backpacking trails

If you’re a serious backpacker, then a large part of the appeal is to go off the beaten track. These are some of the best backpacking trails that are often overlooked.

It can be a little disappointing then to sign up for a hike that promises remote, breathtaking scenery only to find that the footpath feels more like a queue, with hordes of other backpackers all lined up along the same route.

For that reason, backpackers are always looking out for the trail less travelled; the one that gives the right mixture of challenges and beauty, but that isn’t already over-subscribed.

These recommendations aren’t exactly unknown: they’re all officially sanctioned trails, and many will need to be booked in advance. But they aren’t as well-known as some of the more popular trails, even though they have every bit as much to offer.

Be prepared

If you’re going on a serious backpacking adventure, for a couple of months or more, you’ll want to get your affairs in order before you set off. This might involve giving up your flat and putting your belongings into self-storage before buying all the essential clothes and equipment you’ll need for your trip.

Do plenty of research and think carefully about when you want to travel. Avoiding the crowds is as much a matter of going off-season as anything else, although you do want to make sure that you don’t face inhospitable or even life-threatening weather.

Choosing an overlooked or underrated trail also means you’ll stand a better chance of seeing the natural surroundings in an unspoilt state. Popular trails can get worn away by the number of feet trekking over them, and even the best-preserved national parks suffer from the impact of large numbers of visitors. 

Of course, the most overlooked backpacking trail of all would be the one you forged yourself into an uncharted wilderness, though the levels of danger and difficulty would also increase correspondingly. We like to think that these recommendations are the next best thing.

Kungsleden in Sweden

Put at least two weeks aside to complete this 248-mile trek, the name of which translates as the “King’s Trail”. Sweden’s longest trekking path is dotted with cabins every 6-12 miles, many ready stocked with food, and the scenery includes stunning lakes, tundra and mountain ranges. Look out for grazing reindeer and, if you go in winter, the legendary northern lights.

Spider Gap Buck Creek Pass Loop, USA

Washington State is home to the Glacier Peak Wilderness, some of North America’s most challenging but beautiful landscapes, and this 44-mile trail takes you right through the heart of it.

Over five days or so you’ll experience beautiful wild meadows and steep mountain inclines. Start at the Phelps Creek Trailhead and eventually join up with the Pacific Crest Trail.

backpacking trails

Peaks of the Balkans

The Accursed Mountain Range may not sound like somewhere you’d want to visit, let alone spend two weeks backpacking through, but it’s home to a surprisingly varied range of scenery, from remote mountain peaks to valleys where cattle graze among the traditional Albanian houses.

The trail takes you along a 119-mile route through Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo, and is dotted with stone huts known as Kula’s where weary travellers can rest for the night.

You’ll also meet friendly local people who may even offer you the hospitality of their own homes.

backpacking trails

The Beara Way 

The Beara-Breifine Way covers over 300 miles across Ireland, but this shorter trek is a complete trail in itself, winding around the whole of the Beara Peninsula for 122 miles.

Give yourself nine days or longer to enjoy the stunning scenery and also the local towns and villages on the way, with many inviting pubs and hostelries. Taking in Bantry Bay and Kenmare Bay, it’s a hike rich in history and archaeological sites as well as the wonders of nature.

Angelus Circuit, New Zealand

New Zealand is a backpacker’s paradise, but this is one of the less frequented trails on the south island. In just 24 miles it packs in dramatic ridges and sweeping valleys, glorious mountain lakes and beech forests to die for.

Set off from Saint Arnaud, just by Lake Rotoiti, and choose between camping or staying on one of the huts along the way for the two or three nights it should take you to complete the circuit.

backpacking trails

The Lycian Way in Turkey

Turkey’s first long-distance trail joins several ancient networks of traditional paths, mule trails and Roman roads into 335 miles of varied scenery around a coastal peninsula dotted with quiet beaches and villages nestled between the mountains.

You’ll need to take camping gear for some of the more remote stretches, though accommodation is available most nights Go in autumn or spring for the best weather and give yourself at least a month to see it through.

Tour de Monte Roza

This neat 100-mile trail begins and ends in the Swiss resort of Zermatt, in the shadow of the Matterhorn, and takes in Switzerland’s highest mountain, Dufourspitze, along the way.

For nine days you’ll be surrounded by the pristine beauty of the Pennine Alps, with many steep ascents and descents and a surprisingly diverse range of landscapes. The traveller’s huts along the way should be booked in advance.

Best hikes

These suggestions merely scratch the surface of the trail options available to the adventurous backpacker. It always pays to look beyond the obvious, and while some of these treks are only for the experienced hiker, there’s sure to be an overlooked trail out there that’s right for you.

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backpacking trails
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