Stretching more than 3100 miles in length, the Continental Divide Trail is one of the longest and most challenging treks in the entire world. Together with the Appalachian Trail and and the Pacific Crest Trail, the CDT makes up the “Triple Crown” of long distance hikes in America. This spring, blind hiker Trevor Thomas will set out to conquer it, starting the journey along the Canadian border and traveling south to the Mexican border.
Thomas, who lost his sight to illness back in 2005, has already backpacked the full length of both the Appalachian Trail (2175 miles) and the Pacific Crest Trail (2650). In the case of the AT, he went completely unassisted and on the PCT he had help only through deep snow and poorly marked areas. When he sets out on the CDT this June, Thomas will be joined by three companions who will assist him through the more challenging sections, although he expects to hike most of the trail just like any sighted hiker would.
As the name implies, the CDT follows the Continental Divide through the Rocky Mountains, passing through five U.S. states in the process. Thomas’ route will take him, and his team, through Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico. Along the way, they’ll pass through a variety of sub-mountain ranges including the beautiful San Juans, the Sawatch Range, and the breath taking Grand Tetons. The entire journey is expected to take roughly six months to complete.
Most hikers agree: the best way to really learn about a place is to experience it by walking or climbing. It inspired us here at Gadling to take a look in February at the world’s best hikes. There were so many great spots, in fact, we decided to follow it up today with 18 more. This collection of treasured, world-class hikes offers a variety of unforgettable experiences, and promises surprising personal growth with each one. Some have level terrain, while others climb soaring elevations. For the beginner and experienced hiker, there’s something for everyone in each location. Take a look at our picks below.
Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales
The most westerly spot in Wales, this mostly level, cliffside Pembrokeshire Coast trail provides contrasting colors – and inspiration. Along this hike you teeter precariously next to aggressive waves slamming into somber, 50 foot black slate cliffs. But the sun and magical clouds impishly create frequent rainbows that playfully coax you away from the dark edge and into meadows. Take the path that dips down into Abereiddy Bay, where you confront shiny black shale and sand. Stay in St. David’s, and see the 7th Century stone cathedral.
Zion, Utah, USA Zion’s wide range of hikes provides level, valley floor walks, or climbs amidst soaring, majestic rock formations. The Emerald Pools hike is an ideal, beginner’s one-mile walk. An intermediate path to Scout’s Lookout provides a gradual cliff face climb using switchbacks. At Scout’s lookout, a hiker’s decision awaits…There is a deceptively easy, one-mile path which continues up to Angel’s Landing. While other hikes are more physically strenuous, this one can stretch the psyche and nerve of even the most experienced hiker. Precarious, thousand foot drops appear within inches of your feet. The only way to get to (and from) Angel’s Landing, is by holding onto chains – bolted into the rock. Not for the faint-hearted, Angel’s Landing is perhaps the most popular destination hike in the park.
Swanage, Dorset, England
An easy weekend break from London via train, Swanage lies nestled into England’s southeast tip. Here, an established, old-resort charm defines this historic town; however, hikers are treated to an otherwise hidden assortment of eclectic sites that give multiple complexities to the town’s personality. Stay in a B&B, and take the Durlston Castle path past a fascinating, out-of-place Victorian folly. Nearby, is the stalwart Anvil Point lighthouse. The scenic path turns inland, and seemingly out of nowhere, you find yourself seeking refuge at a place that makes a lot of sense – a huge pub. Complete with live music, here you’ll find the best pint you ever tasted. The public bus back to town comes by every hour or two.
A four hour drive from Windhoek, Sossusvlei is the place on earth that seems most like another planet. Home to some of the world’s tallest sand dunes, these dramatic red shapes offer visitors unique visual inspiration set against the blazing sky. Climbing the steep dunes is a challenge for both kids and experienced hikers. Soaring sand ridges appear fragile, but sand grains quickly collect and form angles – banishing your footprints into obscurity. It’s tempting to get lost in all the redness – sit midway up a dune on its ridge, push it down and watch it form over you; you become part of this land. Constant wind and sun encourage dehydration, so your guide should bring plenty of water.
Black Forest, Germany
A well-traveled path meanders through this unforgettable forest that feels like home. Its magical embrace encourages the hiker in a patriarchal, protective way – enticing and beckoning you into the extended forest family. Stay at a B&B in Buhl (we like the Neusatz Pension Linz). After breakfast, head out through vineyards into the Schwarzvald toward the 13th century Windeck Castle. It’s hard to leave the forest’s embrace when you finally reach the castle clearing…do take time to have lunch at the castle and tour the ruins. Just don’t linger too long. The forest’s character changes on the way back. The woods’ earlier warmth evolves into a spooky, shadowy world that questions a hiker’s resolve. After all, this is where the Grimm’s Fairy Tales took place…
Antrim Coast, North Ireland
Across the North Channel from Scotland, Giant’s Causeway provides a shoreline hike amidst a vast collection of geometric, stone columns with an almost spiritual quality. A magnificent study in uniform, artistic rock formations, this “columnar jointing” illustrates how the earth’s magma designs its own ethereal architecture. These structures influence a hiker toward a heavenly, Gothic viewpoint. Stay at Smuggler’s Inn – an easy, 45 minute car ride from Belfast. If it’s summer and not windy, hike across the breath-taking Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.
Captiva Island, Florida Captiva Island is the prettiest beach hike we have ever found. Take a good hat, and before the sun gets intense, ride the tram from the Village to Captiva’s northernmost point. Head south along this other-world, barrier island in the Gulf of Mexico. You’ll share this pristine shoreline with some of the world’s most interesting birds, dolphins and seashells. As you inhale this special sea air, somehow you understand why yoga becomes so important. Continue to the “Mucky Duck” along the beach for a traditional fish and chips lunch, then take the loop back through the island cottages.
Continental Divide Trail, Colorado
Running over 3100 miles, the Continental Divide offers one of the most breathtaking hikes one will ever take in their life, here in the United States. When hiking this trail one will get the feeling of a life journey, see the epiphany in the hike itself, the divide, between the mountains and two states, like ones journey through life. With the average hike taking roughly six months to complete the entire trail this is a life feat, not a day in the park. This is on the list of the top ten hikes for those who are on a life journey, ready to conquer the world, define who they are, and take on the world.
Rock Bridge State Park, Columbia MO Rock Bridge was chosen out of pure experience, and good old memories. This state park is located in the heart of Columbia, Missouri and has been deemed a state park, there for saving it from becoming victim to economic growth and real estate expansion. The park sits on what is called Devils Ice box, which a famous cave, that all of the local schools venture out during science class for field trips, teaching students about the caves and for short expeditions through the park and cave.
Every year, the local high school will bring their students out for a day of orientation. Where they will be given a map, a compass, and a bottle of water, leaving them to go from check point to check point. This is where my hiking experience with the state park comes from, and has offered many memories, and education experiences. This is a park for the whole family, from bat caves to water springs, to miles of nature trails.
Horseshoe Bend, Spirit Lake, Iowa
When you are up north, roughly 12- 15 miles from the NW Iowa/Minnesota border, visit the Iowa Great Lakes and go hiking through Horseshoe Bend. How often can you go hiking through the woods, and come out and see the beach and freshwater lakes? This is a very diverse area and a lot of fun to visit, great for hiking and camping, fishing and swimming, great for a family vacation.
Superior Hiking Trail, Duluth, Minnesota
The Superior Hiking Trail is accessible at many points along the way — and getting on this relatively young trail (conceived in the mid-1980s) is definitely worth it. The 210-mile path extends through wilderness north of Duluth, Minnesota, to the Canadian border; a 40-mile extension is in the works. With knockout views of Lake Superior, the path draws 50,000 people a year, some of whom glimpse bear and moose. (Allow three weeks for the whole trail.
James Dilley Preserve, Laguna Beach, California
For a nice early morning or afternoon hike, you can venture out for a nice “circle track” hike through James Dilley Preserve, located on roughly 3 miles through Laguna beach trail and Barbara’s lake, with an elevation of around 300 + feet. This is a great hike for those looking for a naturalistic and challenging hike to add to your morning or afternoon exercise routine. This trail is going to be your one opportunity to see one of two natural Laguna Beach lakes. Canyon Trial is part of this loop hike, and this is a great workout routine addition.
Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina Grandfather Mountain is a privately owned mountain that has been protected by the owners, and yet shared at the same time. It is a family affair for sure. With several different things to do, and one of them happens to be hiking, on many of their trails, throughout the park, and the Mountain. Some of the mountains offer back trails, which offer cool, Spring like temperatures, offering wonderful and refreshing hiking weather. The mountain offers the opportunity to go across a mile long swinging bridge, see a 360 scenic view of the area, and is a natural habitat for several different endangered species giving you the unique opportunity to see them in their own element and homes.
Mount Scott, Oregon
A five-mile round trip on Mount Scott, the highest peak in Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, offers breathtaking views of the country’s deepest lake, formed by volcanic eruption 7,000 years ago. Along the way, you’ll step past 400-year-old whitebark pines, hardy high-elevation survivors. The view of Crater Lake is so stunning it will appear on Oregon’s commemorative quarter, starting in June. This hike isn’t for the fainthearted; you’ll gain 1,500 feet in 2.5 miles of climbing. But the 360-degree views of the lake, the Klamath Basin, and California’s distant Mount Shasta make it a great destination.
The Kerry Way Walking Trail, Ireland The Kerry Way is a walking holiday which meanders through beautiful Ireland’s largest peninsula, Iveragh and has been called Ireland’s finest walking route. Walking or hiking through the Kerry Way’s 135 mile waymarked trail is primarily inland taking you through river valleys, gouged out by glaciers of the last ice age but with sections giving superb coastal views. You follow a coastline full of inlets and bays, beautiful sandy beaches and unforgiving cliffs.
You will enjoy the hospitality and warmth of the towns and villages of South Kerry which developed here throughout the ages. Glenbeigh – Cahirciveen – Waterville – Caherdaniel, Derrynane – Sneem – Kenmare and Killarney. You walk past the rich archaeological remains which tell the story of the people who lived in the Kingdom of Kerry down through the years and you will marvel at the flora and fauna which changes around each turn in the trail.
North Country National Scenic Trail The North Country National Scenic Trail links scenic, natural, historic, and cultural areas in seven northern states(New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, North Dakota). The approximately four thousand mile long trail includes a variety of hikes from easy walking to challenging treks. When completed, through the efforts of many people, the trail will become the longest continuous hiking trail in the United States. From the Missouri River in North Dakota to the shores of Lake Champlain in New York, the trail allows hikers to experience a variety of features, from clear-flowing streams, to thick Northern woods, from vast prairies to clean lakes.
Topanga State Park Trek, Los Angeles, CA Topanga State Park begins in Pacific Palisades at the end of Los Liones Drive, just north of Sunset Boulevard. Leave the car in the parking lot at the end of the street. From there, follow the trail up to East Topanga Fire Road and follow that to the turnoff for the Parker Mesa Overlook.Switchbacks and steep hill climbs characterize the first two miles of this hike. With an elevation gain of about 1,300 feet, the hike is definitely a tougher climb. But you’ll get rewarded as you gaze out from your vantage point atop the bluff. Enjoy a picnic lunch or relax on a bench while taking in the overlook.