Planning the Trip of a Lifetime

Here at TMBtent, our top passions include travel, backpacking, and financial independence. For the past several summers, we’ve been fortunate enough to take a few weeks off to explore the…

Here at TMBtent, our top passions include travel, backpacking, and financial independence. For the past several summers, we’ve been fortunate enough to take a few weeks off to explore the world. More recently, we found a way to combine our passions and experience new cultures while trekking through incredible wild places and sleeping under the stars.  We started with the Tour du Mont Blanc, then completed the West Highland Way, and we quickly realized we were seriously hooked on this kind of travel. Now, we are getting ready to realize our longtime dream of taking a more extended trip to get our boots dirty on as many thru-hikes as we can.  We are excited to share our experiences and comprehensive trip guides as we go.  Starting in July, we’ll be loading up our packs (hopefully not with too much weight!) for six months, five major treks, two continents, and countless adventures. In this article, we’ll outline our plans, how we’re pulling it off, and what we’re packing.

The Plan

So many amazing hikes, so little time… Don’t worry, we realize this is a pretty great problem to have.  However, it was a real challenge to choose which treks to complete. Although we are planning to travel for six months, the hiking season in many parts of the world is significantly shorter than that. We used a few parameters to narrow down our options. First, we decided to start in Europe since there are so many treks there that we’ve been lusting after for years. Once we decided on Europe, we tried to string the hikes together somewhat geographically so we could minimize crisscrossing the continent unnecessarily. We also tried to plan our itinerary to maximize our travel hacking schemes and minimize our costs.  That included taking advantage of a free stopover in Iceland and using hotel points for free week-long stays in Munich and Amsterdam. Lastly, we tried to include some longer treks that we might not have the time to complete in the future when we go back to “real life” and limited vacation days. Here’s our current plan:

Hike #1: The Laugavegur Trail, Iceland

We strategically booked our flights to Europe so that we could take advantage of a free week-long stopover in Iceland on the way.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see Iceland’s colorful, otherworldly landscapes and hike the acclaimed Laugavegur Trail.  This 54km trek (with an optional 25km add-on to Skógar) climbs over snowy peaks, past towering waterfalls, through stark deserts, volcanic wonders, and green valleys. We hope to complete the hike from Landmannalaugar to Skógar in four days (camping each night), which will give us a couple of days in Reykjavik and some wiggle room to wait out any poor weather.

Beautiful landscapes of the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland.

Hike #2: The Walkers Haute Route, Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland

From Reykjavik, we’ll fly to Geneva to prepare for the Haute Route.  We fell in love with this part of the Alps while hiking the TMB, and we can’t wait to explore this strenuous, high-level route that takes hikers from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. The 180km trail traverses high mountain passes, picturesque valleys and villages, and offers spectacular views of commanding peaks, stunning glaciers, and colorful wildflowers. We hope to complete the trek in 13 days, including at least one rest day in La Sage. We will camp as much as possible, only staying in huts when camping isn’t permitted and treating ourselves to an AirBnB for our rest day.

Hike #3: The Lechweg Trail, Lech, Austria to Fussen, Germany

This lesser-known trail will conveniently help us work our way towards Munich, where we will enjoy our first week off from hiking after completing the Lechweg Trail.  From Zermatt, we’ll hop on a train to the town of Lech, Austria, where we’ll begin our six-day, 125km walk towards Fussen, Germany.  This relatively new trek follows the turquoise waters of the Lech River, as it passes through quaint villages and some of the last wild landscapes in the region.  In doing research on this hike, we found that there was relatively little information about camping, so we are excited to gather information and share it with the community. As of now, we plan on camping all but one night along the route. Since the Lechweg has an overall downhill trajectory, we hope this hike will feel “easy” compared to the previous two and provide our legs with a little bit of a break!

Lech, Austria

Hike #4: The Coast to Coast Walk, England

After a week off in Munich, we’ll hop on a flight to Manchester, England to begin the Coast to Coast Walk. As the trail’s name suggests, we’ll be hiking from St. Bees on England’s western coast to Robin Hood’s Bay on the eastern coast.  We’ll get to experience hiking in the celebrated Lakes District, the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks, and numerous colorful towns (and pubs!) along the way. We’ve planned to take 17 days to complete this 309km trek, which includes two rest days.  With the exception of those rest days, we’ll be camping every night along the route, and gathering information about the many options for campers along the C2C!

The iconic Lakes District.

Hike #5: The GR20, Corsica

Known by many as the “hardest hike in Europe,” we are excited to take on the challenge of the GR20! This 180km trek covers about 10,000 meters of elevation gain as it traverses the jagged peaks that span the length of the Mediterranean island of Corsica.  For their efforts, hikers are rewarded with amazing views of the coast, forests, and rugged mountain landscapes.  We have allotted 18 days (including a couple of rest days) to complete this trek, and we plan to camp every night.  We gave ourselves lots of time for this one to allow for less-than-ideal weather and other challenges that might arise.  We’re also very excited to spend some time immersing ourselves in the unique and rich Corsican culture.

Stunning Corsican landscape

What’s Next?

After we complete the GR20, we’ll fly to Paris to replace all of the calories we burned in the past several weeks of hiking by consuming as many baguettes, fine cheeses, and local wines as possible. Then we’ll spend a week exploring Amsterdam by foot and bike.  From there, we’ll travel to Slovenia, where we hope to complete some additional hikes, although the length and type will depend on the weather conditions in October. Finally, we hope to head to Southeast Asia for several weeks for our final leg of the trip.  While these plans are still in their early stages, we hope to do some hiking or bikepacking in Taiwan, and also explore Vietnam and/or Cambodia.

The Logistics

Who can afford to quit their jobs and spend six months traveling?

We realize how fortunate and privileged we are to have this opportunity, but we also believe that taking a “mini-retirement” is more attainable than many people realize.  A few years ago, we learned about the FIRE (financial independence, retire early) movement, which basically encourages people to increase their savings rate in order to have more flexibility with their money and time. By getting more intentional about our lifestyle and making some minor tweaks to our spending, we were able to start saving more and living on less.  With the addition of some side hustles, we were soon able to set aside enough savings to get through several months without a paycheck. It certainly doesn’t hurt that we’ll be camping and eating peanuts for a lot of that time!

We also relied on some pretty nifty travel hacking to save thousands of dollars on our upcoming trip.  In essence, we strategically gathered credit card miles and points, and put them towards our flights and hotels. Check out our Travel for Free Series to learn more.

You guys seem like planning nerds, did you leave anything open-ended?

Yes, and no.  For the five hikes we’ve planned so far, we have the distance we’ll cover each day and our sleeping arrangements for each night mapped out.  Many of the campsites on the Coast to Coast and the refuges on the Haute Route get booked up pretty far in advance, so we knew we needed to get our act together ahead of time.  That being said, we know that there are going to be some unexpected surprises on a trip like this. We’ve built in extra days on the bookends of each hike to allow for illness, travel delays, inclement weather, and any other unpredictable occurrences.  For us, planning trips is a very enjoyable hobby, so we didn’t mind going through each part of the trip day-by-day.  In fact, it was essential for wrapping our heads around the practical and unique aspects of each hike.

What does one pack for a trip like that?

It is both exhilarating and a little intimidating to think that we’ll be carrying everything we’ll need for six months of travel on our backs across hundreds of miles of wilderness. To prepare for this trip, we’ve upgraded a few key pieces of gear for lighter, better-quality items.  Outside of that, we are trying to keep our pack weight down by only bringing necessary, versatile items. As hard as it is, we are trying to avoid playing the “just in case” packing game. If we really need something when we’re over there, we’ll buy it.  A full packing list is coming soon!

 

Have you completed any of the treks on our itinerary? Do you have big summer travel plans? Will we cross paths on the trail? If so, we’d love to hear from you!

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Personalized TMB Coaching

  If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! We use our passion, experience, and knowledge of the TMB to assist…

 

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! We use our passion, experience, and knowledge of the TMB to assist fellow hikers who want to have their best possible trek.

Who’s it For?

There is a TON of information out there about the Tour du Mont Blanc, so it isn’t absolutely necessary to work with a coach. However, if you don’t want to spend hours combing through books and online resources, a coach can provide you with all of the targeted, individualized information you’ll need while saving you tons of time. Additionally, if you feel anxious about the uncertainties that come with an undertaking like the TMB, working with a coach can help you feel more mentally prepared. Finally, if you have any specific needs, in terms of fitness, diet, budget, or travel logistics, a coach can provide customized advice and solutions.

What We Offer:

While all coaching packages can be customized to fit your individual needs, our basic package includes the following:

  • 30-minute Skype Consultation: Getting to know you, your goals for the trip, what you’d like to get out of working with a coach, and answering any trip-related questions.
  • Itinerary Planning Assistance: We’ll work with you to put together the best itinerary based on how many days you plan on hiking, how much distance you want to cover each day, incorporating a rest day, information on camping, etc.
  • Gear Consultation: We’ll work with to create a custom packing list that minimizes the weight you’ll need to carry, while meeting your specific needs and incorporating the gear you already own.
  • Custom Training Plan: We’ll help you develop a comprehensive and individualized approach to build your fitness and reduce the risk of injury so you can enjoy your trek to the fullest. We will also provide local hike recommendations in your area and give you a breakdown of how they compare to various stages of the TMB.

Price: $100 USD

Why Choose Us?

Both Emily and Ian have many years of backpacking and hiking experience on some of the world’s most iconic trails. We’ve tackled long and short treks in New Zealand, Europe, Namibia, as well as countless adventures in our own Rocky Mountain backyard. Additionally, Emily is a seasoned marathon runner and track coach and Ian is an avid mountain biker, which means we have a good understanding of how to train for endurance events.  As spreadsheet nerds, we have a knack for detailed planning and logistics. Being  stewards of TMBtent.com has allowed us to become very well-versed in all things TMB, and we are continually engaged in deepening our knowledge base. Finally, we truly believe that hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc is a life-changing experience, and we want to help as many people get on the trail and share in that joy.  We work with people from all backgrounds, ages, and ability levels, and we will meet you wherever you’re at with no judgement, only excitement and support.

If you’re ready to get started, fill out the form below and you’ll hear from us soon!

TMB Coaching Inquiry
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How Much it Cost Us to Hike the West Highland Way

If you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure, you’ve got a lot to think about.  You’ll need to pack the right gear, get in shape for the long days of…

If you’re planning a West Highland Way adventure, you’ve got a lot to think about.  You’ll need to pack the right gear, get in shape for the long days of walking, make an itinerary, and figure out your travel logistics.  Before you start all of that, however, you may be a little anxious about how much it’s all going to cost. Traveling in the United Kingdom has the reputation for being very expensive, and that’s generally true, but it is still very possible to have an amazing West Highland Way trek without selling your firstborn child to be able to afford it. One of the best parts about the West Highland Way for walkers on a tighter budget is that there are camping options on every stage of the trek, a few of them even being free. True, some of the campgrounds charge a rather steep fee for the ability to pitch your tent on their midgy, bumpy plot of grass, but relative to other accommodation options, camping is by far the best option and will allow you to keep your overall costs quite low. And, to be fair, the campgrounds are quite lovely; many offer hot showers, nice restaurants, wifi, drying rooms, and other amenities. If camping, you can also stay within a small budget by cooking most of your meals. If sleeping indoors in a bed is more your style, the West Highland Way offers a wide range of accommodation for budgets of all sizes.  The same goes for food and other services.

Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2018 West Highland Way adventure. We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that a trip like the WHW is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!

Accommodation

We chose to camp every night of the West Highland Way and highly recommend it for a number of reasons. Many of the campgrounds were quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We preferred the privacy of our tent over the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of bunkhouses and hostels. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! Depending on how your itinerary shakes out, there are also several bothies that provide a free and authentic WHW accommodation option. Finally, we stayed in Airbnb’s the night before we started our hike and the night we finished.  If it works with your budget, you’ll greatly appreciate these little slices of luxury on the bookends of your hike.

  • Average Campsite Price: £8 (per person)
  • AirBnB in Edinburgh before the hike: £100 per night
  • AirBnB in Fort William: £80 – £100 per night

 

West Highland Way lodging

Lodging options abound on the West Highland Way

Transit

It’s a quick and easy trip to get from Glasgow to the start of the walk in Milngavie. We traveled to the hike from Edinburgh, which was also very efficient. Upon finishing in Fort William, if you’d like to return to Glasgow, you can either take a bus or a train. The bus is cheaper, but the train is very scenic, as it follows the West Highland Way for much of the way. If you choose to splurge on the train, make sure to buy your tickets well in advance. The price increases significantly as you get closer to your departure date.

  • Train from Edinburgh to Milngavie: £12 (per person)
  • Train from Fort William to Glasgow:£13.90 (per person, 90 days in advance)

Flights:

We strategically used credit card points and miles in order to fly from Denver to Edinburgh for nearly free. Read more about how we did it here.

Airline Taxes and Fees (roundtrip): $189.36 (for two people)

Food and Drink

Instead of spending a small fortune on restaurant dinners or fancy freeze-dried backpacker meals, we preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the West Highland Way. We tended to eat ramen noodles, mac’n’cheese, or instant curry pots for most dinners. The shops we encountered along the trail had excellent cheap, fresh sandwiches, which were a welcome treat when we were able to get our hands on them.   For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins that we stocked up on whenever we found them at a reasonable price along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli with powdered milk and instant coffee. Occasionally, we’d pick up some fruit from a local shop, and we also enjoyed our fair share of post-hike french fries. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than the space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!

On average, we spent about £9-13 per person, per day on our food and drink.

Of course, we allowed ourselves frequent treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay on average for the following indulgences:

  • Pint of Beer:£6 – £7
  • Meal at local pub: £13
  • Coffee/Tea: £3

Many of the campsites have lovely bar/restaurants

Miscellaneous

  • Stove Fuel: £6
  • Laundry: £2 (for wash and dry)

What’s next?

Ready to keep planning your West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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How Much It Cost Us to Hike the TMB

At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing three Western European countries and staying in the…

At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing three Western European countries and staying in the many “quaint” (read: pricey) resort towns along the way? Buying enough food to fuel yourself through day after day of long miles on the trail? Doesn’t seem cheap, does it? The beautiful thing about the TMB, however, is that it’s pretty much up to you how expensive you want to make it. There are hikers who choose to spend more to take guided tours, stay in private rooms at upscale hotels and huts, and buy all of their meals at restaurants along the way. Others take the extremely frugal route, camping as much as possible, cooking their own meals, and minimizing expenses wherever they can. We tend to travel on the frugal side, as we enjoy the simplicity and authentic experiences that go hand in hand with this type of travel. That being said, we’re not claiming the most hardcore budget travelers out there; we certainly allow ourselves to indulge in things that bring value to our experience, such as a post-hike beer or a hotel room on our rest day. Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2017 Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that an experience like the TMB is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!

Refuge du Col de Balme.

Accommodation

We chose to camp as much as possible along the Tour du Mont Blanc and we highly recommend it to others for a number of reasons. First, many of the campgrounds were quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We also preferred the privacy of our tent versus the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of the huts. Sleeping outdoors in such spectacular alpine surroundings became a highlight of our trip. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! There are a few places along the TMB where there are no official campgrounds and wild camping is not permitted. For those situations, we opted to stay in the mountain huts, which offered amazing ambiance and delicious meals for a reasonable price. We also stayed in a hotels for our rest day in Courmayeur, which proved to be a wonderful treat after roughing it for so many days. Here’s a breakdown of our accommodation spending:

  • Average Hut Price: €54 (per person)
  • Average Campsite Price: €8 (per person)
  • Hotel in Chamonix for before and after the hike: €72 (per night)
  • Hotel in Courmayeur for rest day: €132 (per night)

Transit

  • Bus from Geneva to Chamonix: €43 (round trip)
  • Bus from Chamonix to Les Houches: €3 (each way)
  • Shuttle Bus from Les Chapieux to Refuge Des Mottets: €3

Flights:

We strategically used credit card points and miles in order to fly from Denver to Geneva for nearly free. Read more about how we did it here.

Airline Taxes and Fees: $98.63 + 60,000 United Airlines miles (per person)

Food and Drink

You may be backpacking through rugged mountains, but that doesn’t necessitate spending a small fortune on fancy freeze-dried meals. We preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the TMB. We tended to eat ramen noodles or local cheese, sausage, and bread for most dinners. For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins, which we purchased copious amounts of whenever we found them at reasonable prices along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli with powdered milk and instant coffee. Occasionally, we’d pick up some fresh fruit from a local shop. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than those space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!

On average, we spent about €8-€12 per person, per day on our food and drink.

Of course, we allowed ourselves a few treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay, on average, for the following indulgences:

  • Beer: €6
  • Bottle of Wine: €10
  • Baguette: €2
  • Breakfast/Lunch Mountain Hut: €15
  • Dinner at Mountain Hut: €25
  • Coffee/Tea: €3
  • Sandwich: €10

Miscellaneous

As you can see, we happily teetered between dirtbag and deluxe on our TMB holiday. While there’s no escaping the high costs of some essentials, in general, one can experience the Tour du Mont Blanc on a modest budget (and enjoy some excellent wine and cheese while doing so). Obviously, you’ll also want to factor in the cost of hiking gear that you’ll need to purchase prior to setting off on your trek. Check out our packing list to get an idea of what you might need to purchase ahead of time. Also, our Backpacking Gear on a Budget article has some helpful ideas for keeping your costs low when putting together your backpacking kit. Whether you choose to splurge or keep it simple, we feel confident you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime.

What’s Next?

Ready to keep planning your TMB adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the Tour du Mont Blanc to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! Learn more about our personalized TMB coaching services. 

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How to Train for the West Highland Way

When it comes to having your best possible West Highland Way experience, there are some things that are out of your control (weather, midges, crowds, travel delays), but there are…

When it comes to having your best possible West Highland Way experience, there are some things that are out of your control (weather, midges, crowds, travel delays), but there are a few key things you can control that will make all the difference.  Perhaps even more important than planning out the logistics, knowing how to navigate, and packing the right gear, is making sure you are prepared both physically and mentally for this major undertaking.  Because of its relatively low elevation and minimal technicality, the WHW is a very approachable long-distance trek for the casual hiker. That being said, it’s still a serious feat of endurance that will push you to new limits.  You will enjoy your trip infinitely more if you train ahead of time. This is even more true if you plan on camping (and carrying the heavier backpack that goes with it).  If you don’t know where to start when it comes to training, don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. Read on for straightforward advice on how to feel your best and enjoy your West Highland Way experience to the fullest.

Views from the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

Six Months Before Your Trip: Build the Base

Obviously, everyone will approach the WHW with varying levels of fitness, past injuries, and overall health needs.  You’ll know your individual situation best, but you should generally focus on building your aerobic endurance in the months leading up to your trip. While most of your days on the Way won’t be particularly steep, they will be quite long.  On our 8-day trek we averaged around 12 miles (19.25 km) per day, with our longest day being 15 miles (24 km). These distances are no joke, especially when carrying a heavy pack and hiking day after day with little rest in between. For this part of the training, if you’re already a runner/walker/cyclist/etc, just keep doing your thing!  If you don’t regularly do any sort of “cardio” exercise, or you mainly focus on yoga and strength training, start trying to incorporate longer bouts of walking or running into your regular routine in order to build an endurance base. This will lay your fitness foundation for more challenging training in the future.

Three Months Before Your Trip: Focus on Strong Legs

Relative to other popular long-distance hikes, the topography of the West Highland Way is on the gentler side.  You won’t be required to traverse over high mountain passes each day or spend hours navigating insanely steep ascents and descents. Don’t let these facts fool you into thinking this hike will be easy though- it won’t be! You’ll still be covering long stretches of undulating terrain with a variety of underfoot conditions.  In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to build your aerobic endurance and train your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline, or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to. Additionally, try to incorporate a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Highland-ready legs: 10 goblet squats (with medium weight), 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase challenge), and 10 step-ups on each leg (weight optional). Complete three sets of each exercise.

Shoreline walking on Day Two.

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight. For me, the biggest adjustment was learning to deal with the extra strain on my hips and knees when hiking downhill. Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! You might be wondering how to add weight to your pack without completely packing for your trip. Our advice? Look around your home and throw anything-literally anything- heavy into your bag. When we were training, we threw  five-pound weights, jars of oats, bottles of water, blankets, and textbooks into our bags. Then we headed over to our local trail. Did some fellow hikers look at us like we were crazy with our giant backpacks? Yes. But did we strike up some awesome conversations AND get our bodies in shape for the WHW in the process? You better believe it.

Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections!

One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the Way, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking. This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to  hiking for consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Old drover roads can make for rocky underfoot conditions.

Special Considerations for the West Highland Way:

Underfoot Conditions

There are many sections of the WHW that present walkers with less than desirable “underfoot conditions.” When I read that term in my guidebook before starting the trek, I kept thinking to myself,  What does that even mean? Well, let me enlighten you. It means it’s going to be really, really rocky. Like, walking for several miles along an old drover road that seems to be entirely comprised of baseball-sized stones kind of rocky.  We didn’t find this troublesome to the point where a specific training regimen was warranted, but it is worth mentioning for a few reasons. First, even though the trail might be pretty flat, challenging underfoot conditions can mean that you are expending extra energy (both mental and physical) and using additional leg and core muscles to navigate the trail.  This is where your training will really pay off! You might also consider taking an added break and/or slowing your pace on these sections to prevent fatigue. Finally, make sure you have trekking poles and sturdy boots too minimize the chance of twisting an ankle or straining a muscle.

Get Your Head in the Game

This article mainly discussed how to train your body for the West Highland Way, but of equal (if not greater) importance is the mental side of things. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that we can train our brains to improve mental toughness. It is inevitable that you will face challenges during your hike from fatigue, long days, discomfort, poor weather, or swarms of midges.  Hopefully the long training hikes you took in preparation for the WHW will have helped you to build the confidence you need to remind yourself that you can push through the less-than-wonderful moments and savor the amazing experience you’re having. If you focus on building your mental endurance prior to your trek, it will not only pay off on the hike, but also in your life off the trail.  

Chafing and Blisters, Oh My!

So far we’ve talked about training your body and your mind, but unfortunately it’s a little harder to train your skin for the long miles you’ll be covering on the WHW. However, a little advance preparation can go a long way towards making your West Highland Way experience much more enjoyable.  It’s amazing how even a small blister or a little bit of nasty chafing can derail a beautiful day of hiking! This is the most common ailment we see fellow hikers struggle with when we’re out on the trail. Due to the variable and moist conditions (think pouring rain one day and hot and sunny the next) coupled with those lovely underfoot conditions, the West Highland Way presents a huge risk for chafing and blisters. Don’t let those pesky buggers ruin your trek! The best way to prevent blisters is to break in your boots in advance.  Make sure to use the same socks on your training hikes as you plan to use on the WHW. Good quality socks and sock liners can really make a difference. Additionally, if you are especially blister-prone, more breathable trail runners are worth looking into. In terms of chafing, pay attention to any hot spots that arise when you’re training. Try to train in a variety of temperatures, weather conditions, and clothing combinations to anticipate any potential issues. Products like BodyGlide can help prevent chafing and blisters, too.  Finally, make sure to bring some good-quality blister pads in case all else fails!

Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels

The West Highland Way is very accessible for hikers of all ability levels.  If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If possible, consider adding an extra day or cutting out a segment to reduce the average distance you’ll need to cover each day.
  • Consider using a luggage transfer service to eliminate the extra demands of carrying your heavy pack.
  • Plan for a rest day midway through your hike. Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum, and Glencoe Village all make great options.  See our West Highland Way Logistics article for more information about luggage transfer and rest days.
  • Enlist a few friends or family members to come with you and rent a car. You can alternate between hiking and driving the support vehicle to customize the amount of time spent on your feet.  Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy much of the same spectacular Highland scenery from the road.

The Bottom Line:

Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad we were that we’d prepared for the challenge of a thru-hike like the WHW, and I hope our experience can help you have your best possible trip.

What’s next?

Enjoyed reading our training tips and ready to keep planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way and learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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10 Essentials for the West Highland Way

The West Highland way is one of the best long-distance treks in the world. The walk is filled with incredible views, quaint towns, and friendly people, and it’ll surely be…

The West Highland way is one of the best long-distance treks in the world. The walk is filled with incredible views, quaint towns, and friendly people, and it’ll surely be a trip we never forget. We camped along our West Highland Way adventure and highly recommend that you do as well. We’ve also published our packing list for those curious as to what they may need to bring to ensure they are equipped for this adventure. But what other recommendations do we have for those considering tackling the awesome experience that is the WHW? Here are our 10 essentials for hiking the West Highland Way.

1. Bring good rain gear

This will come as a surprise to no one, but it can rain a lot in Scotland. Those green pastures and hills are green for a reason. While the rainy weather is a quintessential part of the West Highland Way experience, you’ll want to be prepared for long days of hiking in wet weather. We highly recommend bringing a top notch rain jacket as well as rain pants to keep yourself dry on those inevitable days when you encounter a downpour. Additionally, a good fitting pack cover is essential for keeping your belongings dry when you’re walking through the elements. Inside your pack, we recommend keeping your clothes and sleeping bag in a dry bag (or large trash bags work well, too). This will ensure that if any water does get into your pack you’ll at least have dry clothes to put on when you’re damp and cold at the end of a long day of walking. Finally, you’ll want to be sure your tent’s rain fly is in tip-top shape as there is nothing worse than a leaky tent!

Wet weather is quintessentially Scottish, but you’ll want to be prepared!

2. Take the train

As you’ve probably read in our West Highland Way Logistics post, you’ll have the option of taking either the bus or the West Highland train line for your return journey from Fort William to Glasgow. While the bus tends to be cheaper and faster, we’re here to tell you that taking the train is an experience not to be missed!

The line retraces much of the West Highland Way, and you’ll marvel at the distance you’ve walked while peering out at the stunning landscape from a cozy train car. Just be sure you book your tickets well in advance to avoid a sold out coach or expensive last-minute fares.

You’ll recognize much of the scenery on the train journey from Fort William to Glasgow.

3. Take the midges seriously

Midges-the tiny biting insects that have a mythical reputation in the Highlands-are not to be underestimated. Prior to our walk, we knew that they could be an unpleasant annoyance on our walk, but we didn’t know just how bad they can be. This isn’t to say that you should abandon all hope of camping or enjoying a cold beer outside in the evenings. It’s just that you’ll want to be sure you are fully prepared for their presence. The first piece of advice we offer all prospective walkers is to invest in a midge hat, and bring clothes that provide full coverage of your skin. Ideally these will be lightly colored as midges are more attracted to darker colors. Additionally, we found Ben’s Insect Repellent bug spray to be a very effective repellent. Finally, the midges are at their worst at dawn, dusk, and whenever the weather is overcast and the wind is still. Any substantial breeze or sunshine will eliminate them completely, which is pretty awesome. However, make sure to have your midge hat and spray ready when the sun starts to set because they really do set in quickly! Following these steps should ensure that the midges don’t ruin your trip!

You’ll enjoy the beautiful Highland’s scenery much more without midges eating you alive!

4. Be open to changing plans

If you’re anything like us, you’ll spend hours before a trip planning out all the details of where you’ll stay, what you’ll do, and how you’ll get to every place you want to see. This type of planning is invaluable and will certainly set you up for success, but you also have to be open to changing those plans, especially on the West Highland Way. Weather, the way you’re feeling on a particular day, and even the time you start can all influence a changing itinerary when you’re out hiking the WHW. Because it has so many accommodation options along the way, changing plans is relatively easy. Got a late start and the B&B is full? No worries if you’ve got your tent and the ability to find the nearest campground. Feeling especially good today? Why not put in a few extra hours of hiking to make your next day a little more leisurely? The point is that being open to different possibilities will make handling the unexpected much easier, and allow to you enjoy your adventure to the fullest.

5. Be prepared for blisters

The West Highland Way contains a variety of underfoot conditions, from the neatly placed stones along former drover’s roads to the large boulders, intertwining tree roots, and muddy banks of Loch Lomond. This wide variety of trail types makes for perfect blister conditions. Just when your feet have toughened up to a particular condition, the trail changes, your boots rub differently, and those callouses you’ve built up over the past few days are of no use.

To counter this, there are a few steps you can take prior to setting out to give your feet the best chance to withstand the West Highland Way. The first is to pack a broken-in pair of boots. There is nothing worse than unboxing your new pair of boots on the first day of a long hike. This will almost guarantee blister,s as they won’t be broken in enough to truly fit to your foot over the long hours of walking. Next, bringing several good pairs of merino wool hiking socks (our favorite are Darn Tough) will help to limit the moisture in your boots while also preventing odor and unnecessary chafing. Finally, a good first-aid kit complete with blister specific pads will help you be prepared when the inevitable first blister does show up. Stop and treat even the smallest hot spots right away to ensure that they don’t derail your next several days of walking!

6. Brush up on your navigation skills

While the West Highland Way is a very well-marked trail, you’d be wise to brush up on your navigation skills prior to starting your walk. We’re partial to using GPS to navigate along the trail, but you’ll want to be sure you’ve brought your compass and a paper map as a backup. Spend some time before the walk familiarizing yourself with the map, the route, and how to use your compass. You’re unlikely to encounter any issues, but if you do you’ll sure be glad you were prepared!

It’s important to know how to find you way on the trail!

7. Have a (realistic) understanding of how fast you hike

If you’ve brought the Trailblazer’s Guidebook along (and we highly recommend that you do), you’ll quickly notice that the description of each stage includes an approximate time for hiking. This is very valuable information because it will give you a sense of what your days will look like.   This affords you the ability to plan ahead for things like arrival times, how early you need to start in the morning, and how long of a lunch break you can enjoy. The problem arises when you realize that the times quoted in the book can vary significantly from your actual experience. You may be hours ahead or you may be well behind the times provided by our friends at Trailblazer. There is nothing wrong with being faster or slower, but you must be able to understand your pace and then estimate the distances you’ll realistically cover in a given timeframe. It’s a good idea to note your timing when you’re out on your training hikes, but you’ll want to pay especially close attention on your first day or two hiking of on the West Highland Way. A little ahead of the pace? You’ll be able to adjust your plans accordingly (and maybe snag an extra hour of sleep!) A little behind the pace? You’ll know to leave a bit earlier, or at least plan on slightly longer days on the trail. You may also want to pay attention to how steep inclines and declines impact your pace, and use the guidebook’s elevation profile to plan accordingly.  The important thing is to know yourself, and be able to accurately estimate the time it will take to cover a given distance. This will help you stay relaxed and happy throughout each day on the trail.

8. Make new friends

As you progress along the West Highland Way, you’re likely to start to recognize some familiar faces along the trail and in your campgrounds. Take advantage of this and make some new friends! You’ll surely meet people from all over the world and develop a sense of camaraderie over your shared experience on the WHW. Compare notes from the trail and plans for the next day over a pint or two with a new friend, and you’ll certainly find the experience of walking the West Highland Way more enriching.

Enjoy the lively atmosphere at many of the stops along the West Highland Way.

9. Enjoy one night out of your tent

The West Highland Way is a great walk for those looking to camp along the way. Campsites are abundant, reasonably priced, and have great facilities. You can easily walk the entire route camping each night, just like we did. However, we would also highly recommend spending at least one night out of your tent. You can save this for the last night in Fort William (what we did), or save it for that torrential rain storm that sneaks up on you. Either way, there are incredibly hospitable guesthouses, fantastic Airbnbs, and lovely hotels along the route and it would be a shame not to experience at least one of these on your walk.

10. Leave no trace

The West Highland Way is one of the most popular long-distance walks in the UK and the world. Thousands of hikers descend on the Highlands each year to enjoy the spectacular views, friendly people, and lovely lochs that Scotland has to offer. Given the popularity of the walk it is essential that walkers do their part to practice Leave No Trace principles when hiking and camping. Simply being aware of your impact on this great trail will do wonders to ensure it;s around for future generations of walkers!

Be sure and leave the trail as pristine as you found it.

What’s Next?

Enjoyed reading our 10 Essentials and ready to keep planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way and learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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West Highland Way Logistics

Many of the small details of planning your West Highland Way walk can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that climbing the Devil’s Staircase will be difficult,…

Many of the small details of planning your West Highland Way walk can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that climbing the Devil’s Staircase will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the finish in Fort William to your hotel in Glasgow. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own West Highland Way adventure. Enjoy!

Getting to Milngavie from Glasgow

Milngavie and the start of the West Highland Way are easily reached from Glasgow. Most international travelers will arrive at the Glasgow Airport prior to starting their walk, while those from the UK will likely arrive at the Glasgow Queen Street Station or Glasgow Central Station (the two main train stations). For those arriving at the airport there is frequent and convenient bus service from the Glasgow Airport to central Glasgow via the Glasgow Airport Express. The service runs 24 hours per day and takes approximately 25 minutes to get from the airport to central Glasgow. If you have a contactless credit/debit card, you can pay your fare right on the bus.  Otherwise, you can pay with cash on the bus or purchase a ticket online beforehand. If you’re spending the night in central Glasgow after your flight or planning to head to Milngavie from Queen Street Station, you’ll want to get off the bus at the ‘Dundas Street’ stop.

There is frequent train service to Milngavie from Glasgow’s Queen Street Station. The ride takes approximately 25 minutes and will drop you at the Milngavie train station, located just a short walk from the start of the West Highland Way. There is also frequent service to Milngavie from Glasgow Central Station. The ScotRail website contains schedule information and allows you to purchase tickets ahead of time.

To get to the official start of the West Highland Way from the train station, walk through the pedestrian underpass and onto Station Road. Keep straight on Station Road until you reach the pedestrian-only town square in Milngavie. The obelisk marks the start of your West Highland Way adventure!

The start of the West Highland Way is a short walk from the train station.

Getting to Milngavie from Edinburgh

Many walkers may not think of Edinburgh as an option prior to starting the West Highland Way, but we’re here to tell you that it makes a great stop before starting your walk! We flew into Edinburgh and enjoyed a few days in this beautiful city. We can tell you firsthand that it’s a breeze to get to Milngavie from Edinburgh.

There are several daily trains from the Edinburgh Waverley Station (the main train station) to Milngavie. The faster option bypasses many of the small towns in between the two cities but involves a transfer at Glasgow Queen Street Station. There is also a direct train between Edinburgh and Milngavie that takes slightly longer, due to making many stops along the way. The benefit of this train is that you won’t have to worry about switching trains with your heavy bags. Tickets are easily purchased for either option at the Edinburgh Waverley Station. We opted for the longer, direct option leaving Edinburgh around 8:30am and arriving in Milngavie by 10am – plenty of time for the first day’s walk to Drymen!

Edinburgh is a great city to visit prior to walking the West Highland Way.

Where to Stay Before and After the West Highland Way

There are several options for where to stay before starting the West Highland Way. Many walkers choose to stay in Glasgow or Milngavie given the proximity to the start of the West Highland Way. However, Edinburgh offers easy train connections to Milngavie, and therefore also makes a great option prior to starting the walk. Here are our top picks for where to stay in each town before beginning the WHW:

Milngavie

Milngavie is certainly the most convenient place to spend the night prior to starting the WHW. However, it has the smallest number of accommodation options. Here are your best bets for where to stay in Milngavie:

West Highland Way Apartments – The aptly named West Highland Way Apartments provide an extremely convenient and highly reviewed place to rest up before starting your walk.

Premier Inn Milngavie – The Premier Inn is a great budget hotel in Milngavie. You’ll be close to the start of the walk and can fuel up for your first day with their free breakfast.

Glasgow

Glasgow is the most popular place to spend the night before and after the West Highland Way, and for good reason. Glasgow provides easy transportation access to Milngavie, and is also a great city to experience on its own. Glasgow has plenty of grocery stores and outdoor supply stores to stock up on any last-minute items needed for your trek. Our lodging recommendations for Glasgow are below:

Point A Glasgow – We stayed at the Point A after hiking the West Highland Way and would highly recommend it. This is a great budget option with well-designed rooms and a price that can’t be beat! We’d recommend opting for a room with a window.

Motel One Glagow – The Motel One Glasgow gets great reviews for its central location, comfortable beds, and friendly service.

You can check out all the places to stay in Glasgow here:



Booking.com

Edinburgh

As mentioned above, Edinburgh makes for a great city to stay in both before and after the West Highland Way. Steeped in history and beautiful architecture, Edinburgh was our favorite city in Scotland. Here are our recommendations for lodging:

The Lane Hotel – Located just over a mile from the city center, the Lane Hotel gets great reviews for its cleanliness and comfort.

The Inn Place – For those looking to stay in Edinburgh’s charming Old Town, the Inn Place is a great option. It’s known for its great breakfast and location near to the Royal Mile.

Fort William

Fort William makes for a nice final destination on the West Highland Way. Despite its slightly touristy and commercial facade, Fort William is a lovely town with an exciting vibe given all the walkers who finish the West Highland Way here. Here are our lodging recommendations:

Nevis Bank Inn – You’ll find the Nevis Bank Inn at the entrance to Fort William. This 4-star hotel is known for the friendly staff and excellent breakfast.

Fort William Backpackers – Fort William’s best hostel is located near the train station and has a variety of room options. The best budget choice in town.

Shelbeck Bed & Breakfast – For those looking for the traditional Scottish bed and breakfast experience look no further than the Shelbeck. Very helpful owners in addition to the full English breakfast.

You can check out all the options in Fort William here:



Booking.com

 

Airbnb

There are many different accommodation options available in Milngavie, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Fort William on Airbnb. You’ll find everything from luxurious row-houses to rooms in a shared house. Airbnb’s often provide a kitchen and laundry facilities, which can be a welcome feature after hiking in the same two smelly outfits and eating instant ramen for the past 8 days! You can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay by registering here.

Getting from Fort William to Glasgow

The West Highland Way finishes in the town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. Fort William makes for a nice spot to spend the night after completing your walk, and the pedestrian-only main street has plenty of restaurants and pubs where you can celebrate your accomplishment. However, come the next morning you’ll most likely be ready to head back to Glasgow and conclude your West Highland Way walk. Luckily, there are several options for transport back to Glasgow.

The most scenic and most popular option is to take the West Highland Railway line which links Fort William with Glasgow’s Queen Street Station in just under 4 hours. This route is popular with tourists and locals alike, so we recommend booking your tickets on the ScotRail website as far in advance as you can. There are several trains per day, allowing for lots of flexibility in your departure and arrival times. The train ride is especially enjoyable for West Highland Way walkers as you will retrace much of the route you’ve just walked. It was quite enjoyable to look out the windows of the train and see walkers and familiar stops from the journey!

The other option for your return transport is to take the Scottish Citylink bus service between Fort William and Glasgow’s Buchanan Bus Station. This is the faster (just over 3 hours) and more budget friendly of the two options. While you won’t enjoy the same atmosphere of a Highlands train journey, the bus is efficient and still takes in much of the stunning scenery of the region.

You’ll recognize much of the scenery on the train journey from Fort William to Glasgow.

Luggage Storage and Transfer

Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might like to carry for 8 days on the West Highland Way. If that’s the case for you, you’ll find several options for luggage storage or luggage transfer on your trip. The best place to store your luggage is Glasgow. Both Queen Street Station and Central Station have luggage storage facilities and there are also private companies who will gladly keep your bags safe and secure while you’re on your walk. The Excess Baggage Company is one of the more popular and allows you to reserve your left luggage online ahead of time.

If, instead of simply having your luggage waiting for you when you’ve completed your walk, you’d rather have it transferred to each of your nightly destinations, there are plenty of companies who will help. These companies will pick up your bags in the morning and then deliver them to your destination each evening, ensuring that you’ll only ever need to carry a daypack along the Way. Travel-Lite and AMS Scotland are two of the most reputable baggage transfer providers.

The best option of course is to only pack what you need and avoid having to store any extra luggage!

Rest Day Options

The West Highland Way can be easily walked without taking a rest day. However, if you’ve got some extra time there are several lovely stops that make for a great day off. Here are your best options:

Tyndrum – Stopping for a day in Tyndrum will allow you to rest up before some of the best Highland walking of the West Highland Way. Tyndrum has a touristy feel, but it has plenty of restaurants and accommodation options to keep you entertained while you’re there. This will also be early enough in your walk that you’ll still have energy to explore some of the surrounding area.

Bridge of Orchy – A rest day at Bridge of Orchy will suit those who are truly looking to stay off their feet for the day. While there won’t be much to do, the beautiful hotel and grounds provide for a relaxing atmosphere before continuing your walk. The hotel bar is a great place for a couple of pints!

Glencoe Village (side trip) – Glencoe, one of the best known Highland towns, makes for a great rest day stop. If you take this detour, you’ll get the unique chance to experience a quintessential Scottish mountaineering town. However, given that it’s 9 miles from Kingshouse, you’ll have to to get their by either catching the Citylink bus, hiring a taxi, or arranging for a pick-up with your accommodation.

But wait…there’s more!

Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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Tour du Mont Blanc Logistics

Many of the small details of planning the Tour du Mont Blanc can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing the Col du Bonhomme will be…

Many of the small details of planning the Tour du Mont Blanc can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing the Col du Bonhomme will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the airport in Geneva to your hotel in Chamonix. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own TMB adventure.

For those who want the best information all in one place, you can purchase our printable Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc for under $5! The Guide includes everything you’ll need to have an awesome experience on the TMB. Save yourself the time of endless searching to find the information you need to plan your trip and pick up our guide below!

Purchase your digital Guide for under $5 here (securely processed via PayPal):

Complete Guide to Camping on the TMB

  • Get our Complete Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc for only $4.99 USD! All payments are securely processed via PayPal and your guide will be sent directly to your inbox. Save yourself the trouble of searching all over the internet and get access to everything you need to plan your TMB adventure in an easy to read guide. All for only $4.99!

Getting to Chamonix from the Geneva Airport

The vast majority of walkers will get to the start of the Tour du Mont Blanc by first flying into the Geneva Airport (GVA). There are frequent flights to Geneva from the rest of Europe as well as a good number of flights from the U.S. Most U.S. flights arrive early in the morning, leaving you with ample time to get to Chamonix that same day. Once you’ve landed in Geneva, you’ll have several options for getting to Chamonix, outlined below:

  • OuiBus – We found this to be the cheapest option and would highly recommend OuiBus. The service departs directly from the Geneva Airport and will take you to the Chamonix Sud bus station, in the heart of Chamonix.
  • AlpyBus – AlpyBus runs a door to door transfer service from the Geneva Airport to hotels in the Chamonix Valley. It is more costly than OuiBus, but also more convenient since they’ll drop you directly at your hotel (or campground!).
  • Mountain Drop-offs – Similar to AlpyBus, Mountain Drop-offs runs a door to door transfer service for walkers arriving in Geneva. Very highly rated.

All of the options above will also be able to transport you back to the Geneva Airport at the end of the TMB. Many also offer discounts for booking a return ticket.

Getting from Chamonix to Les Houches

Many walkers will opt to stay at least one night in Chamonix before and after hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. While Les Houches is a lovely town, there is no denying that Chamonix has more services and certainly more accommodation options. Luckily, the Chamonix Valley has excellent public transportation linking the various villages, and it is a breeze to get to Les Houches and the start of the TMB from just about anywhere in the valley.

If you’re staying in Chamonix, you’ll want to make your way to the Chamonix Sud bus station. Busses depart from the Chamonix Sud bus station every 30 minutes for Les Houches. You can find updated service schedules on the Chamonix Bus website. Once in Les Houches, we recommend getting off at the ‘Les Houches Mairie’ stop located in the center of the village. The stop, located on the Rue de l’Essert, is directly on the TMB. To start you’ll just begin walking along the road through Les Houches!

After you’ve finished the TMB you’ll utilize the same bus to return to Chamonix (after a well-deserved beer, of course). Make sure to save enough cash to pay the bus fare on the way back, as there isn’t a ticket office near the bus stop.

Beautiful flowers adjacent to the ‘Les Houches Mairie’ stop

Where to stay before and after the TMB

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc, you’ve surely got your tent packed up and ready to go. While you’ll be doing plenty of camping during your hike, you may enjoy sleeping in a hotel both before and after the TMB. There is nothing quite like a soft mattress and hot shower after 10 days of trekking! Below are some of the best accommodation options in the Chamonix Valley for before and after the TMB:

Chamonix

Hotel Le Morgaine – We stayed at this highly-reviewed hotel both before and after the TMB. We found the rooms to be spacious, the staff very friendly, and the location to be excellent. Room rates are also quite reasonable.

Auberge du Manoir – Known for their friendly staff, beautiful rooms, and great location, the Auberge du Manoir is a great option in Chamonix.

Hôtel Le Refuge des Aiglons – The Hotel Le Refuge des Aiglons is located adjacent to the Chamonix Sud bus station, making it an ideal location for the night you arrive in or before you depart Chamonix.

You can check out all the options in the Chamonix Valley here:



Booking.com

Les Houches

Hotel Les Campanules – Located just across the river from the town center of Les Houches, Hotel Les Campanules gets great reviews for its tremendous views and excellent food. It’s also a great budget option.

Rocky Pop Hotel – Located just outside of Les Houches, the Rocky Pop hotel has stellar reviews for its funky style and friendly staff.

Camping Bellevue – Of course we’d be remiss to not include the well-located campground in Les Houches, Camping Bellevue.

Airbnb

There are many different accommodation options available in the Chamonix Valley on Airbnb. You’ll find everything from luxurious chalets to rooms in a shared house. Airbnb’s often provide a kitchen and laundry facilities, which can be a welcome feature after hiking in the same two smelly outfits for the past 10 days! You can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay by registering here.

There are many stunning Airbnbs in the Chamonix Valley!

Luggage storage

Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might want to carry for the entire TMB. Unfortunately, there are no luggage storage facilities at the train station in Chamonix. The best option for walkers on the TMB is to store your extra baggage at the Gite le Chamoniard, which charges between 4-6 euros per day depending on the size of your bag. Other hotels and accommodation may store your baggage if you have a reservation before and after you walk, but you’ll want to inquire ahead of time.

The best option of course is to only pack what you need and avoid having to store anything extra!

Rest day options

Many walkers will split up the TMB by taking a rest day along the way. If you have the time, we highly recommend this option as it will give your body a break and also let you explore one of the wonderful villages or towns along the route. Here are your best options:

Courmayeur

Courmayeur is understandably the most popular place for a rest day on the TMB. While it isn’t exactly the halfway point, you’ll have already crossed several major passes and your feet may be begging for a break. Courmayeur is also the largest town you’ll encounter on the TMB, making for an easy place to stock up on supplies and enjoy a shower and bed. Our lodging recommendations for Courmayeur are below:

Hotel Maison La Saxe – One of the best hotels we’ve EVER stayed at, you can’t find a much better spot for a rest day than Maison La Saxe. Located just up the valley from Courmayeur, this small hotel offers an incredible breakfast spread and beautiful rooms. Book early as they only have six rooms!

Cresta Et Duc Hotel – Centrally located with free breakfast. What’s not to love?!

You can check out all the options in Courmayeur here:



Booking.com

La Fouly

La Fouly is past the halfway mark of the TMB, so naturally it makes a good rest day spot. The town is small so there won’t be as much to do as in Courmayeur, but it is a beautiful location nevertheless. Check out our favorite spot in La Fouly:

Maya Joie – A highly rated auberge with a variety of room types and free wi-fi.

Champex

Champex is a lovely Swiss town located on a pristine mountain lake. Most walkers will arrive in Champex at the end of their seventh day, and will be very ready for a break! Champex offers many services, accommodation options, and more to do than La Fouly. Our lodging recommendation for Chamex:

Hôtel du Glacier – Get a room with a balcony to enjoy the stunning views!

But wait…there’s more!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Tour du Mont Blanc, we can help! Learn more about our personalized TMB coaching services. 

Be sure to check out our entire series on the Tour du Mont Blanc to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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How to Find All of your Campgrounds on the West Highland Way

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way in conjunction with our guide on how to navigate on the West Highland Way  you’re well on your way…

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way in conjunction with our guide on how to navigate on the West Highland Way  you’re well on your way to a fantastic WHW adventure! You’ll have your itinerary mapped out, with knowledge of where you’ll stop each day and you’ll be expertly using your smartphone’s GPS to stay on track. However, how will you know just how far you are from your next stop? Many of the campgrounds aren’t well marked on the GPS base maps and you’ll certainly want to know how much longer you have until you can drop your pack. As a resource for our West Highland Way series we thought it would be useful to provide downloadable GPS waypoints for all of the campgrounds included in our guide that work seamlessly with the Gaia GPS app! Keep reading to learn how to download this data and use it with our guide to navigating on the West Highland Way.

Step One – Download the location data

We’ve created a single file that contains location data for all of the campgrounds in our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way. Readers who purchase our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way (for under $5!) will get access to the location data for all of the campgrounds included in our guide. You’ll also get tons of useful information for planning your WHW adventure! Click here to purchase:

Complete Guide to Camping on the WHW

  • Get our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for only $4.99 USD! All payments are securely processed via PayPal and your guide will be sent directly to your inbox. Save yourself the trouble of searching all over the internet and get access to everything you need to plan your adventure in an easy to read guide. All for only $4.99!

Included in the Guide is a link to a Dropbox.com file and you’ll select ‘Download’, then ‘Direct Download’.

Step Two – Import the location data into Gaia GPS

Now that you’ve downloaded the .gpx file containing the location data, you’ll need to import it into the Gaia GPS app. To do this, follow the instructions below:

First, you’ll open the Gaia GPS app and select the ‘Create’ button in the top right corner. From here you’ll select ‘Import file’. Next you’ll need to navigate to your ‘Downloads’ folder, or whichever location you saved the .gpx file to. This was a bit tricky to locate for me, but I was able to find it in the ‘sdcard’ folder. From here, Gaia GPS will recognize any files that are compatible, including the West Highland Way Campground locations file. Select the file and the Gaia GPS app will import the location data.

Give your phone a moment to import the data and voila! You should now have all of the campgrounds that are included in our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way saved on your phone!

Navigation made easy!

Now when you’re out on the trail, you can see exactly how far you have to go until your next stop, and be able to easily find your campgrounds at the end of the day.

What about iOS?

The instructions above give you a step-by-step guide for importing the West Highland Way campground location data into Gaia GPS on Android. We happen to both use (and love) Android phones, but know that many readers will have iPhones and want to know how to import the file to their phones. Rest easy because the process is even easier on iOS!

The best way is to  select the ‘Direct download’ option (shown in Step One) when you click on the Dropbox file download link.  After the download is complete you should be prompted with a button that says ‘Open in Gaia GPS’. Simply select this and the file will automatically import into your Gaia GPS app!

You can find more details on importing .gpx files into Gaia GPS for iOS here: https://help.gaiagps.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003639048-Import-GPX-and-KML-files-in-Gaia-GPS-for-iOS

Be sure to let us know in the comments if you were able to download the campground data and if you found it useful on your trip!

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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Guide to Hiking Chasm Lake

Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours. Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular…

Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours.

Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular sight to behold. Getting there is pretty incredible too.  The trail climbs gently through varied terrains, offering spectacular views, waterfalls, and plenty of marmot sightings. This hike is only steep and moderately technical in the last half-mile or so; the rest of it should be quite manageable for most fit(ish) hikers.

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike starts at the Longs Peak Ranger Station in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is accessed via CO-7, either from Estes Park or Allenspark. If you are coming from the Front Range, head to Lyons, then turn left onto CO-7. Stay on that road past Allenspark, and keep an eye out for signs for the Longs Peak trailhead.  When you see the turn-off (just after you enter into Larimer County), take a left. You’ll follow this road until it reaches the ranger station and trailhead. If you are hiking on a busy weekend or holiday in the summer, expect to park along the road, as the lot fills up very early. Although the hike is within Rocky Mountain National Park, visitors do not need to pay an entrance fee at this location.

The Hike

Begin your hike by following the East Longs Peak Trail.  You’ll be on this trail for most of the hike, and all of the junctions are very well marked. For the first mile or so, you’ll climb at a mellow grade through lovely pine forests. At the first junction, follow the signage and veer left.  From here, you’ll traverse a few switchbacks as you start to see and hear a stream that courses alongside the trail in several places.  A bit higher up, you’ll cross the stream (there is a bridge), and the views open up towards the forest below.  This peaceful, shady spot is a great place to stop for a snack or a short break. As you keep hiking past the stream crossing, the pine forest dwindles until the only trees left are krumholz, the short, wind-sculpted trees found at higher elevations. As you get above treeline, the views really open up.

The first stream crossing en route to Chasm Lake.

Looking to the east, you get big vistas of the entire Front Range, and to the west Longs Peak looms large. The rest of the hike winds through alpine tundra. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wide array of delicate and colorful wildflowers that dot this landscape in the summer months. The trail continues to climb steadily (and a bit more steeply) until it reaches the next junction at about mile 2.5.  The right-hand fork will take you up Battle Mountain, while the left will continue towards Longs Peak and Chasm Lake. After another mile, you’ll reach a rocky ridge.  There’s an outhouse here, and this is another nice spot to take a break. This is where you’ll leave the Longs Peak Trail (that’s an adventure for another day), and make your final push towards Chasm Lake.

From the junction, the trail hugs the side of the ridge, narrowly in some places, as it curves towards the lake. We hiked in late June and encountered a small amount of snow in this section. While it wasn’t too difficult, traversing the snow on this narrow section of trail might be a bit unsettling for some hikers.  Use hiking poles and keep your weight leaned in towards the mountain, and you should be just fine.  As you approach Chasm Lake, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls.  Just before reaching the lake, you will encounter a steep section that contains large boulders.  You’ll need to do some scrambling in a few places, but this tricky section is very short (and very fun!).  Spectacular Chasm Lake is waiting for you at the top.  Grab a seat on one of the many large rocks ringing the lake, relax, and enjoy this beautiful little pocket of  earth. Make sure to head down early enough in the day to avoid being above tree line when afternoon thunderstorms roll in. We capped off this perfect summer day with a post-hike ice cream outing, and we’d highly recommend you do the same.

The final approach to Chasm Lake.

Enjoy the breathtaking views of Longs Peak!

Considerations:

  • If hiking in June, check the snow conditions before you go.  July and August are the best months to complete this hike.
  • The alpine section of this hike is quite exposed, which makes it a dangerous place to be in the event of a thunderstorm. Start early to avoid getting caught up there when weather moves in.
  • If hiking on a weekend, plan for an extra mile or so of walking along the road, as the parking lot fills up very early with hikers attempting to summit Longs Peak.
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