I just finished reading Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” a dark, raw and fiercely humorous book on how one woman finds herself during a three-month long trek through the wild Pacific Crest Trail. The book is powerful, emotional, honest and inspiring, and Strayed uses her brilliant memoir to take a hard look at self-discovery, heeling and change.
Of course when times are tough, we can’t always pick up our bags and leave town. Yet, I often find that there is no better way to escape and reflect upon life than to go on a hike, and the more remote and wild, the better. I have been fortunate to have done many wonderful adventurous hikes over the years. Although every hike I’ve done has been special and has brought me to a new place, there are a select few that have truly inspired me and are unforgettable.
Here is a list of the top five wild hikes that are bound to get your mind thinking.
1. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Hidden at the far southern tip of Chile is home to Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most insanely beautiful parks in the world. In this remote, windswept region of nowhereland, you can experience four seasons in a day and winds so powerful that they knock you down. It is one of the most spectacular settings possible for trekking yet extremely difficult to reach.
When to go: The trail is open October to April yet best time to go is the month of November before it gets too hot and the crowds get too large. Be prepared for some insane weather!
2. Annapurna Trek, Nepal
By far the most life changing trek I’ve ever done, the three-week long Annapurna trek takes you through some of the most beautiful terrain in the world. With the mighty Himalayas as a jaw-dropping backdrop, you hike through rural villages, passing Buddhist temples, prayer wheels and mule trains. It is bound to be one of the most exceptional hikes of your life and the beauty and peace of Nepal will certainly fulfill your soul.
When to go: Nepal has two prime hiking seasons: Fall (October -December) and Spring (March-May). We went in November as it is normally less rainy and affords better views. It was a spectacular time to go and not too crowded.
3. Skaftafell National Park, Iceland
Iceland is not a very populous country and it is a relatively easy place to find tranquility and peace. Iceland’s dramatic landscape gives the perfect backdrop for hiking and exploring perhaps some of the most wild places in the world. The stark, barren beauty of Skaftafell National Park takes your breath away and is like no place on earth.
When to go: Given Iceland’s climate, the trekking season is very very short and only lasts during the summer months of June, July and August. We went in early August and had spectacular weather and not too large of crowds.
4. Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Located at the end of the world, in the tiny Patagonian outpost El Chatlen lies Los Glaciares National Park, one of the finest in Argentina. The landscape is serene and the raw beauty of remote Patagonia is sure to inspire. There are several day hikes in the park and instead of camping, you can spend the nights at a local inn indulging in delicious local food and wine. You are also a bus ride away from the famous Perito Moreno Glacier, definitely worth a visit.
When to go: Similar to Patagonian Chile, the trekking season runs from October to April. Once again we chose November when the weather and conditions were perfect. Not too hot and not too cold, and not many tourists.
5. Santa Maria Volcano, Guatemala
You rise at dawn to start the hike up to the sacred top of Santa Maria Volcano in the highlands of Guatemala. Or even better yet, you leave in the early afternoon and reach the top by dusk and spent the night on top of one of the world’s most active volcano landscapes. As the sun sets, you see the brilliant flowing lava from neighboring volcanos lighting up the blackness of the sky. If you do the day hike don’t be alarmed when you hear the Mayans chant as Santa Maria’s next door neighbor Santiaguito erupts. You are in for one of the wildest experiences of you life!
When to go: Winter to Spring months are the best when the weather is mild and not too rainy. I hiked in March and it was perfect.