If you’re an avid hiker, you might be keen on knowing which are the longest trails in the world.
Planning an epic hiking adventure along one of the longest trails in the world or eventually getting to see a few of the longest trails in the world are bucket list goals for beginners and experienced hikers alike.
After all, a journey along one of the longest trails in the world will not only give you the opportunity to see the vast and diverse natural landscape through which the trail meanders during its course, but it will also give you an opportunity to grow as a person and discover more about yourself through the challenges and successes on the trail.
Hiking has a way of pulling out the best in ourselves, and there’s no better way to magnify the effectiveness of a good hike for self-growth than tackling one of the longest trails in the world.
Grab your passport, your bucket list, and a pen, and keep reading to learn about 9 of the longest hiking trails in the world.
9 Of the Longest Trails In the World
#1: Te Araroa Trail (1,900 Miles)
The Te Araroa Trail, more commonly referred to as The Long Pathway, spans roughly 1,900 across the coasts of the two largest islands of New Zealand.
There are about 300 different sections of the trail, some of which can be hiked individually in a day, while others take upwards of 8-9 days.
From its start in Cape Reinga to its termination in Bluff, the trail is made up of a bunch of new and older railway tracks and walkways, though portions are linked only by roads.
The good news is that there are plans to build out new sections of trail to replace road sections, with the goal of eventually paring back the road portions to no more than 5% of the entire trail.It’s a newer trail, being completed in 2011. Hence, modifications are likely to continue to occur, and despite the road chunks, hikers will be rewarded with some of the most beautiful vistas imaginable.
#2: Appalachian National Scenic Trail (2,200 Miles)
Typically referred to as the Appalachian Trail for short, the Appalachian National Scenic Trail stretches about 2,200 miles south to north along the East Coast of the United States.
It spans 14 states and traverses the Appalachian Mountain Range.
The Appalachian Trail begins at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Mount Katahdin in Maine, though there is also an International Appalachian Trail.
The expanded trail extends well beyond the 2,200 miles, continuing further north through the rest of Maine, into Canada, and even further into Greenland.
Further south, sections extend in what is known as the Eastern Continental Trail, which meanders through Alabama and Florida.
The Appalachian Trail is tremendously popular among thru-hikers and section hikers alike, with some 2 million hikers enjoying some part of the trail every year.
It is also thought to be the longest hiking trail in the world that is designated only for hiking.
The idea for the Appalachian Trail dates back to its conception in 1921, and the trail was fully built by 1937.
Although it’s rugged and rather remote in certain areas, it’s well marked and well maintained, managed by the non-profit Appalachian Trail Conservancy, along with the National Park Service and the United States Forest Service.
#3: Pacific Crest Trail (2,653 Miles)
The Pacific Crest Trail, often referred to as just the PCT, is one of the best-known trails on the list of the longest trails in the world.
The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,653-mile trail that stretches the length of the west coast of the United States of America.
It spans the states of California, Oregon, and Washington from its trailhead just south of Campo, California, at the border between the U.S. and Mexico, to its end at Manning Park in British Columbia, at the U.S and Canadian border.
The Pacific Crest Trail is particularly popular among thru-hikers seeking a long-distance hike.
It’s known for its beauty and challenge, taking hikers through rugged sections that span from sea level to up to around 13,000 ft.
This long hiking trail was largely mapped out and designed by YMCA groups in the early- to mid-1930s; however, it took until 1968 to be designated by President Lyndon B. Johnson under the National Trails System Act and was not fully completed until 1993.
Compared to some of the other longest trails in the world, the Pacific Crest Trail is relatively well marked and maintained, thanks to the active Pacific Crest Trail Association.
#4: Hokkaido Nature Trail (2,900 Miles)
Taking a trip to Asia for this entry on the list of the longest hiking trails in the world, the Hokkaido Nature Trail is a beautiful, long hiking trail found on the main northern island of Japan.
Spanning about 2,849 miles, the Hokkaido Nature Trail connects many of Japan’s national parks together into one trail system, taking hikers through picturesque and varied landscapes, including glaciers, volcanoes, forests, and lakes.
Some of the terrain is relatively remote, while other areas are cultural hubs, and a fair amount of the trail meanders through areas of active volcanoes.
Therefore, hikers should be mindful when preparing to hike this route.
The information and resources about the trail that are available in English are rather limited, so hikers who don’t speak Japanese may want to consider speaking with local guides before embarking on this trail.
#5: Continental Divide Trail (3,100 Miles)
The gorgeous 3,100-mile Continental Divide Trail runs from the border between New Mexico and Mexico up through Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, where it ends at the border with Canada.
#6: The Grand Italian Trail (3,831 Miles)
One of the most beautiful, longest trails in the world is the 3,831-mile-long Grand Italian Trail.
Spanning the country from Trieste in northern Italy to Santa Teresa Gallura in Sardinia, the diverse hiking trail takes trekkers across the entire Alpine Arc and the entire Apennine mountain chain, as well as through Sicily and Sardinia.
Although some areas of the Grand Italian Trail aren’t very well marked, so navigation can be tricky. It’s also a great trail for day hikes because it’s broken up into 368 individual sections, each of which can give you a little window into the Italian culture and landscape.
Just make sure you bring a detailed trail map and are confident with your navigation skills if you are hiking some of the less-traveled sections of the trail.
#7: The E1 European Long-Distance Path (4,960 Miles)
After the Great Trail, the E1 European Long-Distance Path earns the mark as the second-longest trail in the world. Traversing more than 4,960 miles through seven countries, the E1 starts at the Northern edge of Norway in the arctic circle, then drops into Finland, then down Sweden to Malmo, where it crosses into Denmark.
From there, you’ll hike down to Germany, into Switzerland, and then over the Alps into Italy, finally ending in Sicily.
It’s a fantastic way to see the varied and beautiful natural lands in Europe.
#8: American Discovery Trail (5,057 Miles)
The American Discovery Trail is a massive system of trails (along with some roads) that spans the contiguous United States from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.
There are two different routes that are part of the American Discovery Trail.
The slightly shorter northern trail is about 4,834 miles. It goes through Chicago and stays mostly around that latitude, while the longer Southern route is a whopping 5,057 miles or so and goes through St. Louis.
The American Discovery Trail starts on the Delmarva Peninsula in Delaware and ends on the coast of the Pacific Ocean in Northern California.
As one of the longest trails in the world, the American Discovery Trails takes hikers through a myriad of terrains and notable regions of the continental United States, including through the Appalachian Mountains, across the Great Plains, up the Rocky Mountains, and across the Sierra Nevada Mountains en route to the west coast.
This long hiking trail is the only coast-to-coast trail closer to vehicular traffic. Although it’s most popular among hikers, it can be traversed almond in its entirety on horseback.
#9: The Great Trail (14,996 Miles)
The prize for the longest trail in the world goes to the Great Trail (formerly The Trans Canada Trail prior to 2016).
Spanning approximately 14,996 miles across Canada from east to west, the Great Trail is considered the longest multi-use recreational trail network in the world.
Unlike some of the longest hiking trails on this list, many of the sections of the Great Trail are paved rail trails, where old freight lines have been converted into paved or cleared walking and biking paths.
Interestingly, despite being nearly 15,000 miles long and having a decent level of continuity, each individual section of the Great Trail is owned and operated by local conservation groups and governments.
However, the Great Trail is mostly funded by Trans Canada Trail, a non-profit.
There are over 400 community trails that are part of the Great Trail system, and certain sections are being updated and improved to be safer and clearer. For example, greenways are being added alongside dangerous road sections.
Which longest hiking trail has sparked your wanderlust?
If you run into a tricky section on the trails, it’s handy to have some scrambling tips to get you through the rough patches of terrain. Check out our guide to scrambling to teach you the basics!