Feeling itchy at your desk? Perhaps it's time to undertake a thru-hike.

These routes aren't an afternoon stroll in the woods; they're a mammoth undertaking, encompassing distances of thousands of miles and timeframes of months that consume your life and test your limits. Full of breathtaking views and blisters, these are a pilgrimage for those seeking solace in the wilderness and reconnecting with nature's rhythm. 

We've picked out five favourites, both close to home and on the other side of the planet, spanning several weeks to several months. From the Appalachian Trail, which snakes through 14 states with an elevation change roughly equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times, to New Zealand's Te Araroa Trail, where you'll often be days without encountering another being, these long-distance hikes are bucket-list missions that promise to shift your perception of life. Time to lace up those hiking boots and grab your walking poles. 

The best thru-hikes to try in 2024

Appalachian Trail

United States

That elated feeling of giddy exhaustion isn’t one we often find in a desk job, so it’s no wonder that many people take holidays, sabbaticals, or even quit their jobs to seek it on the Appalachian Trail. Three million hikers set foot on the 2,200-mile trail yearly, but only 3,000 attempt to walk the whole thing. It’s not a venture for the fainthearted, with a route that snakes along America’s east coast through 14 states and an elevation change roughly equivalent to climbing Mount Everest 16 times. Tempted? It’s both physically and mentally challenging but wholly rewarding – you’ll frolic through the grassy meadows of Virginia, traverse the forested ridgelines of Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee and scramble the mile-long Mahoosuc Notch boulder field in Maine. Compeed at the ready.

West Highland Way


One of the world’s greatest long-distance trails, the West Highland Way stretches 95 miles and ribbons along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond, across the sparse and rugged Rannoch Moor, and past the dramatic Glencoe to finish at the foot of mighty Ben Nevis – Britain’s highest mountain. Over 30,000 attempt to tackle the route each year, which takes around four to eight days to complete or under 13 hours 41 minutes if you’re set on smashing the fastest known time record by foot. If your weary head needs a reset, this is the place to get it. Soak up Scotland’s rural landscapes, plunge into ice-cold lochs and get nattering to one of the many fellow hikers tackling the trail on their own schedule. You can be certain of two things in life: death, and rain in Scotland – so make sure to pack that trusty anorak.

Te Araroa Trail

New Zealand

Craving solitude? Take on the Te Araroa, New Zealand’s 1,864-mile trail, where you’ll often be several days between towns, spend weeks in the wilderness and not encounter another soul for miles. Translating to ‘the long pathway’ in Maori, this epic trail connects Cape Reinga, at the very tip of the North Island, to Bluff at the very end of the South, and takes about four months to complete. As you’d expect from a thousand-mile path in New Zealand, the terrain is varied and breathtakingly remote. Filled with lofty heights, physically challenging stretches, and often miles from help, it’s no small undertaking, but a full-throttle adventure nonetheless.

Pacific Crest Trail

United States

Designated as one of the first two national scenic trails in 1868, the Pacific Crest Trail, or PCT, is a continuous footpath covering over 2,650 miles. Taking you from the Mexican to Canadian border over approximately five months, you’ll cover some of the most varied terrain the planet has to offer – from the sun-baked Mojave Desert in Southern California and granite peaks of the Sierra to the volcanic region of Oregon and Washington’s snow-capped Cascade Mountains. The trail symbolises everything there is to cherish and protect in the western United States. Unsurprisingly, it attracts around 8,000 eager hikers to tackle its entirety every year from mid-April to September. Time to dust off those Salomons.

Camino Portugues


Looking for a quieter pilgrimage route to the Camino Frances? Lace up your boots and point it to Portugal to take on the soul-stirring Camino Portugues. Hugging the Atlantic Ocean, the Camino route takes you to villages in Northern Portugal before winding up in Galicia, Spain and ending the lengthy 370-mile journey in Santiago de Compostela. It’s a pilgrimage for both the belly and soul – where you’ll sample plenty of goods from the home of pastel de nata, francesinhas and vinho verde along the way. Saúde!