The best hikes and treks on the planet are more than a mere walk in the park, they challenge you both mentally and physically. They test your limits and deepen your view of the world in ways that are completely unexpected.
If you have ever had the desire to dive deep into the wilderness, experiencing mother nature in ways that you never knew imagined while creating unforgettable memories that will last a lifetime, a hike or trek is just what the doctor ordered.
Hiking and trekking are terms that are often used interchangeably and are more or less the same thing. A hike is a short trek and a trek is a long hike, they both have the ability to change who you are and gift you a new perspective on what life is really about. Find out below the exactly what makes them different from each other and special in their own right.
What is hiking?
According to vocabulary.com, the definition of hiking is… “To hike is to walk a long way at a leisurely pace. You might love to hike in the woods on weekends.”
Hiking is wildly popular and has become a standard outdoor adventure activity (source). It’s a fantastic way to spend a day and it’s a welcomed escape from the hustle and bustle of the everyday grind. Hiking is a straightforward outdoor activity and that is the catalyst for a number of other outdoor adventures.
Benefits of hiking
Besides being awesome, hiking has a variety of physical and mental benefits that will give you another excuse to get outdoors. There’s an old saying that hiking makes you happier and healthier, and this statement couldn’t be more accurate.
1. Burn calories
Hiking is an endurance activity and depending on the trail you choose it can be as difficult or easy as you’d like. Just one hour of hiking burns roughly 562 calories per hour (source). Multiply that over 6-8 hours and you have a calorie burning adventurous way to spend a day in the wild.
2. Core workout
Hiking is rarely done on a flat surface with no obstacles. Any hike worth its salt is going to have inclines, declines, uneven surfaces, and debris along the way. It will force you to go up, over, and around all types of terrain while working muscles that a standard walk simply won’t.
3. Hiking reduces stress
Stress does lasting damage on your body, both mentally and physically. Cortisol is the stress hormone and it plays an important role in the inner workings of your body. According to Harvard Health hiking being in nature has both restorative and stress relieving powers that limit the release of Cortisol. In other words, hiking reduces your stress levels.
4. Hiking improves sleep
For the average person with a family, job, and adult obligations throughout the day, getting a good nights rest seems like a distant memory. Lack of sleep is an all too common health issue in the US. The average American gets 6.8 hours of sleep a night (source) and a challenging hike in the mountains is a great way to get some exercise which in turn, helps you fall asleep naturally at the end of the day.
Gear needed for hiking
There are countless gear lists for hiking that you can find online and they range from a few items to a laundry list of items to bring. Being that a hike is generally a short day trip, the fact of the matter is, you don’t need that much. Just bring a small bag with a few essentials and you’ll be fine.
- Comfortable footwear
- First aid kit
- Safety items (GPS, fire, light, whistle)
Amazing hikes to consider
There are hikes in your backyard that are amazing and then there are bucket list hikes that you should definitely consider. Here are some of the worlds most popular hikes that will only take up one day and will provide you with lifelong memories.
Sentiero degli Dei Amalfi Coast, Italy
Nicknamed the “Path of the Gods” the Sentiero degli Dei connects the tiny hilltop town of Agerola with Nocelle, two picturesque towns in Italy. It spans spectacular scenery ranging from cliffside views of the water to tiny shrines and cypress groves. This hike burns calories and the payoff is the magic of the Italian and a pasta dinner in the evening.
- Length – 12.5 km
- Duration – 5 hours
- Difficulty – Moderate
Sarangkot Pokhara, Nepal
Nepal is well known for their trekking and millions of people can’t be wrong. If a week-long trek isn’t on your agenda then consider checking out the Sarangkot Pokhara and its expansive views of the Himalayan mountains that tower over 8,000 meters into the sky. The hike itself is fairly low in elevation, however, there are panoramic views of the breathtaking Dhaulagiri, Annapurna II, and Machhapuchhare (the fishtail mountain) peaks.
- Length – 7km
- Duration – 4-5 hours
- Difficulty – Easy to moderate
Dragon’s Back Hong Kong Island
Hong Kong is synonymous with the hustle and bustle of an enormous modern city and millions of bright city lights, however, there are a number of magnificent hikes just a stone’s throw away. Dragon’s back is a small section of the 50 km Hong Kong trail and gives you a small taste of the up and down ridges of Hong Kong Island. Commonly referred to as “Asia’s favorite hike” this hike takes you through woodlands, beaches, and villages along the South China Sea.
- Length – 4.5 km
- Duration – 2-3 hours
- Difficulty – Easy
What is trekking?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, trekking is… “The activity of walking long distances on foot for pleasure.”
Trekking is hiking over long distances and there are tantalizing treks found all over the world. A trek can be last anywhere from a few days to a few months and will take you on an adventure to magical places that are otherwise unreachable. Exploring the natural world from an angle that a vehicle simply won’t show you is one of the hallmarks of trekking.
Trekking is a more involved activity that takes careful planning and preparation. Some of the most popular treks in the world are in far away places like the Inca Trail in Peru and the Annapurna Trail in Nepal. While they may be a long ways from home, the experience is priceless.
Benefits of trekking
Trekking is very similar to hiking and some of the benefits may overlap. However, the benefits of trekking are magnified due to the extended amount of time you spend on the trail.
1. Improved fitness
Exercise is an important part of our day to day lives and it’s easy to get lost in the grind of daily life and put fitness on the back burner. When you’re trekking you spend multiple days on the trail, with constant elevation gains, obstacles to climb over, and improving overall strength.
2. Social connections
Trekking with others creates lifelong friendships and stronger bonds than you will make in a year at home. It is a shared struggle of persistence and will that brings people close together throughout the entire process. Social connections made on the trail are powerful and long lasting.
3. Cultural enlightenment
Many of the best treks in the world are found in places that are far away from home. Travel gets you out of your comfort zone, however, it’s easy to get lost in your phone and not truly experience the world around you. Trekking throws you headfirst into a foreign land with little to no cell phone service and forces you to get to know the people and places around you.
4. Improves cardiovascular activity
Trekking is a committed activity that involves hiking multiple miles each and every day. You get your heart rate up, your blood pumping, and your cardiovascular system working to its full capacity. Cardiovascular activity has a variety of health such as reducing stress, increasing energy, increasing oxygen supply, and improving memory (source).
Gear necessary for trekking
Trekking is a multi-day hike, therefore, you’re going to need to plan accordingly. It involves many of the same items as a day hike, as well as, many more. So before you pack your bags and hit the road be sure that you’re 100% prepared for all situations.
- Hiking backpack
- Change of clothes
- Sterile water
- Sleeping arrangements
- First aid
- Emergency equipment (GPS, light, fire starter, whistle)
Amazing treks to consider
Trekking is the older and more adventurous sibling of hiking and these long distance trails have been known to change lives forever. A trek involves significantly more planning and the payoff is significantly more rewarding. Here is a small taste of some of the best treks on the planet.
Inca Trail, Peru
The Inca Trail was discovered less than 100 years ago and is a gem of human achievement. The trail was laid down by the Incas and takes you from Sacred Valley through the mountains of Peru and finishes at Machu Picchu. You experience views of snow-capped mountains, high cloud forests, and hair-raising cliffs during this 4-day trek at high elevations.
- Length – 43 km
- Duration – 4 days
- Difficulty – Challenging
Annapurna Circuit Trek
The Annapurna Trail is arguably the single most popular trek on the planet. It is a 128-mile route which circles Nepal’s Annapurna range. You get to experience the magic of the Himalayas, the beauty of Nepalese culture and test your wherewithal. You walk along a centuries-old trade route which is still active to this day.
- Length – 211 km
- Duration – 16- 21 days
- Difficulty – Challenging
Tanzania’s Mt Kilimanjaro
Mt. Kilimanjaro is Africa’s highest peak and is legendary among some of the world’s most famous explorer’s and adventurer’s. Mount Kilimanjaro displays an example of almost every eco-system, and they all coexist all within the mountain’s expanse. This trek is no walk in the park, however, it gives you multiple options to climb to the top and experience the true magic of mother nature in all its beauty.
- Length – 34 km
- Duration – 8 days
- Difficulty – Challenging
Hiking vs Trekking, which one is right for you?
For us to sit here and tell you that trekking or hiking is better for you would be irresponsible.
Hike your own hike and trek your own trek. There is no one that can tell you which one is best for you. The decision comes from you and you alone.
If you feel like getting away for a day and decompressing from the madness of everyday life then a hike is just what the doctor ordered.
If you’ve been longing for an experience that is meaningful and has the potential to change your perspective on life in a powerful and unforgettable way, a trek is a fantastic choice.
The most important take away from this should be to do what feels right for you. Challenge yourself to push the limits, and most importantly, have fun.