Europe: The Best National Parks For Hiking
No matter your fitness level, hiking is one pastime that suits almost everyone – with a world of ‘soft’ to ‘extreme’ hiking options to choose from, getting your step count in and staying fit is that much more enjoyable when it’s paired with breathtaking views.
Thanks to COVID-19, hiking has become a massive trend over the last couple of years, proven by a recent 2023 travel study, which has revealed that 58% of British travellers are increasingly seeking trips that push them to the limit.
So, it looks as if beach holidays (albeit always welcome!) might not be cutting it for Brits nowadays and who can argue with that sentiment when some of the world’s most rewarding and beautiful experiences can only be accessed on foot.
Identifying the best hikes found among the best natural backdrops, our latest study reveals which of Europe’s national parks offer the best hiking experiences. Combing through 80+ of Europe’s national parks, from Slovenia’s famed Slovak Paradise to Croatia’s incredible Krka, we assess multiple factors across the popularity, difficulty, and activities/amenities categories.
The UK's own New Forest and Lake District are ranked top three, in first and second place respectively. Third is Spain’s national park, Teide, whilst Calanques National Park (France) and Krka National Park (Croatia) complete our official top five.
Securing the top spot, the New Forest boasts the best choice of amenities and activities, housing six campsites, 25 viewpoints/historical landmarks, and a great choice of hiking trails (216). The Hampshire-based Park doesn’t fall short in the popularity category either, ranking as Europe’s sixth most popular, boasting 973,022 hashtags on Instagram, 22,200 average global searches, and a 4.8 rating.
Claiming second, the Lake District has its popularity to thank, being beaten by just one other park (Teide, Spain) for the title of “Europe’s Most Popular”. Raking in 74,000 global searches on average and over 438,000 hashtags, it is Europe’s highest-rated national park, with 4.9 stars. The Lake District also boasts the most hiking trails of all European national parks, offering visitors a whopping 1273 hiking trails to explore!
Europe’s most popular national park, with an average of 165,000 global searches a year, a 4.8 rating, and over 600,000 Instagram hashtags, is Spain’s Teide National Park. The park offers fewer prospects in the activities/amenities and difficulty categories, especially considering its ONE available campsite. The park’s average hike distance and duration are also not among the easiest to complete, coming in mid-range at 11.7km and 3.17 hrs, respectively.
Joining Teide (Spain) and The Lake District (UK) in the top three most popular national parks is Croatia’s Plitvice Lakes National Park, thanks to its 4.7 rating, a 390,000 strong hashtag, and its yearly average of 74,000 global searches.
If you’re interested in visiting the best of the best for camping, landmarks, and viewpoints (amenities and activities), the category is topped once again by The New Forest (UK), followed by France’s Calanques National Park and The Lake District (UK).
Finally, if you’re looking for the easiest hikes, shorter average distance, and duration, you should head for Romania’s Domogled-Valea Cernei National Park, Lahemaa National Park (Estonia), or cliff-side Kamenjak in north-west Croatia.
If you’re an expert hiker you may disagree with the premise that easier is better (we wanted to go with “best for all”), but we have you covered no less. Head to Germany’s Müritz National Park for the most physically demanding hikes, averaging at 72.9km in distance and 21 hours in duration. Sweden’s Stora Sjöfallet and Greece’s Samaria Gorge follow as the next most challenging.
We believe keeping fit and the planet’s beautiful backdrops go hand-in-hand, as both can make us feel happy and renewed, so why not pair the two? With our guide to Europe’s best national parks for hiking, we hope to see Brits increasingly exploring their own ‘backyard’ and beyond.
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