5 culturally significant hikes to challenge your mind and body

Sometimes an afternoon hike at your local trail will cut it, and sometimes it just won’t do. Once in a while it pays to pack those bags, book that flight and lace up those boots.

If the cultural influence in your life lately has been lackluster, try one of these hikes on for size. Each boasts historical significance, incredible scenery and the challenge of a lifetime.

Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy and Switzerland

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Trek through three countries on the course of this breathtaking trek, spanning 105 miles of incredible views and close interaction with the landscape.

The high-altitude trail covers the expanse of the mountain range, starting and ending at Les Houches, just south of Chamonix, France.

The trail is typically walked in 11 daily stages, and some hikers advise walking in a counterclockwise direction, as some of the passes are less steep in this direction.

Pacific Crest Trail, Canada to Mexico

Mount Shasta peeks over the clouds. Photo: Ross Noble/Unsplash

Spanning 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada, the Pacific Crest Trail is known worldwide for its challenging terrain and the level of commitment needed to complete it: The hike in its entirety takes five months and spans two countries, three states, 26 national forests, seven national parks, five state parks and four national monuments.

The majority of hikers trek northward, starting from Mexico in the early spring and ending up in Canada toward fall.

Camino de Santiago, Spain

The Camino is a journey both physical and spiritual. Photo: Gabi Aoun

The Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage through Europe, with its origins tied closely to the Catholic faith, but these days you can find participants from all walks of life on its trail. The pilgrimage ends in Spain and is fed by hundreds of smaller trails, similar to tributaries that feed a river system.

The most popular route is the French Way, starting at St. Jean Pied de Port and working its way southeast to Spain.

Hundreds of thousands of hikers participate in the pilgrimage each year in a variety of methods that include guided groups, solo expeditions and more.

Inca Trail, Peru

Machu Picchu is just one of the wonders you’ll see on this hike. Photo: Alan Hurt Jr./Unsplash

One of the most well-known trails South America has to offer, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is just 26 miles long, but packs an impressive variety of natural beauty into its short distance, including mountain ranges and tropical forests as well as the famous Machu Picchu ruins.

Everest base camp

The infamous Mahalangur range of the Himalayas, home to Everest. Photo: Christopher Burns/Unsplash

Mount Everest has sparked the imaginations and spirit of hikers and intrepid explorers for generations. What was once insurmountable except for the very few has become a destination for thousands of hikers around the world.

Although the climb has become more accessible, Everest Base Camp is as deadly as ever; climbers will reach 17,600 feet in elevation upon completion, and if acclimation to the altitude isn’t successful, death is probable.

Since British explorer Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay successfully reached the summit in 1953, over 200 deaths have been recorded.

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