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The world's most incredible day hikes
Read time: 8 mins
Our unforgettable trips will bring you to some of the world’s most magnificent destinations where the best way to experience the sights is to get out for a hike. Whether you head out independently or join a guided walking tour, these are some of the top options.
Four Mile Trail, Yosemite National Park, USA
One of the most scenic national parks in America, Yosemite is renowned for its dramatic mountain peaks with steep granite cliffs that draw hikers and climbers from across the globe, along with countless waterfalls that provide an unforgettable reward for the effort. Located in the heart of Yosemite Valley, the Four Mile Trail leads to Glacier Point, where you’ll find one of the most recognised and impressive views in the park. While it’s 4.7 miles one-way, when Glacier Point Road is open (typically from late April through late October), you can take a shuttle back, making it easy to manage in just a few hours depending on your speed.
The trail climbs from the valley floor near the Swinging Bridge up to Glacier Point, passing colourful wildflowers in the summer. This trek also showcases Yosemite Falls, the highest measured falls in North America at 2,245 feet from the top of the upper falls to the base of the lower falls. It flows from November through July, with peak flow typically in May thanks to the snowmelt.
White Pocket, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona, USA
Located along the border of Utah and Arizona within the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument is a field of colourful, twisted sandstone called White Pocket. The trail is 2.8 miles, out-and-back, but the most unique features in the area can be seen within just a half-mile in. Watch for the long, grooved swirls of white, pink and red as well as what looks like heads of cauliflower known as the “brain rocks.” These windswept formations were shaped by the elements and are some of the most impressive in the Southwest.
The Narrows, Zion National Park, USA
Zion was the first national park to be established in Utah and it’s one of the state’s most popular attractions, particularly with outdoor adventurers. This breathtaking land of unique geologic features, glorious waterfalls, dramatic cliffs and lush greenery, offers some of the best hiking opportunities in the region. The highlight is arguably The Narrows, a gorge with walls that are 1,000 feet high with a river that runs through. While you can view it by taking the one-mile hike on the paved Riverside Walk from the Temple of Sinawaya, it’s best experienced by heading in. The entire 16 miles is often done as a two-day backpacking trip, but you can simply hike up the river as far as you’d like and then turn around to make it fit within a shorter time frame. The views of the 270-million-year-old rock will take you back in time to the Triassic period, when this area was a flat basin at sea level.
The KM 104 Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Peru
Peru's KM 104 Inca Trail isn’t well known, but it’s ideal for getting a taste of the lengthy Inca Trail when you don’t have the time or energy for the full 4 or 5-day trip. You’ll hop off the train at Kilometre 104 along the Cusco-Machu Picchu railroad (hence the name), for an unforgettable 8-mile hike to the Lost City of the Incas that takes about six to seven hours to complete. Most guided trips refer to this as the Two Day Inca Trail, with the first day spent hiking and the second a full day at Machu Picchu, staying overnight in a hotel in Aguas Calientes. The walk will bring you high into the flora and fauna-filled jungle that surrounds Machu Picchu, with orchids often spotted along the way. You’ll have the opportunity to visit the Inca sites of Chachabamba and Wiñay Wayna, before reaching the city that was lost to most for 400 years and rediscovered by explorer Hiram Bingham in 1911. Over a century later, it’s still incredibly awe-inspiring.
Rainbow Gorge, The Drakensberg, South Africa
The Drakensberg, which means Dragon’s Mountain, stretch for over 620 miles and offer some of South Africa’s best hiking with everything from easy half-day treks to multiday trips. The highest mountains in the country, they soar up to 11,422 feet in height. One of the most scenic day hikes here is Rainbow Gorge in the Cathedral Peak section where at the end of the 3.4-mile-long trail, you’ll reach the falls that give its name to the hike. Under the right conditions a rainbow appears among the mist of the cascades. One of the most picturesque routes in the area, it’s mostly flat and recommended even for families with small children, taking about four hours to complete. Keep an eye out for the impressive bird life along the way, with over 340 species here, including 200 breeding pairs of bearded vulture and other large birds such as the cape raven, cape vultures, lanner falcons and jackal buzzards.
Kasteelspoort Hiking Trail, Table Mountain National Park, South Africa
Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most recognisable landmark, looming over the city with its distinctive flat top. The mountain is home to many scenic hiking trails, including routes that lead to the peak. The Kasteelspoort trail offers easy access and is suitable for all fitness levels. It climbs up the Twelve Apostle side providing stunning views of Camps Bay and the Atlantic. At the top you’ll see what’s referred to as the “diving board” where many hikers pose for selfies, but it’s best avoided on a windy day. From here you’ll be able to marvel at Robben Island, Lion’s Head, the Twelve Apostles and the ocean on a clear day. The entire hike is just under two miles, out and back, and takes no more than a few hours to complete. Watch for booted eagles, peregrine falcons, rock kestrels, African harrier-hawks and jackal buzzards along the way.
Mirador Cueros, Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia
Situated in the southern region of Argentina and Chile, Patagonia not only offers some of the most unspoiled natural landscapes and unparalleled vistas in the Andes, but it’s an outdoor enthusiast’s dream. Torres del Paine National Park is one of the highlights here and offers two multiday routes, the O circuit and the W trek, with several stretches that can be walked as day hikes. The Mirador Cuernos hike makes for an ideal afternoon walk that takes just a couple hours to accomplish at around 3 miles round trip to Lake Nordenskjöld and back. It’s one of the most beautiful and easiest to access viewpoints in the park and includes a jaw-dropping waterfall, Salto Grande, at about an hour in.
World Peace Pagoda, Pokhara, Nepal
Pokhara is considered Nepal’s “second city,” and a gateway to the Annapurna region in Western Nepal. Popular among travellers with its jaw-dropping landscapes, variety of cultures and hiking trails, many come here to enjoy multiday treks, but you will find a couple of great day hikes. The route to the World Peace Pagoda provides a good taste of a Nepali trekking experience, with the pagoda located atop a hill just over 4 miles from Pokara. overlooking the Annapurna Mountains that reflect off Lake Phewa Tal below.
Another short day hike here leads to Sarangkot. It takes just 20 minutes to walk the steep forested path and is especially popular for watching a sunrise with the snow-capped peaks of the Annapurna immersed in an orange and pink glow.
Nature Trail to Chiang Dao Caves, Chiang Dao National Park, Thailand
Chiang Dao National Park is a wildlife sanctuary near the border of Myanmar in Chiang Mai Province that’s one of northern Thailand’s most popular places for overnight trekking. Many come to hike the route that leads to the summit of Chiang Dao, a limestone mountain that towers 7,300 feet above sea level overlooking the area’s banana plantations and rice fields. The challenging walk requires a guide and is generally recommended as a two-day trek, but for those without that much time, the well-marked Nature Trail that meanders up the side of the mountain to the Chiang Dao Caves is a great alternative. There are five interconnected caves, with two illuminated by lights that can be explored on your own. Both contain multiple statues, shrines and Buddha images.
Kings Canyon Rim Walk, Australia
Kings Canyon rises nearly 900 feet above sea level in the heart of Australia’s Red Centre. Forged through layers of hard shale and sandstone, producing soaring domes and plateaus that plunge down to an oasis with native flora and fauna and natural rock pools, it was created over some 440 million years. Rise before the peak of the heat to watch the sun come up from the top of the canyon, taking the 3.7-mile Kings Canyon Rim Walk which provides stunning views of the gorge and surrounding landscape. While the first part of the hike is an ascent of 1,000 steps, there are several places to stop, rest and take in the scenery along the way. Looking across to the other side of the canyon, you’ll be able to see the history of the landscape through the layers, from the 330-million-year-old Mereenie sandstone to the 440-million-year-old slope of Carmichael sandstone.
Dove Lake Circuit, Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia
One of Tasmania’s great natural icons, Cradle Mountain is reflected in the mirror-like Dove Lake is and is part of this other-worldly landscape that resembles “Lord of the Rings” scenery with its dolerite summit, the highest of four peaks often enveloped in mist. A hiker’s paradise, you can lace up your boots in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and take all sorts of treks, with everything from easy walking trails that wind around scenic spots like Wombat Pool to a challenging five-day hike on the 50-mile Overland Trail.
The Dove Lake Circuit is one of Tasmania’s premier walks, providing a great intro to the area, leading around Dove Lake and beneath the towering spires of Cardile Mountain. Enjoy spectacular views of the surrounding landscape on the 4-mile loop hike that takes about two hours to complete, with Glacier Rock an interesting along the way. It bears testimony to the glaciers in the region during the Ice Age, and if you look closely, you’ll see striations that run parallel to the length of the lake, caused by rocky debris that moved from the mountain slopes, carving out the basin that would later contain Dove Lake.
Tarnaki Falls, Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
New Zealand’s oldest national park offers incredibly scenic walks for all abilities and ages with the landscape featuring sparkling emerald lakes, hot springs, active volcanoes, lush alpine meadows and waterfalls. While many come to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, considered one of the world’s top single-day treks, for those who don’t have the time to make the steep and challenging 12-mile journey, there are many short distance treks that provide a fabulous taste of the park’s superb scenery, like the route to Tarnaki Falls. This two-hour trek starts at the Whakapapa Visitor Centre and wanders through untamed forest and scrubland, and across the lava line of volcanic eruptions that took place centuries ago. The falls are at about the halfway point, cascading over the edge of a 15,000-year-old lava flow.
Bugaboo Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada
Bugaboo Provincial Park in British Columbia’s Purcell Mountains attracts climbers from across the globe to its glacier-sculpted granite spires, and it’s also a fantastic place for a mountain trek, representing some of the most rugged and scenic remote wilderness on the continent, including the large icefields in the Purcells. The 3.4-mile hike to Applebee Dome Camp is often said to be among the world’s most scenic. It passes Conrad Kain Hut where you’ll marvel at the views of Bugaboo Glacier, Hound’s Tooth and the great walls of Snowpatch Spire. Watch for elk, deer, hummingbirds and bald eagles along the way.
Bow Glacier Falls, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada
One of the most awe-inspiring national parks in Canada, Alberta’s Banff National Park is home to famous jewel-like lakes and abundant wildlife with everything from caribou and elk to black and grizzly bears, while outdoor adventure abounds. Bow Lake, just off the Icefields Parkway (called the “Drive of a Lifetime” by National Geographic), is the starting point for the 5.5-mile roundtrip trek to Bow Glacier Falls. One of the largest lakes in the park, it sits at the base of Bow Summit, which on a calm day is perfectly reflected in the aquamarine waters. The trail hugs the lake providing fabulous views in every direction. By taking the stairs to the falls you’ll be rewarded with some of the most astounding scenery that includes glaciers and an alpine wonderland as well as the mist of the falls against your skin.
Western Brook Pond and Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland, Canada
Possibly one of the most beautiful parks you’ve never heard of, Gros Mountain National Park is located on the west coast of Canada’s easternmost providence, Newfoundland. Spread across the dramatic Long Range Mountains, it’s an outdoor adventurer’s paradise with everything from beaches and lighthouses to rocky mountain peaks, freshwater fjords and abundant wildlife, including around 7,000 moose, one of the highest densities of moose on the planet.
The just over 6-mile roundtrip route to Baker’s Brook Falls will lead you through a balsam fir forest to a spectacular series of cascades with moose frequently spotted in the area. Much of the route is across a flat boardwalk, making it easily doable in just 2 to 3 hours.