Adventure is your middle name. Nothing in life gets you more excited than the prospect of open vistas, a great trail, beautiful sights, and your backpack ready. The problem is, it all begins to get a bit banal after a while. I mean, just how many forest trails can you go down before the excitement wears off, and monotony sets in? If that is the case with you (or even if it isn’t), fear not brave traveler! We have some backpacking routes picked out for you that are literally the best in the world. Renew your energy, excitement, and thrill of the hike with these amazing spots!
Let’s Go East!
Let’s start with a zinger! The Jomolhari Trek, in Bhutan. This trek normally needs a guide, and it is well worth it to get one. There are amazing traditional Buddhist and Himalayan cultural landmarks dotted along the trek, and the guides know what they are talking about. Did we mention the sacred Jomolhari Mountain is in the Himalayas? It also passes Bhutanese fortresses, a number of museums, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery, and many other cool things to see. The hike takes about a week and a half, and you should go easy on the first few days, as the trail goes pretty high up, but this should definitely be on your bucket list! While there, you could alternately go on the Snowman Trek, though it is definitely not for the faint of heart! That one is 25 days to finish and the government requires you take a hired guide.
Let’s move on to Ireland and its most famous trail, the Dingle trail. The Dingle trail is 112.5 miles long, and realistically takes about 10 days to hike. While there are a heck of a lot of good trails in Ireland (most of them maintained not only by the government, but locals as well), the Dingle trail stands out as particularly amazing, due not only to its diversity of sights, but also the pleasant stops for the evening.
The trail goes through a number of extremely picturesque villages, and the locals understand that the hikers are there to have a good time. Most of the villages have great inns, and many places also have rooms to rent in private homes. We suggest the latter, if you aren’t going to camp. You may just have some of the best Irish home-cooked food you will ever experience in your life … we sure did! The trail winds past golden, sandy beaches (if it’s warm out … have fun!), cliffs made beautiful by lichen and time, plains, forests, the ruins of castles, homes and towers, and stupendous fields which make a leprechaun’s green look pale by comparison.
Winding Your Way Through Europe
Staying in Europe, and moving a little West, we head to the triumvirate of France, Italy and Switzerland. If you are a fan of the backpacking lifestyle, chances are you have heard of the Tour de Mont Blanc. To be fair, it is mentioned in pretty much every article ever written for trekkers and backpackers, and for good reason! It is, by far, one of the most unique hiking experiences in the world. Hiking over mountain passes and looking down at millions-of-years-old glaciers, seeing for 25 or more miles to peaks in other countries, and, most of the time, hiking ABOVE the clouds can be a heady experience.
While it isn’t the longest trail on our list, at just over 100 miles, you can power through it in half a week or take the whole seven to ten days and really enjoy yourself. Europe is pretty favorable towards backpackers, and is especially so on this trail in particular. In between days of hiking you can stay in high-end resorts or small cottages. No need for a tent (unless you want one!), and just a bit of cash or a credit card can see you the whole way. It’s also a good trail for kids and backpackers who can’t handle the grueling ones. Pretty much the best time to go is the summertime (again, good kids’ trail), as the higher parts of the trail won’t be snowed out and the huts to stay in will surely all be open.
Australia—Take a Tent!
Venturing off to Tasmania can be one of the most rewarding hikes you can take, as everything is the same, and different at the same time. While it is only a 50-mile hike, it takes just shy of a week. You will want to spend some time at Lake St. Clair, which is Australia’s deepest freshwater lake, and check out the mountains, rainforest, glassy tarns, aka corrie lochs (mountain lakes or pools formed in cirques excavated by glaciers) and wild rivers with both rapids and placid spots. The trail even has some sections which are long boardwalks, well maintained and not so easy to trip on. There are huts along the trail, at no particular designated places or order. You can even take a side track to hit the summit of Mount Ossa while you are there.
The most interesting thing about the trail is, well, everything. It’s all different. The trees, the grass, the landscape, the bushes, the rivers, heck, even the rocks are different from what the average hiker is used to (unless you are Australian of course!) The landscape is unique enough to keep your eyes entertained at all times, and there always seems to be something new, yet strangely familiar, to look at! This, for people from the Northern hemisphere, is a great winter vacation, because, as you know, many people celebrate the “winter” holidays on the beach, i.e. summer there while winter in the U.S.
Heading to another place in Australia, the Hochschwab Mountains of Styria, the Grüner See (Green Lake) has a little something for everyone. The area is crisscrossed by mountain trails, running all over the mountains and foothills. If you happen to go in a transition season (the beginning of springtime, for example) you are in for a true adventurer’s treat. When the snow begins to melt, the runoff flows down the mountain range, turning the low basin area in the middle of the range into a 100% colorless, 40-foot-deep lake. The interesting part is that the lake itself covers the actual park that is there. Many people take on ballast and literally hike on the bottom, complete with taking a rest on the benches, surrounded by the grass which is still growing. This usually occurs in late April or early May. In July, the water begins to drain off, and the lake disappears again until next year. If you are a backpacker and a scuba diver, this is the ultimate trip.
The U.S. Is a Backpacker’s Dream
There are so many backpacking trails in the U.S. that they haven’t all been counted. Some of them are so unique that it’s worth taking a trip to get to them. Take the Oregon Desert Trail (ODT), for instance. Wait, desert you say? That’s right—a trek through the desert. Strangely beautiful, and like nothing you have ever hiked before, the ODT is 750 miles long, and takes a LONG time to hike. There are entrances and exits at many places along the trail, so you can start and end where you want. There are also guide materials, maps, and GPS tracks and waypoints. Most of it has been mapped by volunteers, so take notes when you go!
There are long hikes without water, or the chance to resupply. That being said, that is the beauty of it! The fact that there is nothing around means that the wilderness is still wild and untouched. It’s almost like being on another planet. There are mountains in the area, and canyons abound. One place you shouldn’t miss is the Owyhee Canyonlands, an area with skyscraping rhyolite canyon walls. It’s a sight of a lifetime, and surprisingly the spot where a few movies have been shot (some of them for the explicit reason to show an alien landscape!) Truly, not to be missed.
Hike to Live, and Live the Hike
The experience of being 100 miles from nowhere, with everything you need to survive on your back, can be life changing. It’s just you and the wilderness, in the midst of wonders that few people will ever see. We hope you’ll be inspired to take a great adventure and do some wilderness backpacking.