Hut to Hut Hiking Europe : Pros and Cons + How to Book in 2023

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What a hut to hut hiking trip looks like from a North American perspective.
a hut in the dolomites
These kiddos passed right by this hut in 2022 to get to the cute grey Alpine cows in the adjacent field. The Rifugio Sennes on the Alta Via 1 is popular for it’s airplane models.

Hut to Hut Hiking Europe : Sustainable Travel

If you’re on the fence about booking a hut to hut hiking trip in Europe this article will lay out the pros and cons from my experience doing trips with my kids, friends and extended family the past 3 summers.

TL;DR: Hut to hut hiking in Europe is a style of sustainable travel that’s like a dreamscape thru-hike but with yummy food and comfortable beds each night.

How could you possibly fit a European hut to hut hike into a vacation abroad? My family and I have lived as expats in Germany for 7 years and once we discovered hut to hut hiking in Europe, we were hooked. Our friends from the States join us each summer, and we’ve even got repeat business!

Hut to Hut Hiking Europe
A view of Lago di Braies from our last family trip on the Alta Via 1 in 2022 – it’s when my daughter says we fight the least. I blame the mountains.

**Honestly, even though hut to hut hiking feels like this secret experience everyone should be delighted to have, it is not for everyone and can be a logistical nightmare.

Are you a DIY Planner? Continue reading until the end where you can download a planning spreadsheet – no email required. For people not interested in DIY planning, you can also book a service to plan a “self-guided” trip where they do all the logistics and you’re not stuck with a slow tour guide/group.

Summary Table of Pros and Cons of Hut-to-Hut Hiking in Europe

What You Will Learn in This Article

There’s really two separate things to compare as this style of travel will appeal to both experienced backcountry backpackers and more casual Nature lovers on vacation in Europe.

Let’s compare hut-to-hut hiking vs backpacking, and also hut to hut hiking with a typical vacation in Europe where you’d drive to a popular Dolomites lake and do a day hike in a National Park.

Hut to Hut Hiking Compared to American Style Backpacking

Pros

Experience the best of European Nature in comfort with great local food and warm beds.

  • Lightweight Backpacks as You Only Need to Carry a Change of Clothes and no Cooking or Sleeping Gear
  • You Don't Need to Carry Much Water
  • Comfortable Sleeping vs Traditional "Backpacking"
  • Savor Local Cuisine & Wines
  • Enjoy Social Evenings in Huts
  • Self-Guided Trips Allow You to go Your Own Pace
Cons

Planning is not easy and you really have to plan ahead. There's not much spur of the moment booking of a hut to hut hiking trip.

  • Price: Huts Charge for Beds and Food
  • Bucketlist Trails Huts Book Up 9 Months in Advance
  • Limited Flexibility to Change Itinerary Once Set
  • Language Barrier with Booking Huts
  • Hard to Know What Your "Hiking Tolerance" is on First Trip as Alps & Dolomites are Steep
  • Guided Trips go at the Slowest Pace of Often Random Group Members

Many trails in Europe are crowded, but if you’re going hut to hut you get the trails to yourself.

Hut to Hut Hiking Compared to European Vacations with Dayhikes

Pros

Step away from the crowds and actually experience solitude on the popular trails.

  • Reduce Over-tourism
  • Support Local Rural Businesses : High Elevation Mountain Huts and Restaurants
  • Connect with Other Travellers on Same Multi-Day Trek
  • Sustainable Travel Choice : You're Truly Human Powered
  • Get Closer to Nature & Wildlife
  • Explore Off-the-Beaten Path Trail Sections Away From Gondolas and Lines of Tourists
  • Price : Huts are Usually Half-Board and Reasonable Compared to Other Accomodations
Cons

Logistically heavy vacation planning and a certain level of fitness required.

  • Luggage Transport Inconsistent - You May Have to Find a Place to Store "City" Gear
  • Hard to Know What Your "Hiking Tolerance" is on First Trip to Plan Where to Stay
  • Weather or Injury Can Disrupt Your Entire Itinerary
  • Only Some Places Have Bus or Taxi "Workarounds" in Case of Weather/Injury
  • "Group Problem" - All Members of Group Need to be Physically and Mentally Prepared

Hut to Hut Hiking Europe Pros

Adulting doesn’t mean we forgo losing ourselves in the awe and beauty of the Great Outdoors. With all the stressors of modern life, it’s more important than ever to tap into Adventure to regain balance.

But now that we’ve reached a certain point in life where we’re willing to pay for comfort, an elegant solution is hut to hut hiking in Europe.

High Level of Comfort & Cuisine

Of course I love camping, I grew up in Idaho. But as I’ve gotten older there’s a level of comfort and cuisine that I want to experience on my precious vacation time. Hut to hut hiking provides both a Nature and Culture fix on trips in the Alps, Dolomites, Romania and even coastal regions like the Balkans and the UK.

Immerse in Nature & Get Away from Crowds

It’s a mix of easy backpacking, a lot of eating and spectacular hikes away from crowds.

hut to hut hiking in the dolomites

This unusual style of travel by foot offers comfortable sleeping, fantastic cuisine and total immersion into the varied, wild and wondrous places located on the tops of Europe’s mountains.

Sense of Purpose & Connection

You’ll have a sense of purpose to each day and a common goal if you are travelling with family or friends.

It’s like lightweight thru-hiking but you get served creamy cappuccinos with your breakfast and silky local wines with your 3 course dinners after traversing around Mont Blanc or over a jaw-dropping pass in the Dolomites.

It’s never easier to drop the to-do list, immerse into your senses and focus on what really counts.

➡️ 💞 Often it appeals to backpackers who are stealthily encouraging their spouses & family to embrace the Outdoor lifestyle, benefits and travel. Spending time together in the European Outdoors when it’s comfortable, tasty and scenic has a way to convert even the most resistant soon-to-be hikers.

Family-Friendly

It’s pretty obvi by my photos, but it’s definitely a family-bonding experience for families with walking aged kids, tweens and teens. Something about it being hard yet delicious (think fresh whipped cream atop hot cocoa as a bribe to climb 2,000 ft) makes it memorable and repeatable.

*****There’s crappy cellphone reception which we all know is a good thing on vacation!

Good to Pair with City or Beach Breaks

On a 10 day trip, it works really well to spend 4-5 days hiking and then 4-5 days relaxing on a Mediterranean beach like Positano or Cannes. Or if you’re more of a history lover, spend the second half of vacation soaking in the excitement of city culture in a place like Paris or Venice. There are easy and good connections to these and many more places.

Hut to Hut Hiking Europe Cons

There’s really no easy way to plan or book a hut to hut hiking trip in Europe.

You can’t just get on expedia and book your accommodations.

Let’s not ignore the elephant in the room – It’s Hard! All members of your group need to understand that this is not just a walk in the park. But the challenge will be worth it for breathtaking views and uplifting experiences.

hut to hut hiking europe
The first day of the Alta Via 1 is full of varied terrain and varied feelings.

Not much online automation.

As most huts are family owned or organized by alpine clubs, they aren’t known for their excellent online automation. This mean there can often be a lot of back and forth via email, overseas bank transfers for deposits and phone calls with major language barriers.

Additionally, Nature travel has become ever more popular post-covid. It’s not super easy to be spur of the moment when deciding to embark upon this kind of travel adventure. There’s a limited number of huts and sleeping spaces at each hut.

Booking a hut on the popular trails like the TMB and Alta Via 1 can be frustrating. Joining Facebook communities has been really helpful for me.

kids hiking hut to hut in europe
Bad weather is always on the prediction – But it always seems to work out 3 years in a row.

Make it easier by hiring a service to plan for you

You can make it easier by hiring a service to do the planning, booking and coordination for you. Even then, you’ll need to pick a location, estimate your hiking capacity and coordinate with the service a few times to get the ideal itinerary.

Pro Tip: Use spreadsheets to organize your hut itinerary. Google sheets is free and easy- you can even add your GPS tracks to your “My Maps” function. Copy my hut to hut template and make it your own.

Remember these are high elevation huts and water sources can be scarce. Sometimes they require supplies to be airlifted, travel by gondola or even by driven up by ATV. It always depends on the hut and the weather. One hut may have hot showers and the one nearby doesn’t so you’ll need to do your research or just be flexible.

Heavy logistical lift for a vacation

Either way, it’s a heavy logistical lift for planning. You’ll need GPS routes, hiking gear and plans to book huts in sequential order that are a reasonable distance and elevation gain for your tolerance.

For popular trails you’ll need to book 9 months in advance to get really great huts and/or private rooms. On less popular trails, it’s smart to book at least 2-3 months in advance.

Many trails have options for luggage transport. However, not every hut along the trail may be accessible. Some use animals to take your “extra” luggage to the huts, but that seems to be at odds with the idea of sustainable travel.

The last point I’ll mention is that you will lose your deposit if you sprain your ankle and cannot continue. It’s the same situation if the weather makes the trek impassable. Usually you can find a bus or taxi “workaround”, but not always.

You can lose your deposit in case of weather or injury

Each hut has a different policy regarding deposits, but it’s usually somewhere around 5-20% of the total cost.

If you are lucky and get private rooms — enjoy! But the typical shared accommodations are 4-8 beds in one room. Some less nice huts may have up to 40 beds in a room! Yikes! Bring earplugs and a sleep mask.

Top European Hut to Hut Hiking Trails Map

Two of the most popular hut to hut hiking trails are the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites, and the Tour du Mont Blanc that circles Europe’s highest mountain through France, Italy and Switzerland all along the same trail. Google maps is actually a pretty great resource for hut to hut hikes in europe.

How to Use This Map:
Click on the icon on the top left-hand corner. You will now see an interactive list.

For more info on each, click on the map icons.

To see the map in more detail, click on the [ ] in the top right-hand corner. This will open a larger map where the details of each point can be found by clicking on the location point name in the list on the left.

You can also save the map for your own use by clicking the next to the map name. This will save the map to your Google Maps, where you can make a copy and use it for your own trip planning.

To view the saved map on your phone, open Google Maps, click “saved” on the bottom, and then “maps” on the lower right.

DIY Planning

Download my free Alta Via 1 in the Italian Dolomites Planner PDF Spreadsheet below, it’s got all the links for the huts, elevation gain, and distances to hike daily.

Click here to download my google sheet AV1 Dolomites Planner and plan your trip step-by-step.

Prefer PDF? I got you boo. 👎🏻

Need Help Planning a Hut to Hut Hike in Europe?

In 2017 I kinda heard about hut to hut hiking from my daughter’s German teacher. It was vague – wine, hiking, tops of the Alps and “nicht so schwer”. That vaguely means “not so difficult” as described by her 3rd grade teacher. Huh?

Planning a Hut to Hut Trip is a TIME SUCK.

It took me until 2020, with all my mountain hiking love, desire, general lack of fear (except heights and clowns), 170 lb squat quads, and middle class income to actually figure it out for my family. And I failed the first time. It could have went very badly. But great friends rescued us to make it happen.

Why Use a Self-Guided Company to Plan?

If it all seems like a pain in the butt and you want someone to plan it for you, I would recommend Brittany at Alpenventures Unguided. She’s got an American perspective and she’s been planning “self-guided” hut to hut hiking trips for English-speakers for a long time. I resonated with her because she said one time that “hiking changed her life”.

I really love doing the Alta Via 1 Trek in 5 days with my family – it’s perfect for you to drag your family along and hook them on hiking because the scenery, food and huts are top notch!

To have Brittany plan and book the full 10 days: Full Alta Via in 10 days <<- Click on the link.

For the long weekend trek : Book the 4-5 day AV1 Dolomites <<- Click on the link.

There are other great destinations like the Tour du Mont Blanc, Austrian treks and more.

Hut to Hut Hiking in Europe = A Marriage of Nature Immersion and Culture Travel.

Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites

alta via 1 hut to hut hike
my bad attempt at bird photos

Why it’s worth the planning?

The Dolomites, located in Northeastern Italy are a UNESCO world heritage site in and of themselves, and they are known for their jagged peaks, spires and pinnacles with breathtaking vistas, and the hut-to-hut hiking trails that offer a chance to fully appreciate this stunning natural scenery.

But the huts themselves are also a big part of the experience, serving as charming and comfortable resting places where you can sample regional cuisine, meet fellow travelers, and learn about the local culture and history.

Many of the huts have been around for generations, run by Ladin families who have a deep connection to the land, and who are eager to share their stories with visitors. So, if you’re looking for an adventure that combines adventure, relaxation, and cultural discovery, hut-to-hut hiking in the Dolomites could be the perfect destination for you.

Done for You Hut to Hut Plans for the Dolomites

9 Days on the Best of the Dolomites Trek
9.8/10

Unique Dolomites Crossing East-West Avoiding Crowds


Most hut to hut hikers in the Dolomites follow the North-South Alta Via trails but this one traverses the Dolomites starting in the west and hiking east.  This will give a lot more freedom and space.

  • Great for people who have already done the Alta Via trails.
  • Avoids ferratas and sketchy sections.
     

This new trek starts at the famous Seceda viewpoint and ends near Tre Cime.

4 Days on the Alta Via 1
9.5/10

Highlights of Alta Via 1 Trail in 4 days


Alpenventures Unguided does the heavy logistical lifting for you to plan a self-guided adventure in the Italian Dolomites so you can hike your own hike.

  • You'll see the main highlights of the AV1 like Lago di Braies and Cinqui Torri
  • Great for families or more casual hikers.

 

The northern section of the AV1 in the Dolomites.  Goes from Lago di Braies to Cinqui Torri Region.

10 Days on the Alta Via 1 : Self Guided
9.6/10

Classic Alta Via 1 Trail in 10 days.


Enjoy moving at your own pace by using this "self-guided" hiking planning service.  They will do all the boring work and you can just enjoy your hut to hut hiking trip.

  • You'll need to cover about 5-7 hours daily of hiking.
  • The southern half will offer more solitude.

 

The Classic full AV1 is 10 days from Lago di Braies to Belluno.

Hut to Hut Hiking Around Mont Blanc

Why it’s so popular?

The Hut-to-Hut Tour du Mont Blanc offers a chance to hike through three different countries in one trip. The Tour du Mont Blanc is a circular route that covers approximately 170 km and passes through the French, Swiss, and Italian Alps, providing a diverse array of landscapes, cultures, and experiences for hikers to enjoy.

The route is a popular one for hut-to-hut hikers, as there are numerous mountain huts, or refuges (French) rifugios (Italian) Hütten (German), along the way that offer comfortable accommodation and delicious Alpine mountain cuisine. This makes the Tour du Mont Blanc a unique and unforgettable adventure that combines stunning natural beauty, cultural diversity, and a strong sense of community.

Locations with Hut to Hut Trails in Europe

There are many great hut-to-hut hikes in Europe, but some of the most popular and highly-regarded include:

  1. Tour du Mont Blanc, France, Italy, and Switzerland
  2. Alta Via 1, Dolomites, Italy
  3. Haute Route, Switzerland and France
  4. Rila Monastery, Bulgaria
  5. Senda Pirenaica, Pyrenees, Spain and France
  6. The High Tatras, Slovakia and Poland
  7. The Jotunheimen, Norway
  8. Rondane National Park, Norway
  9. Kungsleden, Sweden.
  10. Via Transylvania, Romania

There are hut to hut hikes in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, France, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and England. There’s probably more and I’m determined to learn them all!~.

One of my favorites is a castle hotel to castle hotel hike in Germany.

There are multi-country hut to hut hikes in the Alps, Julian Alps, Dinaric Alps, Caucasians, the UK, Pyrenees, Canary Islands, and Azores.

Let’s not forget about the OG. The Camino de Santiago pilgrimage path that spans — literally everywhere in Europe with veins and arteries all over the place.

It’s ancient and impressive, just like everything else that was stolen from the Celts (insert any other native brand) and made Christian. Signage is so-so.

Accommodations vary depending on volume of hikers, but there usually is a village with a bnb or hotel to book a stay within 20-30km. This is EUROPE! You can’t throw a stone without hitting someone. Maybe that’s why they have such sane gun laws.

FAQ Hiking Hut to Hut Europe

hut to hut hiking europe

Hut to Hut Hiking in Europe FAQ:

What airports do I fly into to do hut to hut hiking in Europe?

The easiest airport to fly into near the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites is Venice International. For the Tour du Mont Blanc, the easiest airport is Geneva.

What is the cost of a hut-to-hut hiking trip in Europe?

It varies widely but it’s not cheap. You’ll see some people wild camping when it’s illegal because of this. Huts in the Dolomites range from 40-90 per night for half-board.

What are the physical and skill requirements for hut-to-hut hiking?

This depends upon the trail you embark upon. If you are going to tackle a Via Ferrata you’ll need a head for heights. If not, then you’ll want to be able to tolerate about 4-7 hours of daily walking with a 15 lb backpack. The thing about hut to hut hiking is that you don’t really need to carry very much on your back, making it much easier than traditional backpacking through the wilderness.

What type of food and amenities are available at the huts?

This is the real reason to go hut to hut hiking in Europe. The food can be excellent, even on the top of a cliff. For example: at Rifugio Lagazuoi on the Alta Via 1 there are 3 course dinners with local wines. Some offer basic pasta, but we like to steer away from those types of huts.

Amenities are much better than backpacking of course, but each hut will be different. Some offer private rooms with soft beds and clean linens, and some have bunk rooms with 40 people in a room.

Can I bring my dog on a hut-to-hut hiking trip in Europe?

It depends. Most huts will allow dogs, but they have to stay outside. That’s definitely not my style, but I’ve found huts in the Allgäuer Alps in Germany that allow dogs to sleep in the room with you. It’s an amazing experience to literally walk across the spine of the Alps with my Ruby Girl!

What are some popular hut-to-hut hiking destinations in Europe?

The most popular hut-to-hut hiking destinations in Europe are the Tour du Mont Blanc in the Alps (Italy, France, Switzerland loop) and the Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites.

What should I pack for a hut-to-hut hiking trip?

Less is more but you’ll definitely want trekking poles. You don’t have to bring much because the huts will provide food and sleeping accommodations. Bring sun, safety and rain gear, a change of clothes to dine each night and your phone/power bank to take a million photos of breathtaking scenery.

The OG of Hut-to-Hut Hiking – Camino de Santiago

In Spain the name for hut is “albergue” and they line the Camino Frances route in France and Spain.

The Camino de Santiago, also known as the Way of St. James, is a network of pilgrimage routes that lead to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the city of Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. The Camino de Santiago is one of the oldest and most well-known pilgrimage routes in the world, with a history that dates back to the 9th century.

While the Camino Frances is the most popular and well-known of the Camino de Santiago routes, there are several other trails that are part of the larger Camino de Santiago network. Some of these include:

  1. Camino del Norte: This route follows the northern coast of Spain and passes through several historic cities, such as Bilbao and Santander.
  2. Camino Primitivo: This route is one of the oldest and most challenging trails, passing through the rugged landscapes of northwest Spain.
  3. Camino Portugues: This route starts in Lisbon, Portugal and passes through several historic cities, such as Porto and Coimbra, before reaching Santiago de Compostela.
  4. Camino del Salvador: This route passes through the lush green hills and medieval villages of northern Spain.

Each of these routes offers a unique combination of cultural and natural beauty, making them great options for those looking for a spiritual pilgrimage or simply a challenging and rewarding outdoor adventure. Whether you prefer a coastal route or a more rugged, mountainous trail, there is a Camino de Santiago route that is perfect for you.

Hut to Hut Hiking Europe

Accommodations are varied – If you want to do a trans-Europe Camino please be sure to bring a tent and be prepared to wild camp.

There are many, many places to stay but unless you’re super rich it’s crazy to find huts along the way. Mix it up with hostels, hotels and bnbs.


Looking for some hiking inspiration?

Check out the top hiking books, inspiring hiking podcasts, romantic hiking destinations and best Nature quotes to inspire wonder. Watch my video of the best waterfalls in Europe for Nature travel inspiration.


Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a passionate hiker and writer, physical therapist, and photographer. She has a doctorate in physical therapy and is featured giving science-based hiking tips and advice.

​When not out exploring the mountains or sea, she’s writing articles and gear reviews to empower Outdoor Journeys that include family and good food.

With 💞, Crave the Planet

Thanks for reading! Please share your stories of your awesome outdoor adventures or ask questions from the community over on our facebook group Untold Outdoor Europe Travel Planning.