Eight Epic Island Hikes

May 2, 2012
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Sometimes the best way to explore an island is by foot; by crunching over hills and into valleys, you can gain a deeper, more innate understanding of the environment that makes each place special. Here we’ve rounded up eight epic island hikes, from hard core to simply scenic, for you to try.

By Matt Villano

North Coast Trail, Vancouver Island (Canada)

One of the two hand-operated cable-car bridges along Canada’s North Coast Trail.

North Coast Trail, Vancouver Island (Canada) Completed in 2008, this strenuous, 36-miler winds along the northern tip of Vancouver Island and delivers the killer Bs: Bogs, black bears, and beaches strewn with billiard-ball sized rocks. If these obstacles aren’t enough, two hand-powered cable car crossings (over the Nahwitti and Stranby rivers) add to the fun. The most unusual challenge of the one-way tromp? Getting to the Shushartie Bay trailhead: it’s only accessible by boat or floatplane. Thankfully, services—and plenty of post-hike beer—are available in nearby Port Hardy. Time to budget: 4 days/3 nights When to go: June-September Learn more. Photo credit: Matt Villano
Mt. Myogi, Japan

The iconic peaks of Japan’s Mt. Myogi.

Mt. Myogi, Japan During the Edo period, locals believed this rugged mountain in the Gunma Prefecture had mythological powers that could protect the community from natural disasters. Today, there are five different hiking paths to the top, most of which clock in around eight miles round-trip. All of the trails have chains to help hikers climb certain slopes; many hikers also visit one of three Shinto Shrines along the way. In autumn, the foliage here is as beautiful as in leaf-peeping destinations such as Vermont and New Hampshire. Time to budget: 3-8 hours When to go: April-November Learn more. Photo credit: Yasufumi Nishi/JNTO
Kalalau Trail, Kauai

A hiker stops to admire the view along Hawaii’s Kalalau Trail.

Kalalau Trail, Kauai The primary access route to the rugged Na Pali Coast, this 11-mile one-way footpath represents one of the most popular (yet rigorous) hikes in Hawaii. From Ke’e Beach, north of Hanalei, the trail traverses five valleys before ending at Kalalau Beach, an oasis of sheer cliffs, giant palm trees and greens that make Oz look brown. Along the way, you’ll pass breathtaking beaches, waterfalls, and naturist encampments. Unofficial boat transfers are available back to Hanalei, but be warned: To meet the boats, you’ve got to swim. Time to budget: 3 days/2 nights When to go: Year-round Learn more. Photo credit: Kauai Visitors Bureau
Laugavegurinn, Iceland
Laugavegurinn, Iceland Arguably Iceland’s most popular hiking trail, this 33-mile one-way roller-coaster connects the nature reserves Landmannalaugar and Porsmork. Along the route, hikers tromp past everything from glaciers to hot springs, crossing four rivers on foot. At night, bed down at one of six hostel-style huts (reservations required); because the trail is so well-traveled, you’re bound to meet other adventurers from all over the world. Just be sure to look up before drifting to sleep, if you’re lucky—and if it’s clear—the Northern Lights might just make a cameo. Time to budget: 4 days/3 nights When to go: June-September Learn more. Photo credit: Photo TK
Boiling Lake Trail, Dominica

Hikers along the way to Dominica’s Boiling Lake

Boiling Lake Trail, Dominica There really is a boiling lake at the end of this 8-mile trail on the island of Dominica. As you approach, the phenomenon appears like a bubbling cauldron, covered by a cloud of smoke. Technically, the feature is a flooded fumarole, a crack through which gases escape from molten lava below and heat runoff from surrounding hills. The lake is the highlight of Segment 4 of the island’s Waitukubuli National Trail, a 115-miler that traverses the entire rock. To call the section “strenuous” would be an understatement. Time to budget: 12 hours When to go: Year-round Learn more. Photo credit: Discover Dominica Authority
Vinhas da Criacao Velha Trail, Azores (Portugal)

The Vinhas da Criacao Velha Trail, in the Azores, follows an old road through vineyards.

Vinhas da Criacao Velha Trail, Azores (Portugal) Oenophiles will love this 5-mile trail through the Cultura da Vinha, a winemaking region on the island of Pico and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The flat and easy trail follows an ancient road that has carried wine for hundreds of years. Start at Porto do Calhau and head north; along the way look in the road for rilheiros, marks left on the lava rock by wagons that used to carry wine. The route ends at Areia Larga, with amazing views of the Atlantic. Time to budget: 4 hours When to go: April-November Learn more. Photo credit: Associacao de Turismo dos Acores
Bibbulmun Track, Australia

Australia’s Bibbulmun Track follows the coast of Western Australia before heading inland.

Bibbulmun Track, Australia This easy “walk” in Western Australia stretches 600 miles, but comprises 58 individual sections, most of which represent a one-day jaunt. Depending on the itinerary, you can overnight in a local B&B, or en plein aire, under one of 48 timber-and-iron shelters. Popular sections of the trail include the south coast, where you can spot whales spouting in the ocean, and the Jarrah Forest, which in spring comes to life with vibrant wildflowers. Time to budget: Varies When to go: April-December Learn more. Photo credit: Tourism Western Australia
Tangata Manu Route, Easter Island (Chile)
Tangata Manu Route, Easter Island (Chile) Rano Kau, a volcanic crater, is the highpoint of this easy day-hike, which winds around the southernmost tip of Easter Island. From the trailhead, hikers ascend steep cliffs to the edge of the crater—a vantage point that delivers spectacular views of the ocean and the interior of the (now-dormant) volcano. Later, the trail stops at Tangata Manu, ceremonial site where locals welcomed the transition from winter into summer. Historically the harbingers of this change were migratory birds; perhaps that explains the name, which translates as “Bird Man.” Time to budget: 2-4 hours When to go: Year-round Learn more. Photo credit: Explora Rapa Nui

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