Sporting challenges are a great way to motivate yourself to stay fit and healthy but for the majority of us, heavy endurance challenges such as an ultra or a marathon can feel a tad out of reach. We’ve discussed a selection of ideal sport and fitness challenges for those looking to dip their toes into more difficult fitness events as well as things for the bucket list. We’ve covered running and cycling but perhaps the one of the most accessible and popular sports for adventurous challenges is hiking.
That is not to say that hiking is easier than the other options out there but for most of us mere mortals, it feels far more within reach to walk up a mountain than running 20 KM+ or cycling for 100 miles. Hiking is also an incredibly popular hobby and one that feels more easily scalable than something like running where an impressive 5K time and the endurance required to survive a marathon feel worlds apart.
This is all to say that hiking is a popular and smart choice for those looking to try their hand at a trickier sporting achievement and one that has plenty of fine options. Below, you will find a list of great hiking challenges to try in 2023. These vary from long term bucket list items to beginner options to more topical entries and as always, we have tried to cover our bases as best we can. We’ve also tried to include a wide range of locations so that you are able to pick something up to try no matter where you are.
The Three Peaks Challenge
The Three Peaks Challenge is one of the most famous challenges in the UK and one that is completed by many keen hikers and walkers every year. The challenge is to scale the three highest peaks in Scotland, England and Wales; Ben Nevis (Scotland), Scafell Pike (England) and Snowdon (Wales). This challenge is typically aimed to be completed all in the space of 24 hours but up to 3 days is also fairly common. 90% of those who take on the challenge end up completing it but only 40% end up doing so in those opening 24 hours so if you are looking to push yourself, try and get it done on the first day of the challenge.
If you fancy upping the ante even further, maybe follow in the footsteps of others and complete the whole challenge on foot. The challenge involves a lot of moving between the different mountains, meaning that about half of the challenge’s time is actually spent in the car. Luchos ambassador James Forrest completed the challenge 2 years ago, walking between the peaks as he did so, covering the full distance of nearly 500 miles in just under 17 days completely self-supported and collecting the unofficial World Record. While that may be a step too far, we highly recommend trying out the three peaks challenge yourself and if you did want to push yourself, try the walking challenge with assistance.
South Coast Ultra Challenge
If you are looking for something a bit more extreme, the South Coast Ultra Challenge is a perfect option. Covering the south coast and heading out across 100 KM, this is an ideal choice for people looking to try a real challenge. What makes this a perfect option for beginners is that this is a fully supported event with advice and training guide provided throughout the process. While 100 KM may be daunting on a first attempt, there are 25 KM and 50 KM options available making it suitable for all. When first attempting a challenge of this nature, finding one that is properly supported is key and this is an incredibly well-run event with plenty of water stops as well as food stations along the way.
The Yorkshire Peaks Challenge
If the three peaks challenge was too much for you, why not try the Yorkshire Peaks Challenge? The ascents are lower but this can still be quite the difficult challenge, especially for beginners. The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is a 24-miles round trip route, and includes 1585m of ascent across the three peaks. The challenge has participants scale the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent (694 metres), Whernside (736 metres) and Ingleborough (723 metres) with the target being to complete the challenge in under 12 hours. Most who take on the challenge find it doable but also recommend caution at expecting a doddle. While on a smaller scale than something like the three peaks challenge, this is still a serious challenge and one that should be taken seriously but with scenic views and the beautiful Yorkshire wildlife, you’ll have plenty of reason to take your time.
Jurassic Coast Challenge
The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage coastline down on the south coast of England and it is home to some of the most stunning views and climbs in the UK, if not the world. Due to the popularity of the location, Jurassic Coast challenges are fairly common and there are a variety of different events to choose from. From 3 marathons in 3 days challenges to 100 KM ultras, there is plenty to suit any fitness level or experience level. With over 2,300 metres of climb, this is one of the most difficult challenge areas in the UK and one that you can continually build up thanks to the litany of options available start with the 10KM challenge and work your way up. You’ll be rewarded with some of the finest views in the UK.
Norfolk Coast Mighty Hike
Hosted by Macmillan Cancer Support, this challenging one-day hike is a wonderful way to challenge yourself while supporting a great cause. Challenge yourself in a spectacular coastal setting and enjoy a wonderful atmosphere whilst raising vital funds. With full and half distances available, this is a lighter challenge than most on this list with most experience levels being able to handle the relatively small ascents but it’s still a challenge and one that features the iconic Norfolk Coast Path which is a path that mainly keen hikers and trekkers will be eager to check off the list before too long. Macmillan hosts a wide range of these mighty hike events across the UK so if this is something you are interested in, it’s worth seeing what locations are available.
Snowdonia 10 Peak Challenge
Snowdonia is the most iconic mountain range in the UK and one of the most popular destinations for hikers and explorers to test themselves. The Snowdonia 10 Peak Challenge is a superb mountain challenge based over the central section of the Snowdonia National Park. The aim of the Snowdonia 10 Peak Challenge is to climb the named 10 peaks in under 24 hours, or over a two day period. Opinions do seem to differ on what peaks are to be climbed and it seems to depend on the route you take but a common suggestion is the following :
- Y Garn, 947m
- Glyder Fawr, 1001m
- Glyder Fach, 997m
- Pen yr Ole Wen, 978m
- Carnedd Dafydd, 1044m
- Carnedd Llewelyn, 1064m
- Foel Grach, 976m
- Carnedd Gwenllian, 926m
- Foel-fras, 942m
- Drum, 770m
The Chiltern countryside just outside of London is a treasured National Trust location and one of the most stunning areas of wildlife in the UK. With historic trails, rolling hills, nature reserves, and fantastic views, this 50 KM looped challenge is a great way to experience all the countryside has to offer while being easily accessible. A route with real variety and some wonderful scenery, this is a popular challenge and one that is commonly taken up by runners, joggers and walkers alike. This creates a great atmosphere and also allows you to go at your own pace and work to your limits.
The Ring of Steall, Mamores
The Ring of Steall is an iconic mountain route combining the traverse of four of the highest peaks in Scotland, commonly referred to as Munros, with scrambling along narrow, rocky aretes. The route takes in An Gearanach, Stob Choire a Chàirn, Am Bodach and then follows the Devils Ridge to Sgùrr a’Mhaim. With ascents reaching 1676m, this is a challenging but visually stunning route that is sure to test even the most experienced hiker. In terms of difficulty, this is quite high up there but it is an incredibly rewarding challenge and one that is incredibly diverse in terms of challenge. For those looking to try and experience something different, this is certainly an interesting option.
Hiking and trekking is a popular hobby for a reason. Keeping fit while getting to see and experience stunning landscapes and take in the beautiful scenery of the countryside is a frankly addictive experience and there is plenty of scope to keep challenging yourself to keep finding something new. From high end ascents to long distances, there is plenty that the UK has to offer for a truly memorable challenge. If you are looking for more experience, might we recommend our previous guides on half marathons for beginners or fitness challenges for 2023? We hope this has given you some inspiration and help you jot out your next adventure.