Hiking heroes: four epic trails for the year ahead
Lace up your hiking boots – or at least let yourself daydream your next BIG adventure. Here are four spectacular trails, sprinkled across the globe, to get you in the mood for far-from-home rambling. Some will be familiar, others less so – but all guarantee unforgettable moments amid nature, astonishing views, and a tangible sense of place, adventure and history.
Routeburn Track, New Zealand
On New Zealand’s cinematic South Island, the 32km Routeburn Track connects two natural Titans: Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park. At its peak, the track looms 1,255 metres above sea level, yielding staggeringly beautiful views. The landscape is a vivid tapestry of jagged mountain peaks, emerald valleys, hurting waterfalls and crystalline lakes. Come between November and April, when wildflowers bloom in giddy abundance in the meadows and alpine gardens. Set aside three days to tackle the route – and keep an eye peeled for rare birdlife, including the world’s only alpine parrot.
EXPLORE – Routeburn Track
The Pennine Way, United Kingdom
Scale the craggy backbone of England on the country’s oldest and most iconic National Trail. The Pennine Way winds through the hilly Peak District, the Yorkshire Dales and Northumberland National Parks, finishing in the Scottish Borders. The route stretches for 268 miles (435km), revealing some of the UK’s most moody and magnificent scenery. For a hike with added sunshine, come between May and September. Expect to befriend fellow walkers, especially if you pause in the pubs, hotels and hostels in popular pit stops such as Hebden Bridge, Hawes, Appleby or the Hadrian’s Wall area.
EXPLORE – Pennine Way
Basho Wayfarer, Japan
Exploring Japan’s northerly Tohoku region, the Basho Wayfarer is one of Walk Japan’s self-guided walking tours. You’ll need to set aside six days and five nights for the tour, which begins in Sendai, the largest city in northeast Japan. Literary types will love the fact that the route is inspired by the itinerant wanderings of poet Matsuo Bashō and his travelogue Oku-no-hosomichi, or Narrow Road to the Deep North. Highlights along the way include a ruined fortress, pine-clad islands, a Unesco temple complex, an architectural cliffside wonder, hot springs and a thatched building where Bashō once rested his weary toes.
EXPLORE – Basho Wayfarer
Inca Trail, Peru
Wonder at the awe-inspiring treasures of the Incan Empire on this bucket-list hike, which ends on a crescendo, as visitors pass through the Inca Sun Gate to clap eyes upon Machu Picchu: a 15th-century citadel with a vertiginous perch in the Andes Mountains. In the dry season (May–October), the better weather means full daily capacity on the trail; during the wet season (November–April), hiking conditions can be trickier, but there are fewer hikers and Picchu pilgrims. To access this ancient trail, aka the Qhapaq Ñan, you’ll need to secure a permit with a tour operator.
EXPLORE – Inca Trail
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