So, you want to go hiking. That's awesome. There are plenty of hiking trails around the globe to satisfy your need for a challenging encounter with Mother Nature. From scenic trails winding through lush landscape to mountain tops with views to infinity and beyond, your thirst for adventure will be quenched on every turn.
That's not to say there won't be some bumps in the trail like rocky terrain, unmarked trails where GPS is necessary, snow flurries to keep you alert, and then there are the local residents. These aren't the human variety of residents you're accustomed to but those who make their home in the wild. You know, bears, mountain lions, wolves, and other assorted four-legged creatures as well as those that fly in or prefer marine landings. In other words, while you may be enjoying some of the most beautiful views in the world, chances are you won't be alone on the journey.
When planning a hiking trek, there are extreme, very dangerous, and somewhat difficult trails that are considered "tough", but that doesn't necessarily mean they're impossible, even for Grandma.
20 Sunshine Coast Trail, British Columbia, Canada
To experience backcountry hiking in Canada, the Sunshine Coast Trail offers an exhilarating experience over approximately 112 miles of diverse landscapes. The trail runs from Sarah Point located in Desolation Bay to Saltery Bay.
Along the way, you'll be immersed in towering forests of old growth trees, past bubbling creeks and sparkling lakes, along scenic shorelines, to mountaintop views. Take your time and relax along the way in one of the 14 available huts to replenish after a day of hiking.
19 Yosemite Falls Trail, California
To say this is a picturesque hike is an understatement as you'll have panoramic views of mountain peaks dotting the horizon, the tranquility of the Merced River as it mosies along, and depending on when you visit, a plethora of landscape budding with color in the meadows of the valley. If you stick to the 2-mile hike to Columbia Rock, be prepared for a moderate climb with a round trip taking around 3 hours.
You can also go along just one-mile and still have majestic views. To make it to the top of the falls - which are touted as the tallest in North America - that's an estimated 8-hour round trip adventure and the difficulty level is much more extreme.
18 MacLehose Trail, Hong Kong
MacLehose, at approximately 62 miles, was named by the National Geographic Society as "one of the best hikes in the world." Opened in 1979, the trail is comprised of 10 sections, which means hiking through diverse landscape and terrain.
On average, it takes about five to six days to complete the trek as you'll be challenged by constant ascents and descents. From sandy beaches to tropical mountains, MacLehose offers a smorgasbord of visual delights.
17 Caminito Del Rey, Spain
There's no other way to describe Caminito Del Rey other than "it is a heart stopper" hike that will leave you breathless. The trail takes you through a tunnel in the mountain and along a boarded walkway along the face of the mountain. Below the walkway are the remnants of the original that is no longer accessible.
The river below, the blue skies above, and the statuesque walls of the mountains in-between is an adrenalin rush.
16 Bright Angel Trail, Arizona
If you're looking for a safe hiking experience, set your course for the Bright Angel Trail in the Grand Canyon National Park. Considered one of the safest, you and grandma can enjoy the trek with peace of mind. There are two ranger stations; one at Indian Garden - the halfway point - and at the campground at the bottom of the canyon along with water stations and rest-houses. The trail offers a pleasant hike with shaded areas, plant life, water sources, opportunities to observe wildlife, and what else but beautiful views.
15 Drakensberg Traverse, South Africa
A scenic hike with mountain views, lakes, caves, rocky terrain, high ridges, and open plains and valleys. The Drakensberg Traverse serves a menu of diverse landscaping that is best sampled by experienced hikers. The approximately 140-mile long excursion doesn't have marked trails but does have checkpoints to help you stay on track, along with your GPS. It is a challenging hike and the weather can be brutal with snow, rain, and gusty winds and it's good to keep in mind wildlife is a reality.
14 Rover's Run, Anchorage, Alaska
A lovely trail that runs along between 7 and 8 miles in the quiet and serene beauty of Alaska. What more could you ask for? Bears, of course! The trail is located along the outskirts of Anchorage and used by mountain bikers, runners, and those seeking a peaceful hike.
It is highly recommended to bring bear pepper spray when traversing the trail and to not make the hike alone. A group is much better since the area is frequented by brown bears and you know what they say, "there's safety in numbers.".
13 Te Araroa, New Zealand
Opened on December 3, 2011, hiking Te Araroa is an adventure of a lifetime. Stretching from Cape Reinga in northern New Zealand to Bluff in the south, the trail meanders over an exhilarating and changing landscape of over 1800 miles. Hike through forests, along beaches, around volcanoes, and through cities on this diverse trek.
The time to cover both areas of Te Araroa runs from 50 to 80 days, so, for this one, hikers need to be physically fit, have a lot of stamina, and the ability to adapt to the changing New Zealand weather at the drop of a dime.
12 King's Trail (Kungsleden) Sweden
The beauty of King's Trail is phenomenal whether you choose to hike your way through the Swedish Lapland mountainous landscape in the summer or ski it during the winter. The 250-mile long trail is the longest in Sweden allowing hikers to take their time relishing the beauty, fresh air, wildlife, and serenity of the area.
Along the King's Trail, cabins and huts are available for a quick respite, which is especially helpful if you choose to take the trek during the winter when the midnight sun provides daylight almost 24 hours a day.
11 Santa Cruz Trail, Peru - Machu Picchu's forgotten cousin
For stunning views of mountain vistas one after the other for as far as you can see, the often-overlooked Santa Cruz Trail offers the complete package for avid hikers. The trail is 31 miles, so it's doable in a few days. It is rated as moderate to difficult and can be done independently or with a guide.
Because it is in competition with the trails at Machu Picchu, it is less populated, which means solitude and serenity while hiking valleys dotted with lakes amid the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. The goal is making your way to Punta Union; the highest point (15,617-feet).
10 Angel's Landing, Zion National Park, Utah
Zig and zag, around and about, and up and down is what you'll encounter when trekking Angel's Landing in Zion National Park. The trail takes you to the top where the views are breathtaking. It takes about an hour and a half to make the hike as you'll encounter a one-mile incline to get up and a lot of switchbacks. There is a security chain bordering the narrow rocky passageways, which you'll want to use at all times. This hike is well worth the energy and stamina if you choose to hike to the top. If you have any fear of heights, you may want to just buy a postcard.
9 Long Creek Falls, South Carolina
If you're looking for a hike everyone can enjoy and one with plenty to offer in scenic beauty, consider adding Long Creek Falls in South Carolina to your hiking itinerary. The trail is 3.3 miles through lush forest home to native plants and wildflowers. The focal point is the 25-foot waterfall highlighting Long Creek. The falls are located a short distance from where the creek ends and the Chattooga River begins. It's a beautiful oasis amid the trees and perfect for photo ops.
8 Amicalola Falls Trail, Georgia
The hike begins at the park's visitor center where you'll depart and start at the Appalachian Trail Approach Trail. It's onward with a 10-mile trek to Springer Mountain through hardwood forests dotted with switchbacks to the southern end of the Appalachian Trail. The hike continues on to the falls set in the midst of Amicalola State Park in the Chattahoochee National Forest.
The 730-foot waterfall with sparkling water cascading down the rocks and boulders in multiple layers sending a soft, cool spray of mist to blanket the area is refreshing and breathtaking in its natural beauty. The hike loops back taking hikers to the trailhead.
7 Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine
With 2,190 miles of trail traversing through 14 states, you have plenty of opportunities to start and stop at multiple locations on one of the most traveled trails in the world.
As noted, the southern starting point is Springer Mountain in north Georgia and the end point is Mt. Katahdin in Maine. The AT is a challenge if you plan to go end-to-end, which can take up to six months. If you're planning to do short treks, that's fine, too. Either way, there are over 250 huts along the trail for overnight rest and relaxation. Do consider the time of year you'll be hiking and how long you plan to hike - a day, week, or month, or more - to determine if you should go south to north or north to south to experience the best weather.
6 Tour du Mont Blanc, France, Italy, and Switzerland
A multi-day and multi-country hiking experience awaits at Tour du Mont Blanc. The 110-mile hiking trail is Europe's premier hiking experience as you'll make your way through not one but three countries. The trail winds its way through France, Switzerland, and Italy for one of the most scenic hikes imaginable. There are more than a few sites along the way to whet your appetite for an outstanding picturesque hiking adventure. Just a few include the Mer de Glace, Chamonix Valley, Aiguilles Rouge Mountains, Col du Bonhomme, Vallee des Glaciers, Col de la Seigne, Aosta Valley, Val Ferret, Monte Bianco, and Wildstrubel.
5 Overland Track, Tasmania, Australia
When making your way along the 40 miles of the lush landscape of the Overland Track located in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, you'll become one of the thousands of visitors who've experienced Tasmania's World Heritage site. The optimum way to enjoy this diverse hike is taking a 4- to 6-day guided walk with experienced guides who'll provide interesting details about the area.
Along the way expect to see mountains, lakes, temperate rainforest, and waterfalls, and for accommodations, snuggle up in a comfy hut and chill out after a long day on the trail with gourmet food and refreshing wine to soothe tired feet and aching joints.
4 Franconia Ridge Trail Loop, New Hampshire
Enjoy 8.5 miles of challenging hiking trail with a moderate traffic. The best time for hiking Franconia is from April until October. If you choose October for your hiking itinerary, you will most likely be impacted along the trail with ice, snow, mud, fog, and wind.
The round-trip, depending on conditions and the number of breaks you take to soak up the stunning views, can take 9 to 10 hours, on a good day. For this one, grandma might want to stay home unless she is an experienced hiker with nerves of steel.
3 Coastal Trail Loop, Newfoundland, Canada
Expect an easy to moderate hike along this well-worn trail that remains a perennial favorite for hikers as it offers diverse landscape along the trail that weaves its way along the coast. You'll hike along Newman Sound and on through forested areas then onto a cozy beach with tidal mud flats as a bonus.
Shorebirds abound as you head back onto the trail lead to a gurgling waterfall as you continue to wind your way through Terra Nova National Park.
2 Jordan Trail, Petra
For hikers interested in diverse landscapes, walking the Jordan Trail to Petra offers a kaleidoscope of colors, textures, and visual wonders along the way.
Often referred to as the "Inca Trail of the Middle East" make sure your boots are made for walking as the trail runs for 400 miles. The Jordan Trail is an adventure as the trek - running from the Mediterranean to the Red Sea - is a smorgasbord of cultural delights. There are over 50 villages along the way and accommodations from eco-lodges to tents as this one is for hikers interested in the long haul.
1 Scottish National Trail, Scotland
"Oh where, tell me where has my Highland laddie gone" is a lyric from the classic song, The Bluebells of Scotland. While in the song, the Highland laddie was off doing noble deeds, for visitors to the Scottish National Trail, you'll have your own challenges. Beginning at Kirk Yetholm and ending on the Pennine Way, you'll traverse past the River Tweed along well-marked paths ideal for hikers of all skill levels. As the trail heads northward, it becomes much more difficult.