What is a Hut to Hut Hike? [explained] Backpacking 2.0

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My favorite hut in the Dolomites – Lagazuoi. It’s fab in winter and summer for hiking and ski touring.

So if you’re wondering, “what is a hut to hut hike” I’m going to share my experiences over the past 5 years staying in huts both in summer for hiking and for ski touring in winter.

Unlike typical backpacking trips, hut to hut hiking allows you to lighten your load by leaving behind a tent and heavy sleeping gear, focusing instead on the journey and scenery.

You get all the Nature, lonely sunrises and quiet of mountain magic but you get to sleep in (mostly) comfortable beds with pillows, bathrooms, breakfast, and a 3 course dinner provided.

Quick Verdict: My Favorite Trail in Europe

1
Tour du Mont Blanc Hike
TMB Hut to Hut Hiking

Tour du Mont Blanc Hike

Tour du Mont Blanc is a challenging circuit that spans across three countries, Switzerland, Italy, and France. It is approximately 105 miles long and can take up to 11 days to complete.

Overall Best Self Guided Planning Service: Alpenventures Unguided

This firm is great for finding secluded variants (like the one by the La Gorge gondola), private rooms, and providing maps. They have multiple ways to hike the TMB from a short 4 day to 11 days and everything in between. You can also arrange higher levels of "comfort", i.e. private rooms.

Pros
  • Glacier Filled Raw Beauty
  • Fun People
  • Wildflowers and Wildlife
  • Food is Local and Delicious
Cons
  • Most Famous Trek in Europe
  • Variable Hospitality
  • Serious Elevation Gain 
  • Complicated and Tedious Bookings
  • Not for Total Beginners

Quick Take: What is a hut to hut hike?

  • Hut to hut hiking combines adventure with the convenience of sheltered accommodations.
  • Proper planning is crucial for a successful hut to hut experience, addressing route, distance, and hut amenities.
  • These hikes often provide a distinct advantage over inn to inn trips in terms of immersion in nature and a more rugged experience.
  • Some huts are quite luxurious rivalling hotels or inns. Others are exceptionally rustic with squat toliets and you have to bring food via mule.

tl;dr hut to hut hiking in Europe:

  • From the Berlin High Trail in Austria to the Tour du Mont Blanc, there’s something for trekkers of all levels.
  • Each trail is serviced by either high elevation mountain huts, hotel or bed and breakfasts.
  • The best TMB self-guided planners can help make your hut to hut trek a reality.

👉 Not ready for a multi-day hike? See my hiking library for day hikes.


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A Guide to Hut-To-Hut Hikes

Just the view out of the dining room window at 2,800 meters.

These structures range from simple shelters to well-equipped lodges, often situated in scenic locations that provide a respite after a day’s trek on a long-distance hiking trail.

When planning your hut to hut hike, consider the level of comfort and amenities you desire, as some huts offer full-service options with meals and bedding, while others may be more rustic and self-service.

Morgan’s European Hut to Hut Hiking Youtube

From our group trip on the Tour du Mont Blanc.

Your journey will be a series of daily hikes from one hut to the next, with each leg tailored to a reasonable distance, allowing for rest and exploration.

This type of hike requires thorough planning to ensure availability and understanding of each hut’s offerings and limitations. Take my free course to learn everything you need to know about hut to hut hiking.


what is a Hut to Hut Hike Really like?

A hut to hut hike offers the thrill of adventure while still providing the comfort of amenities in the backcountry.

You’ll trek through stunning landscapes by day and enjoy the hospitality of mountain refuges by night.

Selecting a Destination

One of the best reasons to stay in a mountain top hut is the opportunity for unreal sunrises and sunsets.

Consider the unique characteristics of hut to hut hiking destinations, such as Europe’s famous Alta Via 1 in the Dolomites, where you experience majestic peaks and vibrant local culture.

Switzerland boasts well-maintained networks of huts in the Alps.

Destinations like Nepal and Patagonia immerse you in dramatic landscapes with a chance to engage with diverse wildlife.

New Zealand’s extensive hut system offers easier access without sacrificing the sense of remote wilderness. Select based on fitness level, desired difficulty, and cultural interests.

Understanding Hut Amenities

Morgan’s Video about Hut Food in Italy

Huts, or ‘Rifugios in Italian or Hütten in German’, in various regions differ. Expect basics like bunk beds and communal areas, while many European huts provide full-service amenities including dinner and breakfast, hot showers, and sometimes even private rooms.

Flush toilets and safety features are standard in well-established areas. Research your specific trail to confirm what is offered and whether you need permits for stay.

Preparation and Gear Checklist

Huts often have communal dining at set times.

Ensure you have the right gear for a successful trek. Your backpack should include:

  • Hiking boots: waterproof and broken-in
  • Sleeping bag or liner: lightweight for cleanliness and extra warmth
  • Headlamp: crucial for navigating in the dark
  • Sunglasses and sun hat: protection against glare and heat
  • Trekking poles: ease the strain on knees during descents

Don’t forget a waterproof jacket, regardless of the forecast, as mountain weather can change swiftly. Pack essentials for safety, and consider local wildlife when choosing food storage options.

Hut to Hut vs Inn to Inn hiking

When considering a multi-day trek, you’ll encounter two popular options: hut-to-hut hiking and inn-to-inn hiking (camping is an option too – read my guide to camping the TMB).

Each offers a distinct experience in terms of accommodation and the level of comfort you can expect.

What is a hut to hut hike like in Africa? Watch my video 👍

You can see in my video how rustic the huts are in Morocco, but in the Dolomites they can be luxurious.

Generally they are harder to book logistically than hotels or inns.

Often travelers mix and match inns, hotels, hostels and huts to make the trail work it’s magic.

What are the differences between hut-to-hut hiking in the USA and Europe?

Romanian multi day hikes offer less huts and more Inns at a reasonable price.

Hut-to-hut hiking in the USA, typically, involves trekking from one backcountry shelter to another. The huts in regions such as the White Mountains are often rustic and provide basic amenities.

For example, the Appalachian Mountain Club huts along the Appalachian Trail are spaced about a day’s hike apart and include communal bunkrooms and family-style meals.

The Dolomites really feature fantastic huts. Not all huts are this nice like above Cortina d’Ampezzo Italy.

In contrast, hut-to-hut hiking in Europe is a bit more luxurious. The huts, particularly in the Alps and Dolomites, are more akin to mountain hostels, offering a wider range of comforts such as private rooms, hot meals, and even showers in some cases.

The huts, or mountain inns, are usually located in picturesque locations, allowing hikers to enjoy scenic views and the camaraderie of fellow travelers. Huts like the Rotbachalm offer a comfortable experience akin to a mountain inn with the convenience of a shorter walking time.

Inn-to-inn hiking, on the other hand, is typically more comfortable than either hut-to-hut option. You’ll stay in small hotels, bed and breakfasts, or guesthouses, experiencing more privacy and comfort.

Inn-to-inn hiking is a good choice if you’re looking for a day full of adventure but also want the assurance of a hot shower and a private room at the end of the day.

On the Trail

A hut-to-hut hike offers you an immersive experience in some of the world’s most scenic environments, from the remote trails of Torres del Paine to the acclaimed Alta Via routes.

These adventures allow you to explore wilderness areas by day and enjoy the comforts of a hut by night.

Day-to-Day Hiking Experience

During a hut-to-hut hike, your daily journey takes you through varied terrains and offers an opportunity to experience local wildlife and culture. Each day’s hike can range from a few to several miles, and typically, you’ll navigate well-marked trails with the aid of guidebooks or trail markers. As you traverse scenic landscapes, expect to encounter everything from gentle paths to challenging rocky ascents, depending on your chosen route.

Staying at the Huts

Some huts even have saunas on the deck. And many huts offer both winter and summer stays.

Huts, or rifugios, are more than just a place to rest and sleep; they serve as rustic hotels in the wilderness. These accommodations provide you with basic amenities such as hot showers, electricity, and often include blankets and pillows.

Staying at these huts offers a stress-free alternative to camping, as you don’t need to carry a tent or heavy sleeping gear. Reservations for mountain huts are essential, especially during the hiking season, and can be booked in advance to secure your spot.

Safety and Etiquette

Your safety is paramount on these backpacking trips. Always check weather reports for both good weather and bad weather conditions; prepare accordingly, and understand any required permits or regulations.

Practice solitude respecting by observing hut etiquette, such as reducing noise and keeping communal areas clean.

In remote areas, a guide can enhance your safety as well as enrich your trek with insights into the local culture and wildlife. Remember, being prepared and respectful ensures a memorable and responsible adventure in these magnificent natural settings.

Common Trails for Hut to Hut Hiking in Europe

Trail Name and Location🔥 Why it’s Awesome🔥
Fisherman’s Trail in PortugalBest Wild Coastal
Via Transilvanica in RomaniaWorld’s Longest Art Exhibit
Tour du Mont Blanc in France, Switzerland and ItalyBest Overall
Alta Via 1 in ItalyMost Jaw-Dropping Scenery
The Rhine Castles Trail in GermanyBest History
Bernese Oberland in SwitzerlandBest Waterfalls
The West Highland Way in ScotlandMost Friendly
Haute Route in France and SwitzerlandBest High Elevation
Slovenian Mountain TrailFrom Mountains to Sea
Berlin High Trail in AustriaMost Rugged Peaks with Glaciers
Camino de Santiago in SpainThe OG
GR20 in CorsicaMost Challenging Terrain
Kungsleden in SwedenMost Isolated
Laugavegar in IcelandBest Volcanoes
Italian Riviera Cinque Terre Best Cultural Coastal
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Final Verdict: Ways to Book a Hut to Hut Hiking Trip

Best to Hike Your Own Pace but Forgo Logistical Challenge
Self-Guided Tour Planning Service

Self-Guided Tour Planning Service

  • [Self-Guided] - You're on your own once you start
  • Must book in Oct to Jan of year prior to hike
  • Fully done for you route
  • Service finds and books your huts
  • Maps provided on app
Click Here to Read More

What we liked: The logistics of the TMB and other hut to hut hikes can be very daunting, especially if you don't speak Italian and French. 

Note: Lesser known trails are often easier to book.  

Pros
  • Ease of route
  • No finding or dealing with huts
  • Tapping into expertise
  • No waiting for slow hikers
  • No feeling rushed if you're slower
Cons
  • Less control of dates
  • No guide on the trail
  • Unknown - you didn't "plan"
Best for Beginners & Social People
Guided Group Tour : 4 Days

Guided Group Tour : 4 Days

  • small groups (<10 typically)
  • local Chamonix guides
  • all transfers/breakfast/dinner/accommodations included
  • airport transfer included
  • stay in the insanely beautiful Rifugio Bonatti and other huts at high elevation
Click Here to Read More

What we liked:  Designed for busy people that want to experience the highlights of the Tour du Mont Blanc without having to take 2 weeks of their precious vacation time.  Everything is done-for-you and you can show up and relax in the most stunning mountains. 

Note: The standard price includes shared rooms in the huts.

Pros
  • All transfers included
  • Best price for a guided trip
  • Local Chamonix Guides
Cons
  • At the mercy of group pace
  • Not the full circuit
Best on a Budget
DIY: Book Your Own Huts

DIY: Book Your Own Huts

  • Cheapest Option
  • Most Freedom
  • Take side excursions as you like
Click Here to Read More

What we liked: The challenge of it.  It's so fun to route plan, find trails and the huts you want.  Often it's not the expense saved, but the learning of the trail while planning that is satisfying. 

Note: Be prepared to spend some time with spreadsheets and wait weeks for replies from hut owners. 

BONUS:  Click on the link to watch my 10 part video series on HOW to book a hut to hut trip.  It's a Dolomites hut trip but it's basically the same process for TMB. 

Pros
  • Cheapest option
  • Most freedom
  • Learn the Trail by planning
Cons
  • Time suck
  • You must be organized
  • Map skills are essential
Most Freedom
Camping

Camping

  • campgrounds can be crowded
  • reservations often needed in advance
  • Wild camping is prohibited or limited by elevation
Click Here to Read More

Not really my favorite thing for hut to hut trails in Europe. The huts are quite often the best part of the hiking trip and the rules are so complicated about wild camping.

Pros
  • Price is good
  • Quiet
  • More Flexibilty
Cons
  • Wild camping is tricky
  • Rules change
  • harder and heavier pack

Frequently Asked Questions

The Sennes hut in Italy’s Dolomites is known for airplane models and sits at the end of a mountain top runway.

What equipment is essential for beginners on hut-to-hut hiking trips?

For your first hut-to-hut hiking experience, you should prioritize a reliable backpack, a sleep sac suitable for the climate, comfortable hiking boots, a water purification system, and layered clothing that can accommodate changes in weather.

How should one prepare for a hut-to-hut hiking journey in the Appalachian Trail?

To prepare for the Appalachian Trail, acquaint yourself with the route’s specifics, reserve any required huts or shelters in advance, train for the trek’s physical demands, and pack the necessary navigation tools, including a detailed map and compass.

What are the top hut-to-hut hiking routes in the United States?

In the United States, the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire and the High Sierra Camp Loop in Yosemite National Park are highly regarded hut-to-hut hiking routes known for their breathtaking landscapes and well-maintained trail systems.

Which backpack features are most important for long-distance hut-to-hut hiking?

For long-distance trips, choose a backpack with an ergonomic design, adjustable straps for a snug fit, ample storage with easy access to essentials, and durable water-resistant material to withstand varied conditions.

What is the renowned hut-to-hut trek within the Alps and what makes it popular?

The Tour du Mont Blanc is a celebrated hut-to-hut trek spanning across France, Italy, and Switzerland. Its popularity stems from the spectacular Alpine scenery, well-marked trails, and the cultural experience of passing through diverse regions with cozy huts for rest.


nature Travel Resources


Hut to Hut Hiking in the Dolomites Free Course

Curious about hut-to-hut hiking in the Dolomites, but not sure where to start or what to expect? Take our short course that simplifies and educates so you can focus on the views and vino. Get curious, get ready, and let’s get started! Sign up here👇🏼

We hope this guide filled with interesting information about what is a hut to hut hike has given you the proper information to plan your next adventure.

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.