Top 5 hiking trails on our Family Gap Year

We may be biased, but we think there is something special about hiking. Escaping the crowds, discovering stunning landscapes  and the sense of freedom and adventure it delivers. All these things make hitting the hiking trails one of life’s unique pleasures.

Whenever we travel we make sure to get outside and explore different hiking trails. In 2017 we were lucky enough to explore some of the best day hikes in the world and here we list our top 5 hiking trails from the year.

The great news is you don’t need to be an expert adventurer. Our top 5 hiking trails from 2017 are all day hikes with no technical skills required.  We didn’t need technical hiking gear either, but a pair of trail runners or hiking boots is always a good idea.

Top 5 Hiking Trails On Our Gap Year

If you love to hike as a family, you will be pleased to know all of these hiking trails are achievable with school aged kids.

We completed them with our two children aged 10 and 8 and the Top 5 include:

  1. Observation Point, Zion National Park USA
  2. Robberg Peninsula Hiking Trail, South Africa
  3. Durmitor National Park Hiking Trails, Montenegro
  4. Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, USA
  5. Picos de Europa National Park, Spain

Let’s take a look at each of these trails in turn.

If you are looking for advice on how to get the whole family outdoors and on the hiking trail take a look at our 18 tips for hiking with kids.

1. Observation Point Trail, Zion National Park, USA

Observation Point, Zion National Park. USA. One of the best hikes in Zion National Park

The Observation Point trail is a spectacular hike, but to be honest, any hike at Zion National Park is worth taking! Zion is one of our favourite hiking destinations and in our opinion is one of the best places to hike in the US.

We visited Zion National Park in October. It was the perfect time of year to visit as it was not too hot and we could enjoy the more strenuous hike to Observation Point.

The trail weaves its way up steep hairpin turns from the trail head at Weeping Point before meandering through Echo Canyon.

From here the path gets very steep and exposed again as it winds up to the top. Once you reach the top, the trail continues on to Observation Point where the views down the valley are spectacular.

If you can bribe the kids, we highly recommend taking a detour to Hidden Canyon on the way back down. Note there are very steep drop offs on the path. But, once you arrive it is a fun, narrow canyon that is perfect for you and the kids to explore.

Distance:   13 kilometres (8 miles) round trip
Time:           4-6 hours
Difficulty:  Strenuous

2. Robberg Peninsula Hiking Trail, South Africa

Robberg Peninsula hiking trail, Plettenberg Bay, South Africa.

Located outside Plettenberg Bay the Robberg Peninsula hiking trail is hands down one of the best day hikes in the world. Stunning ocean views, a perfect mix of challenge and reward for kids and a fun rock scramble = a great family hike.

We started on the eastern flank, where the trail is quite exposed, sandy and narrow. The path offers lovely views back to the coastline and there is much to see on the way. Hundreds of seals playing in the water, dassies sun-baking on the rocks and grasshoppers galore. The rocky point makes the perfect spot for lunch while watching the seals play in the waves before returning via the western flank.

The western section of the path is great fun – scrambling up and over rocks and past rock pools. The path brings you to an isolated beach with enormous sand dunes, perfect for racing down. It was too cold to swim in April but was the ideal place to stop and play before the last push back along the path to the car.

It is a circular trail with two shorter options but we recommend taking the full loop to experience the full majesty of this walk.  We loved the diversity of the hiking trails available in South Africa but the Robberg Peninsula trail stands out as one of our favourites.

Distance:   9.2 kilometres (5.7 miles) round trip
Time:           4-5 hours
Difficulty:  Moderate

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3. Durmitor National Park Hiking Trails, Montenegro

Durmitor National Park, Montenegro. View across meadows and peaks. Some of the best hiking trails in Europe

Montenegro is a beautiful country with stunning scenery. After exploring the spectacular bay of Kotor we ventured inland to check out Durmitor National Park, not really knowing what to expect.

With jagged alpine peaks, pristine lakes and hundreds of kilometres of hiking trails, Durmitor National Park blew us away and we think it is an underrated hiking destination in Europe.

Zabljak is a small town known as the gateway to Durmitor National Park. It makes a great base from which to explore some of the best hikes in Europe.

Many of the hikes start from Crno Jezero, also known as Black Lake. There is an easy 4km loop around this shimmering emerald green lake, boats to hire for a paddle and space to lay back and enjoy the views of the surrounding forests and peaks.

Our host suggested the best place to hike with kids was to Jablan Lake (Jablan Jezero). It is a moderate hike that is mainly uphill from Zabljak. The trail meanders through forests and meadows which are covered in wildflowers in July.

As you gain elevation you are rewarded with stunning views of the surrounding mountains and Crno Jezero.

Our kids made flower necklaces and sang songs as they walked (they were reenacting the Sound of Music). The changes in scenery from dark forests, to meadows and lakes made the walk interesting and fun for the kids.

The hike ends at the lake, which is surrounded by the sheer cliffs of Crvena Greda. It makes a great spot for a picnic lunch. For those brave enough, a swim in the icy water is possible too. It is an easy downhill walk retracing your steps back to the village.

Distance:   8-9 kilometres (5-6 miles) return
Time:           3-4 hours
Difficulty:  Moderate

4. Nevada Falls, Yosemite National Park, USA

Nevada Falls from the John Muir hiking trail, Yosemite National Park in California. Great family hiking trails and views across to Half Dome.

There are so many great hikes at Yosemite National Park but the hike to Nevada Falls stands out as one of the best for families.

There are two trails that will get you to the top of Nevada Falls. The Mist Trail and John Muir Trail. We recommend walking up via the Mist Trail and returning via the John Muir Trail. While this is a longer route it offers much more variety and fantastic views over Half Dome. Returning via the John Muir Trail also means the hike isn’t just a series of steps (which is what most of the Mist Trail is).

This trail was one of our favourite hiking trails with waterfalls in Yosemite. Particularly as you pass right by both Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls and can look right over Nevada Falls when you reach the top!

Distance:    11.7 kilometres (7.3 miles) round trip
Time:           4-5 hours
Difficulty:   Moderate

5. Picos de Europa National Park, Spain

Hiking with kids Picos de Europa Valley of wildflowers. Plenty of family hiking trails to choose from

Picos de Europa is a mountain range in Spain and has some of the best hikes in Europe. It is relatively “undiscovered” compared to other hiking areas in Europe, which means fewer crowds (although is still busy in high summer). There are many family-friendly trails including the famous Cares Route.

We decided to hike the Puertos de Aliva trail in the region of Cantabria. The trail head is at the top of the Fuente De cable car, which makes a fun start to the walk and saves the legs from a long ascent. While it is a long hike, the trail is mostly downhill and passes through some spectacular mountain scenery.

The kids loved watching the rock climbers at the start of the walk, playing in the small creeks we passed on the way, listening to the sounds of the cowbells on the alpine meadows and having the freedom to make their own path through wide open fields.

Distance:   14.5 kilometres (9 miles) round trip
Time:           5-6 hours
Difficulty:  Moderate

Hiking Trails Around The World

Wherever you travel, there is always an opportunity to get outside and explore the outdoors. Here are some more trail suggestions from around the world.

Do you have a favourite hike? Leave a comment and let us know! We are always looking for new hiking trails to explore!

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Rachel Rodda

Rachel is the founder of Adventure and Sunshine. She has been exploring the world with a backpack for over 20 years and is passionate about adventure travel. She threw it all in to take her kids around the world on a Family Gap Year and loves to help others adventure more.

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