A long-distance trail (or long-distance footpath, track, way, greenway) is a longer recreational trail mainly through rural areas used for hiking, backpacking, cycling, horse riding or cross-country skiing.[1] They exist on all continents except Antartica.

Many trails are marked on maps. Typically, a long-distance route will be at least 50 km (30 mi) long, but many run for several hundred miles, or longer.

Many routes are waymarked and may cross public or private land and/or follow existing rights of way. Generally, the surface is not specially prepared, and there are often rough ground and uneven areas, except in places such as converted rail tracks or popular walking routes where stone-pitching and slabs have been laid to prevent erosion.[2] In some places, official trails will have the surface specially prepared to make the going easier.

Hiking trails

Europe

GR footpaths are long-distance footpaths in France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain and Portugal (the Grande Randonnée (French), Grote Routepaden or Lange-afstand-wandelpaden (Dutch), Grande Rota (Portuguese) or Gran Recorrido (Spanish)).

United Kingdom

National Trails are a network of officially sanctioned footpaths in the United Kingdom which are well maintained and well waymarked across England and Wales. Examples are the Pennine Way and the South West Coast Path.[3] The equivalent routes in Scotland are styled as Scotland's Great Trails; they include the West Highland Way and the Speyside Way.

Republic of Ireland

The Kerry Way in south-west Ireland circumnavigates the highest mountain range in Ireland. Along with the adjoining Dingle Way it is noted for its scenic views of the Atlantic, loughs and mountains.

Map of European long-distance paths

Asia

Hong Kong

MacLehose Trail Hong Kong.

Coastal trails

A view from the Hungarian National Blue Trail, a national trail, incorporated into the European Long Distance Walking Route E4.

These follow coastlines; examples are the Brittany Coast Path in France,[4] the California Coastal Trail in the US,[5] the South West Coast Path in England, the East Coast Trail in Canada, and the Otter Trail in South Africa.

The England Coast Path, in development by Natural England, will be around 2,700 miles (4,350 km) long in 2020 making it the longest coastal walking route in the world and Britain's longest National Trail.[6]

Coast-to-coast trails

These may be cross-country paths, or may follow roads or other ways, and often intersect with many other trails. Example are Wainwright's Coast-to-Coast path in northern England, and the GR 10 in France. The English Coast to Coast route, despite being amongst the best-known long-distance walking routes in England, is not an official National Trail but simply a series of connected pre-existing rights of way, roads and open country with some informal links between them. There is also a coast-to-coast mountain-bike route in northern England that has the same trailheads as the walkers' path. GR 10 is a French GR footpath that runs the length of the Pyrenees Mountains, roughly paralleling the French–Spanish border on the French side. It runs west to east, from Hendaye on the Bay of Biscay to Banyuls-sur-Mer on the Mediterranean Sea.

The American Discovery Trail is a hiking and biking trail that crosses the continental United States from east to west. across the mid-tier of the United States. Horses can also be ridden on most of this trail. It starts on the Delmarva Peninsula on the Atlantic Ocean and ends on the northern California coast on the Pacific Ocean. The Iditarod Trail connects the coastal cities of Seward and Nome, Alaska: a distance of around 1,000 miles.

Cross-continent trails

The European long-distance paths (E-paths) traverse Europe, passing through many different countries. Among the longest are European walking route E8 and the Iron Curtain Trail (also known as EuroVelo 13). The latter is a partially complete long-distance cycling route which will run along the entire length of the former Iron Curtain. During the period of the Cold War (c. 1947–1991), the Iron Curtain delineated the border between the Communist East and the capitalist West.[7][8] E8 runs 4,700 km (2,920 miles) across Europe, from Cork in Ireland to Istanbul in Turkey.

Other trails

Some of the longest walking routes worldwide: