5 long-distance hiking trails in spring: our recommendations

by Vera

Spring is getting closer and closer and some long-distance hikers are already in the starting blocks for the first trail of the year. Finally back out into nature after the cold winter! For those who are still not quite sure where to go on the next long-distance hike, here is a selection of five suitable long-distance trails in spring.

1. Along the Atlantic Coast of Portugal – the Fishermen’s Trail

Country: Portugal
Distance: 221 km
Duration: 9 – 13 days

The Fishermen’s Trail, also called Rota Vicentina, runs 221 km along the wild Atlantic coast through the sandy dunes and cliffs of southern Portugal. Every day you have a view of the rushing sea and turquoise bays, small coastal villages and breathtaking beaches await you. This long-distance hike is a highlight especially in spring, when in April the plants are in bloom and you can admire the babys of the cliff storks in their nests.

The fishing trail officially runs from north (São Torpes) to south (Lagos) through the Natural Park “Sudoeste-Alentejano e Costa Vicentina” and is well signed. Not only does this make this long distance trail perfect for beginner trekkers, but also civilization is never far away and the trail is rated easy to moderate. There is hardly any elevation to conquer and the only difficulty is sinking into the sand. But even this is only partly the case, because most of the time the long-distance trail is a mixture of sand and stones.

In total you should plan 9-13 days depending on the route and your endurance. Since there is a real network of long-distance trails in the southwest of Portugal, you can always choose a connecting trail or hike only part of the route. If you are short of time, you can, for example, hike only the most popular part of the Fishermen’s Trail (75 km) from Porto Covo to Odeceixe in 4 stages. Officially, there are 13 stages for the entire length, which you can read about in detail here.

Wild camping is prohibited throughout the long-distance trail, but don’t worry, there are plenty of overnight accommodations on the way.

2. Annapurna Circuit – in spring through the Himalayas

Country: Nepal
Distance: 217 km
Duration: 9 – 18 days

A true spring highlight is also the Annapurna Circuit! On a length of 217 km you circle the Annapurna massif in the Himalayas of Nepal – the roof of the world. The long-distance trek leads through the largest nature reserve in Nepal, the Annapurna Conservation Area, with views of the highest mountains in the world. And as if this was not impressive enough, in spring (March-April) rhododendron trees and other plants are in bloom. In addition, the long-distance trail is not that crowded in spring and the temperatures are a bit warmer, which, however, could possibly result in cloudy visibility.

The Annapurna Circuit is not for trekking beginners. It is rated as a difficult to moderate trail, partly due to the elevation gain, but altitude sickness can also be a problem. This can occur from 2000 m – 2500 m, while the highest pass to overcome on this long-distance trek is the Thorong La Pass at 5400 m.

This is one of the reasons why it is not so easy to generalize the time required. Some hikers may need one or more days of rest to acclimatize, and in addition, the thinner the air, the more strenuous it becomes. Furthermore, there are always smaller trails that you can hike additionaly to the main route and you can choose individual start and end points.

Thus, the most extensive route starts in Besisahar and the trekking adventure ends in Nayapul. Other possible starting points are Bhulbule or Jagat and end points Jomsom or Pokhara. So depending on the route, acclimatization and fitness you need 9-18 days. Overnight you can stay in homestays or guesthouses in mountain villages and camping is also allowed here.

A final important point is the permit needed for the trail, which costs between $20-50. An overview of the procedure can be found here.

3. Crossing Tenerife – the GR 131

Country: Spain (Canary Islands)
Distance: 84 km
Duration: 3 – 5 days

The 84 km long GR 131 – or Anaga-Chasna – runs over the entire island of Tenerife from the forested north to the dry south. It is the largest island of the Canary Islands and offers an impressive and varied landscape due to its 43 nature reserves, which cover 45 % of the total area of the island. The long-distance hiking trail leads along forest paths through green wooded areas to the Teide National Park, which is characterized by volcanic formations and includes the volcano of the same name. This is the highest mountain in Spain and still active.

The GR 131 starts in the town of La Esperanza and finishes in Arona. This location can be reached after 3-5 days, and officially there are 5-6 stages. The final duration of the trail depends mainly on your fitness level, because there is a lot of elevation to overcome.

This long-distance hike is especially suitable in spring, as it is not yet so hot at this time and therefore not as much water is needed as in hotter months. In fact, the water sources are quite a problem when trekking here, as there are no natural springs on the way. Thus, enough water must always be bought in villages, but this can be conveniently combined with the search for a place to spend the night. Another sleeping option is wild camping, which is officially prohibited but seems to be done and tolerated anyway.

4. West Highland Way – Scotland’s most famous long-distance hike

Country: United Kingdom (Scotland)
Distance: 154 km
Duration: 6 – 8 days

Not in the mood for the south or the mountains? The West Highland Way in Scotland is perfect for spring too. In May not only the broom blooms, also the annoying mosquitoes are not yet as active as in the summer months and in May there are the most sunshine hours. This also means that the days are longer and you have more time for trekking.

From the southern starting point in Milngavie (above Glasgow), the long-distance hike leads over 154 km to Fort William in the northwest. Along the way, you’ll roam the green landscapes of Scotland, from the Lowlands to the breathtaking Highlands, the treeless moorland and various mountains and valleys. Among the absolute highlights are Loch Lomond’s lake and the waterfall Falloch Falls. And the best part? You can experience everything up close as wild camping is allowed in Scotland. You can read about what you need to consider when wildcamping here.

If you long for a little more comfort after a busy day, you of course have the option of booking an accommodation or a campsite. However, you should not wait too long, as the West Highland Way is very popular and therefore everything can be booked up quickly.

The long-distance trail is divided into 8 stages, whereby the routes can be combined, so you can also complete the West Highland Way in less than 8 days. Overall, the route is classified as easy and the trails are well signposted.

5. Arizona Trail (AZT) – a long-distance hike through the wilderness

Country: United States
Distance: 1258 km
Duration: 6 – 8 weeks

If you are looking for pure wilderness, the great adventure and a dose of solitude, you will fully enjoy this long-distance hike. The Arizona Trail (AZT) in the United States is known for its impressive biodiversity, the Sonoran Desert, the Sky Islands in southern Arizona and the crossing of the Grand Canyon. Tthe long distance trail stretches over 1258 km from the Mexican border to Utah. You will cross whole Arizona within 6-8 weeks and will be self-sufficient.

The Arizona Trail requires detailed planning because, on one side, the drinking water supply is difficult (water supplies must be deposited in specific locations) and you will only find an opportunity to buy food every few days. Those who don’t find this daunting may be even more pleased with the possibility of wild camping along the entire long-distance trail.

The total of 43 stages of the trail can be hiked either from north to south or the other way round. For spring, the route south-north is best, because you always walk towards the warmth and yet it never gets too hot. Due to the melted snow in the north, there are also more drinking water possibilities and a real nature highlight are the blooming wild flowers.

Since the trail lasts a few weeks, the start date is also crucial. Recommended is to start in early/mid-March in order to reach the destination no later than mid/late May. The temperatures in the south are not yet so hot and the snow in the north should have melted. However, you should always be prepared for the most diverse climate and weather conditions.

Also note two required permits for the Saguaro National Park and the Grand Canyon National Park, which are also the only areas with wild camping bans. In addition, caution is advised in some parts of the long-distance trail, because it’s black bear territory. One way to protect yourself is with a so-called bear canister or bear bag.

No matter where you end up, each of these long-distance trails is a true springtime dream! There is at least one trail for beginners, advanced hikers and also experienced long-distance hikers, and each one has its own special charm.

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