Hiking in the Alps is like slipping into the hereafter, where enchanting pastures, charming huts, and glorious mountains await you. Accompanied by a chorus of cowbells, you’ll enter the literal “land of milk and honey” of hiking destinations: the majestic European Alps.
Here, trails are well-maintained, signage is ubiquitous, mountain huts are pervasive, public transit is reliable, food is safe and delicious, and the scenery is simultaneously dramatic and romantic.
Hike in the Alps, and you’ll start to ask yourself, why bother hiking anywhere else?
In this practical Alps hiking guide, we’re sharing important tips on hiking safety, trails, and destinations. If you’ve never visited the Alps, also check out The Alps in Summer: 10 Things You Should Know Before Visiting.
For hiking trail inspiration, read our favorite hikes in the Alps.
For more hiking tips, follow us on Instagram @moonhoneytravelers
Hiking in the Alps: 7 Essential Tips for Alpine Hiking and Trekking
- Where: The European Alps span across eight countries: Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Liechtenstein, and Monaco
- Hiking Season: Mid-late June – mid-late October, depending on snow/ice conditions.
- Hut to Hut Hiking Season: Late June/early July to late September
- Top Experiences: Staying in mountain huts, eating in alpine pasture huts, experiencing an Almabtrieb (cattle drive) at the end of the summer season, hiking hut-to-hut, seeing roaming ibex and chamoix, climbing via ferrata routes.
- Best Multi-Day Hikes in the Alps: Tour du Mont Blanc (moderate), Alta Via 1 (moderate), Berlin High Trail (difficult), Karwendel High Trail (difficult), Emperor’s Crown (easy-moderate), and Triglav National Park Trek (difficult)
- Our Favorite Day Hikes in the Alps: Tofana di Rozes Circuit Trail (Italy), Seven Lakes Valley (Slovenia), Lake Formarinsee to Lake Spullersee (Austria), Seekarspitze Ridge (Austria), Höllental Gorge (Germany), and Marwees Ridge (Switzerland)
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1. Hike in the European Alps in July, August, and/or September
The hiking season in the Alps is very short due to snowfall.
If you’re planning an overseas trip to the Alps, we recommend visiting in July, August, or September, to be on the safe-side.
Of course, it’s possible to hike in the Alps in June, but depending on the length of the winter, you may encounter a lot of snow on high-elevation mountain trails.
Many people love visiting the Alps in October, because of the fall foliage and the solitude. While some Octobers are like Indian Summers, other Octobers are very wintery. Each year it’s a bit different. And because there’s no way to predict the weather, October is risky.
If you can be spontaneous and shift your plans, then October is definitely an option. Keep in mind that most mountain huts close in late September.
One of the best places to hike in the Alps in October is the Italian Dolomites. Learn more in Dolomites in October.
Many people are tempted to travel to the Alps in May. We discourage it, because May is simply too unpredictable.
Learn more about seasonal travel in the Alps:
- Italy: Best Time to Visit the Dolomites and May in the Dolomites
- Austria: Summer in Austria and Autumn in Austia
- Slovenia: October in Slovenia
2. Check the Weather Forecast Daily
The weather in the Alps can be very unpredictable, changing quickly and dramatically. You must check the forecast daily and plan accordingly.
Majestic mornings can morph into moody afternoons with pouring rain, thunder and lightning, and even snow.
It’s best to be prepared and always pack extra layers, including a rain jacket, puffer jacket, a beanie, and gloves.
Weather Apps & Websites
In addition to your trusty mobile weather app, you may want to download additional apps. We always ask locals what websites and apps they use to check the weather in their region.
Meteoblue: Meteoblue.com Website
MeteoSwiss is an app and website that provides regularly updated weather forecasts for all of Switzerland.
Alps Weather Tips
1. South-facing mountain slopes receive more sunshine than north-facing mountain slopes. During shoulder seasons, you might notice more snow, and even ice, on north-facing slopes. Microspikes and especially hiking poles are helpful in navigating icy slopes.
2. Mornings tend to be more stable than afternoons. Start hiking as early as possible.
3. In summer, valleys in the Alps can reach 30°C (86°F) or higher. But, as soon as you gain altitude, those temperatures begin to drop. No matter how sunny it is, always pack for all eventualities.
4. If it starts to snow, stop ascending the mountain. Snow can seem harmless at first. But, it can quickly cover up tracks, waymarks, and signs. When you’re in a whiteout in a snow blizzard, you’re in grave danger. We know.
3. Eat Lunch in Mountain Huts and Alpine Pasture Huts
There’s a vast network of mountain huts (Hütte, Rifugio, Koča, Cabane, Cappana, Refuge) across the Alps. In addition to providing overnight shelter for hikers and mountaineers, many of these huts also serve food and drinks throughout the day.
Whether you’re day hiking, or hut-to-hut hiking, eating lunch in a mountain hut is a real treat. So, skip the packed lunch, and savor the atmosphere and joy of mountainside dining.
During the hiking season, mountain huts are generally open from late June until late September. Huts, located at lower elevations, may open sooner (mid/late May) and close later (mid/late October).
In addition to the many mountain huts across the Alps, there are also alpine pasture huts. Unlike mountain huts, these huts usually don’t accommodate overnight guests, though there are always exceptions.
Many of these mountain pasture huts provide homemade food and drinks to visitors during the day. Some alpine pasture huts are also dairies, where they produce their own cheese, yogurt, and Buttermilch.
Some of our most memorable day hikes in the Alps combine delicious food with jaw dropping scenery.
Swiss Alps Mountain Huts
In the Alpstein mountains in Appenzell, we recommend eating Appenzeller Käse at Berggasthaus Äscher and Rösti at the Bollenwees hut next to Lake Fählensee.
Italian Alps Mountain Huts
The most gourmet hiking region in the Italian Alps is the Dolomites.
Our favorite hut in the region is Tierser Alpl, the refuge that stands at the foot of the jagged Denti di Terrarossa, between the Sciliar/Schlern and Catinaccio/Rosengarten Mountains. We recommend hiking to Tierser Alpl along this Rifugio Bolzano circuit trail, which starts on the Alpe di Siusi plateau.
Austrian Alps Mountain Huts
When visiting the village of Filzmoos in Salzburg, don’t miss the mouthwatering Kaiserschmarrn at Wallehenhütte, or Krahlenhenhütte along the Hofpürgl to Sulzenalm hike. Also check out Bachlalm along the Bachlalm to Neustadtalm Circuit Hike.
For mountainside food combined with mountain lake views, head to Tappenkarseehütte at Lake Tappenkarsee.
In Tirol, don’t miss Kaindlhütte and Gruttenhütte along the Emperor’s Crown Trail in the Wilder Kaiser mountains.
Olpererhütte in the Zillertal Alps of Tirol boasts the most enviable dining terrace of all huts.
Slovenian Alps Mountain Huts
Slovenia isn’t famous for their mountain hut cuisine. But, there’s one place that is worthy of being a pilgrimage site.
Related: Visiting Slovenian Mountain Huts
Bavarian Alps Mountain Huts
Liechtenstein Alps Mountain Huts
There are two mountain huts in Liechtenstein: Gafadurahütte and Pfälzerhütte, both of which are excellent. We ate in both huts, when we hiked the Liechtenstein Panorama Trail.
4. Consider a Hut to Hut Hiking Trip in the Alps
Long-distance trekking is a serious undertaking in many countries, requiring heavy gear, wilderness skills, and grit.
In the Alps, hut to hut hiking can be a highly gratifying and even indulgent experience. Do you want wine or beer with your dinner? You got it! Do you want a 3-course homemade meal? No problem!
Do you want to use a sauna? Go for it! Do you want to play board games with other hikers? Have fun! Do you want to take a hot shower? It’s only 3-4 EUR. Do you want to dry your wet shoes? Use that electric shoe warmer mounted to the wall in the dry room.
You get the picture. Honestly, I can’t think of a better way to experience the Alps than on a hut-to-hut hike. It’s blissfully simple: hike from one hut to another and savor the scenery along the way.
You get to wake up in the mountains directly on a hiking trail, knowing exactly where you’re headed. And, you get to go to bed in the mountains, in a warm and relatively comfortable bed.
Hut to Hut Hiking Difficulty in the Alps
Hut to hut hiking trails range from blissfully easy to staggeringly difficult. Some hikes circumnavigate mountain groups, delivering great views from a safe distance like the Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Italy, and Switzerland or the Emperor’s Crown in Austria.
Other trails require you to cross mountain ranges, where you have skillfully navigate narrow passages along ridges and unstable and slippery terrain.
On many of these high-altitude trails, I’ve felt like I’m one step away from my demise. On my second-ever hut-to-hut hike (Kamnik-Savinja Alps Trek Stage 3), I was in tears after 8 hours of ruthless hiking.
High-altitude hiking paths in the Alps can be extremely dangerous. Please research trails thoroughly in advance to ascertain whether a trail is right for you.
Hut to Hut Hiking Trails in the Alps
If you’re new to hut to hut hiking in the Alps, we highly recommend following an established hiking route.In Austria and Switzerland, there are tons of Höhenwege (High Trails) and Hüttenrunden (Hut Circuits).
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:
- 10-Day Alta Via 1 – Italy
- Best of the Dolomites Trek 9-day Standard – Italy
- 10-Day Tour du Mont Blanc – Italy, France, Switzerland. We booked this self-guided tour for our TMB trek.
- 14-Day Walker’s Haute Route – France and Switzerland
- 7-Day Bernese Oberland – Switzerland
- 6 Day Hut to Hut Light in the Austrian Alps – Austria. It’s possible to do this hike with children (who are experienced hikers).
- 8 Day Culinary Delight Hut Hiking Tour– Austria
Hut-to-Hut Hiking Trails in the Austrian Alps
- 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 the Italian Alps
Our Dolomites Hut to Hut Hiking Guide outlines essential tips for multi-day hiking in northeastern Italy.
- 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 Slovenian Alps
- Slovenian Mountain Way / Slovenska Planinska Pot
- Triglav National Park Traverse – Moon & Honey Trail
- Kamnik-Savinja Alps Traverse – Moon & Honey Trail
- Mount Trigav – 2 Day Route
- Veliko Špičje – 2 Day Route
Hut-to Hut Hiking Trails in Liechtenstein
We highly recommend hiking the Liechtenstein Panorama Trail along the roof of the world’s sixth-smallest nation. This is a hut-hotel-hut hike, which takes 3-4 days to complete. Though much of the route follows an exposed ridge, it’s very well secured. We felt very safe the whole time.
Multi-Day Hiking in France, Italy, and Switzerland
The world-famous Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) hike is a 10-11 day multi-day hike, which circuits the Mont Blanc massif, passing through France, Italy and Switzerland. Unlike a typical hut-to-hut hike, many stages of the TMB end in valleys, where you can stay in hotels and other comfortable accommodations.
Here’s our complete guide to hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc with our personal itinerary.
The Tour du Mont Blanc booking process can be a nightmare, so we recommend handing over the process to a self-guided hiking tour operator. We booked the 10-Day Standard Tour du Mont Blanc (private rooms and shared rooms) with Alpenventures UNGUIDED. Our experience was seamless from start to finish. We appreciated their expert advice, communication, and overall customer service.
- 10-Day Comfort Tour du Mont Blanc Self Guided – private rooms only
- 15-Day Tour du Mont Blanc Self Guided – slower paced with shorter stages
- 7-Day Tour du Mont Blanc Self Guided – shortened route with transit shortcuts
5. Join an Alpine Club, which is a participating association of the International Reciprocal Agreement on Mountain Huts
Alpine Clubs are large social clubs for hikers, climbers, and other outdoor sports enthusiasts.
Alpine Clubs generally own and operate alpine mountain huts and maintain trails. Furthermore, they are typically responsible for organizing guided outings, providing mountaineering training courses, and safeguarding the alpine environment.
Kati and I are members of the Austrian Alpine Club (ÖAV – Österreich Alpenverein). Our membership benefits include:
- Discounts on overnight stays in Austrian mountain huts
- Discounts on overnight stays in all alpine huts belonging to the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA).
- Membership of the Alpenverein’s rescue and repatriation service – Alpenverein Weltweit Service (AWS).
- Alpine skills, leadership, and training courses with grants available to eligible members.
Who can join the Austrian Alpine Club?
You don’t need to live in Austria or be Austrian to join the Austrian Alpine Club. Anyone can join. We recommend that English speakers join the Austrian Alpine Club UK chapter. The UK chapter has 12,000 members living outside of the UK.
Members pay an annual fee.
Mountain Hut Discounts
As stated above, a big benefit of joining an alpine club is the discount on overnight stays in mountain huts.
If you join an alpine club that is a participating member of the International Reciprocal Rights Agreement you are also entitled to discounts in mountain huts belonging to other mountaineering clubs in other countries.
For example, when we hike in the Slovenian Alps, we also get a discount on Slovenian mountain huts (owned by PZS), just by showing our Austrian Alpine Club membership card.
All these UIAA (International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation) alpine clubs participate in the International Reciprocal Agreement on Mountain Huts:
- German Alpine Club (DAV)
- Austrian Alpine Club (ÖAV)
- South Tyrol Alpine Club (AVS)
- Swiss Alpine Club (SAC)
- Club Alpino Italiano (CAI)
- Club Alpin Français (CAF)
- Federación Española de Deportes de Montaña y Escalada (FEDME)
- Liechtenstein Alpine Club (LAV)
- Slovenian Mountaineering Association (PZS)
- Club Alpin Belge (CAB)
- Groupe Alpin Luxembourgeois (GAL)
- Dansk Bjergklub
- Federazione Alpinistica Ticinese Switzerland (FAT)
- the Nederlandse Klim- en Bergsportvereniging (NKBV)
Given the benefits of the International Reciprocal Agreement on Mountain Huts, we recommend joining one of the above alpine clubs.
Discounts Don’t Apply to Privately Owned Mountain Huts
In some areas, like the Italian Dolomites, there are a lot of privately owned huts, which do not have any affiliation to alpine clubs. In such huts, you won’t receive a discount.
6. Buy Paper Trail Maps
Even though hiking trails in the Alps are extremely well maintained and well-marked, paper trail maps are invaluable. We always use a paper trail map in conjunction with an offline maps app like Outdooractive and Gaia.
While apps like Maps.me are extremely helpful for orientation, they don’t show trail difficulty. An easy, flat trail looks the same as a secured, highly exposed trail, on an app.
On a paper trail map, trail difficulty is marked by different types of lines: straight, dashed, or dotted.
In severe weather, you may need to re-route, abandoning your original hiking plans. With paper trail maps, you can discern your safest options.
With a paper trail map, you have more flexibility and freedom to plan your hike, whether it’s a day hike, or a multi-day hike. You’re not strictly limited to a guide book, or a blog post. You can create your own routes.
Another reason to buy paper trail maps is to better understand the region in which you’re hiking.
By studying maps, you’ll understand how things are connected and you’ll learn the names of the mountains, valleys, rivers and lakes you’re hiking by.
7. Don’t Overlook the Eastern Alps
When planning a trip to the Alps, most people will gravitate to the Western Alps of France, Switzerland, and Northwestern Italy, home to the highest mountains of Europe.
But, you’d be remiss to overlook the Austrian Alps, Slovenian Alps, the Italian Dolomites, and the Bavarian Alps.
The Austrian Alps are often overlooked by international hikers. I blame the Austrian Tourist Board. But, it’s actually a good thing.
During high summer, when Europe is overrun by European vacationers and international tourists, Austria remains largely crowd-free, with the exception of Vienna, Salzburg City, and Hallstatt).
Hut to Hut Hiking | Trekking Austria: Best Multi-Day Hikes in Austria
Some people don’t even know that the Alps extend all the way across the north of Slovenia. If you follow us on Instagram, you already know that we’re obsessed with the Julian Alps and the Kamnik-Savinja Alps.
The Slovenian Alps are extremely pristine. There’s hardly any ugly ski infrastructure marring the scenery. And, the biodiversity is incredible.
In late June and July, the mountains are carpeted in wildflowers, including Edelweiss.
Via Ferrata Hike | Climbing Mount Triglav
The Italian Dolomites
Here, each mountain and peak is utterly unique and instantly recognizable. The Dolomites are the birthplace of via ferrata climbing and probably boast the most epic sunsets (Enrosadira) in the world.
Read Where to Stay in the Dolomites in Summer for an overview of the best villages and towns.
Via Ferrata Climbing | Via Ferrata Oskar Schuster
The Bavarian Alps
The Bavarian Alps are home to the most picturesque storybook towns and castles in the European Alps.
If you want to hike somewhere that looks like a fairy tale, head to Garmisch-Partenkirchen and Mittenwald, close to the Austrian border.
Buildings are vibrantly adorned with art murals, called Lüftlmalerei (“air paintings”), which depict fanciful scenes from fairy tales, the Bible, and ordinary life.
Via Ferrata Hiking | Alpspitze Via Ferrata
Road Trips | 10 Day Bavrian Alps & Tyrolean Alps Road Trip
The Swiss Alps
Switzerland is synonymous with the Alps and alpine culture. It’s the first destination people think of when they plan a trip to the Alps.
Perhaps, the most interesting, if not bizarre, range in all of Switzerland is the Appenzell Alps in the Appenzellerland region.
Switzerland’s northernmost mountain range is defined by fanciful landscapes of limestone towers and velvet-green pastures.
Whilst hiking, you’ll experience the age-old tradition of transhumance, the seasonal practice of moving livestock from one grazing area to another. You can buy Appenzeller Käse (cheese) from mountain diaries and mountain inns, witness seasonal cattle drives, and hear Alphorn music as well as Yodeling.
Trekking | 3-Day Alpstein Trek (coming soon)
Essential Gear for Hiking in the Alps
- Day Pack: Osprey Tempest 30 Women’s Backpack / Osprey Talon 33 Men’s Backpack
- Hut to Hut Hiking Backpack: Women’s Osprey Kyte 36 / Men’s Osprey Kestrel 38
- Grade B/C high-cut hiking boots: Meindl Schuhe Island Lady (Kati’s Boots), Women’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (Sabrina’s Boots), Men’s Hanwag Tatra II GTX (men’s equivalent)
- Wool Hiking Socks: Smartwool womens Performance Hike Full Cushion Crew / Smartwool Men Performance Hike Full Cushion Crew
- CAT 4 Sunglasses: Julbo Shield Mountain Sunglasses
- Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles
- Reusable Water Bottle: Ion Leakproof 32 oz Water Bottle
- Climbing Gloves: Black Diamond Half Finger Gloves
- Headlamp: Black Diamond Equipment Spot 350 Headlamp
- Microspikes: CAMP USA Inc Chainsen Pro
- Women’s Climbing Helmet: black diamond women’s climbing helmet
- Men’s Climbing Helmet: black diamond men’s climbing helmet
- Unisex Climbing Gloves: Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger Gloves
Outdoor Photography Gear
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