John Muir, American philosopher, wilderness preservation advocate and author once said, “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find [that] going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.” This could have been written yesterday, but Muir said those words in the mid-1850s.
If you feel the same way and want to open your world to the wonders of Asia’s best trails, these hiking spots will thrill and excite you knowing that Muir would have been honoured to meet you along the way!
1. Find Your Bliss in a Buddhist Kingdom
Name: Snowman Trek
Hike Details: It’s supposed to be the hardest trail on earth and you’ll need a guide willing to brave this trail with you plus yaks to carry your gear. Plan to take 25 days to traverse 11 passes, including the harrowing Rinchen Zoe La Pass at 17,388 feet and Zogophu Gamp at 23,294 feet.
Length: 200+ miles
When to go: To avoid snows and monsoons, go in either April or October.
Our recommendation: Travel here to experience the tranquility that only comes from a land that had no TV or Internet access until 1999.
2. Skip the Canopy Walkway if You Love Everything But Heights!
Name: Taman Negara
Hike Details: Part of this trail includes the world’s longest canopy walkway perched above pristine evergreen forests and tropical jungle. Many laws have been passed to keep this park pristine, so no littering, please.
Location/Country: Malaysian Peninsula
Length: 4,343 square kilometers of forest and lowlands.
When to go: Showers are heaviest in September and October.
Our recommendation: This 130 million-year-old tropical rainforest is a must for hikers eager to trek one of the oldest rainforests on earth. Indulge in river cruises and limestone cave exploration to see ancient wall murals.
3. Your Passport to Rural Vietnam
Name: Sapa Hill Tribe Trek
Hike Details: Hikers start in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, take an overnight train to Lao Cai to begin a journey over hills and scenic “off the beaten track” trails. Visit remote tribal villages where time seems to stand still.
Length: Varies; plan to hike for at least 11 days.
When to go: Go between November and April to avoid the heat and the January cold.
Our recommendation: Book a November hike through CharityChallenge.com to help raise funds for the Black H’mong, Red Dao and Tay peoples who open their homes to hikers eager to learn about these exotic cultures.
4. Spot Real Tasmanian Devils on This Trail
Name: Overland Track
Hike Details: Nothing on earth compares to the wetlands of Cradle Mountain and all of Lake St. Clair National Park. Spot platypus, wombats and Tasmanian devils, the largest marsupial carnivores on the planet.
Location/Country: Tasmania, Australia
Length: 40 miles – add Lake St. Clair to bring your total hike distance to 51 miles
When to go: Reservations required from 1st October to 31st May. Avoid winter.
Our recommendation: Expect “gut-busting” climbs, alpine forest, grasslands and rain forest. Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service suggest a 6-day hike to include Mount Ossa. At 5,305-feet, it’s the highest peak in Tasmania.
5. This Trail Gets You Close to Paradise
Name: Annapurna Circuit
Hike Details: This acclaimed trek includes mountain peaks, valleys, rivers, farms, villages and forests. You’ll take from 17 to 21 days to acclimatise your body to the highest trail peak at 5,416 meters.
Length: 300 km
When to go: Autumn (September to November) or spring (March to May).
Our recommendation: Stop at holy sites; temples and ashrams unique to this area. Expect to be greeted by people in the region who welcome hikers with warmth and hospitality.
6. Chattering Monkeys Invite You to the Neighbourhood
Name: MacLehose Trail
Hike Details: The New Territories are quiet, rural areas in China, but your hike will be anything but. Anticipate cobras, daunting 1,000-foot descents best suited to mountain goats and dramatic climbs suited only to the fittest.
Location/Country: New Territories, Hong Kong
Length: 62 miles
When to go: November to March to avoid summer heat and humidity.
Our recommendation: This trail is divided into 10 sections; take time to move at your own pace. Landscapes are diverse: from beaches to tropical mountains that include Tai Mo Shan at 3,140 feet. Allow 5 to 6 days to finish.
7. This Seismic Area Remains a Popular Hiking Spot
Name: Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park
Hike Details: Do active volcanoes and craters that look like moonscapes appeal to your climbing aesthetic? Conquer Mount Bromo (a.k.a. Gunung Bromo), one of Indonesia’s most famous peaks and the site of picture postcard sunsets and sunrises. At 2,329 meters, this peak commands Bromo Tengger Semeru National Park, a hiker’s paradise.
Length: Sea of Sand measures approximately 3 km.
When to go: If you dislike crowds, avoid June through August.
Our recommendation: Stick to the “Sea of Sand” if elevations leave you dizzy. Be forewarned that volcanic eruptions have been detected as recently as 2015.
8. Nature Lovers Leave Their Hearts Along This Jungle Trail
Name: Taman Negara National Park
Hike Details: Described as the world’s ultimate untouched rainforest, this trek includes forest trails leading to Peninsula Malaysia’s highest peak, Gunung Tahan, rising 2,187 meters into the sky. Hikers spend from 3 to 7 days navigating steep ridges and obstacles that include 18 river crossings through the park.
Location/Country: West Malaysia
Length: 1,677 miles
When to go: The dry season runs from March to September. During monsoon season – November and December – the park may close if rivers flood.
Our recommendation: Bring first aid supplies for your feet even if you’re wearing comfy hiking boots. There are three routes to take; don’t turn down your guide’s request to suggest the one best for you.
9. Hike Into An Area That Rarely Hosts Outsiders
Name: Pamir Mountains
Hike Details: If you know Persian, you have already translated this mountain’s name as Roof of the World. Not for every backpacker, the Pamir Mountains attract extreme trekkers able to get visas allowing them access to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Pakistan borderlands. The landscape is stark if you’re used to jungles and forests.
Length: 92,000 square km
When to go: Best time to visit is between July and August.
Our recommendation: This “off the beaten path” area really does take that description to extremes. There are untold numbers of little-known hiking paths in the region — and rumour has it, 50 mountains have yet to be climbed, so this is your trip of if you’re up for a pioneering experience.
10. Create Your Own Picture Postcard of the Most Recognized Mountain in the World
Name: Mt. Fuji
Hike Details: Even those who can’t identify mountains know Mt. Fuji, Japan’s iconic peak. Despite being sacred, recreational trekkers flood this area; join them and you’ll understand this popular saying: “If you never climb Mount Fuji once you are a fool; climb it more than once, and you are twice the fool.”
Length: Trails leading to the mountain are of varying distances; the most popular is the Yoshida Trail.
When to go: Between 1st July and 14th September, but expect to encounter crowds.
Our recommendation: Plan a leisurely climb over a few days, though power hikers have reached the 3,776-meter summit in 8 hours! Find 10 rest stations on the Yoshida trail.
11. Hike Your Way to a Crystal Clear Lake in the Sky
Name: Yeak Laom in Ratanakiri
Hike Details: The dense forests of Cambodia’s Ratanakiri District, in the northeast corner of the country, are remote, so hire a knowledgeable guide. Don’t miss the stunning views at Yeak Loam Lake.
Length: Ratanakiri occupies about 10,782 square kilometers; determine your distance based on your time.
When to go: Rainy season runs from June to October; visit between November and February.
Our recommendation: Stop at five Tampuen villages along the trail. Residents love showing off their handicrafts, so if you seek souvenirs, this is your opportunity.
12. This Trail is Named for a Mythical Tiger on the Prowl
Name: Tiger Leaping Gorge
Hike Details: Dubbed the most photogenic of Asian hiking trails, this is the site of one of the world’s deepest river canyons. Hikers can transit two routes: an elevated skyway or the valley below know for its dirt tracks, creeks and mountain paths.
Length: The gorge is 16km long and 25 meters wide at its narrowest point.
When to go: Rainfall is heaviest in July and August.
Our recommendation: Take the 22km high road route to take advantage of mountain huts for rest stops. What’s below the skyways? China’s famous, rushing Yangzi River.
13. Choose from Three Types of Trails in this Stunningly Beautiful Area
Name: Chiang Mai
Hike Details: The most popular leisurely hike of its kind in Thailand, you’ll take three days to walk hills around Chiang Mai, explore villages and meet the Karen people. Close to Bangkok, book an escorted tour if you prefer not to do this trip on your own.
Length: Walk the entire trail network and you’ll cover 114 miles.
When to go: It rains from July to October, so go between November and February.
Our recommendation: Choose between the Doi Pui to Doi Suthep hike along flat paths, the Huay Tung Tao circular hike past the Dtaat Mook Waterfall (starts 12km northwest of the old city) or the Doi Inthanon Nature Trail (about 4.5 km to the mountain summit).
14. Hike and Then Swim in a Crystal Blue Crater Lake
Name: Gunung Rinjani National Park
Hike Details: The most popular guided hiking trip in this area usually takes about three days and includes an opportunity to ascend volcano slopes that culminate at the sacred lake, called Segara Anak (Child of the Sea).
Length: 159.6 square miles
When to go: October to April are wet; plan to go between May and September.
Our recommendation: The island of North Lombok Regency is home to Rinjani National Park and Mount Rinjani (12,224-feet); both have been called Mother Nature’s best work.
15. Ascend a Sacred Mountain for Health and Spiritual Reasons
Name: Adam’s Peak
Hike Details: Does the idea of metaphorically walking in the footprints of Buddha intrigue you? Stick Adam’s Peak at the top of your “must climb” list. Choose between six hiking trails of varying distances to reach the summit.
Location/Country: Sri Lanka
Length: Trek 2,243 meters to the top.
When to go: Climb between December and May; expect to encounter pilgrims on all trails.
Our recommendation: Wear sturdy shoes for your journey. Thousands of cement steps (5,500 to be exact) lead hikers heavenward, and while electrically lit paths may surprise and delight at night, do take rest stops as an extra safety precaution.
What trail will you blaze as part of your commitment to complete the goals and promises you made to yourself when you wrote your own bucket list?