Category Archives: Trekking

Hikes of the World

I just wanted to take a moment and list some of my most memorable hikes and also some hikes that I’m hoping someday to do. Please let me know your thoughts on these hikes or any I should add to my list.

Treks I’ve done

Annapurna Circuit, Nepal

2-3 weeks / 260 km

Annapurna 2010

This is my all-time favorite hike and one of the only ones I’ve done twice. There is a road now which is good for people who live there and people who used to have to carry goods up on their head, although I hear it’s made the hike less enjoyable. I don’t think I’ve ever seen nature more beautiful than this, and I don’t know if I ever will.

Annapurna Sanctuary, Nepal

80 km / 5-10 days

Despite the similar name, this is mostly an entirely different hike than the Annapurna Circuit, though it is possible to link up the two. This hike has stairs for days, and in this case that’s not an exaggeration. It’s a really good “easy” Himalaya hike though it must be said it’s not the easiest hike in the world.

Everest Base Camp and 3(ish) Passes, Nepal

3-4 weeks / 220ish* km

Distances in Nepal are usually measured in hours, not kilometers. Furthermore some people (including myself) took a jeep to Jiri and hiked in, which adds a few dozen km on either side. Once you get a high enough elevation, your hiking days become very short as you can only safely gain 300 meters/ 1000 feet of elevation a day. It also depends on how many of the passses you do. When I went, I only summited Cho La because of heavy snowstorms on Kongma and Renjo La. That was in early March, so those hiking later would have no problem. Also Gokyo Lakes were snowed under that early, which was a bummer–but the tradeoff is that the guesthouses had room and often even gave away free rooms.

Much of this hike is above the treeline so the beauty is raw and stark. EBC itself is a hefty 5,364 meters (17,598 feet) but it is not the highest point. Both Kala Pattar (5,545,meters/18,190 feet) Chukkung Ri (5,550 meters/18,200 feet) are optional side-routes but should be considered mandatory.

Kalaw to Lake Inle, Myanmar

3 days / 57 k

This is a great training hike. Not much elevation gain; no need to bring tents or food. Meet locals, chat with your guide, and just take in the scenery. Dry earth and curious kids and goats and moon festivals alike await: the best thing is, at the end you are at Inle Lake, one of the coolest parts of the country.

Goat Rocks, USA

?? km 3-4 days

I don’t really remember how long this hike was, but I started at Packwood Lake and hiked along the PCT for a few days before hitchhiking back. It was cool. As an Oregonian I’m supposed to be partial to Mt. Hood but can you honestly look at Rainer and not admit that it’s just as awesome? I certainly can’t!

Keplar Circuit, New Zealand

60 km, 4 days

This was the first Great Walk I did, as well as my first proper backpacking experience, back in 2006 when I lived in Australia. I made so many mistakes–bringing a change of clothes for each day! Bringing a proper big bath towel! Bringing a kilo of rice and a big glass bottle of soy sauce! Letting the soy sauce leak all over my clothes. Buying a liter of Frangelico at the duty free and lugging that along as well! It was with a heavy bag and a heavy heart that I trudged through this wild wilderness but the Keplar is truly amazing. Bonus: it was made in a convenient loop, so you can walk right from town.

Milford Track, New Zealand

3-4 days / 53.5 km

‘the finest walk in the world’ 

The 2nd Great Walk I did. Supposedly there are epic views but this picture is pretty indicative of my trip. Went off-peak, which was great because it was way cheaper and more flexible (you don’t have to pre-book where you stay). If you like mist in the mountains though, this tramp* is for you. Although I’ll never forget a German girl on the trek who was so upset at the mist. “This is shit,” she kept saying, “This is so shit.” Her tone was one of bafflement, like she had been attacked.
Fun facts: Long hikes in NZ are called “tramps.” Trail mix is called “Scroggin” And everything is “sweet as.”

Queen Charlotte Trek, New Zealand

2-3 days / 72 km

The 3rd Great Walk I’ve done. This is a beautiful trek with some long climbs where you can see hungry wekas and ocean views. The camping is cool too; sleeping in orchards and farms. Furtheremore, you get a dope boat ride on either end across the top of NZ’s South Island. I was more meh on this hike that I expected because, I suspect, the scenery never really changes. Jaw-dropping bay views from day 1 just seem like normal by day 3. But in their defense, they are jaw-dropping views nonetheless.

Chelan Lakeshore Trail, USA

1-3 days, 17 miles

I remember thumbing through a Pacific Northwest hiking book and just being transfixed by the sight of Lake Chelan. It settled in my head like a mental mosquito and I had to come check this out. I hiked it with two friends when we were all celebrating our 30th birthday and it’s really a perfect little hike.

Chitwan National Park Trek, Nepal

3 days / 30 km

If you like animals, this is a great trek. I saw rhinos, gators, sloth bears, wild pigs, and got close to seeing a tiger (found its footprints next to the water early in the morning.

Lake Waikaremoana, New Zealand

3-4 Days / 46 KM

Compared to the walks on the south island or Tongariro, this is a lesser-known Great Walk. But in it’s defense it is a walk–the Whanganui journey is a great walk that is entirely in a boats. I liked this hike–it was was consistently pleasant without ever threatening to be epic. I can’t guarantee this for you, but All Blacks legend Dan Carter slept in the first hut the same night as me. Man, did he carry a lot of gear, including a gas stove (the huts have stoves already). This definitely is a walk, but I find the claim of “great” to be a little undfounded. Maybe “Generally Nice Walk” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Pouakai Circuit, New Zealand

3-5 days / 52km

This hike goes through so many tussocks that it gets high marks for that alone. This was another New Zealand summer hike where it rained so much that a) I never saw the mountain and b) even in waterproofs, we ended up being miserably wet.

Honorable Mention – Day Hikes that are as Exhausting and Epic as Proper Treks

Tongariro Crossing, New Zealand

I really wanted to do the full Tongariro Circuit and had booked it months in advance but even though it was the middle of summer, New Zealand remembered how far south it is and it snowed like crazy. Luckily the day hike was still available. It’s called “the finest day hike in the world” and to me it lived up to that status. Kiwis are so low-key that when they brag, they really mean it.

Trolltunga, Norway

Look at those people just chilling on a Troll’s Tounge

Perhaps the single best hiking day of my life. I had just arrived in Norway, drove across the country, camped out, hid from trolls, enjoyed Taco Friday (it’s a thing there) while camping, got up, rode bikes for 10 or so kilometers, scrambled up a mountain, climbed a via ferreta, had a snowball fight, and then ended up here. Posed for pictures, did a dance on the Troll Tongue (sorry, mom!) and then did the whole thing in reverse, ending up in cabin in the woods.

Glencoe, Scotland

I’m pretty sure you have to say the phrase “rugged beauty” when you’re talking about the Highlands. So enjoy some rugged beauty! Glencoe is one of my very favorite places in the world.

Besseggen Ridge, Norway

Camping at Gjendesheim is free.

All you need to know is that this area in Norwegian is called “The Land of the Giants” and every trail sounds like it could be a Led Zeppelin song.

Seoraksan – Dinosaur Ridge. South Korea

Yes a lot of people come here. So much that there are times you have to queue on the trail. It’s also super hard, so much up and down and a lot it is climbing up or down ropes. I went on a group trek that started at 5:30 am before summiting and then continuing over dinosaur ridge. We did get a little lost and ended up back at the bus by 9:30 pm that night. Grueling but very much type II fun.

Japanese Alps

I ended up hiking this with a guy from my hostel who was from Switzerland (the actual alps) and he was none too impressed. But while Matterhorn-less, these mountains are great. For a long time, completing this day hike gave me my Fitbit step count record (62,000 steps). I would really love to come back and complete the full Kamikochi-Yari-Hotaka Circuit

Bluebird Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, USA

I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Rockies, but judging from this hike it would be a good idea to go back. This is a great day hike, going past waterfalls and rivers and fields before ending up at a beautiful mountain lake.

Booyong walking track, Australia

The thing about hiking in Australia is that are so many spiders you might want to carry a stick in front of you to break all the webs. This area was pretty leechy as well, but we also saw all kinds of birds and even wild pottaroos. (Yes that’s a real thing.)

Santubong, Borneo, Malaysia

Most people when they think of Malaysia and hiking think of Kota Kinabalu but it was too expensive for my blood, so this hike down in Sarawak served as a good substitute. Just a day hike but with natural roots serving as via ferrata there were truly some death defying moments. It was so humid I had to take of my shirt and wring it out–every ten minutes. The views and breezes up on the top are very nice.

Green Lakes Trail, USA

Ever have a trail blow your mind? This place is so pretty it feels like it was designed by Disney as the ideal hike.

Cocora Valley, Columbia

I blogged pretty recently about this hike. Wait, what do you mean over a year ago doesn’t count as recently?!

Hikes I’ve partially done

PCT

Planning on doing a lot more this summer

Overland Track

Mucked around for two days at Cradle Mountain. Would love to do the whole thing.

Zion Narrows

Just hiked in a couple of miles before it got dark.

Timberline Trail

Hiked for one day going north and two days starting south but need to connect the whole thing.

Hikes I really want to do

Lycian Way

The most historical of hikes is quite the draw for me.

Swedish Kings Way

You can see the Northern Lights!

West Highland Way

I can’t actually go to Scotland anymore but if I could it would be for this

Scottish National Trail

I can’t actually go to Scotland anymore but if I could it would also be for this

Routeburn

I didn’t rank any of NZ’s Great Walks that highly, but I reckon that’s just because I’m waiting for the right one.

Te Araroa Trail

Something about crossing a country is just cool. Though if you did it horizontally it would be way easier.

Wonderland Trail

Looks amazing but I hate having to get permits.

Enchantments

Looks just as amazing but I still hate having to get permits.

Torres Del Paine

Classico

Fitzroy

Another classico

GR20

The worst name for a hike ever, true, but it doesn’t look like the worst.

3/4 Being a Jerk: Hiking the Cocora Valley

IMG_4945

Traveling inevitably turns you into an asshole. You go to some mountains near your hometown and in your heart you are disappointed that they are not as good as the Andes or the Himalayas. You go to the beach but despite your best intentions at being in the moment, you know it falls far short of the Bahamas or Thailand. Even restaurants are tricky–that curry cost 10 times what it did in India, and it’s not even as good. There might not even be a bowl of fennel at the counter!

Of course, you don’t want to compare things. You want to accept things for what they are. But our minds aren’t always so good at this.

IMG_4829

A bunch of Willys

Thus for most of the Cocora Valley hike, I was that jerk. It started off well; a cheap ride on a jeep called a willie, where I got to hang on to the back and take in the views. Then some downhill past (and around) cows and cats and farms.

IMG_4845
get out of my way, la baca!

It was beautiful: lush and green with mist rolling in the hilltops. Then after a little climbing we entered a verdant rainforest. The trail climbed past several dodgy suspension bridges, crossing rushing streams and rocky riverbeds. There was even an optional part of the hike replete with hundreds of hummingbirds!

IMG_4868

hummingbird duelists prepare for their fatal encounter

The problem was me. I have done so many jungle hikes: in Thailand, in Cambodia, in Myanmar and Borneo. There was no spark of anything interesting to me. It was like the daily commute to work; just something you do.  It’s not pleasant to be so jaded, let me tell you, but that’s where I was nonetheless.

IMG_4909

starting to get good tho

This all started to change as we finished the big climb of the hike. It was steep and at a reasonably high altitude but only took about 30ish minutes of steady climbing before the land leveled out and a green mountain top loomed in front of us. Friendly dogs came up to beg for snacks as Germans sat on all sides of us.

It was nice. Still, I was all set to rank this as a rather mediocre hike in my own book of being an asshole. It was further annoying that there was a fee to enter, a fee to go to the hummingbirds, and another fee to finish the second half of the hike. None of those fees were super high but it contributed to the feeling of death by a thousand papercuts.

Then we headed down and got to the valley of wax palms. These are the largest palm trees in the world, growing up to 60 meters / 200 feet high. The species is the national tree and emblem of Colombia. Traditionally, the young leaves were used during ‘Semana Santa’ or Holy Week, and the wax was traditionally used for making candles and matches. Parts of the tree are also used to make fencing, beams and walls for houses.  Most importantly of all, the trees look really freaking cool. Comparisons to Dr. Seuss are very apt.

IMG_4931

okay, I see what you’re saying

The last 1/4 of the hike (going counter-clockwise) was a brand new experience and fully worthy of the any and all hype. A few of the mirador (viewpoints) offered stunning panoramas. As the trek wound down, we entered a zone of shops and little roadside restaurants. There I got a traditional coffee before grabbing onto the back of another willie and heading back to Salento.IMG_4942

It’s a hike I’d do again for sure–the longest version of it links to the back of the Los Nevados National Park .