Hiking or Trekking is an activity that can be done by almost anyone, of any age, and of any fitness ability. And when exploring a new town, region, or country, joining a hiking or trekking tour is a unique way to really experience a new landscape, away from buzzy tourist attractions.
Treks or hikes can last anywhere from one day to several months, depending on the trail! Typically, multi-day hikes or treks will include accommodation by camping or at rural lodging. Sometimes you will have a guide, whereas others may be self-guided (meaning a company helps with some of the logistics like your luggage and accommodation, but you do the hiking on your own).
The world is full of hikes and treks that fill history books and inspire exploration. No matter where you want to travel, there are hikes to enjoy. Grab your boots and trail mix, and get ready to go!
Where to Go
You don't have to travel far to find scenic hiking trails, with some of the most beautiful hikes to be found in your own neck of the woods, though you can certainly use hiking as a great reason to visit the other side of the world!
- Best time to go: Varied. April/May and September/October tend to be the best months for most hikes. Desert hikes are better avoided in the summer months; winter conditions in colder areas may be especially challenging as well.
- Highlights: Great Smokey Mountain National Park, the Pacific Crest Trail, Appalachian Trail, 500 mile wilderness in Maine
Canada, Mexico, and the United States all have fantastic hiking trails for travelers to explore. From multi-months treks along the Pacific Coast or Appalachian trails to shorter hikes everywhere from outside Vancouver to the Smokeys, there's something to meet every traveler's level.
- Best time to go: Although you can hike in here at any point in the year, you will encounter snow in remote areaand fast changing weather in winter in New Zealand. Go between December and March for longer, brighter days.
- Highlights: New Zealand
Oceania is known for impressive natural backdrops for many different adventure sports, but hiking in New Zealand may be one of the highlights. The Tongariro Alpine Crossing is considered one of New Zealand's best one-day hikes, the Paekakariki escarpment coastal walkway is just north of Wellington, and the Twilight-Te Werahi Loop at New Zealand's most northern point are others worth the trek.
- Best time to go: May to September, when you can escape the summer heat by heading into the mountains
- Highlights: Hiking the Amalfi Coast in Italy, ancient pilgrim trails
Europe is a hiking and trekking hotspot, with famous trails such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain, endless options in the Alps throughout Switzerland, France, Germany & Italy, and a wealth of coastal routes promising breathtaking views.
Trekking might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of Italy, but the rocky mountains and scenic coastlines make for some of the most beautiful hikes in the world- and a current highlight. Hiking can be combined with sightseeing on the Amalfi Coast or the Italian Riviera, where easily accessible pathways link seaside towns.
Italy's mountainous north is home to more challenging hikes, and the mountains draw hikers all summer long for the fresh, cool air. Ex-World War I battle sites are now adventure playgrounds, and mountain restaurants, known as Malaga, provide cool beer and hot pasta for path-weary hikers.
Planning Your Trip
What to Look For In a Hiking or Trekking Tour
For most travelers who choose to go hiking or trekking, you already have a destination in mind when you start to plan your trip. The destination you choose will greatly determine the amenities and options available to you in the tour providers of that area.
nerally, you should pay attention to certified tour operators who have been guiding hikes or supporting hikers for several seasons. It should be obvious which resources and gear they provide and the trails should be obvious from any website materials you read. Additionally, reviews from past tour guests can be helpful in illuminating these parts of the tour.
Packing Tips & Gear Rental
Hiking and trekking doesn’t require too much specialist equipment, but it does still require gear. When packing your day pack, always consider the type of terrain you will be covering, likely and potential weather conditions, how remote you will be, and the length of your hike.
Having proper footwear is important. Choose trail runners or hiking boots. Regular running shoes are often OK on less challenging hikes.
Clothing should be lightweight and fast drying. Choose synthetic, light-weight wool or fleece fabrics instead of cotton. Whatever the season you may also need wind and rainproof layers, such as a jacket and over trousers, a warm hat, and gloves, or a sunhat and sunscreen.
Carry a small first aid kit to tend to blisters, insect bites, and rolled ankles or sprains. Other useful ‘just in case’ items include an emergency blanket and a whistle.
On most wilderness hikes you will not be able to purchase food or water. Carry enough water to keep you hydrated and enough lightweight high-energy food to last the entire hike, such as dried fruit and nuts or trail mix, sandwiches, and cereal bars.
Extra gear, such as trekking poles, is optional.
Most hiking etiquette is focused on preserving the natural environment and allowing users, both human and wild, to coexist on the trail.
Leave no trace: follow this mantra to leave zero impact on the environment. Stay on marked trails, pack out all rubbish, don’t pick plants, and don’t disturb the wildlife. If you are trekking with a guide, they will help encourage good hiking behaviors.
Hiking is not a hugely risky activity, though there are some important considerations to keep in mind.
First, know the trail and its conditions to the best of your ability -- do research on the trails you'll be walking, and follow the instructions from your guide if you have one.
Next, be prepared. Typically hiking and trekking will take you into rural areas where you may not be able to get food or water easily. Bring your own, and bring more than you think you'll need.
If you are doing a self-guided hike, it is advisable to hike with a buddy or group. Some exceptions may be on very popular trails like the Camino de Santiago in Spain or the Pacific Crest Trail in the United States; these trails are well-trodden and you will likely encounter other hikers or trekkers on a regular basis during the day.