December 11 is International Mountain Day. To celebrate, we explore the most magnificent mountain ranges to hike in.
With its traditional timber houses and car-free streets, Wengen is a trip back into the beginnings of Swiss tourism. The holiday resort sits on a sunny platform at the foot of the Jungfrau, overlooking the stunning scenery of the Lauterbrunnen Valley. In winter, it’s a hot spot for skiers, while summer sees hikers, climbers and sightseers ascend via the railway to this little oasis of calming Swiss charm.
The Sierra Madre de Oaxaca is a massive mountain range that is predominantly confined, as the name would suggest, to Oaxaca, although parts do cross into Puebla and Veracruz. Within this region, you also have the Sierra Juárez (former president Benito Juárez’ birthplace) and the tallest Mexican peak, Pico de Orizaba. In fact, most of the peaks are very high, ranging from 8,200 feet and 9,800 feet above sea level.
Crested Butte, tucked in a little nook in the Colorado mountains, is surrounded by national forests and mountain ranges. Characterized by summer scenery of green forests, the land and glimmering lakes turn into a picturesque blanket of white snow during winter. A former coal mining town, Crested Butte began as a summer destination for the Ute tribe; shortly after, many trappers explored the area, and by the mid-1800s, the town mines were open for use. The settlement didn’t receive its reputation as a popular skiing destination, however, until the 1960s – today, it’s famous for cross-country skiing, extreme skiing, mountain biking, hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, kayaking and white water rafting, as well as its many unique annual festivals.
To the north of Glen Coe sits the rocky ridge of Aonach Eagach. This riveting ridge continues for 10 kilometres and is perfect for an arduous and rocky adventure. As dangerous as the slopes and terrain may be, the view is worth the risk.
This hike tops many a list – there’s nothing like it. The Narrows of Zion National Park is a section of the North Fork of the Virgin River, where the canyon walls close in, and the river becomes your trail. In the “Wall Street” section, hikers are walled in by 600 feet of sheer red rock, shielded from the sun and wading through cool water. You’ll need a permit for the two longer, top-down hikes, but the more casual bottom-up hike, starting at Temple Sinawava and ending at Big Springs, doesn’t require one.
Located a few hours’ drive north of Christchurch, the picture-perfect seaside town of Kaikoura is known for its laid-back, eco-friendly attitude, and stunning location where rugged mountains meet magnificent seascape. Hike the mountains for breathtaking views over the coast and don’t miss out on a boat trip out of Kaikoura. The town boasts rich Maori culture, even down to its name: Kaikoura is Maori for ‘eat crayfish’, which is a local culinary specialty and can be bought freshly-caught and cooked at food trucks and restaurants. The area also offers some of the best whale, dolphin and seal-spotting opportunities in the world.
Once named one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, because of its missing sections of pathway and sheer cliffside drops, the Caminito del Rey is located in the region of Malaga. The route was closed for many years due to safety issues; however, extensive renovations took place and it reopened again at the start of 2015. Today, the path has been repaired, and handrails have been added as well as bridges and stairs to create a spectacular yet safe experience. The trail is approximately 7.7 kilometres long and takes around four hours to complete.
Everyone talks about Half Dome, the famed icon of Yosemite, but instead of driving across the valley to the western part of the park, hike North Dome and get the most incredible view of Half Dome from across the valley. Park at Porcupine Creek (not to be confused with Porcupine Flat) and start your way down the trail. There are some definite ups and downs, but if you’re in good shape you’ll be fine. The hardest part is getting on North Dome itself. You’ll round a corner and see Half Dome in all its majesty and a wide panorama of the Yosemite Valley.
Located in the Alberta Rocky Mountains, Banff is the oldest national park in Canada, having been established in 1885. Known for its mountainous terrain and alpine landscapes – including more than a thousand glaciers, ice fields, forests, valleys, meadows, and rivers – the park is part of UNESCO’s Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks World Heritage Site. Natural sites around the park include Canada’s largest cave system, Castleguard Cave, numerous glacier-fed lakes and the Legacy Trail, fantastic for walking, cycling, and in-line skating.
Famous for its mountains, the Snowdonia National Park offers one of the most remarkable outdoor experiences in the UK. If you don’t feel like a hike, you can always take the Snowdon Mountain Railway up to the top and enjoy the views. However, there are also plenty of peaks for the more adventurous to enjoy.
Glendalough is in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, situated south of Dublin on 20,000 hectares of protected land. For thousands of years, people have been drawn to ‘the valley of the two lakes’ for its spectacular scenery, rich history, archaeology and abundant wildlife. The monuments and lakes are accessible all year round at anytime of the day on foot; however, the car parks may have the barrier down early in the morning and late in the evening.
Pack your gear and visit one of Tasmania’s most infamous and scenic natural wonders. Spot wallabies and wombats that take residence among the native bush land as you stroll through the various forest trails, including the world-famous Overland Track that takes you through Cradle Mountain National Park to Lake St Clair. This track is not for the weak or faint-hearted, taking around five to six days to complete.
Home to the Czech Republic’s highest mountain range, the Krkonoše National Park is noted for its unique landscapes and ecosystems, ranging from alpine meadows and moorland to high slopes and tundra – so unique, in fact, that the park was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1992. The small town of Pec pod Sněžkou makes the perfect base for exploring the park’s highest peak Sněžka. Whether visitors take a relaxing cable car ride to the top of the mountain or hike a trail via the scenic valley of Obří Důl, they’ll be rewarded with stunning panoramic views across the Czech Republic and Poland.