Dreaming of trekking along mountaintops, summiting peaks, and meandering around rivers? Yeah, us too. However, it isn’t always possible to hit the trail for months at a time. But fortunately, there are plenty of short-and-sweet backpacking trips around the world that pack a major punch. From the high peaks of the Himalayas to the Fiordland Region of New Zealand’s South Island, here are three of our favorite three-day backpacking trips around the world.
1. The Royal Trek, Nepal
So we aren’t all taking on Mt. Everest, but, hey, that’s no reason to skip over this stunning landscape. One of the shortest rambles in the Himalayas, the so-called Royal Trek (named for a route Prince Charles took through Nepal in 1981) stretches from Kalikathan to Rupa Tal, the three-day trek offers hikers a bite-sized taste of the epic Annapurna region, as the trail snakes through highlands terraced with rice paddies spread in the shadow of the high Himalayas. Mountain vistas are especially vivid on the second day of the trek from Chisapani. Along the trail, backpackers also have the opportunity to stay in homey teahouses, sample traditional cuisine, and mingle with local Gurung communities, an ethnic group renowned for serving in Nepal’s Gurkha regiments. When the clouds part, trekkers are treated to an eyeful of snow-frosted summits, including Annapurna II, Himalchuli, and Manaslu.
2. Routeburn Track, New Zealand
If New Zealand has been on your bucket list, now is the time to go. New Zealand is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise, with towering peaks and lush green meadows. The 20-mile Routeburn Track is one of New Zealand’s iconic Great Walks and the country’s most famous hike. On it, you’ll get an alpine tour of the South Island’s most jaw-dropping natural areas. This hike can be done over two nights and three days, but if you have more time to spare, take it slow and soak up all that it has to offer. The route leads trekkers through the southern portion Mount Aspiring National Park and into Fiordland National Park. Along the way, backpackers are treated to panoramic views of the Darran Mountains and Hollyford Valley, as well as natural wonders like Routeburn Gorge and the 570-foot Earland Falls. The trek is also a thriving bird habitat, offering the chance to spot New Zealand pigeons, bellbirds, and long-tailed cuckoos. For trekkers, the alpine track is dotted with both reservable campsites and huts offering bunk beds, running water, and cooking facilities.
3. Volcano Trek, Ecuador
This is a great trek for those backpackers who are just starting to dip their toes into the landscape of Ecuador, but are not quite ready to tackle one of Ecuador’s snow-glazed volcanoes. It may not be the biggest mountain out there, but you still get a taste of the Andean high country along the so-called “Volcano Trek,” just outside Quito. Beginning at the Santa Rita Private Reserve, this two-night route weaves through the highland páramo into Cotopaxi National Park along a path studded with celestial volcanoes, including 19,347-foot Cotopaxi. In places, the trail follows ancient Incan thoroughfares, and backpackers pass the ruins of Pucará del Salitre, a fortress built at the end of the 15th century. Although there are spots to camp along the way, hikers can also tap into Ecuador’s Chagras culture and stay in cozy haciendas. Inside Cotopaxi National Park, trekkers can also opt to climb to the Refugio José Rivas, perched at an elevation of 15,750 feet, to get an imitate close-up of the snow-capped summit of conical Cotopaxi.
4. Laugavegur, Iceland
Iceland seems to be a real buzzword these days. With airlines opening up direct flights from Boston and New York, tourists are starting to keep an eye on this beauty. After doing a bit of digging, we landed on Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail. This hike takes trekkers through an otherworldly landscape fit for a Tolkien novel. The 34-mile route between Landmannalaugar and Pórsmörk offers a breathtaking tour of the wild Icelandic Highlands, meandering past glistening glaciers, rhyolite mountains, and active volcanoes. Dubbed the “People’s Pools,” a natural hot spring beckons for soaking in Landmannalaugar, a portion of the southern highlands long renowned for enticing geothermal baths. At the opposite end of the trail is the verdant Pörsmork Nature Reserve, a natural area of wildflower-speckled meadows, lush woodlands, and hulking glaciers. Aside from the fairy-tale backdrop, the trail also offers both campsites and backcountry huts, spaced about every 10 miles. The trek is often done over three full days, although adding an extra day at the end of the route to recharge and relax in the spectacular landscapes of this island country is never a bad idea.
5. Mount Kenya, Kenya
When you think of hiking in Africa, Mt. Kilimanjaro usually comes to mind, but there’s another mountaintop ready to be explored. Mount Kenya’s glacier-sculpted pinnacle is Africa’s second-highest summit, topped only by Kilimanjaro. Sacred to the Kikuyu tribe, the mountain also is exceptionally rich in biodiversity, recognized as both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Biosphere Reserve. At elevations above 11,000 feet, the ancient volcano is sprinkled with cartoonish flora, including rosette plants and giant groundsel, while its lowland forests are roamed by elephants, cape buffalo, and Sykes’ monkeys. The mountain’s trio of summits includes two peaks accessible only to experienced technical climbers—17,057-foot Batian and 17,021-foot Nelion. However, reaching the 16,354-foot Point Lenana doesn’t require mountaineering skills, and along the Naro Moru Route, the peak is scalable in three (albeit grueling) days.
6. Art Loeb Trail, United States
Named for Brevard-based hiker and trail advocate Art Loeb, the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail is a panoramic high-country jaunt often described as a microcosm of the epic Appalachian Trail. The footpath rambles through western North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest and into the Shining Rock Wilderness, threading picturesque ridgelines and scaling some of the loftiest summits in the Great Balsam range. The trail tops out at the 6,214-foot Black Balsam Knob, a quintessential southern Appalachian bald offering 360-degree views all the way to the Great Smoky Mountains. After climbing 6,040-foot Shining Rock, the route also skirts 6,030-foot Cold Mountain, the peak memorialized in Charles Frazier’s award-winning novel of the same name. For backpackers, the car-accessible Davidson River Campground is located at the trail’s southern terminus, the ideal staging point for a multi-day adventure on the locally beloved footpath.
Written by Malee Baker Oot for Matcha in partnership with Gregory Mountain Products.
Featured image provided by Michael Hacker