We don’t know about you, but we love a good reason to travel. And if that reason happens to included conquering a mountain in another country? All the better.
This list will have you yearning to venture thousands of miles away from the comforts of your own home, only to sweat, work your muscles to fatigue, and hang with the insects and wildlife. You likely haven’t seen hikes like these. They are worth every mosquito bite, bead of perspiration, lactic acid buildup and vacation days used.
Truth be told, these hikes will not only rock your world, they will change the way you view it.
Machu Picchu, although a gimme, is well deserving of a spot on this list. Once you get over the remarkable beauty that encompasses the territory, you can focus on the hiking intensity that that lies ahead. If you opt for the four-day scramble through the Incas, you opt for the best adventure. Beginning on the railway from Cusco to Aguas Calientes, the trail leads through ancient ruins created by the Incans and ends at sun-up atop the ancient people’s playground, Machu Picchu. Spend the day (or days!) marveling in one of the Seven Wonders.
You probably already know the Panamanian gift to the world, but perhaps a better kept secret than Panama’s trademark canal is the hike that leads to a 360-degree view of two oceans. Oh, and did we mention it’s also a volcano? The hike which starts at 10 pm is lit by headlamps and typically requires a guide. Why the late start time? The hike is timed to perfection. Your restless feet will meet the peak at sunrise while your eager eyes will meet the Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean on each side of this Central American volcano. Sip coffee and enjoy your panoramic Panamanian views!
Oh, how we love you, Zion. Possibly one of the most beautiful and intriguing destinations in the US, The Narrows is a slender trek through the waterways at the north end of Zion. The incredible canyon walls sandwich hikers as they trudge their way through the Virgin River. This hike is no secret, so don’t expect to have the canyon all to yourself. Instead, say hello to the many adventurers from across the globe. You should definitely give yourself at least six hours of river hiking to reach the final destination. Ready, set, roll up your pants and get your feet wet in one of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Now is the time to pull out your lucky charms. This hike is so sought after, it requires a lottery to gain access. Hope and pray you get picked, because this hike is a must-do. The Wave in Utah is an assemblage of white Navajo sand constructions naturally formed over the years. The place is enchanting and confusing all at the same time (it’s really, really trippy, and kind of easy to get lost). And due to the extremity of weather, this hike is best done in the wee hours of the day and best done with a TON of water in tow.
New Zealand, why are you so awesome? This is a sneaky little hike that might be overlooked if you didn’t know it existed. (Luckily, you’ve got us.) On the South Island, there is a lake with such intense turquoise-tinted water that even Google Earth takes notice. Lake Tekapo is a sensation in itself — the surrounding trails are simply an added bonus. The Peninsula Walkway is a fairly easy hike that is doable for all fitness levels and ages. Go in the morning when the sun spotlights portions of the Southern Alps and calmly and quietly calls our bunny friends to the Earth’s surface. That’s right, LOTS of bunnies! This hike is shared with cottontails in the hundreds, maybe thousands.
Looking for an epic beach adventure? Experience the coastal wonder of Tasmania and hike the Bay of Fires. This spectacular hike is part pearly white beaches, part hypnotizing water, and part orange-colored rocks. Just in case the color contrast wasn’t remarkable already, nature went ahead and added orange-tinted boulders to Tassie’s island vibe. You better go all in though — the sun is STRONG in Oz and the three-day hike is exposed. Packing list? Sunscreen, hats, and UV protected gear are a must on this excursion.
Knocking on heaven’s (back)door is perhaps a better name for this dreamy hike through ancient Petra. The red sandstone surroundings resemble the familiar desert that holds our beloved Grand Canyon, but as you stroll through the historical footpaths of Petra, you know it’s got more secrets. Blanketed in biblical history and culture, the ancient rose-red city still represents the décor of its ancestors. You should allow two to three hours of trekking time to complete the trail as you steal views of the Holy City and explore Wadi Rum.
Come on, we couldn’t leave off the baddest of them all. If you’re not into risking your life to tackle the WHOLE mountain, we have news for you: the basecamp is just as worthy (without the risk). We are talking 19 days and 17,590 feet of sheer grandeur amongst one of the most wondrous Nepali backdrops. The lengthy journey fascinates hikers with quaint villages and the historical marvels of Kathmandu where you can learn of the spiritual beliefs of the Sherpas. Mountain villages and distant (middle of nowhere) monasteries take over this hike. It should go without saying: The views from camp are vast and extraordinary.
Are you up for the challenge? All 25 miles of it? The Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim hike highlights two billion years of history all tangled up in the rock formations that make up this famed canyon. The biggest question for rim-seekers? North to south or south to north? This depends on what you’re hoping to gain from your experience. If you are in quest of a more intimate affair with Mother Nature, go south to north, as civilization is scarce as you proceed upward. If you start in the north, you will experience a shorter climb ascending the canyon. Pick your poison. Fitt tip: March or November are the best months to conquer the canyon’s rim — the days are mild in temperature.
Crystal blue waters? Check. Red sandstone rocks? Check. Skinny dipping at the final destination? Depends on your mood! But chances are you will be in good spirits after you complete the trek up to this incredible oasis. Greenery is flaunted in the distance to add splashes of most colors of the rainbow (though, red is pretty prevalent). The hike itself is a 10-mile journey that starts with a bang, ascending up for the first 1.5 miles. Stay patient; the trail evens out and is overall a moderate hike. Plan to pitch a tent when you reach the final Supai waterfall. You’ve earned it. But absolutely bring water — the typically 105-degree weather makes no apologies for its blaze.
Still need Africa crossed off your list? Why not combine it with a prestigious hiking feat? The grandest peak in Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro, is not for the faint of heart. It is a challenge both mentally and physically, so preparation is a must! Expect to spend several days (anywhere from five to nine) hiking the legend. You should also expect to dish out some serious cash… this fun is not free. You’ll likely drop anywhere between $1000 and $4,000, but it is best to go with the higher end options to ensure your safety (you pay for what you get). Fork it over for your best experience and bragging rights, of course.
It’s not so much the hike as it is the destination in this Ecuadorian attraction. The hike, which is a three-hour strenuous uphill battle, leads to one of the most visited swing sets in the world. A swing that seemingly hovers over the edge of nothing. Yep, that’s a cliff you’re swinging over; the swing itself is anchored to La Casa del Árbol, or The Tree House. Swingers take caution: there are no seatbelts, or any safety precautions for that matter, so hang on tight. Above all, make a friend and hand them your camera. You’re one flash away from making all your Facebook friends turn green with envy. This should really be your next vacation — come on, we know you can swing it!
Adrenaline junkies and nature-seekers, rally up! Known as one of the most beautiful and dangerous hikes in the world, The Kalalau Trail is serious business and not to be taken lightly. Novice hikers, steer clear. The 11 miles terrain is rarely level and crosses through jagged cliffs and edges, oftentimes making the trail wet, slippery, and unsafe. Why risk it? The trail leads to a remote destination that can only be accessed via foot path and boat. The sandy shoreline is unforgettable with its island allure reaching thousands of meters, sand-dusted palm trees and overflowing jungle. This is precisely why hikers risk it. Well, that and bragging rights!
We’ll keep you up to date on all things health, fitness and local food in Pittsburgh.