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10 Best Walks in the World's Most Scenic National Parks

Posted by Tim Roberts on Jan 19, 2024 12:56:40 PM

Sunset reflecting off lake and pine trees in a beautiful national park with walking trails

Ever since America created the first-ever national park in the 19th century, the world's most beautiful natural habitats have been protected and preserved in the name of conservation. As a result, residents and travelers alike get to enjoy these unspoiled public spaces in their natural condition. From towering mountains to pristine forests, these natural areas offer an incredible diversity of landscapes for exploration and discovery. 

While there are many ways to enjoy these beautiful national parks, one of the best is to simply take a walk, appreciating the universe's finest creations. Whether it's a short hike to a waterfall or the best day hikes to view glaciers, there's nothing quite like experiencing a national park on foot. Here are our top ten picks of the world's most scenic walks through national parks.


1. Skradinski Buk, Krka National Park - Croatia

A boardwalk around Skradinski Buk waterfall in the Krka National Park, Sibenik-Knin County, Croatia.

Krka National Park is located in Šibenik-Knin County in Croatia and is an absolute gem, one of the world's stunning national parks. Declared a national park in 1985, it has since become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Croatia, while still maintaining its charm and peaceful serenity. This park is famous for its limestone-rich Krka River (which boasts a boat trip to glorious cascading waterfalls). Inside the park, there are several archaeological sites, monuments of industrial architecture and religious heritage. It's this unique blend of history and natural beauty that cements Krka and the Skradinski Buk trail on this list.

While the park has several excellent walking trails, Skradinski Buk is our top choice, as it takes you to the famous Skradinski Buk Falls. Here, the limestone-rich river Krka drops 150ft (45.7m) over a series of 17 steps spanning a length of 875yd (800m), creating a series of beautiful waterfalls. The trail is considered an easy walk, a 2.7mi (4.4km) loop trail that can be done in around 2 hours if you don't stop. However, you will definitely be stopping to admire these falls, and if you are there in summer, chances are you won't be able to resist swimming in the emerald green waters at the base of the falls as well.

Length: 2.7 mi (4.4km) loop

Difficulty: Easy


2. Uluru Base Walk, Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park - Australia


Uluru, also known as Ayres Rock, is that iconic giant red rock in the center of Australia's outback. It really is a sight to see, made even more impressive once you know that two-thirds of the magnificent red monolith is underground! The rock is located in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in Australia's Northern Territory. We are talking proper outback. The red earth, the rock, and the incredible natural landscape make for a unique encounter like nowhere else on Earth.

The best way to experience Uluru is by first viewing it from a distance at dawn or dusk. Getting up before sunrise to witness the first rays of the sun painting this natural wonder in all manners of desert yellows, golds, pinks, and blues is something you'll certainly never forget. After breakfast, you can get in for a closer look on the Uluru Base Walk. Mid-morning is the perfect time to do this walk, as you do not want to be out exerting yourself in the middle of the day in this part of the world. It's hot and dry, and the sun is relentless. The 6.2 mi (10km) trek takes around 3.5 hours to complete and will not only give you a sense of how large it is but also a chance to follow in the footsteps of the indigenous ancestors who shaped the landscape.

Length: 6.2mi (10 km) loop

Difficulty: Easy


3. The Falls Walk, Yosemite National Park - USA

Yosemite meadow and boardwalk towards Upper Yosemite Falls

The United States is rather spoiled for choice when it comes to national parks with so many world-class nature reserves to choose from, including:
  • Grand Canyon National Park
  • Yellowstone (the world's first)
  • Kenai Fjords National Park
  • Sequoia National Park
  • Cuyahoga Valley National Park
  • Haleakalā National Park
  • Rocky Mountains National Park

Told you they're spoilt! It was hard to only choose one for this list, but Yosemite made the cut due to its huge Sequoia pine tree forests, sky-high granite cliff faces, and towering magnificent waterfalls. Established in 1973, the Falls Walk is one of Yosemite's oldest historic trails and leads to the top of North America's tallest waterfall-- 2,425ft (739m) above the valley floor!

The trail starts at the Valley Loop trail and climbs through oak woodland for one mile (1,000 ft / 305m climb) until you reach the top of the falls. The latter part of the trail is steep and rocky, but the prize once you reach the top is 100% worth it. You are rewarded with views of everything that makes Yosemite so iconic: the spectacular sights of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome, and Sentinel Rock, with the Yosemite Creek at your feet cascading over into the majestic waterfall.

Length: 7.6 mi (12.2km) round-trip

Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous


4. The Blue Path Trail, Cinque Terre National Park - Italy

Cinque Terre Hiking trail to Monterosso al Mare in early summer, Liguria Italy Europe, one of the world's most scenic walks

Perhaps one of the more famous and spectacular national parks on this list, Cinque Terre National Park, covers a stretch of rugged Italian Riviera coastline. Italy's first national park was inducted in 1999 and has become a top attraction for the country. It is unique in that it encompasses a cluster of five picturesque villages perched atop its cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean. The famous Blue Trail spans the length of the five villages making for a pleasant walk, as you can stop by each one to enjoy a coffee and something to eat, or simply soak up the rich heritage of the area.

The trail is 7.5 miles (12km) and you can start at either Monterosso or Riomaggiore. The trail was heavily damaged in a landslide in 2012 and just reopened to the public in 2021, so now is the perfect time to enjoy the newly constructed path. The rock-cut trail along the dramatic mountains that drop into the Mediterranean with the pretty villages nestled in the coves makes for one of the most scenic walks on earth.

Length: 7.5 mi (12km)

Difficulty: Moderate


5. The Sloth Trail, Manuel Antonio National Park - Costa Rica


The Sloth Trail makes the cut because, well, who doesn't want to see a sloth?! While we would all agree that sloths are pretty awesome, there's much more to this walk in Manuel Antonio National Park - located on the central Pacific coast of Costa Rica, it is one of the country's smallest, yet offers the most, with plenty of hiking trails through lush tropical rainforest, beautiful beaches, and abundant wildlife (including, of course, its eponymous sloths).

The trail is easy to find from the entrance to Sendero Perezoso Park and consists of a raised boardwalk for half the trail and then a paved, mostly flat walk. In addition to the sloths, you can also expect to see capuchin and squirrel monkeys, agoutis, and iguanas.

Length: 0.87mi (1.4 km) one-way

Difficulty: Easy


6. Port Pin and d'en-Vau Trail, Parc National des Calanques - France

Young hiker woman with backpack and photo camera on the high cliffs,Calanques D En Vau bay,Calanques National Park near Cassis fishing village,Provence,South France,Europe

The Parc des Calanques is a wild and rugged Mediterranean reserve not too far from Marseille, where tours are available. It has several hiking trails, but without a doubt, the best are the ones leading to two of its famous beach attractions, Calanque Port-Pin and Calanque D’en Vau. Here you'll find secluded coastal inlets with steep cliffs dropping down into the most turquoise, clear waters imaginable.

The park is about a 20 - 30 minute drive from Marseille, and you can get public transport. You can park at Calanque de Port-Miou where there is a marina nearby, itself worth a stop to soak in the sparkling water and sunshine. From there, you take the trail from Calanque de Port Miou to Calanque de Port Pin where you can cool off in the aqua-marine waters. Then, continue on the trail to Calanque d’En Vau which hugs the coastline, offering incredible views of the cliffs, bays and ocean. After about 45 - 60 minutes of hiking, you are rewarded with Calanque d’En-Vau, arguably one of the best beaches in the Mediterranean. The downside is, people know this and it often gets congested, so go early if possible so you can beat the crowds.

Length: 2.7 mi (4.4km) round-trip

Difficulty: Easy


7. Kalalau Trail, Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park - Hawaii

Young good looking couple hiking in one of the world's most scenic national parks, Nāpali Coast State Wilderness Park in Hawaii

You've likely seen photos or postcards of the Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park on the Hawaiian Island of Kauai--the one with the massive green mountains dropping down into the Pacific Ocean. The 22-mi (35.4km) round-trip Kalalau Trail that hugs the coastline one of the most awe-inspiring national parks is listed as USA Today’s 10 Best Hiking trails and is often ranked as one of the best in the world.

The trail crosses alongside towering sea cliffs and cuts through lush tropical valleys full of exotic birds and waterfalls. If you are only keen for a day hike, then just do the first two miles which are scenic enough all on their own. If you're in the mood for doing the two-day hike option, you will need an overnight camping permit which allows you to reach the spectacular 200 ft Hanakapiai Falls and two idyllic sand beaches, all destinations worthy of the most ambitious bucket list.

Length: 22 mi (35.4km) round-trip (option for 2 mile day hike)

Difficulty: Challenging


8. Skeleton Gorge, Table Mountain National Park - South Africa

Big mountains and trails Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden which leads into one of the world's best national park walks, the Skeleton Trail up Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain National Park in Cape Town, South Africa, features over 300 hiking trails, making the city one of the best in the world for immediate hiking access. While its most famous and popular is the Platteklip Gorge Trail, which directly takes you up the mountain near the cable car route, there are several other trails as well. Our favorite is the Skeleton Gorge Trail, which takes you to the same point on top of the mountain, but via a far more scenic route.

The Skeleton Gorge Trail starts from the other side of Table Mountain in the Kirstenbosch National Park, itself quite an impressive destination and the reason why the trail makes this list. Kirstenbosch is a lovely national botanical garden nestled in the foothills of Table Mountain National Park and is acclaimed as one of the best worldwide. The setting, flora and fauna are simply stunning.

The trail takes you through the gardens before your steep climb up Table Mountain. The hike is 4 mi (6.5km) and will take you 5+ hours depending on your level of fitness, but the reward is the iconic view from the top of Table Mountain overlooking the spectacular city of Cape Town.

Length: 4 mi (6.5 km) round-trip

Difficulty: Challenging


9. Torres del Paine Lookout, Torres del Paine National Park - Chile

One of the most beautiful national parks in the world, Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile. Sunrise at the Torres lookout trail

Torres Del Paine is a national park in Chile's incredible Patagonia region. The park has many adventure sports and excellent trails, including the famous week-long multi-day trek, W Circuit to view the iconic glacier shelf. However, for a more accessible walk, you can undertake the Torres del Paine Lookout trail which, although challenging, can be done in a day. Regardless of which you choose, the best window of time to visit is September through January.

The 10.8 mi (17.4 km) round-trip trail begins from the Torres del Paine camp and takes roughly 6.5 hours to complete, depending on how often you stop to take in all the magnificent nature surrounding you. That's what this walk (and Patagonia as a whole) is all about - nature. This region has it all: the different colored landscapes, natural reserves, national parks, rivers, deserts, vast forests, lakes, glaciers and native wildlife are why this trail makes the list. And then there's the actual lookout itself, a breathtaking view of the three giant granite 'torres', with a still blue-green lake beneath.

Length: 10.8 mi (17.4 km) round-trip

Difficulty: Challenging


10. Dragon’s Back Trail, Shek O Country Park - Hong Kong Island

Hiking the Dragon`s Back Trail, Hong Kong. To reach Shek O Peak the highest point of the Dragons Back hike

Like Cape Town, Hong Kong offers an escape from urbanization to world-class hiking trails right on its doorstep. While there is the epic 31 mi (50km) Hong Kong Trail, there is a shorter section running along an undulating ridge at the Southeast of Hong Kong Island, known as the Dragon's Back. This trail can be done in a day trip and is dubbed "Asia's favorite hike".

The trail loops up through the gorgeous forest before breaking out onto the ridge and open ground, offering breathtaking views on either side of the island. It leads you to the Shek O sightseeing platform that provides the most spectacular views of Southern Hong Kong Island and its coastline. As if that weren't enough, to cap off the hike the trail finishes up in Big Wave Bay for a refreshing swim and surf. The perfect walk to round out this list.

Length: 5.3 mi (8.5 km)

Difficulty: Moderate


Have we left any out? Feel free to tell us the most beautiful national parks you've strolled around below. 



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