Every year the sun comes out and you say “I might take up walking you know.” This is normally followed by a trip to your local outdoors store where you stock up on hiking shoes and water bottles. The good intentions go out the window the first time you are bitten to death or cut a knee by tripping over a stray tree root. I’m an armchair hiker. By that I mean I am in awe of those who can undertake hikes so long I would be apprehensive driving that distance. I like the outdoors but its grubby and I would much rather appreciate the trails from a distance. These aren’t the longest 10, or the toughest 10. But they are epic in more than one way.
10. Pennine Way
The shortest of the trails on this list at 267 miles. Which is still a humongous distance. It starts in Edale, Derbyshire and travels north through the backbone of England to Kirk Yetholm just the other side of the Scottish border. This is one of the toughest on the list as it have a lot of elevations and obstacles to conquer. The Pennine Way came to my attention through the book ‘One Man And His Bog’ by Barry Pilton. It’s a very humorous take on a man trying to walk the length of the trail. The foreword says “If this book should in some small way encourage people to take up walking themselves, then the author suggests they read the book again more carefully”.
9. Trans Canadian
The Trans Canada Trial is breathtakingly long. When it is finally all connected up it will wind its way through 14,000 miles from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. The thing I like most about this trail is that they have used a lot of rail to trail areas. This means long distances of unused railways have been converted into banked hiking trails. This is great it will give hikers an elevated view as well as utilising already in place structures so minimal damage to the wildlife is caused. Unlike most trails it is multiuse meaning bikers, horse riders and skiers can also transverse it. Of course with it being Canada snowmobiles are allowed when it is all under snow. In fact this I can do. I couldn’t think of anything better than snowmobiling across Canada’s snow covered wilderness. It would certainly make for some great photography.
8. Florida Trail
So you want somewhere hot? Somewhere that speaks the lingo? Somewhere that’s easy on the eye? Time to fly to Florida. This 1400 mile trail also gives you options of branches to takee if you fancy a change of scenery. Starting in southern Florida at the Big Cypress National Reserve it works its way north to Gulf Islands National Seashore. The beaches here have ridiculously white sand and are the perfect location to bathe your ruined feet after dodging snakes, car and alligators for a few months.
7. Great Baikal Trail
This one ranks highly with people in the know. It is still being finished and is in a remote part of the world in the Siberian wilderness. It covers the shoreline of Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake in the world. It contains 20% of the world’s unfrozen freshwater as well as being the deepest and clearest. Lake Baikal has been a UNESCO site since 1996 and the trail has only been around the last 10 years. The trail isn’t just flat cold Russia. Due to the lakes and the 395 mile length the terrain it covers is varied. From the Baikal mountains on the north shore to clean beaches on the south shore it feels like you’ve walked through a whole continent despite rarely being out of sight of the lake.
6. Israel National Trail
This beautiful trail covers the whole of Israel from its north east corner to its most southerly tip. The trailhead begins in Dan and winds its way through beautiful country past the Sea Of Galilee. The trail then heads west to the Mediterranean Sea and down the west coast. It passes close Tel-Aviv before a branch takes you into Jerusalem. Despite being only 621 miles long the landscape changes constantly from plush green hills to baron deserts. The walk along the coast to Tel-Aviv is the highlight. One for the historians it passes through many biblical and archaeological sites while bringing in a taste of modern Israel. It is mindful of the current troubles and stays away from the West Bank and Golan Heights.
5. Pacific Crest Trail
At 2663 miles this is a big daddy of trails. It doesn’t mess around. It covers the western United States from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. It’s highest elevation is Forester Pass which stands at a smudge over 4000m. At that height it is a struggle to breathe let along think about walking 2663 miles. On the upside you pass through 7 national parks and over 20 national forests. Despite its length it goes through only 3 states (California, Oregon and Washington). Hiking this trail has to be planned well as it normally takes so long that the weather seasons must be considered. Too late in the year and you’ll be unable to move through the snow. Too early and you could be walking in 40+ degree heat. Despite all this you have no excuse not to talk it. Last year a nine year old called Sierra Burror managed it. Best grab you shoes and maps and get moving!
4. Sultans Trail
No it’s not in Brunei. It is a 1400 mile trail through central and eastern Europe. It begins in Vienna and moves through some of the world’s most historic lands to Istanbul. The trail gains its name from Süleyman Kanuni, a Turk who 500 years ago led his Ottoman army on a rampage to Vienna. His troops managed it in full gear in 141 days. Again you have no excuse! What I like about this trail is the history. It begins at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in the centre of Vienna and ends at the Sultans tomb in Istanbul.
3. Te Araroa
New Zealand is regarded by many as the most beautiful country in the world. It has only been open 18 months after taking over 10 years to build by volunteers. It can be walked in sections by day hikers or it can be conquered by full loaded hiking maniacs! It flows through and around some of the most rugged terrain in the world in a nice round 3000km, or 1875 miles in old money. This is a long one in that it takes most people six months to complete. Recently an ultramarathon runner called Jezz Bragg managed it 53 days but nearly died doing so. This is not one for the feint hearted it often requires mountaineering skills to transverse areas of it. Not one I shall be doing any time soon.
2. Great Himalaya Trail
Ok this one is not strictly finished. But when it does it will occupy the number two spot on this list. This high altitude 2812 mile monster is there to be conquered. It starts in Pakistan and finishes in Tibet taking in the sights and sounds of India, Nepal and Bhutan along the way. Each section has been walked independently but so far only Bhutan and Nepal have been created as finished trails. The Nepal section can be covered in as little as 2 months, but for me the main worry is resupplying. There isn’t a Tesco Metro in sight.
1. Appalachian Trail
Probably the most famous of all the trails the Appalachian Trail gained notoriety in Bill Bryson’s book ‘A Walk In The Woods’. Starting at Springer Mountain in Georgia it works its way 2200 miles north to Mount Katahdin in Maine. Unofficially the trail continues into Canada for 1900 miles. But the original A.T. is where it’s at. Covering 14 states, crossing mountain ranges and national parks it captures the nature and beauty of the United States eastern seaboard. Hikers have to be weary of bears and snakes while tramping up and down huge elevations such as the 2000m high Clingmans Dome. The highlight for many os the Great Smoky Mountains with its phenomenal views and wildlife. The trail does however contain a danger unlike most others. The Hundred-Mile Wilderness just south of Baxter State park is somewhere you do not want to get lost. There is and will be no help. You are on your own fella. Saying that, where else are you going to get a chance to wander at ease through a section of the Earth so untouched by man you could pick your nose at ease knowing nobody will ever know………. Except the bear 6 feet behind you ready to paw your scalp off to get at that chocolate bar in your bag.