I’m back!! It’s been a while since my last post. The past couple of weekends have been pretty busy for me, which means it’s been almost 3 weeks since my last hike. This had me feeling a bit uninspired, so I decided to write about my dream hikes to get myself feeling motivated again. This list is by no means exhaustive, but this set of dream hikes will keep me busy and happy for quite a while. So, without further ado, my dream hiking bucket list:
My first three dream trails come as a kind of package deal, as together they make up what is known as the “Triple Crown” of hiking. This term refers to the three major long-distance hiking trails in the U.S.: the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Appalachian Trail (AT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Completion of the Triple Crown involves hiking a total distance of 12 700 km (7900 miles), and Triple Crowners will visit 22 of the 50 U.S. states during these three hikes. The title of “Triple Crowner” has only been officially claimed by several hundred people, and thus is quite the achievement.
The Trail: Pacific Crest Trail, U.S.A.
Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service
The Distance: 4270 km // 2654 miles, from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon, and Washington, following the Sierra Nevada and Cascade ranges
The Sights: 7 national parks, 700 miles of desert in Southern California, the Sierra Nevada mountains (including 8 named passes with elevations above 11, 000 ft.), old growth forests and volcanoes (including Mt. Hood) in Oregon, and the rugged northern Cascades of Washington
The Reason: In the past few years, I have felt a great yearning for the Pacific Northwest. Something about those forests and mountains just calls to me. I’ve long dreamed of taking a trip along the west coast of North America, and what better way to see it all than by foot? Disclaimer: I learned about the PCT (and thru-hiking in general) from the movie ‘Wild’, adapted from the best-selling hiking memoir by Cheryl Strayed. Yes, this technically makes me part of what is becoming known as the ‘Wild effect’. Following the release of the extremely popular book/film, the PCT has seen a massive influx in attempted thru-hikers. In the years before the book’s release, the trail saw around 300 thru-hikers in a year, and the numbers have now climbed to around 3000. This has obviously changed the atmosphere of the trail dramatically, and can cause problems for hikers and the beautiful environments they are there to experience. The ‘Wild effect’ has brought a lot of attention to the PCT, and there are differing opinions on whether this will have a positive or negative effect on the trail. I can only hope these new hikers (including myself!) will continue to treat the PCT with the respect it deserves, so that it can continue to be enjoyed by many generations to come.
The Trail: Appalachian Trail, U.S.A.
Map courtesy of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy
The Distance: 3515 km // 2184 miles, following the Appalachian Mountains from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine
The Sights: the varied sights of the Appalachian Mountains through 14 states: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine
The Reason: Somewhat similarly to the Pacific Northwest, the Appalachian region has always held some intrigue for me. These mountains presented one of the first barriers to the movement of the first American settlers, and so they present a region steeped in culture and history. Walking the length of these ancient mountains would be a truly amazing experience.
Views from the AT in Tennessee and Maine (photos from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy)
The Trail: Continental Divide Trail, U.S.A.
Map courtesy of the Continental Divide Trail Coalition
The Distance: 5000 km // 3100 mi, following the Rocky Mountains from Mexico to Canada
The Sights: 5 U.S. states (New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana), scrubby desert, high and wild mountain regions, the range land of the Great Divide Basin, Yellowstone National Park (including Old Faithful!), Glacier National Park
The Reason: This trail is definitely the Triple Crown trail that I originally felt the least drawn to. It is certainly the least travelled of the three trails with around 200 attempted thru-hikes each year, and is technically not even complete yet (involving some road and cross-country hiking). However, after doing some research I am finding myself more and more drawn to this trail. I at first wasn’t aware that this trail follows the Rocky Mountains, which is a huge draw for me (in case you haven’t picked it up yet, I’m kind of into mountains). After looking at some photos and trail journals for this trail, I’m feeling pretty excited about it. And let’s be honest, the draw of the Triple Crown is just too big to leave this trail un-hiked.
Views from the CDT in Colorado and Wyoming (photos from Continental Divide Trail Coalition)
The Trail: Te Araroa, New Zealand
Map courtesy of Te Araroa Wiki
The Distance: 3000 km // 1864 mi, from one end of New Zealand to the other
The Sights: everything New Zealand has to offer, from beaches and cities to volcanoes and forests
The Reason: I was extremely excited when I found out about this trail. New Zealand has been on my travel bucket list for ages now. (Warning: nerding out ahead) I mean, it’s Middle Earth, people!! I’ve been a huge Tolkien fan since the age of 10, and the scenery of the Lord of the Rings movies always leaves me awestruck. I always knew I wanted to go to New Zealand, and when I found out there was a trail from one end of the country to the other, I knew this was the way I had to see it.
The Trail: Laugavegurinn, Iceland
Map courtesy of Icelandic Mountain Guides
The Distance: 80 km // 50 miles, connecting two Icelandic nature reserves (Landmannalaugar and Þórsmörk)
The Sights: the extremely varied landscapes of the iconic southern highlands of Iceland, including mountains, glaciers, hot springs, rivers, and lakes
The Reason: Once again, Iceland has always been a location at the top of my travel list. I did my undergraduate degree in earth sciences, and Iceland is like a little geology dreamworld (again, rocks and mountains people). For some reason I had never considered a camping trip in Iceland, but as soon as I heard it mentioned by a friend, I knew it was something I needed to do. This trail is the most popular and longest hiking trail in Iceland, but is short enough that it would even leave time to do some other sight-seeing around the country.
The Trail: Great Divide Trail, Canada
Map courtesy of the Great Divide Trail Association
The Distance: 1200 km // 745 miles, following the continental divide along the boundary between Alberta and British Columbia through the Canadian Rockies
The Sights: 5 national parks (including Banff and Jasper), 7 provincial parks, and 1200 km of the Rocky Mountains!!!
The Reason: At this point, I don’t think I even need to explain this one. I mean, it’s the Rocky Mountains. I actually visited the Rockies in Alberta as part of a family vacation at age 10, and while that experience was incredible, I feel like I wasn’t able to fully appreciate it due to my young age. Or at least I don’t remember it as well as I would like to. I’ve always known that I wanted to return to the Canadian Rockies at some point, and this trail is one of the most epic ways to experience them.
Views from the GDT (photos from the Great Divide Trail Association)
And there you have it! My dream hiking bucket list. I can’t wait to start checking these trails off.