As someone who likes wandering the hills, the hard part is often getting there. I am lucky enough to live in place where I can see the nearest hills as I am getting to the railway station and reach the nearest ones within hour and half by public transport. But when the days are long in summer, staying so close is not necessary, as long as I return before 22:00, which is when the schedules go downhill.
Driving? No, thanks!
Even though I have driver’s license and I actually did drive quite far one time (around 350 km divided in half with my father) or drove home from a concert after midnight for around 200 km, the idea of having to drive myself after a hike is unpleasant one. It’s mostly because I give myself hell and if the hike is shorter than 20 km, I am seriously disappointed. My average now is around 25 km and driving after that when my legs are prone to being a bit stiff would be far from comfortable and not really safe.
Trains for the win
Even though my small country is far from really fast trains and still behind in preparing such modern way of transport, the main line is, in the part that I use, upgraded for 160 km/h, something even car can’t keep up without breaking the rules and hoping that they won’t get stuck somewhere.
So, most of my solo (and family) trips are done by train, or combination of train (getting below the hills) and bus (reaching the place where my hike starts). Good thing is that public transport is quite affordable and especially if travelling alone, car can’t match it. It’s also quite comfortable. Instead of being bothered by the traffic, I can rest or just read a good book while everything is being taken care of by the train/bus driver.
Longest one-day return trip I did using a train (though not a hike, merely visiting a railroad museum) was around 450 km long. As for a hike, my reach with public transport is around 250km for one-day return trip, counting with 5 hrs limit for one-way travel and 7hrs for the hike itself.
Have group, will travel (far)
Some nice places can get quite out of hand and be hardly reached by public transport. Schedules also get quite bad in case one would like to cross the border, no matter how insignificant they may be in Europe these days.
Majority of my travels is done with large group of people organised in hiking club. That way, we can hire a bus and a driver that can get us almost anywhere, as long as the roads are wide enough to allow a bus to pass through. No schedules, being picked up at my hometown and dropped of just below the hills and with the costs split between 50 people the bus can carry, both the price and comfort is something even public transport can’t match. The reach in this way of transport is around 250km road distance for one-day return trip limited only by the landscape, borders being almost irrelevant.
These events are planned way ahead (spring of the previous year) and the plan is ‘solidified’ in late autumn so it’s necessary to be prepared for any weather (with adequate gear, taking a shorter hike at the same location, or both).