Though his words are more than a century old, there’s a decidedly 2017 ring to John Muir’s proclamation that “going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity … useful not only as fountains of timber but as fountains of life.”
Indeed, back-to-nature adventures are a big highlight of this year’s Luxe Report, an annual trend forecast from the travel specialists at Virtuoso, whose clients ranked hiking first among all active pursuits. Also noticing the pattern is Travis Katz, co-founder and chief executive officer of Trip.com, a travel-planning platform that lets users join “tribes” to find personalized travel recommendations.
“Our data is clear—travelers want to unplug and explore nature,” Katz said. “Our Outdoor Enthusiasts and Adventure tribes have each grown by nearly 35 percent since the beginning of 2016.”
What’s driving everyone into the woods?
Ever-accelerating news cycles and push alerts, to be sure. But beyond the collective need to unplug and detox, something else is going on: “All the recent reporting on how dangerous our sedentary lives are has really started to take hold among travelers,” says Betty Jo Currie, a Virtuoso adviser and founder of Currie & Co. Travels Unlimited. “I’ve actually had clients cite specific articles on the importance of moving more to start the conversation about active vacation possibilities. The topic comes up constantly now.”
Whether you’re motivated by health, screen time saturation, or plain old spring fever, you’re in luck: Some of the world’s best hikes happen to surround some of the world’s best hotels. And while these five-star stunners offer a full array of trekking to suit any fitness level, we’ve picked their most iconic routes to establish a ranking order: novice-friendly, intermediate terrain, and brag-worthy challenges.
Easy Does It
Monastero Santa Rosa, Conca dei Marini, Italy
Its setting alone—a solitary cliff that soars over the Amalfi Coast—would suggest that this 17th-century monastery turned boutique hotel offers some seriously stunning walking trails. The four-level garden does nothing to dispel that notion, and roam you should.
But the real local trekking begins at Amalfi’s central square, where the town’s famed Duomo serves as one of the world’s most beautiful trail heads. Follow the gradually ascending Valle delle Ferriere for a two- to three-hour hike that passes through lemon groves, ancient foundry ruins, and farm houses—one of which you can stop into for lunch. Your post-hike reward? A dip in the hotel’s infinity pool, where you’ll have the supremely trippy illusion of floating above the Gulf of Salerno. From $430 per night.
Blackberry Farm, Eastern Tennessee
The foothills cuisine of the American South earned Blackberry Farm a rep as one of the world’s great foodie retreats. But those same foothills also offer a way to burn the calories you consume.
After an al-fresco breakfast of buttermilk biscuits smothered with sage-and-sausage gravy, take a bucolic mile-long walk on the Walker Mountain loop. You’ll traverse rhododendron thickets, spot leafy pawpaw trees (whose mango-like fruit you can try back at the farm), and likely pick the hotel’s namesake berries straight from heaping bushes. From $645 per night.
L’Auberge de Sedona, Northern Arizona
Consider the psychedelic red rocks that surround this creek-side retreat your invitation to hit the local trails. There are 100+ hiking routes in the vicinity, and the hotel has the experts at Hike House on hand to help you pick the one that’s right for you. The four-mile Courthouse Butte Loop Trail is a stand-out, thanks to its far-out formations. And if you feel a tingling sensation as you hike, there’s a reason for that: The Bell Rock vortex, a spot where mystics say energy swirls out of the earth’s surface, is located about a third of a mile from the trail head. From $295 per night.
Ananda, Himalayan Foothills, India
Once a Maharaja’s palace, and now an Ayurvedic retreat with a sprawling spa, Ananda might be the plushest place to hike the Himalayan foothills.
Despite its approachable altitude (4,500 feet), you’ll still get views of the area’s signature snowcapped peaks from the three- to four-hour Kunjapuri Temple Trek that leads to an intimate, incense-filled shrine to Shakti and Shiva. Equally transcendent: hiking downhill through the area’s Sal forests to a suspension bridge over the Ganges. Make it to the riverbanks by sunset, and you’ll witness Aarti, a daily ritual in which hundreds of chanting pilgrims pass flickering oil lamps through the crowd along the water’s edge. From $570 per night.
Canyon Ranch, Lenox, Mass.
The 19th-century Bellefontaine Mansion, said to have been modeled after the Petit Trianon at Versailles, anchors this healthy-living hideaway in the Berkshires. Beyond its expansive gardens, you’ll find the glorious two-hour Flag Rock trail.
It starts with a moderate ascent through the woods of Monument Mountain and culminates in a wide-open vista over the old-timey village of Houstatonic. The best part? Spa treatments are included in the all-inclusive rates. From $1,280 per night.
Kasbah Tamadot, Atlas Mountains, Morocco
Sir Richard Branson is not one for understated luxury, and his retreat in the rugged Atlas Mountains is no exception. The compound of fountain-studded courtyards, tent-topped suites, and petal-filled pools is a fantasy fortress fit for the surroundings.
Nearby Mount Toubkal is North Africa’s highest peak—you’ll see it from your three-hour trek to the Anfa lookout in Toubkal National Park. Along the way, you can stop at a mud-walled Berber home, cozy up on beautiful woven rugs, and chat with locals over fresh mint tea. From $635 per night.
Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia
Australia’s third-largest island is a known hiking hotspot—all coastal cliffs, outsize rock formations, and wildlife-rich bushland—but the recently inaugurated Kangaroo Island Wilderness Trail has taken that rep to new heights. The full 38-mile circuit takes five days to complete, which has more to do with endurance than technical difficulty.
Then again, breaking the route into segments and driving to and from trailheads is an option—and it allows you to recharge nightly at Southern Ocean Lodge, a secluded, clifftop spread where “recovery” can mean soaking in an ocean-facing wooden tub. But which trail sections to prioritize? The first and last: They’re known respectively for platypus sightings and intricate cave systems. From $840 per night, including meals.
Aranwa Pueblito Encantado del Colca, Peru
It’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, but Colca is much more than an 11,000-foot-tall cutout in the earth. The condor-filled gorge is surrounded by misty peaks, forest-shrouded waterfalls, and Inca-era agricultural terraces, making it perfect for vertiginous day-long hikes or two-day treks. Thankfully, Aranwa piles on the creature comforts: water features that massage your neck and shoulders in the pool, blazing fireplaces in the chalets, and a craft cocktail menu to rival Lima’s best. From $166 per night.
Badrutt’s Palace, St. Moritz, Switzerland
As much as schussing down the slopes of the fabled Engadin Valley is a must-do for skiers, trekking up those same slopes is a must-do for hikers. Base yourself at the historic, lakeside Badrutt’s Palace, where the staff see to your every hiking need (including posh picnic baskets).
As for the trails, you almost can’t go wrong in the Swiss Alps. One of the most beloved routes: the four-hour journey that links the wintertime sledding area Muottas Muragl, Segantini Hut, and the village Pontresina. You’ll climb to almost 9,000 feet, where you’ll be rewarded with jagged views that are said to have inspired Swiss painter Giovanni Segantini. From $370 a night.
©2017 Bloomberg L.P.