The sense of achievement on the completion of a famous long-distance walk is hard to beat. Indeed, for many people, a long-distance trail, such as the famous West Highland Way in Scotland or America’s iconic Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), will be rated as one of the biggest achievements of their life (as well as the stuff of wonderful long-lasting memories). There are many epic long-distance trails for walkers worldwide – and several different ways to complete them.
A long-distance walking trail in one go
If you have access to the valuable resources of time, energy and fitness then it is well worth considering a full long-distance trail completed in one go. This is the ultimate way to enjoy a long distance walk and something that many walkers dream of doing. Of course, the time it takes to finish a trail also will depend on the length of the route. There are waymarked trails that can be easily completed over a couple of days. However, in this article we are considering the more epic routes, especially those that take at least a week or more. Many people can spare a week or a fortnight’s holiday for a long-distance walk or a bike ride and they might choose a walking holiday such as Scotland’s West Highland Way in seven days and the Great Glen Way in seven to nine days, or Stevenson’s Trail in rural France over 13 days. Another great walk that requires the best part of a fortnight’s holiday to walk is the full Hadrian’s Wall Walk from Newcastle in northern England to Bowness-on-Solway.
The Tour du Mont Blanc can be walked in one long hike, or different sections, or as a highlights walking holiday.
The Complete Tour du Mont Blanc (huts version) includes 10 days of walking but you will need to allow for travelling to and from the start/finish in Chamonix France so a fortnight off work should be perfect. Then again, you might be fortunate enough to have more time for walking. Those who are retired or who have extended holidays, such as school teachers, or for people keen to take a sabbatical, there are plenty of hikes that can fill many weeks or months. A superb 199-mile Coast to Coast Walk across England will take between 14 and 18 days, depending on your fitness and desires to visit attractions along the way. If you have the time, why not make the most of the adventure and there are plenty of other coast to coast ideas. Also read about a Macs Adventure walker Celeste, who is planning to walk all the way across England in one great long-distance adventure because she is keen for a “big challenging hike”.
The Full Camino Way, from St Jean Pied de Port to Santiago, will take the average walker some 40 days, or the Full Camino le Puy Way requires 38 days of walking. England’s South West Coast Path in full is 630 miles and takes around 30 days to walk, or six to seven weeks if you want to enjoy a more leisurely pace. Even more epic is the 2,659-mile Pacific Crest Trail that requires many months of dedication to hike in its entirety from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington. Another fantastic long distance walk is the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (the Appalachian Trail or AT), which is waymarked from Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine, in America. Again, you will need to be able to dedicate a lot of time to walk the full 2,200 miles in one long hike.
A long-distance walking trail in sections
If might be that you have a long distance tail that you would like to complete but you have limited days or holidays. So why not break the walk in sections and aim to complete the trail over a number of different holidays? Walking national trails in different sections has a number of other advantages. It allows you to take you time to walk rather that feeling the pressure of time to finish and if you are less than fit, a shorter walk can be refreshing rather than punishing. Many longer walks can be easily broken into sections and returned to again and again. Instead of walking the full Stevenson’s Trail in France, the northern section is ideal for a week’s holiday. You could return to do the southern section of the Stevenson’s Trail another time. A section of the famous GR10 “Discovery in Comfort” offers eight days of walking from Hendaye to St Jean Pied to Port.
There are many possible "section walks" on the South West Coast Path.
While the South West Coast Path will take many weeks of waking from start to finish there are plenty of shorter sections, such as from St Ives to Penzance over five to seven days. Instead of the full Haute Route from the Alps outdoor town of Chamonix to Zermatt, you could choose to hike the west section of Walker’s Haute Route from to Arolla over one week. The Camino is also easy to walk in sections and during separate holidays. See our guide to walking the Camino. For example, the first stage from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Logrono takes just over a week of beautiful walking while the final stage takes around seven days from Sarria to Santiago.
Let someone else choose the best bits
There is a lot to be gained from letting an expert choose the best bits of a long-distance walking trail. Macs Adventure offers a great selection of these trips. We pick five.
Let someone help you to choose the best sections of the Great Wall of China.
Walk a variety of sections on the Great Wall of China. The best of the Hadrian’s Wall Walk will require less than a week of walking but still offers many scenic rewards. How about the Best of the Burren Way in south-west Ireland? Enjoy a five-day holiday to walk Highlights of the Bernese Oberland in Europe. Try a Highlights of the Tour du Mont Blanc (comfort) walking holiday for a taste of the full long-distance trail.