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World's 10 Best Day Hikes

Posted by Tim Roberts on Jun 26, 2023 4:32:55 PM

Hiker in Sequoia national park in California, USA

“The best day hikes in the world” is a highly subjective topic as so many amazing hikes worldwide can be done in a day. But because this is a blog post, not a book, we have selected what we consider to be the top ten options for day trip hiking when you travel the world. Along with helpful information, such as how best to get there, we include the optimal time to go and some tips and tricks for the trek. So, strap on your walking shoes and grab your essential gear because we're going... hiking!

Disclaimer: Storylines is not affiliated with any tour groups mentioned in this post.


Tiger's Nest Monastery Hike - Paro Valley, Bhutan

The trail up to the Tigers Nest monastery in Paro, Bhutan is known as one of the world's best day hikes

To hike to the incredible Tiger's Nest Monastery in a day (there is a much longer multi-day hike), you should base yourself in Paro, an ancient town in the Paro Valley. Paro has many historical buildings and is a sacred and beautiful area to explore. Paro also has Bhutan's only international airport, making it easy to access. The hike is about 10 mi / 16 km north of Paro, or 20 minutes by car. Since tourists can only reach Tiger’s Nest by organized tour, your transportation will be arranged. The round-trip hike will take around four to five hours, but you will want to add an extra hour to tour the monastery itself. 


Built in 1692 on the site where Guru Padmasambhava and his followers first practiced Vajrayana Buddhism meditations in the 9th century, the monastery (also known as Paro Taktsang) is one of the most impressive structures in the world, nestled into the side of a cliff with spectacular views of the forests, valleys and mountains. Tiger's Nest Monastery hike ticks all the boxes: a beautiful nature walk, exceptional scenery, and cultural and historical significance. For those feeling more adventurous, the epic 250 mi / 400 km Trans-Bhutan trail has recently reopened after 60 years.


Platteklip Gorge Trail - Cape Town, South Africa

Hiking Platteklip Gorge on Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa, known as one of the best day hikes in the world

Table Mountain is an iconic hike with one of the best viewing platforms globally, overlooking Cape Town's central business district and Cape Coast. While there is a cable car that can take you up, you can also hike it (be prepared, though— with a steep climb that rises 1086m, taking this route definitely requires one to be “hike-fit”). 

Platteklip Gorge trail is the most popular and direct trail up the mountain, featuring an abundance of flora and fauna native only to Table Mountain National Park. Unlike other trails that zig-zag up the mountain, the Platteklip Gorge trail is straight upwards. It's important to note there are ferrata hike sections, where you rely on steel cables and rungs to rock-climb. While physically challenging, many hikers find the uninterrupted view to be absolutely worth the 2-hour+ climb, which not only affords you an incredible experience but also bragging rights for life! 


Matterhorn Trail - Zermatt, Switzerland

The Matterhorn mountain from a panoramic trail near Zermatt in Switzerland, known as one of the world's most scenic day treks

Famous worldwide for its near-perfect pyramid shape and incomparable panoramic views, the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps is a favorite destination for travelers and photographers alike.  While the mountain is too large to scale in a single day (its peak rises 4,478m above sea level), intrepid hikers can enjoy the 10-hour round trip Matterhorn Trail to soak in the beauty and majesty of this one-of-a-kind natural wonder. To ensure that your visit is safe (and fun!) we  suggest doing a Matterhorn day tour from Zermatt rather than going alone

Zermatt is an incredibly picturesque ski resort village that looks like it belongs in a Christmas movie in the winter. Zermatt is a no-car town (only Santa's sled is allowed), so the best way to get there is by train, one of the world's great railway journeys. If you plan on hiking the Matterhorn trail, then summer is best (though even in summertime, the weather will be cold in this high-altitude region, so be prepared). The reward for the exhilarating hike of the Matterhorn trail is exceptional; the incredible views of one the most picturesque mountains in the world are a sight to behold.


Rainbow Mountain - Cusco, Peru

The day trek to Rainbow Mountain in Vinicunca, Cusco Region, Peru is one of the world's best

Peru has arguably some of the best hiking trails anywhere, with the most famous being Machu Picchu. While Machu Picchu is considered by many to be the pièce de résistance, it has become overcrowded, so we have opted for a lesser-known (yet still impressive) day hike: Rainbow Mountain. Also known as  “Vinicunca”, Rainbow Mountain was only unearthed in 2015 when a colossal thaw in the ice revealed a rainbow-colored mountain buried for centuries. It has since become a symbol of Peru's impressive geological diversity (and you can hike it in just a few hours).

Many tour groups in Cuzco can take you to the Rainbow Mountain trail, about 3.5 hours away. We suggest paying a little extra for a tour that will get you to the course for sunrise; the best time to view the array of colors is when the morning light illuminates the mountain (it’s also the best time for avoiding other day hikers). Check out the local company Rainbow Mountain Cusco, which offers a quality day trip. 

The thrilling hike is about 5 mi / 8 km round-trip, about 2-3 hours depending on your fitness level. While the trek itself is not too tricky, like anywhere in this region, it's the altitude you need to be aware of. A great tip to minimize the risk of altitude sickness is to acclimate in Cusco for a few days before. It will be worth it, with the reward of such a unique mountain landscape that fully lives up to its name.


Yosemite Falls Trail - California, USA

Hiking the upper yosemite falls trail in yosemite national park in california, usa

The United States has an abundance of hikes in amazingly diverse nature reserves such as the Appalachian Trail, national parks in the Rocky Mountains, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, the volcanic Mount Rainier National Park, and many others. Yes, the USA is spoiled for choice. 

In our opinion, the best of all is Yosemite National Park, a world-famous hiking and adventure sports destination. There are so many world-class hikes in this national park alone, yet we particularly love the Yosemite Falls Trail because it has the highest waterfall in North America!

Yosemite National Park is roughly a 3-hour drive from San Francisco. If you don't fancy the drive, there are Yosemite day tours from San Francisco. Either way, it's a must-visit while in California. The Falls Trail is a 7 mi / 12 km round trip to the top of the waterfalls, with a 2700-foot elevation gain. Expect it to take at least 6-8 hours, including time taking in the incredible views.

The best season to hike is Spring when the falls’ water flows at its peak, and it's also not too hot or cold. The views over the falls, the river that feeds it and the Sierra National Forest are as good as it gets. For the more adventurous, we recommend the 17 mile Half Dome trail (permit required for this thrilling hike).


Tongariro Crossing - North Island, New Zealand

Tongariro Alpine Crossing New Zealand is known as the countries best day hike

The Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand is rated as the country's best hiking trail, which says a lot because NZ is renowned for its hiking. Tongariro Crossing, located on the North Island, was used for Middle Earth in the Lord of the Rings movie which inspires travelers to visit. In fact, you will have “Mount Doom” looming over you (real name Mount Ngauruhoe), and you will recognize much of the otherworldly landscape. So, if you're a fan of Lord of the Rings, this one's for you. 

Tongariro National Park is also a dual UNESCO World Heritage-listed park recognized for its cultural and spiritual significance. The hike is a 12 mi / 19 km journey that takes you through an incredible volcanic alpine landscape which includes glacial valleys, ancient magma flows, steam vents, vegetation, alpine mountain springs and beautiful emerald lakes. With this level of  spectacular scenery, you can see why it's rated as one of the best day hikes in the world. 

The best way to get to the start of the track is by shuttle from Lake Taupo. Allow for a full day as the hike will take around 7-8 hours round trip. The walk is relatively challenging and starts at 1120m above sea level, so prepare with this ten essentials handy day hiking checklist.


Nongriat Trek, Meghalaya - India

Living roots bridge near Riwai village, Cherrapunjee, Meghalaya, India, a highlight on one of the world's best day treks

In the northeast Indian state of Meghalaya, towards the Bangladesh border, hides the small Khasi village of Nongriat amongst the rolling jungle hills (known as one of the wettest places on Earth). The area is famous for its natural living root bridges (pictured above) architected by the local Khasi people and has become a tourist drawcard. However, the only way to see them is by trekking, making this one of the more challenging hikes to access, but a great outdoors adventure! Besides the bridges, this hike made the list because it's a unique cultural experience. You get to meet and learn about the Khasi people, who are largely cut off from mainstream culture.

You will want to avoid the wet season as it's intense in these parts and aim for travel from November to June. You need to get to Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya. and then take a sumo (jeep) for the beautiful two-hour journey to Cherrapunji to stay for the night. The next morning a local bus will take you to the village of Tyrna, where you will see signs pointing to the start of the trail to Nongriat. 

Note, the route into the valley consists of around 3,000 steps that bring you straight down (and back up), so be prepared for some epic stair climbing, but it's a beautiful hike and only a 1-2 hour round trip. You will see multiple living root bridges along the way, including the famous double-decker bridge, the Rainbow Falls, and incredible caves you can explore.


Grey Glacier Trail, Torres del Paine National Park - Chile

Famous glacier in Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile. arguably the most scenic day hike in the world

You've likely seen photos or videos of the Grey Glacier in Chile, one of the most famous glaciers in the world. Unfortunately, lots of the coverage of this sprawling sheet of ice is due to parts of it falling away from the effects of climate change. Nevertheless, it is still a sight to behold.

Part of Torres del Paine's famous multi-day W TREK, the Grey Glacier Trail, can be done in a full day. You will want to start early in the morning as it's approximately a 14 mi / 23 km round trip and takes about 7-8 hours to complete, depending on your fitness level. The hike is rated difficult with an elevation gain of 1880 ft. You will start with a ferry from Cafeteria Pudeto across Lago Pehoe to the Paine Grande Refugio, where the trailhead is. The ferry ride offers spectacular scenery of the lake and surrounding mountains. 

The point-to-point hike will take you through the valleys to the pretty Laguna Los Patos, which may have some icebergs floating around after breaking off Grey Glacier. Eventually, you climb up to Mirador Lago Grey, where you will be well-rewarded with a view of Grey Glacier in all its sprawling glory– up to 4 mi / 6 km wide and 30 m high in some parts. From here, you can turn back or continue onto the viewpoint close to the glacier's base.  Either way, this will be a day hike you’ll be talking about for years!


Pulpit Rock - Stavanger, Norway

Hikers at Pulpit Rock in fjord Lysefjord - Norway, one of the most scenic day treks in the world

Pulpit Rock (“Preikestolen”) is a magnificent rock shelf/platform that offers incredible views over one of Norway's many picturesque fjords. The hike is about 5 mi / 8 km, four hours round trip, and is rated medium to difficult with an elevation of 1150 ft; special equipment and a guide are highly recommended for safety. The hiking season in this region is from May to October. 

Lonely Planet called Pulpit Rock “one of the world's most impressive viewpoints”. It also featured prominently in the Tom Cruise blockbuster Mission Impossible: Fallout. As such, this is a highly popular hike and tourist destination (we especially recommend you skip going on a weekend in order to avoid crowds). Thankfully, you no longer need to get a ferry and bus combo to the world's best viewing platform. In 2019, the local government built the world's longest and deepest subsea tunnel (an incredible 9 mi / 14 km) connecting Stavanger and Tau. 

If you want to simplify the experience, book Pulpit Rock Tours from Stavanger, where they will drop you off and pick you up from the trailhead. The trail takes you up granite boulder stairs amidst pine forests. The last mile levels out alongside the edge of the cliff before reaching Pulpit Rock overlooking the Norwegian Fjords, one of the most spectacular views you will ever lay eyes on. 


Big Beehive Trail, Banff National Park - Canada

View from Lake Louise to the Big Beehive and Mirror Lake, one of the worlds greatest day hikes

The Big Beehive is a unique beehive-looking mountain overlooking Lake Louise in Banff National Park, one of Canada's finest nature reserves. Like many other countries on this list, Canada is world-renowned for its hiking trails, so selecting our favorite was no easy task. Lake Louise is one of those amazingly emerald glacial lakes surrounded by pine forests and mountains synonymous with Canada. 

We suggest staying at the picturesque Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise on the lakeshore, which is fabulous accommodation and will also allow you to prepare for day hiking. The Big Beehive trailhead starts beside the chateau, and approximately 3 mi / 4 km in, you will come across Lake Agnes Tea House. Get an early start if you wish to avoid other hikers, as the teahouse is trendy in summer (forget winter). Eventually, you will arrive at Mirror Lake, which, as the name suggests, mirrors its surroundings, including the Big Beehive overlooking the stunningly glass-like water.

It is a 7mi / 11km round trip that should take 4-5 hours, including breaks at the tea house and Beehive viewing platform. It is rated moderate, with an elevation gain of 564m and one strenuous section. You will pass by a beautiful waterfall on your way up the Beehive, where you can take a well-earned break and enjoy some of the best wilderness views in all of Canada. 


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