John Muir was a famed naturalist, author, and the founder of the Sierra Club. He advocated for the preservation of natural sites and is largely responsible for the creation of many natural parks. Of nature, he said: “Keep close to nature’s heart, and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain, or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”
We’ve collected a number of hikes from around the world that will “wash your spirit clean,” ordered by difficulty:
Glacier National Park: Trail of the Cedars
Photo: courtesy of Shane Lin At 1.0 mile round trip, the Johns Lake Loop is a short, flat hike with tremendous trade off. It is one of two wheelchair accessible hikes in Glacier National Park. Hikers travel along a raised boardwalk and paved path, through a forest of ancient hemlocks and red cedars. Glacier National Park is extremely humid, which allows the trees to grow up to 100 feet. Some of these trees are more than 500 years old.
Redwood National Park: Revelation Trail
Photo: courtesy of Bergez The Redwood National Park is home to a variety of trails, ranging from easy, flat, and quick to difficult, steep, and time-consuming. You could spend anywhere from 15 minutes to 12 hours in the shade of the towering redwood trees. Revelation Trail is a little more than a quarter mile long, designed specifically for the visually impaired. The trail winds close enough to the trees that visitors can touch the bark and the soft moss. Creeks babble in the distance and the smells of bay (Umbellularia) and sorrel (Oxalis oregano) are especially rich.
Olympic National Park: Hoh Rainforest River Trail
Photo: courtesy of Davey Nin The 922,000-acre Olympic National Park features snow-topped mountains, rocky Pacific coastline, and rainforests dripping with moss. Each year, between 12 and 14 feet of rain fall in Washington’s temperate region, making the Hoh rainforest one of the most lush and enchanting in the world. The Hoh River trail is the most popular, and it leads 17.3 miles from the Hoh trailhead to Glacier Meadows, in the shadow of Mount Olympus. The first two thirds of the trail are relatively flat, shaded by towering trees.
Timpanogos Cave National Monument, Utah
Photo: courtesy of Quinney Library The Timpanogos Caves are rumored to be haunted by mountaineers who lost their lives while exploring them. The caves themselves feature a wide array of stalactites, including one known as the “Great Heart,” for its size and location in the heart of the cave system. Tours are available for a fee between May and October, subject to weather conditions. The hike itself is only a mile and a half, but it is strenuous because of the sudden elevation gain. The trail offers spectacular views of American Fork Canyon, especially in the summer time when flowers are in bloom and the trees turn a verdant green.
Fitz Roy Trek, Patagonia, Argentina
Photo: courtesy of McKay Savage This hike is 36 miles long and not for the faint-hearted. The Patagonia mountain range features open glacial plains, eerie forests of beech trees, thundering waterfalls, and snowy granite peaks thrusting into the sky. Following the ridge of Fitz Roy will give you a stunning view of the orange-and-caramel-colored dawn.
Tour du Mont Blanc
Photo: courtesty of Carbone This hike traverses three different countries—France, Italy, and Switzerland—and circumnavigates the tallest peak in the Alps. There are a number of villages, huts, hotels, and resort towns along the way, where you can sleep and enjoy local foods. During the summer, the trail is richly populated with greens and wildflowers. The trail features views of deep valleys, dramatic glaciers, and the most striking of all: Mont Blanc itself. Hiking the trail will take a skilled hiker anywhere between three and ten days.
John Muir Trail
Photo: courtesy of Steve Leavy John Muir himself disliked the term “hiking.” He preferred the term “saunter,” which comes from the term “a la sainte terre,” or “to the Holy Land.” People who made pilgrimages to the Holy Land became known as “sainte-terre-ers,” or saunterers. The John Muir Trail is a section of the much longer Pacific Crest Trail. It is 211 miles from beginning to end, with the mildest climate of any major mountain range in the world. The trail itself winds through some of the best-known National Parks, including two that Muir helped to found: Yosemite and Sequoia. With views of massive mountain peaks, thousands of lakes, deep canyons, and sheer, granite cliffs, the JMT is the perfect place to “saunter.”
The Sir Samuel and Lady Florence Baker Historical Trail
Photo: courtesy of The Baker Trail The Baker Trail begins in South Sudan and terminates in Uganda, after a 400 mile trek through the African bush that follows the Bakers’ journey to Lake Albert in the 1860s. There are fourteen stops along the way, where the Bakers’ camped in their campaign to “end slavery through exploration.” The trail features stunning views of the African countryside, rushing rivers, the steel-blue waters of Lake Albert, and the powerful Murchison Falls. Where do you want to hike before you die? Tell us in the comments!