Inspired by the Wukalina Walk in Tasmania, try one of these seven other long-distance hikes to embrace nature, culture, and mental clarity.
During the coronavirus crisis, I’ve relied heavily on an abundance of indoor activities to keep myself entertained—sloughing through the endless Netflix catalog alone could probably occupy me for three lifetimes. But when all’s been said and done (and streamed), no amount of binge-watching or bread baking has been quite able to replace the joy of spending time outside.
Before, I used to walk from my apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, all the way to Domino Park in Williamsburg, a hearty stroll that clocks in at about an hour (give or take a five-minute stop for coffee). This Saturday morning ritual, simple as it was, provided me with space to clear my mind and re-energize my spirits—two things I’ve been in dire need of lately.
It somehow took me upwards of seven weeks in quarantine to realize the importance of taking regular walks (while following social distancing guidelines and wearing a mask!)—and, after being inside for ages, the longer the walk, the better.
Since many travelers plan on embracing the great outdoors post-crisis, the idea of the long walk grows more appealing every day—and makes great material for dreaming up future trips. Around the world, these seven extended pilgrimages and long-distance hikes offer stunning views, cultural enrichment, time to gain clarity—and the opportunity to put to the test any newfound endurance.
1. Faulhornweg Trail
Average time: 6 hours
At 9.7 miles, this hike is perfect for anybody looking for an entry-level journey. Most of Switzerland looks like something out of a fairy tale, and this trail not far from Interlaken in Bern—easily one of the most recognizable and beautiful landscapes this country has to offer—is no exception. We can almost guarantee that the views of Lake Thun, Lake Brienz, and the surrounding mountains will be enough to distract you from your burning calves.
2. Kumano Kodo
Average time: 4-5 days
UNESCO designated this a World Heritage site in 2004, but this ancient site has welcomed travelers for hundreds of years, becoming particularly popular with artists and writers during the Edo period. Beginning in Tanabe City and ending in Kumano, hikers can split the Kumano Kodo into shorter, easier routes that highlight the beauty of Japan’s seaside, forests, and mountains. Also in the area, consider visiting the Yunomine Onsen Hot Springs in Kumano to decompress your well-worked muscles after a long journey.
3. Lagunas de las Huaringas
Average time: 4-5 days
A designated UNESCO World Heritage site in Peru, the 14 sacred lagoons that comprise the Lagunas de las Huaringas are said to contain mystical healing properties. Woven throughout the mountains of the Piura region, the full trail is relatively difficult to take on. Instead, travelers can also consider day hikes: From the trail’s inception in Salalá, a pueblo outside of Huancabamba, the first lagoon in Laguna Negra is only about a 2-3 hour hike away.
4. Camino de Santiago
Location: France and Spain
Average time: About a month
One of the most popular pilgrimages in the world, you more than likely know someone who’s embarked on this journey: In 2019 alone, over 300,000 people completed the Camino de Santiago. Over the course of about a month, this walk will take you through the rolling hills of France and Spain to Santiago de Compostela, the capital of the Galicia region in northwestern Spain.
5. St. Olav Ways
Average time: About a month
If you want to work your muscles without sweating like crazy, this cold weather journey in Norway is the hike for you. The eight trails that comprise the St. Olav Ways cover about 1,860 miles, all of which lead to the Nidaros Cathedral in Trondheim, one of the best Scandinavian cities for food lovers. Although it may not be the easiest way to see the beauty of Northern Norway’s fjords, it is the most satisfying and arguably the most peaceful: only about 1,000 people make this lesser-known trek each year.
6. Continental Divide Trail
Location: Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico
Average time: 4-5 months
Travelers can get up close and personal with the beauty of the American landscape over the course of the Continental Divide Trail’s 3,100 miles. If you’re interested in hiking the full CDT, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition’s website offers an extensive planning guide for a small donation (the fee goes toward conservation efforts). Alternatively, you can keep it short and sweet with a day hike that’ll show you the best of the west, including valleys, deserts, and the Rocky Mountain Range.
7. Appalachian Trail
Location: Eastern U.S.
Average time: 5-7 months
The longest hiking-only footpath in the world, the Appalachian Trail takes hikers on a 2,000-plus mile journey up the east coast of the United States, beginning in northern Georgia and ending in Maine (whew). Of the thousands who attempt each year, only about one in four people complete the months-long Appalachian Trail journey; most people tend to stay local and use the paths for day trips, which we would recommend to start.