One of the greatest challenges in terms of outdoor adventure is hiking a long-distance trail from end to end.
These massive treks often take weeks to complete, challenging hikers both mentally and physically while rewarding them with peaceful solitude, breathtaking scenery and an amazing sense of self-reliance.
Long-distance trails can be found all over the world, meandering through dense forests, along coastlines and into pristine alpine settings.
But not all of these trails are created equal. Here are five of the very best, some of which are legendary among backpackers.
Appalachian Trail, Georgia to Maine, USAProbably the best-known long-distance hiking route in the world is the Appalachian Trail (AT), located in the Eastern United States.
Starting on Springer Mountain in Georgia and extending for 2,180 miles north to its terminus on Mount Katahdin in Maine, the AT passes through 14 states, eight national forests and two national parks.
Walking it end to end typically takes about five to seven months. The Appalachian Trail is the gold standard by which all other long-distance footpaths are measured, and while some are longer, very few are better.
Pacific Crest Trail, Mexico to British ColumbiaThe AT isn’t the only great long-distance trail in the U.S. The Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) is also one of the best hikes in the world, covering an even longer distance.
The entire route is 2,663 miles in length, with lush forests, beautiful coastlines, arid deserts and the snowcapped peaks of the Sierra Nevada making for a dramatic backdrop along the way. Highlights of the trip include sections through Yosemite, Sequoia and King’s Canyon national parks.
The Great Himalaya Trail, NepalNot quite as long as the AT or PCT, the Great Himalaya Trail will nevertheless challenge hikers with its thin air and high altitude.
At its highest point, the GHT tops out at more than 20,164 feet, making this a trek that is not meant for the faint of heart (or weak of lungs). It’ll take approximately five months to walk its entire length.
Te Araroa, New ZealandNew Zealand is well-known for having some of the most outstanding scenery on the planet, and there are few better ways to explore those landscapes than by hiking the spectacular Te Araroa route.
This trail begins at Cape Regina, the northernmost point on the North Island, and extends 1,864 miles to Bluff on the southern tip of the South Island.
Those who want to complete its length must also cross the Cook Strait between the two islands either by kayak or ferry. It takes approximately three months to walk New Zealand end to end, with many adventures to be had along the way.
The Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail, South Sudan and UgandaOne of the newest long-distance hiking trails on this list, the Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail, is located in South Sudan and Uganda.
Named for the first Europeans ever to see Africa’s Lake Albert, this trail covers 500 miles. Highlights of the walk include trekking alongside the Nile and visiting African villages that are well off the beaten path as well as the impressive Murchison Falls, which drops more than 140 feet into Lake Victoria.
The Baker Trail is only now starting to develop, which gives hikers a true sense of exploration along a route that very few have walked thus far.