Add These 3 Hiking Trails To Your 2024 Travel List

Forbes January 30, 2024

Lifestyle

Add These 3 Hiking Trails To Your 2024 Travel List

During the pandemic, many of us discovered that spending time in nature helped to boost our moods. That lift in spirits isn’t merely anecdotal. Research out of Stanford University reports that walking outside for 90 minutes in a natural setting produces a decrease in activity in the part of our brain that’s associated with depression.

The list of benefits of walking or hiking in nature is a long one — from mental health to physical health to emotional healing, a long walk can deliver it all. Walking and hiking vacations are an opportunity to maximize these benefits, leading travelers through landscapes that create connections, inspire, and rejuvenate.

“There's this real interaction with the environment that you're in and with the people that you're with,” says Caroline (Cline) Owen, Community Engagement Manager at Wild Women Expeditions. “There's just this sense of really being immersed in the place, in the people, and in the culture.”

Group trips, she adds, tend to result in the formation of strong bonds — even lifelong friendships — between complete strangers. “When you're on a walking tour, you're going more slowly. You can have conversations and really get that opportunity to meet different people and get that deeper connection because there's time to talk.”

It isn’t often that travelers disembark from a cruise or return from a resort stay with a sense of accomplishment and a boost in self-esteem but this is precisely the feeling achieved after a walking tour. “The sense of accomplishment when you reach that goal is beyond compare,” says Owen. “And when you reach it with [people] who are cheering you on and celebrating you and have that sense of, ‘Wow, we did this together,’ it’s life changing. I mean, you don't go and walk Everest base camp and not be changed in some way.”

 
Northern England’s Coast to Coast Walk

 

The Coast to Coast begins with a dip of the toe in the Irish Sea at St. Bees in Cumbria. From there, hikers walk through the Lake District and on to Yorkshire Dales National Park. They traverse the Yorkshire Moors and end, after around 197 miles of walking, at the North Sea in Robin Hood’s Bay.

Thanks to England’s right to roam laws, hikers are permitted to walk across privately owned land and the Coast to Coast route passes through farmers’ fields and local council property making it slightly tricky to travel without a guide. Tour companies like Wilderness England address that issue with guided Coast to Coast trips that include upscale lodgings and the luxury of having your luggage sent ahead of you each day.

The walk has long been an unofficial route but it’s currently undergoing the process of nationalization with improvements to signage and infrastructure to be completed in 2025. A major highlight includes a pass through the town of Grasmere. Here, visitors can explore the beautiful Dove Cottage, where the poet William Wordsworth and his sister, writer Dorothy, lived and worked.

 
Japan’s Kumano Kodo

 

This ancient pilgrimage trail takes travelers beyond typical urban Japanese destinations like Kyoto and Tokyo and introduces them to Japan’s stunning countryside.

The Three Grand Shrines of Kumano sit along a holy route traveled by Japanese pilgrims — from farmers to emperors — for more than 1,000 years. Walking this path is traditionally considered a quest for spiritual strength and purification.

In 2024, tour company Oku Japan launched additional self-guided tour programs along the Kiiji and Iseji routes of the Kumano Kodo. Combining history with hiking, the tours traverse tranquil rural landscapes and offer cultural experiences like visits to Shinto Grand Shrines and opportunities to rest your tired legs in Japanese onsen (hot baths) at the end of the day. Travelers can choose the more moderate routes like the Kiiki and Iseji or push themselves a little more on the classic Nakahechi route.

 
Bhutan’s Bumdra Monastery Trek

 

In 2022, Bhutan introduced a “sustainable development fee” charging visitors $200 USD per day as a way to support the tourism sector while trying to avoid the problems brought on by the kind of over tourism experienced in neighboring Nepal. But, in late 2023, Bhutan decreased this cost by half. This makes 2024 the ideal time to plan a hiking tour in the country — it’s remained pristine and uncrowded but it’s now more affordable.

Wild Women Expeditions includes the Bumdra Monastery Trek on their Bhutan Hiking Adventure itinerary. Beginning at Sang Choekor Buddhist College, hikers will set off on a two-day long camping experience that includes a stop at a breathtaking mountain temple called Chhoe Chhoe Tse Lhakhang. Eventually summiting just above the Bumdra Monastery, the climb reveals an unforgettable view of the Himalayan forest below. Don’t forget to pack your camera.


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