Best Hikes Worldwide – My 18 Favorite Epic Hikes

April 29, 2024

best hikes worldwide

Carpe diem, I say! “Seize the day” or maybe “enjoy yourself while you have the chance” would be more appropriate. I’ve had the good fortune to undertake some of the best hikes worldwide.

I will disclose up front that hiking is not my superpower. I don’t hike just for the exercise of it, but rather, my motivations for hiking are:

  1. great view
  2. photo op
  3. bragging rights

I’ve tagged each of the best hikes worldwide below appropriately.

I’ve also indicated whether they are easy, moderate, or challenging (in my opinion).

18 Pico Trails

Azores, Portugal (easy, photo op)

pico azores

Hiking is one of the most popular attractions that bring tourists to the Azores. From moderate walks to entire day strenuous hikes, and even overnight hikes, the trails take you through flower-laden valleys, up gentle or steep mountains, through lava tubes, and around stunning emerald and blue lakes.

The island of Pico holds the biggest attraction to the dedicated walker. Many of the hiking trails on the volcanic island are part of the ancient pathways and lava fields that existed on the island before the appearance of the tar and were used as roads to connect the main villages of the island.

Click here to read 13 Reasons to Visit the Azores.

17 Hanging Rock

North Carolina, USA (easy, photo op)

best hikes worldwide

The 2.6-mile roundtrip trail starts slow and hilly but takes some stamina on the steep part of the trail to get to the top. It’s worth the effort, though. The Instagram-worthy “hanging rock” is amazing….but takes a bit of courage to edge out to the end of the rugged rock, usually accompanied by strong winds. Hikers are rewarded with views of the Piedmont plateau that stretch for miles.

16 Smoky Mountains

Tennessee, USA (moderate, photo op)

Great Smoky Mountains

With 520,000 acres spanning North Carolina and Tennessee, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is the largest protected land area east of the Rockies. It is the most visited park in the United States National Park System.

The park preserves the history of the Appalachian Mountains from the prehistoric Paleo Indians to the European settlers of the 18th century to present-day efforts to protect the ecosystem, wildlife, and nature.

The park is a great place for hikers of all levels, offering 800 miles of trails. Visitors can choose from a serene wildflower walk all the way up to extreme mountain climbing in thick forests.

Click here to read Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains.  

15 Mt. Kearsarge

New Hampshire, USA (moderate, great view)

mt kearsarge

The 2.0-mile out-and-back trail is considered a moderately challenging route that takes 2 – 3 hours to complete, depending on fitness level. The full loop Winslow Trail is steep with lots of boulders to scale and roots to climb over.

On a very clear day, you can see skyscrapers in the city of Boston, 80 miles away, from the fire tower on the 1,100-foot summit.

14 Table Rock

Blue Ridge Mountains, SC, USA (challenging, bragging right)

best hikes worldwide

If you are an average hiker, you can probably complete the very strenuous trek to the top of the 3,100-foot-high granite monolith in 5 hours – three hours up and two hours back down.

It’s one of the most popular trails in all of South Carolina with 50,000 people making the climb every year. I can attest that the trails get very crowded in the summer. As a reward for your hard work, you’ll be treated to spectacular views of the Table Rock Reservoir, Caesars Head, and Pinnacle Lake.

Lucky me, this is one of the best hikes worldwide and is in my home state.

13 Baird Glacier

Alaska, USA (moderate, bragging rights)

best hikes worldwide

Like most glaciers, Baird Glacier is not easy to get to. After reaching by boat, we had to hike quite a ways to get to the glacier. Surviving the first part was tricky.  The rocky path is strewn with slippery boulders of every size, from baseballs to toaster ovens and larger, with sharp, frozen raindrops biting your face and fog obscuring your view. It’s worth the effort though, because finally, the view in the soft sand across the lake to the glaciers is nothing short of otherworldly. You literally feel like you’re on another planet.

Baird may not be the biggest or most majestic glacier in the world, but what makes it stand out from other glaciers is the juxtaposition of the bright pink flowers against the ice formations. I don’t know how the bright pink flowering plants can survive, but they make for exquisite photography.

Click here to read 15 Reasons to Take a Small Ship Cruise to Alaska 

12 Pena de Bernal

Bernal, Mexico (moderate, great view)

pena de bernal

Peña de Bernal is a 1,421-foot monolith, sacred to the Indigenous Otomí-Chichimeca people long before the arrival of the Spanish. The impressive monolith is one of the 13 Natural Wonders of Mexico and is one of the “tallest freestanding monoliths in the world.”

Hikers can ascend a moderately challenging route to the summit along a steep, well-maintained, trail. Near the top, the rocky path becomes steep and slippery, and hikers can hang on to a cable fastened along the side of the stone wall.

Click here to read about my Ascent of Pena de Bernal.

11 Saklikent Gorge

Mugla, Turkey (easy, photo op)

saklikent gorge

Recognized as the longest and deepest canyon in Turkey, Saklikent (“hidden city”) Gorge’s incredible natural beauty will take your breath away. Encompassing rugged cliffs, waterfalls, and 16 caves, it’s a must-see when visiting the Turkish Riviera (about a one-hour drive from the coast).

We started our trek on an easy, scenic wooden boardwalk cantilevered over the river. But soon after, we got to the spot where the adventure began; namely, we had to cross a cold, rushing river with strong rapids, scrambling over slippery boulders, to get to the path. I won’t lie, it was hard to keep my balance, and I was glad for the rope to hold onto. It was dry season…I can’t even imagine doing it during the wet season when the water would be chest-deep.

The rest of the hike was much easier, due to the low water level, and we took frequent stops to take in the splendor (and photos, of course!).

At the end, we stopped to have some refreshments at a charming restaurant with plush, colorful cushions on the river.

10 Inca Trail

Sacred Valley, Peru (easy, bragging right)

inca trail hike

It came as a surprise when the guide announced one morning that we would be doing a portion of the Inca Trail hikes. I was elated!  This is one of the best hikes worldwide, but I was not willing to do the multi-day hike and camping of the “official” Inca Trail, I didn’t think I’d have a chance to walk in the footsteps of the Incas of old. The morning mist soon turned into a bone-chilling rain, but I didn’t care. The scenic path swath through the towering mountains was stunning. We walked on Inca stones, crossed several creeks, past lush terraced hillsides, and through heavenly-smelling eucalyptus forests, and stone bridges.

Click here to read Inca Trail and Other Hikes in Peru’s Sacred Valley.

9 Mt. Hallasan

Jeju Island, Korea (moderate, photo op)

mt hallasan

Mount Hallasan is the highest mountain (6,400 ft. high) in Korea, but don’t let that scare you. There are five hikes of differing levels (from one hour RT to five hours RT) within Hallasan National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hallasan is classified as a still active volcano (having erupted within the last 5,000 years), but currently spews no lava or smoke.

We took one of the shorter hikes (about two hours RT) because we had a lot of things to pack in and didn’t want to spend the entire day climbing. Although short, it was certainly challenging in spots due to the steep incline. The trail began with an earthen footpath, turned into a boardwalk-type path, and then a seemingly endless series of steps (I was thankful for the with handrails) before we reached the summit.

Weather conditions can change fairly quickly in the mountains, and as luck would have it, by the time we got to the top, it was a bit chilly and all we could see was thick fog, with low visibility. It was still fun, though, enveloping us in a kind of mystic, enchanting ambiance.

Click here to read 12 Things to Do on Jeju Island.

8 Devil’s Bathtub

Virginia, USA (challenging in spots, photo op)

devils bathtub

The Devil’s Bathtub is a beautiful and deep natural pool of crystal clear emerald/aquamarine water near Fort Blackmore, in Southwest Virginia. It can be reached by an approximate four-mile roundtrip trail that runs through a picturesque forest.

Even though the trail rises to just 250 feet of elevation gain, it is considered to be difficult since it involves lots of boulder climbing. There are also 13 stream crossings on this trail, strewn with slippery and uneven rocks to cross.

Over time, the churning waters of the Devil’s Fork have carved a hole about 20 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 12 feet deep in solid rock. The depression is well-named as it looks just like a bathtub, and there is even a small waterfall that pours into the basin like a faucet.

The water is ice cold! It is nothing short of spectacular.

Click here to read Hiking Devil’s Bathtub.

7 Mt. Washington

New Hampshire, USA (challenging, bragging right)

best hikes worldwide

I climbed Mount Washington, the crown jewel of White Mountain peaks, twice, both times in my early 20s. Mt. Washington is the highest point in the Northeast and has the dubious distinction of having the world’s worst weather. It has been called the deadliest small mountain in the world; since 1849 over 150 individuals have died in pursuit of the summit.

Since 1642, Mount Washington has attracted those with an adventurous spirit to hike its taxing elevation. It takes around 4 hours to hike the 4.2 miles to the summit via Tuckerman Ravine Trail. The journey down is not much faster and in some ways harder, especially on your knees. Hiking to the summit of Mount Washington is a serious challenge that requires a certain level of physical conditioning.

There’s also the Cog Railway train that takes visitors who do not wish to climb to the summit.

6 Rainforest Trek

Amazon River, Peru (easy, photo op)

best hikes worldwide

The Amazon is home to more species of animals and plants than any other ecosystem on earth. The river is over 4,000 miles long, has more than 1,100 tributaries, and carries more volume of water than the top ten largest rivers flowing into the Atlantic Ocean combined.

Our skiff holding around a dozen people set off to explore the tributaries, creeks and lagoons of the Samiria, Yanayacu and Pucate Rivers.  Along the way, Ericson pointed out wildlife such as macaws, hawks, sloths, and howler monkeys in the jungle canopy.

As we began our trek into the thick rainforest, our young guide bolted ahead of us and reappeared a few minutes later, leading us into an area near a tiny trickling creek, and a baby anaconda.

Our young guide was very astute at discovering the Amazon’s diverse creatures, which to the untrained eye would remain well-hidden by their natural camouflage. From big, hairy tarantulas hiding in trees or lounging on giant leaves to miniscule poison dart frogs – our trek into the famous Amazon jungle was full of surprises.

Click here to read Adventures on the Amazon.

5 Caminito del Rey

Andalusia, Spain (moderate, photo op)

caminito del rey

Aka “The Kings Path,” the Caminito del Rey was once known as the most dangerous hike in the world. The series of walkways are pinned along the 1000-foot steep walls of a narrow gorge over the Guadalhorce River in the Andalusia region of Spain.

The walkway had fallen into serious disrepair – but that did not stop people from exploring it, including having to shimmy across pipes and “walk the plank” where bridges no longer existed. Due to deaths and injuries, the walkway was closed in 2005. After numerous repairs and an entirely new boardwalk along the cliffs built above the old ones, the Caminito del Rey was reopened in 2015 and is now very safe.

The views along the jaw-dropping path are spectacular, and made the hike in sweltering heat worth the effort (as long as you don’t have vertigo)!

4 Elsa’s Kopje

Meru, Kenya (moderate, photo op)

sunrise over meru national park

On our last morning in Meru, we rose before dawn so that we could climb the small mountain nearby to see the sun come up over the savanna.

Our wake-up call at 5:15 am was accompanied by the usual pot of delicious Kenyan coffee and cookies.

“It’s the middle of the night!” I said to Alison who rose to open the door. She took the tray and we took a few minutes to sit on the veranda and gulp as much caffeine as I could to try and wake up.

We met our guide near the pool, and to be honest, between the crisp morning air and the coffee, I was ready for the climb. It wasn’t a long haul, but it was quite steep, and in some places, we had to scramble up large boulders, hand-over-fist, occasionally with a pull up from our guide.

We barely made it to the top of the rocky outcropping as the sun peeked over the horizon. What a spectacular view! Well worth the early morning and exercise exerted.

Click here to read Adventures in Meru National Park.

3 Potato Chip Rock

San Diego, USA (challenging, photo op)

potato chip rock

After seeing the Instagram photos taken at San Diego’s Potato Chip Rock – a sliver of a “potato chip” shaped stone hovering 2,800 feet over the ridge near the summit of Mt. Woodson – I immediately put it on my bucket list.

best hikes worldwide

Out and back is 7.4 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 2,109 feet. It took us around five hours, part of the time under the intense sun. It wasn’t easy, but the hike through boulders lining each side of the path and the views of the lake below gave the trail character and made it bearable, if not pleasant.

Potato Chip Rock

Since we began early in the morning, when we got to the iconic diving board rock that juts out thousands of feet over the gorge, we had the site to ourselves for a long time. We had a blast with multiple wardrobe changes and angles!

Click here to read The Hike to the Instagram Sensation, Potato Chip Rock.

2 Lion’s Head

Cape Town, South Africa (challenging, bragging right)

Lions Head Cape Town

“This must be one of the most beautiful views in the world,” I suggested to my brother, Steve. I stood precariously on a precipice taking in the iconic view of Table Bay and the Mother City – Cape Town, South Africa. I walked just a few steps to the other side of the abyss and found another stunning view of the Atlantic coastline.

Lion’s Head is part of the Table Mountain range, rising to 2,195 feet above sea level. Named by 17th-century Dutch settlers, Lion’s Head and the adjacent mountain at Signal Hill, which is sometimes called “the Lion’s Rump,” form a crouching feline.

A couple of the guidebooks said it would take one hour to hike to the top. Well, maybe – and I do mean maybe – if you are an athletic, avid hiker. I am relatively fit, but it took me around three hours to reach the top. Perhaps the hot sun slowed me down… Yes, that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it.

The majority of the walk is challenging but doable and very enjoyable if you pace yourself and the reward at the top is worth the effort.

Click here to read How I Tamed Lion’s Head.

1 Wadi Mujib

Jordan River, Jordan (challenging, bragging right)

wadi mujib

After lots of pre-trip research, I only decided to hike this extraordinary natural site with much trepidation.

Aka the “Grand Canyon of Jordan,” awe-inspiring Wadi Mujib is a fast-running river that runs through a narrow slot canyon ending at the Dead Sea. I did the strenuous Siq Trail, a 2–3 hour trek pushing against the rushing river, scampering and struggling to get over huge, slick boulders, tenuously crossing multiple waterfalls, and sometimes plunging neck-deep in the rushing water while pulling yourself forward and hanging on for dear life to a rope along the canyon wall.

Every hiker is required to wear a lifejacket, and sturdy water shoes with good treads are recommended.

Wadi Mujib is also believed to be the historical site of Arnon Valley, which once separated the Amorites from the Moabites.

Truth be told, my experience in Wadi Mujib was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done; I did not think I’d be able to do it, but thanks to the help from my guide, Ali, who several times towed me up the rocks by sheer physical strength, I did manage it, and that sense of accomplishment for one of the best hikes worldwide will stay with me forever.

Click here to read Wadi Mujib, Jordan: Scariest Hike Ever.

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of the “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the next few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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