Top 40 Favorite Hikes of All Time

Active/Outdoors, Around the World — By NileGuide staff on April 24, 2009 at 9:09 am
To cap off green week on the NileGuide blog, I present my top 40 favorite hikes of all time. I’ve attempted to include a good balance of trails in North America and around the world, and to feature hikes that take in mountains, canyons, culture, jungle and tundra. I hope you enjoy, and please submit your own choices for inclusion in a future post showcasing top picks from our readers. Click on each photo for a higher resolution.
Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon 1. Buckskin Gulch/Paria Canyon – The ultimate desert slot canyon route, the “trail” takes you through a continuing maze of slots, many of them hundreds of feet high but only several feet wide. Once you leave the Gulch and enter the main Paria Canyon, you’ll walk through the shallow Paria River, avoiding quicksand while staring up hundreds of feets at red rock walls that constantly change color as the light changes throughout the day.
Kalalau Trail, Kauai 2. Kalalau Trail, Kauai – What could be better than gorgeous ocean views, tropical vegetation, towering waterfalls, and remote beaches only accessible by trail or boat? It’s been written about a lot, and with good reason: it’s the preeminent Hawaiian trail experience.
On the road to Zuleta, Ecuador 3. Cusin to Zuleta, Ecuador – Starting at Hacienda Cusin outside Otavalo, this walk follows ancient Quechua pathways and roads through rural villages and patchwork fields, with views of huge volcanoes like Imbabura and Cayambe. Finish your walk with a relaxing stay at Hacienda Zuleta, a wonderful colonial-era hacienda.
Pacific Crest Trail stream crossing, Rae Lakes Loop 4. Rae Lakes Loop, Kings Canyon NP, California – a classic Sierra Nevada backpacking trip, with huge waterfalls, towering trees, smooth white granite, jagged peaks, deep blue lakes, and high country snow in the summer. All without the crowds of Yosemite. It doesn’t get much better.
Virgin Narrows, Zion NP 5. Virgin Narrows, Zion NP, Utah – the preeminent desert Southwest experience, hiking through the cold Virgin River amidst towering sandstone walls, with occasional cottonwood trees lending color to the infinite hues of brown and gold.

Clayoquot Sound 6. Coast Walk, Tofino, B.C. – the route follows some of the outermost islands along the Clayoquot Sound, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll find pristine beaches, tidepools and sea stacks, and virgin temperate rainforest. It’s a classic Pacific Northwest coastal experience.
Torres del Paine 7. “W” route, Torres del Paine NP, Chile – one of the finest 5 days walks in the world; on this route you can experience 4 seasons in 1 hour, stunning alpine scenery, glaciers, wind and more wind, and choose to either camp or spent your nights in comfortable hosterias.
ice jumping on the Kongakut River, ANWR 8. Baseline Creek, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska – if remote wilderness is your criteria for a great hike, you find one better than this. There may not be another human being within 100 miles, and your closest companions will be bears, Dall sheep, and caribou.
view from high on Mt. Whitney 9. Mt. Whitney, California – any hiker worth their salt has to top out on the highest peak in the lower 48. It helps that the hike itself if beautiful, with top of the world views of the Sierra Crest, the Owens Valley, and west in Sequoia National Park.
Everest and the Khumbu Icefall 10. Everest Base Camp, Nepal – if you consider yourself an outdoorsy person and/or adventure traveler, you must make a pilgrimage to our planet’s highest point. In addition to the stunning Himalayan scenery, you’ll experience the unique Buddhist Sherpa culture up close. An excellent alternative is to make the trip a loop by hiking up the Gokyo Valley and up over Cho La Pass to the Everest area before coming back down the traditional route.
Teleki Valley, Mount Kenya 11. Mt Kenya – not as popular as Kili, but even more fascinating, this peak is almost exactly on the equator. You’ll see giant plants, Scotland-esque bogs, and jagged glacial peaks. Point Lenana is the 3rd-highest summit and is reachable by a rough trail.
the roof of Africa 12. Mt Kilimanjaro – see it before the glaciers are all gone!
Picos 13. Picos de Europa, Spain – limestone towers, quaint villages, and a climate closer to Ireland make for a surprising and delightful experience in northern Spain, far from the tourist track.
Crossing stream in an alpine meadow below Mount Lyell, Yosemite 14. Mt Lyell, Yosemite NP – while most everyone traipses around the valley, head to Tuolomne Meadows and then into the truly high country for complete Sierra solitude and the most rugged terrain in the park, while topping out on its highest peak.
Mt. Monolith, Tombstone Park 15. Tombstone Mountains, Yukon Territory – Tombstone Provincial Park is one of Canada’s hidden gems, and despite the easy access provided by the Dempster Highway, hikers will find solitude and incredible subarctic terrain; because this area escaped ice age glaciation, the rocks haven’t been worn down by ice, and incredible rock monoliths pierce the sky above the tundra
Vernazza, Cinque Terre 16. Cinque Terre, Italy – enjoy wine, cheese, pasta, and more wine, all while hiking village to village along the stunning coast of Liguria. You can do it in one day, but why not linger and take two or three?
Los Nevados, Venezuela 17. Pico Espejo to Los Nevados, Venezuela – This route starts close to Venezuela’s highest point (reachable by cable car), and it winds through the high paramo vegetation zone down towards a gorgeous and picturesque whitewashed village surround by high peaks and patchwork fields.
Marlborough Sound, New Zealand 18. Queen Charlotte Track, New Zealand – walk through primordial groves of temperate/subtropical native vegetation, and gaze over numerous hidden coves in the Marlborough Sounds.
Basaseachi Falls 19. Basaseachi Falls, Copper Canyon, Mexico – Basaseachi is Mexico’s version of Yosemite, with massive granite walls, pine forests, and high waterfalls. This trail takes you from the rim of the canyon down to the base of the falls, all the while providing stunning views of the labyrithine canyon system.
Tongariro Crossing 20. Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand – unlike the South Island, the North Island is full of volcanic action, and the best way to experience this up close is to hike this route up into an otherworldly crater and past steaming vents and turquoise alkaline lakes.
Positano, Amalfi Coast 21. Path of the Gods, Amalfi Coast, Italy – following the high limestone cliffs above the sea from Positano to Praiano, this walk is a perfect counterweight to the eating, drinking, and relaxing you MUST do.
alpenglow on the Palisades, Dusy Basin 22. Dusy Basin, Kings Canyon NP, California – a relatively short trail brings you straight from the high desert into the alpine zone atop Bishop Pass, and then down into Kings Canyon NP, where you’ll camp in an alpine wonderland beneath the soaring peaks of the Palisades.
Berg Lake Trail 23. Berg Lake Trail, Canadian Rockies – a classic mountain experience, this trail in the shadow of the Canadian Rockies’ highest peak, Mt. Robson, takes in temperate rainforest with giant cedars, thundering waterfalls, alpine meadows, and a glacier plunging into a turquoise lake.
Cirque of the Towers 24. Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Mountains, Wyoming – the trail from Big Sandy to Jackass Pass brings you straight to the Continental Divide, into a stunning amphitheatre of monolithic peaks that are a mecca for rock climbers.
Tomales Point Trail 25. Tomales Point, California – experience the beauty of the California coast in Point Reyes National Seashore. Coastal cliffs and Thule elk, plus springtime wild irises and migrating whales offshore.
Balinese rice paddies 26. Payangan walk, Bali – stroll through timeless rice paddies and rural villages while experiencing first-hand the reality that just about everything grows in Bali’s rich, volcanic soil. Sample green chilies, tropical fruits, durian, jackfruit, and more.
Canyon Creek Lakes, Trinity Alps 27. Canyon Creek Lakes, Trinity Alps, California – the definitive trip into this remote part of northern California, you’ll pass thundering falls and sapphire-blue lakes surround by craggy peaks; you’ll think you’re in the Sierras, without crowds.
Superstition Wilderness 28. Superstition Peak, Arizona – this trail starts from dry sun-baked desert flats and winds its way up through desert-adapted vegetation and ultimately through rock pinnacles and huge views out across the Valley of the Sun.
Bryce Canyon 29. Peek-a-boo Loop, Bryce Canyon – this loop takes you down from the rim (and away from the crowds), deep among the incredible rock formations for which Bryce is justifiably world-famous.
Beehive Basin, Big Sky, MT 30. Beehive Basin, Big Sky, MT – one of the best bang for the buck dayhikes anywhere, this trail takes you into the Spanish Peaks region of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, where you’ll find alpine meadows and lakes surrounded by jagged 10,000 ft+ peaks. Scramble up some of these for 100 mile views south to Yellowstone and north to Bozeman.
MLake, Jasper NP 31. Bald Mountain, Jasper NP, Alberta – while the lower section of this trail may be forgettable, as you emerge into dwarf pines and ascend toward treeline, you’ll be treated to one of the world’s most stunning mountain panoramas, with the deep blue of Maligne Lake backdropped by the sheer snowcapped cliffs of the Canadian Rockies.
North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon 32. North Kaibab Trail, Grand Canyon – on this lesser-known cousin of the more famous trail on the South Rim, this trail plunges from the cool pine forests of the North Rim at 8,000 feet 14 miles down to the baking desert of the Colorado River over a vertical mile below. Along the way, you’ll pass many ecological zones and incredible rock formations.
grazing llamas, Cordillera Real, Bolivia 33. Taquesi Pass and Inca Road, Bolivia – as an alternative to the well-trod Inca Trail to Macchu Picchu, consider walking on some of the best-preserved sections of Inca Road anywhere. Starting in otherworldly canyons outside La Paz, you’ll climb high into the Cordillera Real and ultimately crest 15,400 foot Taquesi Pass before descending steeply into the Amazonian side of the mountains along ancient Incan pathways laid with stone.
hiking the Lost Coast 34. The Lost Coast, California – where Highway 1 cuts away from the rugged coast, this “trail” follows beaches and paths along the mountainous coastline, with classic California coastal views.
the Matterhorn, Zermatt 35. The Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt – whether you do this in spring on skis on in summer by foot, this classic crossing of the high Alps is the definitive Euro hut-to-hut experience.
Gunsight Lake, Glacier National Park 36. St. Marys to Lake McDonald, Glacier NP – cross the Divide from the drier eastern side to the wetter western side, passing sheer cliff faces and keeping an eye out for grizzlies.
Nelson Lakes, New Zealand 37. Nelson Lakes, New Zealand – a short walk to a huge payoff, with a path through a gorgeous beech forest emerging above treeline for big time mountain views.
Wheeler Peak 38. Wheeler Peak, Great Basin NP, Nevada – Great Basin is one of our national park system’s hidden gems, and this trail takes you straight up the summit of the highest peak, though beautiful alpine meadows and serious views from atop the 13,000+ foot summit. Don’t forget to check out the ancient bristlecone pine forest as well.
Arches National Park 39. Devil’s Garden, Arches NP -the best hike in Arches, this semi-loop takes you through some of the coolest natural rock formations on earth, and after about 30 minutes of walking you’re far beyond the drive-by crowd.
hiking above Chicago Basin 40. Bonus: Favorite Hikes of the Colorado Rockies

Chicago Basin – starting from a whistle stop on the old Durango-Silverton Railroad, hike into the heart of the San Juan Mountains in the Weminuche Wilderness. Camp in the Basin, and bag the three 14ers surrounding you – Sunlight, Windom, and Eolus.

Mount Massive, Colorado Mount Massive – this peak sports the most above treeline terrain in all of Colorado (hence its name). The trail itself winds through alpine meadows and up to incredible views of the Sawatch Range.
Hiking Towards Crestone Peak Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle – from South Colony Lake, hike up several trails to bag the premier peaks in the Sange de Cristos. From the same campsite, you can also top out on Kit Carson and Humboldt, also 14ers in their own right.
Hiking Down North Maroon North Maroon Peak – more a scramble than a hike, this peak in the Maroon Bells Wilderness outside Aspen demands concentration and endurance as the “trail” is extremely steep and the rock is rotten. Don’t look down…
Wildflowers on Teocalli Teocalli – there’s a reason Crested Butte hosts the Colorado wildflower festival each year. Hike this trail in July and you’ll see more alpine wildflowers than you knew existed.
View of the Maroon Bells from Gothic Mountain Gothic Mountain – also just outside Crested Butte, the trail to the summit of Gothic sports incredible views of the Elk Range to the north.
Ice Lakes Basin Ice Lakes Basin – near the old mining town of Silverton, this trail winds its way up past wildflowers and jewel-like lakes into a high basin surrounded by the jagged peaks of the high San Juans.
Longs Peak Longs Peak – From the top of this northernmost of Colorado’s 14ers, reached via the famous “keyhole route,” you’ll have hundred-mile views east over the prairie, and you’ll be surrounded by the stunning wilderness of Rocky Mountain National Park.
Tags: glaciers, hikes, jungle, mountains, National Park, trail


  • Spot Cool Travel says:

    Great list!

    I know that the Everest Base Camp trek has the more known brand name but, really, I think Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit trek is more interesting, more scenic and more fun.

  • Suzi says:

    I’m in Northern California, so I heartily agree with your recommendations for my end of the state! In addition to Pt. Reyes & the Lost Coast for coastline hikes, I’d like to recommend Point Lobos State Reserve as another excellent hike – you’ve got cliffs, beaches, otters, sea stacks, whale watching, and gorgeous countryside! I’ve spent some wonderous hours there . . .

  • Holiday Ideas says:

    Great list. Fantastic to see photos of them all.

  • Paul Weller says:

    A bit Americocentric, don’t you think? Only 3 walks in Europe!

  • Bjorn says:

    What about the otter trail South Africa? Most beautiful 5 days of my life.

  • JoAnna says:

    This is a great list, especially because I’m headed to King’s Canyon, Yosemite and Great Basin in the next month. I’ll be sure to check out your recommendations!

  • castielo says:

    Very insightful post, thanks for sharing.

  • cinemaz says:

    Awesome post, Definitely very informative

  • Paz Daylong says:

    Hi, It was a great experianceto visit your blog, will visit you soon.

  • Ken says:

    These sound like some amazing hikes!

  • Espemporium says:

    Hey, nice list. and thanks for the tips. I’m planning to hike at Wheeler Peak, Nevada next month. Excited already. By the way if you like to relax try loose leaf tea.

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