Hiking can transport you to waterfalls, high-alpine lakes, and vistas that many people never get to see. But why settle for a single day in the wilderness when you could spend multiple soaking up the views and sleeping under the stars? Backpacking allows you to go deeper, stay longer, and in some cases, lose the crowds. Plus, there’s a wonderful simplicity that comes with only being able to bring what you can fit in a backpack — you might be surprised with how little you need and how good you feel when you step away from it all.
When you’re ready to take your love of hiking to the next level, start with a one- or two-night trip on a familiar route. Once you’ve got your gear, hiking legs, and general know-how dialed in, you might want to consider taking on one of the world’s most renowned multiday adventures. While typically strenuous, these routes are some of the most beautiful and iconic backpacking trips in the world — just keep in mind that many require hiring a guide and obtaining a permit, so make sure to plan your journey well in advance.
Inca Trail, Peru
This list would not be complete without mention of the Inca Trail. The route that leads to Machu Picchu is a once-in-a-lifetime trek that follows the footsteps of a great lost civilization. While most people are in it for the trip’s finale — Machu Picchu — there’s plenty more to see along this 26-mile multiday backpacking trip. You’ll hike over Dead Woman’s Pass (don’t let that scare you) and through the terraces of Wiñay Wayna while enjoying near-constant views of the Andes.
Torres del Paine W Trek, Chile
There’s a reason why this backpacking trip is on the bucket list of many — it cuts through Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region, which is renowned for its stunning mountains and uncanny blue lakes. It’s also home to rare wildlife, like guanacos, a llama-like creature. The 43-mile journey on the W Trek isn’t easy, but those looking to wake up lakeside at the foot of a snow-capped mountain will find the hike to be well worth the effort.
Tour du Mont Blanc, Switzerland, Italy, and France
If you’ve dreamed of not only seeing, but immersing yourself in the Alps, here’s your chance. The Tour du Mont Blanc trail passes through France, Italy, and Switzerland as it circumnavigates the highest peak in Western Europe: Mont Blanc, which stands at 15,777 feet. The hike isn’t easy, but the 105-mile loop includes plenty of lodging — from rustic mountain huts to luxury hotels — and you can use public transportation to shorten the trip if needed.
Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim, United States
Millions of people visit Arizona’s Grand Canyon National Park each year, but few take on the Rim-to-Rim trail, which dips deep into the canyon and requires an equally steep hike out. The best option is to start on the North Rim on the North Kaibab Trail, then hike out on the South Rim’s Bright Angel Trail. In total, the backpacking trip is around 24 miles and easily an accomplishment worth bragging about.
Panorama Ridge, Canada
Western Canada is full of amazing trails, but Panorama Ridge is a little extra special. The views are continual throughout the 19-mile journey, which begins just south of Whistler Village at Rubble Creek parking lot. As you make your way through the stunning Garibaldi Provincial Park, you’ll pass fields of wildflowers, a disintegrating volcano, and a high-alpine lake, all while enjoying views of Mount Price and Mount Garibaldi. For a shorter version of the same hike, start at Garibaldi Lake Campground.
El Camino de Santiago, Spain
El Camino de Santiago is a historic Spanish pilgrimage route that leads to the Catedral de Santiago de Compostela in Santiago. There are many routes to the cathedral, but one of the most scenic is Camino del Norte, which starts in San Sebastian and traverses along the northern coast before meeting up with Camino Primitivo, which is considered to be the original path.
As beautiful as it may be, keep in mind that this backpacking trip is not for the faint of heart — it is a 500-mile spiritual journey that takes travelers weeks and even months. Of course, you can always dip in for a section and spend the rest of your holiday sipping on cava at a luxe resort — no judgement.
Kepler Track, New Zealand
Nestled in Fiordland National Park on New Zealand’s South Island is the 37-mile Kepler Track, a trail that was designed to showcase the highlights of Fiordland: glacier-carved valleys, waterfalls, and endless mountains. Start your journey from Kepler Track car park and tackle the trail counterclockwise, so you can knock out the most challenging climb up front.
Mount Kilimanjaro Lemosho Route, Tanzania
What hiker hasn’t dreamed of summiting Mount Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa, at 19,341 feet? It’s no easy feat, but your journey up this dormant volcano is something to write home about — or at least Instagram about. And if you’re going to take on Kilimanjaro, you might as well opt for the most beautiful route — a title well earned by the 41-mile Lemosho Route.