10 of the Longest Hiking Trails in the World
Everyone loves a good challenging hike, but these ones are something else as they are the longest hiking trails in the world. It should be no surprise many of them can be found in North America, which is full of long-distance hiking trails, some of which may make an appearance on this list (usually through being combined with other trails). However, where is the actual longest hiking trail in the world found? Let’s look at our list, which increases in the number of kilometres the trails are as we go on until we reach the longest which is an incredible 24,000km length trail.
10. The English Coastal Path, United Kingdom – 4500km
The English Coastline Path connects the entire coastline of the United Kingdom. Currently, it is only open in certain sections, but the path is set to be open in full in 2021, after being in development since 2010. The aim as said by National Trails is to create pathways that are as close to the UK’s coast as possible. In total it will cross 16 of the coastal counties and will be the longest coastal path in the world, spanning 4500km altogether once it is complete.
On the coastal pathway you go through historic scenes, get to see stunning landscapes and of course, get some of that excellent sea air. You also can stop off at coastal towns along the way, and it is full of nearby campsites and spots for wild camping.
9. Hokkaido Nature Trail, Japan – 4585km
One of the most recent trails on our list, the Hokkaido Nature Trail wasn’t approved until 2003, with the intent to make one of the longest hiking trails and nature trails in the world. The trail covers Hokkaido, which is the second largest but least developed island of Japan, it is a similar size to that of Austria. There is still some work to be done to the trail but it combines all the current trails in Hokkaido together into a loop and is roughly estimated to take 230 days to complete.
Typically the trail is done north to south due to the cool summers and long cold winters of Hokkaido. The trail is full of rare and wonderful wildlife you will only be able to spot in this area, such as Yezo brown bears and red-crowned cranes, as well as having the backdrop of epic mountain landscapes.
8. The Great Himalayan Trail – 4585km
Our next longest hiking trail is not open at this time, however, the idea of it makes it deserving of a spot on our longest hiking trails list. Currently, it has yet to be completed, but the Great Himalayan Trail is a route that aims to span across the Himalayans from east to west, with the original idea being to establish a single long-distance trail from the east end to the west end of Nepal. The full proposed route will pass along the entire Himalayan mountain range, passing into Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet.
The terrain will be rough and the high altitudes make it not for the faint of heart. It will cover 16 districts, with the intent of promoting socioeconomic benefits to mountain communities. However, the Great Himalayan Trail also offers wonderful wildlife and landscapes, with animals such as snow leopards and red pandas.
7. The Continental Divide, United States – 5,000km
The Continental Divide Trail or the CDT is a five/ six-month-long (average) trail that goes through the US vertically following the Continental Divide of the Americas. It was first designated as a National Trail in 1978 and is well known for its rugged and unfinished appearance but also its American History. This one of our longest hiking trails goes along the famous Rocky Mountains, the Mexican state of Chihuahua to Alberta Canada. The rough and rugged terrain on this trail makes it a route for hikers through and through, as attempting mountain biking or horse riding would sure be a challenge.
Each year, it is estimated that there are around 200 people that attempt the full version of the CDT. The first person to fully complete a thru-hike of the whole trail was Dave Odell in 1977, however, as of 1995 only 15 people so far have officially been able to finish the Continental Divide.
6. The Sentiero Italia, Italy – 7170km
The Sentiero Italia or as it is also known, the Grand Italian trail crosses the entirety of the territory of Italy, so it is definitely one of the longest hiking trails that you can come by. This long-distance trail goes from the Alps to the Apennines, going through 20 regions, including The Islands, 6 UNESCO Heritage sites, and 15 national parks as well as other nature reserves and parks along the way. Overall, this trail is estimated to span around 7170km and is full of epic and beautiful scenery, historical sights, and culture. As described on the official website, the aim of the Senterio Italia to ‘to encourage slow tourism, stimulate the economy and the environmental awareness of inland areas.’
5. The Eastern Continental Trail, United States – 7100km
The Eastern Continental Trail aka the ECT passes through a total of 16 states and is made up of several long-distance paths. It features another well known ‘longest hiking trail’, the famous Appalachian Trail, which it goes through the entirety of, so that should give you a sense of how long this trail truly is. It officially starts in the Florida Keys and ends in Newfoundland, Canada with very few people completing it per year, it truly is one of the longest hiking trails you can attempt.
Completing the the ECT is said to be not just a physical challenge, but also a mental one as it is a far less social experience than other famous long-distance trails in the US. The trail was first to be fully completed from Key West to Cap Gaspé, Quebec, in 1997 by John Brinda.
4. E1 European Long Distance Path – 7980km
The E1 is a long-distance footpath in Europe and is one of the European Long-Distance footpaths that is run by the European Rambler’s Association. Out of their twelve European footpaths, this is the longest hiking trail, beginning in Norway and ending in Italy. The exact length of the E1 footpath is hard to pinpoint down, as there are many changes and alters being made for maintenance however it is estimated to be around 7980km.
The trail starts in the upper reaches of Norway however is not officially signed posted, out of consideration for the native Sami people. From there it goes to Finland and Sweden, continuing into Denmark after a short ferry ride. It then goes through Germany, Switzerland and reaches its end in Sicily, Italy as of 2018 when the path was extended.
3. American Discovery Trail, United States – 10,944km
The American Discovery Trail is a system of trails and roads, which altogether results in a collection of coast-to-coast hiking and biking trails across the mid-tier of the United States. When added together the full distance of this trail is 10,944km, passing through the District of Columbia and 15 states: Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California. It also goes through 14 national parks and 16 national forests.
While the trail mostly passes through the centre of America, it does split into two separate alternate routes at a loop in the Great Plains and Midwest, the north and south routes. The northern route of the trail is 7,780 km while the southern route covers 8,138 km.
2. The Great Western Loop United States – 11,064mk
As if the Pacific Crest Trail wasn’t already long enough, it is also a part of The Great Western Loop, which is a route in the west of the United States that links together five other famous long-distance trails you have most likely heard of: The Pacific Crest Trail, The Pacific Northwest Trail, The Continental Divide ( see earlier on our list), The Grand Enchantment Trail and the Arizona Trail. the route also passes through 12 national parks and 75 wilderness areas, as well as taking you into the Mojave Desert and the Sonoran Desert.
Not many people have completed the full Great Western Loop, after all, it is one of the longest hiking trails in the world. On November 3rd, 2007, Andrew Skurka became the first person to complete the full Great Western Loop. The professional backpacker began the trail on April 9th, 2007 from the Grand Canyon and arrived back there 208 days later. He was estimated to average around 53km per day.
1. The Great Trail, Canada – 24,000km
The Trans Canada Trail, or as it is now officially known, The Great Trail is by far the winner of our list of longest hiking trails in the world. Technically as it isn’t a single path trail there is some dispute over whether it can be counted as the longest hiking trail, as, like most long-distance hiking trails, it is a network of lots of other smaller multi-use trails that when put together build it up to the longest trail in the world.
The TCT, the organization that manages and maintains the trail says that four out of five Canadians live within 30 minutes of a section of the Great Trail, so if that can give you an idea of the scale of this trail and how big it really is.
Completed only in 2017, when it was connected fully from Coast to Coast, as a way to mark Canada’s 150th anniversary, the Great Trail project actually started 25 years before that in 1992. As the trail is still in its early days, there are still improvements to be made but overall it has been celebrated for connecting communities to each other and nature.