Top 10

These are my 'top 10' hikes from around the world, in no particular order or ranking.

They are all quite different but equally beautiful - places that photographs and words cannot do justice. 

01

 

Kungsleden, Day 4 - 71

Sometimes the best places are off the beaten path. While trekking Kungsleden in the most northern reaches of Sweden, I took a detour into the valley of Stuor Reaiddávággi and encountered one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It was the fourth day of my trip, and after three days of rain and overcast weather, the sun finally broke. My elation at seeing blue skies for the first time was only matched by the delight of walking through this remarkable landscape. 

 

The valley is at least one or two days' walk from any town or road, so this is a very isolated spot. But there is a mountain hut in the heart of the valley at Nallo where you can spend a night. Talk about getting away from it all. 

Llyn Idwal is my favourite place in the UK: a wild and lake hidden nestled at the foot of the jagged, ice-sculpted peaks of Cwm Idwal in Snowdonia National Park. Waterfalls stream down the hillside into the lake, boulders lie scattered across the landscape and the gentle Y Garn looms in the distance. The water is named after a prince whose father ruled over northern Wales in the ninth century - this is old-earth, weathered beauty.

A walk around the lake only takes 1 or 2 hours and is quite gentle. If you want something more challenging, you can hike up to Y Garn (947m) or Glyder Fawr (1,000m) via the Devil's Kitchen. However you enjoy Llyn Idwal, you will promise yourself to come back one day.

The hike to Navajo Knobs in Capitol Reef doesn't offer some of the features you'd hope for in a great walk: the route is there-and-back, the terrain is fairly monotonous, and you won't encounter any water features or exciting wildlife. But the views along the trail are second-to-none and the end point rewards you with one of the most breathtaking views imaginable: a 360-degree panorama of the Henry Mountains, the Cathedral Valley District and the Waterpocket Fold. It's this last feature, a 65-million-year-old wrinkle in the earth's crust that dominates Capitol Reefthat makes this view so epic and unforgettable. 

What's great about this hike is that it is very accessible, being only a short drive hike from the park's visitor center at Fruita. It can also be completed in a morning or an afternoon. Just make sure to take your camera. 

In 2018, I spent 8 days hiking in the Svaneti region of Georgia. It was an unforgettable trip for so many reasons - from the long journey to reach starting point via an overnight train, a minibus and hitching in the back of a pick-up truck, to a truly dramatic night on a (very cold) mountain pass, to some memorable encounters with the locals, to the timeless beauty of the Georgian mountains.

 

Although we enjoyed spectacular scenery every day of our trip, the most pleasant hike was probably from Tsvirmi, perched on the edge of a dramatic plateau, to the timeless village of Adishi. There we spent a night in a Svan tower - a must-do in this part of the world. 

Ok, so this is a popular one and you've probably seen it on countless Instagram feeds. But despite its popularity, and the need for some forward planning, this is a must-do hike that has it all: awesome scenery, fantastic walking and the promise of some adventure. For starters, you have to drive for hours along the dusty roads of Arizona just to reach the trailhead. Second, the hike begins on a spectacular cliff at the edge of the Grand Canyon. Third, you hike through Native land and a Havasu village that lie miles from anywhere at the base of the canyon. And lastly - as if from nowhere - that impossibly-blue water. 

It goes without saying that you will have to share the trail - and the falls themselves - with plenty of other hikers. But this is one trip that is worth the hype.  

Your fortunes can change quickly in the mountains. My favourite section of the GR20 was Day 8, between Refuge de Petra Piana and Refuge de Manganu. The day before had been truly miserable, heavy and relentless rain forcing us to retreat to our tents for the entire afternoon and evening. But as we set off early the next morning, the weather began to clear and we were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise over a sea of clouds. As we navigated our way through the craggy spires of rock, the clouds started spilling like waterfalls from our valley to the next. Shortly after, we reached the beautiful Lac de Capitello and the pass into the sunny valley beyond. There, we took a cool dip in a small, ice-cold lake before enjoying a beer and omelette at the pleasant Refuge de Manganu.

In 2017, I hiked from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn via La Haute Route: a world-famous trek that takes in some of the most spectacular mountain scenery Switzerland has to offer. It was also a long trip that at times almost broke me. The most memorable section was probably Day 9, when I crossed into German-speaking Switzerland via the Meidpass, and spent a night camping alone - with one of the best views in the world. 

This is a trip you could make fairly lightly - staying in hotels and taking advantage of the ski lifts - or with a lot more effort. However you do it, after more than a week on the trail your first sight of the Matterhorn will probably be an emotional moment.  

Angel's Landing, Utah

08

 

Zion National Park_039

Angel's Landing is quite simply a legendary hike that you have either already hiked or is at the top of your bucket list. However, although it is only a few miles (and a few hours) to the top of the 1,488-foot rock, this is not one for the feint-hearted. On both sides of the trail are sheer cliffs that plunge dramatically to the valley floor hundreds of metres below, and as you climb (and scramble) toward the summit the route only gets more narrow and more terrifying.

 

If you're like me and don't relish heights, this hike will definitely be a challenge. But it is well worth the effort, with one of the most well-known and photographed vistas in the American West. The fear, the view, and a tarantula sighting, made this a truly memorable hike.

Kinney Lake, Canada

09

 

Mount Robson National Park__109.jpg

It's difficult to pick out one hike from the Canadian Rockies - there are so many amazing hikes and so many stunning views. But Kinney Lake will always hold a special place in my heart. It's the first hike we did when we reached the Rockies and gave us our first experience of the truly epic scenery that the area is known for. To this day, it remains one of the most beautiful places I have ever been.

 

The lake is at the base of Mount Robson and only two or three miles from the trail head so can be reached easily. If you're lucky enough to make a longer hike, you can camp at the lake or continue to Berg Lake on the other side of the mountain.

Finger Peaks Basin, California

10

 

High Sierras 166 1.jpg

On the third day of our tour around the White Divide in the Sierras, we left Cathedral Lake and crossed a narrow pass into a remote and rarely visited valley below Finger Peak. We then left our packs and summited the peak - a tough climb that was quite exhausting in the high altitude and under a relentless midday sun. We retrieved our packs before lowering to a lake to find a camping site.

 

The lake we found, not far below the pass into the valley, has no name. But it is utterly pristine, an exceptional location that offers dramatic views to Finger Peak above and the series of lakes that lie in the valley below. Sometimes the most beautiful places are made even more beautiful by the sheer effort and work it takes to reach them.