THE TRAILS ARE CALLING
Looking for a fun, adventurous, and affordable summer vacation? Go take a hike -- literally. Hiking is good way to see waterfalls, mountain peaks, and alpine meadows without spending a lot of money. And a hike isn't just something to do on a summer afternoon. There are many trails that are best experienced on multi-day hikes, both in the United States and overseas. Hikers don't need much to get started: good boots, a backpack, basic camping gear, and in some cases a permit. Many trails have inexpensive huts or lodges to use along the way, and dining is more pork and beans than filet mignon. Cheapism.com rounded up some of the best hiking trails around the globe.
THE JOHN MUIR TRAIL
Running from Yosemite Valley to Mount Whitney, the 212-mile John Muir Trail in California overlaps with much of the Pacific Crest Trail. Although it's one of the most beautiful and famous trails in the country, it's not very busy and frequently provides a sense of solitude. There are several camps and stores in the High Sierra backcountry along the way offering supplies and warm showers.
The 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail running from Georgia to Maine takes five to seven months to hike from start to finish. For a shorter trip, consider starting at the southern terminus in Springer Mountain, Georgia, and heading north into North Carolina. There are also good options in the northern parts of the trail, such as hiking through the Great Valley of the Appalachians in Pennsylvania or the Hundred-Mile Wilderness in Maine.
TOUR DU MONT BLANC
One of the most famous trails in Europe, the Tour du Mont Blanc goes through France, Italy, and Switzerland in a circular route around Mont Blanc. The scenery is stunning and hikers can get away without carrying a tent or even food thanks to the villages along the route. The entire loop takes about eleven days to cover, unless you're running: At the annual marathon, some athletes complete the trail's 105 miles in less than a day.
THE LOST COAST
On a secluded stretch along the Pacific Ocean in northern California, the Lost Coast Trail is a 53-mile trek through surprisingly rough terrain. The trail has two sections: the northern part hugs the ocean so closely that hikers must keep an eye on the tides, while the southern part weaves through an old-growth redwood forest. Even during the dry season (May through September) the trail can be extremely wet and hikers should expect to see fog and light rain.
An island state off the southeast tip of Australia, Tasmania is home to the platypus, the wombat, the Tasmanian devil, and the Overland Track. The latter is a 40- to 50-mile hike through the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The six-day hike goes from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair, with summit views and waterfalls along the way. Summer is the busy season, with mandated routes and a limited number of hiking permits available.
THE KING'S TRAIL
Inside the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden, the Kungsleden (King's Trail) is a 100-mile path that's been used for more than a century. There are four parts to the King's Trail, each taking about a week to complete; the most popular is the route between Abisko and Kebnekaise in the northern part of the trail. There are inexpensive huts along the way for shelter, and hikers are welcome to pitch a tent and pay a smaller fee to use the facilities.
THE LONG RANGE TRAVERSE
The trail through Canada's Long Range Mountains in Newfoundland isn't marked, so it's best to know how to use a map and compass before setting off on this 20- to 25-mile journey. There are five campsites along the way, providing a target destination each day. The initial 2,000-foot ascent amid moose and caribou pays off quickly, with stunning views of fjords, thousand-foot rock faces, and mountain ponds. Hikers are often on their own, adding to the magic and hinting at the difficulty of this six-day trek.
NORTH DRAKENSBERG TRAVERSE
The 41-mile North Drakensberg Traverse in South Africa winds its way up the Drakensberg Range (Dragons' Mountains) with a series of switchbacks and chain ladders. There's no marked path or designated campgrounds and a guide is recommended for those lacking solid navigation skills. Dramatic plateaus, caves with ancient paintings, and nearby Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world, make this an unforgettable journey.
QUEEN CHARLOTTE TRACK
Well-maintained and relatively easy, the Queen Charlotte Track is a 44-mile trail through New Zealand's forests and bush, skyline ridges, and sparkling bays. The trail, which stretches from Ship Cove to Anakiwa, is shared by hikers and mountain bikers. Those on foot usually complete the trail in three to five days, while bikers take just two. There is a ferry service that brings travelers back to the start or to points along the trail.
CONTINENTAL DIVIDE LOOP
Hiking the full length of the Continental Divide Trail, which runs from Mexico to Canada, takes about six months for hikers covering 17 miles each day. The Continental Divide Loop, a 54-mile trek through Rocky Mountain National Park, offers a bite-sized portion of the trail. Lakes, waterfalls, and even some bushwhacking are highlights of the journey. The trail reaches 13,500 feet above sea level and hikers should take time to get acclimated to the elevation before setting off.
One of the most popular hiking routes in Iceland, the Laugavegurinn Trail offers a variety of terrain, including glaciers, rivers, lakes, hot springs, and the active volcano Eyjafjallajokull. Wind and snow can make this a difficult trek, although the 34-mile journey generally takes just two to four days. There are lodges along the way but they must be booked months in advance. Hikers can camp outside a lodge and use the facilities if no spaces are available inside.
TORRES DEL PAINE
Chile's Torres del Paine National Park in southern Patagonia is defined by three towering granite peaks. A popular loop trail around the peaks takes about eight days. The trail has numerous huts, and hikers can expect to see plenty of wildlife, including guanacos (similar to llamas), as they make their way past lakes and glaciers.
THE WALKER'S HAUTE ROUTE
The 112-mile trek from Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, Switzerland, takes about 10 to 12 days. Hikers make their way through glaciers and snow-capped mountains, but there are green alpine valleys filled with wildflowers as well. The trek is most popular during summer, when the mountain huts are open for business.
FIFTY MOUNTAIN-NORTHERN HIGHLINE TRAIL
Glacier National Park in Montana has hundreds of miles of trails featuring some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. The Fifty Mountain-Northern Highline trail covers 30 miles, passing Granite Park Chalet and Goat Haunt. With steep ascents it's not an easy hike, but many hikers say it's well worth the struggle.
Covering parts of several different trails, the Trans-Zion Trek in Utah is about 50 miles long. Although the start and end points are fairly remote, local outfitters offer pick-up and drop-off service. The trail descends into canyons and climbs up into hot and dry desert. This is a good hike for early summer since the heat gets a bit intense later in the season.