Your Personal Trip Advisor

Kalalau TrailKauai, 

Patience is a virtue when planning to hike this lush, steep trail along Kauai’s famously fluted Na Pali Coast. With its 300-foot-high waterfalls, views to the crashing Pacific, and access to two stunning sand beaches, Hanakapiai and the completely isolated Kalalau, this out-and-back trek is worth every rigorous step. But because of heavy flooding in 2018, it will be closed until at least mid-2019. Even when the trail is open, access can be hard to come by. Hiking farther than two miles requires a permit, and to mitigate growing congestion and overtourism on Kauai’s north shore, the state is also building a new parking area near the trailhead that will limit daily visitors to 900. Monitor access and updates on the Hawaii Division of State Parks Kalalau Trail web page.

Camino Primitivo, Camino de Santiago
Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela, Spain

There are many paths to the Shrine of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela, but in true pilgrim spirit, sign on for the ninth-century route that the original pilgrim, Alfonso II of Asturias, took from Oviedo in northern Spain. The 15-day route receives only 4 percent of annual Camino trekkers, because it crosses the craggy, 8,000-plus-foot Cantabrian Mountains. The payoff, however, is killer views of the peaks of Picos de Europa and a halfway point marked by the third-century World Heritage site of Lugo, the only city in the world still surrounded by a fully intact Roman wall. In the lively market town of Melide, the Camino Primitivo joins forces with the more crowded Camino Frances for the last 36 miles. Stay in private or municipal albergues, hostels specifically for pilgrims, which vary in price, charm, size, and cleanliness. One of the most highly rated on the trail is the private, 14-room Cantábrico Fonsagrada. If time is an issue, REI offers a condensed nine-day version of the route.

South Maroon Peak
Maroon Bells, Colorado

Choosing the best of Colorado’s 59 fourteeners is a little like being forced to pick your favorite child. We love the Bells because few peaks on the planet are more impressive than the behemoth 14,163-foot South Maroon (and its 14,019-foot twin, North Maroon, a third of a mile away). The alpine views of Maroon Creek Valley and the surrounding Elk Range from the summit of South Maroon, the true fourteener of the two, are astounding. And the awe is earned: these peaks are largely composed of sedimentary mudstone and are notorious for their loose, rotten rock up high, so bring your helmet. Even the standard, Class III South Ridge Route to the summit of South Maroon requires extensive time above the tree line, scrambling up often vertical rock. It’s a worthy 4,500-foot challenge, but it would be more relaxing to stay low and stick to the 1.5-mile-long Maroon Lake Scenic Trail.

Lares Trek
Lares, Peru

Slightly shorter in length and higher in altitude that its famous sibling, the Inca Trail, this two-to-three-day trek starts in the village of Lares and traverses the Urubamba mountain range. It’s the best way to experience true Andean culture. You’ll see farmers hand-tilling potato fields at 10,000 feet, Quechua women wearing beautifully colored woven shawls while herding llama-like vicuñas, and cross 14,435-foot Ipsaycocha Pass, the highest point on the trek, before descending to the town of Ollantaytambo, where you can catch a train to Aguas Calientes, the jumping-off point for Machu Picchu. No permit is required for the trek, but going with a local guide is recommended. Hire the best through Explorandes Peru. For a more luxurious option, Mountain Lodges of Peru offers multi-day adventures combining day hikes, visits to villages and archeological sites, and farm-to-table meals at its tasteful, plush lodges throughout the Sacred and Lares Valleys.

Paine Circuit Trek
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

There are other, lesser known wilderness treks in Patagonia, like the Dientes Circuit on Navarino Island and the Las Horquetas Circuit in newly minted Cerro Castillo National Park. But if your heart’s set on seeing Torres del Paine National Park, the best way to avoid the crowds is to circumnavigate the entire Cordillera Paine. The beauty of this trek is that it includes the three iconic stops on the famous W circuit—the 12-mile, 2,500-foot hike to the base of the towers, the 360-degree view of the Paine Massif from the French Valley, and the retreating hulk of the Grey Glacier. But the full circuit continues to the back side of the cordillera, where the grandeur of the southern ice field and exquisite views to the massif can be enjoyed in solitude. Treat yourself to a few well-deserved rest days at Tierra Patagonia, a luxurious hotel so well disguised that it nearly disappears into the surrounding steppe. 

Buckskin Gulch to Paria Canyon via Wire 
Pass Trailhead

There are better-known and more easily accessed slot canyons in Utah, but Buckskin Gulch in the northern section of Paria Canyon–Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness has the distinction of being one of the longest in the world, with uninterrupted narrows for 15 miles that rise up to 500 feet high in places. Start at Wire Pass Trailhead. This shortcut surpasses two miles of canyon walls but quickly puts you in the most spectacular sections of sandstone whorls, precipitous cliffs, and ancient petroglyphs. The hike requires rope for lowering gear through the canyons and may even necessitate waist-deep wading through water pools. Don’t rely on your weather app before attempting it; instead call the Paria Contact Station or the the Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab for essential updates on trail conditions.

Tour du Mont Blanc
Switzerland, Italy, France

Compare French, Italian, and Swiss cuisine while trekking through all three countries on this circuit around 15,781-foot Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. This is a full-on immersion course in real mountain living: you’ll gain some 32,000 feet, spy the most stunning peaks in the Alps, and stop in serious mountain towns like Chamonix and Courmayeur. Unlike other circuits, there are multiple starting points, plenty of route options, public transportation to shorten the trip if something goes awry, and a variety of accommodations, from mountain huts to five-star hotels. For a true vacation, let someone else handle all the logistics, like Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures or MT Sobek. Or if your legs and lungs can handle it, the route also makes for the most luxurious trail run over 100 miles.