When you think of the best hikes in the world, minds turn to the Appalachian Trail, Machu Picchu, the Inca Trail, or scaling Everest. These globally famous hikes are all multi-day treks, where hikers must carry lots of equipment and food. However, there are hundreds of beautiful hikes that can be done in a day or less, and that are just as much worth seeing. The best day hikes in the world will take you through phenomenal landscapes, challenge your body, and show you a new part of the world- all in the space of one day. In this article we will show you what we think are the best day hikes in the world, there’s definitely some on here that should make it to your bucket list.
The first step in planning your trip is picking a destination, and the world-class day hikes on this list are all worthy challenges. If you’re new to all this, check out the best backpacking trips for beginners to find the right place to start. Hiking, trekking, backpacking, however you classify it, is one of the best ways to see new parts of the world. All the hikes on our list are challenging, rewarding, and undertaking one of these day hikes is something you won’t regret. Read on to discover (in no particular order) the 10 best day hikes in the world, in North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Oceania.
1. Half Dome, USA
Yosemite National Park is world-famous for a reason; the amazing scenery and red rock formations create a formidable and highly photographable landscape. The hike involves climbing a steep, slippery, granite rock face, but the reward at the top of Half Dome is a breathtaking view looking out over Yosemite National Park. The hike length is 17 miles, one of the longer distances in this article, making it a long day of hiking for 10 to 14 hours. This national park contains a lot of popular hikes, but this is our pick for the best.
You can view the Vernal and Nevada waterfalls from the trail, and walk through the shady forests of Sequoia trees. You need a permit to climb the Half Dome, awarded by a pre-season lottery, so plan ahead if you decide to do this hike. It’s extremely strenuous, but the stunning views from the summit of Yosemite’s main landmarks are worth the challenge and make this one of the best day hikes in the United States.
2. Refugio Frey, Argentina
This extremely diverse and moderately challenging to difficult hike is a 14-mile full circuit through Patagonia. It takes 8 hours and is located in the Nahuel Huapi National Park in the town of Bariloche, Argentina. Hikers will have to boulder across cliff faces and descend steep and loose scree, so this challenge is not for the faint of heart. However, you’ll be rewarded with stunning vistas of glacial lakes, phenomenal views over burnt orange mountain tops, and winding trails through lush green forests.
There are a few options for completion of the hike, the most common being to begin and return on the same forest path to Refugio Bay and the lake. This path avoids some of the most challenging terrains and also some of the most spectacular views, it’s recommended only to those who aren’t confident in bouldering or dangerous descents and would prefer an easier option.
If you’re up to the challenge, the complete loop is a better option and will show you breathtaking mountain landscapes and awe-inspiring rock formations. Cerro Cathedral mountain has a lot to offer, during this hike you’ll have ample time for self-reflection, physical challenge, and plenty of photo opportunities too. Nearby, the Torres del Paine offers a longer alternative, if after your day hike you’re hungry for a multi-day trek.
3. Laguna 69 Hike, Peru
This stunning trek out of Huaraz, Peru is a magical one. A three and a half-hour walk takes you up to the astonishingly blue lake, where you can spend some time enjoying it before the 2-hour trek back down. This hike takes place at a high altitude, 15000 feet, which requires special preparation. High altitude affects everyone differently, so you need to acclimatize your body before venturing off.
If you make it 15,000 feet above sea level, the views of the stunning glacial lake are well worth it. First, hike alongside a river through a grassy valley, with two looming glaciers either side in the distance. Then, a series of switchbacks takes you slowly higher into the mountains, with the views improving with each elevation gain.
A huge waterfall can be admired from directly across on the trail. After a stroll through some peaceful grasslands, the hardest part of the hike looms ahead. Then, a challenging struggle up a sharp incline covered in loose gravel. At sea level, this climb would be easy, but at 15000 feet, the air is very thin and even accomplished sportsmen struggle.
When you finally reach the summit, you’ll glimpse Laguna 69. Crystalline blue water flanked by a razor-thin waterfall gushing ice-cold glacial water from the mountains is an incredible sight. The fact that you can see so much natural wonder in just 6 hours means this is undoubtedly one of the best day hikes in the world.
4. Constantina Nek Hike, South Africa
Table Mountain above the city of Cape Town is an iconic landmark of South Africa. Many visitors ride the cable car, but outdoor enthusiasts trek the hiking trails to the summit. Tabletop Mountain National Park is huge, there are a number of hikes that traverse the mountain range, but this day hike is our favorite.
This 9-mile trail is rated as moderate, with an elevation gain of 510m. Some areas are quite steep, with a fair bit of rock scrambling required. The spectacular birds-eye views of Cape Town are worth it, with vineyards and forests to admire. On a clear day, views extend as far as False Bay and Hout Bay. A total of 6 hours of hiking is rewarded with all these scenic views, so pack up your best emergency paracord bracelet (always be prepared) and enjoy this trail as one of the best day hikes in the world.
5. Seven Rila Lakes, Bulgaria
In the often-overlooked Balkan region of Europe sits one of the continents’ most beautiful countries; Bulgaria. All nature lovers need to take a trip here, as the gorgeous mountain pastures are a bucket list sight without a doubt. Southwest Bulgaria holds the region’s highest mountains, the Rila Mountains, located just a few hours away from the capital city of Sofia. On a day hike, you can see the region’s most famous glacial lakes, the Seven Rila Lakes. This is the perfect choice for the less experienced hiker, as this hike is easy while still holding many phenomenal views and opportunities for adventure.
Along the way, different levels of difficulty are available. These are clearly signed so that every hiker can take the route appropriate to their skill level, and get the most enjoyment out of their trek. Make use of the cable car at the start of your hike to skip the most boring parts, and spend your valuable time seeing some of the most gorgeous scenery in Europe. The hike takes 6 hours, allowing for plenty of time to stop and view the breathtaking surroundings.
6. Trolltunga Hike, Norway
Trolltunga is one of the most famous hikes in the country, located east of the Skjeggedal area. The hike is 13 miles in total, just over 6 each way, and takes 8 hours for a round trip. The terrain varies and can be rocky, icy, muddy, and snowy. This hike is best tackled in the summer when the temperatures are more favorable.
The name translates to “troll’s tongue”, which is the name of the cliff which sticks out over Lake Ringedalsvatnet. This rocky protrusion extends out over the lake with nothing below it for some 3600 feet, and this hike’s namesake presents one of the best photo opportunities in the world.
To reach the rocky peninsula, hike past numerous scenic streams and waterfalls, surrounded by beautiful cliffs and breathtaking alpine scenery. Lakes, fjords, and glaciers can all be seen along the way, and once you reach the summit of the hike, Trolltunga, hikers are often rendered speechless. The view from the top of the Norwegian fjords, snow-capped mountains, and the dark blue lake is unparalleled, one of the most spectacular vistas in the world.
The Dolomites in Italy are one of the most famously beautiful hiking destinations in the world. No matter how many photographs you see, nothing will capture just how stunning this part of the world truly is. The Puez-Odle Altopiano hike takes you to some of the highest peaks in the area, giving birds-eye panoramic views of the amazing mountains in the Dolomites.
This hike takes 6-8 hours and is around 10 miles long. The best time of year to hike this trail is in the summer when you can see vast fields of wildflowers in bloom. The lush green landscape turns into intimidating rock formations after the first summit, and then onto the stunning Vallunga valley. Then, a 1150-meter descent back down into the valley, through meadows, forests, and herds of cattle.
8. Cape to Cape, Australia
The Cape to Cape hike in southwestern Australia is actually a 5-7 day hike, but the many starting and access points means you can pick out a section for a day hike. Overall the trail is of moderate difficulty, with some parts involving numerous steps or long periods walking on soft sand.
One part of the Cape to Cape trail we recommend for a day hike is from Yallingup Beach car park to Moses Rock Road car park. Totaling about 10 miles in total, trekkers will spend 4-6 hours traversing it. There are ample scenic nooks on the cliffside, perfect for a picnic where you can dine with a view. You can also spot whales from the trail if you’re hiking in the right season.
This part of the Cape to Cape track passes through the sandy Smiths beach, the Cape Naturaliste National Park, and past some amazing views all around. Every few miles of this track the terrain changes, so this unique hike has a lot to show you in only one day.
9. Tongariro Alpine Crossing, New Zealand
A full day of hiking will take you 12 miles along the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand. The trek involves a lot of ascending and descending, as it starts at an altitude of 1120m, reaches the highest point of 1889m and a low of 760m. You’ll need at least a moderate fitness level to complete this hike; amateur hikers should manage, but anyone not able to walk long distances should avoid this hike.
Located on the North Island, this hike passes through a variety of interesting landscapes. Starting in the Mangatepopo Valley, the path then goes over the active volcano Mount Tongariro and then down into the Ketetahi car park. During the trek, you’ll pass by Mount Ngauruhoe, which was the famous Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings movies. The scenery in this region is positively breathtaking, trekkers will be treated to views inside the Red Crater of a volcano, of the colorful Emerald lakes, of crashing waterfalls and endless green fields.
This trails popularity, along with rapidly changing weather and the risk of volcano activity puts many trekkers off. However, if you’re not deterred, this gorgeous hike in the North Island of New Zealand is well worth doing. It’s definitely one of the best day hikes in the world.
10. Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach Circuit, Tasmania
Tasmania is a top destination for hikers worldwide, there are miles of hiking trails that can be used as day hikes or multi-day treks. Some people choose to see Cradle Mountain when visiting Tasmania, but we prefer Wineglass Bay. In the Freycinet National Park on the eastern coast of Tasmania is the Hazards Beach Circuit, which takes 5-6 hours for the average trekker. The hike is less than 8 miles long, but in this short distance it passes through quickly changing terrain and changing elevations. The first section of the trail to the Wineglass Bay lookout offers fabulous views of Wineglass Bay, and then the circular walk begins.
Red rock formations can be seen from the coastal path which goes around the stunning coastline, offering gorgeous views of numerous inlets and small bays. Stop at Hazards Beach for a relaxing break to take in the scenery, before continuing on through the harsh brushland and orange painted rocks for a further 5 miles. This is a comfortable day walk for most adventurers, the relative ease of the hike is overpowered by the spectacular views which reward you, just make sure to bring along plenty of water as there are no fountains on the trail.
On this planet, there are endless beautiful day hikes which every trekker would add to their bucket list. This is only a small sample of some of the best day hikes in the world. North America has hundreds of day hikes, we couldn’t list them all here. Some day hikes in the USA not included but worth checking out are the Root Glacier Trail in Alaska, Camelback Mountain in Arizona, the Kalalau Trail in Hawaii, Elephant Canyon in Utah, and Hidden Canyon in Zion National Park. Zion National Park is featured in our article on the best camping in Utah, which we recommend checking out if you want to turn your day hike into an overnight trip. The Grand Canyon is one location you might be surprised isn’t included, but as stunning as it is, there are better day hikes elsewhere.
Any hikers trip to Nepal warrants a trip to Everest Base Camp, but again this isn’t doable in a single day. Many other popular multi-day hikes can be broken down into segments for day hiking, so try applying this to turn a three-day hike to turn it into a day trip. Any trekker planning an expedition like this needs basic supplies such as a first aid kit, backpack repair kit, and of course a sturdy pair of hiking boots. Campsites are available on most trails in case your hike takes two days or longer, so overnight accommodation shouldn’t be a worry.
For the ambitious hiker wanting to tackle some of the best day hikes in the world, just select one off our list. All these are popular hikes in tried and tested locations, and each one guarantees spectacular views and a satisfying feeling when you reach the summit.
Bonus tip: Check out this video to see aerial footage of the breathtaking Laguna 69!