At 4,500 kilometers, Nepal's Great Himalayan Trail is the longest and highest mountain trail in the world
The Grand Italian Trail takes considerable planning and roughly eight months to complete
Only 150 people attempt to thru-hike the Continental Divide Trail each year
Long distance trails inspire contradictory tales of solitude and camaraderie, deserted river beds and mountain plateaus, pleasure and pain.
The idea of covering thousands of miles on foot is itself barely believable. Perhaps that’s what makes these adventures so memorable.
Cheryl Strayed’s memoir of her 1,000-mile trek along the U.S. Pacific Crest Trail was so enthralling it made it to Hollywood.
“Wild,” a film based on her account and starring Reese Witherspoon, was one of the most talked about releases at the end of 2014, with Witherspoon even nominated for a best actress award at the 2015 Golden Globes.
If you’d like a piece of that action, or simply crave dehydrated food, days without washing and multiple, life-threatening encounters, then here are 10 other epic hikes ripe for big screen treatment.
Who would play you?
1. The Appalachian (United States)
Distance: 3,510 kilometers (2,180 miles)
The Appalachian is the grand dame of long-distance trails.
One third of North America’s holy hiking trinity, the Triple Crown – the others being the Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails – it’s the most iconic, famed for its “thru hikers” who attempt to complete it in a single season.
Its 5 million steps follow the Appalachian Mountains from Mount Springer, Georgia, to Mount Katahdin, Maine.
The range was once a natural border to the 13 colonies held by powerful Native American tribes like the Iroquois and Cherokee, before independence gave rise to westward expansion.
Among the highlights: the idyllic, overgrown tracks through Great Smokey Mountains National Park in North Carolina, North America’s most diverse forest.
More information at: Appalachiantrail.org
2. The South West Coast Path (UK)
Distance: 1,016 kilometers (630 miles)
The UK’s longest National Trail is a stroll in the park compared to some of the other walks on our list, but what it lacks in longevity it makes up for in history.
This dramatic coastal route from Minehead, Somerset, to Poole Harbour in Dorset, takes hikers around the tip of Cornwall, crisscrossing two World Heritage Sites including the famed Jurassic Coast.
Nicknamed for its 240-million-year-old rocks, these prehistoric cliffs feature spectacular formations like Durdle Door and Ladram Bay. And while it may be shorter you’ll still have to climb a total of 114,931 feet (35,031 meters or four times the height of Everest) to finish it.
More information: Southwestcoastpath.com
3. Te Araroa (New Zealand)
Distance: 3,000 kilometers (1,864 miles)
With a backdrop straight out of Middle Earth – glacial ridges, windswept headlands, shires – New Zealand’s landscape doesn’t disappoint.
Te Araroa (Maori for “The long pathway”) covers most of it; all the way from Cape Regina in the North to Bluff on the southern tip.
“Tramping” the length of it, as the Kiwis would say, from the gentle bays of Queen Charlotte to the volcanic Mount Tongariro, takes about three months.
Still, even at a fast pace you could be overtaken be overtaken.
Ultramarathon runner Jezz Bragg completed it in a fantastical time of 53 days.
More information: Teararoa.org.nz
4. Continental Divide Trail (United States)
Distance: 4,990 kilometers (3,100 miles)
The third and longest installment of The Triple Crown is really a director’s cut – loved by serious trail enthusiasts but not for everyone.
Spanning 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada along the Rocky Mountain spine of North America, it takes hikers across some arduous but spectacular terrain including the Red Desert dunes of Wyoming and the heights of Grays Peak (14,270 feet/4,350 meters) in Colorado.
The standout feature is Triple Divide Peak in Montana, where the rain runs three ways to the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Arctic via Hudson Bay.
Only 150 people attempt to thru-hike the trail each year.
The youngest to complete it was 13-year-old Reed Gjonnes.
More information: Continentaldividetrail.org