Why Lebanon’s 293-Mile Hiking Trail Is More Than a Trekking Route

Lebanon, a country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean that predates recorded history, boasts remarkable geographic and cultural diversity despite being smaller than Connecticut. Eighteen religious sects live in its snow-capped mountains and fertile Bekaa Valley and along its rocky coast. For more than 10 years, intrepid hikers have been able to experience much of this natural beauty and meet the communities far from urban centers along a hiking trail that runs from one end of the country to the other. This past spring, the president of the republic formally endorsed the trail, officially recognizing its place in Lebanon’s heritage and making now the time to make the trek.

The country’s plurality, always in a fragile balance, was ruptured in 1974 when Christian, Muslim, and Druze neighbors turned on one another in the Lebanese Civil War, a conflict that lasted 15 years. By the late 1990s, many who had fled the country during the conflict began to return, including Joseph Karam, a Lebanese-born sustainable development entrepreneur.

An avid hiker of the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States, Karam believed that Lebanon’s extraordinary landscape and heritage were just as worthy of a long-distance trail. He was also convinced that by promoting ecotourism, such a route could heal rural communities struggling to recover from the conflict, uniting former adversaries through a shared love of the land. In 2005 Karam and a colleague submitted a proposal for funding from USAID and formed the Lebanon Mountain Trail Association (LMTA). Just two years later, the Lebanon Mountain Trail (LMT), a 293-mile highland corridor connecting well-worn shepherd and agricultural routes with ancient Phoenician and Roman footpaths, officially opened.

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