The best time to visit the Alps is in summer, when the mountains are bursting with color, livestock are grazing on high alpine pastures, trails are clear of snow, mountain huts are open, and wildlife re-emerge from their winter slumber.
Summer in the Alps is equated with active pursuits like hiking, trekking, via ferrata climbing, and cycling. It’s the best time to explore and drink in the mesmerizing scenery of Europe’s highest mountains.
However, summer is also the best time to learn about Alpine culture. In fact, we think you’ll fall in love with the cuisine and culture of the Alps just as much as the landscapes.
In this guide to visiting the Alps in summer, we’re sharing everything you need to know to plan a safe and rewarding trip.
10+ Things to Know Before Visiting the Alps in Summer
Top Things to Do in the Alps in Summer
- Walk through a misty narrow gorge like Partnach Gorge in Germany, Höllental Gorge in Germany, and Liechtenstein Gorge in Austria.
- Visit dreamy alpine villages like Lech am Arlberg in Austria, Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, and Cortina d’Ampezzo in Italy.
- Embark on a multi-day hike like Tour du Mont Blanc.
- Climb a via ferrata route like Mount Triglav in Slovenia, Alpspitz in Germany, or Oskar Schuster in Italy.
- Hike hut-to-hut across the Austrian Alps along the Berlin High Trail, Karwendel High Trail, or Schladminger Tauern High Trail.
- Bathe in the thermal pools of a Therme like Aqua Dome in Austria.
- Visit picturesque mountain lakes like Lago di Braies and Lago Federa in Italy, Lake Bohinj in Slovenia, Lake Eibsee in Germany, and Lake Drachensee, Lake Lünersee, and Lake Formarinsee in Austria.
- Eat alpine cheese in Appenzellerland, Switzerland, and Aosta Valley, Italy.
- Experience an Almabtrieb cattle drive at the end of the summer.
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1. The European Alps Stretch Across 8 Countries
The European Alps are the largest alpine chain in Europe, measuring 1200 km long and 200 km wide. The Alps sweep across eight countries (known as the “Alpine States”) in Central Europe, in a giant arch. The eight Alpine states are Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Liechtenstein, and Monaco.
Europe’s most extensive alpine range is generally divided into the Western Alps and Eastern Alps.
The Western Alps are home to the highest peaks of the Alps, including Mont Blanc (4,810 m), Monte Rosa (4,634 m), and Matterhorn (4,478 m). Though not as high, the Eastern Alps, with its many limestone sub-ranges, are just as spectacular.
2. The Best Time to Visit the Alps in Summer is from mid/late June until mid/late September
The summer season in the Alps is relatively short. Depending on the length of the winter (snowfall), summer can commence in early June, or as late as early July.
Depending on the holiday region, the summer season may end as early as mid-September, or as late as end of October.
June in the Alps
In June, snow may still be covering mountain trails (1900 meters and higher), especially on northern-facing mountain slopes. Southern slopes are exposed to more sun throughout the day, so the snow melts faster.
As the snow melts, trails can be very slippery.
If it was a very long winter, the scenery in the mountains can be a bit dreary (more brown than green).
Hiking poles are essential for snowfield and water crossings. We love our Unisex Black Diamond Hiking Poles.
This is a great time for lower elevation hikes.
Alpine pasture huts (Alm, Alp, Malga, Baita) start to open up in early-mid June.
In late June, high elevation mountain huts begin to open up for the summer season.
Mornings are generally stable, but thunderstorms are common in the late afternoon and evenings.
July in the Alps
July marks the beginning of high season in the Alps.
Wildflowers are blooming. In fact, this is the best month to experience colorful landscapes.
Like June, days are long. Sunrise is around 5:40 am and sunset is around 9 pm.
Thunderstorms are common in the afternoons.
This is a great month for hut-to-hut hiking in the Alps, since most high-alpine trails are free of snow.
August in the Alps
August is peak season in the Alps.
There are still some thunderstorms in August, but not nearly as many as early summer.
Europeans are on vacation, which means that August is the busiest time in the Alps.
September in the Alps
Skies are generally clear, which means this is the best month for sunsets.
The weather is generally stable, though freak storms happen.
Most mountain huts start to close in late September.
The summer season ends in mid, or late September.
Almabtriebe cattle drives take place across the Alps in September.
Related: September in the Dolomites
October in the Alps
The “summer season” can extend into October, weather permitting.
October is a great month for day hiking and road tripping. The hut-to-hut season is over.
If the weather is stable (e.g. no heavy snow), October is a brilliant time to visit certain regions like Val Gardena in the Dolomites, Salzburg in Austria, and Slovenia. Check out Slovenia in October.
We love traveling to the Dolomites in October, because of the fall colors and the quiet trails. But, we typically plan these trips spontaneously.
3. Centuries of Alpine Transhumance Have Shaped the Landscape of the Alps
Traditional alpine farming (“alpine transhumance”) is a type of pastoralism in which livestock (cows, goats, and sheep) are seasonally moved to higher elevation mountain pastures in summer and to lower elevation valley pastures in the winter.
For centuries, transhumance has sculpted the landscape of the Alps. Forests have been felled for grazing cattle and sheep, creating large open meadows at high elevations. The Alps are synonymous with verdant alpine pastures as much as snow-capped peaks.
While exploring the Alps in summer, you’ll likely encounter mountain pastures and mountain pasture huts. There are thousands.
These seasonal mountain pastures are called:
- Alm in Austria and in Bavaria, Germany
- Alp in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and in Vorarlberg, Austria
- Planina in Slovenia
- Malga in Trentino-South Tyrol, Italy
- Schwaige in South Tyrol, Italy
- Alpage in France
During the summer months, herdsmen usually live in mountain huts in the Alps, in order to take care of their livestock. Some of these huts are open to the public, while others are private.
The name of the pasture and the name of the hut on the pasture are usually one and the same.
Cattle Drives in the Alps
At the end of the pasture season (September/October), the livestock are guided back down to the valley. In some regions, these cattle drives are spectacular events, in which the cattle don ornate flower headdresses.
In the German-speaking Alps, cattle drives are called “Almabtriebe” (Austria, Bavaria, and South Tyrol) and “Alpabzüge” (Switzerland) and they involve jubilant festivities with music, food, and dance.
If you can time your visit to the Alps with an Almabtrieb, you won’t regret it.
We’ve written a whole guide about when and how to see these cows coming home celebrations in our guide to Almabtrieb: Cattle Drive Festivals in the Alps.
Alpine farming is also tied to cheese and dairy production in the Alps.
Some alpine pastures are for milking and others are for dairy. On milking pastures, the grazing animals are milked and the milk is transported to the valley for processing.
Other alpine pastures are also dairies, where the processing takes place on the alpine pastures, using traditional methods.
The quality and taste of cheese in the Alps is a result of animals grazing and consuming a varied diet of mountain grasses and herbs.
No better place demonstrates this than Appenzell in Switzerland. Eat a slice of Appenzellerkäse and you’ll have a newfound appreciation for cheese.
Another alpine destination, famous for its cheese, is Aosta Valley. They make Fontina, a mountain cheese made from the milk of Valdostana cows. Aosta Valley is the only region officially authorized to produce Fontina since it has DOP (Protected Designation of Origin) status. To make Fontina, cheesemakers must use just-milked raw milk that hasn’t been treated in any way. The whole cheese-making process is conducted by hand and adheres to centuries-old traditions.
Alpine Pasture Huts
Hiking and cycling routes often lead to alpine pastures huts. Many of these huts offer food and drinks to visitors during the day.
Here are some of our favorite mountain pasture destinations.
Austrian Alps Alpine Pastures
- Ursprungalm in the Schladminger Tauern Mountains in Schladming, Styria, Austira.
- Sulzenalm in Filzmoos, Salzburg, Austria. We visited the alpine pasture huts at Sulzenalm along the Rötelstein Peak hike and the Hofpürgl – Sulzenalm circuit hike.
- The Montafon region of Vorarlberg is celebrated for its alpine dairies. We visited Alpe Vergalden on the Montafon Circuit Trail.
Italian Dolomites Alpine Pastures
- Val di Funes in the Italian Dolomites has a high concentration of alpine pasture huts. The Adolf Munkel Trail strings together several.
- Malga Venegiota in Val Venegia is one of the most beautiful alpine pasture huts in the Italian Dolomites. We visited this alpine pasture hut on the Val Venegia and Rifugio Mulaz Hike.
- Alpe di Siusi, South Tyrol, the largest mountain pasture in Europe.
- Malga Klammbach, Malga Nemes, and Malga Coltrondo in the Carnic Alps, accessible from Sesto/Sexten Valley in Italy.
Julian Alps Alpine Pastures
Alpine Pasture Safety
Hiking trails and cycling routes often bisect alpine pastures where cattle, sheep, goats, horses, and donkeys freely graze.
It’s really important that you don’t disturb grazing animals. As silly as this might sound, your life is at stake. These pastures are not petting zoos. There have been a number of accidents and deaths in the last few years because people have provoked, pet, and/or disturbed grazing cows.
Often, cattle will be sleeping or eating directly on the hiking trails. Take an alternative route around them, giving them a wide berth.
Many mountain pastures are home to suckler herds, where cows are left unattended while nurturing their calves. Cows are fiercely protective of their young. So, if they perceive any threat or danger (like a dog, a cyclist, or an approaching hiker), they may act.
Grazing animals are not selfie material!
Mountain Pasture Safety Tips
Cross alpine pastures quickly and quietly.
Keep a safe distance from cows. Walk around the trail if necessary to avoid getting too close to them.
Do not feed the grazing animals.
Do not pet grazing animals.
If you’re walking with a dog, make sure to leash your dog. Keep your dog away from the animals, especially mother cows and calves.
Do not climb over fences. If there is a gate, use it. Make sure to always close pasture gates after entering/exiting pastures.
If you sense any restlessness from the animals, leave the pasture area immediately.
4. You Can Go Hut to Hut Hiking in the Alps
The best way to experience summer in the Alps is on a hut-to-hut hiking trip.
Hut to hut hiking is a type of multi-day hiking, where you overnight in mountain huts (Hütte, Rifugio, Koča, Cabane, Cappana, Refuge) along the way.
There’s absolutely no need to rough it in the Alps. And, in most places, roughing it (wild camping) is not allowed.
Hut to Hut hiking in the Alps means staying in cozy huts, eating delicious food, and carrying a relatively light backpack like the women’s Osprey Kyte 36, or the men’s Osprey Kestrel 38. Staying in high-elevation mountain huts is an experience in and of itself.
In summer (late June until late September), you can hike from hut to hut for a few days, or for a few weeks. Pick the trail that’s right for you (distance, difficulty, location), and start planning your trip.
Here are a few tips:
- Pick an established route. With more experience, you can design your own hut-to-hut itineraries. Below, we’ve noted which hiking itineraries we’ve created (Moon & Honey Trail).
- Make reservations in advance for mountain huts.
- Familiarize yourself with mountain hut etiquette.
- Pack essential gear. Here’s our hut-to-hut hiking packing list.
- Bring sufficient cash. Many huts do not accept credit cards.
Kati and I have hiked extensively across the Eastern Alps (Austria, Slovenia, Northeastern Italy). So, we equate hut to hut hiking with great comfort.
Austrian mountain huts are staffed. In addition to having a comfortable place to sleep, you can also expect highly satiating meals.
There’s no need to bring any food with you, as huts serve warm and cold food.
In the Italian Dolomites, every hut has an espresso machine. And like Austria, food, beer and wine are always readily available.
In Slovenian mountain huts, you can expect basic but hearty meals and always a warm and clean place to sleep.
Hut-to-Hut Hiking Trails in Austria
We’ve written a detailed guide about Hut to Hut Hiking in Austria, which outlines how to book mountain huts, general etiquette guidelines, and a lot more.
- Emperor’s Crown (Kaiserkrone) Trail
- Karwendel High Trail
- Schladminger Tauern High Trail
- Venediger High Trail
- Montafon Hüttenrunde
- Rätikon High Trail
- Berlin High Trail
- Eagle Walk – Lechtal Alps Stages
Hut-to-Hut Hiking Trails in Italy
Read our guide to hiking hut to hut in the Italian Dolomites for tips on how to book Rifugi, when to hike, etc…
- Alta Via 1
- Ortler High Trail
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo 3 Day Trek – Moon & Honey Trail
- Catinaccio – Rosengarten Dolomites 3 Day Trek – Moon & Honey Trail
Hut-to-Hut Hiking Trails in Slovenia
Read our Slovenia hut to hut hiking guide for tips on route planning and hut reservations.
- Slovenian Mountain Way / Slovenska Planinska Pot (Guidebook: Cicerone Slovenian Mountain Way Guidebook)
- Triglav National Park Traverse – Moon & Honey Trail
- Kamnik-Savinja Alps Traverse – Moon & Honey Trail
- Mount Triglav – 2 Day Route
- Veliko Špičje – 2 Day Route
Hut-to-Hut Hiking Trails in Liechtenstein
The Liechtenstein Panorama Trail (Liechtenstein Panoramaweg in German) is a 42-47 km hiking trail in the Rätikon Alps in the Principality of Liechtenstein.
This hut-hotel-hut hike links Liechtenstein’s most thrilling ridge paths, peaks, and mountain huts, whilst delivering sweeping views of the Rhine Valley, Lake Constance, Swiss Alps (Alpstein and Alvier Group), and Austrian Alps.
Self-Guided Hiking Tours
If you’d love to experience a hut-to-hut hike but need additional support (booking huts, itinerary setting, etc…), you can also book a self-guided hiking tour with a tour operator like Alpenventures UNGUIDED. You still hike independently (without a guide), but you don’t have to worry about the logistics. Check out these self-guided tours:
- Best of the Dolomites Trek 9-day Standard in Italy
- 10-Day Alta Via 1 in Italy
- 10-Day Tour du Mont Blanc in Italy, France, Switzerland. We booked this tour when we hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc.
- 14-Day Walker’s Haute Route in France and Switzerland
- 7-Day Bernese Oberland in Switzerland
- HHT6 Hut to Hut Light in the Austrian Alps in Austria
- HHT2 Culinary Delight Hut Hiking Tour in Austria
5. You Can Use Cable Cars and Cableways to Ascend to Higher Elevations
When I first started hiking in the Alps, I was shocked by the accessibility of the mountains.
The Alps are crisscrossed with ski resorts. In fact, winter (early December until early April) is the primary season in the Alps. Ski resorts mean ski infrastructure, and ski infrastructure means aerial cableways, funiculars, gondolas, and chairlifts. While not all cable cars are running in summer, many are.
Using cable cars to reach mountaintops may seem like cheating, and maybe it is, but it makes so many hiking destinations more accessible (for better or for worse).
For example, we would never have been able to summit Cima della Vezzana in a day, the highest peak in Pale di San Martino, without the use of cableways.
So, in many ways, hiking in the Alps is a lot more accessible than you would anticipate.
Some of our favorite destinations employ the use of cableways.
Austrian Alps Cableway Hikes
- Lünersee, Vorarlberg, Austria
- Lake Drachensee, Tyrol, Austria
- Rüfikopf – Stuttgarter Hütte Hike, Vorarlberg & Tyrol, Austria
Italian Alps Cableway Hikes
- Rifugio Bolzano – Tierser Alpl Circuit and Alpe di Siusi Meadows Circuit Hike on Alpe di Siusi plateau, South Tyrol, Italy
- Resceisa Plateau – Malga Brogles – Seceda, South Tyrol, Italy
- Seceda, South Tyrol, Italy
- Around Pala di San Martino, Trentino, Italy
- Cima della Vezzana, Trentino, Italy
- Col dala Pieres, South Tyrol, Italy
- Piz Duleda, South Tyrol, Italy
- Armentara Meadows, South Tyrol, Italy
Bavarian Alps Cableway Hikes
- Kreuzeck to Höllentalklamm Gorge, Bavarian Alps, Germany
- Alpspitze (via ferrata), Bavarian Alps, Germany
Slovenian Alps Cableway Hikes
- Mount Vogel, Julian Alps, Slovenia
6. You Can See Ibex, Chamois, Marmots, and Other Wildlife in the Alps
Alpine Ibex are considered the “Kings of the Alps.” These brown-colored wild alpine goats have prominent curved horns and dwell in steep and rugged terrain at high elevations. These majestic animals were almost hunted and poached into extinction in the 19th century.
The history of Italy’s Gran Paradiso National Park is tied to the protection of the ibex. In the mid-19th century, the ibex population was rapidly dwindling. King Vittorio Emanuele II declared the alpine region a royal hunting reserve, thus safeguarding the population from extinction. By 1922, the hunting reserve was donated to the Italian State, for the creation of Gran Paradiso National Park. Today, the park’s ibex population continues to flourish.
At one point, the only Ibex left in Europe were the ones living in Gran Paradiso National Park and nearby Vanoise National Park in France. Starting in the early 20th century, Ibex were reintroduced to Switzerland, German, Austria, and Slovenia. So, all Alpine Ibex living today are descended from the stock in Gran Paradiso.
We’ve seen the most Ibex in:
- Gran Paradiso National Park, Aosta Valley
- Hochschwab, Austria
- Lechtal Alps, Austria, along the Eagle Walk
- Julian Alps, Slovenia
- Silvretta Alps, Austria, along the Montafon Hut Circuit
A chamois is a goat-antelope species native to Europe. They live at high elevations above the treeline and can expertly navigate rocky terrain.
They have short horns which hook backwards near the tip. Their faces are distinguished by black stripes, which stretch from eye to snout.
They can run at alarmingly fast speeds across precarious terrain.
We’ve seen the most chamois in:
- Karwendel Mountains, Austria, along the Karwendel High Trail
- Hochschwab, Austria
- Lechtal Alps, Austria, along the Eagle Walk
- Wilder Kaiser, Austria, along the Kaiserkrone Trail
Chamois are shy, but curious. They’ll keep a distance, but monitor you, as you hike near them.
Marmots are plump ground-dwelling squirrels that live in burrows and hibernate during the winter. You’ll likely hear a marmot before you see one. They communicate with one another using high-pitch whistles, especially when alarmed.
Marmots are social animals. They live in family groups and are mostly monogamous.
Humans, eagles, and foxes are the greatest threats to the Alpine marmots. They could become endangered due to extensive hunting, especially in Austria and Switzerland, where 6,000 marmots are killed annually as trophies. FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, STOP HUNTING MARMOTS!!!
7. The Alps are Home to Some of the Best Hotels in the World
Usually, when you seek out the most impressive scenery in the world, accommodation is an afterthought. You’re there for the scenery. And, as long as you’re staying somewhere clean and comfortable, nothing else matters. That’s how we felt when traveling across New Zealand and in the Himalayas of Nepal.
When you visit the Alps, you can combine the most staggeringly beautiful scenery with the most luxurious accommodations. We recommend staying in hotels with wellness and spa facilities and in-house restaurants.
When the weather takes a nasty turn (we’ll talk about weather next), you want to stay somewhere which feels like a treat, not a prison.
We think the best hotels in the Alps are in the Germanic Alps, starting with German-speaking South Tyrol, a region which was annexed by Italy after the First World War.
Splurge-worthy Hotels in South Tyrol, Italy
- Dorfhotel Beludei in Santa Cristina, Val Gardena. Read our Dorfhotel Beludei Hotel Review.
- Naturhotel Leitlhof in San Candido/Innichen, Puster Valley. Read our Naturhotel Leitlhof Hotel Review.
- Bad Moos Dolomites Spa Resort in Val Fiscalina/Fischleintal, Sesto/Sexten
- Hotel Badia Hill in Badia, Alta Badia, South Tyrol. Read our Badia Hill Hotel Review.
- Alpina Dolomites on Alpe di Siusi
- Hotel Cristallo in La Villa, Alta Badia
- Hotel Kolfuschgerhof in Colfosco, Alta Badia
- Hotel Fanes in San Cassiano, Alta Badia
- Hotel Col Alto in Corvara, Alta Badia
- Forestis Dolomites in Bressanone/Brixen
- Gardena Grödnerhof Hotel & Spa in Ortisei, Val Gardena
- Hotel Granbaita Dolomites in Selva, Val Gardena
Learn More: Best Hotels in the Dolomites
Luxury Hotels in Austria
- Hotel Eder in Maria Alm, Salzburg. Read our Hotel Eder Review.
- Aqua Dome in Ötztal Valley, Tirol, Read our Aqua Dome Hotel Review.
- Hotel Der Berghof in Lech am Arlberg, Vorarlberg. Learn more: Best Hotels in Lech am Arlberg.
- Wellness Hotel Theresa in Zell am Ziller, Tirol. Read our Hotel Theresa Review.
- Almmonte Sensum Suites Boutiquehotel in Wagrain, Salzburg
- Das Edelweiss- Salzburg Mountain Resort in Grossarl, Salzburg
- Gradonna Mountain Resort Chalets & Hotel in Kals am Großglockner, Osttirol (East Tyrol)
- Bergland Design- und Wellnesshotel in Ötztal Valley, Tirol
- ElisabethHotel Premium Private Retreat – Adults-only hotel in Zillertal Valley, Tirol
Learn More: Best Hotels in the Austrian Alps
Luxury Hotels in the Swiss Alps
- The Alpina Gstaad in Gstaad
- Kulm Hotel St. Moritz in St. Moritz
- Carlton Hotel St. Moritz in St. Moritz
- Park Hotel Vitznau in Vitznau
- The Chedi Andermatt in Andermatt
- Matterhorn FOCUS Design Hotel in Zermatt
- Riffelalp Resort 2222 m in Zermatt
- Waldhaus Flims Wellness Resort in Flims
- Victoria Jungfrau Grand Hotel & Spa in Interlaken
- In Lain Hotel Cadonau in Brail
Luxury Hotels in the Alps Map
8. The Weather Can Be Very Unpredictable in the Alps in Summer
I grew up hiking in the Sierras in California. Wearing only a cotton T-shirt, shorts, and a hat, I would head out into the mountains for hours with Luna, my canine hiking companion. I was spoiled by the dry heat, relatively stable weather, and oh-so-much sunshine. GODDESS BLESS CALIFORNIA!
In the valleys in the Alps, it can get really hot, reaching 30°C (86°F). But, as soon as you gain elevation, it starts to cool off. Add in some wind and you’ll wonder what happened to that 30 degree weather. And, you better not be wearing cotton, cause it’s not going to dry.
Tip: Bring extra layers (vest, fleece, puffer, waterproof jacket) and an extra shirt with you on hikes. If you’ve just ascended 600-1000 meters, your back is probably full of sweat. You want to change into something dry on top of the mountain, before starting your descent. If you hike in sweaty clothing as your body cools down (going downhill), you might get chills, even sick.
Thunderstorms in the Alps
One of the most surprising things about the Alps in summer is the changing weather. Perfect mornings with clear skies can quickly give way to moody skies, followed by afternoon thunderstorms.
In the Slovenian Alps (where there’s minimal ski infrastructure), day hikes can be very long (7-10 hours). The best thing to do is start early (6 am latest), to avoid those afternoon storms.
It’s hard to avoid bad weather altogether. At some point during your trip, it might rain. That’s why we recommend staying in hotels with wellness and sauna facilities. Who cares if it’s raining when you have access to a sauna complex.
You have to monitor the weather continuously, so you can modify your plans if need be, especially if you’re on a hut-to-hut hiking trip. Sometimes, you have to cancel multiple days of hiking trips, other times, you just have to start early.Last summer, we woke up at 4 am to start the 9-hour Karwendel Höhenweg stage between Pfeishütte to Solsteinerhaus, to avoid getting caught in a storm.
Here are the websites and apps we use to monitor the weather in the Alps:
- Windy.com App (Apple / Android), Windy.com Website
- YR.no App (Apple / Android), YR.no website
- Bergfex Weather App (Apple / Android), Bergfex Website
- Meteoblue Website Meteoblue.com
Snow in the Alps
In the Alps, you’ll encounter snow up until mid/late July on some high mountain trails (above 2000 meters). That’s why most high-elevation mountain huts don’t open up until late June/early July.
Earlier in the summer season, Kati and I always bring microspikes with us, so that we can securely navigate steep snowy slopes.
It can also snow in the summer. We got caught in a snow blizzard in early September while hiking the Alta Via 1 in the Italian Dolomites. We made the biggest mistake of our hiking lives when we decided to continue ascending while it started to snow. In no time at all, the trail and all waymarks were blanked in snow, leaving us lost in a complete white-out.
The lesson we learned is never ascend when it starts to snow. And, we also learned that gloves and beanies are vital companions on any Alps trek.
9. Gear Matters
Given the nature of the weather and terrain in the Alps, you have to be prepared. And being prepared, in part, means having the right gear.
It’s taken us a few years to amass trustworthy gear. In addition to packing additional layers (no matter how sunny it is), we recommend investing in a sturdy pair of high-cut hiking boots, hiking poles, and Cat 4 sunglasses.
In the Alps, collapsible hiking poles are an absolute necessity. Whether you’re hiking across snow fields, riverbeds, boulder fields, or steep slopes of scree, hiking poles will stabilize you.
Recommended Hiking Poles: Unisex Black Diamond Hiking Poles
Cat 4 Sunglasses
Most store bought sunglasses are Cat 2, maybe Cat 3 if you’re lucky. Cat 4 provides the maximum protection from visible and UV light, which you need in high-altitude environments.
You especially need Cat 4 sunglasses in limestone and dolomite mountains, where the rocks reflect light like snow.
Recommended Cat 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses
The Osprey Kyte 36 (for women) and the Osprey Kestrel 38 (for men) are the best hut to hut hiking backpacks on the market. The weight is distributed perfectly. You’ll never feel like the pack is weighing you down, or working against you. If you need a bit more room, you can also buy the Osprey Kyte 46 (for women) and the Osprey Kestrel 48 (for men).
You’ll feel confident tackling secured passages and assisted climbing routes as well. When I switched to the Osprey Kyte 36, it made hiking long distances so much easier and more enjoyable. Also, these Osprey packs come with an integrated and detachable rain cover, which is very easy to access in a hurry.
Other features we love are the twin zippered hip belt pockets, adjustable AirScape back panel with foam ridges, and the hiking pole storage system. You never need to take off your pack to store, or retrieve your poles. That’s a game changer.
Day Hiking Backpack
For day hiking, we recommend the Osprey Tempest/Talon series. These packs are lightweight, durable, and very comfortable. They come in multiple sizes. Like the Kyte/Kestrel series, these packs have a similar hiking pole storage system.
10. Via Ferrata Climbing is a Lot of Fun
A via ferrata (“iron path”) is a protected climbing route. These routes are secured with fixed cables, pegs, rungs, and ladders, allowing climbers to safely ascend and descend tricky passages. Climbing Via Ferratas (vie ferrate) is a popular pastime in the Alps and an exciting alternative to hiking.
We love via ferratas because these routes engage your whole body. You’ll be using your hands and arms, just as much as your legs and feet, to traverse mountain faces.
While climbing via ferratas is a recreational activity today, the origins of these routes are far more somber. In the First World War, the Italian Dolomites were a war zone. For years, the Italian and Austro-Hungarian troops battled against each other in these mountains. Both sides strived to gain control of mountain summits to establish site observation posts and field guns. They affixed permanent lines and ladders to rock faces in order to move quickly and safely at high altitudes.
Thus began the tradition of via ferrata climbing as we know it.
Via Ferrata Routes in the Dolomites
The Dolomites are the birthplace of via ferrata climbing, though via ferrata routes (“Klettersteig” in German) exist across the Alps.
Check out these guidebooks (on amazon) for via ferrata routes in the Dolomites:
- Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Vol 1: 75 routes-North, Central and East Ranges
- Via Ferratas of the Italian Dolomites: Vol 2: Southern Dolomites, Brenta and Lake Garda
Via Ferrata Hikes
- Gran Cir (Grade A) in the Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy
- Mount Triglav (Grade A/B) in the Julian Alps, Slovenia
- Alpspitz Ferrata (Grade A/B) in the Bavarian Alps, Germany
- Oskar Schuster Via Ferrata (Grade B/C) in the Dolomites, South Tyrol, Italy
Via Ferrata Equipment
There are three essential pieces of gear you need to hike a protected climbing route: (1) climbing helmet, (2) climbing harness, and (3) via ferrata lanyard with carabiners. In addition, climbing gloves like these Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger Gloves are very helpful with grip.
- Women’s Climbing Helmet: Women’s Black Diamond Equipment Half Dome Helmet
- Men’s Climbing Helmet: Men’s Black Diamond Equipment Half Dome Climbing Helmet
- Women’s Climbing Harness: Petzl CORAX LT Women’s Harness
- Women’s Climbing Harness: Black Diamond Women’s Momentum Harness
- Men’s Climbing Harness: Black Diamond Mens Momentum Rock Climbing Harness
- Men’s Climbing Harness: PETZL Corax Climbing Harness
Via Ferrata Lanyard with Carabiners
- Unisex Lanyard with Carabiners: PETZL Scorpio Vertigo via ferrata Lanyard
- Unisex Lanyard with Carabiners: Salewa Ergo Core, Unisex Adult
11. A Rental Car Is the Easiest Way to Get Around
Unless you’re embarking on a hut-to-hut hike across the Alps, we recommend renting a car. Some places are difficult to reach without your own vehicle.
We’ve traveled to many places in the Alps without a car. It’s certainly possible, but it’s limiting. Some destinations are simply not accessible.
Moreover, bus schedules can be extremely limited and even mysterious.
We recommend using the Discovercars.com car rental reservation platform to search for and book car rentals in Europe. This easy-to-use booking platform compares car rental deals from 500+ trusted providers, so that you can choose the best option for your trip.
Tip: If you can only drive automatic transmission cars, as opposed to manual transmission cars (stick shift), book your car rental as early as possible.
Alps Road Trips Itineraries
Germany & Austria | 10-Day Bavarian Alps & Tyrolean Alps Road Trip
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Learn More about the Alps
- Dolomites Travel Guide
- Best Things to Do in the Dolomites
- Best Places to Visit in the Dolomites
- 7-Day Dolomites Road Trip Itinerary
- Best Day Hikes in the Dolomites
- Schladming Hiking Guide
- Lech am Arlberg Hiking Guide
- Vorarlberg Hiking Guide
- Best Hikes in Salzburg
- Best Day Hikes near Vienna