Hut to hut hiking is a type of multi-day hiking in which you overnight in mountain huts along the way.
Mountain huts range from rustic refuges, offering only the bare essentials (e.g. mattress, outdoor drop-toilet), to luxurious, fully staffed mountain lodges (with a restaurant, running water, bedding, etc…).
Though the amenities of a hut will vary from country to country, and from hut to hut, it’s important to know that huts are first and foremost accommodations for hikers and climbers. Mountain huts are not hotels. Don’t expect privacy and ensuite bathrooms.
Mountain refuges are generally situated at high elevations in remote places, only accessible by foot. Given their location, huts are generally seasonal establishments, only open in summer.
There are many established hut to hut hiking trails around the world. Some classic routes you may have heard of are the GR20, TMB, Eagle Walk, Routeburn Track, etc…
In this guide to hut to hut hiking, we’re going to outline where you can go hut-to-hut hiking and introduce you to our favorite hut-to-hut hiking trails.
Hut to Hut Hiking: Where to Hike Hut to Hut
Why We Love Hiking Hut to Hut
- It makes multi-day hiking accessible.
- You don’t need heavy gear (e.g. tent). Without the burden of a heavy pack, you can tackle demanding, high-altitude trails more easily and safely.
- Hut to hut hiking can be a great introduction to local culture and local cuisine (especially in the Alps).
- You get to wake up in the mountains directly on the trail.
- Effortless sunrises and sunsets.
- You’re more likely to see wildlife.
- It’s inherently simple and stress-free (unless there’s extreme weather). Every day, you get up, eat breakfast, and then hike from point A to point B.
- Often, hut-to-hut hiking trails are not accessible to day hikers. That means less foot traffic and greater solitude.
- It’s soul-cleansing. Hiking 5-8 hours a day over the course of several days feels like a complete mind, body, and soul cleanse.
- It’s empowering to travel long distances with only your own two feet.
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The European Alps
The European Alps are the largest alpine chain in Europe. The Alps sweep across eight countries – Austria, Switzerland, France, Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Liechtenstein, and Monaco – in one giant arch.
Across the Alps, there’s a vast network of mountain huts (Hütte, Rifugio, Koča, Cabane, Cappana, Refuge).These huts are generally managed by regional Alpine Clubs.
Because camping is largely forbidden across the Alps, hut-to-hut hiking is the only way you can hike longer distances.
Kati and I are partial to hut-to-hut hiking in the European Alps. We like the comfort of fully-staffed mountain huts, where we can savor 3-course meals every night (Austria) and drink as much espresso and wine as our hearts desire (Dolomites). We love the charm, atmosphere, and hospitality of the mountain refuges (Hütte, Rifugio, Koča, Cabane, Cappana, Refuge). And most importantly, we feel really safe staying and eating in huts in the Alps.
And while some may argue that the Alps are too busy, I’d argue that many ranges in the Alps are widely overlooked and unknown.
If you’re new to hiking in the Alps, also read these posts:
- The Alps in Summer: 10 Things You Need to Know Before Visiting
- Hiking in the European Alps: Invaluable Tips
Hut to Hut Hiking Trails in the Alps
Below, we’ve linked to all the hut-to-hut hikes we’ve done in the Alps, ranked by difficulty.
Easy-Moderate Hut to Hut Hiking Trails in the Alps
- Alta Via 1 in the Italian Dolomites
- Tre Cime di Lavaredo Trek in the Italian Dolomites
- Rätikon High Trail in Austria (Beginners should skip Mannheimer Hütte)
Difficult Hut to Hut Hiking Trails in the Alps
- Triglav National Park Traverse, Slovenia
- Karwendel High Trail in Austria
- Schladminger Tauern High Trail in Austria
- Venediger High Trail in Austria
- Montafon Hüttenrunde in Austria
- Berlin High Trail in Austria
- Venediger High Trail in Austria
Very Challenging Hut to Hut Hiking Trails in the Alps
Do you Need Permits to Go Hut to Hut Hiking in the Alps?
No, you don’t need to secure permits prior to your hike.
When Can You Go Hut to Hut Hiking in the Alps?
Generally, you can hike hut to hut in the Alps from late June until late September. Opening and closing times will vary depending on snow conditions. If conditions are favorable, some huts may stay open until mid-October.
How to Make Reservations for Mountain Huts in the Alps
There is no uniform system for booking huts in the Alps. Some huts may have an online booking system. Other huts can only be booked by email, or by phone. To figure out how to book a certain hut, simply navigate to the hut’s website for booking instructions.
In most huts, you’ll pay for your overnight stay and any food/drinks you consume in the evening, before you go to bed.
Some huts, along popular trails, may require a deposit in advance.
You can learn more about how to book huts in these guides:
Self-Guided Hiking Tour Company
If booking multiple huts sounds too time-consuming and laborious, you can always book your tour with a self-guided hiking tour operator. Companies like Alpenventures UNGUIDED book all the mountain huts for you and provide additional support (personalized guidebooks and itineraries, answering questions, gpx files, etc…). You still hike independently (without a guide), but you don’t have to worry about the logistics. Here are some of the self-guided tours they offer:
- 10-Day Alta Via 1 – Italy
- 10-Day Tour du Mont Blanc – Italy, France, Switzerland
- 7-Day Bernese Oberland Traverse – Switzerland
- 14-Day Walker’s Haute Route – France and Switzerland
- HHT6 Hut to Hut Light in the Austrian Alps – Austria
- HHT2 Culinary Delight Hut Hiking Tour – Austria
When to Book Mountain Huts
We recommend booking 3 – 5 months in advance. If your dates are flexible, you can probably book huts a few weeks in advance. We book as early as possible to secure private rooms. Note: many huts only offer dormitory-style accommodation.
Alpine Mountain Hut Amenities
- Dry Room. You’ll place all your wet clothing in a dry room. Dry rooms usually have cubbies or a dry rack for your hiking boots as well.
- Shared Bathroom
- Indoor Flush Toilets. Some high-altitude huts only have drop-toilets.
- Token-operated Showers (not every hut has a shower)
- Dining Room
- Outdoor Terrace with Seating
- Bedrooms: 2-bed bedrooms, 4-bed bedrooms, 6+ bed bedrooms, mattress dormitory (“Lager”)
Mountain Hut Essentials
- Cash to cover all your expenses during the hike. Most huts do not accept credit cards.
- Slippers/Indoor Shoes. In most huts, you must take off your shoes before entering the sleeping quarters. Some huts provide slippers, but we recommend bringing your own waterproof indoor slippers. We always bring our crocs.
- Sleeping Bag Liner, or Lightweight Sleeping Bag. Often, a sleeping bag liner is sufficient, because huts provide blankets and pillows. Due to the ongoing pandemic, rules are changing. For anyone visiting an Austrian hut this summer, please read this summary of new rules and regulations. We’ll be packing this Alpin Loacker sleeping bag with us this summer.
- Reusable Water bottle or Hydration Bladder. Unless otherwise stated, water in huts is safe to drink. You can fill up your water bottle at no extra charge. If the water isn’t drinkable, the hut will sell bottled water. You can always purify your water for peace of mind.
- Optional: Alpine Club Membership Card. To learn more about alpine club membership benefits, read Hiking in the European Alps.
- Lightweight Trekking Backpack (36 L – 40 L). The best hut-to-hut hiking backpack is the women’s Osprey Kyte 36 and the men’s Osprey Kestrel 38.
Learn More: Hut to Hut Hiking Packing List
New Zealand is an outstanding destination for hut to hut hiking. Unlike the Alps, backcountry huts aren’t catered and don’t offer the same comforts and amenities. You need to pack all your food and cooking equipment with you. Nonetheless, hut-to-hut hiking is the best way to access some of the most pristine areas of NZ.
Hut to Hut Hiking Trails in New Zealand (Great Walks)
There are 10 Great Walks in New Zealand. These hut-to-hut hikes range from 3 to 6 days. The backcountry huts situated along the great walks are managed by the DoC (Department of Conservation) and must be booked in advance.
Great Walks in the North Island
- Lake Waikaremoana Track: 3-4 days, 46 km point-to-point
- Tongariro Northern Circuit: 3-4 days, 43.1 km circuit (November – April)
Great Walks in the South Island
- Abel Tasman Coast Walk: 3-5 days, 60 km point-to-point
- Heaphy Track: 4-6 days, 78.4 point-to-point
- Routeburn Track: 2-4 days, 33 km point-to-point (November – April)
- Kepler Track: 3-4 days, 60 km circuit (November – April)
- Milford Track: 4 days, 53.5 point-to-point (November – April)
- Rakiura Track: 3 days, 32 km circuit
- Paparoa Track: 3 days, 55 km point-to-point
Do You Need Permits to Go Hut to Hut Hiking in New Zealand?
No, but it’s essential to book and pay for huts in advance.
When Can You Go Hut to Hut Hiking in New Zealand?
The Great Walks season begins in late October/early November and ends in late April. During the “Great Walks Season” bookings are required for huts and campsites. Huts generally have gas cooking stoves and resident wardens.
Outside of the Great Walks Season, facilities are greatly reduced (gas is not provided, running water is turned off, no rangers are based in the huts, etc…). Along some Great Walks (e.g. Tongariro Northern Circuit, Milford Track), bookings are not required and huts are first come first served. You pay with a backcountry hut ticket or a backcountry hut pass, which you can buy from a DOC visitor center.
However, there are more hazards, due to weather and winter conditions. You should expect challenging track conditions. For example, there’s a risk of avalanches along the Tongariro Northern Circuit and additional hazards like flooding along the Routeburn Track. Bridges are often removed over winter to avoid damage from avalanches. So, you must be able to cross large, swift, icy rivers.
We would never consider hiking outside the Great Walks Season.
How Do You Make Reservations for Backcountry Huts in New Zealand
Great Walk huts must be booked online and paid in advance. Here’s the Great Walks booking system.
In addition to the Great Walk huts, there are also many other backcountry huts in New Zealand. We stayed in several DoC huts, booking a few weeks prior to our stay.
Learn more about booking and paying for backcountry huts.
When to Book Backcountry Huts in New Zealand
Book several months in advance.
Backcountry Hut Amenities
NZ Backcountry huts are very rustic.
Expect to sleep in a bunk bed in a shared dormitory. Beds have mattresses and nothing else.
There’s a communal kitchen and dining area. You must bring all your food with you. Often, you have to prepare your meals using your own portable stove and fuel.
Depending on the hut, toilets may be a fancy flush toilet or a drop toilet.
Backcountry Hut Essentials
Bring the following items with you on a hut-to-hut hike in New Zealand. For a complete list, check out our NZ Hiking Guide.
- Booking confirmation and ID
- Sleeping Bag (3-4 seasons). We love this Qeedo Takino sleeping bag.
- Inflatable Pillow. We use this Hikenture Camping Pillow with a Removable Cover.
- Trekking Backpack (40-60 liters): Women’s Osprey Kyte 46 / Men’s Kestrel 48
- Waterproof House Slippers: Crocs
- Portable Stove and fuel: Bring a portable camping stove with you and purchase gas in NZ.
- Eating and Cooking utensils
- Rubbish Bag
Read more about New Zealand:
More Hut to Hut Hiking Destinations:
- High Tatras: Mountain Range in Poland and Slovakia
- Notable Trail: 4-Day High Tatras Trek in Slovakia
- Corsica: Island in the Mediterranean Sea.
- Notable Trail: GR20
- Pyrenees: Mountain Range in France and Spain
- Notable Trail: GR10
- Himalayas: Mountain Range in South and East Asia
- Notable Trail: Annapurna Circuit in Nepal
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