John O'Groats to Land's End equivalents
November 13, 2010 12:54 AM   Subscribe

How do they walk cross country in your country?

In Britain, the canonical cross-country journey connects Land's End in Cornwall with John O'Groats in Caithness. Are there other nations with a route that is widely considered to be the standard end-to-end path for walking or cycling journeys? I'm especially (but not only) interested, in famous end-to-end routes for walkers across more regularly shaped countries where the route's reputation is based on something more than just length. Thanks in advance. . .
posted by muhonnin to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
In the US there is the Appalachian Trail, among others.
posted by dfriedman at 1:01 AM on November 13, 2010

In Canada that would be the Trans Canada Trail, local to me is the Bruce Trail, small at 800 km but incredibly beautiful.
posted by saucysault at 1:30 AM on November 13, 2010

In Southeast Alaska, the most famous historical trail is the Chilkoot Pass
posted by Foam Pants at 1:32 AM on November 13, 2010

Not my country, but the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, burial place of St. James, has routes all the way across France, Spain and several other countries. You don't get much more canonical than that!
posted by Erasmouse at 1:33 AM on November 13, 2010

In the Netherlands the Pieterpad is well known. Cross country in the Netherlands is not the biggest challenge though...
posted by eau79 at 1:40 AM on November 13, 2010

In Australia there's the Bicentennial National Trail, which stretches 5300 km from Cooktown in Queensland to Healesville just outside Melbourne. It's mostly used by horses, but officially it's multi use, and it has been hiked (lack of water is a problem for walkers). Its basic delineating feature is the Dividing Range.

In the south west of Western Australia, there's the Bibbulmun Track, which runs just under a 1000 kms from Perth to Albany. It doesn't quite span the boundaries of the lands inhabited by the Noongar people prior to European settlement, but I think that's the symbolic idea behind it, and it comes reasonably close.
posted by Ahab at 2:03 AM on November 13, 2010

Pilgrimage to the 88 sacred places of Shikoku.

I'm not Japanese, but Foam Pants already laid claim to Chilkoot Pass. There is the Iditarod trail, however. But unless you have a dog team, or own a specific type of bike, it's probably not for you.
posted by L'oeuvre Child at 2:15 AM on November 13, 2010

In Scotland there's the West Highland Way.
posted by hazyjane at 2:34 AM on November 13, 2010

The US has the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border to the Canadian border parallel to the Pacific coast. People do hike it, but you have to be a little bit crazy -- it's 2,600 miles, and parts of it are chest-high mud, major mountain climbs, etc.

There's also the American Discovery Trail from Washington, DC to San Francisco. It's not so famous and many parts are not really trail yet (it's under construction). A through hike is around 5,000 miles.

The Appalachian Trail is probably the most famous long-distance US trail.

I don't think any country other than the UK has the tradition of public walking trails on private property, which has to do with people having to get around between enormous feudal estates before there were public roads connecting them.
posted by miyabo at 4:43 AM on November 13, 2010

In addition to the Pacific Crest and Appalachian Trails, the other major north-south trail in the US is the Continental Divide Trail. As the name suggests, it more or less follows the continental divide from the Canadian to Mexican borders.

There are a ton of smaller trails (though to give a sense of scale, small here may still be longer than going all the way across Britain), but those are the big north-south trails.
posted by Forktine at 6:05 AM on November 13, 2010

TransAmerica Trail (wiki). It's a well used bicycle route, about 4250 miles.

The Adventure Cycling Association also maintains maps for several other routes across the U.S.
posted by flug at 6:31 AM on November 13, 2010

I don't know about the tradition miyabo refers to, but much of the Appalachian trail crosses private property.
posted by txmon at 6:51 AM on November 13, 2010

"The Israel National Trail is a hiking path that crosses the entire country of Israel. Its northern end is at Dan, near the Lebanese border in the far north of the country, and it extends to Eilat at the southernmost tip of Israel on the Red Sea, a length of approximately 940 km (580 mi)."
posted by andoatnp at 10:15 AM on November 13, 2010

There's some good info here. In the UK there are hundreds of public paths on private property -- actually going over private property, not on easements or narrow strips of land owned by the public. A council can declare a path merely by showing that it has been widely used in the past, without compensating the landowner. It's an ancient tradition dating back to when people actually walked long distances as a form of transportation. The US doesn't really have that, you won't be hiking and suddenly find yourself walking through somebody's farm.
posted by miyabo at 10:27 AM on November 13, 2010

The US doesn't really have that, you won't be hiking and suddenly find yourself walking through somebody's farm.

I don't know where you live, but that's not really true. The US has enough public land that it is possible to hike long distances without crossing private land. But many trails -- both formal ones like the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails and informal ones that people just create by walking -- cross large amounts of private land, or require crossing private land in order to be reached. The laws around that access are very different, as you note, and maintaining that access here often requires easements or other agreements that in the UK may not be necessary.
posted by Forktine at 11:23 AM on November 13, 2010

The Oku no Hosomichi (奥の細道) is another famous cross-Japan trail. It follows the footsteps of the poet Bashou around the edge of Honshu. People mostly go by train or car, but it is still possible to walk, as this guidebook suggests.
posted by vorfeed at 12:03 PM on November 13, 2010

New Zealand is currently builiding both a national walkway - Te Araroa and a national cycleway.
posted by scodger at 1:42 PM on November 13, 2010

Response by poster: These answers have given me a lot of inspiration for future journeys! I was especially interested to learn that Bashou's "Narrow Road to Oku" is still walkable--I have enjoyed that book very much but never expected that the journey could still be done on foot.

The answers about public rights of way were also very informative; I'd taken the provision of access rights for granted and hadn't really considered the negotiations that might be required in developing a national trail in other countries. Thanks to everyone for their answers so far.
posted by muhonnin at 11:53 PM on November 13, 2010

Sweden has the spectacular King's Trail.
posted by WidgetAlley at 7:31 AM on November 14, 2010

For Western Canadians, the holy grail of trails seems to be the West Coast Trail, although I hope to tackle the less popular, but apparently still spectacular, North Coast Trail first.
posted by Kurichina at 1:04 PM on November 15, 2010

Some people walk across the US north to south, as in the Appalachian Trail, Continental Divide Trail, and Pacific Crest Trail; others do it east-west.
posted by kenko at 10:27 PM on December 9, 2010

The Pieterpad goes from Pieterburen in the north of the Netherlands to the Pieterberg in the south.
posted by joost de vries at 4:05 AM on December 10, 2010

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