female hiker walking along a hiking trail along a mountain top

People are just opening up to the idea that hiking trails are open for business. It’s one of my favourite activities while on holidays. And I’m noticing its now becoming popular thanks to Covid-19.

If you think about it, it’s the most Covid friendly activity right now.

  • You’re in wide open spaces
  • No need to wear masks, because…
  • There’s plenty of room to keep to the social distancing rules, should you cross other hikers on your path.


What hiking trails are open near you?


If you haven’t done a hike in your local area or state, you can Google ‘open hiking trails near me’ for some ideas. You can find National Parks located everywhere. Select a different one each week or month to explore and enjoy the nature.

Or perhaps I can inspire you with my top 6 hiking trails that I found so different and spectacular but still most rewarding.

Hiking tips


But before I go into the hiking trail details, let me share with you some of my hiking tips.

  • Make sure you have good, comfortable hiking shoes. They must have good tread. If they’re new, break them in around home first. Nothing worse than walking a few km’s with ‘new shoe’ blisters. I know all about it. I wore new hiking boots on a two day hike and suffered with blisters and slow walking on the second day.
  • Be prepared and always bring a mini first aid kit with you. You can create your own compact first aid kit. Fill it with useful items such as bandaids/plasters, blister packs and bandages. You never know what might happen. Lots of snakes in the Australian bush!
  • Always have travel insurance when travelling overseas. World Nomads Travel Insurance automatically includes cover for hiking activities. Check out what else is covered.

    [World Nomads offer US residents a domestic travel policy.  It includes emergency evacuation when they are over 100 miles away from their home. Quite handy if you are hiking on trails further away than your immediate local area.]

1.  Cinque Terre Trail – coastal hiking through villages

The technical details

Location:

Liguria region, Italy

Length:

Blue Trail – total 11km

Duration:

Approx. 5 hours straight. Longer if you stop in each town!

Open:  

Since June 3, 2020.  Check current situation here.

The walking times broken down into sections:

  • Monterosso to Vernazza: 2 hours (including photo stops)
  • Vernazza to Corniglia: 1.5 hours
  • Corniglia to Manarola: 1 hour (if track is open otherwise 2 hours if use red trail)
  • Manarola to Riomaggiore:  30min (if track is open otherwise hike over the steep ridge)
map of cinque terre hiking trail by James Martin

Blue line is the popular tourist trail.   Map by James Martin

This hiking trail was on my bucket list for so long and it did not disappoint. The trail consists of walking through 5 coastal villages perched over the sea. The coastal vantage points provided spectacular views. And the colourful villages were a welcomed rest spot.

a female hiker standing at a viewpoint overlooking coastal village on the Cinque Terre hiking trails

Overlooking the town of Vernazza, where I took a quick dip before continuing.

The trail meanders through each village. You can start at either end; Monterosso and head southwards or Riomaggiore and head north. I wrote a blog on the best way to hike the Cinque Terre trail.

The bustling villages, although busy with tourists, gave a welcome relief to the hot Italian sun. I could fill up my water bottle, grab a bite to eat, cool off with a quick dip in the sea and even do some shopping!

However, you can always do the hike in sections on different days anyway. This way it gives you time to really explore and enjoy each village in depth. The village life will certainly relax you.

a small colourful village sitting ontop of a cliff with another clifftop town in the distance facing the sea.

The village of Corniglia. You can just see Manarola on the next jutland.

Things to know:

  • Bring plenty of water with you as the Italian sun is really hot.
  • Buy your Cinque Terre Train Card (train/bus pass plus access to hiking trails between the villages) from any train station in the region.
  • The CT card also gives you free access to the toilets at the train stations, as well as free Wi-Fi, for the duration of the pass.

My favourite finds:

  • Treat yourself to a fresh juice at the halfway mark – Bar Gabbiano. Located between Vernazza and Corniglia.
  • Amazing Gelateria 5 Terre in Manarola definitely worth a stop. All gluten free too! I didn’t have time to check out the crepes and pastries too!

2.  “W” route of Torres Del Paine – multi day hiking with a pack

The technical details

Location:

southern Patagonia, Chile

Length:

71km

Duration:

4 - 5 days

Open:  

Conaf reopened the park to locals only on 1 Sept 2020, as stage one of the plan.

This was my first multi day hiking trail where I walked with a packed rucksack, full of camping gear and food.

The rugged granite peaks of this section of the Andes are just majestic. There are two different walks you can do here. There is the 5 days “W” route – the trail actually looks like the letter W.

map showing Torres Del Paine two hiking trails

The W route is marked out in orange and the O route is marked in blue.

Or you can do the longer 7-9 day “O” walk around the whole park, which incorporates the W circuit. We opted for the shorter to start with.

The national park does contain Refugio’s (rustic guesthouses) in strategic places. All offer comfortable rooms and food but it’s quite expensive. So my friends and I opted to bring a tent and our own food. We stayed in the free camping sites and cooked our meals on a little camping stove.

Day one:

We walked up the first leg of the W circuit, from the fancy Las Torres Hotel to Torres Camping. Total of 3 hours and 10 min walking. We decided to stay here on the first night so that we could wake up at 4.15am the next day to hike the remaining 45 minutes. We wanted to see the sunrise over the imposing granite Torres peaks. Even though we had cloudy weather, the view was still impressive.

This leg was the busiest part of the circuit. It’s a popular day hike for many people who are either limited by time or multi day hiking is not their thing.

four rocky towers with clouds in background and lake in foreground

Unfortunately the cloudy morning prevented the towers from turning pink by the sunrise.

Day two:

After taking our sunrise photos, we headed back to camp. We packed up our gear and commenced walking towards the second leg of the W circuit. It was almost 8 hours of walking 28km to camp Italiano, at the base of the second leg of the W circuit. It was a long day.

Day three:

After a much needed sleep in after the previous days epic walk, we decided to spend the whole day exploring this middle leg. The Valle Del Frances (Frances Valley). More impressive scenery of uniquely shaped rock mountains and the stunning Frances Glacier. So thankful that the clouds and rain cleared for 20 minutes at the exact moment we arrived at the scenic spots to take our photos. Spent a second night at Camp Italiano.

Day four:

Early rise for an early start. A nice easy 2 hour walk (9km) to the base of the last leg of the W circuit. We arrived Refugio Paine Grande at full gale winds. We had to pay for this camping as it had toilet/bathroom amenities that we could use.

Somehow we thought it would be warmer to camp here rather than at the glacier itself at Refugio Grey. But we soon found out it didn’t matter. The four hour hike to Grey Glacier was a hard slog as we were pushing against the strong icy winds. It was bellowing hard directly off the glacier and straight into our faces.This was a very tough walk but so worth it when saw the huge, massive glacier.

It was a quick march back to Paine Grande as we had the wind pushing us from behind. Only took 3 hour and 15 minutes to hike back! All up, we walked 33km.

Day five:

Not a restful sleep as it was extremely windy all night. Felt like the winds were going to blow our tent away.

There are two ways out from Paine Grande. The easy option is to take a ferry to Pudeto to connect with a bus back to town. But as the catamaran was out of action for 15 days, we had no option but to walk out of the national park. So we started our 19km hike south to Sede Administration. The first 3 hours of this 4.5 hour hike we still had to contend with the strong winds coming from Grey Glacier. It knocked me off my feet a couple of times.

I found this hike so rewarding in terms of scenery and accomplishment. I’d never been on a 5 day hike before. Plus I was so proud of myself that I was able to carry a tent, food and cooking gear for 5 days without breaking my back. I felt so elated I actually did it.

Things to know:

  • Base yourself in the town of Puerto Natales – the only gateway to Torres Del Paine National Park. A great place to get information on trekking to Torres Del Paine, buy a tour if you’re not confident to hike yourself, buy/rent trekking gear and arrange to leave unnecessary luggage at your accommodation so you can hike with a light load.
  • There are few places in town that rent out all sorts of gear. For example; tents, sleeping bags, stoves, mats, Gortex jackets, fleeces and walking poles.
  • Its about a 2 hour 15min bus ride from Puerto Natales to the park entrance at Guarderia Laguna Amarga.
  • Be prepared for all kinds of weather at all times. It changes constantly.
  • Not necessary to bring a lot of water as it was easy to fill up from the mountain river streams.

Favourite Finds:

  • Definitely make the effort to wake up early and watch the sunrise from Mirador Torres. Plus you’ll have the whole place to yourself – no other tourists in your photos!
  • If you decide to walk out of the park from Refugio/Camp Paine Grande, towards the end of the trail remember to look back as you walk over the last hill.. It’s a spectacular panoramic view of the three distinctive mountains up each valley of the W circuit.  A nice ending to see where we had been hiking over the last 5 days.
view of snow capped mountain range of Torres Del Paine hiking trails

Looking back at Torres Del Paine as we walk out of the national park.


3. Inca Trail – hiking with porters

The technical details

Location:

Peru

Length:

Blue Trail – total 11km

Duration:

4 days/3 nights

Open:  

Hiking trail open since October (this blog has the most comprehensive update)

This is the first hiking trail I did which I paid for a porter to carry my bags. Quite a luxury indeed, that I normally wouldn’t do but it was part of the tour package. You’re not permitted to hike the trail independently. In fact the government limits the number of people per day. So the only way to secure a permit is through an approved tour operator.

I didn’t mind having a porter as it allowed me to enjoy the walking and its surrounds. Plus I contributed to the local community by basically keeping someone employed. And then there was the altitude to contend with.

a map showing the elevations of the Inca Trail


Don’t be fooled into thinking its an easy hike just because its only 40km long. The hike starts in these Andean mountains at 2750m (9000 ft) above sea level. Then you have hike over several steep and narrow mountain passes reaching 4200m (13780 ft). The high altitude is quite tiring to the human body which increases the difficulty. I remember stopping every 20m and bending over just to catch my breath. I felt like an old lady. Well its hard for us tourists who are not used to high altitudes. Once a year the local Inca Trail porters race the same route. It takes them 3.5 hours. That’s hours, not days!!

Day 1

Day 1 is a moderate 12km walk. It took 5 hours but we had lots of stops. Not only for catching our breath but for taking photos too. We chose the scenic route of trekking over the mountain pass rather than following the river and railway. And then a steep incline to the first camp site with views of the whole valley. Thankfully our porters, who basically run past us during the day, had the tents set up and dinner ready. Have to laugh at how we struggled with just a day pack.

Day 2

The morning of Day 2 was the hardest part of the trail, summiting Dead Woman’s Pass. We traversed over rocky steps through cloud forests that gave us welcome relief from the hot sun. Most people take a break at Llulluchapampa at 3840m (12598 ft). Not only to buy from the ladies selling drinks and chocolate bars but to also use the flushing toilets too! However, take a moment to look around you. We could see where we started down the valley and where we will finish the trail in the opposite direction.

a female hiker standing at the top of a mountain pass following hiking trails

Standing at the top of Runkuracay Pass - 3795m

Day 3

Day 3 was full of variety. We hiked over two ‘lower’ passes with commanding views of rolling green hills and snow-capped mountains as a backdrop.  Explored a couple of smaller Inca ruins. Gave the knees a work out by climbing down many steep stepped declines. Walked through what I could only describe as enchanted forests. And then ended the day being spoilt at the last campsite. There was a hostel, hot showers and a bar/restaurant.

Don’t spend too long at the bar as you will be woken on your last day at 4am for breakfast. Then it’s a one hour hike to the Sun Gate to claim your spot for the sunrise over the Inca ruins. What a disappointment to find everything covered by clouds. No ruins, no sunrise.

However, it still turned into a magical experience. We waited until 9am and the clouds were still thick. Apparently low level cloud is often prevalent until 9am. So our leader decided to make a move anyway and he will describe to us what we should be seeing plus the history. He led us through the thick cloud as we could barely see 10m in front of us. Thirty minutes later the clouds suddenly lifted in sections and we found ourselves standing in the middle of the Inca ruins. We had no idea that the ancient walls surrounded us. It felt quite mystical. So of course I ran back up the hill to the Sun Gate to take those famous photos over the ruins.

female hiker standing at the top of a mountain overlooking ancient ruins of Machu Picchu

View of Machu Picchu ruins - once the clouds had lifted!


Things to know:

  • Spend at least two days in Cusco first to acclimatise before you start the trek. I discovered that I suffer from altitude sickness.
  • They don’t allow independent hiking. You need to have an experienced, certified guide with you. Therefore, the easiest way to achieve this is to book an organised tour. There are many tour operators in Cusco.
  • Look for tour companies that look after their porters well. This means well paid and will have a tent to sleep in.
  • The nights are so cold that I slept with my thermals on. Bring your thermals with you!
  • Don’t drink cold water after dinner as it stops your digestion process. Hot tea is best.

My Favourite Finds:

  • Do make the effort to wake up early on the last day for the sunrise. You might be lucky.
  • Visit the huge ancient dial.
  • After you finish exploring the ruins, head down to the nearby town of Agua Calientes. You can then sooth your body and muscles in a thermal hot water spring for an hour or two. It really does revitalise your body.

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4. Kalulau Trail – mud and waterfalls.

The technical details

Location:

Kauai, Hawaii

Length:

13km (8 miles) round trip to Hanakapai Falls

Duration:

6.5 hours

Open:  

Currently opened. Check updates on official website.


The island of Kauai is so lush and green. That’s because of the frequent rainfall it receives. So this hike was the muddiest I’ve ever done. But to date, it brought me to the best hidden waterfall I’ve seen.

All the hikes I did in Hawaii were amazing, so it was hard to choose a favourite one. But I chose this hike for its coastal beauty and the hidden waterfall.

The Kalulau Trail is located in the impressive Na Pali Coast State Wilderness Park. There is the long 22 mile walk to the remote Kalalau Beac. But it requires a permit and camping gear to overnight before you return the same way. We opted for the day hike section which does not need a permit. Plus I wasn’t travelling with a tent this time.

muddy hiking trails on the left overlooking coastal cliffs and the ocean on the right

the start of the coastal hike, with magnificent views.

We started at Ke’e Beach and made our way to the first beach called Hanakapai Beach in 2 hours. The trail follows over the rugged coastline, with cliffs and valleys ending abruptly into the ocean. At the same time we had to contend with the slippery muddy path which slowed down our pace. It didn’t bother me as I kept stopping to take photos of the breathtaking views.

After a quick dip in the ocean to cool off, we headed inland following along the river that ended at this beach. For 1.5 hours we traversed through tropical rainforests, crossed the river five times and climbed over boulders towards the end. However, once we saw the view of the 91m (300ft) falls and felt the power of the water crashing into the pond below, I felt it was worth it. The misty spray kept you cool. Or if you dared, you could jump into the icy lagoon at the base. Made for a great lunch spot.

female hiker standing on rocks looking very small against the backdrop of a very high waterfall

We headed out back the same way we came. But this time we were able to shed 40 minutes on the Hanakapai Beach to Ke’e Beach (the trailhead). The midday sun had dried up the muddy coastal path enabling us to walk at a faster pace.

One day I will come back and walk the whole trail.

Things to know:

  • Bring plenty of water with you as there are no supplies within the national park.
  • Have good tread on your walking shoes for the muddy portions. As my friend discovered, flip flops were just useless!
  • Have your swimming gear with you. You will definitely jump at the chance to cool down at every opportunity.

My Favourite Finds:

  • Stay at the nearby town of Hanalei if you can. It has a typical island getaway feel about it with colourful wooden type houses and shops. There’s lots of space, nature and isolated beaches if you prefer some peace and quiet.

5. Valbona to Theth hike – village to village over a mountain

The technical details

Location:

Accursed Mountains, Albania

Length:

 17km (10.5 miles)

Duration:

6-8 hours (depending on number of stops and time taken for lunch)

Open:  

Email guesthouse owner to ask if still open

I enjoyed this hiking trail as it involved walking from one village to the next over a high mountain pass, in one day. The sights of this rugged mountainous beauty was breathtaking.

It was quite a trek to get to Valbona to begin with. Our hostel in Shkoder made all the transfer arrangements and accommodation booking. It involved a total of five hours which gave us a small taste of whats to come in terms of scenery:

  • Early morning bus from Shkoder hotel/hostel to Koman port
  • Berisha Ferry from Koman to Fierze
  • Mini van from Fierze port to Valbona village accommodation.
a two storey guesthouse sitting in a green valley flanked by high rocky mountains in each direction

Arben Selimaj guesthouse. My favourite view in Albania - no filters!


This amazing property is set in the middle of the craggy mountain peaks, alongside a crystal-clear stream. It was easy to spend a leisurely afternoon walking through the woods, exploring the quiet village or dipping into the cool creek. The family fed us well and arranged for us to be dropped off at the trailhead the next morning.

The trail began on a dry rocky creek bed for 2.5km heading towards the towering Valbona Pass in front of us. Then the gradual climb began. Sometimes through small pockets of forest but mostly tramping over a rocky path in open expanse. The sun making you sweat a lot but the views down the valley mesmerising you.

female hiker sitting on rock over lookin moutaineous valley on the valbona to theth hiking trails

Half way up the mountain


The peak of the pass was the highlight, with views down the valleys in both directions. Actually, there are two different rocky peaks at the pass for a higher view. Youc an choose either one as they essentially have similar views, or you can climb them both. I climbed the first short peak which was an excellent lunch spot.

female hiker standing on a rocky outcrop overlooking the entire mountain range and valley, on the Valbona-Theth hiking trails

On the top of the Valbona-Theth mountain pass


Then the afternoon was spent hiking down the other side towards Theth. It was quite a steep descent with the occasional short levelled area. Thankfully majority of the walk was under tree cover, for much needed protection from the beaming sun.

Once we arrived in Theth, it was easy enough to walk to a few guesthouses to check out their prices and then select the best one. The hotel then was able to arrange a bus or jeep transfer back to Shkoder the next day.

Things to know:

  • Be prepared with a rain jacket, even in summer, as the weather is unpredictable.

My Favourite Finds:

  • I only needed to bring one water bottle as there were three café stops along the way. The most organised hiking trail I have ever seen. You could sit and relax with a coffee or soft drink. Plus fill up your water bottle with fresh mountain spring water.
  • If you have the time, spend two nights in Theth so you can hike to a hidden waterfall with an inviting blue/green pond. It takes three hours to hike there.
    (phtoot of blue eye}

6. Path of the gods – from mountain top to beach

The technical details

Location:

Amalfi coast, Italy

Length:

7.8km (4.8 miles) to Nocelle (upper Positano)

Duration:

2-3 hours

Open:  

Always open. Check out current reviews here.


What an interesting day hike on the Amalfi Coast. It starts in Agerola at the top of the Amalfi cliffs and finishes at the beach in Positano. Yep, the easiest hike you’ll do because its all downhill!

To get to the trailhead, simply take the local Sita Bus to Agerola and ask to get off at Bomerano stop. You won’t miss it as 90% of the passengers will disembark here. Yep, they are all hiking just like you. There are walking trail signs in strategic places guiding you to the start of the trail. Or just follow everyone else.

You begin at an elevation of 630m high looking down into the sea. It really did feel like we were in the heavens, hence the name Path of the Gods.

female hiker standing at a view point overlooking Amalfi coastline and sea

Heading down towards Nocelle

It only took about two hours to hike down to the trail end proper at Nocelle. But the views along the way were spectacular. You simply can’t get enough of the rugged Amalfi coastline sloping into the deep blue sea. And the town of picturesque Positano too.

{photo at look out and one of positano}

The village of Nocelle is the end of the trail proper. There are a few cafes or restaurants here to grab a lunch. But I continued on as my aim was to swim at the beach. From Nocelle it took 45 minutes to walk down the steep steps to the main road. Then another 15 minutes to walk along the road to the southern entrance of Positano. I went straight to the beach to cool off in the refreshing sea.

I wish there was a beach at the end of every trail I’ve walked!

looking down onto a busy beach with colourful buildings built up the steep mountain cliff

The beach of Positano is getting closer!

Favourite Finds:

  • Pack a picnic lunch or buy from the cafes at Bomerano to enjoy a scenic lunch en-route.
  • Bypass the cafes at Nocelle and head for the small piazza. There is a cute little shack set up selling cheap and refreshing orange juice or lemon granita’s.


Which hiking trail would you choose first?


Would it be a simple day hike or a challenging multi-day hike? Perhaps a downhill hike might be the go for you! Whatever you choose, I’m sure you will enjoy it.

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About the author

Lisa is a travel gypsy by heart, having already been to over 70 countries and still counting. Founder of Travel Groove, to share travel tips, tricks and knowledge with other travellers.

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