If your idea of the perfect getaway involves outdoor adventure, you are sure to love a walking holiday in the Americas. Whether you wish to tackle soaring climbs, stroll through lush forests, trek across an arid wilderness or take a trip that involves all three, there is a perfect destination for you.
One of the great things about the Americas is the variety of terrain you can find there, which ranges from Arctic tundra to the Great Plains and from the craggy mountains of the Andes to the desert of Arizona. All are suitable for hiking breaks, as long as you either seek advice from local experts – such as park rangers – before setting off, or are part of a guided group.
Appalachian Trail, USA
Running for more than 2,000 miles from Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine to Springer Mountain in Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forest, Georgia, the Appalachian Trail is one of the toughest challenges in the world of hiking. If, like most people with a normal life and budget constraints, you have not got time to tackle the whole route, you can still spend a week or two seeing some of the most scenic stretches.
The paths through the Green Mountains in Vermont will take you to some of the most beautiful scenery in the north-east of the USA, with birch and pine forests, together with valleys containing rich agricultural land. The 117-mile White Mountains stretch of the Trail is also a real pleasure, although you will need to scramble up rocky sections and deal with sharp climbs to reach the spots with the best views of the stunning New Hampshire countryside.
Banff National Park, Canada
The Canadian Rockies boast some of the world’s most spectacular terrain, with snow-capped peaks towering over glacial lakes, dense forests and alpine meadows. One of the best places to enjoy this is the protected area of Banff National Park, where you may spot elk, wolves, mountain goats, cougars and even grizzly bears as you explore.
Visit during July to October and you can go backpacking, as almost all of the trails through the park will be open. Snow and ice means much of the area is inaccessible between November and April, while you will be restricted to low-level routes and paths on south-facing slopes in May and June.
There are lots of trails suitable for day hikes between May and October, including a number over gentle terrain around lakes and riverbanks. If you want a real challenge, you can take on the 8-mile Cory Pass Loop, which features 3,000 ft of elevation and fabulous vistas over Mount Louis.
If you need a rest after tackling the hike, you can relax in the natural waters of the Sulphur Mountain Hot Springs. You will also have the option of an easy day, by taking the gondola up to the 8,041 ft peak of Sulphur Mountain to enjoy great views over the park and explore at high altitude without having to do the climb under your own steam.
Inca Trail, Peru
Most people who love to spend their holidays in the great outdoors dream of walking the Inca Trail to the lost city of Machu Picchu. You will need a permit before you set out, as local authorities want to restrict the numbers tackling the route as part of conservation efforts.
Perhaps the easiest way to organise your trek to Peru’s best-known archaeological site is to book a small group trip that includes the services of a guide and porters for the four-day trek. That will leave you to focus on enjoying the fine scenery of the Andes and the remains of the pre-Columbian civilisation, as well as coping with the altitude, as the adventure involves climbing to a height of 13,800 ft.