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Hiking Wales: Fresh Tracks Through History

Beachside trek meets pub crawl meets castle tour on Europe's newest long trail, the 870-mile Wales Coast Path, officially opened in May 2011. We have the beta on its highlights.

Plan It
Get There

Fly to Manchester, England. All trail towns are accessible via rail and bus: traveline-cymru.org.uk.

Season Spring through fall. Summer is best; pack for rain and cold anytime.

Where to Stay Save money by camping at near-trail caravan parks (first-come, first-serve; about $15-$20/night). Hostels and B&Bs let you go lighter and offer a respite if bad weather sets in ($70/night and up, reserve three months in advance for July and August). Expect to pay cash at most places. Favorite stops: Hamilton Lodge in Fishguard; Cae Du (.3 mile off the trail near Rhoslefain); Pwll Deri (on trail just south of Strumble Head Lighthouse). Note: Youth Hostel Association lodges have a 3-for-4 WCP deal—stay three nights and get the fourth night free. Find contact info for all lodging here and below at backpacker.com/wcp.

The Trips
Aberystwyth to Porthmadog
Day 1: From the boardwalk in the town of Aberystwyth, hike 17 miles to Morben Isaf Touring Park near Dovey Junction (a one-mile detour). Day 2: 16 miles to Aberdovey (Awel y mor B&B). Day 3: 16 miles to Cae Du Camping Park (.3 mile off the trail). Day 4: 13 miles to Coast Caravan and Camping or a guesthouse in Barmouth. Day 5: 11 miles to Shell Island Camping Park. Day 6: 15 miles to Barcdy Camping Park near Llandecwyn. Day 7: 13 miles to Porthmadog.

St. Dogmaels to Dale

Day 1: From the PCP starting monument in north St. Dogmaels, hike 15 miles to Tycanol Farm Camping near Newport. Day 2: 13 miles to Fishguard (Hamilton Lodge). Day 3: 19 miles to Trefin (Old School Hostel, a 1-mile detour). Day 4: 11 miles to Whitesands Bay (St. Davids YHA). Day 5: 12 miles to Ninewells Caravan Park near Solva. Day 6: 12 miles to Little Haven (Atlantic View B&B). Day 7: 14 miles to Westdale Bay (cross peninsula neck to Dale for lodging).
 
Maps and Guides
WCP maps 41-54 for Aberystwyth to Porthmadog; maps 62-73 for St. Dogmaels to Dale (free; walescoastpath.gov.uk). One (Isle of Anglesey) of six official WCP Guidebooks is available (northerneyebooks.com); Pembrokeshire Coast Path—Trail Guide by Brian John ($20; aurumpress.co.uk). Get GPS tracks for both sections at backpacker.com/wcp.

Best Pubs
Aberystwyth’s Scholars Pub (trip 1, day 1); Trefin’s Ship Inn (trip 2, day 3); Porthgain’s The Sloop Inn (trip 2, day 4)

Info walescoastpath.gov.uk

5 More Long Trails
Go the distance on these epic treks.
 
Te Araroa, New Zealand
Hike New Zealand end to end—all 1,882 miles of it—on this ultimate track from the North Island’s Cape Reinga to the South Island’s Foveaux Strait. Officially opened in December 2011, the Te Araroa Trail sets off from the cliff-lined beaches of the Tasman Sea, scales 4,800-foot peaks in the burly Tararua Range, skirts volcanoes and fluorescent lakes in Tongariro National Park, and traces the forests and summits of the Southern Alps on its way to end-of-the-world views across the southern Pacific. teararoa.org.nz

Upper Great Himalayan Trail, Nepal
If you want long (1,056 miles), high (20,000-plus feet), and epic (glaciers, waterfalls, Mt. Everest), you can’t beat this new long-distance trail. Alternate between cozy teahouses and remote campsites as you climb to views of giants like Everest, Lhotse, Makalu, and Annapurna, traverse high-altitude deserts, and trek where snow leopards and red pandas roam. thegreathimalayatrail.org

E8, Ireland to Bulgaria
Europe’s longest trail passes through nine countries as it winds 2,290 miles from Ireland’s Atlantic Coast to Bulgaria’s border with Turkey. En route it links well-known tracks like Ireland’s Kerry Way and the UK’s Trans Pennine Way with local trails (a few gaps in the route remain in Ukraine and Bulgaria). Highlights: clifftop castles in Germany’s Rhine Valley, Austria’s wine country, Poland’s Beskid mountains. era-ewv-ferp.com

Continental Divide Trail, United States
The Appalachian Trail is great—if you like lots of company. The Pacific Crest Trail lags 450 miles behind. The crown for the toughest, most remote trek into the raw heart of America’s wilderness goes to the 3,100-mile CDT. cdtsociety.org

Bruce Trail, Canada
Canada’s oldest, longest footpath, the 550-mile Bruce Trail, traces Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment, a looming sedimentary ridge, from the wine country near Niagara Falls to the remote white cliffs of Georgian Bay. Bunk in trailside lodges, with occasional camp nights. By day, you’ll spot waterfalls cascading near Lake Iroquois and Lake Ontario, top the bluffs of the Blue Mountains, and track beneath dolostone cliffs in Beaver Valley. brucetrail.org

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