Tour du Mont Blanc
France, Italy and Switzerland
The most famed long-distance walk in the Alps circumnavigates the massif of the highest peak in the range. The 15,781-ft mountain is always there, looming above, but the trail itself is constantly changing. It dips down into seven different valleys in three different countries and tops out twice at 8,743 ft atop the Col des Fours, France, and the Fenêtre d’Arpette, Switzerland. It rambles along hair-raising sections of exposed rock as well as wildflower-choked meadows as it takes walkers back around the classic start and end point in Chamonix, France.
Sierra High Route
Unlike Skurka’s biggest accomplishments, the Sierra High Route is within reach, while still a big challenge. The route is similar to the John Muir Trail (JMT), but, well, higher, and it’s not a marked or maintained trail like the JMT. It cuts south-north through the heart of California’s High Sierra—starting in Kings Canyon National Park and passing through the John Muir Wilderness and Ansel Adams Wilderness in the Inyo National Forest and Devils Postpile National Monument, as well as Yosemite National Park, before ending in the Hoover Wildernes.
Laugavegurinn Fimmvorduhals Pass
This four-day hike runs between the Landmannalaugar hut in the north and Thorsmork park in the south, with an option to start or end at the stunning 200-foot-high Skogafoss waterfall. Few hikes offer the pure wilderness experience of Laugavegurinn, which wanders through otherworldly volcanic landscapes, paired with stays at comfy huts each night. In between, there are steaming fumaroles, expanses of lichen-covered volcanic rocks, and stunning views of copper-coloured rhyolite peaks.
Te Araroa Trail
The Te Araroa, Maori for ‘The Long Pathway’, is aptly named. It traverses the entire country, from Cape Regina at the tip of the North Island to Bluff on the toe of the South Island. Split into 160 tracks, the trail takes about 120 days to finish, if hikers stick to official recommendations and requires a ferry ride to hop between the North and South Islands.
The Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail
South Sudan to Uganda
The after-effects of decades of civil war and military atrocities and ongoing fighting between the government and rebel groups make Sudan one of the most dangerous and needy spots on the globe. The hope is that the trail can play some small part in stabilising the region, much as the Bakers hoped their 19th-century expedition could play a part in helping to end the horrors of the slave trade. Most of the trail goes through Uganda, which is relatively safe for hikers. A bit of danger is inherent in the history of the walk; Sir Samuel Baker himself was kidnapped on one of his expeditions.
Franconia Ridge Loop/Traverse
The trail is popular but, as experts point out, it also offers a chance to hike high in alpine tundra just a few hours from Fenway Park. Don’t be fooled by its close proximity to civilisation, though—this walk in the sky gains elevation fast, climbing 3,480 feet in four miles. Once on the famed knife ridge between 5,260-foot Mount Lafayette, 5,089-foot Mount Lincoln, and 4,760-foot Little Haystack, it serves up 1.7 miles of exposed hiking, which can be a radiant stroll in sunshine among alpine wildflowers or a harrowing retreat from lightning and whipping winds.
Pacific Crest Trail
California, Oregon, Washington
Alongside the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) anchors the trifecta of big daddy through-hikes in the US. Each claims a distinct history, beauty, and province over a chunk of North American geography, but the PCT may be the most grand. It’s no easy accomplishment to tick off in one attempt, requiring savvy logistics and resupply, good luck with the weather, and fleet feet. The reward is a grand tour of seven national parks and a continent’s worth of national forests, state parks, and wilderness areas.
The northernmost park in the US, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve covers 8.4 million acres in the Brooks Range just above the Arctic Circle. It has no trails and protects the habitat and migration routes essential to the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, which has been declining but still numbers about 325,000 animals, making it the largest in Alaska. The 19.3-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and Preserve (ANWR) is probably the most well known and hotly debated wilderness in the US due to two natural resources it has in abundance—caribou and oil.
Dosewallips to Lake Quinault, Olympic National Park
Few spots in the ‘Lower 48’ states of the US are as wild and isolated as Washington’s Olympic Peninsula. Here, the Pacific slams into North America and the unrelenting weather keeps deep, wild rain forests and glacial peaks difficult to access. But this southern traverse of Olympic National Park is well worth the effort—and the extra waterproof/ breathable gear—required to get a glimpse into the heart of the place.
Everest Base Camp Trek
The two-week trek to Everest Base Camp and back has become increasingly popular. It’s a bucket list trip available to people who don’t have the ability (or money, a guided trip to the top of the world runs around $50,000) to actually climb Everest. Simply viewing the peak is a must. And while so many books and films have focused on the trip from Base Camp to the summit, the journey to Base Camp is no less miraculous.