- The MacLehose Trail, Hong Kong. Photograph by Mr Raymond Hau
Saint Jerome once famously said, “Solvitur ambulando,” a Latin phrase meaning “it is solved by walking.” He wasn’t the only man of letters to spot the simple connection between perambulation and elucidation: over the centuries, countless great minds have got into step. “I have walked myself into my best thoughts,” said the Danish philosopher Mr Søren Kierkegaard, while Mr Friedrich Nietzsche, the German philosopher, went further, eulogising, “all truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”.
Put simply, walking is man’s best medicine. And the stronger the dose, the quicker the recovery. If you’re looking to clear your head and refocus, consider hitting a trail. Lack of experience is no obstacle – some of the world’s most inspiring treks can be conquered by complete novices, and most boast views every bit as breathtaking as their more taxing rivals.
Whatever your fitness levels, every one of the following hikes is achievable – and all are extraordinary in their own way. All you have to do is take a good look around you… and embrace the path ahead.
- Kungsleden, Sweden. Photograph by Ms Adelina Darvina/REX Shutterstock
Welcome to the King’s Trail – a national institution in Sweden. In its entirety, this iconic path, carved through the spectacular mountains, forests and lakes of Swedish Lapland, measures more than 250 miles, but you can take on as much or as little as you wish. Split neatly into sections, there are multiple entry and exit points, as well as picturesque fjällstations (mountain huts) en route for overnighting. During the summer months, you can hike late into the evening under the midnight sun, or choose to take on the King’s Trail in the autumn, when you’ll stand a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights. Look out, too, for the indigenous Sami people, who tend their reindeer amid the wild mountain plateaus and foaming rivers of northern Sweden (a popular route starts in the town of Abisko at the trail’s northern end and heads down to the Sami village of Nikkaluokta). A word of warning, though – if you’re planning to take on the King’s Trail between mid-November and mid-March, you’d better pack your cross-country skis.
SANTA CRUZ TREK, PERU
- Santa Cruz Trail, Peru. Photograph by Mr Patrick Brandenburg/Tandem Stills + Motion
With all the natural beauty of the Inca Trail, but none of the lung-busting ascents or hordes of tourists, this classic three- to four-day trek into the Peruvian Andes is only 30 miles long, and is both incredibly beautiful and manageable for beginners. Starting in the Peruvian town of Huaraz and finishing in the village of Cashapampa, the trail slices through the Cordillera Blanca – the world’s most extensive tropical ice-covered mountain range – weaving beneath snow-capped peaks and past remote turquoise lakes as it takes in the highlights of Huascarán National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. From the trail you’ll spot Artesonraju mountain peak, the inspiration for the famous Paramount Pictures logo, as well as all kinds of wildlife, ranging from white-tailed deer to condors and mountain cats. Most operators will arrange for your luggage to be carried on donkeys, so you’re free to completely embrace the serenity and solitude.
ANGELS LANDING, UTAH, US
- Angel’s Landing, Utah. Photograph by Mr Tom Parker
In the US, most national parks have a signature trail. For Death Valley, it’s Golden Canyon; for Yosemite, it’s the Mist Trail; and for Zion, it’s Angels Landing. Unlike many of the other signature routes, Angels Landing is easily completed in a day and is fine for beginners – as long as you have a head for heights. The five mile round trip starts off relatively flat, beneath southern Utah’s famous red cliffs, before tracing a series of short switchbacks called Walter’s Wiggles. The final push, up stairs hewn into the rock, is more mettle-tester than leg-tester, with steep drop-offs on either side, but the reward is more than worth it. You’ll emerge onto Angels Landing itself: a tall, narrow tongue of rock at the apex of the trail, surrounded on three sides by sheer cliffs. The view from up here – out over the valley floor and red rock spires of Zion National Park – is nothing short of sensational.
SUNSHINE COAST TRAIL, BRITISH COLOMBIA, CANADA
- Sunshine Coast Trail, British Colombia, Canada. Photograph by Mr Paul Kamon/Sunshine Coast Tourism
A total of 112 scenic miles winding along British Columbia’s pretty coastline, this is Canada’s longest hut-to-hut hiking trail – and its the only free one. The route passes through mountains and old-growth forests, past lakes, creeks and rivers as it curves around Canada’s west coast, with hikers able to explore a number of walking options ranging from a few hours to the entire trail. There are multiple campsites along the way, or you can stay at one of the trail’s 12 cabins (the best one is arguably the Troubridge Hut, a quaint Douglas-fir-log cabin, which looks more fairy tale than hiking trail). If you have 10 days, try the whole trek from Sarah Point in Desolation Sound to Saltery Bay near Powell River – it’s an absolute gem. Walking isn’t the only option here, either – the Powell Forest Canoe Route shares use of campsites and huts with the Sunshine Coast Trail, so once you’ve walked as far as you wish, you can paddle back again.
LARAPINTA TRAIL, NORTHERN TERRITORY, AUSTRALIA
- The Larapinta Trail, Australia. Photograph courtesy of Tourism Northern Territory
The poster boy of Australian hiking, this well-marked track across Australia’s Northern Territory is an outback classic. From Alice Springs’ famous Telegraph Station at its eastern end to Mount Sonder in the west, the trail’s total length is 139 miles, but it’s split into 12 clear sections, giving plenty of options. One of the best is the World Expeditions package, with bus and jeep support to ferry you into the best sections of the trail over the course of a week, while also moving your luggage between permanent campsites. The going is easy, but the views as you traverse Australia’s Red Centre are nothing short of extraordinary. The route, which traditionally finishes with sunrise on Mount Sonder, also takes in a number of sacred Aboriginal sites, which local elders permit hikers to enter. The best tours include Aboriginal guides as part of your walking party, with ancient stories retold and “songlines” traced around campfires each night. As long as you avoid the searing heat between October and February, this is achievable bushwalking at its very best.
THE MACLEHOSE TRAIL, HONG KONG
- The MacLehose Trail, Hong Kong. Photograph by Mr Raymond Hau
Hong Kong may be one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, but its surrounding New Territories are rural and quiet. The best way to explore this vastly underrated slice of paradise is on the city’s first and longest hiking path – the MacLehose Trail. Named after Hong Kong’s longest serving governor, Sir Murray MacLehose (himself a keen hiker), the 62-mile route runs east to west, curling around the craggy Sai Kung Peninsula before striking along the ridge resisting the northward sprawl of bustling Kowloon. Always easy going, the path takes in rugged peaks, remote valleys and deserted beaches, but is unique in that you have the option to take public transport or a taxi back into the city from the end of every stage. If you have a spare day on your next trip to Hong Kong, this is the perfect means to escape its unrelenting urbanity, to fill your lungs with fresh air and to embrace the oft-overlooked natural beauty of the New Territories.