Eight Walks in the “Wild”

I just finished reading “Wild”, Cheryl Strayed’s autobiographical account of her 1,100-mile hike on the Pacific Crest Trail. I can imagine myself on an epic hike such as this…or maybe following in the footsteps of pilgrims on the 500-mile Camino de Santiago (the Way of St. James) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port, France to Santiago, Spain…


“Wild” has been made into a movie, starring Reese Witherspoon, now playing in theaters.

Okay, okay, I will probably only experience this hike in my dreams. But Cheryl’s story of physical endurance and self-discovery is all the more inspiring to me because she was a relatively inexperienced hiker, but determined to reach her goal.

For the rest of us… hiking is an adventure you can scale to your ability and timetable, and is usually free. Public walking trails are available around the world, and they often get you out of the tourist crush and lead you to wonderful natural places you couldn’t access by car. Here are eight great walks for inspiration – some we’ve experienced and others are on our list.

1. The Pacific Crest Trail, USA

The Pacific Crest Trail runs from Mexico to Canada, along the peaks of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascade Mountain ranges. Cheryl Strayed hiked 1,100 miles, and a few determined hikers complete the whole trail. But like many epic hikes, there are points you can experience parts of the trail as a day-hike. The section that includes Crater Lake National Park sounds really interesting to me.

2. The Lake Louise Tea House Hike, Alberta, Canada


Lake Agnes – Near the Tea House, 3.5 km from Lake Louise

A hike to the Tea House from Lake Louise is one of many that can be done as a day trip from our home in Calgary, Alberta. This forested hike up a mountain rewards you with spectacular views of Lake Louise, two more lakes and a waterfall. At the top of the hike, next to Lake Agnes and under the Beehive peaks, is the very popular Lake Agnes Tea House. It has been serving tea since 1905, and is a great spot to relax before the hike back down, or continuing your hike further.

  • When to go: June to October
  • Distance: 7 km (4.5 miles) return, about 1-2 hours each way
  • Elevation Gain: 400 m (1300 ft)
  • Altitude: 2135 m (7005 ft)
  • Difficultly: moderate (early June or fall may have snow)
  • Check here for more info.

3. Hadrian’s Wall Path, UK

Milecastle 39 on Hadrian's Wall, near Steel Rigg. Photo courtesy Adam Cuerden

Milecastle 39 on Hadrian’s Wall, near Steel Rigg. Photo courtesy Adam Cuerden

This path follows Hadrian’s Wall, which the Roman emperor Hadrian ordered constructed across the width of England in AD 122.

Today, most of the wall still exists, and it can be walked coast to coast, while enjoying spectacular views across the countryside. Highlights along the way include Roman forts, bridges, wildlife, pubs, cafés, and market towns. This is one I want to try!

  • When to go: May to October
  • Distance: 84 miles coast to coast (135 Km) There are also shorter circular walks based on the Trail.
  • Difficulty: Relatively easy but with rough and uneven ground. Some of it is steep, and there are a lot of stone and timber steps.
  • It is recommended to book accommodation along the trail in advance.
  • Baggage services are available along the Trail.
  • Check the The National Trails website for more information on the Hadrian’s Wall Path.

4. Hiking the Great Wall of China

Darrell on the Great Wall

Darrell on the Great Wall

The Great Wall was constructed to protect the vast Chinese empire and its vast lands, and is one of the world’s greatest feats of engineering. It was constructed and rebuilt over the centuries, but a majority of the existing wall is from the Ming Dynasty. Climbing the wall’s path up steep steps and down valleys is a bucket list experience, and you can choose from a range of areas to climb that suit your interest and ability.

We chose the Mutianyu section, which is good for a day trip from Beijing, but much less crowded and touristy than the nearer Badaling section. The day we went was cool and misty, and we almost had the wall to ourselves. Eventually the sun broke through and the views were spectacular. We spent a couple hours at Mutianyu hiking and taking in the scenery. If you want a bit longer hike there is the Jinshanling to Simatai route, which is about 10.5 kilometers.

  • When to go: year-round
  • Difficulty: Moderate. Some of it is steep and there are a lot of stairs. Some of the less-visited sections are in ruins or missing, so are more challenging.
  • The Badaling and Mutianyu sections are well maintained.

5. Meteora, Greece

A hike in Meteora includes amazing sights both natural and man-made.

About four hours northwest of Athens is Meteora, where unique geological peaks form a dramatic and beautiful natural landscape.  Upon these seemingly inaccessible peaks, monks in the 11th century began building monasteries. Eventually twenty-four of these amazing monasteries were built. Ancient paths weave throughout the area, and guided or independent hikes are possible. We were so glad we had the opportunity to visit this magical and off-the-beaten-track part of Greece.

  • When to go: year-round
  • Difficulty: There are options rated relatively easy to expert.
  • The trails are generally not sign-posted, so only experienced hikers should venture out on their own. To experience Meteora as we did, I would recommend contacting the friendly Visit Meteora office in Kalampaka. Visit Meteora offers guided tours and hikes, but will also assist you with maps and information if you wish to hike independently.
  • For more about our Meteora visit click here.

Our excellent hiking adventure in Meteora was facilitated by Visit Meteora. All opinions are our own.

A hiker consulting his map in Meteora.

6. Bryce Canyon, Utah


Bryce Canyon, Utah / photo credit: jpstanley via photopin cc

Bryce Canyon is another geological wonder with spectacular colors and hoodoos. There are countless walking trails through the canyon, including the day-long Fairyland Loop, Wall Street trail, which laces its way through an alarmingly narrow gorge, and Navajo/Queens Garden Loop. Bryce Canyon is on my list to visit soon.

  • The trails are well laid out and maintained.
  • Spend a day or a week. Camping and lodging facilities are available.
  • To plan your trip check the National Parks Service website.

7. Yoshida Trail, Mount Fuji, Japan


Mount Fuji / photo credit: Alpsdake (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Yoshida Trail starts at the Fuji-Subaru Line 5th Station and leads to the summit from the north side of Mt. Fuji in Yamanashi Prefecture. There are mountain huts and pitstops en route, to rest your feet and bed down for the night.

Mount Fuji is apparently the most climbed mountain in the world, so is more of a community experience, than an alone-with-nature one. Viewing the sunrise from the summit is said to be unforgettable.

  • When to go: early July to early September, perhaps avoiding the busiest week (Obon Week) in mid-August.
  • 170,947 people climbed the Yoshida Trail in summer 2014.
  • It is recommended that climbers stay at mountain huts one night on the way to the summit to adjust to the altitude and temperature.
  • For more information about climbing Mount Fuji click here.

8. The Camino de Santiago, or Way of St. James, Spain

The symbol of the

The scallop shell is the symbol of the Camino de Santiago

The epic Camino de Santiago is really any pilgrimage route that leads to the Cathedral of Satiago de Composela in Galicia, Spain. The most famous is the 500-mile route from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port, France. But there are many others including the Portuguese Way, which begins in either Lisbon or Porto in the north of Portugal. Some go for a religious experience, but people do the walk for many reasons. I would love to try even a portion of this hike some day.

  • When to go: spring and fall are recommended to avoid the heat of summer, and the cold and snow of winter.
  • Most hikers carry a pilgrim’s passport, or credencial, which is stamped with the official St. James stamp along the way.
  • Pilgrims hostels are available along the route.
  • Martin Sheen starred in an inspiring movie, “The Way”, about a father’s journey on the Camino de Santiago. The Way was produced and written by his son, Emilio Estevez.
  • For more about the Camino de Santiago click here.

“Go forth on your path, as it exists only through your walking.” ~ Saint Augustine (354-430).

Have you experienced an epic hike?

39 replies
  1. nancy
    nancy says:

    there’s a great walk, which i’ve not done, in Australia called the Bibbulmun track – having done the Camino, my story which you featured and which i appreciate greatly, i would put this one at the top of my list as it’s in my home country. And also I’d like to do a walking tour of England – bottom to top!
    great article on world walks, Shelley.

    • Shelley
      Shelley says:

      Thanks Nancy, I haven’t heard about the Bibbulmun track. Maybe that will be your next quest we’re reading about! England bottom to top would be great. We have been considering a side to side walking tour of England – much shorter!

  2. alison @GreenWithRenvy
    alison @GreenWithRenvy says:

    No epic hikes in my repertoire Shelly, just a few miles here and there. Most beautiful was probably the family hike we took up the mountain in Banff that overlooks Lake Louise. I love your clever photo shop for the top photo. I always had a fantasy about hiking the PCT until is saw Wild. What an experience she had!

  3. Catherine Sweeney
    Catherine Sweeney says:

    No, I haven’t experienced an epic hike yet, but I’m ready to go — I think. I’ve hiked at Bryce a bit, but didn’t have time to do anything extensive. All of these hikes sound amazing. Hope I get to to all of them (and least part of them) someday.I think I need to see “Wild”, too.

  4. Kay Dougherty
    Kay Dougherty says:

    I really enjoyed this post – it makes me want to allow more time to take hikes when I travel ! You provided just the right amount of information and inspiration. I’m going to tweet this too from @BlBrTravel

  5. Suzanne Stavert
    Suzanne Stavert says:

    LOVED THIS! I thought the movie was inspiring and both of my grown up children thought we should go on a family hike! Hmmm not sure that is a good idea. However, I do have a trip to Bryce planned in June! This was a great post and I will save it!

  6. Sand In My Suitcase
    Sand In My Suitcase says:

    We used to live in Calgary, and hiking from the Chateau Lake Louise up to the tea house was one of our favorite hikes! The best part was the fresh chocolate cake they’d bake in a wood-fired oven up there – so delicious with the tea!

  7. The GypsyNesters
    The GypsyNesters says:

    Loved the movie, and love hiking (even have had the pleasure at several of these locations) but our days of carrying heavy packs over long distances are behind us. So this post was perfect, thanks.

  8. Doreen Pendgracs
    Doreen Pendgracs says:

    Great post, Shelley! I have experiences parts of a few of these walks you’ve mentioned. But I think the trail that I loved the most is the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island, Canada. We accessed the trail at Ucluelet and were wowed at the rugged beauty of the coastline and the massiveness of the fir trees and the 50 shades of green in the rainforest. It was all so very beautiful.

  9. noel
    noel says:

    Amazing hikes and wonderful places to discover. I would love to do a few of those for an actual/personal challenge to myself to do something different in a travel and spiritual journey.

  10. Nancie
    Nancie says:

    I have done two of these, Lake Louise and the Great Wall. (Must go back to the GW, since I lost my camera card, and so not photos~!) I would love to do the Camino de Santiago, or at least a part.

  11. Elaine J. Masters
    Elaine J. Masters says:

    The only long hike I’ve done was far too long ago. For 4 days I camped and hiked through the wilds of summer in Denail Park, Alaska. We came close to Grizzlies, had ground squirrels attack our shoes outside the tent and watched a wild quail family cross our path before venturing onto the highway and taking the park bus back to civilization. I hope to do some of the hikes you’ve mentioned too one day.

  12. Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru
    Betsy Wuebker | PassingThru says:

    Great list! We recently became aware of two more as we looked into doing the Camino: King Ludwig’s Walk in Bavaria (about 100km if I recall correctly), and the Costa Brava trail (about 200 km). We have yet to make up our minds, but like you, I found “Wild” inspiring as well as Sonia Choquette’s book about walking the Camino.

  13. Donna Janke
    Donna Janke says:

    This is a great collection of hikes, all of which I would love to experience (at least a part of it, if not the entire trail). I love to explore areas (city and rural/nature) by walking, but am not in a condition to handle too-strenuous hikes. But there are some areas that are best explored and appreciated on foot.


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