Wellness By Justin Gibson

Find Your Personal Summit

The human spirit possesses an innate need to find itself on the threshold of the new and unknown. It's here, far from home, surrounded by a world removed from the distractions of the familiar that we are present with the clearest views of ourselves. Consider it a shortcut in the path to enlightenment; but hiking through unperturbed lands provides just as many discoveries of yourself as it does pristine views of nature, with the former being a direct result of the latter. Finding yourself immersed in the new and novel is how you find the summit of yourself.

With that being said, while anywhere new will certainly satisfy the innate wanderlust, each far corner of the world provides a different lens of discovery and only some places provide hikes of a higher caliber-the key is finding a place that provides both. For a few destinations that allow for surreal delves into nature, be it alone nature trail or a multi-day trek, here's where in the world to head.

Yoga at peak
Uluru Red Centre - Australia


Australia, as both a country and as a continent, is immense and ancient. The entirety of the landmass itself is the oldest on Earth-spanning 3.8 billion years-with the amount of land untouched by humankind comprising an area the size of India. It's there, in the stretches of countryside ambivalent to the blink of the eye that is humanity, you can enjoy some of the world's greatest hikes.

At the top of the list is the Overland Track. More of a pilgrimage than a hiking trail, this bushwalking track spans 40 miles of Tasmanian wilderness in Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. The one-way walk will have you passing through glacially carved valleys, alpine meadows, ancient rainforests and stunning moorlands-a thorough sampling of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. With the journey taking on average about six days, proper preparation and training is critical. The payoff to such a commitment and subsequent endeavor is utterly life changing-you'll carry the unspoiled landscapes with you.

The other can't-miss hike is the Uluru Base Walk. Substantially shorter, but by no means less life changing, this meander through the fabled Australian Outback is a few steps over six miles long-and circles the entirety of the awe-inspiring Uluru Rock. Sacred to indigenous Australians, the 550-million-year-old structure features prominently in Aboriginal Dreamtime mythology. Today, the sandstone monolith looms surreal amongst the flat arid "Red Centre" of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. While goosebumps are guaranteed any time of day, catching a glimpse during sunrise or sunset proves the most magical: The rock transforms hue into a sliver of the sun itself.

Arenal Volcano - Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest
Red Eyed Tree Frog

Costa Rica

A stretch of seemingly endless mangroves, mountains, volcanoes and rainforests nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, Costa Rica casts an intense spell of enchantment on any lucky enough to visit. Wandering through its wilderness offers sights and sounds nothing short of ethereal, experiences so surreal you feel changed emerging on the other side.

The pinnacle of this would easily be the Monteverde Cloud Forest Biological Reserve. Containing half of Costa Rica's flora and fauna, this 26,000-acre reserve sits 1,600 meters above sea level-meaning it's also nearly always saturated with clouds. With hiking trails threading all throughout the misty cloud-kissed foliage, you can easily spend an entire day wandering aimlessly amongst vibrant-plumed birds and capuchin monkeys-and stumble into soul-fulfilling revelations along the way. A word of advice: opt for self-guided exploration rather than a tour group. The forest gets shy when a loud tour group passes through, muting much of the magic.

Or, alternatively, Arenal Volcano National Park provides a different slice of Costa Rican paradise. The park's namesake is the Arenal Volcano, a giant behemoth that commandeers your view of the horizon. With its last eruption taking place in 2010, it is indeed active to date-though nothing more than a steady stream of smoke as of late. In any case, the park's hiking is mostly consolidated to the volcano's base and surrounding forest. All the trails can be done in under three hours, and each offers its own epiphany of scenery: Active lava flows, dormant lava fields, the serene coastline of Lake Arenal and young rainforests teeming with wild orchids and hummingbirds are staples to both look for and look forward to.

Hanalei Bay - Hawaii


A chain of secluded volcanic islands essentially isolated in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii has easily earned its renowned status as a paradise a world away from the rest of the world. The isle's mountains literally rise from the depths of the ocean to stretch towards the heavens, in the process harboring a litany of experiences and excursions that feel as if you've stepped onto an entirely different planet.

The Koko Head Crater Trail is the closest you can get to following in the footsteps of the mountain's ascent. Located on the isle of O'ahu, what was once a railway for the US military during World War II is now an impromptu stairway into the sky. Covering only .7 miles, you'll rise over 990 feet on the stairwell. At the summit, some 1,050 steps later, you'll find remnants of military bunkers and mind-blowing scenic views. A word of wisdom: If you start the climb in the dark of morning, the sunrise seen from the summit is nothing short of euphoric.

Kauai - Hawaii Queen's Bath Kalalau Trail - Hawaii

For an even more epic trek into the unknown, seek out Kalalau Trail. Found on Kauai, the trail is a modest 11 miles long from one end to the other-yet known the world over as one of the most beautiful hikes you could forego. The first section of the trail doubles as the Hanakapiai Falls Trail, ending at the towering 300-foot tall Habkapiai waterfall. From there, the sights only build in grandeur-the rest of the way is the sort of journey you recollect for the rest of your life, a cornerstone for who you grow to be.


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