Hiking is one of my favourite activities and it’s a great way to see the world, get off the beaten track, and work off some calories for all the yummy food.
Here’s my top 12 favourite hikes from the volcanoes of Nicaragua to Australia’s Glasshouse Mountains. The hikes range from moderate difficulty to challenging.
1. Crouching Lion, Kaawa, Hawaii
Distance: 3km return Difficulty: Moderate Time: 45 minutes return
This is a short and dirty (literally) hike that is definitely bang for buck.
It’s only 20 minute hike straight up a muddy hillside. Then you reach the top of the ‘Crouching Lion’ and can see over the mountains and Kahana Bay. The view is spectacular.
It’s not a hike for people scared of heights though.
There’s also the option to hike further as this trail forms the start of the longer Pu’u Manamana.
2. Trolltunga, Odda, Norway
Distance: 22km return Difficulty: Challenging Time: 8-10 hours return
This is one hike you should have on your bucket list. It’s an 11km hike one way through mud, snow, and waterfalls to the Trolltunga Rock – a rock overhanging iridescent dark blue water.
You’ll feel on top of the world here sitting on the edge of the rock (take care on the edges though, it’s a long way down!)
The diversity of the trail keeps you interested the whole way with rocky viewpoints, snow fields, waterfall crossing and deep blue lakes. You definitely won’t tire of the scenery.
This is a challenging hike though and is only for experienced hikers. You will get muddy and wet and your knees will be shot by the time you’re through. But it’s all worth it. Norway is a hiker’s paradise.
3. Preikestolen, Stavanger, Norway
Distance: 6km return Difficulty: Moderate Time: 2-3 hours return
For the not so fit, the Preikestolen (Pulpit Rock) hike is a good option to check out some of Norway’s beautiful fjords from up high.
There are some steep sections during the hike but traffic jams due to the popularity of the hike will keep you at a steady pace. The trail is rocky but not difficult as long as it’s dry. The trail will take you about 60-90 minutes one way.
You’ll be rewarded with views of Preikstolen and the Lysefjorden.
4. Lake Agnes, Banff National Park, Canada
Distance: 6.8km return Difficulty: Moderate Time: 2 hours return
This is a lovely walk starting from Lake Louise. As you climb up the switchback dirt trail, you’ll get great views of Lake Louise and the snow capped mountains.
Then after about an hour you’re greeted with the pristine Lake Agnes framed by more breathtaking snow capped mountains.
Treat yourself with a coffee and cake break at the Lake Agnes Teahouse after your hike.
5. Mt Warning, Murwillumbah, Australia
Distance: 8.8km return Difficulty: Moderate Time: 4 hours return
I’ve done this hike about a dozen times now, first coming up here as a child with my parents.
Now I do this hike about every two years and take overseas visitors up here.
It’s a 4 hour return hike, and to reach the summit you have to climb up a steep rocky outcrop with the help of chains built into the outcrop. The hike is moderately steep at first then becomes a winding switchback track with some rock scrambling.
Mt Warning is the first place in Australia to see the sunrise so it’s worth getting up early to welcome the dawn.
6. Mt Tibrogargan, Glasshouse Mountains, Australia
Distance: 3km Difficulty: Hard Time: 2 hours return
Getting to the top of Mt Tibrogargan is more like a free rock climb than a hike and you’ll work up a sweat.
The first 15 minutes or so up is a dirt trail before you hit the rocky part and then it’s pretty much straight up using your hands and legs. There are handholds for your hands and feet but you may have to look for them and try a few different ways up in some parts, especially if you’re short like me.
This is a very rewarding hike, although difficult at times so you’ll need a good level of fitness to tackle Mt Tibrogargan.
The view at the top extends over the surrounding Glasshouse Mountains.
7. Concepcion Volcano, Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
Distance: 12km Difficulty: Challenging Time: 9-10 hours return
This is a very difficult hike but the euphoric feeling of reaching the top of an active volcano spewing out sulphuric smoke makes it worth it.
The hike starts from 100 metres above sea level and climbs to 1600 metres.
After a flat couple of kilometres along the base of the volcano, you’re then heading straight up for a couple of hours through the jungle and the exposed slopes of the volcano.
About halfway up, the hike gets really hard as you struggle up the slippery volcano dirt.
But once you get past that section, it’s almost easy rock scrambling up to Concepcion’s crater.
You have views across the volcano, Ometepe Island, and Lake Nicaragua as well as into the smoky crater.
How many people can say they’ve stood on the edge of an active volcanic crater?
Due to safety reasons, the hike is only accessible with an accredited guide or face a fine if you get caught without one.
8. Reinebringen, Lofoten Islands, Norway
Distance: 2km return Difficulty: Hard Time: 2 hours return
This is another Norway favourite (how good is Norway!). The relatively untouched Lofoten Islands is stunning everywhere you look but particularly up the top of the Reinebringen Peak.
Get priceless views over a volcanic crater and the town of Reine and down into the ocean.
The hike up takes about an hour – it’s a steep, muddy and slippery walk along a narrow trail etched into the hillside. One kilometre each way doesn’t sound like much but it feels a lot longer due to the steepness of the peak.
This is another one that people scared of heights should avoid. It can get scary in places looking down but the views are definitely worth the effort.
If you do this hike, be very careful. It is popular, which has caused the trail to erode in many places so watch your step.
9. Lake Marian, Te Anau, New Zealand
Distance: 6km return Difficulty: Moderate Time: 3-4 hours return
Hike into the Hollyford Valley and be rewarded with a fabulous hike. From start to finish, this hike in the Fjordland National Park is beautiful. You hike past roaring cascades and beech trees shrouded in the mist.
About 75 minutes in, you’ll come to the unspoiled Lake Marian. It doesn’t matter if it’s cloudy or sunny here, the lake is magical. And with any luck, you’ll have it all to yourself.
The alpine lake is crystal clear and surrounded by towering mountains.
The hike is of moderate difficulty – there are some steep and rocky sections as well as a muddy stretch but the way down is a lot faster than the way up. You should complete the hike in less than three hours.
10. Valley of the Waters, Blue Mountains, Australia
Distance: 7km Difficulty: Moderate Time: 3-4 hours return
The Valley of the Waters hike takes you past tumbling waterfalls, under cliff overhangs, and along peaceful forested tracks.
The highlights of the track include Wentworth Falls and the steep staircase that was carved out of the rock to form the National Pass track.
This is the perfect walk to get a taste of the Blue Mountains.
From the Conservation Hut, you wind down first to Empress Falls and a number of other cascades flowing from the falls. Along the way, there’s several lookouts to take in the Blue Mountains scenery.
On the way back up, you pass Wentworth Falls at the base and then climb to the top before looping back under cliffs to the Conservation Hike.
This route is about 7km and will take approximately three hours to complete.
11. Vatna Glacier, Iceland
Distance: Approximately 1.5km Difficulty: Moderate Time: 1 hour
For a hike of a different kind, head to Iceland to slip on crampons and tackle a glacier.
The Vatna Glacier (Vatnajokull) is located on Iceland’s south east coast near the Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon.
The glacier is accessible by hour long guided tours. The guides lead the way and tell you about the glacier and keep you safe around the crevasses.
It’s harder than you think to hike on a glacier but it’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I felt like I was in a different world.
The landscapes are surreal and the colours of the blue ice are hypnotising.
12. Calanques Hike, Cassis, France
Difficulty: Moderate-Hard Time: 4 hours return
Last but not least is the hike along the calanques on the south coast of France. Starting from the small port town of Cassis is a hike to three calanques – coastal inlets framed by towering white limestone cliffs.
It’s a dusty gravel trail to the calanques – with the difficulty increasing the further you go.
The shortest hike is to the Port Miou calanque beach, which will take you about an hour return. You can then choose to continue onto the Port Pin and En Vau calanque. The En Vau calanque has a very steep descent down so watch your step.
Whichever beach you choose to hike to, you’ll be rewarded with clear turquoise blue water and coastal views.