Hiking is enjoying a bit of a revival. More and more people are discovering the benefits of a slow, simple and ancient way to explore their natural surroundings: on foot.
There’s no doubt about it—hiking is the “it” workout of the moment. But it’s so much more than a fitness trend. Find out why hiking is one of the best things you can do for your body, mind & soul—and keep reading to discover where you can find some of the best hiking trails in your country.
1. It’s incredibly healthy
Hiking can improve your physical health in lots of ways. While it brings all the benefits of regular workouts—such as better sleep, improved cardiovascular fitness, and reduced risk of chronic disease—it’s a form of exercise that beats working up a sweat in the gym. The slightly uneven surface of a hiking trail provides a natural and effective way to exercise your core and to build balance, which you won’t get from a treadmill. And the healing combination of fresh air, natural light and the sounds, sights and scents of nature is something no gym can deliver.
2. It makes you happier
Hiking strengthens your mind as well as your body. It can improve your mood and your overall sense of happiness, and it reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. By tuning your mind and your senses to the present moment, a hike in nature provides the perfect antidote to the stresses of modern life. In Japan, a long walk in nature is actually a common and officially recognised therapy for stress. It’s known as shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing”, and it involves nothing more than immersing yourself in a forest for several hours and soaking up its atmosphere.
3. It combines exercise with exploration
One of the best things about hiking is that it combines exercise with exploration. While hitting the gym can seem like a daunting prospect, hiking is a fun and almost effortless way to get your dose of cardio. A hike takes you on a unique journey every single time. Putting one foot in front of the other, you can wander through scenic landscapes with lush fields, enchanting forests, glistening lakes and picturesque villages.
4. It’s affordable
Since hiking doesn’t require you to invest in classes, memberships or expensive gear, it’s a refreshingly affordable form of exercise. Some nature reserves may charge a small entrance fee, but many parks and recreation areas are entirely free to enter. All you really need is a pair of supportive shoes, comfortable workout clothes and an old baseball cap to shield yourself from the sun.
5. It can be done anytime, anywhere, by anyone
Anyone can enjoy hiking, at any age or fitness level. It doesn’t require lots of planning or preparation, and you should be able to find a place to go hiking no matter where you live—if not a peak or a pilgrim’s path, surely there’s a park nearby.
5 hiking trails in Belgium
1. Cascade du Bayehon
The Cascade du Bayehon is one of Belgium’s tallest natural waterfalls, located in a forest near the village of Longfaye. There’s a 10km trail, starting at the Moulin du Bayehon in the village, that will take you to this majestic waterfall through the woodlands and along the Bayehon and Pouhon rivers.
2. Vallee du Ninglinspo
This trail follows the Ninglinspo river in the Belgian Ardennes, taking you past small waterfalls along winding paths. Spanning just 6 kilometres and offering plenty adventure, the trail is suitable for bringing the kids along.
3. Bruges Art Route
The Bruges Art Route takes you around the historic centre of Bruges. Along the way you’ll pass old windmills, beautiful canals and art galleries where you can admire the works of local artists.
4. Barefoot Path
For a hike that will make you feel more grounded in the most literal sense, walk the Barefoot Path in the Hoge Kempen National Park. After paying a small entrance fee and putting your shoes in a locker, you’ll get to explore nature completely barefoot.
5. La Roche
The phenomenal surroundings of La Roche, a small town in the heart of the Belgian Ardennes, are perfect for hiking. There are more than 20 different trails to choose from, each with its own length, difficulty and charm.
5 hiking trails in Sweden
1. The Emigrants’ Path
The Emigrants’ Path in Småland is a 130km hiking trail that takes you past villages from which many people emigrated to America in the 1850s to escape famine caused by crop failure. To make your experience even more special, read Vilhelm Moberg’s novel The Emigrants before or on your hike. The novel beautifully tells the story of a struggling family that left behind their farm along the Emigrants’ Path to start over in America.
Known as the Scandinavian equivalent of the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, St. Olavsleden is a thousand-year-old pilgrimage path that stretches 560km from the Baltic Coast in the east to the Atlantic Ocean in the west. It’s one of the northernmost hiking trails in the world, offering spectacularly beautiful landscapes. It takes around 4 weeks to walk the entire trail, but it’s also possible to only walk parts of the route.
3. King’s Trail
The famous King’s Trail in the extreme north of Sweden spans 440 kilometres of hiking trails that take you through the scenic wilderness of Lapland. After a day of walking along stunning glaciers, valleys, forests, lunar-like terrains, lakes and mountain streams, you can get some rest in one of the amazingly comfortable mountain huts on the trail—many of which have saunas to soothe your muscles. Depending on when you go, you may also experience the midnight sun (in June and July) or the northern lights (in late August and September).
You don’t have to travel to the northernmost part of Sweden to find spectacular hiking trails. In the south of the country, there’s the 1000-kilometre long Skåneleden trail. This mesmerising hiking route offers incredible variety—it passes through deep forests and green hills with quiet lakes that are perfect for natural bathing, but it also takes you along impressive coastlines and white beaches.
5. Sörmland Trail
With 1000 kilometres of paths meandering through the beautiful landscape of Sörmland, this route should definitely be on your hiking bucket list. Located at only a stone’s throw from vibrant Stockholm, the Sörmland area is quiet and deeply mysterious. Its many lakes, forests and beaches offer serenity, tranquillity, and a wealth of history.