is truly one of the top hiking trails in the world and probably the number one in Sweden. It covers around 300 miles, 275 to be exact and is one very tough trail. You are going to need a few weeks to cover this trail and probably, its one for experienced hikers. It will take a lot out of you and you need to be well prepared for weeks of gruelling hiking.
However, you do get to see the most amazing Arctic landscape and parts of Sweden that hasn’t been discovered. There is so much beautiful scenery to enjoy and it will be a journey you never forget. Though, be prepared to cross suspension bridges to avoid the biggest rivers out there but hopefully you have a head for heights.
The Grand Canyon Hike
Located in Arizona, The Grand Canyon hike is going to be for experienced hiker who wants to get away for a week. This is definitely going to take around six or seven days at best since it’s around 44 miles all round. You probably don’t want to rush things either so it’s a great trail to take slow because there is so much rich American history on offer.
The Himalayans Trail
Seasoned hikers will love the Himalayans Trail. This travels across some of the most gorgeous scenery ever and will take over twenty days to complete. However, this is definitely not one for the faint at heart or inexperienced hikers because it’s a very tough and arduous trail. For example, you will reach new heights and be close to cliff edges which means it’s not the safest.
Yosemite Grand Traverse
Located in California, USA, hikers who want to build their experience will love Yosemite Grand Traverse. It will take at least a week, maybe a little less for serious hikers, to complete the 60 mile journey. However, the trail is only opened from July to September so it will be busy when opened; unlike many hiking trails opened all year round, this is limited to a few precious months. You get to explore Yosemite country and see the Sierra Nevada peaks too.
Located in Pakistan, K2 is the second highest mountain range in the world yet, it doesn’t receive as many visitors as what Everest does. In some ways, K2 is forgotten about but it can offer hikers the chance to explore some beautiful sites. It will take a good 15 days or so, depending on how good a hiker you are, to complete the trail.
The New Zealand Great Walk
The Great Walk is a fabulous choice for any newcomer looking to build experience. Seasoned hikers will also love this trail and even though it’s only 31 miles, it’s amazing. The trail covers Mount Ngauruho and you will just love the scenery. If you ever find yourself in the city of Whakapapa you should consider getting booked onto the New Zealand Great Walk trail.
Located in Scotland, Ben Nevis is the UK’s highest mountain and is one of the most loved in Europe and the UK. Hikers from across Britain and the world visit Ben Nevis throughout the year and millions visit the Highlands of Scotland just for Ben Nevis. It has truly become a popular spot for hikers and has so much rich scenery to enjoy.
The hiking trail on Ben Nevis isn’t easy though; there has been many who have tried and failed. There have also been many rescues made because of hikers getting lost in bad weather conditions. If you are going to choose Ben Nevis you need to pay close attention to the weather conditions, even in the Summer time.
What Will Your Next Destination Be?
The above are some of the world’s greatest hiking trails but there are truly thousands more to choose from. They are all so unique and wonderful because no two hiking trails are the same and whether you choose Ben Nevis or Everest, you will get a hiking experience like no other.
- How should you choose your hiking trail?
- How to prepare for your hike?
- How to avoid injuries when hiking?
- What should you pack on your hiking trail?
- What type of boots or shoes should you get for hiking?
- What kind of sleeping bag should you use?
- What food should you pack for hiking?
- One last thought
How should you choose your hiking trail?
If you’re an avid hiker, you probably know that preparation can make the difference between an epic fail and an unforgettable hike. You must plan your trip to the most minute detail with whichever hiking trail you choose. It goes without saying that a multi-day hike will throw many challenges, so you need to plan it to perfection. That doesn’t mean that a day hike cannot bring surprises. Our recommendations will help you experience the best hike, regardless of how many days you go.
Choose wisely your trail
Don’t rush packing your backpack just yet; you need to pick your hiking trail first. Gather as much information as possible about your hike; learn about its difficulty trade, distance, and length.
How would you describe your fitness level and physical health? Ask yourself when selecting the trail’s difficulty grade. Don’t overestimate your physical condition and think that you will overcome any challenges that the trail throws at you. Don’t push your body beyond its limit. Should you push your body to the max, you can risk injuring yourself.
For how many days are you planning to hike? Select your hike destination based on the time you have on your hands. You will probably need just one day for an easy hike, whereas long-distance and challenging trails will take several days.
How many miles can you hike? The trail’s length says a lot about its difficulty grade. We recommend you put in deep thought when selecting the tracks. Choose according to your fitness level and trail’s physical terrain. Add the distance you need to cover to get to and from the hiking trail.
Are you planning for a hike in high altitudes? Ask yourself what your physical condition is like and pick your terrain accordingly. The higher the elevation, the more challenging the trail will be.
As you try figuring out the difficulty and completion time, add one hour to the overall time for every 1000ft of increased elevation. Keep in mind that you will deal with a steep hike if the elevation rises by 1312ft within 0.62 miles.
Time of the year
When are you going to hike? The season can significantly impact how your hike will go. Some trails are only accessible in the spring and summer months when there’s no snow. If you want to hike in the snow, you need to plan your hike carefully—you will be able to hike only during daylight.
Eliminate surprises and learn as many things as possible about the road conditions of the trail and the surrounding areas. The risk of landslides is high in the mountain areas; you want to avoid events as much as possible.
Even though it’s not crucial, the logistics needed to arrive at the trail are also important. Some tracks will start and end at various points, so you need to plan transport between points.
How to prepare for your hike?
Since you’re determined to go on one of the most fantastic hiking trails, you should be in good shape. Here are our recommendations to get in excellent condition for your next hike adventure.
Begin with basic hiking fitness exercises
Ankle rolling and ankle sprains represent some of the most common injuries with hiking. If you’re out of shape and haven’t been active for some time, you should begin with basic exercises to warm up your muscles and make your heart pump.
Build a range of motion
Use a resistance band to force your muscle to extend and get strong. Standing on a balance disc or a tennis ball is an excellent exercise because it strengthens the tiny stabilizer muscles around your knees and ankles.
Run/walk in the sand
Running in the sand is a great exercise to protect your ankles and knees.
Squats and lunges
Make sure that your back is straight and don’t rush your squats and lunge. You need to strengthen your core muscles.
Weight your pack (start with a 20lbs bag) and step onto a bench in the park. See that the bench is 16 to 18 inches high. Add 5 pounds every week until you get the weight on your fully loaded backpack. If your hiking trail is expanded on several days, we recommend doing the exercises three times a week. You should be able to do 700steps in less than half an hour.
You don’t need to go to the gym for your cardio. You can go jogging or at the stationary bike/treadmill at the local gym. As long as you increase your heart rate, any exercise is good. Good lung capacity is essential when you aim for long hiking trails.
Hiking isn’t only about the legs but also about upper body strength. You will carry a heavy load with a long hike, so you need upper body strength for comfortable carry.
Challenging hike trails will throw the most uneven surfaces and a strong core will help you keep your balance.
Have a home gym
You don’t need expensive and complicated pieces of gear to do your exercises for hiking. Here’s what you will need:
A resistance band is helpful for lunges and leg-strengthening exercises. If you come back from hiking with shin splints, the resistance band will be excellent for your recovery.
You only need a set of dumbbells to lift and practice with the weight of your backpack/
Trail shoes are an excellent option for many hiking trails. However, if you do cross-training, you will need flat shoes to lift and run on pavement without aggressive tread.
Train for a day hike
If it’s been a long time since your last hike or if you’re a beginner, you should include a day hike in your practice. You still need to get your body in shape and prepare it for a hike next weekend. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Wear the same shoes when practicing that you will wear on your hike. You don’t want to develop any blisters from not wearing the shoes in the last few months.
- Go for a walk two or three times during the week. You want to move fast enough to increase your heart rate and keep the pace for half an hour.
- Carry a lightly weighted pack with your weekly walks. It’s an excellent exercise to have.
These are the best exercises for hiking
Some exercises will ensure the best results for your next hiking trip. Here are the best to include in your routine:
Hold equal weights in your hand. While standing, step forward until your legs are bent at 90 degrees. Push up and bring the rear foot forward. Do the same with both legs.
Take a resistance band and tie it around your legs above the knees. You want to have tension while standing with legs at hip-width. While standing straight, place your hands on your hips and walk sideways. Make sure to tuck your abs and maintain the band’s tension between your shins.
Poor Man’s Leg Curl
Scoot your hips toward an elevated bench while laying flat on the floor. Put your left foot on the bench and lift the right leg as high as possible. Try to press the left foot into the bench while clenching your hamstrings and glutes. Also, raise your hips off the ground. Do ten exercises for each side.
Get in shape for backpack hiking
On a multi-day hiking trip, you will carry a heavy backpack. Hiking with a heavy load puts strain on your upper body, ankles, and back, so you need to prepare for multi-day backpacking hikes. Keep in mind our recommendations:
- Break in the boots you will wear when hiking. Wear them around the house for several days until you no longer feel sore points. Start with short walks in the neighborhood and take your backpack as well.
- It depends on the hiking trail you pick, but most tracks will require a month of preparation. Stick to schedule with walks and short hikes three times a week.
- Lift weights to strengthen your upper body.
- Wear the backpack on short hikes and increase the load until you get the same load you will have on the hiking trip.
- Swim to build capacity and strength for your lungs.
Do you plan mountain hiking?
Whether it’s technical or not, mountaineering will put a significant strain on your body. Steep ascents at high elevation will require a lot of strength and test your lung capacity. Additionally, the weather is entirely unexpected at high elevations.
When you go mountain hiking, you need to descent quickly and safely once the weather changes. Training for mountain hiking is similar to conditioning for backpacking. Start early and add exercises with weight-bearing. You might need as many as six months to prepare for an essential mountaineering trip.
For example, Mt Rainier has a 9,000ft elevation gain on crevasses and snow. Plus, there’s only 2/3 of the oxygen available at sea level. If that doesn’t seem like a challenge, you might reconsider. Think also about the 50-pound backpack you will have to carry.
Have a six-month training program
Start as early as January for a mountaineering hike in the summer. Follow these three phases to get in condition for a mountaineering experience:
Practice cardio and foundational strength exercises. Focus on your lower back muscles, calves, and thighs. Hit the gym and take a run—alternate the two during the week.
You need to push yourself and run farther and faster. It’s time to add to the load when weight-training. It will contribute to your strength and lung capacity.
Keep your fitness during this phase. Stick to your cardio and weight-lifting schedule. However, you want to tone it down a bit to be in your peak condition when mountaineering.
Does a thru-hike require special training?
You need a lot of commitment for a thru-hike. When you hike a long trail, you might need weeks and even months to finish it. Tracks like the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail will require mental and physical preparation. Think of a thru-hike as if it was a pilgrimage. Have a six-month plan to prepare your thru-hike.
For example, the Pacific Coast Trail is 2,650 miles long and requires you five months to finish it in the snow-free season. It’s not a regular backpacking hike and the first weeks prepare you for what comes next. You can train for the thru-hike with short hikes in the first weeks. Cardio and strength-building exercises are mandatory.
How to avoid injuries when hiking?
Sometimes, no matter how excellent your physical condition is, you still risk returning with an injury from your hike. Our recommendations on reducing the risk of injuries will come in handy.
Avoid injuries on rocky and steep trails
Only inexperienced hikers will think that downhill hiking is effortless. By all means, downhill hiking is tough on toes, legs, and knees, more than anything else. While you hike downhill, your body holds its weight back and the backpack to avoid falling. The constant pressure increases the risk of injuries.
If your hike trail has many uneven and rocky areas, the risk for strain joints is high. Make sure that you build your body strength and prepare for the tricky descending.
Stay away from the “hiker’s knee”
Dedicated hikers have a high risk of developing the hiker’s kneed. Pain around the knee cap that often occurs after many hours of hiking is a common sign of the hiker’s knee. Even if hiking uphill can be challenging due to rocky terrain and steep inclines, it’s downhill hiking that can damage the cartilage and knee joint. Here are some exercises to do on a regular basis to avoid the hiker’s kneed:
- Do bodyweight exercises. Step-ups and lunges are excellent.
- Exercise to build your calves, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Don’t forget brisk walking (on the treadmill or outside) and bike riding.
- Exercise with ankle weights. Five pounds is a good weight in the beginning. Bend one leg while lying on your back and lift the other leg. Do it slowly and keep the knee a bit flexed. Do the same with the other leg.
Stand and lift one weighted leg behind you until you get a 90-degree angle. Keep it for several seconds and get to the floor down slowly. It’s an efficient exercise for your hamstrings.
- Use trekking poles to decrease the impact on your knees.
- Wear appropriate hiking shoes or hiking boots. Adequate footwear is crucial for your hike (recommendations on choosing footwear are below). You want hiking boots with practical shock-absorbing soles and ankle support.
- Use a knee brace because it will ensure stability in the knee area. Always wear one if you recover from an injury.
How should you use trekking poles?
You can reduce the strain on your knees and ankles when hiking using trekking poles. Trekking poles will help you keep your balance on uneven and rocky terrain. While hiking, the trekking poles will work as extra “limbs.” Should you have joint problems, the hiking poles are a wise investment for your hiking.
Here’s how to get the best out of the trekking poles:
- Keep the grip loose and relaxed on the poles with the straps
- Keep your arms in a neutral position and bend your elbows slightly. Propel yourself forward with your shoulders.
- When hiking uphill, use the poles to push off, don’t just pull yourself up the hill. Don’t plant the pole’s tip in front of your lead foot.
- Keep the poles in front of you while hiking downhill. Protect the knees by shortening the stride. Ram the stakes into the ground when the trail gets muddy or steep. Take side-steps up to the pole on such segments.
Prepare for the altitude sickness
If you pick a hiking trail above 8,000 feet, you need to learn how to identify and deal with altitude sickness. Medical experts have put a lot of effort into the best methods to fight altitude sickness and stay healthy at high elevations. Here are the main things to remember:
- Drink enough water and stay away from alcohol
- Recognize the altitude sickness. The tail tellers are insomnia, headaches, and nausea. They can wear off in a couple of days.
- It takes time to acclimate to high elevation. It can take several days until you adjust to the altitude.
- Have a slow pace when hiking
- Eat a lot because you burn many calories when trekking
- Have some painkillers for your headaches. Remember to get enough rest and plenty of water.
- If nothing works, simply go down. Get to lower elevation until you feel good again.
What should you pack on your hiking trail?
Many things count for successful hiking and choosing the proper backpack is one. Additionally, you need to know what to pack for your hike and stay as light as possible.
You need to pack the essential equipment and clothing for a multi-day trek for 2-9 days. Overpacking is risky, so learn everything about what to pack on multi-day hikes. Pack the backpack as light as possible. Only pack the necessary equipment because heavy gear can tire you long before it’s time.
Here’s the list of essentials for hiking. Feel free to add/remove according to your needs:
- Headlamp and batteries
- Navigation: map, altimeter, compass, personal locator beacon, satellite messenger, GPS device
- First aid kit (insect repellent, band-aids, ibuprofen, foot care, insect repellent_
- Sun protection: sunscreen, sun-protective clothes, and sunglasses
- Knife and gear repair kit
- Shelter and a light emergency bivy sack
- Fire matches, tinder, a lighter, stove
- Extra food
- Extra water
- Extra clothes
As we’ve previously stated, trekking poles are beneficial, and many experienced hikers use them. They can ease out the hiking on rugged, slippery, and muddy trails. They decrease the weight on your legs when ascending/descending and offer solid support for the knees and back.
Choosing and packing clothes for hiking represents a significant challenge for many hikers. Keep in mind the following recommendations when picking your clothes:
- They should be water and wind resistant
- They should insulate your body
- They should be breathable and allow body moisture to escape away from the body
- The clothes should be long lasting and resilient
- Get light and flexible clothing
- The clothes should insulate when wet
- Seek to buy clothing that packs small
Use the 3-layer principle
No matter which season you go and which hiking trail you choose, you should use the 3-layer approach when selecting your clothing.
- The transfer(base) layer
This is what you wear right against the skin. It’s the clothes that wick the body sweat away from your body. Look for clothes that keep you dry and warm at the same time. Pack an extra set to use, one when hiking and one when sleeping at night.
- The adjustable insulating layer
The insulating layer controls your body heat according to the outside environment and your activity. Light and a medium fleece jacket are ideal for intense workouts during warm days. Look for quick-drying and light pants later. Some fleece pants or long underwear are an excellent choice. Stay away from cotton and denim because they cannot control moisture.
Wear two insulating layers on cold days and nights. Fleece sweaters, hiking pants, gloves, hats, etc., are clothes to use as an insulating layer.
- Outer layer
The outer layer will protect you against inclement weather, rain, and wind. It’s the best way to stay dry because it allows moisture to escape. Buy an outer layer that is windproof, waterproof, and breathable. Even if you might not have to wear the outer layer, it’s wise to pack it for your hiking trail.
What type of boots or shoes should you get for hiking?
There are several types of boots and shoes that you can choose for your hikes.
Day hiking shoes
Low-cut day hiking shoes come with flexible soles and a rugged build to handle the problematic tracks. They provide you with stability and protect the feet against rough and rocky trails. You should get day hiking shoes when:
- You don’t need incredible ankle support or stability
- You hike on groomed trails
- You carry a day pack
The best parts about day hike shoes are:
- They’re lightweight and flexible
- You don’t need to break them in
- There are many models to choose from with various grades of waterproofness and breathability
Avoid using the day hiking shoes in the most challenging hikes because they don’t ensure the stability and ankle support you will need.
Day hiking boots
You can pick between mid and high-cut day hiking boots. They are supportive and reliable for rugged trails and heavily backpacking.
You can use day hiking boots for:
- Long-distance hiking
- Technical trails
- Heavy day packs
- When you need stability and ankle support
The benefits of day hiking boots are:
- Long-lasting soles and uppers
- Increased stability
- Excellent support
- Most models are water-resistant, if not waterproof
Since they’re made with durable materials, hiking boots are typically heavier than day hiking shoes. They are also less flexible than shoes and will require a break-in period.
If your backpack will be heavy and your trails will be complex and rugged, look for high-cut backpacking boots. They will give you the stability you need and reduce the risk of foot fatigue. Backpacking boots are long-lasting and will handle the most unforgiving conditions.
Get backpacking boots for:
- Heavy backpacking hiking
- For rugged terrain and off-trail travel
- If you need a lot of support and stability
The backpacking boots bring many positive things to the table:
- Long-lasting uppers and soles
- High cut to ensure excellent ankle support
- to offer stability and reduce the risk of foot fatigue
- Most models are waterproof
Backpacking boots sit on the heavy side and lack flexibility. They require break-ins and don’t have excellent breathability.
Trail running shoes for hiking
Hikers choose trail runners because these shoes have grippy lugs on the soles to ensure excellent traction on the trail. They also offer good cushioning to protect feet from rocks and roots. They’re flexible but don’t give stability and ankle support.
You can consider trail running shoes when:
- Running on trails
- Short hikes on groomed trails
- Thru-hiking when you don’t need stability and ankle support
- Lightweight backpacking
Most models are breathable and don’t need a break-in period. Since they don’t provide stability and ankle support, you should give them a good thought before bringing them on your hike.
What socks should you wear when hiking?
Merino wool is the best material to keep your feet dry and reduce the risk of toasty feet. Even if merino wool socks are pricey, they are worth every penny. Always pack an extra pair of socks for the worst scenarios when one pair gets wet.
What kind of sleeping bag should you use?
Pack a lightweight yet warm sleeping bag. Look for down or high-quality synthetic bags with at least a 30F degree rating. Make sure that you pick your sleeping bag according to the season and conditions on the hiking trail.
Avid hikers focus on the warmth-to-weight ratio of sleeping bags. If the sleeping bag doesn’t keep you warm enough, the sleeping bag is useless. Pay attention to some key factors when selecting your sleeping bag:
Type of insulation
Basically, you need to choose between down and synthetic insulation. Down packs are small warm, whereas synthetic is more affordable.
Many factors are impacting comfort. Check out the R-value of the sleeping pad to see if the sleeping pad is adequate for the weather conditions.
Get a sleeping bag rated lower than the typical low temperatures you anticipate on your hiking.
The quality of insulation and cut of the bag will impact the pack’s weight. It’s easy to compare weights on various models and pick the lighter model with the same temperature rating.
Stash pockets, adjustment features, pad compatibility, zippers, etc., are features to look for on a sleeping bag. The more features the sleeping bag has, the higher the price.
What food should you pack for hiking?
If you’re an entry-level hiker, you might not feel the need to drink a lot of water. Stay on the safe side and drink enough water, regardless of the difficulty grade of your hike. Ideally, you should drink at least 32 ounces before you hit the trail. Make sure you drink around 16 ounces during every hour of hiking.
You won’t need to bring food if your hike takes less than an hour. Typically, you need to eat 50 to 100 calories of carbohydrates every thirty minutes to keep your energy. If you pack perishable food, you should add an ice pack to keep it below 40 F degrees.
Here are some suggestions for lightweight, nutritious, and easy to eat snacks when hiking:
- Granola bars or granola
- Trail mix
- Dried/freeze-dried vegetables
- Dried fruits
- Dried beans
- Whole-grain tortillas
- Nuts, seeds, or nut butter
- Whole-grain tortillas
One last thought
As you can see, there are so many things to learn about before going hiking. As long as you have the will, nothing is stopping you embark on the adventures.