Travel Bloggers & Influencers Share Their Favorite Hike of 2019
From Albania and Alaska to Vietnam and Washington hiking in the Alps, Andes, Ozarks, Tian Shan Mountain Ranges and more. Over 60 bloggers and influencers from around the world have come together to share their favorite hike of 2019! Here’s your big dose of hiking wanderlust for 2020 and beyond!
Sarah – CosmopoliClan
Calanque d’en Vau – Calanques National Park, France
Last August, I explored the lesser-known stretch of the Mediterranean coast between the cities of Marseille and St Tropez. One of the highlights that dot this gorgeous shoreline is the Calanques National Park, which can be explored from the former fishing village of Cassis. A dazzling decor of spectacular towering cliffs and sparkling aquamarine inlets, called calanques, awaits hikers. The Port-Miou trailhead gives way to several trails, all leading to different inlets.
My favorite calanque hike is the one to the Calanque d’en Vau, which is the third of nine inlets. It takes about 1h 30m to reach en-Vau on this 3,8 km (2.35 mi) hike. That doesn’t sound too intensive but – trust me – it is. While the first part of the hike involves a red sandy trail, the terrain soon changes into a very rocky surface with a steep and tricky descent. The views are truly amazing and keep getting better as you reach the Calanque d’en Vau. No better reward after this strenuous hike than a dip in the crystal-clear teal-hued waters of the inlet.
Anita – Travelling Balkans
Theth to Valbona, Albania
One of the most notable hikes within the Balkans, and in fact the entirety of Europe, is the Theth Valbona hike. This route was by far my favorite hike in 2019 because of the stunning views that you are blessed with once reaching the top. The hike can typically take between 6-8 hours depending on how many times you stop for photos; keep in mind you will want to take many whilst doing this hike!
You can start in the sleepy village of Theth or choose to start in Valbona. Whatever you choose I highly recommend staying in Theth for at least a couple of nights because there are many great day hikes and waterfalls in the surrounding area that you can see as well. One of the best hikes is to the Blue Eye, which takes around 3 hours each way.
Along the hike, there are a few café’s where you can stop to refill the water bottles or buy a cold drink to keep you going. If there’s one piece of advice I would give, it would be that you should leave as early as possible, ideally at 7 am so it will guarantee that you will get to either Theth or Valbona before it gets dark. The hike is ideal to do from late May until late October. I did this hike in October when it was around 10 degrees, but still beautiful blue skies and the landscape was filled with autumnal leaves making it incredibly picturesque.
Erin – Curiously Erin
Valbona to Theth – Albania
My favorite hike of 2019 was the Valbona to Theth trail in Albania. Having been living in Montenegro we would always look across Lake Skadar at the Albanian Alps and wonder what hiking possibilities lay so close. After doing a bit of research we found a perfect day hike that consisted of a couple of nights in local villages at either end. We knew it sounded perfect.
After waiting for the snow to melt we headed down to the town of Shkoder in mid-June to commence our hike.
What made this hike so great was not only the impressive views of being surrounded by the Accursed Mountains but also the adventure of getting there. From Shkoder you take an early morning minibus to Koman Lake where you will then take a beautiful 3-hour ferry ride. Once you depart the ferry, you get in another minibus to take you to Valbona where you will find the trailhead. Once you have finished hiking, a bumpy 4×4 journey takes you back to Shkoder from Theth.
The hike is well signed and crosses dry riverbeds, summits a peak and passes through forests and meadows. You can stop and recharge in the local cafes that have popped up along the route. Spring was a perfect time to hike, as everything was beautiful and green and summer in Albania gets very hot. A lot of this hike is in direct sunlight.
Kathi – Watch Me See
Buchaille Etive Beag, Glencoe, Scotland
In Scotland, there is hiking and then there is Munro bagging. A Munro is a Scottish mountain over 3,000 ft. There are 282 of them in the country and many people have declared it their goal to “bag” (climb) them all – they are Munro baggers.
Glencoe is a fantastic area for Munro bagging, especially when you are just starting out and need to warm up your muscles with straight forward routes. There are many hikes in Glencoe – some tougher than others – but one of my favorites is Buachaille Etive Beag. I climbed this Munro for the first time this year as part of a women’s hiking retreat I organized. I took a group of outdoorsy women out to the Highlands and together with our guides, we learned about navigation, route planning and mountain safety. We chose this Munro as the trail is very easy to follow and there are always other hikers en route without it being overcrowded.
As we reached the southern summit, the clouds lifted and revealed fantastic views of the nearby Loch Etive, neighboring mountains and the Glencoe valley. For some women in the group, this was their first Munro and it was such an incredible honor to share this experience with them!
Riley – Riley’s Roves
West Highland Way, Scotland
Scotland’s West Highland Way was my favorite hike of 2019 for many reasons. This was the first long-distance trail I accomplished, and that was a huge goal of mine. It also goes through some of Scotland’s best scenery and showcases my favorite country in breath-taking fashion. But the best part was hiking it with my good friend Marissa.
We had visited Scotland almost two years before, and that’s when we first heard about the trail. At that moment, we both knew we had to hike it. We promised ourselves that we would return to Scotland and walk the West Highland Way.
I think if you had told us we would achieve this dream within 2 years of setting our sights on it, we would have been shocked. Living the seasonal lifestyle leaves my day-to-day life fairly unpredictable, and Marissa was in graduate school at the time and unsure of her future as well. Nevertheless, we were able to meet up in Scotland for a two-week adventure.
We did the trail in 8 days rather than the more popular 7. It winds 96 miles through Scotland’s Highlands region through mountain passes and along popular lochs. Along the way, there are quaint and cozy towns to stay in, and each has a vital pub as well. The terrain itself wasn’t that difficult, but some days were definitely more challenging than others. One day you climb what is dubbed “The Devil’s Staircase”, and on another, you hike 19 miles straight through the most remote portion of the trail. The variety was impeccable, the scenery incomparable, and the company perfect. Marissa grew up outside of New York City and lives there currently. She didn’t start hiking until 2017 when we both worked at Denali National Park. She had limited experience in the outdoors and zero interest in exploring outdoor recreation until accepting the job at Denali. Now, she’s a West Highland Way thru-hiker. We both are!
Anabel – Smudged Postcard
Maderanertal Valley – Switzerland
This summer we took our kids on their first multi-day hike, and they loved it (phew!). Our boys were only aged 8 and 5 so we didn’t want anything too demanding. We did a family-friendly hike in Switzerland and spent three days in the Maderanertal Valley in the canton of Uri in Switzerland.
The route, which begins at Golzern and works its way past a stunning lake, through forests and along a river, is perfect for young children. Lake swimming, foraging for wild blueberries and enjoying fresh produce from a mountain dairy were some of the highlights, along with the incredible mountain scenery. As a result of this trip, our kids have asked for hiking poles for Christmas so hopefully they’re now hooked on this type of holiday!
The hike can be done in two days but we spread it over three days as Lake Golzern deserves an afternoon as it’s such a delightful place, full of families enjoying a bbq and a swim. Although it feels miles from anywhere, the hike is very accessible, the cable car at Bristen which takes you to the start of the hike is under an hour from the Gotthard Tunnel.
Nic – Adventurer Nic
Alpine Passes Trail – Arolla to Mauvoisin, Switzerland
I scheduled a break from work to climb all 282 ‘Munro’ mountains in wild and wonderful Scotland during six months of 2019, involving a whopping 2,000km of hiking with more than 150,000m ascent.
My hiking highlight of 2019, however, had to be walking a section of the Alpine Passes Trail in the Swiss Alps in August. Trekking within the 2,000 to 3,000m altitude range each day meant there were jagged, snow-capped peaks above me, colorful alpine meadows all around and butterflies danced alongside beside me as I walked alongside a glacier-fed turquoise lake. I’d found my hiking paradise!
Shortly after waking on the morning of my birthday in Cabane de Prafleuri, a mountain hut in Valais, I turned a corner to be greeted by a herd of Ibex, with two males dramatically clashing horns only meters away. Around the next corner, whistling marmots chased each other playfully across the meadows. Pausing for a refreshing drink and a bite to eat at Lac de Louvie, in the shadow of the Grand Combin, I realized there was nowhere else I’d rather spend my birthday.
One thing I know for certain, I’ll be returning for more ‘raclette and roam’ in Switzerland in 2020.
Jo – Lost Wanders
Via Ferrata (Murren to Gimmelwald) – Switzerland
This Via Ferrata in Switzerland is an adrenaline junkies dream. Epic views of the Swiss Alps accompanied by sheer cliff faces, ladders to nowhere and bridges dangling over deep ravines. Not for the fainthearted, but big on rewards for those that dare, this iron walkway will have your knees trembling and your heart pounding.
The Via Ferrata, or iron walkway as the name translates, is a 2.2km hike from Murren to Gimmelwald near the popular tourist town of Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland. It should take between 3 to 4 hours to complete and is challenging but attainable with people of a basic fitness level. It starts off with a scramble down a rocky path then a gentle amble through a forest. As you continue the true beauty of this path starts to make itself known with snippets of the magnificent Alps and the valley below.
Before you know it the ground drops away and you’re exposed on a cliff face with narrow iron footholds between you and the town, 2500ft below. A rather intense 5 minutes later you are back on solid ground and feeling capable of anything. The rest of the trail includes some metal rope bridges over waterfalls, a zip-line (for guided tours only) and huge ladders that seem to disappear off the edge of the mountain. The big finale is the Nepal bridge. A final test of your steel. At around 100 meters long the bridge is known to sway a little in the wind but offers breathtaking views of the canyon 80 meters below your feet. Stop in at the Mountain Hostel in Gimmelwald afterwards for a drink to celebrate!
Theresa – Fueled By Wanderlust
Riomaggiore to Monterosso al Mare – Cinque Terre, Italy
My favorite hike of 2019 was the coastal path connecting the colorful villages of Cinque Terre. I am not a hiker, so I questioned whether this was something I could even do. However, I had seen the gorgeous pictures of the incredible views the trail had to offer, so I couldn’t resist trying.
Since this was August in Italy, the day started out cool, but the hot sun was beating down on us by the afternoon. However, this did not take away from our admiration of the deep teal water glittering in the sun with the little villages dotting the background. We made a stop midway through in Vernazza for a gelato and seafood cone snack, before making the final trek to Monterosso al Mare for a dip in the sea.
The hike between the villages of Cinque Terre was very rewarding and taught me that hiking was something I could actually do. Although this hike has some uneven terrain and the occasional steep incline, just about anyone of all fitness levels could do it. I highly recommend giving it a try on a visit to Cinque Terre, as this hike was certainly the highlight for us.
Jen & Dylan – Nomadic Fitzpatricks
Camino de Santiago – Spain
It’s difficult to pick our favorite hike from 2019. After spending six months backpacking around the world to more than twelve countries this year, my husband Dylan and I were afforded some incredible opportunities for hiking.
One particular hike that stands out was hiking a portion of the northern route of Camino de Santiago in Spain this June. We had many days of rain – and quickly learned why the countryside was such a verdant green. Over the course of two weeks, we hiked approximately 170 miles.
After a week of hiking with our “Camino Family”, I became sick and stopped for a day. Worried we would lose touch with our new friends, I was ecstatic after another 12-mile day to reach our albergue and discover our group waiting for us.
While we all came from different countries, walks of life, and careers, we quickly bonded over hiking as pilgrims on the Camino. Those two weeks challenged me beyond anything I imagined, but I wouldn’t change them for the world.
Roshni – The Wanderlust Within
Levado do Rei – Portugal
The best way to explore the small Portuguese island of Madeira is by hiking the unique Levada trails. Dating back to the 16th century, the levadas are a complex network of manmade water channels that irrigate the mountain slopes. They allow water to be carried long distances and feed the island’s banana groves, vineyards and tropical gardens.
My favorite Levada walk has to be Levada do Rei, a half-day hike through one of the world’s best-preserved Laurissilva forests. Only a few hours flight away from London, it was a surprise to be immersed in a lush and exotic green forest. The Levada hike is 10km long and takes you to a remote spot, Ribiero Bonito, which isn’t accessible by road. The hike is fairly flat and an easy walk, but the scenery is reminiscent of Jurassic Park, and at one point you even have to walk THROUGH a waterfall.
Noel – Travel Photo Discovery
Diamond Head – Oahu, Hawaii, USA
Probably one of the most popular activities and adventures to do right in Honolulu, Hawaii is the scenic hike up to Diamond Head. This iconic landmark is a volcanic cone that sits on the edge of the city and commands every single shot of Waikiki beach and landscape.
The hike starts pleasantly on asphalt trails that turn into gravel and dirt and is relatively flat until you hit the uphill parts of the climb. Even though the hike is moderately challenging and uphill most of the way with a tiring uphill tunnel and spiral staircase to the top, the views are truly magnificent with 360-degree views of the entire city and beaches below. Take your time on this 2-hour hike because it is really hot so the best advice is to hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon for amazing light and cooler temperatures hiking this scenic cinder cone that is over 300,000 years old.
While visiting the fantastic city and areas around Honolulu, check out my post on top things to do in Honolulu here for inspiration and planning a vacation to Oahu island.
Nikki – She Saves She Travels
Waimea Canyon Trail – Kauai, Hawaii, USA
My absolute favorite hike in 2019 was the Waimea Canyon Trail in Kauai, Hawaii. When you first think of Hawaii, you’re probably thinking about beaches and luaus. But Hawaii has incredible hiking trails, too! One of the best on the island of Kauai.
The Waimea Canyon Trail is nestled in the heart of the vast Waimea Canyon. Nicknamed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, the views are expansive and worth every challenging step! Seeing the canyon from lookout points up Kokee Road, then venturing into the canyon for a hike was one of my favorite days in Hawaii to date.
The Waimea Canyon Trail is a 2.5-3 hour hike and features one of the most impressive waterfalls on the island, Waipoo Falls. The trail leads you right to the top of this 800 feet waterfall, after giving you the most incredible view of the canyon.
I hiked Kauai in February of 2019, which was just at the start of the rainy season. It was extremely muddy which made the hike more difficult. The best time to hike the Waimea Canyon is September – November, based on Hawaii’s low season and the weather. But honestly, any time you get to Kauai to hike this incredible trail will be a trip to remember!
Catrina – 24 Hours Layover
Angel’s Landing Trail – Arches National Park, Utah, USA
Without a doubt, my favorite hike of the year was when I climbed Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park, Utah in the spring. Angel’s Landing is one of Zion’s most famous hikes. And it’s not just famous for the incredible views. It is one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, with steep drop-offs hundreds of feet down! The climb to the top is strenuous, but the 360-degree views are out of this world. It takes around 4 hours to complete the 5-mile round trip, which is great for those of us who don’t like to spend all day hiking.
The last part of the hike is fairly challenging as you are pulling yourself up using chains 1,500feet above the ground to get to the top. And there are cliff edges on either side of you. This hike is definitely not for the faint-hearted, but is absolutely memorable!
James – Park Collecting
Devil’s Garden Trail – Arches National Park, Utah, USA
My favorite hike in 2019 was the Devil’s Garden Trail in Arches National Park. Before I went there, I was only expecting the arches. I was surprised to discover the spectacular scenery of huge parallel sandstone fins, dramatic cliffs, boulders, sandy washes and sagebrush flats.
Devil’s Garden has all this and eight arches. However, the scenery is only part of the attraction. The hike has several sections. The easy, flat first section, to the longest natural arch in the U.S., Landscape Arch. Then it gets harder as the trail traverses the tops of fins and clings to the sides of others. This part of the trail ends in the stunning Double O Arch. The third section is the primitive trail, which loops back to Landscape Arch. The trail involves plenty of scrambling as it goes up, down and around Fin Canyon and at one point, skirts the steep face of another fin (not good for those with a fear of heights). At just under eight miles, it’s a pretty long hike, but it was loads of fun!
Kristin – Be My Travel Muse
Havasu Falls – Arizona, USA
Havasu Falls is one of the most photographed and famous waterfalls in the US. The baby blue water framed by an orange canyon truly is that stunning in person, which those who are lucky enough to get a permit to hike to Havasupai to it know to be true.
Each year in February, permits go on sale for the right to backpack in and camp for 3 nights – no more and no fewer – for a chance to see the three famous waterfalls in the area. The 8-mile hike in can be grueling in the summertime heat, with no cover, though it’s mostly easy and flat after some switchbacks to get in and out of the canyon.
Hikers must come prepared with tents, food, and all camping gear needed for 3 days. Though there are plenty of people, it didn’t feel especially crowded to me. Thankfully the Supai reservation limits the permits, which keeps numbers steady. That said, plan on shelling out over $300, per person, for the permit. Is it worth it? Yes, yes it is!
Jon – Here Be Barr
Bull Hill Loop – Cold Spring, New York USA
My Favorite Hike of 2019 was an NYC Day Trip to Cold Spring, New York. It’s just 90-minutes from Midtown Manhattan by train via Grand Central Terminal. You literally, walk off the train and pass through the cute little Upstate Town of Cold Spring. And you can take trails as easy as 1 to 2 hours. I loved the views of the Hudson River from above. We ended up hiking for 3 to 4 hours and it was not only incredible exercise but a way to disconnect from all of the hustle and bustle of New York City.
Time it during the fall foliage for extra credit. Better yet, finish the hike and head to Cold Spring for a cold beer and some lunch at one of the many restaurants. They also have some famous antique shopping. This is probably the best accessible hiking trail from Manhattan, without a car. I highly recommend it if you want a true escape from the city!
Kristen – Yonderlust Ramblings
Black Elk Peak – South Dakota, USA
The southwest corner of South Dakota is brimming with outdoor opportunities, including two National Parks, the oldest state park, and a handful of historical monuments, all nestled within the Black Hills wilderness. The best way to experience all these enticing sights is from the highest point in South Dakota, Black Elk Peak!
Black Elk Peak, which I summited in July, was my favorite hike of 2019 because the topography was so dramatically different from any other hike I had completed. One thing to know about this region is that it’s famous for its spires. Craggy, twisted rock formations that reach towards the sky like bony fingers, spread out for miles across the Black Hills.
There are many breathtaking viewpoints along the 7-mile long Black Elk Peak Trail, and also several opportunities to walk between these gigantic spires at their base. The climax of this trail is the chance to stand in the old stone fire tower at the highest point in the state, at 7,244 feet.
This hike is a great option for those looking for a moderate, mid-elevation state highpoint hike, that can be completed in a day. Also fantastic for those looking to make a whole long weekend out of their visit to this region, because when you are finished with the Black Elk Peak hike, you can visit Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, or Wind Cave and Badlands National Park, all within a short drive.
Chelsea – Chelsea In The Wild
Colchuck Lake – Washington, USA
Colchuck is an iconic PNW hike. I hiked this in June 2019, to celebrate my one-year endometriosis surgery date. This area is referred to as the Enchantments, and it’s easy to see why, with so much jaw-dropping beauty on this trail. The hike has a little bit of everything: stream crossings, giant boulder fields, deer, and relentless switchbacks.
Colchuck is considered a gateway to the Enchantments, and if you’re lucky, you’ll be able to see people skiing down Aasgard pass while you’re at the lake. At around 10 miles and 2500 gain, you’ll feel like you earned the views of Colchuck Lake and Aasgard Pass. Bring a swimsuit or a change of clothes in summer to enjoy an icy dip while relaxing at the lake. Consider spending the night in the cute town of Leavenworth just down the road, to make this a great weekend trip from Seattle!
Chelsey – The Ninja Gypsy
Diablo Lake – North Cascades National Park, Washington, USA
Hiking around the world is one of my favorite travel past times, yet this year my best hike was much closer to home. In my home state of Washington (the state, not the capital), we have extraordinary hiking trails from the coastline into the mountains. This past fall, I had the pleasure of teaching a self-defense seminar at an outdoor women’s retreat called Kulapalooza. It was located in the Cascade Mountains at the North Cascade Environmental Learning Center.
When I wasn’t teaching classes, I got to explore the trails in and around the center. Bright orange leaves littered the ground, and the forest looked like an Autumn wonderland. I listened to the tiny creaks bubbling, walked along the trails edging Diablo Lake, embraced the peaceful silence of the forest, and even made my way up to the thundering waterfall.
Many trails crisscross the Cascade Mountains, and this trip sparked my desire to explore more of these gorgeous mountain trails. If you ever travel to Washington, make sure to add hiking to your to-do list!
Cate – Cate Tambeaux
Blue Lake Trail – North Cascades National Park, Washington, USA
My favorite hike of 2019 was Blue Lake. It’s a quick and easy little hike in the North Cascades region of Washington. Popular during late fall, this trail is heavily decorated in larches, a conifer tree that turns golden yellow as winter approaches.
On this particular trip to Blue Lake, the sun was shining and the weather was perfect. While a popular trail, we didn’t encounter hoards of people like I was expecting. We got to enjoy the sun while sitting by the water and looking at all of the larches.
Jon – Jon Erick
Sahale Glacier Hike – North Cascades National Park, Washington, USA
This hike is called Sahale arm to Sahale glacier. It’s a 16-mile hike out and back with a final ascent on a glacier to the summit. This is one of my favorites hikes because of the view you get even from the parking lot.
You get 360 views of glaciers, wildflowers, goats, bears and the most spectacular peaks. I have found in this place a lot about myself so I always appreciate a place that can take me there.
Michelle – The Wandering Queen
Lake Serene – Washington, USA
One of my favorite hikes this year was Lake Serene. Lake Serene is located in Washington State, about an hour and a half northeast of Seattle. It is a challenging but outstanding hike. The distance is around 10.2 miles round trip with an elevation gain of 3,261. The trail is filled with so many stairs that seem to go on forever. But if you can get past that, it is one of the most beautiful hikes near Seattle.
Something that you must do when hiking this trail is viewing the famous Bridal Falls. In between Lake Serene and the trailhead is a 100-foot rock face with streams of water. This is the Bridal Falls waterfall, and it is located around the 2-mile mark. If Lake Serene seems a little too difficult, Bridal Falls is a great hiking alternative. Many families hike to the waterfall as the distance is only four miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1000 feet.
Michele – Adventures Abound
Skyline Trail – Washington, USA
Living in the Pacific Northwest provides endless possibilities for stunning mountain views and moody fog-filled forests, but one hike from this past year really stood out as my absolute favorite, and it wasn’t far from home. Hiking through meadows of avalanche lilies, fields of snow, glacial views and snowmelt streams, and rocky inclines all made the Skyline Trail at Paradise on Mount Tahoma, also known as Mt. Rainier, stand out in 2019.
This trail is unique in many ways, one of which being that it connects with many other side trails around the Paradise Lodge, therefore your hike can a variable length of 5 miles or more. We chose to start our hike clockwise taking the side trails for Deadhorse Creek and Glacier Vista, hiking over snowfields, with cute little marmots peeking out of the rocky juts, as we headed towards Panorama Point. Once we realized the trail continued further up and on, we decided to cut down through a dramatic green valley filled with wildflowers along Golden Gate trail, cutting about a mile out of the hike and head out for some burgers with happy hearts and tired feet, after a memorable day of marching around this beautiful mountain.
Jenny – Jenny The Trailhead
Second Beach – Olympic National Park, Washington, USA
I was very fortunate to bag a handful of beautiful hikes this year; from a relaxing family vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, a 2-week road trip beginning in Illinois and traveling through Iowa, South Dakota, Wyoming and Idaho. And then…there was Washington state.
A long, relaxing weekend with some girlfriends got off to a rocky start with early in the season rain and cold. We had no real itinerary but on our first night there, after we spoke with the park rangers, settled on a permit for Second Beach inside Olympic National Park without really realizing the magic we were about to experience.
Though this hike is very short at only 0.7 miles one way; (to me it’s not about the distance, but about how it leaves you feeling!) the walk is beautiful. A winding dirt path scattered with twisted roots underneath a mossy canopy. Near the final descent to the beach, you’ll finally begin to feel and smell the sea salt air. Sleeping on the beach under a full moon with the crashing waves lulling me to sleep was life-changing.
This was hands down the most incredible experience I had last year. If you find yourself in Olympic National Park this is a must. Make sure to get your permit first and enjoy!
Hayley – Tyrannosaurus Flex
Mount Adams – Washington, USA
My favorite hike of 2019 was through the Mt. Adams wilderness in southern Washington. The end of July brought beautiful blooming wildflowers and the backcountry was teaming with local fauna. The weather was perfect, the air fresh, and the scenery was unbelievable.
The ascent to Lunch Counter was grueling, and although we were sore and exhausted, we reached our spot to set up base camp. This hike really stood out in my mind because even though it was the most difficult hike and climb I’ve ever done and was a real test of physical and mental stamina, I made some amazing new friends and got to share this experience with them. Climbing Mt. Adams was such an incredible challenge, and the sense of accomplishment and pride we all felt was a feeling I haven’t had since Nepal.
Kieara – Hammock Momma
Ozark Trail (Taum Sauk Section) – Missouri, USA
Choosing a favorite hike is always difficult because each time my boots hit the dirt, some sort of magical thing happens. Since I can only choose one favorite for this post I’m going to go with our hike on the Taum Sauk Section of the Ozark Trail.
Saturday of Mother’s Day weekend was our day to go. I planned to meet up with 4-7 other women from all over Missouri and hike from the Taum Sauk trailhead to Devil’s Toll Gate and back. A round trip distance of about 6 miles.
Nature decided that was the perfect day for an all-day downpour. And I do mean downpour! A few ladies who were driving a fair distance decided to wait till the next hike, but 5 of us were still determined to make the hike, rain or no rain!
It turned out to be the best hike of the year! It rained the entire hike, but the waterfalls were absolutely roaring! Plus all-day rain meant no bugs, no heat, and not as many people on the trail (although we did pass a boy scout group headed out on a weekend trip!) It also made for some slightly tricky creek crossings, that were a fun learning experience! No I didn’t fall in! But I did accidentally whack my best friend with a trekking pole!
We made it to Devil’s Toll Gate, which is this awesome rock ‘gate’ that the Ozark Trail passes through. It’s quite beautiful, and the rain accompanied by some mist/fog lent it an otherworldly appearance. Almost as if you could walk through it and enter another realm.
If you ever visit southern Missouri I hope you make time to visit Taum Sauk, and the Devil’s Toll Gate! I know I want to go back and visit, and I may even wait for a rainy day just to catch some of that magic again!
Mike – Live Travel Teach
Root Glacier Hike – Wrangell St. Elias National Park, Alaska, USA
Hiking across Root Glacier in Alaska’s Wrangell St Elias National Park will go down as one of my all-time favorite hikes and definitely tops the list for 2019. The hike itself is just the tip of the iceberg since Wrangell St Elias is the USA’s largest national park and also sports a national historic landmark, Kennicott Mine. But you’re here for the hike. The mountain views don’t get any better with Mount Blackburn, the 12th highest peak in North America and the stairway icefall, the largest ice wall outside of the Himalayas.
Take all that into consideration as you distant views but remember that this is a hike across a glacier. As the trail winds through the valley you approach Root Glacier’s toe, don some crampons and venture forth onto the ice. Waves of ice surround you and you’re suddenly grateful that Root Glacier is one of the most stable glaciers out there. Your spikes dig in as you climb up these walls of ice to one vantage point after another. There are glacial blue pools, silt ponds reflecting the sky and if you get thirsty the freshest water you can imagine is at your fingertips. I’ve spent the last 2 years exploring Alaska and can safely say that the Root Glacier hike should be on your bucket list when you visit this outdoor paradise!
Tiff – Follow Tiff’s Journey
Island Lake Hike – Colorado, USA
2019 was the year I finally got to visit some long-awaited lakes including Island Lake and Ice Lake in San Juan Mountains, Colorado. Timing is everything. I’ve waited years to backpack to these beautiful alpine lakes with wildflowers surrounding it and Labor Day weekend was surprisingly the right time to go. Because we camped at the lake, we enjoyed most of it to ourselves and away from all crowds.
The green color of Island Lake was unreal – like nothing I’ve seen before and it literally took my breath away upon first sight. The trail was a bit of a workout since I brought my packraft but it was worth it to explore all around the lake and on the island in the middle. I normally hike with just one partner but I went with two of my main adventure buddies which made it a lot more fun!
Kaleigh – KK Travel and Eats
Twin Sisters Hike – Makoshika State Park, Montana, USA
2019 was a year of domestic travel for me, which means I was able to visit some new states and explore the United States in a deeper way. Of all these new states, Montana is by far one of my favorites. I started this particular trip by visiting Glendive and from here also explored Makoshika State Park. Here you can find and learn about dinosaur fossils that have been found in this State Park. Makoshika is Montana’s largest state park and has the most informative visitors center I’ve ever visited of any state park.
There are plenty of trails to explore as well as camp-sites to stay overnight, but my favorite hike is Twin Sisters. The colors are so vivid and the views are truly great. If you’re interested in dinosaurs or checking out a really beautiful State Park then Makoshika is a great place to visit.
Zach & Julie – Ruhls of the Road
Lake O’Hara – Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada
Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park was by FAR our favorite hike of 2019, a year spent hiking all through the Rocky Mountains. What makes Lake O’Hara so stunning and incredible? That can hardly be put into words, but here goes. The wonderful hiking trails, jaw-dropping views, and lack of crowds are what makes Lake O’Hara stand out.
The hiking trails in Yoho National Park are extremely well managed and well-marked, which is great because there are SO many trails you can take around Lake O’Hara! The Opabin Plateau, located just up the mountain from the lake, is a gorgeous piece of land, and the view from Opabin Prospect is one of the best in all of Canada. Lake O’Hara spreads before you, surrounded by lush greenery and the enormous cliffs of the Rockies, and the blue sky ties it all together.
Yoho National Park shares a border with Banff, but is a bit further of a drive for most people. For that reason, the park is much less busy than Banff, but has equally incredible sites. On top of that, to get to Lake O’Hara is a bit of a challenge. You either have to hike 8 miles to the lake or get a bus ride, for which tickets sell out way in advance. This can be seen as a negative, but it is also a positive because it makes Lake O’Hara so pristine and clean with no crowds! Do yourself a favor and head to Lake O’Hara this ASAP!
Corry – Hiking With Corry
Emerald Peak – Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada
My favorite hike in 2019 was Emerald Peak in Yoho National Park. This hike has been on my list for several years now, and it was so special to tick this one off of my bucket list. This hike was a moderate scramble and it challenged me to use my skills to make it up to the peak. What I loved the most about this hike though is that I got to do it with my mom and dad. It is wonderful to spend time with them hiking! 2019 was another great year of hikes, and I am looking forward to more epic adventures in 2020.
Angela – Angela Travels
Rainbow Range Trail, British Columbia, Canada
Rainbow Range Trail is located on Canadian Highway 20 along British Columbia’s Chilcotin Plateau. Since the trailhead is close to the Freedom Road that connects the coastal town of Bella Coola via land to the rest of British Columbia, the hike is a good option to explore if you ever find yourself in the area.
The trail is on the ancestral land of the Tsilhqot’in Nen and Nuxalk tribes. I did not have many other hiking trails along the drive to the coast and was excited to get out of the van for a day. The trail hikes through forests damaged by fires before arriving at lush alpine lakes just around treeline. The established trail vanishes and the hiker can continue to get a higher viewpoint or turn around. The unique terrain made it memorable with mountains showing various colors from years of erosion caused by glaciers. Take a long break and view the Coast Mountains to the southwest that still had traces of snow high and look oversee Bella Coola Valley and the vibrant Rainbow Range.
Campbell & Alya – Stingy Nomads
West Coast Trail – British Columbia, Canada
2019 was a crazy hiking year, walking 3 Camino De Santiago routes in Spain, hiking in the Himalayas for 2 months and exploring the Canadian Rockies on several adventures. Picking a favorite is almost impossible, but The West Coast Trail hike on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada was really something special. The West Coast Trail is a strenuous 75 km multi-day beach and forest hiking trail on the west coast of Vancouver Island.
I hiked the route in 6 days and 5 nights, which is a common way to complete the entire trail. It is a wild hike and you have to carry your tent, food and gear for the week. A large part of the trail is spent hiking on miles of extensive, white sandy beaches separated by spectacular indigenous forest. We saw bears, orcas, whales and dolphins on this trail! The reputation for being a tough hike is well deserved and the trail can be brutal when there is a lot of rain with slow progress over difficult terrain including pools of mud, ladders, bridges and cable cars. This beautiful challenge is definitely a hike to add to your bucket list.
Matt & Heather – Reason 2 Roam
Canol Heritage Trail – Northwest Territories, Canada
The Canol is an epic 3+ week multi-day trek (222 m, 357 km) along an abandoned WWII pipeline. It is located just south of the Arctic Circle and maybe Canada’s most difficult hike. The bridges are gone, but 35% of the ‘road’ is visible which means you are only route finding for 65% of your time! The remoteness and difficulty mean that only 7 or so people/year get to experience the wild and incredible beauty the Canol contains.
My favorite part of the hike was the MANY river crossings. On small streams, we chose to not break pace and to simply walk across the stream regardless of depth. Once the freezing water was at knee depth, we just grimaced and continued strolling along while drying out. (This never happened, as the next crossing was always around the corner).
The Canol has 4 major river crossings which meant we had to find a way to paddle across each of them. We went with the pack raft option. These inflatable boats fold small enough to carry inside a backpack. When we reached the cold, swift rivers we blew up the rafts, loaded the packs and paddled with our lightweight paddles. There is not a lot of freeboard on these boats, so we emerged on the other side of each river soaking wet and ready for the next creek crossing.
Not for neophytes, this trail will challenge any grizzled backpacking veteran. Our completion glory stories will last forever!
Diego – The World By Diego
Cueva de la Virgen – Nuevo Leon, Mexico
Monterrey, Mexico. My home city and also my favorite place to hike and enjoy outdoor activities! Monterrey is nicknamed the ‘City of Mountains’ since it’s completely surrounded by them. There are so many trails and hiking options that it’s hard to know them all, even after living here for many years.
My favorite hike of 2019 was to the ‘Cueva de la Virgen’, located just 30m away from the city inside the Huasteca canyon. I hiked up there for the first time in February with a very good friend of mine who showed me the way.
What made it so special was just the feeling of standing there, knowing how close I was to the city right behind the mountains, yet so away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. The connection with the raw nature, the good company and the killer views made it top of my 2019 hiking highlights list!
Dane – Holiday From Where
Volcan Tajumulco – Guatemala
Early in 2019 my girlfriend and I entered Guatemala from Mexico and our first planned stop was Volcan Tajumulco. We had seen photos and done some reading but we were not at all prepared for the experience or the beauty that awaited us.
Volcan Tajumulco is fairly out of the way of the rest of the tourist destinations in Guatemala meaning that given the right day or time of year you can have the mountain to yourself. The day we hiked it we were lucky enough to only share the summit with a group of local women in traditional dress, making what looked like a religious pilgrimage to the top.
The hike itself is best broken up into two days due to a few factors. One being the altitude (4220 meters is nothing to laugh at), this can be an absolute killer if you’re not ready for it the other is the weather. Depending on the time of year again clear skies are not always a given so an alpine summit is your best option for getting incredible views. Not to mention stunning photos and the perfect start to any day.
Overall the hike is incredibly rewarding, the views are breathtaking and due to its location, you will be exposed to a healthy dose of local culture and foods making it a pretty all-round perfect travel experience!
Chris – Toone Travels
Choclon Waterfalls – Boquete, Panama
After hiking extensively around the United States for much of my life, 2019 was the year to expand my comfort zone into the jungles of Central America. During the planning process for a trip to Panama, my girlfriend and I discovered a picture of a waterfall that captivated our attention. The only problem was that I couldn’t find any information other than the name of it!
I was finally able to uncover GPS coordinates for the trailhead and use those to capture images from Google Earth of where the path might lead.
The next week we found ourselves in Boquete, Panama and off we went with minimal info, hiking straight into the forest floor. We got lost several times (always turning around before going too far), tried various routes, different access points to the river, and more. Nothing seemed to work until we gave it one last go and sure enough, just around the river bend were two stunning waterfalls pouring into the swimming hole below. We looked around and realized that we had it completely to ourselves.
It took us hours longer to reach the waterfalls than needed and certainly more frustration, but the work we put into it combined with the final destination bumped this trip to the top of my favorite hikes of 2019!
Cindy & Simon – Free Two Roam
Salkantay Trek – Peru
Our favorites hikes are the ones that test our limits. It’s such an achievement to finish something that you weren’t sure you could. Before Peru, we had never done a multi-day hike, let alone one at high altitude. So, when we signed up for the 4-day (60 kilometers) Salkantay Trek in September, we knew that it would be tough.
Sixty kilometers is quite a distance, but the altitude made the trek even harder. So, after reaching the top of the Salkantay Pass on the second day, at 4650 meters above sea-level, we were very proud of ourselves. The hardest part of the trek was done and dusted but it was certainly not the end. There were still many kilometers left to tackle, but the incredible Andean scenery made every huff and puff (that altitude!) worth it.
The Salkantay provides some of the most beautiful scenery we’ve seen; turquoise-blue glacial lakes, snowcapped mountains, fast-flowing rivers, jungle and beautiful wildlife. Of course, the grand finale at Machu Picchu was the best reward for completing the hike.
The Salkantay Trek may have been the hardest hike we’ve done but it is also our favorite for 2019 and our favorite of all time!
Nate – Nate Meets World
Salkantay Trek – Peru
The Salkantay Trek lived up to its expectations. Going into this hike, I was a bit worried about the weather since it was already October which is the start of wet season in the Peruvian Andes. Despite the 10 minutes of rain after lunch on Day 2, the weather was perfect throughout the 4-day, 3-night trek!
What made this my favorite of 2019 was the variety of landscapes I went through on this hike from the crystal clear Humantay Lake on Day 1 to the towering mountain peaks at Salkantay Pass on Day 2 to the rushing waters of Urubamba River on Days 3 & 4.
Reaching Salkantay Pass (4630 meters or 15190 feet) to open skies on the morning of Day 2 was the highlight of the trek. Being up there and soaking in all the incredible 360-degree mountain views is something I will remember the rest of my life. I highly recommend this trek to everyone in Peru whether you are an experienced hiker or a novice who has never done an overnight hike before. It’s definitely something you won’t regret!
Nick and Dariece – Goats on the Road
Machu Picchu Trek – Peru
Our favorite hike in 2019 was Machu Picchu. I know, it’s not an off-track hike and it’s a place that most people already have on their bucket list, but it is an incredible adventure. We decided to go with ExploreAndes and they offer a different route than most other tour operators.
They extend the entire trek from 4 to 5 days and start at a different time than the other tours. This meant that we didn’t really see another group until the second to last day! Arriving at Machu Picchu was just as magical as we had imagined. Even though there were hundreds of other tourists just as eager to get the perfect photo as us, it was still an unforgettable experience.
Mitch – Project Untethered
‘O’ Trek – Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
My top hike from 2019 was the 9-day Torres del Paine “O” Circuit in Chile. it was hands-down the most spectacular hike I’ve done in my life.
The O trek is special because they only allow a limited amount of hikers on the trail each day. That means for the first half of the trek, you have incredible landscapes all to yourself. Then during the second half, you combine paths with the shorter (and more popular) “W” circuit. This means more people, but also more amenities. For me, it was a perfect balance. You start off with a rustic experience and enjoy jaw-dropping views without crowds. Then right when you get tired of roughing it, you join up with the more commercial path.
Lara & James – World Is Your Lobster
Laguna Capri – Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Probably the most famous trek in Patagonia is the Torres del Paine W trek. However I visited Patagonia in the deepest darkest Southern Hemisphere winter (June – August). The Torres del Paine W trek is pretty inaccessible during the winter months, so I headed to El Chaltén to get my trekking fix.
This small village, deep in Argentinian Patagonia is a trekker’s paradise. It sits in the shadow of Monte Fitz Roy, a jagged spiky mountain. El Chaltén in winter is a bit of a ghost town, but we were blessed with beautiful crisp and cold sunny days where we could explore the surrounding area on foot.
El Chaltén’s key strength is that you can do all the treks in the area independently. The routes are well marked, and there is even a trekker’s information center when you enter El Chaltén.
My absolute favorite trek was Laguna Capri and Viewpoint Fitz Roy. What’s so unique about Patagonia is you can see impressive mountains without being at altitude. This differs a lot from the rest of South America (Peru, Ecuador and Colombia). I gaped up at the dramatic Monte Fitz Roy and watched the sun glitter off the ice in Laguna Capri. Patagonia lived up to its windy reputation and we were almost blown off our feet a number of times.
Loma Del Pliegue Tumbado and Laguna Torre are also both fabulous independent day treks you can do in the area.
Jason & Brittany – World Wide Wakleys
Shaime Village Hike, Amazon Region, Ecuador
Hiking through the Ecuadorian Amazon this past summer was one of the highlights of our year. The jungle just feels like home to us. During our time here, we had the privilege of visiting a couple of the indigenous tribes and were also able to take part in a ritual healing ceremony conducted by a shaman in the Shaime village. What an experience!
While we walked through the pristine, lush parts of the rainforest, we learned so much about the illegal mining that’s been taking place in the parts that have already been destroyed. We were even able to see the impact the mining has had first hand while riding in a small boat down one of the tributaries of the Amazon River.
So why was this our favorite hike of 2019? There’s something magical about the rainforest. The Amazon has healing powers, is full of life, and brought us significantly closer to the people we hiked with. By the time we left, we had a better understanding of the rainforest devastation; we gained new experiences and stories to tell; we felt renewed and revived and we found some of our closest friends who we now call family.
Iris – Mind of a Hitchhiker
Fontainhas – Brava, Cape Verde Islands
Brava is the smallest inhabited island of Cabo Verdean archipelago. My partner and I had done lots of hikes the majority of the 9 visitable islands last March, but the hike to Monte Fontainhas – the highest point of Brava – was my favorite.
The small peak is only 976 meters high and fades in comparison to the huge hotspot volcano Pico do Fogo (2829masl) on the neighboring island. But everything on Brava is much more pleasant; there wasn’t a queue to ascend the peak and there was no mandatory guide. In fact, we were alone on the highest edge of a humble crater used as farmland. And the views from the pico were beautiful despite a little pó di terra (ground dust), as is normal for the dry season. We even saw a faded Fogo in the backdrop.
Starting in the town of Nova Sintra we hiked over the peak of Fontainhas and down to Cachaço, from where we hitchhiked back via Nossa Senhora do Monte in two rides. At the end of the day, we’d walked over 18 kilometers and were pretty destroyed, but also felt very accomplished—and very much in need of a shower.
Jackie & Justin – Life of Doing
Penang Hill, Malaysia
We love hiking and try to do at least one hike during every vacation that we go on. During our visit to Penang, Malaysia in November, we decided to hike Penang Hill. Penang Hill is a popular eco-tourist attraction with an observatory deck, food court, and museums.
With a summit of 833 meters (2,733 feet) and a round-trip distance of 5.8 km (3.6 miles), it’s a doable day hike to experience. There are over 20 starting points to hike up Penang Hill. We chose to go on the Heritage Trail as it was next to the cable car station. Most people tend to take the cable car ride to the top of the hill.
What we loved about the hike was that the trail wasn’t crowded or technical. Plus, we walked through the luscious forest so it was quiet and serene. The first half of the trail had steps (although they were very steep!) Along the way, we saw some adorable monkeys in the tree. The second half of the trail required more care with the dirt path and the uprooted trees.
After sweating buckets, we finally made it to the top! The views of the Penang city and mountains were gorgeous and well worth the effort to make the trip.
Ming – Flyerism
Mossy Forest Hike – Malaysia
I am an avid hiker. I mean, who doesn’t love being outdoors these days? It’s less mainstream and nature is full of Instagramable spots. Alas, it’s not always feasible to hike in my home country Malaysia. The weather is always hot and humid, and it’s near impossible to avoid leeches in the tropical jungle.
However, Mossy Forest, one of my favorite hiking trails in 2019, isn’t anything like that. Mossy Forest is located at Cameron Highlands (Pahang) inside Mount Brinchang at 2032 meters above sea level. The forest is well known for its mystical outlook. Some hikers claim that it looks like the one in the movie Lord Of the Rings. Specifically, Mossy Forest is misty, chilly and wet. Here you will come across thick moss surrounding tree trunks and roots covered with primitive ferns. As well, as one of the oldest forests in Malaysia, it is home to monkey cups, orchids, spices, vine, and lichen.
Suffice to say, Mossy Forest is highly recommended. A word of caution though: avoid weekends, school holidays and rainy seasons at all costs.
Megan – Peter Pan Traveler
Kalaw to Inle Lake – Myanmar
I love being outdoors and being active. To me there is nothing better than being outside, breathing in fresh air, and getting some exercise.
This year I hiked all over France, Italy, England, Bali, Thailand and Myanmar. Out of all my hikes, my favorite had to have been when I hiked from Kalaw to Inle Lake in Myanmar. I opted to only do the 2 day/1 night hike, but they have a 3 day/2 night hike if you would prefer a longer hike.
What makes this hike so special, is not the scenery or the challenge of the hike all though these are also amazing, but it is the fact that you are hiking through remote areas of Myanmar.
You are meeting locals along the way, staying in local home-stays with all your meals being prepared by the locals. It is the best way to get off the tourist track and get a more local feel for the country.
Myanmar is a beautiful country, full of beautiful hikes. However, there is something magical about seeing Inle Lake as you hike down into its stunning valley, which is why it was my favorite hike of 2019.
Anne – Travel The Globe 4 Less
Everest Base Camp Trek – Nepal
In October, I headed to Nepal to take on the challenge of a lifetime with a trek to Everest base camp. Over 12 days, we climbed through the verdant rainforest into heather-covered moorland and finally into the lunar landscape of the valley enclosing the Khumbu icefall. During our trek, despite constant altitude sickness and food poisoning, we marveled at majestic views and the resilience of the Nepalese people.
To reach Base Camp, we stumbled across swaying bridges high above the riverbed, clambered over boulders, and struggled to ascend rocky paths while gasping for breath. The effort was worthwhile. We marveled at the mighty Himalayas, the vibrant blue colors glistening within the Khumbu icefall and the huge spears of ice above. Everest base camp was utterly mind-blowing.
The descent was even more sublime as we could finally appreciate the spectacular views as we emerged from the fog of altitude sickness. We shed tears of sadness at the Everest Memorial, tears of joy at our achievement and tears of relief on our safe return to Lukla. From there, we braved ‘the most dangerous airport in the world’ with a jaw-dropping take off from the tiny runway to disembark in civilization.
Michelle – Full-Time Explorer
Tsho Rolpa Trek – Nepal
Now that I live in Nepal, I feel like I get to hear about all the spots locals love to go. The places that don’t have any information online and no guide book recommends. It’s been such an exciting journey going to these places that don’t exist on Google. The Tsho Rolpa trek was a big one for me this past April. The 7-day hike takes you off the beaten path into the Gaurishankar Conservation Area. We saw a total of 10 tourists during the trek. Popular trekking trails in Nepal see hundreds of tourists a day.
The best part was discovering all of the area’s history as we climbed to the high altitude glacial lake. The Rolwaling Valley is a no-kill zone, which means that no animals can be harmed in the area. This law has created an unplanned animal sanctuary in the Himalaya, and it’s one of the few places in the country where you can see yaks roaming free. The Tsho Rolpa Trek also has incredible views, undisturbed villages, and easy to navigate trails.
Mary – Move to Vietnam
Crocodile Lake – Cat Tien National Park, Vietnam
In September, I found out about a Cat Tien National Park which just two-hours away from Saigon. Cat Tien is on the off-the-beaten-path when visiting the South of Vietnam. It’s almost zero tourists, mostly locals and a few foreign tourists. We set off on a hike from the entrance of the National Park to Crocodile Lake which should take us 2-3 hours. First, we took a ferry to the mainland of the Park, then we took a 30-minutes truck drive to the start of the trail.
The trail, in the beginning, is pretty easy as the path is marked and paved, as we go deeper the road became rocky and the chances to get hit by leeches is higher. What I love most about this hike is how easy it is for any age level. The park is filled with barking deer which, unfortunately, we could only hear but not see as they are hard to spot. I loved how not touristy it is and how rich the Park with trees and wild animals.
When we reached the Crocodile Lake, we jumped on a kayak boat and spotted a few crocodiles while the local guide explained to us how they keep the lake safe for the Crocs and how they monitor the population at the healthy level. If you don’t feel like doing the kayak, you can simply sit by the hut and enjoy the magnificent view and serenity of the birds singing.
Heather – Raulerson Girls Travel
Unseen Cliff Temples – Lampang, Thailand
With over 63,000 miles traveled in 2019, it was difficult to pick my favorite hike. After contemplating a bit, the one that kept popping to the top is the hike to the Unseen Cliff Temples in Lampang, Thailand that I explored in December. The mountainous Lampang province is a 3-hour drive from Chiang Mai. Wat Phutthabat Sutthamat is one of the few unseen hidden temples in Thailand making it a unique destination to visit that many people don’t even know about.
Jeeps will take you up half the mountain or you can opt to walk approximately an hour and a half to the 2nd level. From there you have two choices, the easier hike to see Buddha’s footprint or the harder one (800 meters) to the top of the mountain. To reach the top, you have to climb steep rocky terrain on steel staircases that have seen better days. Although they are currently working on creating a new wooden staircase it isn’t finished. There are several scenic areas to rest along the way. Reaching the top, you are treated to a 360-degree panoramic view that provides stunning views of rice paddy fields in the Thung valley 1000 meters below.
Knowing that monks made this trek to pray before there was a staircase including hauling the materials to create the stupas and temples makes this a humbling and worthwhile experience that I’m so fortunate to have had this year.
Ellis – Backpack Adventure
Kolsai Lakes – Kazakhstan
One of my favorite hikes I did in 2019 was the hike to the Kolsai Lakes in Kazakhstan. It might surprise you to hear that Kazakhstan is a perfect destination for outdoor activities. The former capital of Almaty is the gateway to the snowcapped peaks of the beautiful Tien Shan mountains.
One of the best trekking destinations close to Almaty is the Kolsai lakes. To get there it is a 5-hour scenic drive from the city as you move from the steppes into the green rolling hills and then the alpine meadows of Kolsai National Park.
Only the first lake is accessible by car. A perfect place for leisurely walks as well as more serious treks such as the challenging hike to the second Kolsai lake. It’s only 8 kilometers, but the last bit is a steep climb through the forest before the beautiful views over the second lake emerge.
The beauty and nature on the trail are worth all the effort to get to the second lake. I did this hike twice. Both times in spring when the flowers are in bloom. Autumn must also be a beautiful time with the autumn colors in the trees.
Jen – Jen on a Jet Plane
Kaindy Lake – Kazakhstan
A lake with a sunken forest? It sounds like something out of a fairy tale. Kaindy Lake in Kazakhstan has a somewhat darker origin, having formed as a result of an earthquake some 100 years ago, but today it’s a singular geological feat. The trees are preserved under the freezing cold water and their trunks stick out from the water in an eerie yet compelling scene.
The hike itself is roughly a mile and a half each way and very manageable for children or inexperienced hikers. It’s common to see families having a picnic along the water and some even choose to camp here. You’re not able to swim or take a boat out on the water because the submerged trunks aren’t immediately visible and could be harmful.
I enjoyed this hike because the landscape was unlike any I’d ever seen and made me appreciate the beauty of Kazakhstan, a country I now associate alpine lakes and lush greenery.
Cynthia & Niko – Journal of Nomads
Kulikalon Lakes – Tajikistan
The summer of 2019 was one of our favorite summers ever! Niko and I spent most of the time hiking, camping, and horseriding in the mountains of Central Asia. We redid some of our favorite hiking trails of the previous year in Kyrgyzstan, like a 4-day trek to lake Ala Kul, and explored some new ones.
This year, my favorite hike was a 3-day trek to the Kulikalon Lakes in the Fann Mountains of Tajikistan in August. It was my first time ever in Tajikistan and before this trip, I had never heard of the Fann Mountains before.
The Fann Mountains are located in the north-western corner of Tajikistan and are a group of about a hundred mountain peaks with several rising above 4000 meters. They are also home to some of the most stunning azure-colored alpine lakes I’ve ever seen, including the Kulikalon Lakes.
The Kulikalon Lakes are a group of 3 glacial lakes located at an altitude of 2800 meters. The only way you can reach them is on foot. There are a few easy hiking trails leading to the lakes if you’re not a big fan of trekking. My group and I followed one of the harder trails across the Chukurak Pass (at 3106 meters).
It was quite a steep climb up to this mountain pass but the panoramic view over the Kulikalon Lakes was just spectacular! Even though it was cold and windy, we spent more than one hour on top of this mountain pass taking in the view. Another highlight of this hike was camping on the shores of these lakes. It was worth getting up at 5 am to see the sunrise from behind the mountains, making the valley and the lakes bathe in a stunning golden light!
Jarryd & Alesha – Nomadasaurus
Lakes Loop Hike – Tajikistan
We were lucky enough to do a bunch of big treks this year in Kyrgyzstan, Australia, the Cook Islands and Czech Republic, but by far my favorite was the 3-day Lakes Loop Hike in Tajikistan. This stunning trail cuts through the Fann Mountains, a region that very few people visit. Crossing over steep mountain passes, the hike visits some of the most gorgeous glacial alpine lakes in all of Central Asia, and the only people you’ll see along the way are nomadic shepherds herding their livestock.
The best time to walk the Lakes Loop Hike is in August and September when the snow has melted. You can either bring your own camping gear or rent it on the trail. Having hiked in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and other parts of Tajikistan, I can honestly say this was the best trek I’ve experienced in the region.
Gemma & Craig – Two Scots Abroad
Mount Asahidake – Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido, Japan
Japan is known for its bustling capital, Tokyo, shrines in Kyoto and culinary scene of Osaka but its scenic region, Hokkaido, is a Mecca for hikers and nature fans.
2019 saw our (Gemma and Craig, Two Scots Abroad) visit to Japan and we are hooked! Our best hike of the year was executed in Hokkaido, up Mount Asahidake in Daisetsuzan National Park.
The hike starts with a ride up the 360 glass window sky carriage, Asahidake Ropeway then from the base, you hike to the peak at 2,291m through the sulfur wafts and over the rocky paths.
From here you can go on to other hikes but the weather was not on our side so our group made the sensible decision to descend. The only issue with this is hike is the toilet situation. Culturally, you can’t use nature’s lavvy in Japan and there are only toilets at the Base Station and Sugatami Summit Station.
However, one of the best things about the hike is the reward of a hot, steaming onsen bath at the end of the trek. We did this in a private onsen at La Vista which is ideal for those who are not used to getting naked in public or for visitors who have tattoos.
Dinner is also an experience at La Vista. The Yakiniku private BBQ style is great for refueling after a day’s hike. The area has easier walks around Asahidake Visitor Centre if you decide a full day’s hike or multi-day trek is not part of your Hokkaido itinerary.
Wendy – Nomadic Vegan
Kumano Kodo – Japan
While traveling around Japan in November 2019, my husband and I walked the 40-kilometer Nakahechi Imperial Route. This trail is part of a network of ancient pilgrimage routes that are collectively known as the Kumano Kodo. Over the past thousand years or more, these trails have been walked by emperors, samurai warriors and the common people of Japan.
The trails lead to and connect the three most important shrines of Shinto, a religion native to Japan. Our two-day hike finished at the Kumano Hongu Taisha, one of the three main shrines. We passed many smaller shrines and religious statues along the way, collecting stamps at each one as a memento of our journey.
We have walked the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage in Spain every year for the past three years and feel very connected to the pilgrimage experience, so we were excited to experience it in a different but similar way on the Kumano Kodo walk. In 2015, the Camino de Santiago and the Kumano Kodo became twinned as sister pilgrimages, and at the end of our Kumano Kodo we were presented with dual pilgrim certificates showing that we had completed both pilgrimages. They even let us participate in a special drumming ceremony at the shrine, which was a lot of fun!
Agnes – Nomad By Nature
Guozigou Region Hike – Xinjiang, China
It wasn’t hard to decide on my favorite hike of the year 2019. It’s the one that I did last July in the Tian Shan Mountains in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in China. The ranges of Tian Shan are long and very diverse. I had a pleasure to hike in the Guozigou Region, which translates into Fruit Valley Region. Nature here is fantastic! Everywhere you turn you see green grasslands, majestic spruce forests and white peaks contrasting with blue skies.
The best part of the whole experience, was the fact, that there were almost no tourists on the trails, so I had a perfect opportunity to recharge my inner ‘batteries’. The only thing you hear are chirping birds, wind and peacefully grazing horses.
Staying in a Kazakh yurt was another highlight of the trip. Imagine waking up to brisk mountain air and a traditional local breakfast waiting for you, good times.
Taryn – Happiest Outdoors
Overland Track – Tasmania, Australia
If you’re looking for a multi-day hiking trip in Australia, don’t miss the Overland Track in Tasmania. I hiked this 80km (50-mile) trail in February of 2019 (during Australian summer) and it was my favorite hike of the year. It’s a gorgeous trip through the high mountains of Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness area.
The trail starts at Cradle Mountain National Park and finishes at Lake St. Clair National Park, home to the deepest lake in Australia. Along the way, it passes through rare southern temperate rainforest and travels above the treeline through unique alpine terrain. You can even take side trips to climb some of Tasmania’s highest mountains or visit rushing waterfalls.
It’s also one of the best places to see wildlife in Australia. We spotted lots of wallabies and pademelons (members of the kangaroo family), echidnas, possums, wombats, birds, and even snakes. Watching the animals was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
Most hikers take 6 or 7 days to walk the trail and you do need to make advance reservations. There are campsites and communal huts at regular intervals along the way. I really enjoyed the social atmosphere of chatting to the same hikers each night in camp.
Andrea – Get Lost With Andy Bee
Organ Pipes Circuit – Tasmania, Australia
I threw my swag in the boot of my car and did a solo two-week road trip around Tasmania in April 2019.
My favorite hike for 2019 was at Kunyani / Mount Wellington in Tassie, Australia. Tasmania is Australia’s hiking Mecca with stunning walks in every part of the state. Kunyani/ Mount Wellington looms over the capital city of Hobart and is often overlooked as a hiking destination, possibly because it isn’t located in a wilderness area or maybe because it really only offers day hike opportunities. But I loved it! The hiking is invigorating and the views are sensational!
For visitors to Hobart, a short bus ride will take you to the starting point at The Springs. From here, there is a myriad of different hikes to choose from.
I chose the Organ Pipes Circuit which begins steeply but levels out to bring you underneath the spectacular Organ Pipes. From here, the views across Hobart, the Derwent River and beyond open up into a breathtaking vista.
Heading back down into the valley is challenging when you need to negotiate large rock scree. Further down, the vegetation changes into lush green tree ferns.
The unpredictability of this place keeps you on your toes. The weather can change in the blink of an eye so always be prepared.
I have done a lot of hiking this year and some places I’ve been might be a highlight on other people’s list but this one was special to me because it was such an unexpected surprise.
Sherri – Travel Mermaid
Manal Jimalji (Devil’s Thumb) – Queensland, Australia
Unrelenting, unforgiving and utterly euphoric- are a few words that describe my favorite hike of 2019.
Tall, sweeping ranges are abundant here in Tropical North Queensland, so most treks involve a steep climb. But this one, in particular, holds no prisoners. To climb the Thumb, it’s recommended that you have ‘above average’ fitness, climbing skills and reserve 8-9 hours, as you prepare for an ascent to 1020m. The first time I tried it, I had to give up after a measly 1.5k as I ran out of the water!
But the second time wasn’t going to beat me. I came prepared with extra supplies and was determined to face the Devil: a massive granite boulder that overlooks a portion of the Daintree Rainforest. Local Aboriginal tribes could tell you stories of their cultural significance.
Like many before me who have succeeded or failed in climbing Manal Jimalji, little can prepare you for its physical torture. But along with a profound sense of accomplishment, the isolation amidst spectacular scenery makes it worth it. Upon reaching the first vista (pictured above), we were rewarded with breathtaking views of the rainforest and Coral Sea, separated by that cracking Queensland coastline. The grand finale was located at the summit after 5 hours of upward trekking, a moment that felt utterly euphoric.
Jennifer – Backyard Travel Family
Paekakariki Escarpment Track, New Zealand
The Paekakariki Escarpment Track, located in Wellington, on the Te Araroa Trail has to be our favorite New Zealand hike this year. You can’t beat Wellington on a good day, but on a bad day, the wind will knock you over and the sideways rain makes hiking difficult. But after a windy few days in the city, the clouds parted, the sun was shining and we had the absolute perfect day for Wellingtons most beautiful walk. We completed this hike in Spring and the temperatures were perfect, as the exposed walk would have been rather hot in summer.
What makes this walk awesome is the sweeping coastal views and the best swing bridges to cross. The water below is so blue, it feels like a tropical island. The track will take 3-4 hours and runs along the cliffside from Paekakariki to Pukerua Bay. Hundreds of stairs mean this walk isn’t extended by switchbacks, they get to the point and get it done! The 10km trail can be completed by anyone with reasonable fitness, in fact, our children completed it without difficulty. Well serviced by public transport, this hike will be the best thing you will do in the Wellington region.
Heleen & Jurgen – The Global Wizards
Hooker Valley Track – Aoraki/Mount Cook New Zealand
Picking a hike in New Zealand is difficult. The country is scattered with epic treks through its mind-blowing scenery. The Hooker Valley track, however, is definitely one that you should put high on your list. You don’t choose this hike for its difficulty as it is an easy 10 km walk without a lot of altimeters. It’s the unique landscape such as the snowy mountain tops, wild scenery, suspension bridges, glaciers and beautiful views that will bring you here.
The easiest way to reach this track is by camping on the White Horse Hill Campground. The hike starts right next to the campground. During the walk, you’ll follow the Hooker River, which will take you all the way through the valley. It rained a lot the day before we did this trek so crossing the swirling river on the suspension bridges was a thrilling experience. After about 5 km, you reach the goal of this trek, the Hooker Lake. The scenery here is breathtaking. A glacier lake, with big chunks of ice floating towards the shore, with the glacier and the mighty Mount Cook (or Aoraki in the local language) in the background. You’ll never forget this sight!
Sonja – National Park Girl
Mueller Hut Hike – Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park, New Zealand
I visited New Zealand on my honeymoon in February 2019. It was early in the year but the moment our plane touched down on the mountainous and lush South Island, I knew that the trip would be a highlight of the year. Now that 2019 is coming to a close I can say with certainty that it was.
Picking a favorite hike of that trip is a little more difficult, but the Mueller Hut hike in Aoraki/Mt. Cook National Park was the crème de la crème.
The hike to the hut is just under three miles but with a whopping 3,200’ (1000m) of elevation gain. The trail tested us with a relentless and steep incline before it rewarded us with the most spectacular views of the glaciated Aoraki/Mt. Cook and the jagged peaks that surround it. While this can easily be done as a day hike, my husband and I chose to camp near the hut (we picked up camping permits at the DOC office in Mt. Cook Village) so we could experience the sunset, sunrise, and all of the starry moments in between from the lofty ridge. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to the year than that wonderful trip to New Zealand!”
What an epic list! If you loved it as much as I did share with your friend or family members to give them some hiking inspiration too! Did you do any of these hikes on the list? What was your favorite hike of 2019? Share with everyone in the comment section!
If you are looking for even more hiking inspiration, check out the 2018 Favorite Hike collab post!