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Adventure / February 3, 2016

Our long trail bucket list

Written by: Mitch Harris

Every hiker has that trail. The trail they dream about at night. The one they research when they should be working. The one they’ll hike as soon as they get six weeks of PTO.

We have four. Actually, we have way more than four (adventure research is our business after all). But we could only fit four trails into this post, so we chose the ones we like the very most. Don’t worry… we’ll write about the others soon enough.


1. Dominica’s Waitukubuli Trail

Dominica's Scotts Head Peninsula, seen from the first section of the Waitukubuli Trail. Photo by Liam Quinn.

Waitukubuli is infamous for poor signage. This sign is a welcome exception. Photo by Stefan Krasowski.

Most vacationers in the Caribbean are more interested in sunbathing and daiquiris than in long trail days and buggy campgrounds. But that just leaves more space on Dominica’s 115-mile Waitukubuli Trail for us.

The rugged trail connects the southern and northern tips of the island nation in 14 segments, each of which can be hiked on its own. Along the way, hikers will pass not just white sand beaches but waterfalls, hot springs, jungle-covered volcanoes, and a 60-meter long boiling lake heated by underground magma.

If you go: Though some sections of the Waitukubuli are beginner friendly, a thru-hike of the trail is a serious endeavor that involves considerable climbing and some hand-over-hand scrambling. Most hikers travel from south to north, and take about two weeks to complete the trek.

The trail can be hiked all year (this is the Caribbean, after all), but the weather is driest from December through March. There is no comprehensive guidebook to the trail, but a seriously cheesy video shows a 3D map.


2. Utah’s HAyduke TRail

The view from Mesa Arch in Canyonland's National Park. Hayduke Trail hikers enter Canyonlands around mile 90. Photo by Todd Petrie.

The entrance to Capitol Reef National Park sits around mile 240. Photo by Wolfgang Staudt.

Named for Ed Abbey’s famous enviro-saboteur, the 800-mile Hayduke Trail tours six national parks in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona. For founders Joe Mitchell and Mike Coronella, the hike took a whopping 101 days to complete.
The trail (which is actually often off trail, presenting real route-finding challenges) can be done as one long haul, or can be broken up into 14 sections. These sections range in length from 35-87 miles, and usually take a week or more to complete.
If you go: Thru-hikers should expect a serious test of their bodies, skills, and gear, and should bring Mitchell and Coronella’s Hayduke Trail Guidebook along for reference. The hike is best done in late spring and early summer, when water is most plentiful. 


3. Corsica’s GR-20

The view from the Refuge d'Usciolu, the start of the G20's 13 stage. Photo by Jean-Baptiste Bellet.

Corsica's best views include both mountains and the sea. Photo by B.j. Schoenmaker.

Hiking Corsica’s GR-20 trail is not easy. The alpine route climbs more than 30,000 feet over its 112 miles, and often does so over rocky, unstable terrain. It’s known to most who have completed it as the toughest long trail in Europe.

But the payoffs are huge. The trail links a series of mountain huts in the center of the Mediterranean island, and covers terrain that even experienced mountaineers find dizzying. Probably no other long trail on Earth can boast a section like the GR-20’s Cirque de la Solitude: a sheer cliff that hikers descend with the aid of chains.

If you go: Most hikers take about two weeks to complete the GR-20, and hike it from south to north. Peak season is from July–September. Maps, logistical details, and other information is available free online through a Corsica hikers’ forum.


4. ONtario’s Coastal Hiking Trail

The full length of the Coastal Hiking Trail is within Pukaska National Park. Photo by Hans-Jürgen Hübner.

Ontario's terrain is lush---in many places the trail is almost overgrown. Photo by Mark Harris.

Of the trails on this list, Ontario’s Coastal Hiking Trail is definitely the shortest. The trail tours the north shore of Lake Superior in Canada’s Pukaska National Park, and is just about 37.8 miles (or 60 kilometers) long.

It’s still a full-on adventure, of course. Access to the trail’s southern terminus (the most common starting point) is usually done by water taxi, and the trail north from there is wild, rugged, and very seldom traveled.

If you go: Most backpackers complete the trail in about five days, and almost all hike from south to north. Conditions are friendliest (read: least buggy) in late August and September, but the trail can be hiked all summer. The preferred map is the Pukaska National Park map from our friends at Chrismar.  

Do you have questions or comments about this feature? Email them to us at [email protected]

about the author

Mitch Harris

Mitch Harris embraced the Every Day Carry trend long before it was cool. From the day he got his first pocket knife, Mitch has devoted himself to staying prepared for every eventuality. Through his position at Shoulders of Giants, he’s able to keep his kit stocked with the very newest and best EDC gear.

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