HIGHLANDER, now considered the leading long-distance hiking event series in the world, was founded in Croatia in 2017 by Igor Mlinarevic, a veteran event organizer with stops at Ironman 70.3, the Tour of Croatia, and the Pannonian Challenge, among others. The self-proclaimed "hiking evangelist" wanted to combine his two passions — hiking, and designing experiences that people love — and HIGHLANDER, "the Adventure of a Lifetime," was born.
The first-ever HIGHLANDER event was held on Velebit, the largest mountain range in Croatia, along the Adriatic coast. Since then, the brand has expanded rapidly across the globe, with iterations in Egypt, Morocco, Slovenia, Austria, France, North Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Greece, Portugal, Montenegro, and Serbia. When Spartan founder and CEO Joe De Sena got wind of HIGHLANDER CEO Jurica Barac's vision for the unique hiking experience — to not just change lives, but to save the planet with a leave-no-trace focus — the two formed a strategic partnership in 2021. Just a few months later, HIGHLANDER landed on American soil for the first time ever, launching its inaugural U.S. event in Big Bear Lake, California.
"Big Bear was truly the 'Adventure of a Lifetime' for me," hiker Jessica Long said. "This event changed my life and came at a time in my life when I really needed it. I was able to be surrounded by so many kind strangers and come out the other side with so many beautiful friends, and to dig deep in myself and feel that I am worthy."
In 2023, HIGHLANDER is expanding even further across the U.S., returning to Big Bear Lake and popping up in two new, epic locations. With multiple formats — from two-day, 15-mile excursions ("Orion") to three-day, 30-mile trips ("Pegasus"), and all the way up to four-day, 60-mile expeditions ("Hercules") — these events offer a life-changing experience where you can connect with Mother Nature, explore the most unseen corners of the globe, and build unbreakable bonds with fellow hikers over shared interests, no matter your athletic ability. Here's everything you need to know about this year's HIGHLANDER long-distance hiking events.
The 2023 HIGHLANDER Long-Distance Hiking Event Schedule for the United States
In the first iteration of this groundbreaking event, participants up to 65 years old hiked a total of 11,145 miles totaling more than 24,000 steps. Throughout the journey, explorers joined several workshops and activities alongside their pets and children, with 26 dogs and even an 8-month-old baby tagging along.
This year, with Orion, Pegasus, and Hercules formats, the adventure will start at Snow Valley Mountain and continue to the top of Keller Peak, where you'll be left absolutely speechless by views of Arrowhead, Gregory, and Silverwood Lake. (On a clear afternoon day, views of the Pacific Ocean and Santa Catalina Island are also possible.) Over the following few days, you'll journey through the greenest part of the expedition, Little Green Valley, and all of the way to the desert-like Cactus Flat. You can even choose to summit Sugarloaf Mountain, the highest peak in the San Bernardino Mountains outside of the San Gorgonio Wilderness, with a peak elevation of 9,952 feet.
Throughout stays at four different, unique campsites, you'll have the opportunity to participate in yoga, educational lectures, workshops, and music programs, where you'll connect with fellow hikers and get to know yourself better every day.
Sign up for the 2023 Big Bear HIGHLANDER here.
Whether you choose Ogden's Pegasus or Hercules HIGHLANDER format, you'll hike through the dense forest to the Rocky Mountains, and climb to the highest peak in the Northern Wasatch Mountain range, the Willard. Prepare for absolutely spectacular views overlooking the western side of Cache National Forest, as well as a bird's eye view of Great Salt Lake and Ogden city. No matter how many days you choose to venture on this new course, you'll meet new friends, immerse your senses into the music, and enjoy peace and quiet under the billions of stars.
Sign up for the 2023 Ogden HIGHLANDER here.
Kalispell offers year-round bucket-list adventures, world-class terrain, and mountain-town charm. The surrounding wilderness features western larch, fir and pine forests, along with colorful aspen, mountain ash, and wild huckleberry, where you'll find deer, bear, moose, porcupine, eagles, foxes, and even owls.
The HIGHLANDER trail starts on the Flathead Valley floor, meanders through vibrant colorful foliage that will changing at the start of fall, and reaches mountain tops that will allow you to experience alpine meadows and vista views. You'll be located just minutes from downtown, yet somehow surrounded by 2.4 million acres of the Flathead National Forest, along with the 1 million acres that make up Glacier National Park. With Pegasus and Hercules distance options, the region’s warm days and cool nights will truly send you on the Adventure of a Lifetime.
Sign up for the 2023 Kalispell HIGHLANDER here.
From high mountain peaks and hundreds of miles of hiking, biking, and skiing trails, to dozens of beaches with 72 miles of shoreline, the largest alpine lake in North America offers anything and everything for which a hiker could possibly yearn. The Sierra Nevada mountain range is 400 miles long, and home to three national parks (which are also home to over 570 species of wildlife). Yosemite Park itself is so iconic that it sparked the whole idea of national parks and was even the first ever government-protected land that was protected due to its natural beauty.
Whether you're hiking the weekend's Pegasus or Hercules format, you'll witness the largest tree in the world by volume, which has its roots in the Sequoia National Park, and the largest remaining grove of sequoia trees in the world, which grow in the Kings Canyon National Park. Fill your lungs with mountain air and feel the complete relaxation that comes with nighttime recovery yoga and camping under the stars.
Sign up for the 2023 North Lake Tahoe HIGHLANDER here.