Our top picks for tackling some of the most scenic U.S. landscapes.
Yosemite National Park, California: On the Yosemite Walking & Hiking tour from Backroads, stroll beneath an 1,800-year-old giant sequoia in the park’s Mariposa Grove and stay in the 123-room Ahwahnee hotel, a National Historic Landmark, before hiking to the roaring Lower Yosemite Falls alongside two naturalist guides. Six days from $2,998. ++
Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming: Off the Beaten Path creates bespoke trips that combine the ragged peaks and pristine lakes of Glacier National Park with the abundant wildlife of Yellowstone. This spring the outfitter is partnering with Airstream 2 Go to provide top-of-the-line trailers as part of custom itineraries in the Rocky Mountains. Nine days from $2,900. ++
Appalachian Trail, Massachusetts and New Hampshire: Loop from Boston to New Hampshire’s Mount Washington during prime leaf-peeping season with G Adventures’ new Autumn Along the Appalachian Trail. The 27-mile route starts in Franconia State Park and continues to the scenic Arethusa Falls Trail. Six days from $1,599. +++
Get a quick dose of the outdoors.
North Carolina: A 40-minute drive south of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Mount Pisgah Trail is a 1 1/2-mile hike to the 5,721-foot summit.
Colorado: The 3 1/2-mile Rustler Gulch Trail, near Crested Butte, culminates in an 11,400-foot-high alpine meadow; creeks and mining ruins round out the experience.
California: Thirty minutes by car from L.A., the three-mile Temescal Canyon Loop, in the Pacific Palisades, passes a scenic waterfall.
T+L Pick: Trekking Pole A good walking stick can provide better stability on rough terrain. Black Diamond Equipment’s carbon-fiber Ultra Distance model ($160) is light and compact.
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Best of the Alps
Choose your own adventure in one of these four regions.
The Draw: Located in the Pennine Alps, on the border between Italy and Switzerland, the area around this 14,692-foot-high mountain is known for its rich village life.
The Trip: REI Adventures leads a trek between Grindelwald and Zermatt that will have you hiking up to 11 miles a day and exploring medieval hamlets along the way. Nine days from $4,775. ++++
The Draw: This valley in Switzerland’s easternmost corner is known for wildflower meadows, Bronze Age ruins, glaciated peaks, and charming inns.
The Trip: An inn-to-inn tour with Ryder-Walker Alpine Adventures stops at cozy wood-paneled chalets and 17th-century houses. Seven days from $3,740. ++
The Draw: Gastronomy rules in northern Italy’s Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site with dramatic limestone formations, crumbling castles, and Austrian-influenced cuisine.
The Trip: On an itinerary from Whole Journeys, the new travel arm of Whole Foods Market, you’ll visit a farm where cheese and yogurt are made and hike past ancient shingle-roofed farmhouses. Seven days from $4,595. ++
The Draw: Austria’s history-filled North Tyrol has centuries-old palaces and pristine lakes.
The Trip: The Wayfarers offers a walk that stops at the original summer lodge of the Von Trapp family and passes the Imperial Palace of Empress Maria Theresa, the Hapsburgs’ only female ruler. Seven days from $3,995. ++
For Culture Mavens: Ireland
The Connemara & Galway Bay trip from CW (formerly Country Walkers) hits classic sites—such as the cliffs of Moher—on less-touristed paths. You’ll also participate in a traditional céilidh dance and share a pint at a pub while taking in a seisiún with fiddlers. Seven days from $4,198. ++
For Nature Lovers: The French Pyrenees
The 142-acre Can Rigall estate, operated by ecotourism group Basecamp Explorer, is modeled after a Catalan farmstead, with 11 rustic-chic rooms providing an ideal base for trekking into the Mount Canigou range. Doubles from $340 per night. ++
For Foodies: Alsace, France
Bespoke trips from Trufflepig follow the Route des Vins between Strasbourg and Colmar. Take an eight-mile walk through vineyards to sample Klevener de Heiligenstein (a rare Savagnin Rose), or go on a kitchen tour of the Michelin three-starred Auberge de L’Ill, in the town of Illhaeusern. Six days from $3,000. +
For History Buffs: Turkey
Visit the ancient city of Ephesus and follow the Silk Road to the cave churches of Cappadocia on Turquoise Coast & Cappadocia from Classic Journeys before spending four days based on a yacht on the Mediterranean Sea, exploring secluded coves. Nine days from $4,695. +
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Patagonia Made Easy
It can take up to two days to reach South America’s wild southern frontier from North America. If you’ve got limited time, Chile’s northern Patagonia is the easiest way into the region. Gray & Co. (from $1,200 per person per day; ++) has customized itineraries: take the two-hour flight from Santiago to Puerto Montt, where the six-villa Cliffs Preserve will be your base for expeditions to spot palm-size monito del monte monkeys and to visit the active Osorno Volcano. Have a few more days? A two-hour drive (plus a 30-minute ferry ride) south is tranquil Chiloé Island, filled with UNESCO-designated churches and untouched nature preserves. Stay at the new Refugia ($$$$$), where all 12 rooms have views of Chiloé’s inland sea.
The Incas created hundreds of footpaths throughout the Andes. T+L charts three routes to Peru’s most iconic site.
Travel Advisory: At press time, the U.S. Embassy in Lima, Peru, was recommending increased security awareness when traveling to the region, including Machu Picchu. For updates and more information, go to travel.state.gov.
Classic Inca Trail
Best For: Ancient ruins.
Mountain Travel Sobek (four days from $3,995; +++) tackles the most famous road to Machu Picchu in four days; for a glamping experience, Austin-Lehman Adventures (10 days from $3,898; +++) offers portable showers and even a massage therapist. Book early with your outfitter: the government issues only 500 trail passes daily.
Apu Huayllanay Trail
Best For: Peace and quiet.
Trekkers here have the Andean landscape practically to themselves. On a private trip from Aracari (eight days from $1,822; +++), you’ll camp for three nights with a guide, a cook, and porters, and finish with a hot shower at the company’s permanent site near Ollantaytambo before taking the 1 1/2-hour train ride to Machu Picchu.
Best For: Creature comforts.
Known as the back door into Machu Picchu, Salcantay is also the area’s highest path (it reaches 15,200 feet). Mountain Lodges of Peru, a string of stone-and-timber inns along the trail, is the only lodge-to-lodge way to reach the lost city of the Incas: take this route on a trip with Wildland Adventures (11 days from $3,800; ++++).
Tech Tool: Looking for the name of that mountain? The GPS-enabled Peaks app (iTunes; $2.99) has a database of more than a half-million summits around the world and automatically generates a tweet identifying the mountains that are closest to you.
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Africa + the Middle East
Africa: Walking Safaris
Step out of the jeep and into the wild.
Zambia: In the home of the walking safari, veteran Zambian outfitter Robin Pope Safaris offers a mobile camping trek through a remote part of South Luangwa National Park. You’ll spend days tracking lions or observing buffalo along the Mupamadzi River bank, and evenings at a roving camp with walk-in tents and Mara campfires. Eight days from $4,388. +
Tanzania: Ker & Downey’s Tanzania Walking Safari focuses on elephant- and giraffe-spotting in private concessions adjacent to Tarangire National Park and on Rubondo Island in Lake Victoria; you’ll also visit northwestern Serengeti National Park. A team will escort you to each of the three destinations, where you’ll stay at top-notch lodges and tents with en suite bathrooms. 10 days from $10,165. +
Kenya: Excursions on foot are the focus of Dorobo, a camp located on the Masai-owned Naboisho Conservancy and operated by sustainability-minded Basecamp Explorer. The site has 10 canvas tents with open-air showers and a well-stocked bush bar. Use the camp as your starting point for daily wildlife walks with naturalist Masai guides. From $340 per person, all-inclusive. +
The Meket Community Tourism Walk in Ethiopia from Journeys by Design heads north from Addis Ababa along the Meket escarpment, where you’ll encounter remote highland communities and sleep in rustic inns. Seven days from $4,500. ++
Wild Walk in Palestine from Wild Frontiers visits sites on the biblical path of Abraham between Nablus and Jerusalem. Nine days from $2,782. ++
A Morocco trip from CW goes from Fez to Marrakesh and into the High Atlas Mountains. 11 days from $5,298. ++
Africa’s highest peak (19,340 feet) is attainable—choose the pace that’s right for you.
I Just Want to Get to the Top: Machame Trail
The Mount Kilimanjaro climb from Micato Safaris takes the Machame trail (the fastest and most straightforward route), ascending 14,000 feet over the course of a week. You need to be in good shape, but afternoon tea and fireside chairs keep things comfortable. Also in your party? A guide, a chef, porters to carry your gear, and waitstaff. Seven days from $4,750. ++++
I’ve Got Time, and Lots of It: Lemosho Trail
If you have the vacation days to spare, take the 11-day Lemosho route, which gently ascends to the summit at a relaxed pace, making it easier to acclimate. Alpine Ascents pairs this route with a visit to Tanzania’s Tarangire National Park and Ngorongoro Crater. 16 days from $6,600. +++
Extreme is My Middle Name: Grand Traverse: You’ll need extra training to conquer the Grand Traverse route, which circumnavigates the mountain. A trek with Thomson Safaris begins on the western side and cuts east to the Mawenzi Volcano before making camp inside Kili’s crater at 18,802 feet. 10 days from $8,290.
T+L Tip: For advice on how to avoid altitude sickness, visit the Altitude Research Center.
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Asia + the South Pacific
New Zealand: Top to Bottom
Five ideas on how to explore the country’s diverse terrain from Active Adventures New Zealand.
Volcanoes, emerald-hued mineral lakes, and tufted grasslands define the Tongariro Northern Circuit, where the Lord of the Rings trilogy was filmed.
Thousands of rare glowworms cling to the walls of the Waitomo Caves, which you can explore by foot or by boat.
The 55,672-acre Abel Tasman National Park is located on the pristine South Island coast, where golden beaches, granite cliffs, and quiet estuaries are populated by tui and pukeko birds.
Two massive glaciers draw trekkers to the South Island’s Westland National Park.
Carved by glaciers 20,000 years ago, the 3 million-acre Fiordland National Park is filled with snowy peaks and primeval rain forest.
The world’s highest mountain range is the spiritual heart of many cultures, all of which offer unique on-the-ground experiences.
Cultural Immersion: India
A one-hour flight north of New Delhi, the arid Ladakh region is filled with villages and Buddhist monasteries. Shakti Himalaya runs six homestays with large, comfortable beds and a private staff; guests use them as a base for visiting nearby communities and sites on foot. Eight days from $4,290. ++
Physical Challenge: Nepal
Snow-cloaked peaks rise out of deep valleys and narrow gorges in the Nepalese and Tibetan stretches of the Himalayas. Epic Tomato runs a trek on Nepal’s Annapurna Circuit and along the less-visited Nar Phu Valley, before crossing into Tibet. 15 days from $7,880. ++++
Spiritual Retreat: Bhutan
This carefully preserved landscape is steeped in Buddhist culture. The Merak-Sakteng Trek from Asia Transpacific Journeys goes to the country’s east, where you’ll pass hillsides filled with wild rhododendrons to reach remote monasteries. Six days from $2,700. +++
Always walk to the left of monuments and shrines.
Photography in the main hall of temples and monasteries is often forbidden; ask before you shoot.
Use both hands to receive food, drink, or a gift.
It’s rude to step over someone’s outstretched legs; draw yours up if someone is passing by.
Custom trips to Sri Lanka by Red Savannah might include walks between tea plantations or hikes up the 7,360-foot-high Adams Peak. 14 days from $5,352.
Mongolian Vistas from Nomadic Expeditions starts in the vast Gorkhi-Terelj National Park and ends in the Gobi desert. 15 days from $5,795.
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