7 of the longest trails the world has to offer

Routes to make you yearn for your hiking boots – from crossing the Himalayas to trekking in Africa.
By Alison Mann

It’s often said that the human body is best designed to handle walking for days on end. Long-distance hikers tell of gaining their ‘hikers legs’ after weeks on the trail. So what better way to get yours than to try out some of the longest trail routes out there?

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Trek across America

Views from the Pacific Crest Trail as hiked by Philip Kramer
Spectacular views from the PCT © Philip Kramer

What: Pacific Crest Trail
Where: Mexico to California, Oregon, Washington to Canada
How long: 4,265km
Wow factor: Everyone will know what you're talking about

America is home to a few super long-distance trails. There’s the PCT, made famous by the movie Wild and the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. These trails are linked by the American Discovery Trail which stretches 8138km. Philip Kramer completed the spectacularly scenic PCT, he says: “The Pacific Crest Trail, whether walked in sections or as a whole, is a complete adventure. You'll haul precious water across the hot, dusty, cactus-riddled Sonoran and Mojave deserts, linger in awe at the stunning granite formations of the Sierra Nevada, weave around the volcanoes of the Cascade Range and, if you're lucky, descend into Canada through the wild and mountainous gates of the North Cascades. “Between the weather, the changing landscape, the towns, the people, and the physical challenge, hiking the PCT provides a beautifully diverse and rich outdoor experience.”

Striving to complete the Trans Canada Trail

View from the TCT in Kananaskis Country, Alberta, Canada
View from the Trans Canada Trail © James Clark

What: Trans Canada Trail
Where: Stretches across Canada
How long: Currently 18,000km (will be 24,000km when complete)
Bragging factor: Once it’s finished, you can say you’ve done the longest in the world.

The Trans Canada Trail is currently 80 percent complete – but unfinished, it is still mighty long. The network of trails currently stretch 18,000km and when it is finished walkers can trek 24,000km. Organisers hope it’ll be complete in 2017.

The Italian trek

The 6166km long Grand Italian Trail crosses the Italain Alps
The Grand Italian Trail spans the Italian Alps © zocchi2/Getty Images

What: Grand Italian Trail (Sentiero Italia)
Where: Across the Italian Alps and through the country
How long: 6166km
Bragging factor: Trekking across the Alps is pretty awesome

How big is Italy exactly? That's the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about this trek. The route weaves across the top of the boot-shaped country, across the imposing Alps before making its way down to the point and over to Sicily and Sardinia. You're sure to see a huge variety of scenery – and no doubt some amazing, carb-heavy food to keep you going.

Touring a Japanese island


A view from the Hokkaido Nature Trail, which circles the island of Hokkaido, Japan
The Hokkaido Nature Trail passes volcanic areas © Imre Cikajlo/Getty Images

What: Hokkaido Nature Trail
Where: The island of Hokkaido
How long: 4585km
Bragging factor: It’s actively volcanic

A diversity of hiking awaits those attempting the 4,585km long trail on the island of Hokkaido. It links the country’s national parks and spots of cultural interest. The trail travels over volcanically-active land, providing rugged trails as well as forests and lakes.

Trekking two African countries

A traditional house seen on the Historical Baker Trail which travels from Uganda to South Sudan
There’s more than landscapes on this trail © Julian Monroe Fisher/thebakertrail.com

What: Baker Historical Trail
Where: Uganda to South Sudan
How long: 805km
Bragging factor: Because of the civil war, few people have completed it

Ok, so it’s not the longest trail but it is 100 percent incredible – and the longest on the African continent. It passes through South Sudan, which broke into civil war in December 2013. Julian Monroe Fisher was part of the team taking on the first trek of the route in January 2014. He says: “Despite the war, we conducted work throughout January and February 2014. All Baker Trail markers were delivered to all maker locations from Juba, South Sudan to the top of the Murchison Falls, northern Uganda, to Baker’s View, looking out across Lake Albert to the Congo.” A peace treaty was signed in August 2015, so organisers are keen to get back to Juba as soon as possible!

Taking on the Himalayas

The Dho Tarap Valley, Nepal is passed during the Great Himalayan Trail
The Dho Tarap Valley, Nepal © Robin Boustead

What: Great Himalayan Trail
Where: Himalayas
How long: Nepal section roughly 1700km (complete trail to reach 4,585km)
Bragging factor: It reaches heights of 6200m

This trail takes trekkers high into the Himalayan mountain range, over arguably some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. The trail has so far been mapped through Nepal, Bhutan, India and Pakistan and work is well under way on the Indian and Tibetan section. Robin Boustead is the pioneer of this effort and says doing the trail is well worthwhile: “Get out there and do it! Get some serious field experience and if you don’t have that then do it with someone who does. No matter how tough you think it’s going to be, it will be tougher! But it is a great, life-changing experience – you genuinely don’t come back the same person. Of course, the views are spectacular too!”

North to south in New Zealand

The Te Araroa trail in New Zealand stretches 3054km
Te Araroa trail New Zealand © Ben Curran

What: Te Araroa
Where: Cape Reinga in the north of New Zealand to Bluff in the south
How long: 3000km
Bragging factor: A proper island adventure

Taking between 50 and 80 days, the Te Araroa travels 3000km across both New Zealand islands. It’s a magnificent landscape of mountains, lakes and forests and was first completed by Geoff Chapple in 1998 – back in the day when it wasn’t so easy to update everything online straight away!

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