Hiking in the Alps: 5 most beautiful routes for your hiking holiday

By Joery Schotanus

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Hiking in the Alps; it doesn't get much better if you're looking for a hiking vacation in Europe. Whenever possible, the trekking experts of Bookatrekking.com can be found in the Alps every summer. And rightly so, because it doesn't matter if you are in Germany, France, Austria, Switzerland or even Slovenia. The Alps are huge and it's like a Disneyland for mountaineering. The choice is plentiful and it's always a good-for-it show. In this blog post, our trekking experts take you through their favourite options for a hiking in the Alps.

The trails are well marked, well maintained and connected by hundreds of villages, hamlets, inns and mountain huts where hikers can find clean, comfortable and beautifully located accommodations. You can hike there for days at a time without having to descend, but you have to know where to start. What hut-to-hut trek, where do you start and how on earth do you book it? At Bookatrekking.com, we help hundreds of people organize their hut-to-hut hiking trips every year. Join us on an adventure!

1. The Stubaier Höhenweg in Austria.

The very best option for a hiking vacation in Austria is the Stubaier Höhenweg. This route leads you past 8 huts, over 5,000 altitude meters and is spread over just under 90 kilometres. The hike is divided into 7 stages but can be shortened due to the many connections to the valley. "Hiking in the Alps is tough though," Rintsje, one of Bookatrekking.com's trekking experts, had to admit when he visited some huts on the Stubaier Höhenweg in the shoulder of the season. The Stubaier Höhenweg goes around the Stubaital on one of the most beautiful, but most challenging, high-altitude hiking trails in the Eastern Alps. "A short version can be done by families, but on the trails, you can see that an Austrian family has it much easier. Those children are already a bit more used to hiking in the Alps;" continues Rintsje. "It can be done, but you have to prepare the children well."

"The nice thing about the Stubaier Höhenweg is that it is completely equipped for the mountain tourist. Mountain climbing, mountain biking, trail running, hiking and in winter of course winter sports. From the local tourist office, where you pick up the vouchers for the huts on the Stubaier, to the local pub", says Rintsje. Bookatrekking.com cooperates with the Tourismusverband Stubaital and already offers the Stubaier Höhenweg for the third season in a row. The Stubai Valley is an hour's journey from Innsbruck and this makes it a popular option for hikers from the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. And in the huts? "There's a hot meal and a freshly tapped glass of beer waiting for you there in the evening."

2. Hiking in the French Alps: Tour du Mont Blanc

Whether you want to do a hiking vacation in Italy, in Switzerland or in France. The Tour du Mont Blanc is a combination of all three. It's one of the most famous hiking routes in Europe, which means you'll meet people from all over the world in the Refuges and Rifugios. "Hikers often tell us about the international character in the mountain huts. A kind of backpacker hostels, but for adults," says Sierd who has helped many people along the way. "Because the route is so well known, the mountain huts are also always well organized. Breakfast in the morning, hot meals in the evening, they are always prepared well."

Hikers normally hike the 170 kilometres of the Tour du Mont Blanc in 10 days. The traditional starting point is in Chamonix, on the French side of Mont Blanc. Sierd: "Chamonix, also called Cham, is the epicentre for mountaineering on the French side of Mont Blanc. Are you going hiking in the French Alps or climbing the Mont Blanc? Then you go to Chamonix. This makes it a very lively town."

The best time to complete the Tour du Mont Blanc is during the summer months, July and August, when the route has little snow and the weather is usually good. Early in the season, the cols may still have snow on them and become challenging. The season doesn't start until June 15, but that doesn't mean you won't encounter snow while hiking in the Alps. "On the contrary," Sierd knows. "It happens regularly that hikers encounter old snow in the first two weeks of the season. A crossing on the Fenetre d'Arpette will therefore be difficult." The trekking experts at Bookatrekking.com know the alternative routes and always send you on your way with directions.

Do you prefer not to encounter old snow? If we had to recommend a more specific period, it would be the second half of August. During these 2 weeks, the number of trekkers and mountaineers is lower and the weather is usually quite pleasant. Read more about the Tour du Mont Blanc here.

3. Hiking in the Swiss Alps for beginners: Kesch Trek, Switzerland

"On the Kesch Trek in 2021, we had to make do without the Grialetsch Hütte, one of the participating mountain huts on the Kesch Trek. We now know that this hut will be opened for 2022," says Wilianne, Area Manager for the Alps. The reopening of the Grialetsch Hütte ensures that you can hike both the Albula Pass and the Flüela Pass again. Both are well-known points near Davos in Canton Graubünden. With 'only' 4 days and 3 nights, this is a popular option if you want to go hiking in the Swiss Alps.

All the huts on the Kesch Trek are run by the Schweizer Alpen-Club, the SAC. Wilianne is in close contact with this club which has been around since 1863. "For our bookings, we always have good contact with the operators. A SAC member is appointed to look after the hut for a season. This is not only our information point but also that of the hiker. Thus, the host or hostess of the mountain hut can always give you tips or warnings." says Wilianne.

4. The highlight of the Dolomites in Italy: Alta Via 1

Alta Via means nothing more than High Route or High Path, or in German Höhenweg. There are many of them in the Dolomites and the Southern Alps in northern Italy. The number one hiking route in Italy is the Alta Via 1. Logically, this is the hiking route that leaves you with no highlight of the Dolomites unseen and traverses the entire mountain range. "From the mountain town of Cortina d'Ampezzo you can easily get to the starting point at the beautiful Lago di Braies," Natascha tells us. "From here, you can hike to the absolute highlights of the region in just four days. Think of Cinque Torri and Lagazuoi; ideal for a shorter hiking vacation."

As on other hut-to-hut tours in the Alps, on the Alta Via 1 you stay overnight in comfortable huts, called Rifugios in Italian, and meals are always included. "But," emphasizes Natascha, "that's precisely where on the Alta Via 1 there is a difference from, say, a hut-to-hut tour in Austria. You're in Italy and you notice that about the food. Picobello of course and in abundance.

5. Mount Triglav and the Julian Alps in Slovenia

Can we count Slovenia as part of the Western Balkans? "Actually not, but it is sometimes included because of the former Yugoslavia. Slovenia is a bit like Austria: everything is well organized, but just a bit different because of the language, among other things. That makes it a very interesting destination", says Central Europe enthusiast Sierd. More than half of the country is covered with forest and has mainly mountainous terrain, a dream for every trekking enthusiast. With a dense network of rivers and some of the most diverse biodiversity in Europe, Slovenia is a great destination for those looking for nature.

"Triglav is the highest point in Slovenia and the mountain also appears in the Slovenian flag," continues Sierd. "In fact, it is a rule that every Slovenian must have conquered Triglav at least once. Otherwise, you are not a true Slovenian." Triglav is part of the Julian Alps and of course, there is more to do than just climb the famous mountain peak. You can spend a week hiking from hut-to-hut. Here you can read more about the Julian Alps and Triglav. Or put on your hiking boots right away and check out all the offers for the Julian Alps here!

The weather during a hiking vacation in the Alps

The season for hut-to-hut tours runs from June 15 to September 15. It may be hard to imagine, but you can encounter both old and fresh snow at high altitudes. "I was on the Peter Habeler Runde at the end of August and it started to snow," says Rintsje. It won't stay on the surface, but it will get cold. If you don't take that into account, you may well not have enough clothing with you." Snow in August, that's possible. The weather in the mountains is unpredictable and per 500 meters of altitude, you can lose 5 to 8 degrees of warmth.

The weather can also change quickly in the mountains. Your day can start out sunny and warm, but halfway through it can suddenly start to thunder. "If you are staying in a hut, it is wise to check with the owners in the morning what the weather will be that day. They often know better than your weather app because they grew up there and know the patterns, " continues Rintsje. "They will also stop you when it is or becomes too dangerous." And then? You can always bivouac in the hut for an extra night then.

Has the season for hut-to-hut treks come to an end but are you still looking for a great adventure? Perhaps the Peaks of the Balkans Trek is a good option for you. Curious? Find more details of this trek here.

Training for your hiking in the Alps vacation

A hut trip can be done by anyone in normal health. However, if you want to get the most out of your hut trip, it is wise to prepare yourself physically. The Alps are not at your back door, so you will have to be creative when it comes to your preparation. For adequate preparation, consider the following five things.

Cardio

It's best to get moving as soon as you think about your hiking vacation. With proper aerobic fitness, you'll have a better heart rate, healthy muscles and great lung capacity. Running, walking, more walking and biking or swimming are excellent exercise methods. One hour, 3 to 4 times a week is sufficient.

Endurance Training

Building endurance fitness is also important. The best thing you can do is walk long distances, at least once a week. When you can walk comfortably for longer periods of time, you are ready to go.

Train with equipment

Use the backpack and shoes you plan to use for your hut trip and add this to your training as you work on your cardio and endurance.

Altitude

If you can, you can mimic altitude by hiking and trekking in the hills and mountains. If you don't live in the right area for this, don't panic. The first two points are the most important.

Know your body

This is perhaps the most important part. If you are questioning your physical abilities, it is wise to get a checkup from your doctor.

There is no set method for preparing for your hut-to-hut trek. Your preparation may depend on the duration, the environment and what you want to achieve. Not everyone is a mountain goat. Don't overthink your preparation. Above all, take it easy and enjoy your time in the mountains.

A packing list for hiking in the Alps

It doesn't really matter where in the Alps you are. Italy, Switzerland, Germany, France, Austria or Liechtenstein. Your comfort is a certain factor if you want to get the most out of your multi-day hut-to-hut trip. Blisters, clothes that won't dry, a lack of thermal underwear or a sleeping bag that isn't warm enough. Once you are in the mountains, your closet is very far away.

Basics

  • Hiking boots
  • Long hiking pants, zip-off if necessary
  • Merinoshirt, longsleeve
  • Fleece pullover of fleece jack
  • Raincoat / Hardshell
  • Functional underwear
  • Hiking socks

Multi-day

  • Hiking T-shirt and underwear to change
  • Extra socks
  • Spare hiking pants/short hiking pants (zippered is not sexy, but ideal)
  • Rain pants
  • Cap, buff or bandana
  • Sunglasses (glacier goggles may be needed for higher altitude treks)
  • Walking sticks
  • Backpack with sufficient storage space (at least 30-40 litres depending on the length of the trip)
  • Rain cover for the backpack

Navigation and tools

  • Topographic maps
  • Compass
  • GPS device
  • Batteries, accumulators and chargers
  • Binoculars
  • Headlamp
  • Charged cell phone

Overnight

  • Regular shoes (for the mountain hut), flip flops or sandals
  • Sleeping bag liner
  • Comfortable sweatpants/leggings or something similar
  • Dry socks
  • Earplugs
  • Toiletry bag with toothbrush, toothpaste, small soap/shower gel
  • Lip balm
  • Items for personal use such as medication
  • Travel towel (small)
  • Small biodegradable travel detergent
  • Pocket torch/headlamp

Food and drink

  • Drinking bottle(s) or camelback (min. 1.5 litres)
  • Sandwiches in a suitable lunch box
  • Energy bars
  • Catering based on personal experience
  • Garbage bags
  • Pocket knife
  • Lighters

Personal hygiene and health

  • First aid kit
  • Aluminum emergency blanket
  • Blister plasters
  • Tape
  • Sunscreen
  • Tissues

Of course, it is also important to have your most important documents with you. Your passport, identity card and/or your membership card of the Alpine Association or the NKBV.

Where do I book a hiking vacation in the Alps?

You can go hiking all by yourself. Your flight, your hotel, your hut, your packing list: If you want, you can do that all by yourself too. However, booking a hut for your hut-to-hut tour in Austria, finding a suitable hotel in Chamonix or organizing a half-board in the Dolomites can be quite a burden. The trekking experts at Bookatrekking.com went before you and together with them, you will find your ideal hiking vacation in the Alps. So, if you want to go hiking in the Alps, talk to one of our trekking experts first or read one of our following blog posts:

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