If you really want to experience the mountains and immerse yourself in the alpine world, take advantage of one of the many hut-to-hut hikes or tours available. On a typical hut-to-hut tour, you hike from one mountain hut to another and spend the night in these simple shelters.
Because you move on every day, you will discover a much larger mountain area than on single-day trips. Often, the next hut can be found along the same elevation, meaning that you don’t have to walk through a valley to get to it.
During a hut-to-hut hike, you can clear your head. Although many mountain huts nowadays do have a (simple) internet connection, most of the time you are cut off from civilization. You are hardly reachable by phone, and there are no buildings except for a few mountain huts and alpine huts.
There is only nature, peace and quiet, and space of the mountain landscape around you to relax in the evening in the cozy mountain hut. A hut-to-hut tour is for beginners as well as experienced mountain goats, but which tour you choose depends on your own knowledge and experience.
If you’re asking yourself if this is what you should plan for your next trip, the answer is “Absolutely!” And right now, hut-to-hut hiking adventures are hot and trendy!
Hut-to-Hut Hikes: Things to Consider
Most mountain huts are open in summer from mid-June to mid-October. By that time, almost all snow on the paths will have disappeared, and the access routes for hikers will be open again. Some all-round huts are open all year round. These huts are usually situated a bit lower and are almost always accessible.
You can go hiking anywhere in the Alps, but a few routes absolutely stand out and every season the huts are full to the brim. These are some of the best options:
Alta Via 1
The Alta Via 1 is the first of a total of 10 Alta Vias in the Dolomites. It was created and marked in the 1960s. That is why it is also called the “classic trail.” Among the Dolomite high trails, the classic trail is the easiest and longest. It runs between 1,500 and 2,800 m above sea level and crosses impressive mountain ranges such as the Fanes Group or the Civetta.
Depending on your preference, the Alta Via 1 covers about 120 km in 9-13 stages from the Pragser Wildsee lake in South Tyrol to Belluno in Veneto. You can hike it completely without a via ferrata. However, there are some routes that include metal cables as handrails in the tougher sections for those hikers itching to see what a via ferrata is like.
On the hike, as in so many places in the Dolomites, you still come across evidence of the First World War. Remains of positions with barbed wire, tunnels, and shelters hewn out of the rock can be seen again and again, especially in the northern part.
Tour du Mont Blanc
Spend an evening in France with a baguette, some Roquefort, and Merlot. The next night, you can enjoy a pizza Margherita and a glass of Primitivo in Italy. Two evenings later, indulge in Swiss cheese fondue and… well, water – because alcohol is expensive in Switzerland.
On top of that, the Tour du Mont Blanc boasts over 170 km to hike with more than 11,000 m of altitude along the way. The reward for such a trek is a breath-taking 360-degree view of the European king of mountains – from each of the three countries!
You can make it a ten-day pleasure hike with an overnight stay in a hut or a six-day fast-packing trip. Regardless, on the Tour du Mont Blanc – or as the Italians say, Giro del Monte Bianco – everyone gets their money’s worth.
The Grande Randonnée 20 (GR20) is a long-distance alpine hiking trail on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. It runs over 180 km from the north to the south, across the Corsican mountains. This hiking trail is one of the most difficult and demanding tours in Europe.
The start of the GR20 is in the town of Calenzana, which is situated in the north-west near Calvi. The finish is on the south-east side of the island, in the town of Conca.
Always heading south, the mountain trail leads through untouched terrain with up to 2,400 m of altitude. It’s important to note that the climbing sections and pass roads that have to be crossed are not for the inexperienced.
You can tailor your hut-to-hut hike to your budget. Many of the huts are hostel-like with bunk beds positioned closely together. Others have many amenities which, of course, increases their price. But having more spacious sleeping quarters and perhaps a sauna can make you feel like you signed up for a luxurious hut-to-hut hike.
There are also options when it comes to food. If you bring your own lunch and snacks, it’s already a lot cheaper than buying everything in the hut. You can often order hot water so that you can drink a relatively cheap cup of tea with the tea bags you bring yourself.
However, you have to weigh up everything yourself, which makes your backpack heavier, and buy everything else in the hut, which is a bit heavier for your wallet. Because the supply of the huts, especially when they are a bit higher in the mountains, is often done by helicopter, drinks and food are a lot more expensive than in the valley.
A hut-to-hut tour is not just a hike from place to place to sleep. Although the paths are usually well marked and maintained, you do need good preparation. Hiking maps and guides are a must, as well as good fitness and safety gear.
Because the weather in the mountains can be erratic, you need to know what to do when the weather turns. Sometimes you undoubtedly think “What have I started,” but once you’re standing on top of that mountain peak or find yourself nestled in the next mountain hut, you’ll be glad you took on the challenge of a hut-to-hut hike.