The Complete Packing List for the Coast to Coast Walk

What does one bring for a self-powered journey across an entire country? One of the absolute best parts of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk is the ever-changing landscapes it traverses….

What does one bring for a self-powered journey across an entire country? One of the absolute best parts of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk is the ever-changing landscapes it traverses. That type of variety can make packing a little tricky, though. What you might need during a rainstorm in the Lakes District is quite different from what you’ll require on a sunny day in the Yorkshire Dales.

However, before you go packing a rucksack bigger than you are, remember the golden rule of backpacking: keep it as light as possible! Carrying minimal weight is one of the best things you can do to ensure you enjoy your trip to the fullest.

So how does one strike that elusive balance between having all of the necessities without feeling like they have a baby elephant on their back? Read on for our best advice and detailed kit lists to learn everything you need (and everything you don’t) to have your best possible Coast to Coast Walk!

In this post:

coast to coast packing basics
One of the many incredible landscapes you’ll encounter on your C2C Walk.

Packing Basics for the Coast to Coast Walk

There are so many variables when it comes to packing for the Coast to Coast Walk, such as accommodation type, hiking style, trip length, baggage transfers, time of year, and many more. Every hiker will have a unique kit to best serve their individual needs. Even though you are a special, one-of-a-kind snowflake, there is some universal gear wisdom that applies to all Coast to Coast Walkers.

How Much Should My Pack Weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? 

As a very general rule, campers should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying indoors should carry no more than 9kg. If having your luggage transferred along the trail, most transfer services will limit you to 20kg, and your daypack shouldn’t exceed 4kg. If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Bring quick-dry items that you can rinse out in the sink or shower.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.
Backpacking backpack
The type of pack you’ll need for the Coast to Coast will depend on your individual itinerary.

Choosing a backpack for the Coast to Coast

Just like with footwear, a properly fitting backpack is crucial on the Coast to Coast walk. Also similar to your boots, your pack needs to be broken in for optimal comfort. We recommend carrying a weighted pack on your training walks to get used to the extra weight and ensure it fits well.

If you plan on staying in B&B’s along the route, you won’t need a very large rucksack. A 25-liter pack should be enough to hold a few clothing items, food, water, and toiletries.

Those staying in dorms and bunkhouses will most likely need to carry a sleeping bag and towel. A 30-40L pack will be more than enough space for everything you need.

If you plan on camping, you’ll need a larger pack to fit your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and cooking equipment in addition to your basic supplies. A 45-60L pack will be suitable for most campers.

Last but not least, don’t forget to bring a pack cover to protect against rain! Many newer packs come with one built-in.

Coast to Coast Walk hiking boots
Footwear on the Coast to Coast Walk comes down to personal preference and fit, but always break in new boots ahead of time!

Footwear on the Coast to Coast

Taking care of your feet is of the utmost important on a long-distance walk like the C2C. Blisters, chafing, and other ailments can completely sabotage your experience, and the Coast to Coast’s wide range of underfoot conditions and wet environments can increase your risk of issues. The right shoes and socks can make all the difference.

Hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail running shoes will all work for the Coast to Coast Walk, provided that they will work for your unique needs. The most important thing is that they’re adequately broken in and that you’ve tested them on multiple walks to ensure they are comfortable.

In terms of waterproofing, there are two opposing schools of thought about this. It is inevitable that your feet will get wet at multiple points along your walk, from driving rains, flooded paths, bogs, and so on. Many hikers prefer to use sturdy boots with a thick layer of waterproofing to keep the moisture out as much as possible. This is a good strategy, but keep in mind that when these heavier shoes get wet they can take a long time to dry. Other prefer to use breathable trail shoes. These will get wet right away, but they’ll also be dry again within a couple hours and allow your feet to get some air in the meantime. It’s totally a matter of personal preference, but it’s a good idea to try a few options out prior to setting off on your C2C journey.

Good socks are also a game-changer on the Coast to Coast. We love merino wool socks like these for their comfort, breathability, and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister-prone, consider trying toe sockssock liners, and/or body glide.

Rainy weather on Ennerdale Water in the Lakes District, Coast to Coast Walk
Moody weather is part of the Coast to Coast experience.

Good Waterproofs

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad rain gear! You will undoubtedly face plenty of wet days on your Coast to Coast, so good waterproofs are an important investment.

At the very minimum, make sure you have a lightweight rain jacketrain pants, and a pack cover. Some hikers pack their clothing and other items inside trash bags or waterproof packing cubes as an extra precaution. A hat can be nice to keep the rain out of your face. A waterproof carrying case for your map and/or phone isn’t a bad idea either. Finally, many walkers like to use gaiters for especially boggy or flooded areas.

Coast to Coast Walk personal gear

Personal Gear

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your Coast to Coast Walk packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your own list of additional self-care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc). 

Most Valuable Personal Item: Sea to Summit Ultra-SIL Dry Sack

The Coast to Coast Walk passes through some of the rainiest parts of England, so it’s pretty much inevitable that you’ll do some wet walking at one point or another. Walking in a downpour? Kind of fun. Getting to your destination and not having dry clothes to change into? The worst. Even with a pack cover, sustained walking in drenching conditions can penetrate your bag. You’ll be glad you took the extra step to protect clothes, bedding, and electronics.


ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for cutting cheese and bread when you need some trail-side snacks!
First-aid kitAdventure Medical KitsA good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it.
Hydration bladderPlatypus 3L Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3 liter version.
Small day-packCotopaxi Luzon 18L DaypackOptional item that is great for walking around town.
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the Coast to Coast Walk!
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65LWhile backpacks are a very personal item, we find Osprey to make by far the most comfortable packs on the market.
Women's backpackOsprey Aura 65LOne of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the 'anti-gravity' mesh. So comfortable!
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking PolesThese can help take the load off your knees and they're great on steep sections.
Travel towelSea to Summit Drylite TowelGreat to have in hostels and campsite showers.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bagsKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Hiking gaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High GaitersOptional. These will help keep your boots dry when walking on muddy or boggy trails.
SunscreenWe recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Bug sprayBen's Insect RepellentYou'll be glad you brought this when the midges come out.
Toilet paperAs any hiker will tell you, it's always better to be prepared! Plus, not all of the bathrooms you'll find along the C2C provide toilet paper.
Yorkshire Dales Coast to Coast Walk

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heroes of any Coast to Coast Walk packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your Coast to Coast kit. 

Most valuable miscellaneous gear: Anker Powercore 10000.

Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and technology and that’s wonderful. However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the Coast to Coast Walk. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. Charging opportunities can be unreliable along the route, so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges. Check it out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookTrailblazer
or
Ciccerone
We think Trailblazer's guide is better overall, but the Ciccerone book is available as an eBook, handy for lightweight packing.
Ear plugsMack's EarplugsEssential for getting a good night's sleep!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in hostels or campgrounds on the Coast to Coast Walk.
Travel adapterAll-in-one Travel AdapterGreat for all of your travels.
Digital watchCasio digital watchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times.
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraIan loves his Sony mirrorless camera!
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 10000Great for charging electronics when you don't have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable soapSierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor SoapPerfect for doing the dishes or washing a few clothing items.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.
Coast to Coast Walk women's packing list

Women’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious walking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials for your Coast to Coast Walk. Plus, if you’re anything like us, you have no idea how many pairs of socks to bring. This list is also a handy (and experience-backed)  guideline for quantities of items such as shirts and socks. 

Emily’s most valuable clothing item: Columbia Storm Surge Rain Pants 

English weather is temperamental. You’ll get to experience a wide range of elements (rain, sun, wind, etc), often all in one day! For the times when the weather turns, you’ll want to be able to quickly and effortlessly adapt your clothing to stay dry and comfortable. These Columbia rain pants are simple, effective, comfortable, and easy to get on and off over boots. Check them out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Women's UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports BraBrooks Women's Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 CrewA great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings.
Short sleeve hiking shirt (3)Smartwool Women's Merino Short SleeveMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or hiking pantsprAna - Women's Halle Roll-upStylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsFor those heavy English downpours!
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're outside all day. And these are stylish too!
Basic black dressColumbia Women's PG Freezer III DressVery optional. For the nights we went out to dinner in town, it was nice to have one non-hiking outfit. This comfortable, versatile dress was easy to pack and worked great.
Underwire/standard braAfter a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
GlovesSmartwool Liner GlovesOptional. Perfect for cold evenings, but not necessary in the summertime.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep both the sun and rain off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1Great to change into after a long day of walking!
BandanaI used this for everything from a towel to extra sun protection.
Coast to Coast Walk Men's Clothing
Another perk of hiking socks-really cool tan lines!

Men’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials.

Ian’s most valuable clothing item: Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks

The conditions on the Coast to Coast Walk are such that hikers are at a particularly high risk of getting blisters at some point on their walk. The wet environments, long mileage, and stony paths conspire to create the perfect environment for blisters to sabotage your walk. Fortunately, a good pair of socks can greatly reduce your chance of foot issues. This is one of those times where you really do get what you pay for. We love Darn Tough socks because they keep our feet dry and comfortable in a variety of conditions. They have just the right amount of cushion without being too bulky in boots. Plus, the Merino wool keeps them smelling fresh for days. Check them out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly recommended! You can bring 2-3 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)SmartSmartwool Men's Merino Short Sleeve shirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion Hiking ShortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Down jacketPatagonia Down Sweater HoodySuper warm and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Men's Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must for the Coast to Coast Walk!
GlovesSmartwool Merino Wool Liner Gloves Optional. Perfect for cold evenings, but not essential in the summer.
Rain pantsMarmot Precip PantsFor those heavy English downpours!
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep both the sun and rain off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandalsSuper comfortable to change into after walking in boots all day!
Hiking bootsSalomon Men's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking BootVery comfortable and super waterproof!
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in outdoors all day. And these are stylish too!
BandanaThis can be used for everything from a towel to extra sun protection.
Coast to Coast Walk Camping Gear

Camping Gear

Camping on the Coast to Coast Walk is definitely worth carrying the bigger backpack. We loved the flexibility and independence it gave us. Plus, campgrounds along the trail are plentiful, convenient, and generally quite comfortable. With the right gear and a manageable pack size, you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience conquering the Coast to Coast Walk with your own tent.

Most valuable camping gear: MSR 2-Person Mess Kit

Many people choose to camp along the Coast to Coast Walk because of the tremendous money they can save on their accommodation. The budgetary benefits go beyond your sleeping arrangements, though. Camping allows you to self-cater your meals, saving you from spending tons on overpriced pub food every day. This MSR Kit is super lightweight, easy to pack, and convenient for all of those al fresco dinners and trailside coffee breaks.


ItemOur recommended gear 
TentSierra Designs - Clip Flashlight 2
or
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent
The Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight 2 is the best budget tent on the market, while the MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy.
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 30A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the Coast to Coast.
Sleeping padNemo Astro Insulated Sleeping PadIf you are a side sleeper this is a must! Even if you're not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there.
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowIf you're camping more than a few nights you will be glad you packed this!
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking potGSI Halulite
UtensilsHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-person mess kitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.
Black Sail Hostel Coast to Coast Walk
The delightfully cozy Black Sail Hostel.

Hostel/Bunkhouse Gear

If you are sticking strictly to hotels, B&B’s, and guesthouses, you shouldn’t need to worry about the items on this list. However, for those staying in communal/dorm-style accommodations, there are some essential items you need to pack. Keep in mind that most hostels provide bedding, but you should check with individual places in advance to be sure. On the other hand, you will be responsible for providing your own towel (although some places will rent you one for an additional fee).

Most valuable item for bunkhouses & hostels: Mac’s Ear Plugs

Hiking is infinitely less fun when you haven’t had a good night’s sleep. There are many wonderful hostels along the Coast to Coast Walk, but Olympic-level snorers and other noisy neighbors seem to hang out in all of them. These earplugs do an excellent job of blocking out sleep-sabotaging sounds. We find that they work better, stay in longer, and are more comfortable than those cheap foam earplugs.


ItemOur recommended gear 
EarplugsMack's EarplugsThe perfect defense for that snorer next door!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in dormitories.
Sleep sheetVumos Sleep SheetA nice item to have for nights in bunkhouses and hostels.
Travel towelSea to Summit Drylite TowelMany hostels and bunkhouses on the Coast to Coast do not provide towels.
Sandals/SlippersCrocsWhile not the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect bunkhouse/hostel shoes!

What’s Next?

Check out our other great Coast to Coast Walk Resources:

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The Ultimate Guide to the Coast to Coast Walk

Back in 1973, a legendary man named Alfred Wainwright devised a new walking route across Northern England, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea and through three incredible national…

Back in 1973, a legendary man named Alfred Wainwright devised a new walking route across Northern England, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea and through three incredible national parks along the way. The walk was popularized by his detailed book, A Coast to Coast Walk, and even became the star of its own TV series. Decades later, the Coast to Coast (C2C) Walk continues to inspire walkers from all over the world, with its varied scenery, natural beauty, and cultural experiences.

The Coast to Coast walk remains an unofficial trail, though it makes good use of the U.K.’s plentiful access paths and public rights of way. In many ways, the fact that the C2C doesn’t have National Trail status actually adds to its appeal. It has an eclectic and grassroots kind of feel to it, and it’s clear that both hikers and locals feel a real sense of responsibility for the well being of this special trail.

In this post:

Looking out over a tarn and green hills in England's Lakes District on the Coast to Coast Walk
A beautiful sunny day in the Lakes District.

Why Walk the Coast to Coast?

How often do you get the chance to walk across an entire country? And, better yet, without having to quit your job or spend several months on the road? Traversing the nearly 200 miles between the western and eastern coasts of England is profoundly rewarding. It is incredible to watch the landscape change from the dramatic mountains of the Lakes District, to the rolling pastures of the Yorkshire Dales, to the agricultural heartland in the center of the country, and finally through the bleak and stunning North York Moors before reaching the sea at the picturesque bluffs near Robin Hood’s Bay.

Perhaps even more wonderful than the incredible landscapes are the people and communities you’ll encounter along the way. The Coast to Coast Walk is undoubtedly an amazing outdoor adventure, but it is also a rich cultural experience and a rewarding personal journey.

A trail sign on the Coast to Coast Walk shows the distances to St. Bees and Robin Hood's Bay
A trail sign on the Coast to Coast reminds walkers of the incredible distances they’ve covered!

How Long is the Coast to Coast Walk?

Official Distance: 192 miles (309 kilometers)

Elevation Gain: 29,000 feet (8,850 meters)

The Coast to Coast walk is purported to be 192 miles from St. Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay. While this is certainly a close estimate, we measured (via GPS) the Coast to Coast to be 186 miles long for those who stick to the traditional route. For those on the metric system that’s a whopping 300 km!

Of course, measuring the exact distance of the Coast to Coast has little practical value, as walkers will certainly end up walking further than the specific measured distance. The taking of alternate routes, detours, and the occasional jaunt off the trail to visit the local pub will assuredly make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

How long does it take to walk the Coast to Coast?

Wainwright originally broke his route into twelve stages, each ending in a place with overnight accommodation. However, most of today’s guidebooks break up the walk into a more reasonable thirteen stages, which averages out to about fourteen miles per day. Even a thirteen-day itinerary will be quite challenging for many walkers. Towards the end of this guide, we’ve provided 17-day, 14-day, and 12-day itineraries to give you a sense of the possibilities.

Generally speaking, allow yourself about two weeks to complete the Coast to Coast Walk. Some walkers may want to move at a more relaxed pace and/or build some rest days into their itineraries. Others may want to push themselves to cover great distances each day. Remember, you don’t have to do the whole route in one go. Many walkers are happy to cover just a segment, based on their individual schedules and preferences.

  • Fast pace: 11-13 days
  • Moderate pace: 13-16 days
  • Relaxed pace: 16-19 days
Rainy weather on Ennerdale Water in the Lakes District, Coast to Coast Walk
Moody weather is part of the Coast to Coast experience.

When is the best time to walk the Coast to Coast?

There are some hearty souls who attempt the Coast to Coast during England’s dark, cold, wet winter months, but most mere mortals will enjoy it much more in the summer season. Due to the fact that you’ll be traversing a variety of landscapes and climates, it’s inevitable that you’ll encounter a wide range of weather conditions any time you walk.

Generally speaking, here’s what you can expect in each month of the hiking season:

April: Cool temps, moderate rainfall, and sparse crowds make this an attractive month to hike. Be aware of the shorter days, which allow for fewer daylight hours on the trail.

May & June: The weather tends to be a bit milder and more settled than in April and the days are longer, but it’s still pretty quiet on the trail. These are great months to walk to C2C.

July/August: School holidays and warm weather mean that these are the busiest months on the Coast to Coast. July and August (August in particular) tend to be wetter than May and June, but you can also get some brilliant sunny days, too.

September: With few crowds, mild temperatures, and relatively less rainfall, September is a wonderful time to be on the trail.

October: The days begin to get shorter, colder, and wetter as you enter October. You may get some incredibly clear and crisp autumn days, but you’ll also need to be prepared for harsh conditions.

Rainbow in Yorkshire Dales on the Coast to Coast Walk
Magical moments occur year-round on the Coast to Coast Walk.

Which Direction to Walk the Coast to Coast?

Wainwright devised the original Coast to Coast route to be traversed from west to east, but it can easily be walked in either direction.

West to East

Begin with the stunning Lakes District and tackle the most challenging terrain with fresh legs. Traditionalists will appreciate following in Wainwright’s footsteps, and the prevailing winds are likely to be at your back. This is the more popular direction to walk so you’ll make friends with the other hikers you encounter again and again.

East to West

Meet new hikers each day and shake up tradition. This direction allows you to save the dramatic Lakes section for the grand finale, and also approach it with the enhanced fitness you’ve built along the walk. International travelers will enjoy the easier connection to Manchester upon finishing.

Rainbow in Yorkshire Dales on the Coast to Coast Walk
Whichever way you choose to walk, St. Bees head makes for a dramatic start or finish to your adventure!

How Difficult is the Coast to Coast Walk?

Let’s start by saying this: any long-distance hike that requires two weeks’ of nonstop walking is going to be challenging. The cumulative stress on your body adds up after several consecutive long days on the trail. When it comes to a thru-hike like the Coast to Coast, it is definitely important to respect the distance.

That all accounted for, compared to many of its counterparts, the C2C is quite approachable.

The most physically strenuous sections of the trail are found in the Lakes District. In these stages you’ll find the biggest elevation changes and steepest climbs.

In the middle section of the walk, you’ll have some days where you’ll need to cover great distances (often 15-20 miles in a single day). These stages mostly entail flat, easy walking, but they require endurance and the repetitive motion can be hard on the body.

It’s important to take into account the mental challenges of a long-distance walk, as well. There are some very long stretches of road walking through uninteresting farmland that seem to go on forever. These can often feel harder than summiting a mountain! However, finding a strong headspace and pushing through our mind’s own limitations is the very reason many of us love with hiking in the first place. These challenges are the very best!

Road walking in the North York Moors Coast to Coast Walk
Long stretches like this one can challenge both the mind and body.

Finally, England’s temperamental weather can add a significant level of challenge to your trek. From relentless rain, to gale-force winds, to blazing sunshine, the elements will certainly add another layer of difficulty to your walk at some point or another.

Conclusion: With the proper preparation, any reasonably fit hiker can complete the Coast to Coast Walk. This is not a super-technical mountaineering endeavor reserved for only the hiking elite. Families, older adults, and less experienced walkers can certainly find enjoyment and success on the C2C. The trail rarely ventures too far from civilization, allowing for plenty of shortcut opportunities and easy logistics. Just remember to train in advance, take time to prepare your route, logistics, and kit, and, of course, respect the distance.

Weather

As we mentioned in the When to Go section, you’ll encounter a wide range of weather conditions throughout your walk (see that section for a month-by-month weather breakdown, too). One thing is nearly certain: it’s going to rain at some point along your walk. Be sure to pack some good waterproofs so you can enjoy England’s wet climate to the fullest!

Don’t be fooled by the relatively low elevation profiles on this walk; the conditions can quickly change in the mountains and hills. This can be dangerous if you’re not prepared (especially in the Lakes District where you’ll be on exposed peaks and ridgelines). If there are very high winds, torrential rains, or thunderstorms predicted, you should not attempt to hike.

The Met Office has an excellent app and website for forecasting England’s ever-changing elements. Make sure to pay special attention to the “Hazards” section, as this gives a useful rating of any potential inclement weather in the forecast. The Met Office allows you to search locations by postal code, interactive map, town name, or landmark. This is important, as weather events can be quite localized, so try to search as close to where you’ll be hiking as possible.

Cloudy skies in the Lakes District on the Coast to Coast Walk
The weather can change quickly in the mountains and fells.

Accommodation

Walkers of every style and budget will find plenty of excellent lodging options along the Coast to Coast. In fact, the unique and friendly accommodations are a highlight of many C2C walkers’ experiences. The available options vary greatly from place to place, but we’ve outlined all of the types of accommodation you’ll encounter along the Coast to Coast Walk.

B&B’s and Guesthouses

These are what the Coast to Coast is all about. With their warm hospitality, incredible full English breakfasts, and cozy decor, independently-run guesthouses are at the heart of the C2C experience. Expect to pay about £65 per person in a double room.

Our favorite Coast to Coast B&B’s

Castle House, Richmond: Richmond is a charming town located roughly halfway along the C2C, making it an ideal place for a rest day. If you want to take your relaxation to the next level, don’t miss staying at the Castle House! Everything is top-notch here, from the well-appointed rooms to the sumptuous breakfast spread.

Fernleigh B&B, Robin Hood’s Bay: With the friendliest owners, thoughtful touches everywhere, a peaceful location, and luxurious amenities, this is the perfect place to treat yourself upon finishing your C2C walk.

Full English Breakfast at a B&B on the Coast to Coast walk
If you choose to stay at B&B’s, expect to eat like a king!

Hotels

While certainly less plentiful than B&B’s, there are a fair number of hotels located along the Coast to Coast route, mostly in larger towns. These hotels are not of the big, chain variety, but rather smaller, independently-owned establishments. They vary quite a bit in terms of price and quality, but most are very well-appointed and include amenities such as wifi, tea/coffee, and often breakfast. A double room will typically cost you about £100 a night.

Our favorite Coast to Coast Hotels

Scafell Hotel, Borrowdale: This hotel mixes the classic charm of a historic countryhouse with the modern luxuries of recently renovated guestrooms. Plus, there’s a fabulous free breakfast.

Burgoyne Hotel, Reeth: Hungry hikers always rave about the delicious meals at the Burgoyne (breakfast is included). Beyond the food, the rooms are quite comfortable and hotel’s setting is convenient and beautiful.

Coast to Coast Walk hotel accommodation
Hotels along the Coast to Coast tend to be smaller, independent, and quite charming.

Bunkhouses and Hostels

Bunkhouses and hostels provide an excellent budget option for those who are not keen on camping. There are several hostels run by the YHA along the route, and these are particularly good. Facilities vary widely across the many bunkhouses and hostels along the C2C, but generally you can expect dorm-style accommodations with shared bathrooms (sometimes mixed gender). Many places provide communal kitchens and lounge areas, drying rooms, wifi, and meals for purchase. Most bunkhouses and hostels require you to bring your own sleeping bag and towel. The average dorm bed in a bunkhouse or hostel costs about £40 a night.

Our Favorite Bunkhouses and Hostels

YHA Patterdale: With a beautiful kitchen and lounge area, spotless facilities, and piping hot showers, this is undoubtedly one of the best hostels along the Coast to Coast.

YHA Grasmere: We can’t speak highly enough about the YHA hostels, and their Grasmere hostel is a prime example of why we love them. Set in a perfect location and housed in a charming historic building, a night at the YHA Grasmere feels more like staying at friend’s mansion than at a hostel. It’s more expensive than other options in the area, but the great facilities make it a good value.

Black Sail Hostel Coast to Coast Walk
The delightfully cozy Black Sail Hostel.

Camping

Camping on the Coast to Coast is a budget-friendly option that allows for maximum flexibility and freedom on your walk. Wild camping is not permitted anywhere in Northern England, although it is possible to pitch your tent in a low-profile way in a few places along the route, particularly in the Lakes District. For those who prefer official campgrounds, there are numerous camping options located throughout the Coast to Coast Walk. These range from luxurious holiday parks to basic pub gardens, but most campgrounds provide toilets, showers, and electronics charging. Prices vary widely, but expect to average around £10 per person to camp in an organized campground.

Our favorite Coast to Coast Camping

Orchard Caravan and Camping Park, Reeth: Set in a tranquil location within a few minutes’ walk to town, this campground has thoughtful touches, excellent facilities, and plenty of flat, grassy pitches.

Intake Farm B&B, Littlebeck: Instead of stopping in Grosmont, campers should push on further to this gem in Littlebeck. The friendly B&B owners welcome campers in their lovely garden and allow them access to the shower and toilet inside the main house. Complimentary tea, cake, and chit chat is served upon arrival, and meals can be purchased on request.

Camping on the Coast to Coast Walk
Camping provides great value and maximum flexibility.

Food & Drink

Delicious food and drink are plentiful along the Coast to Coast, making your adventure as much a culinary delight as an outdoor endeavor. If you plan on staying mostly in guesthouses and B&B’s along the route, expect to fill up on lavish breakfast spreads each morning. Many of these accommodations will also provide packed lunches for an additional fee. Dinner is served at the many guesthouses, inns, and pubs located at frequent intervals along the route, although many require that you book your meal a few hours in advance. These meals are generally hearty and delicious, but you’ll pay handsomely for the convenience.

Those on a tighter budget can self-cater quite easily along the Coast to Coast Walk. There are grocery stores and shops at several points along the route, allowing you to resupply frequently and carry less weight in your pack. Many hostels have communal kitchens where walkers can prepare meals, but campers should bring their own stove and cookware.

Honestly boxes stocked with candy bars, snacks, and soda can be found in a few places along the route. These can be the most wonderful surprise pick-me-up on a long day of walking!

Regardless of your approach to food and drink on the Coast to Coast, there are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • Always plan ahead to ensure you have enough food with you at all times. Look to see where the next restaurant or shop is located, and prepare accordingly. Carry an extra meal and some snacks to have in case your plans change.
  • Don’t miss out on some of the best gastronomic experiences the Coast to Coast has to offer. Be sure to enjoy a real ale in a cozy pub, a cup of tea on a wet afternoon, and a full English breakfast at least once along your route.
Food and drink on the Coast to Coast Walk
Everything tastes more delicious after a long day of walking!

Water

You can fill up on clean drinking water at most pubs and guesthouses along the route. It’s a good idea to carry 1-3 liters with you each day, depending on the weather and total mileage. Unless you’re certain you’ll be able to refill along the way, fill up for the entire day before setting off in the morning. Do not drink from rivers, streams, or other sources without filtering first.

Drinking Water on the Coast to Coast Walk
It may be tempting, but don’t drink from streams without filtering first!

Getting to and from the Walk

The Coast to Coast Walk is bookended by St. Bees on the western coast of England and Robin Hood’s Bay on the eastern coast. Both towns are accessible via public transport. Most international travelers will fly into Manchester as that is the nearest major airport to St. Bees, the traditional start of the walk.

Getting from Manchester to St.Bees

It’s quite easy to travel by train from Manchester to St. Bees, as there’s a railway station in the center of St. Bees that receives several trains each day (except Sundays). The journey from Manchester Piccadilly Station to St.Bees takes 3-4 hours and requires 1-2 transfers depending on the booking. Tickets can be purchased at Manchester Piccadilly or in advance through TransPennine Express.

Depending on how far in advance you purchase your ticket, time of year, and time of day, one-way ticket prices range from £20-£60.

Getting from Robin Hood’s Bay to Manchester

Getting between Manchester and Robin Hood’s Bay is a little less straightforward.

The cheapest option is to travel by bus. Arriva runs a service from Robin Hood’s Bay to Middlesbrough. From there you can take another coach service to Manchester (Megabus and National Express both offer service). The entire journey takes 5-8 hours and costs about £30.

If you want to travel by train, you’ll first need to get a railway station in one of the nearby towns that have stations, either Whitby or Scarborough. It’s possible to take an Arriva bus from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby or Scarborough. TransPennine Express operates a rail line that runs from Whitby and Scarborough to Manchester. The entire journey takes about 4-6 hours and costs about £60.

Manchester Piccadilly Station Coast to Coast Walk transportation
Many walkers will connect through Manchester’s Piccadilly Station to get to and from the Coast to Coast.

Maps and Guidebooks

Given that the Coast to Coast is not a National Trail in the UK, you won’t find the usual trail signs giving clear directions at every turn. Rather, the Coast to Coast is often very poorly marked and can be difficult to navigate on. For that reason we highly recommend that every walker have some sort of map (digital or paper, preferably both) that they bring with them on their Coast to Coast trek.

Maps

When we walked Wainwright’s Coast to Coast we did not use paper maps, other than those included in our guidebook. Instead, we utilized downloadable GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where our next stop was. Given that cell phone service can be spotty along the route, especially in the Lakes District, it is critical to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location.

If you’re interested in utilizing this method of navigating, you can learn more in our Coast to Coast Maps and Routes post.

Even with the convenience of GPS navigation, we still recommend carrying a paper map or map booklet for the Coast to Coast. This will provide a bit of insurance should that trusty phone of yours get dropped in a puddle or soaked in one of the many downpours you’ll surely encounter.

Given the long distance of the Coast to Coast walk we highly recommend bringing a compact map booklet that contains the entire route. We like the version created by Cicerone, which contains Ordnance Survey maps (Ordinance Survey is the UK’s national mapping service) for the entire Coast to Coast route at 1:25,000 scale. You can purchase that map booklet here.

If you’d prefer to carry full-size Ordnance Survey maps for the entire Coast to Coast, you can find the entire set here.

If you do plan to carry paper maps, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Navigating on the Coast to Coast Walk
A map is an essential piece of gear for the Coast to Coast Walk!

Guidebooks

Both Cicerone and Trailblazer make excellent guides for the Coast to Coast Walk. Both are filled with tons of great content, from local history to practical information and insider tips. We highly recommend bringing either along on your walk, as it will make your journey smoother and your experience richer.

The Trailblazer book is the best overall guide in terms of its organization, in-depth trail narratives, and accommodation/logistics information.

Ciccerone’s guide is slightly less user-friendly and a little lacking in on-trail information, but it offers an Ebook version (Trailblazer does not). This is a great option for those trying to keep their packs as light as possible!

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the guide that started it all: Wainwrights original book, A Coast to Coast Walk. This one is less useful as a guidebook, but still a wonderful source of inspiration chock full of incredible illustrations and colorful anecdotes.

Shap Abbey, Coast to Coast Walk
Shap Abbey. Bringing along a guidebook will ensure that you appreciate sights like this one to the fullest.

Budgeting and Money

The UK is expensive. It’s easy to spend a fortune on your Coast to Coast Walk. If you want to stay in plush B&B’s, eat most meals in restaurants and pubs, and treat yourself to modern conveniences (such as baggage transfers), you’re going to need deep pockets.

However, it is absolutely possible to walk the Coast to Coast on a small budget, and still have a great time doing so. Self-catering most meals and camping along the route are the two best ways to save money on the C2C.

Here’s a very general breakdown of various expenses on the Coast to Coast:

  • B&B/Guesthouse/Hotel: £75 (per person/per night)
  • Bunkhouse/Hostel: £40 (per person/per night)
  • Camping: £10 (per person/per night)
  • Meal at pub/restaurant: £15-£20
  • Pint of beer: £4-£5
  • Cup of tea/coffee: £3
  • Regional transport: £50
  • Local transport: £3-£10
  • Baggage Transfer: £10 (per bag/per day)

Money

Credit cards are accepted at many shops, restaurants, and accommodations along the Coast to Coast. That being said, plenty of smaller places (such as some guesthouses, campgrounds, and cafes) still require cash. As it may be many miles before you reach the next ATM, it’s always a good idea to carry enough cash to cover your expenses for a few days.

You’ll also need cash or a contactless card for most local buses, so keep that in mind if you plan on taking any shortcuts or detours.

Coast to Coast Walk budgeting
At least the million dollar views on the Coast to Coast don’t have to cost a fortune (just a bit of physical effort)!

What to Pack for the Coast to Coast Walk

Regardless of fitness level or hiking style, there is one golden rule that rings true for all walkers: the lighter your pack the better off you’ll be. It can be tempting to carry a lot with you on your C2C trek- you’re walking across an entire country after all! In reality though, it’s what you don’t pack that will help you the most on your journey.

To be clear, we’re not suggesting you need to be an extreme minimalist, but simply that you put some thought into what goes in your rucksack. That’s where we can help! Read on for our very best, tried-and-true packing advice.

For a full kit list, check out this post!

Footwear on the Coast to Coast

Taking care of your feet is of the utmost important on a long-distance walk like the C2C. Blisters, chafing, and other ailments can completely sabotage your experience, and the Coast to Coast’s wide range of underfoot conditions and wet environments can increase your risk of issues. The right shoes and socks can make all the difference.

Hiking boots, hiking shoes, and trail running shoes will all work for the Coast to Coast Walk, provided that they will work for your unique needs. The most important thing is that they’re adequately broken in and that you’ve tested them on multiple walks to ensure they are comfortable.

In terms of waterproofing, there are two opposing schools of thought about this. It is inevitable that your feet will get wet at multiple points along your walk, from driving rains, flooded paths, bogs, and so on. Many hikers prefer to use sturdy boots with a thick layer of waterproofing to keep the moisture out as much as possible. This is a good strategy, but keep in mind that when these heavier shoes get wet they can take a long time to dry. Other prefer to use breathable trail shoes. These will get wet right away, but they’ll also be dry again within a couple hours and allow your feet to get some air in the meantime. It’s totally a matter of personal preference, but it’s a good idea to try a few options out prior to setting off on your C2C journey.

Good socks are also a game-changer on the Coast to Coast. We love merino wool socks like these for their comfort, breathability, and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister-prone, consider trying toe socks, sock liners, and/or body glide.

Coast to Coast footwear
Good footwear and rain pants are necessities for the Coast to Coast Walk!

Don’t forget to check out our Complete Coast to Coast Packing List for a detailed kit list and expert advice!

Good Waterproofs

There’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad rain gear! You will undoubtedly face plenty of wet days on your Coast to Coast, so good waterproofs are an important investment.

At the very minimum, make sure you have a lightweight rain jacket, rain pants, and a pack cover. Some hikers pack their clothing and other items inside trash bags or waterproof packing cubes as an extra precaution. A hat can be nice to keep the rain out of your face. A waterproof carrying case for your map and/or phone isn’t a bad idea either. Finally, many walkers like to use gaiters for especially boggy or flooded areas.

Coast to Coast packing list waterproof gear
Glad to have our waterproofs and pack covers!

Choosing a backpack for the Coast to Coast

Just like with footwear, a properly fitting backpack is crucial on the Coast to Coast walk. Also similar to your boots, your pack needs to be broken in for optimal comfort. We recommend carrying a weighted pack on your training walks to get used to the extra weight and ensure it fits well.

If you plan on staying in B&B’s along the route, you won’t need a very large rucksack. A 25-liter pack should be enough to hold a few clothing items, food, water, and toiletries.

Those staying in dorms and bunkhouses will most likely need to carry a sleeping bag and towel. A 30-40L pack will be more than enough space for everything you need.

If you plan on camping, you’ll need a larger pack to fit your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and cooking equipment in addition to your basic supplies. A 45-60L pack will be suitable for most campers.

How to Train for the Coast to Coast Walk

The Coast to Coast walk is not extremely strenuous relative to most long-distance hikes, but it is still very important to get in shape before attempting it. You will have a much more enjoyable experience if you are not dragging your miserable, exhausted body to the end of the trail each day!

Endurance

The best thing to do to prepare your body for two weeks of daily long walks is to build your endurance base. Ideally, you should aim to hike, walk, or do another moderately-paced cardio-building activity (like jogging, rowing, cycling, or swimming) 3-4 times per week for at least three months leading up to your trip. Even 20-30 minutes of walking is helpful, although you should try to get in at least one longer effort (1-4 hours) every week or two.

Strength

It’s also a good idea to incorporate some strength training to prevent injuries and imbalances as you increase the time spent on your feet. Core exercises are important for stability and will help you manage the weight of your pack. You should also aim to regularly complete a variety of leg exercises to prepare for the demands of the trail.

Mental

Finally, don’t forget to train your mind for long hours of walking! Being mentally strong is critical for those seemingly endless stretches or unexpected challenges that arise on a long-distance trek. Positive mantras, favorite daydreams, and simple mind games can all be helpful when you’re struggling mentally.

Coast to Coast Walk Difficulty
The greater the challenge, the sweeter the reward.

Itineraries and Stage Descriptions

There are limitless ways to walk the Coast to Coast. Some people do just a segment at a time, others spend weeks meandering across the entire route, and others fastpack it in much less time. It’s up to you to determine your perfect itinerary, keeping in mind your time-frame, fitness, and travel style.

As a starting point, we’ve provided a detailed guide for a classic, 14-day itinerary. We’ve also provided basic 12-day and 17-day itineraries. All itineraries follow the traditional west-to-east direction, but could easily be reversed.

Little Beck Wood, Stage Fourteen Coast to Coast Walk UK
The final stage of the walk meanders through the gorgeous Little Beck Wood.

Classic 14-Day Itinerary

Stage 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge

Distance/Elevation: 14.04 mi // +2,542 ft, -2,214 ft

Where to Stay: Thorntrees B&B

Begin your walk by completing two very important Coast to Coast rites of passage. Head down to the water’s edge to dip your boots in the Irish Sea and pick up a pebble. You’ll dunk your boots in the North Sea and deposit your pebble upon finishing in Robin Hood’s Bay. Once you’ve savored these great traditions, follow the trail atop ruggedly beautiful seaside clifs as it makes its way out of St. Bees. Once you turn inland, it’s mostly flat walking past farmland and through a couple of quaint villages. There’s a final climb over Dent Fell (and phenomenal views) before a few more easy miles to Ennerdale Bridge.

Stage One of the Coast to Coast Walk from St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge.
Stage One of the Coast to Coast Walk from St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge.

Stage 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite

Distance/Elevation: 14.71 mi // +2,320 ft, -2,385 ft

Where to Stay: Hazel Bank Country House

Stage Two is arguably one of the most beautiful of the entire walk, and certainly showcases the best of the Lakes District. Begin on a rugged path that traces the length of Ennerdale Water before winding your way up to the remote Black Sail Hostel. The hostel is as cozy and charming as can be, set against a stunningly wild backdrop. Pop in for a cup of tea before tackling the steep ascent to Honister Pass. Finish with a picturesque descent into Rosthwaite.

Stage two of the Coast to Coast Walk from Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite.
Stage two of the Coast to Coast Walk from Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite.

Stage 3: Rosthwaite to Grasmere

Distance/Elevation: 7.23 mi // +1,987 ft, -1,992 ft

Where to Stay: Beck Allan’s Guest House

Enjoy more incredible Lakeland beauty on this stage, which starts with wild landscapes and rugged trails. There is one section that requires mild scrambling as you make your way up to Lining Crag. Cross the vast, boggy Greenup Edge before choosing between the more straightforward main route down or the dramatic variant over Helm Crag. A delightful evening in Grasmere is the perfect reward for your efforts.

Stage three of the Coast to Coast Walk from Rosthwaite to Grasmere.
Stage three of the Coast to Coast Walk from Rosthwaite to Grasmere.

Stage 4: Grasmere to Patterdale

Distance/Elevation: 7.53 mi // +1,948 ft, -1,739 ft

Where to Stay: Old Water View Hotel

This stage begins on a gently climbing path that leads walkers through attractive farmland before entering more untamed hillsides. As you ascend towards Grisedale Hause (the high point of this stage), incredible vistas open up first behind you and later in front of you. Follow a rocky, rugged path for a bit before the trail becomes gentler as you approach Patterdale. Be sure to stop in at the atmospheric White Lion Pub in Patterdale to commemorate your final night in the Lakes District.

Stage four of the Coast to Coast Walk from Grasmere to Patterdale.
Stage four of the Coast to Coast Walk from Grasmere to Patterdale.
Patterdale Coast to Coast Walk
The charming village of Patterdale.

Stage 5: Patterdale to Shap

Distance/Elevation: 15.25 mi // +3,291 ft, -2,955 ft

Where to Stay: New Ing Lodge

One of the best parts of the Coast to Coast Walk is the way it allows walkers to witness the changing landscapes that make up the diverse patchwork of Northern English terrain. Stage Five is one of the best examples of this. The first section is marked by a challenging final climb to Kidsty Pike, the highest point of the entire walk. From there, you’ll leave the mountainous Lakeland behind as you descend to Haweswater. It’s a tedious but scenic walk as you trace the length of the lake. When you finally leave Haweswater, a new landscape of rolling hills and pastures opens up before you. Take a short detour to explore the historic Shap Abbey before resting up in the small village of Shap after a long day on your feet.

Stage five of the Coast to Coast Walk from Patterdale to Shap.
Stage five of the Coast to Coast Walk from Patterdale to Shap.
Shap Coast to Coast Walk Stage Five
Beautiful pastoral scenery awaits as you near the village of Shap.

Stage 6: Shap to Kirkby Stephen

Distance/Elevation: 19.3 mi // +1,714 ft, -1,977 ft

Where to Stay: Fletcher House

Stage Six covers quite a bit of distance, but those weary of the Lakeland climbs will find some relief. Alternate between colorful moors and tidy farmland, all while marveling at the wide-open spaces. The sky feels boundless and the green stretches on forever. You’ll learn to use new muscles as you navigate the many stiles that you’ll cross as you pass through farmland. End the day in the well-appointed town of Kirkby Stephen, which offers many shops, restaurants, and other services.

Stage six of the Coast to Coast Walk from Shap to Kirkby Stephen.
Stage six of the Coast to Coast Walk from Shap to Kirkby Stephen.

Stage 7: Kirkby Stephen to Keld

Distance/Elevation: 11.54 mi // +1,910 ft, -1,431 ft

Where to Stay: Frith Lodge

If you brought along your gaiters and waterproof boots, today is the day to use them! Stage Seven packs plenty of excitement (and a good deal of challenge) into a relatively short distance. Start the day with a climb to the legendary and mysterious Nine Standards Rigg, which marks the watershed of Britain. From there, the bog-hopping begins! Pay close attention to the color-coded routes, as the appropriate route varies by time of year to prevent excessive erosion and environmental impacts. After a wet and wild traverse of the bogs, descend to a stream set in a picturesque valley. An undulating and scenic path (with a bit of road walking) carries you to Keld.

Stage seven of the Coast to Coast Walk from Kirkby Stephen to Keld.
Stage seven of the Coast to Coast Walk from Kirkby Stephen to Keld.
Nine Standards Rigg Stage 7 Coast to Coast Walk
Nine Standards Rigg.

Stage 8: Keld to Reeth

Distance/Elevation: 10.66 mi // +1,818 ft, -2,200 ft

Where to Stay: The Burgoyne Hotel

There are two route options between Keld and Reeth and both are splendid. The high-level route takes walkers on a rugged climb to bleak moorland scattered with fascinating old mining remains. This is the more challenging option, both in terms of physical exertion and also because poor waymarking makes navigation quite difficult. The low-level route ambles alongside the River Swale for much of the way, providing delightful glimpses of waterfalls, wildflowers, pastures, and forests. This stage showcases some of the best of the Yorkshire Dales.

Stage eight of the Coast to Coast Walk from Keld to Reeth.
Stage eight of the Coast to Coast Walk from Keld to Reeth.

Stage 9: Reeth to Richmond

Distance/Elevation: 10.36 mi // +1,360 ft, -1,576 ft

Where to Stay: The Castle House B&B

Stage Nine is characterized by mellow walking through rolling pastures and farmlands. There is a good bit of road walking on this stage, but the numerous points of interest more than make up for it. At the beginning of the walk, you’ll pass the remains of the 12th century Marrick Priory (worth a short detour), in the middle section you’ll pass through the lovely village of Marske along with its 12th century church, and you’ll end the day by meandering through the peaceful woods of Applegarth farms. Richmond makes a delightful and well-located place for a rest day.

Stage nine of the Coast to Coast Walk from Reeth to Richmond.
Stage nine of the Coast to Coast Walk from Reeth to Richmond.
Richmond Coast to Coast Walk
Exploring Richmond is a perfect rest day activity.

Stage 10: Richmond to Danby Wiske

Distance/Elevation: 13.36 mi // +427 ft, -750 ft

Where to Stay: The White Swan

Begin the day by following an idyllic path along the River Swale. Eventually, you’ll bid the river farewell and begin a long trek through endless farm fields. It certainly feels like you’ve made it into England’s heartland at this point in the walk. There’s quite a bit of road walking on Stage Ten, but many trekkers will welcome the easier change of pace. Be sure to check out the beautiful Norman church while in Danby Wiske.

Stage ten of the Coast to Coast Walk from Richmond to Danby Wiske.
Stage ten of the Coast to Coast Walk from Richmond to Danby Wiske.

Stage 11: Danby Wiske to Osmotherley

Distance/Elevation: 10.29 mi // +829 ft, -253 ft

Where to Stay: Vane House

Stage Eleven is yet again filled with flat, easy, pastoral walking. Savor the relaxed pace as you enjoy your final stage in this middle portion of the walk before tackling the North York Moors. There’s plenty of road walking, although history buffs will appreciate that part of it is on an ancient Roman road. Pause for a moment at Ingleby Cross, the official boundary of the North York Moors National Park and the final fifty miles of your adventure.

Stage 11 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Danby Wiske to Osmotherley.
Stage 11 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Danby Wiske to Osmotherley.

Stage 12: Osmotherley to Blakey Ridge

Distance/Elevation: 18.47 mi // +3,106 ft, -2,506 ft

Where to Stay: The Lion Inn

The first half of Stage Twelve largely uphill as you make your way through the scenic Cleveland Hills and eventually to the high point at Urra Moor. The incline is a refreshing change of pace after days of flat walking, as are the expansive views as you gain elevation. Once atop Urra Moor, take in the seas of heather (which turn a beautiful purple in late summer and fall) for miles and miles. There are virtually no services between Osmotherley and Blakey Ridge, but most accommodation providers in the area will pick up and drop off hikers at various points along the way as needed to break up this long stretch.

Stage 12 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Osmotherley to Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn).
Stage 12 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Osmotherley to Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn).
North York Moors Stage 12 Coast to Coast Walk
Beautiful purple heather in the North York Moors.

Stage 13: Blakey Ridge to Grosmont

Distance/Elevation: 13.17 mi // +504 ft, -1,693 ft

Where to Stay: Grosmont House

There’s a long, bleak stretch of road walking through the moors at the beginning of this stage, interrupted only by the infamous “Fat Betty.” Betty is actually one of many centuries old moorland crosses that can be found in the area, but she is unique in that she’s become an informal trading post of sorts for hikers to leave and take food and gear as they near the eastern terminus of the walk. Once the monotony of the road is behind you, you’ll be rewarded by a gorgeous traverse over high moors as you descend towards Glaisdale. Once out of the Moors, follow peaceful lanes into the charming village of Grosmont. Be sure to check out the authentic steam trains while you’re there.

Stage 13 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn) to Grosmont.
Stage 13 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Blakey Ridge (The Lion Inn) to Grosmont.

Stage 14: Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay

Distance/Elevation: 14.99 mi // +2,115 ft, -2,197 ft

Where to Stay: Fernleigh B&B

This final marvelous stage of the Coast to Coast seems to give you a little taste of everything you’ve encountered on your journey thus far: woodlands, moors, bogs, farms, seaside cliffs, villages, and maybe even a variety of weather elements if you’re lucky! After a stunning traverse of the coastal bluffs, you’ll wind your way down through the incredibly quaint village of Robin Hood’s Bay. Mark the end of your journey by dipping your boots and depositing your pebbles in the North Sea. The Bay Hotel, conveniently located at the water’s edge, is the traditional spot for a celebratory pint and the place to add your name to the C2C logbook.

Stage 14 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Grosmont to Robin Hood's Bay.
Stage 14 of the Coast to Coast Walk from Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay.
Robin Hood's Bay Coast to Coast Walk
Robin Hood’s Bay.

Fast-Paced 12-Day Itinerary

This option is best for experienced walkers who have limited time to complete the C2C. To traverse the entire route in just twelve days will require you to cover significant distances each day. If you are short on time but not physically and mentally prepared for such long days of walking, you can always do just a section of the walk instead of attempting to complete the entire thing.

StageStartFinishDistance (miles)Elevation Gain (feet)Elevation Loss (feet)
1St.BeesEnnerdale Bridge14.04+2,542-2,214
2Ennerdale BridgeRosthwaite14.71+2,320-2,385
3RosthwaitePatterdale14.77+3,744-3,538
4PatterdaleShap15.25+3,291-2,955
5ShapKirkby Stephen19.3+1,714-1,977
6Kirkby StephenKeld11.54+1,910-1,431
7KeldReeth10.66+1,818-2,200
8ReethRichmond10.36+1,360-1,576
9RichmondIngleby Arncliffe21.98+702-866
10Ingleby ArncliffeClay Bank Top11.62+2,755-2,162
11Clay Bank TopGlaisdale17.51+1,142-1,493
12GlaisdaleRobin Hood's Bay19.2+2,186-2,686
Yorkshire Dales Coast to Coast Walk
An idyllic scene in the Yorkshire Dales.

Relaxed-Pace 17-Day Itinerary

If you’ve got the time, it’s worth considering this 17-day itinerary. With daily distances averaging a little over ten miles each day, this itinerary is approachable for a wide range of ability levels while still allowing you to achieve rewarding feats. Even better, incorporate a rest day or two into your itinerary to really savor the experience to the fullest.

StageStartFinishDistance (miles)Elevation Gain (feet)Elevation Loss (feet)
1St. BeesEnnerdale Bridge14.04+2,542-2,214
2Ennerdale BridgeBlack Sail Hostel9.05+1,269-676
3Black Sail HostelRosthwaite5.66+1,217-1,875
4RosthwaiteGrasmere7.23+1,987-1,992
5GrasmerePatterdale7.53+1,948-1,739
6PatteraleShap15.25+3,291-2,955
7ShapOrton6.84+827-702
8OrtonKirkby Stephen12.45+977-1,365
9Kirkby StephenKeld11.54+1,910-1,431
10KeldReeth10.66+1,818-2,200
11ReethRichmond10.36+1,360-1,576
12RichmondBolton-on-Swale7.08+302-574
13Bolton-on-SwaleIngleby Cross15.14+497-424
14Ingleby CrossClay Bank Top11.37+2,788-2,159
15Clay Bank TopLion Inn (Blakey Ridge)8.55+924-503
16Lion InnGrosmont13.17+504-1,693
17GrosmontRobin Hood's Bay14.99+2,115-2,197
Dipping Boots in the North Sea at the end of the Coast to Coast Walk.
Dipping our boots in the North Sea to celebrate the end of the journey!

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking to push your physical limits, explore world-class cultural sites, or just enjoy the simplicity of long walks in beautiful places, the Coast to Coast Walk definitely won’t disappoint. With a variety of transportation connections and itinerary options, you can truly make the experience your own. Wishing you a memorable and rewarding C2C adventure!

What’s Next?

Check out our other great Coast to Coast Walk Resources:

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How to Navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route | GPS Maps

We often get asked what is the best way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route? Given that the route spans multiple countries, crosses 11 mountain passes, and covers over…

We often get asked what is the best way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route? Given that the route spans multiple countries, crosses 11 mountain passes, and covers over 207 kilometers it’s no wonder that trekkers aren’t sure what maps to carry or the best way to be sure they are on the correct trail.

In this post we’ll explain exactly how we navigated during our own Walker’s Haute Route adventure utilizing offline GPS maps, and even provide some custom resources for your own trek! Let’s get started.

Overview map of the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.
The Walker’s Haute Route winds its way from Chamonix to Zermatt.

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Should I bring a map on the Walker’s Haute Route?

In order to fully cover the Walker’s Haute Route at a decent scale you’d need to bring no less than five Swiss Topo maps along your trek. For many, this is simply too much weight and hassle to pack. When we hiked the Walker’s Haute Route we did not rely heavily on these maps, instead choosing to utilize offline GPS maps on our phone for navigation. However, we always recommend that you bring some form of paper navigation. If you drop that handy phone in a puddle, you’ll be glad you did. The full list of Swiss Topo maps you’ll need for the route is below:

  • Swiss Topo 282T – Martigny
  • Swiss Topo 283T – Arolla
  • Swiss Topo 273T – Montana
  • Swiss Topo 274T – Visp
  • Swiss Topo 284T – Mischabel

A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Be sure to check out our Walker’s Haute Route Packing List for a complete guide on what to bring!

Once you’ve got your maps for the Haute Route safely tucked away you can start to focus on our favorite way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route: GPS maps on your smartphone. No cell service required!

You’ll be glad you brought your handy maps when you encounter a trail section like this!

 

Offline GPS Maps for the Walker’s Haute Route

Offline GPS maps are quickly becoming the standard for backcountry navigation given their ease of use, accessibility, and the multitude of excellent smartphone apps available. Whether taking advantage of these maps on the Walker’s Haute Route or any other trek, you simply open your chosen GPS app (see our recommended apps below) and you’ll be able to view your location along the trail, see alternate routes, and all the stopping points on your trek.

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your hike.

Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Using your phone as a GPS

Modern smartphones are incredible machines. You can send email, video chat with someone halfway around the world, and check your bank account all with a swipe of your finger. Another great feature of smartphones is their ability to act as a GPS device. You regularly use this feature when navigating with Google Maps, Apple Maps, or other mapping software that comes standard on most phones these days.

The problem is your phone relies on having an internet connection in order to download the background mapping data that needs to be displayed for you to know where you are. You see, the GPS in your phone only provides a location point, but the really valuable data is the background map that shows the various streets, businesses and even traffic conditions around you.  Without an internet connection to show the background map, your Google Maps app will look something like this: 

Blank TMB map

Not a very effective way to navigate.

Solving the background map problem

When you’re using your cell phone is a city, town, or anywhere with cell phone service getting the background map to download is no problem. Your phone simply displays the background map via the internet connection. However, once you’re out of cell phone service and without WiFi, your phone will not be able to display any of the critical background map information. This can be a huge issue when you’re standing on top of a high mountain pass on the Walker’s Haute Route and unsure which way to proceed.

The solution?

GPS navigation apps that allow for downloadable background maps.

These excellent apps allow you to access the map data without a cell phone connection and still know exactly where you are! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. 

Pretty cool, huh? I’ll show you exactly how we did this for the Walker’s Haute Route below.

 

Walker’s Haute Route Maps – What we provide

For those looking for Walker’s Haute Route GPS resources, we offer a complete GPS digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire Walker’s Haute Route along with common alternate routes and waypoints of all of the stops along the traditional, 13-day itinerary.

BUY NOW BUY NOW

These custom maps can be used on Android and Apple devices and works with both paid and free GPS navigation apps.

Which app should I use?

There are two main offline GPS navigation apps that we recommend for the Walker’s Haute Route:

Maps.me and Gaia GPS. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the Walker’s Haute Route displays in each of the apps.

Comparison of Maps.me and Gaia GPS for the Walker's Haute Route

Comparison of Maps.me and Gaia GPS for the Walker’s Haute Route.

As shown above, Maps.me is great for displaying the route as well as the stopping points along the trek. However, when you look at the same section of trail displayed in Gaia GPS you can see much more information including adjacent trails, elevation shading, and a more detailed view of your surroundings. 

For this reason, we highly recommend you invest the $20 to use Gaia GPS. Of course, we certainly understand that many readers will prefer to use the free option of Maps.me instead. Given this, we’ve included instructions for downloading and accessing the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS below. 

Gaia GPS for the Walker’s Haute Route

The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Walker’s Haute Route GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.

Step One – Download the Walker’s Haute Route GPS file

When you purchase our Walker’s Haute Route GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .GPX file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the Walker’s Haute Route and waypoints displayed on the map.

Success! You’ve imported the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data in Gaia GPS.

Step Two – Choose your map source

Next, you’ll want to select your base map. This will be the background map that you will eventually download and use to navigate while hiking, even without cell phone service. There are tons of background maps available for download, but we highly recommend the “Outdoor” layer for those hiking the Walker’s Haute Route. To choose this map source, simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and then select ‘Outdoors’.

Step Three – Navigate to the Walker’s Haute Route and download your background map

Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the Walker’s Haute Route. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the background map data, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the Walker’s Haute Route in Gaia GPS
  2. Select the ‘Create’ button (circle with a plus sign in the upper right hand corner)
  3. Select ‘Download Map’
  4. Draw a rectangle with your finger that encompasses the entire trek
  5. Set the ‘Max Zoom’ to 17
  6. Name your map ‘Walker’s Haute Route’ and select ‘Save’
  7. Allow the download to complete and you’re done! (you’ll want to be connected to WiFi for this)

 

That’s it! Now you’re all set to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route like a pro with an offline GPS map in Gaia GPS. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the stops along the route!

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

The final step to successfully navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route is to know how to utilize the Gaia GPS app when you are out on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow.

Use this feature whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the trail has you questioning the correct way.  

NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

 

Maps.me for the Walker’s Haute Route

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Walker’s Haute Route GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me.

Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route. The primary shortcoming of  using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data. You won’t find detailed topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price!

Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our Walker’s Haute Route GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the Walker’s Haute Route GPS file

When you purchase our Walker’s Haute Route GPS data, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you’ll want to go ahead and do.

 

After opening the GPS file with Maps.me, the app will navigate to your current location and will also display a message stating that your bookmarks have successfully been loaded. You’ll need to move the map from your current location to the Walker’s Haute Route and verify that you see the track and waypoints displayed.

 

 

Step Two – Download the Walker’s Haute Route background maps

Once you have successfully loaded the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area surrounding the trek as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the Walker’s Haute Route in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download two distinct regions in Maps.me to cover the entire Haute Route. They are:
    1. Haute-Savoie
    2. Lake Geneva Region
  4. Continue to zoom in on different segments of the trail until you have downloaded both of these regions
  5. Verify that you’ve downloaded all of the required base maps by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  6. Once you’ve checked that both regions have been successfully downloaded you’re all done!

 

To verify that you’ve successfully downloaded both of the required base map regions in Maps.me follow these steps:

  1. Select the ‘Menu’ in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  2. Select ‘Download Maps’
  3. Verify that you have downloads in France and Switzerland
  4. Select each country and verify that you have the following maps downloaded:
    1. Haute-Savoie (France)
    2. Lake Geneva Region (Switzerland)

That’s it! You’re all set to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route like a pro with an offline GPS map utilizing Maps.me. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the stops along the route!

 

A note on battery life

One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.

The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any decent option should do.

Keep Reading

Be sure to check out all of our Walker’s Haute Route posts here.

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is one of the America’s most unique National Parks. The stunning landscape of sand colored buttes, towering rock formations, and one of…

Badlands National Park, located in southwestern South Dakota, is one of the America’s most unique National Parks. The stunning landscape of sand colored buttes, towering rock formations, and one of the United State’s largest areas of grassland prairie make this a truly unique place to visit. We think the best way to experience all that the Badlands has to offer is by spending the night in your tent or RV where you’ll feel as close to this stunning landscape as possible.

Badlands National Park and the surrounding area have tons of options for camping from the two campgrounds located in the park to remote backcountry camping and plenty of nearby campgrounds only a short drive from the National Park.

Keep reading to get all the details about camping at Badlands National Park!

Landscape of Badlands National Park

Pitching your tent in Badlands National Park is an experience not to be missed!

 

In this post

Badlands National Park Campgrounds

There are several options for those looking to camp inside Badlands National Park. The large and well equipped Cedar Pass Campground is perfect for those with an RV or who prefer more services, while more remote car camping is available at the Sage Creek Campground, and the entire National Park is open to backcountry camping for those with a sense of adventure!

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the campgrounds are located in Badlands National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. Keep reading for detailed information on all your options.

Map of campsites at Badlands National Park

Car camping options in Badlands National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Reservations

Reservations are required only for the Cedar Pass Campground located adjacent to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center on the eastern edge of the park. While reservations are not required here, we recommend reserving your spot if traveling during the peak summer season. The campground is not managed by the National Park Service, so you’ll need to reserve directly through the Cedar Pass Lodge website below.

Reservations for the Cedar Pass Campground can be made here

For all of the other camping options in Badlands National Park you do not need to (and cannot) make a reservation. For backcountry/backpacking campsites you do not need a permit, but should contact the rangers at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center to notify them of your plans.

There is no permit or reservation required for camping at the Sage Creek campsite, but all of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Car camping sites in Badlands National Park

There are two options for those looking to car camp in Badlands National Park: the Cedar Pass Campground and the more basic sites at the Sage Creek Campground.

Cedar Pass Campground

Number of Sites: 96 campsites (four of which are group sites for up to 26 people)
Fee: $23/night for a tent site (2 people) // $38/night for RV site with electricity (2 people) // $40/night for a group site (10 people)
RVs: Yes
More Information
Click Here to Reserve or call (605)-433-5460

Cedar Pass Campground - Badlands National Park

The Cedar Pass Campground will give you great access to Badlands National Park.

 

The Cedar Pass Campground is part of the large Cedar Pass Lodge located just inside the Badlands National Park boundaries. The campground is adjacent to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, the main entrance to the National Park. The Cedar Pass lodge was established prior to the create of Badlands National Park, and is not managed by the National Park Service. 

Cedar Pass Campground has a total of 96 campsites that can accommodate tents and RVs in addition to four larger group sites that can accommodate up to 26 people each.  The campground is well organized with tremendous views of the surrounding National Park.

The campground is part of the larger Cedar Pass Lodge complex which provides campers with easy access to restrooms, a small souvenir shop, potable water, trash and recycling services and an on-site restaurant. The RV sites are electric only, although there is a dump site nearby. Fires are not allowed at the Cedar Pass Campground.

The Cedar Pass Campground is very popular given its excellent location at the entrance to Badlands National Park. Given the popularity of this campground, we highly recommend making a reservation here during the peak summer season. Since the campground is not affiliated with the National Park Service, you’ll need to make a reservation directly through the Cedar Pass Lodge website well in advance.

Sage Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 22 campsites
Fee: Free
Capacity: Not regulated
RVs: Yes, up to 18′. Horse trailers are exempt from 18′ limit.
Reservations: First come, first served
More Information

Bison near Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park.

You’re likely to have bison for neighbors at the Sage Creek Campground in Badlands National Park!

 

The Sage Creek Campground is located in the northwestern portion of Badlands National Park along the unpaved Sage Creek Road. The campground is approximately 15 miles from the closest town of Scenic, South Dakota. Camping at the Sage Creek Campground will appeal to those who are in search of a more solitude than you’ll find at the Cedar Pass Campground.

The 22 designated campsites at the Sage Creek Campground are all reserved on first come, first served basis, so be sure to arrive early in the day during peak season. The campground is free of charge and features pit toilets and picnic tables for your use and enjoyment.

The Sage Creek Campground does not have a water source, so you’ll need to bring all the water you anticipate needing with you. As with all of Badlands National Park, fires are not allowed due to the sensitive nature of the surrounding environment.

The Sage Creek Wilderness

The Sage Creek Campground makes a perfect jumping off point for exploring the surrounding wilderness.

 

Backcountry campsites in Badlands National Park

Number of Sites: Not restricted
Fee: Free
Capacity: Not restricted
RVs: No
Reservations: Not required, but please register with the NPS prior to setting out
More Information

Exploring the backcountry is an incredible way to experience Badlands National Park.

 

Badlands National Park presents the opportunity for a true adventure for those interested in backcountry camping and backpacking. The entire National Park is open to those looking for backcountry camping as long as you set-up camp at least 0.5 miles from a trail or road and are not visible from a road. While this presents a great opportunity to find some solitude, there are several factors to consider when planning a backpacking trip in Badlands National Park. 

First and foremost always contact the National Park Service at either the Ben Reifel Visitor Center, Pinnacles Entrance Station or White River Visitor Center prior to starting your trek. The rangers will be able to provide invaluable insights into the terrain, recommend routes, and advise you on the conditions you are likely to encounter. Additionally, it is important to notify them of your planned route in case an emergency arises and they need to find or reach your group.

It is very important to notify the NPS of your backpacking plans given the rugged nature of the terrain in Badlands National Park.

 

Given the wilderness nature of Badlands National Park it is imperative to carry a detailed map and know how to navigate utilizing a map and compass. We highly recommend bringing a copy of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topo Map for Badlands National Park on any backpacking trip in the Badlands. Additionally, trekkers need to be prepared to carry in all of their own water, as there are no suitable water sources available in the National Park. The National Park Service recommends backpackers plan to carry at least one gallon of water per person per day.

Given the sensitive nature of the grassland prairie and surrounding ecosystem of the Badlands it is essential that you practice Leave No Trace principles when backpacking in Badlands National Park. This includes packing out all of your own trash and property disposing of your waste. Fires are not permitted in the backcountry and you’ll need to leave your pets at home as they are not allowed in the National Park. 

Map of backcountry camping in Badlands National Park

The Deer Haven Trail and Sage Creek area are popular backpacking destinations. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

The National Park Service recommends two specific areas of Badlands National Park for backcountry camping: the Deer Haven Trail near the Conata Picnic area and the wilderness located adjacent to the Sage Creek Rim Road.

The Deer Haven Trail is not an official hiking trail, but rather a well worn path that leaves from Conata Picnic area. The route takes you a few miles into the backcountry were a number of camping areas are available. Along the Sage Creek Rim Road there are plenty of opportunities to head into the backcountry following social trails and wildlife paths. You’re likely to encounter bison in this area of the National Park so always be sure to give them their distance!

Here are some key things to keep in mind when planning to stay at any of these backpacking areas in Badlands National Park:

  • Pets are not allowed
  • No campfires
  • You must bring all of your own water
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles
  • Be aware of wildlife
  • Exercise caution when hiking since you will not be on a formal trail

If you follow these guidelines and plan accordingly you’re sure to have a great experience backpacking in this untamed wilderness!

Badlands National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Badlands National Park.

Fires

Fires are prohibited at all the camping options inside Badlands National Park. The ecosystem of the area is highly susceptible to damage and wildfires, so please respect this rule and do not have any type of campfire during your stay.

Campfires are not allowed at any of the campgrounds in Badlands National Park.

 

Wildlife

A diversity of wildlife inhabits Badlands National Park. This includes the iconic prairie dwelling bison, bighorn sheep, and the quintessential prairie dog. Badlands is also home to one of the most endangered animals in the world, the black-footed ferret. In addition to these mammals, you’ll also find rattlesnakes, turtles, and a variety of bird species. 

For those camping, you’ll primarily want to be vigilant about keeping a safe distance from roaming bison and keep a close eye out for rattlesnakes. If backpacking, be sure to wear long pants to and be on the lookout for prairie dog holes which can leave you with a nasty sprained ankle.

 

Bighorn sheep in Badlands National Park

Bighorn sheep in Badlands National Park.

 

Pets

Pets are allowed at both the Cedar Pass Campground as well as the Sage Creek Campground within Badlands National Park. You’ll need to have control over them at all times and they must be kept on a leash at all times. Also, be sure to pick up after them and properly dispose of their waste.

Pets are not allowed at any of the backcountry sites in Badlands National Park, so you’ll want to leave them at home if you’re venturing into the backcountry.

 

Where to get supplies

The best place to stock up on camping supplies before heading to Badlands National Park is Rapid City, South Dakota. Rapid City is about 1.5 hours from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and about 1.25 hours from the Sage Creek Campground. While this isn’t especially close to the National Park, Rapid City has all the amenities and services you’ll need to prepare for a great camping trip including grocery stores, liquor stores, and outdoor stores. Here are your best options for where to stock up:

  • Groceries: Safeway (730 Mountain View Rd, Rapid City, SD 57702)
  • Outdoor store: Roam’n Around (512 Main St #140, Rapid City, SD 57701)

If you’re looking to stock up a bit closer to the National Park your best get will be the town of Interior, South Dakota. Interior is located only about a 10-minute drive from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and has basic services such as a small grocery store and gas station.

 

Camping near Badlands National Park

Given the popularity and scarcity of options, it is always possible that you won’t be able to find a campground within Badlands National Park. However, don’t give up as there are plentiful camping options just outside the National Park boundary! Check out your best options below:

There are plentiful camping options near Badlands National Park.

 

RV campgrounds near Badlands National Park

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside Badlands National Park. These campgrounds will be your best bet when Cedar Pass and Sage Creek are full, or if your RV/trailer is longer than 18′ (the limit at Sage Creek). Here are our recommended options for RV camping outside of Badlands National Park:

Badlands Interior Campground

Number of Sites: 34 RV sites (with hookup), 27 tent only sites, 16 RV (no hookup)/tent sites, 4 group sites
Fee: RV sites ($23.61 – $37.07/night) // tent sites ($26.06/night)
Capacity: Max of 6 adults per site /  more for group sites
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Badland Interior Campground is just over 1 mile from the Ben Reifel Visitor Center and entrance to the National Park, making it the closet option. The large site features plenty of RV sites with multiple hookup options as well as tent sites, teepees, and camping cabins. The campground has tons of amenities such as a pool, free WiFi, a small shop, as well as an on-site restaurant.

Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park

Number of Sites: 57 RV sites, 20 tent sites
Fee: RV sites $43/night // tent sites $28/night
Capacity: Not stated
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Sleepy Hollow Campground & RV Park is located north of Badlands National Park in the town on Wall, South Dakota. This well-equipped campground makes a great place to camp for those looking to explore the Sage Creek area of the National Park, or who prefer to stay along Interstate 90. The campground has plenty of capacity for RVs and features a pool, dog park, playground, and basketball hoop. Wall has many amenities that are great for camping near the National Park including a grocery store.

 

Car camping sites near Badlands National Park

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Badlands National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. In addition to the French Creek Campground listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at both of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near the Badlands.

Car camping near Badlands National Park

Car camping near Badlands National Park.

 

French Creek Campground

Number of Sites: 7 sites
Fee: Free
Capacity: Not stated
RVs: Yes
Reservations: First come, first served
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

The French Creek Campground is located near the South Unit of Badlands National Park and provides for a great car camping experience. This is a semi-developed campground and features a vault toilet and a few picnic tables. The site does not have potable water, so you’ll want to be sure to bring your own.

 

Dispersed campsites

Your final option for camping near Badlands National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on the adjacent Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Buffalo Gap is managed by the Forest Service/BLM which manages hundreds of thousands of acres of land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping on BLM land here.

There are some fantastic dispersed campsite just outside of Badlands National Park.

 

The Buffalo Gap National Grassland encompasses a huge area surrounding Badlands National Park, so you’ll want to have some idea of where you are headed. If you’re looking to camp on the west side of the National Park we recommend reaching out to the Fall River Ranger District in Hot Springs, SD to confirm current camping regulations. If you’re looking to spend a night or two on the north or east side of the National Park you’ll want to check-in with the Wall Ranger District.

You can’t go wrong with either locations, and here are your best bets for great dispersed camping near Badlands National Park:

Badlands Boondocking/Overlook Dispersed Camping

The so-called Badlands Boondocking dispersed camping area is located just north of the National Park on State Highway 240, which connects the Badlands to the town of Wall, SD. The camping area is approximately 3 miles north of the Pinnacles Entrance to Badlands National Park. From State Highway 240 there are plenty of options for great campsites, including the spectacular ‘Wall’ sites that overlook the National Park. Keep an eye out for a dirt road leading to three radio towers from Highway 240 and you’ll know you’re in the correct place. This site has some great intel on the area.

You’ll need to bring all of your own water and also be prepared to properly deal with your waste at this site, as there are no facilities. BLM regulations on dispersed camping allow you to camp for up to 14 days in a 28 day period, so be sure to observe that limit at this site.

It is especially important to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Badlands National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

 

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The Complete Guide to Camping in Great Sand Dunes National Park

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes. The stunning sand dunes, some up to 700 feet tall (!), are set against the…

The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve is one of Colorado’s most iconic landscapes. The stunning sand dunes, some up to 700 feet tall (!), are set against the spectacular backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range. We think the best way to experience the dunes is to spend a night or two under the stars in your tent. There are tons of options for camping in the Great Sand Dunes National Park from RV spots and family-friendly car camping sites to beautiful backcountry sites and rugged sites that can only be accessed via 4WD roads.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about camping at the Great Sand Dunes!

 

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Great Sand Dunes National Park Campgrounds

You’ll have several options available if you’re looking to camp inside the Great Sand Dunes National Park. There is the easily accessible Piñon Flats Campground for those looking to car camp or park their RV, camping for those with a well-equipped 4WD vehicle along Medano Pass Primitive Road, and hike-in backcountry sites in the dunes as well as the surrounding mountains.

Take a look at the map below to get a sense of where the different camping options are in the National Park and keep reading to learn more about each campground.

Map of campgrounds in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Car camping options in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Reservations & Permits

Reservations are required only for the Piñon Flats Campground located at the entrance to the park. If you’re thinking about camping here during peak summer season (or anytime Medano Creek is flowing) you’ll almost certainly need to have a reservation.

Reservations for Piñon Flats Campground can be made here via Recreation.gov

For all of the other camping options in the Great Sand Dunes you do not need to (and cannot) make a reservation. For backcountry/backpacking campsites you’ll need to obtain a free permit from the Visitor Center before setting out.  Note that all permits are made available on a first-come, first-served basis, so be sure to get there early!

There is no permit required for camping along Medano Pass Primitive Road, but all of the sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

 

Car camping sites

There are two options for those looking to car camp in Great Sand Dunes National Park: Piñon Flats Campground and the more basic sites along Medano Pass Primitive Road.

Piñon Flats Campground

Number of Sites: 88 individual (up to eight people) and 3 group (15-40 people)
Fee: $20/night (more for group sites)
Capacity: Up to eight people, two tents, and two vehicles at the individual sites
RVs: Yes, maximum length of 25′
More Information
Click Here to Reserve

Piñon Flats Campground in Great Sand Dunes National Park

Piñon Flats Campground. Photo credit NPS/Patrick Myers.

 

The Piñon Flats Campground is a large, sprawling campground located just past the visitor center when you first enter the National Park. The site sits adjacent to Medano Creek and makes a perfect option for those looking for easy access and plenty of nearby services.

Piñon Flats has a total of 88 campsites for small groups & RVs as well as three larger group sites that can accommodate between 15-40 people. The campground is well organized with two loops serving the 88 individual sites and another loop serving the three group sites.

The campground has plenty of restrooms, a small campground shop, potable water,  and trash and recycling services. There is also an RV dump station nearby in the summer months.

For those arriving in an RV, keep in mind that the Piñon Flats Campground can only accommodate RVs and trailers that are less than 25′ long. If yours is longer, you will be better off staying at one of the many nearby campgrounds that can accommodate larger RVs.

The Piñon Flats Campground is extremely popular during spring and early summer when Medano Creek is flowing, so reservations are essential. As with all National Park campgrounds, you’ll need to make a reservation through the Recreation.gov website well in advance.

The campground can be reserved up to six months in advance (which is recommended for popular times) and remember that Recreation.gov opens availability at 10 am Eastern Time six months out – so be sure you’re ready!

Piñon Flats Campground Great Sand Dunes National Park

Piñon Flats Campground in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Photo credit NPS/Patrick Myers.

 

Medano Pass Primitive Road 4WD campsites

Number of Sites: 21 campsites – please camp at designed sites only!
Fee: Free
Capacity: Not regulated
RVs: No
Reservations: First come, first served
More Information

Medano Pass connects the Great Sand Dunes National Park with State Highway 69. The road is only passable by well-equipped 4WD vehicles. It is important to note that AWD vehicles will not do well on this road! For those who have a properly equipped vehicle, Medano Pass Primitive Road offers some excellent campsites that provide more solitude than what you’ll find at Piñon Flats Campground.

Medan Pass Primitive Road Camping

Medano Pass Primitive Road opens yours options for camping in the National Park. Photo credit: NPS/Patrick Myers.

 

The 21 designated campsite along Medano Pass are all contained within the Great Sand Dunes National Preserve (as opposed to the National Park) and begin approximately 5.2 miles from where the pavement ends along the main road through the Park. Each campground is numbered according to how many miles it is from the entrance to the National Preserve.

Each of the campsites along Medano Pass road includes a bear box to store your food and many have fire rings. Fires are generally allowed, but be sure to check-in at the visitor center as fire bans can be in place at any time. There are no restrooms or trash facilities along Medano Pass, so always be sure to bury your waste (at least 100′ from the nearest water source!) and pack out all of your trash. Water can occasionally be drawn from Medano Creek, but must be treated. We recommend bringing all of the water you’ll need for your stay with you.

Medano Pass Primitive Road Camping - Great Sand Dunes National Park

Medano Pass Primitive Road Campsites. Map courtesy of the National Park Service.

 

Backcountry campsites

Number of Sites: 7 campsites + dunefield
Fee: Free
Capacity: 6 people per permit/group / 2 vehicles per group
RVs: No
Reservations: First come, first served – permit required
More Information

For those in search of a true wilderness experience, backpacking in Great Sand Dunes National Park is the way to go! The National Park has seven designated backcountry campsites and also allows camping anywhere in the 30 square mile dunefield for a maximum of 20 groups, with no more than six people per group.

Dunefield camping - Great Sand Dunes

Camping in the dunefield at Great Sand Dunes National Park is sure to be an unforgettable experience.

 

For both the dunefiled camping as well as the designated backcountry sites you’ll need to get a free permit from the Visitor Center upon arrival, beginning at 9am. Backcountry camping permits in Great Sand Dunes National Park are first-come, first-served so you’ll want to be sure you’re there early, especially on busy weekends.

Great Sand Dunes National Park Dunefield Backcountry Camping:

For those interested in backpacking in the Dunefield, you’ll have nearly 30 square miles to explore and camp. The dunefield is split into two zones by the National Park Service: Day-use areas and the backcountry zone. The map below gives you a sense of the different areas, and you’ll be able to camp in the backcountry zone only. The Park Service estimates it is an approximate 1.5 mile minimum hike into the dunefield. Some other important considerations:

  • Pets are not allowed
  • You’ll need to carry in all of your own water
  • No fires are allowed (except camping stoves)
  • Keep a close eye on the weather as you’ll want to avoid severe thunderstorms and high winds
  • Bring a bear canister or other food storage to protect your food from wildlife
  • The NPS recommends sand specific tent stakes.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles

Great Sand Dunes National Park Backpacking

Backcountry dunefield zone in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park Backcountry Camping – Mountains:

In addition the dunefield, you’ll also have the ability to camp at one of seven designated backcountry camping sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park. These seven campsites are all located along the Sand Ramp Trail and offer a more protected camping option for those who aren’t interested in the dunefield. The seven campsites range in distance from 0.5 miles to 11.5 miles from the Piñon Flats Campground and the start of the Sand Ramp Trail.

Great Sand Dunes National Park backpacking

Backpacking is an incredible way to experience Great Sand Dunes National Park.

 

Here are some things to keep in mind when planning to stay at any of these backpacking sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park:

  • Plan to bring a bear canister or other secure food storage
  • Pets are not allowed
  • No campfires (with the exception of the Sand Creek site)
  • Water can be scarce, plan to carry in what you need
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles

Great Sand Dunes National Park backpacking map

Map of backcountry campsites in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Map courtesy of NPS.

 

Great Sand Dunes National Park Camping Must-Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Great Sand Dunes National Park!

Fires

Fires are allowed at the Piñon Flats Campground as well as the sites along Medano Pass Primitive Road. Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry dunefield area or at the designed backcountry campsites with the exception of the Sand Creek backcountry site.

Campfire at Great Sand Dunes.

Campfires are generally permitted in the car camping sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

 

If you do decide to have a fire it is important to always use firewood that is sourced locally. This helps prevent the spread of disease and preserves the natural habitat of the National Park. Harvesting of firewood is not allowed in any National Park, Great Sand Dunes included.

Before having a fire, always be sure to check-in with the staff at the Visitor Center for current regulations.

Wildlife

A variety of wildlife calls the Great Sand Dunes National Park home. This includes commonly seen deer and elk as well as the more rare black bears, mountain lions, and the dune-dwelling kangaroo mouse. For those camping, you’ll primarily need to be concerned with protecting your food from small rodents such as mice and chipmunks. However, bears do visit the campgrounds occasionally, so it is imperative that you’ve properly stored your food.

The campsites along Medano Pass Primitive Road and at Pinon Flats all provide food storage lockers. Those camping in the backcountry will need to bring a bear canister or be prepared to properly hang your food in a tree.

It is also important to note that ticks are frequently found in Great Sand Dunes National Park. Be sure to always check yourself and pets after any time spent hiking, especially if you’ve been in tall grasses.

Elk herd in Great Sand Dunes National Park.

Elk frequent Great Sand Dunes National Park. Photo credit: NPS/Patrick Myers

 

Pets

Pets are allowed at both the Piñon Flats Campground as well as the sites along Medano Pass Primitive Road. You’ll need to have control over them at all times and we recommend that you keep them on a leash to avoid any issues. Also, be sure to pick up after them and properly dispose of their waste.

Pets are not allowed at any of the backcountry sites in Great Sand Dunes National Park, so you’ll want to leave them at home if you’re venturing into the backcountry.

As noted above, always be sure to check your pets for ticks as they are common in the Sand Dunes.

Where to get supplies

The best place to stock up on camping supplies near Great Sand Dunes National Park is in nearby Alamosa. This small town of around 11,000 people is approximately 30 minutes southwest from the National Park. There you’ll find major grocery stores such as Safeway and City Market as well as a few good outdoor stores. Here are your best options for where to stock up before your camping trip in Great Sand Dunes National Park:

 

Camping near Great Sand Dunes National Park

Given the popularity of Great Sand Dunes National Park, it is always possible that you won’t be able to find a campsite within the National Park. However, that doesn’t mean your trip is doomed! There are plentiful camping options just outside of the Great Sand Dunes that still provide easy access to the National Park. We’ve shared the best options below.

You’ll have easy access to Great Sand Dunes National Park from any of the camping options below.

 

RV campgrounds

Those camping in an RV will have plenty of options just outside the Great Sand Dunes National Park. These campgrounds will be your best bet when Pinon Flats is full, or if your RV/trailer is longer than 25′. Here are our recommended options for RV camping outside of Great Sand Dunes National Park:

Great Sand Dunes Oasis

Number of Sites: 20 RV sites, plenty of basic tent camping sites
Fee: RV sites ($38/night for two people) // tent sites ($25/night for two people)
Capacity: Up to 10 per site /  more for group sites
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended for RV spots, not required for tent sites.
Pets: Allowed.
More Information

Great Sand Dunes Oasis is the closest campground to Great Sand Dunes National Park that is not actually located within the park. This large campground is located along State Highway 150 as you approach the National Park, and is only about a 3-minute drive from the park entrance.

It features an on-site restaurant, small shop carrying basic groceries, gas station, as well as cabins and motel rooms for rent.

KOA Alamosa Campground

Number of Sites: Plenty!
Fee: $25 – $75/night depending on RV size
Capacity: No stated limit
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed, but must be on a leash at all times.
More Information

The KOA Alamosa campground is located on the east end of Alamosa and about a 25-minute drive from the entrance to the Great Sand Dunes. This campground can accommodate large RVs and also provides guests with access to a pool, free WiFi, a dog park, and a small on-site shop.

The KOA is more expensive than Great Sand Dunes Oasis, but it has excellent reviews and plenty of nearby amenities.

Car camping sites

If you’re looking for car camping sites near the Great Sand Dunes National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from. Some are more basic than others and you’ll even have the option for some full-on glamping! Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near the Sand Dunes.

Car camping

 

Zapata Falls Campground

Number of Sites: 23 individual  and 1 group site
Fee: $11/night for individual sites and $25/night for group sites
Capacity: Up to 6 people per individual site and up to 15 people for the group site.
RVs: No
Reservations: First come, first served
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Zapata Falls Campground is located east of State Highway 150 as it approaches the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The campground is around 30 minutes from the entrance to the National Park. The campground has a vault toilet and has access to several excellent trailheads. Keep in mind that there is no water at Zapata Falls, so you’ll need to bring your own water.

Rustic Rook Resort

The Rustic Rook Resort is unlike any of the other campgrounds included in this guide – it is a full-fledged glamping experience! The resort is located approximately 30 minutes from the entrance to the National Park. You won’t need your own tent here as you’ll instead be sleeping in your very own glamping tent with space for 2 – 4 people. Prices start at $150/night so this is definitely not for budget-minded travelers!

More Information

 

Dispersed campsites near the Great Sand Dunes

Your final option for camping near the Great Sand Dunes National Park is to find a free, dispersed campsite on the adjacent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land. The BLM manages hundreds of thousands of acres of land throughout the country and generally allows for ‘dispersed camping’ on it. You can find more information on dispersed camping on BLM land here.

Dispersed camping near Great Sand Dunes

 

Before heading out with a plan to look for dispersed camping near the Great Sand Dunes National Park we recommend reaching out to the Conejos Peak Ranger District to confirm current camping regulations. They can be reached at (719) 480-9892.

Lake Como Road/Sacred White Shell Mountain – BLM sites

The Lake Como Road/Sacred White Shell Mountain dispersed camping area is located east of State Highway 150 as you approach the Sand Dunes. The campsite is located approximately 25 minutes from the entrance to the National Park. You’ll need to bring all of your own water and also be prepared to properly deal with your waste at this site, as there are no facilities. BLM regulations on dispersed camping allow you to camp for up to 14 days in a 28 day period, so be sure to observe that limit at this site.

It is especially important to practice Leave No Trace principles when dispersed camping.

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on camping in Great Sand Dunes National Park in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

Piñon Flats Campground Great Sand Dunes National Park

Photo credit NPS/Patrick Myers.

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The Ultimate Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route offers the best of what the Alps have to offer. Incredible mountain passes, pastoral villages, jaw-dropping views, friendly locals, exceptional cuisine, and the sense of completing…

The Walker’s Haute Route offers the best of what the Alps have to offer. Incredible mountain passes, pastoral villages, jaw-dropping views, friendly locals, exceptional cuisine, and the sense of completing one of the world’s great hikes. Traversing from Chamonix in France to Zermatt in Switzerland by foot will give you an appreciation of these mountains that most can only dream of. From Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn you’re sure to have the adventure of a lifetime. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to plan the perfect Walker’s Haute Route adventure!

In this post

About the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route is a classic alpine trek that connects the two mountain villages of Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland. The route traverses over 200 km and crosses 11 mountain passes on its journey from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. You’ll take in a wide variety of landscapes, from rugged mountain passes, to remote alpine villages and spectacular mountain huts. The trek is typically completed by starting in Chamonix and finishing in Zermatt, but it is certainly possible to walk in the opposite direction.

Jungen, Switzerland

Jungen, Switzerland. One of the many alpine hamlets you’ll visit on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

The Walker’s Haute Route does not require any mountaineering skills, but it should be considered a very difficult trek. Over 13 stages you’ll gain nearly 1,000 meters each day and much of your time will be spent above tree line. That being said, the Walker’s Haute Route should be able to be completed by reasonably fit hikers who are adequately prepared for the trek (read more on that below).

Accommodation options on the Walker’s Haute Route are typical of most multi-day treks through the Alps with an excellent network of mountain huts, campsites, and hotels available to suit all preferences (learn more below).

Cabane de Moiry on the Walker's Haute Route.

Cabane de Moiry. One of the most spectacular places to spend the night on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

How long is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The short answer: it depends!

The Walker’s Haute Route has many variations and route options as it winds it way from Chamonix to Zermatt. These variations include options to stay in unique accommodation (such as the Hotel Weisshorn) or to avoid difficult sections in bad weather (such as the Bovine Alp alternate).

All things considered, the most common route is approximately 207 kilometers long. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take several of the alternate routes, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. You’ll have the option to walk less or more depending on the weather, your preferences, and the conditions encountered on the trail.

Walker's Haute Route elevation profle

The Walker’s Haute Route covers approximately 207 kilometers.

 

If you’d like to take a closer look at all the possible route options, check out our Walker’s Haute Route | Maps & Route article here. 

When should I hike?

The hiking season for the Walker’s Haute Route lasts from late-June through mid-September. Generally speaking, we recommend hiking between mid-July and late-August to have the best chance at good weather and to ensure most of the mountain passes will be free from snow. The trail will be at its busiest during this time, so we recommend booking as much of your accommodation in advance as possible. A breakdown by month is below:

June

Early in the season, you are likely to encounter snow on the trail. Depending on the snow levels, there could be sections that will be impassible and you may need to reroute. Be prepared with either micro-spikes or crampons and know how to safely navigate snow covered terrain.  Expect cool evenings, bright sunny days, and less crowded trails.

Snow on the Walker's Haute Route

Those who brave the Walker’s Haute Route in June are likely to encounter snow on the trail.

July

Hikers could still encounter some snow along the trail, but chances of significant snow will diminish as the month wears on. Expect beautiful warm days and abundant wildflowers. This is a popular month to hike the trail.

August

Another busy month on the trail, hikers can expect snow-free paths and warm, sunny weather. Accommodation will be busy so be sure to book ahead.

September

A lovely time to trek the Walker’s Haute Route. Expect shorter days and increasingly chilly weather. You’ll be rewarded with fewer people on the trail, although some accommodation may be closed for the season.

Zermatt, Switzerland in the fall.

September can be a lovely time to be in the Alps.

 

How difficult is the Walker’s Haute Route?

To put it simply, the Walker’s Haute Route is a challenging trek. The distance, elevation gain, exposure on many parts of the trail, steep ascents and descents, and weather conditions all contribute to the difficult nature of the trail. It is certainly more difficult than its popular cousin, the Tour du Mont Blanc.

All that being said we truly believe that most walkers who invest a bit of time in training and preparation can complete the Walker’s Haute Route and have a great time doing it! Our best advice is to be sure you are in good physical condition and also make sound decisions when you encounter bad weather or snow.

Pas de Chèvres on the Walker's Haute Route.

The hike up the Pas de Chèvres is one of the most difficult sections of the Walker’s Haute Route.

A Stage-by-Stage Itinerary for the Walker’s Haute Route

We recommend hiking the Walker’s Haute Route over 10 – 15 days depending on your hiking ability, pace preferences, and weather conditions. The classic itinerary described below takes 13 days to complete and will be the best option for the majority of hikers. Be sure to check out our interactive map and elevation profile for the route to get a comprehensive understanding of all of your options!

 

Stage 1: Chamonix to Trient

Distance & Elevation: 23.5 km // +1,355 m, -1,111 m
Where to stay:
Auberge du Mont Blanc
Description:

The first stage of the Walker’s Haute Route is a perfect introduction to trekking in the Alps. You’ll wind your way up the relatively undemanding Col de Balme before a steep descent down to the small hamlet of Le Peuty. From Le Peuty continue along the road for 10 – 15 minutes before reaching the town of Trient with its lovely pink church.

Stage One of the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Trient.

Stage One of the Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Trient.

 

Chamonix train station - the start of the Walker's Haute Route.

Chamonix train station – the start of the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 2: Trient to Champex

Distance & Elevation: 14.5 km // +1,489 m, -1,299 m
Where to stay:
Hôtel du Glacier
Description:

Stage two of the Walker’s Haute Route is one of the most demanding of the entire trek, but is also incredibly rewarding. You’ll cross the famous Fenêtre d’Arpette en route to Champex. Enjoy stunning views of the Trient Glacier and be sure to exercise caution on the initial descent from the top of the pass. Enjoy a relaxing evening in the lovely lakeside village of Champex.

In addition to the Fenêtre d’Arpette route described above, the alternate ‘Alp Bovine’ route is also an option for Stage 2. This route shares the trail with the Tour du Mont Blanc and is a good bad weather alternative as it never reaches the heights or exposed nature of the Fenêtre d’Arpette. However, it is still a lovely walk and we highly recommend it should you have bad weather. The Alp Bovine route is shown on the map below as an alternate.

Stage 2 on the Walker's Haute Route from Trient to Champex.

Stage 2 on the Walker’s Haute Route from Trient to Champex. The Alp Bovine route is shown in purple.

 

View of the Trient Glacier on the Fenêtre d'Arpette.

View of the Trient Glacier on the Fenêtre d’Arpette.

 

Stage 3: Champex to Le Chable

Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +410 m, -1,060 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Le Giétroz
Description:

A welcome change after yesterday’s challenging walk, stage three is mellow throughout. You’ll leave Champex and wind your way downhill to the village of Sembrancher. From here, you’ll have a short walk adjacent to farmland before reaching Le Chable your stopping point for the evening.

Stage 3 of the Walker's Haute Route from Champex to Le Chable.

Stage 3 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Champex to Le Chable.

 

Stage 4: Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort

Distance & Elevation: 12.5 km // +1,824 m, -194 m
Where to stay: 
Cabane du Mont Fort
Description:

Stage four of the Walker’s Haute Route is perfect for those who don’t enjoy steep descents because it is straight uphill! You’ll gain over 1,800 meters of elevation as you make your way from the valley to the spectacularly situated Cabane de Mont Fort. Note that it is possible to utilize the cable car in Le Chable to Les Ruinettes via Verbier before continuing on to Cabane du Mont Fort. This will eliminate much of the hiking today if you are in need of an easier trek.

Stage 4 of the Walker's Haute Route from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stage 4 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

View from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stunning views from Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

Stage 5: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +1,135 m, -932 m
Where to stay:
Cabane de Prafleuri (no website, call +027 281 17 80)
Description:

Stage five is a very difficult stage and the route often holds snow well into July. The primary route takes the spectacular Sentier des Chamois trail before crossing the Col Termin. From here walkers will hike across the hillside before reaching the Col de Louvie and the Grand Desert beyond. The Grand Desert is an especially isolated area of the trek and care should be exercised, especially when snow is present. Trekker must then navigate across the Col de Prafleuri before descending to the mountain hut by the same name.

It is important to note that there is a popular alternate route on Stage five that avoids the Sentier des Chamois trail altogether. This route, shown on the map below, is more direct and crosses the Col de la Chaux. Check-in with the warden at Cabane du Mont Fort before deciding which route to take.

Stage 5 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Stage 5 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri. The Col de la Chaux alternate route is shown in purple.

 

Stage 6: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla

Distance & Elevation: 18 km // +795m, -1,440 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Aiguille de La Tza
Description:

Stage six brings another difficult day for those on the Walker’s Haute Route, this time with the crossing of the Pas de Chèvres and its famous ladders. In our experience, the hike up to the ladders over the boulder-strewn landscape is much more difficult than the actual ladders themselves. Either way be sure to take your time and exercise caution as you approach the top of the pass and on the ladders. The alternate option of crossing the adjacent Col de Riedmatten is often considered more difficult and we would recommend that most trekkers opt for the Pas de Chèvres.

Once over the pass you’ll enjoy a beautiful descent into the lovely Swiss village of Arolla.

Stage 6 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla.

Stage 6 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla.

 

Ladder section on the Pas de Chevres

Ladder section on the Pas de Chevres.

 

Stage 7: Arolla to La Sage

Distance & Elevation: 11 km // +670 m, -1,007 m
Where to stay:
Hotel de la Sage
Description:

Phew! After several difficult stages trekkers can finally enjoy a relatively easy day on stage seven of the Walker’s Haute Route. The trail passes the idyllic Lac Bleu as it winds it was along the shoulder of the valley between Arolla and Les Hauderes. From Les Hauderes it is a short and pleasant climb to the endpoint for the day in La Sage.

Stage 7 of the Walker's Haute Route from Arolla to La Sage.

Stage 7 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Arolla to La Sage.

 

Looking back towards Arolla on the Walker's Haute Route.

Looking back towards Arolla on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 8: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry

Distance & Elevation: 11 km // +1,724 m, -574 m
Where to stay:
Cabane de Moiry
Description:

As the elevation change suggests, Stage eight has lots of climbing! You’ll leave La Sage and immediately begin the long ascent up the Col du Tsaté which will bring walkers into the stunning Val de Moiry. After the initial descent from the Col into the valley you’ll then encounter a steep and somewhat exposed final section to bring you to Cabane de Moiry. The Cabane is certainly one of the most spectacular places to spend the night on the Walker’s Haute Route with its up-close views of the Moiry Glacier.

Alternatively, walkers can opt to take the Col de Torrent alternate route if they do not plan to stay at Cabane de Moiry as shown on the map below. In that case you’ll plan to stay either at the base of the Lac de Moiry at the Cabane Barrage de Moiry or continue on into the town of Grimentz where more accommodation is available. While this may be a good option for some, we highly recommend spending a night at the Cabane de Moiry with its spectacular views!

Stage 8 of the Walker's Haute Route from La Sage to Cabane de Moiry.

Stage 8 of the Walker’s Haute Route from La Sage to Cabane de Moiry. The Col de Torrent alternate route is shown in purple.

 

Stage 9: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

Distance & Elevation: 16 km // +655 m, -1,806 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Le Trift
Description:

You’ll get a head start on the crossing of the Col de Sorebois on stage nine given that you’ve already done much of the climbing on the previous stage. The walk starts with tremendous views as you walk high above the Lac de Moiry as you approach the Col. Once you reach the Col de Sorebois you’ll be treated to some incredible views of the mountains beyond. Here, the descent winds its way through a ski-area (with the option of taking the cable car down) before arriving in the ski resort town of Zinal.

There is also an alternate route down from the Sorebois ski lift to Zinal that winds its way on much gentler paths than the traditional route. We highly recommend for anyone with tired legs!

Stage 9 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane de Moiry to Zinal.

Stage 9 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane de Moiry to Zinal.

 

Stage 10: Zinal to Gruben

Distance & Elevation: 17 km // +1,239 m, -1,138 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Schwarzhorn  (option for an alternate route to stay at Hotel Weisshorn)
Description:

On stage 10 of the Walker’s Haute Route you’ll officially cross the ‘Rosti Line‘ – the unofficial boundary between French and German-speaking areas of Switzerland. The trek is strenuous, but certainly nothing compared to some of the more difficult stages you’ve already completed. The Forcletta pass marks the high point for the day and from there you’ll descend into the sleepy village of Gruben.

Stage 10 also brings the alternative option for those who wish to spend a night at the Hotel Weisshorn or Cabane Bella Tola. This adds a day to your Walker’s Haute Route itinerary, but many find it a worthwhile alternative. As shown on the map below, rather than crossing the Forcletta you’ll continue along the shoulder of the mountainside before reaching the Hotel Weisshorn. You can also continue on further if you wish to stay at the lovely Cabane Bella Tola. For those who opt to take this route, the following day (Stage 11) you’ll cross the Meidpass before rejoining the main Walker’s Haute Route in Gruben.

Stage 10 of the Walker's Haute Route from Zinal to Gruben.

Stage 10 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Zinal to Gruben. The alternate route via Hotel Weisshorn and the Meidpass to Gruben is shown in purple.

 

The views approaching Gruben on the Walker's Haute Route.

The views approaching Gruben on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 11: Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried

Distance & Elevation: 17.5 km // +1,167 m, -1,861 m
Where to stay:
Hotel La Reserve (for those staying in St. Niklaus) // Hotel Alpenrosli (for those staying in Gasenried prior to starting the Europaweg – see below)
Description:

Stage 11 brings trekkers on the Walker’s Haute Route over their final mountain pass and into the Mattertal valley, at the base of which sits Zermatt. The descent from the top of the Augstbordpass will bring incredible views of the Alps beyond. Upon reaching the quaint village of Jungen you’ll have the option of taking a cable car descent into St. Niklaus to rest tired legs.

If you plan to hike the Europaweg trail to finish your Walker’s Haute Route adventure we recommend either hiking or taking the local bus from St. Niklaus to the town of Gasenried, just up the hill. If you have trouble finding accommodation in Gasenried, head a bit further to the village of Grachen. This will save a very strenuous start to the next stage and set you up for a great final two days on the Europaweg to complete the Walker’s Haute Route!

Stage 11 of the Walker's Haute Route from Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried

Stage 11 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried.

 

Stage 12: St. Niklaus/Gasenried to Europa Hut

Distance & Elevation: 13.5 km // +1,352 m, -748 m
Where to stay:
Europa Hut (Europahütte)
Description:

The Europaweg trail is a two-day trek that completes the final section of the Walker’s Haute Route. It has several exposed sections, but also is an incredible way to finish your trek! Leaving Gasenried you’ll have a steep climb up to the shoulder of the Breithorn. As the trail climbs be especially cautious on the sections of loose rock and scree you’ll encounter. After reaching the high-point for the day you’ll wind your way down to a beautiful suspension bridge before arriving at the Europa Hut.

Stage 12 of the Walker's Haute Route from Gasenried to Europa Hut

Stage 12 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Gasenried to Europa Hut. The low-level alternate route from St. Niklaus to Zermatt is shown in purple.

 

Stage 13: Europa Hut to Zermatt

Distance & Elevation: 21 km // +1,102 m, -1,749 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Bahnhof
Description:

The final stage of the Walker’s Haute Route will take you across the famous and spectacular Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge. While this is certainly a highlight of the trek, don’t forget to enjoy the stunning views of the Matterhorn as you make your way to Zermatt. As you approach the finish of the trek you’ll find yourself among Zermatt’s many ski slopes and the increased number of tourists they attract. Enjoy a final descent before celebrating an incredible achievement in Zermatt!

Alternate finish to the Walker’s Haute Route

For those who are not interested in completing the Europaweg trail to finish the Walker’s Haute Route, a mellow valley trail makes a great alternative. From St. Niklaus, walkers will follow a lovely valley path that travels through the villages of Randa and Tasch en route to Zermatt. This option can also be completed in a single stage, making for a great option for those short on time.

Stage 13 of the Walker's Haute Route from Europa Hut to Zermatt.

Stage 13 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Europa Hut to Zermatt. The low-level alternate route from St. Niklaus to Zermatt is shown in purple.

 

Walker's Haute Route

 

Weather

Weather on the Walker’s Haute Route can be extremely volatile. You may wake up to heavy rain in the valley, see snow on the mountain tops, and be hiking in the sun by the end of the day! However, generally speaking, the weather during the hiking season is quite enjoyable. You can expect warm, sunny days, cool evenings, and relatively little rain.

A cloudy day on the Walker's Haute Route

The weather on the Walker’s Haute Route can change in an instant!

 

However, you also need to be prepared for very hot temperatures, very cold temperatures, rain, and storms (and you could even see all of these in the same day!)  Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm or without the right gear is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions:

  1. The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for predicting the weather on the Walker’s Haute Route. It allows you to see the forecast for specific peaks or coordinates, plus it has excellent radar displays and wind predictions. Check it every time you have cell service.
  2. Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to your destination before the crowds, and avoid the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms.

Accommodation

There is no shortage of excellent accommodation options along the Walker’s Haute Route. The villages and towns along the route have a wide variety of hotels, gites, auberges. These will suit almost any taste from more luxurious hotels to simple bunk rooms catering to the budget traveler.

Hotel on the Walker's Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route has a wide variety of accommodation options.

 

Of course, many of the stops on the Walker’s Haute Route do not occur in alpine villages, but rather at spectacular mountain huts. For those unfamiliar with trekking in the Alps, these mountain huts will be a highlight of your trip.

n stark contrast to the simple mountain huts found in other parts of the world, the huts along the Walker’s Haute Route are downright luxurious. You’ll be treated to fresh-baked bread, excellent dinners, beer and wine, and simple sleeping quarters. Our can’t miss mountain huts along the Walker’s Haute Route are:

Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

Camping along the Walker’s Haute Route is possible for the majority of the stages with a bit of creativity. Most of the valleys and villages along the route have fully serviced campgrounds, making an easy option for those carrying a tent. There will be a few stops that require a slight detour (Le Chable, for example), but local transportation makes for an easy adjustment here.

If you’re interested in camping along the Walker’s Haute Route we highly recommend you read our Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route here. 

Campsite on the Walker's Haute Route.

Camping at Le Peuty on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Wild Camping

Wild camping along the Haute Route is complicated and discouraged (and often illegal). The trail passes through two countries and several local municipalities, each with their own specific rules and regulations. Generally speaking, wild camping may be allowed in France at high altitudes between sunset and sunrise, but it is strictly forbidden in Switzerland. This website has helpful information on the specific legal codes for each country.

If you choose to wild camp outside of sanctioned areas, set up after dusk, pack up at dawn, and utilize leave no trace practices.

Food and drink

One of the many wonderful things about the Walker’s Haute Route is that you don’t need to worry about carrying two weeks’  worth of food. The trail passes through many towns and villages along the way, making resupply easy. Additionally, all of the huts along the route serve excellent meals and will often be able to pack a lunch for you for the following day.

Food and drink on the Walker's Haute Route.

 

For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater and keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. In this situation we’d recommend you bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the Haute Route. There are several outdoor stores that sell stove fuel in Chamonix and Zermatt.

Additionally (for those with deeper pockets), many of the hotels, gites, and refuges sell meals and offer the option of purchasing meals. You can just show up for lunch, but you’ll need to order ahead of time for dinner.

Whichever way you approach your food and drink strategy, we think you’ll find that trekking in the Alps is every bit as much a culinary delight as a natural one! 

Water

All of the hotels, gites, and campgrounds provide potable water. You will pass through many villages with public drinking fountains, but make sure to plan ahead and carry 1-2 liters of water each day. Due to the presence of agricultural activity near large swaths of the trail, we do not recommend drinking any water from natural streams without filtering it first.

Getting to and from the Walker’s Haute Route

Most international travelers starting the trek in Chamonix will arrive at the Geneva Airport. To get from Geneva to Chamonix, you can take a bus or use a private shuttle service. We recommend AlpyBus.  On the other end, Zermatt is easily accessed by train from Geneva, Zurich, and many other Swiss cities.

We wrote an entire article dedicated to giving you the best, most in-depth information on everything concerning Haute Route logistics. Check it out here. 

Maps & Guidebooks

Carrying a good map is essential on the Walker’s Haute Route. While the trail is generally well-marked and easy to follow, there are countless trail junctions, detours, and confusing sections that require some form of navigation.

When we hiked the Walker’s Haute Route we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along the route, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.

GPS map for the Walker's Haute Route.

GPS map for the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Walker’s Haute Route GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the Walker’s Haute Route as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Walker's Haute Route Alternates map

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With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.

To cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at a good scale (1:50,000) we recommend bringing the following Swiss Topo maps:

  • Swiss Topo 282T – Martigny
  • Swiss Topo 283T – Arolla
  • Swiss Topo 273T – Montana
  • Swiss Topo 274T – Visp
  • Swiss Topo 284T – Mischabel

You can purchase all of these maps on the Swiss Topo website here. In addition, Swiss Topo also has hiking maps at a larger scale (1:33,000), although it would be quite cumbersome to carry maps to cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at that scale.

As for guidebooks, you’ll have several excellent options to choose from. The first, and the one we recommend is  Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route published by Cicerone Trekking Guides. The author, Kev Reynolds, is extremely knowledgeable about the Alps and the Walker’s Haute Route in particular.

Another good option is Walker’s Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt published by Knife Edge Outdoors. The benefit here is that the guide includes Swiss Topo maps for the entire route.

Budgeting

Although Switzerland has a reputation for being extraordinarily expensive, it is still very possible to hike the Walker’s Haute Route on a tight budget (camping helps tremendously with this!) Furthermore, you can even eat delicious foods and drink some tasty beverages without breaking the bank.

In terms of food, the best thing you can do is to avoid eating meals at restaurants and refuges. Sure, stop for a coffee and a pastry, enjoy a post-hike beer, and definitely pick up some local cheese, but if you cook your own meals you will greatly, greatly reduce your overall spending.

Here are some general guidelines for what you can expect to spend on the Walker’s Haute Route:

  • Average Hut Price:  40 CHF (dorm only) or 80 CHF (half pension)
  • Average Campsite Price: 15 CHF (per person)
  • Meal at hut or restaurant: 20-30 CHF (per person)
  • Packed lunch from mountain hut: 10 CHF

Check out this thorough post in which we break down exactly what you can expect to pay for food, accommodation, transportation, and more. 

What to pack

Packing for the Walker’s Haute Route is a balancing act between ensuring you have everything you need and ensuring you aren’t carrying more than you need. For those staying in huts and hotels, you can avoid the extra weight of a sleeping bag, tent, and associated camping gear.

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

Our best advice for packing for the Walker’s Haute Route is to adopt the mantra less is more. Here’s a few tips for ensuring you pack weight is manageable:

  • You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. You’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  • Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need. This is especially true for those camping along the route.
  • Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.

Hiking on the Walker's Haute Route.

Keeping your pack weight down will help immensely on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

How to train for the Walker’s Haute Route

We can guarantee you’ll have a better experience on the Walker’s Haute Route if you invest some time before your trek ensuring you’re in good hiking shape. You’ll be gaining around 1,000 meters per day in elevation and be on your feet for between 6 – 8 hours. Given those facts, spending some time in the weeks and months before your trip will do wonders to help prepare you.

To be best prepared we recommend focusing on the following:

  • Building your physical endurance
  • Building your physical strength
  • Hiking with a fully packed backpack prior to your trip

Finally, beyond simply being physically fit it is important to make sure you are mentally prepared for the rigors of the Walker’s Haute Route. Long days, bad weather, and empty stomachs can significantly dampen your mood and wear on your mental strength. If you haven’t completed a long-distance trek before you’ll want to be sure you’re keeping a positive attitude and embracing the challenges as a part of the journey!

For more detail on how to best train for the Walker’s Haute Route, check out our post here. 

 

What’s Next?

If you’ve read our Guide above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience on the Walker’s Haute Rout. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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The Complete Guide to the Laugavegur Trail | Map, Routes, and Itineraries

The Laugavegur Trail offers the best of Icelandic trekking. Stunning waterfalls, brooding volcanoes, geothermal hot springs, powerful rivers, and deep canyons are just a few of the wonders you’ll discover…

The Laugavegur Trail offers the best of Icelandic trekking. Stunning waterfalls, brooding volcanoes, geothermal hot springs, powerful rivers, and deep canyons are just a few of the wonders you’ll discover on this hike. Traversing this spectacular region by foot is one of the best ways to experience the incredible diversity of landscapes that define Iceland.  This beauty combined with easy accessibility make the Laugavegur Trail one of the most popular hiking destinations in Iceland. Read on to learn how to plan for this epic trek!

Laugavegur Trail Map

Everything you need to to plan your Laugavegur Trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Our downloadable Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Pick your digital guide for under $20 below:

Laugavegur Trail Guide

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The 50+ page guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Custom GPS files for the entire trek
  • Three unique stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Complete packing list for campers and those staying in huts
  • Detailed information on getting to/from the Laugavegur
  • A 15-week training plan to ensure you’re prepared for your hike

We truly believe this is the best guide available for the Laugavegur.  Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

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In this post

 

About the Laugavegur Trail

The Laugavegur Trail connects the Landmannalaugar hot springs to the Þórsmörk (pronounced Thorsmork) river valley. The 55-kilometer (34-mile) trail crosses a wide diversity of landscapes, from rugged, volcanic peaks to vast black sand deserts to dayglow green hillsides. Many hikers opt to extend their hike by taking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which connects Þórsmörk and Skogar via a very difficult 15-mile trek. While the two trails are technically separate, they can be easily combined into a longer, 48-mile hike. The Laugavegur is traditionally completed in the southbound direction, but it is very possible to walk in the opposite direction. There is a network of mountain huts along the trail that provide walkers with stopping points at regular intervals. Camping is also permitted outside every hut along the Laugavegur. 

How long is the Laugavegur Trail?

The Laugavegur Trail is 34 miles long and typically completed in 2-4 days for an average of between 8.5 – 17 miles per day.

Length: 55 km (34 miles)
Elevation Gain: 1450 meters (4758 feet)

How long does it take to hike the Laugavegur Trail? 

The Laugavegur Trail can be walked in 2 – 4 days depending on your hiking ability, pace preferences, and weather conditions. If you’re interested in adding on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, plan on an additional 1 – 2 days of walking, plus an extra 978 meters of elevation gain (3,209 feet) and 24 kilometers (15 miles) of distance. Keep in mind that snow crossings and/or inclement weather can impact your hiking pace. The itineraries provided later in this post give you a sense of the possibilities. Also, be sure to check out our interactive map and elevation profile for the route to get a comprehensive understanding of all of  your options!

Hikers enjoying the view on the Laugavegur Trail

Enjoying the spectacular views on the Laugavegur Trail.

When to hike the Laugavegur Trail

The weather in Iceland can be extremely harsh. No matter when you go, expect cold, wet, and windy conditions for a least some parts of your trek and pack accordingly. We hiked in early July and had great weather throughout, although it was still very cold at times. Even though it was peak season, it wasn’t overly crowded on the trail if we got an early start.  With the right gear (check out our Laugavegur packing list for more on this topic), hikers can typically complete the walk from mid-June through early September. Make sure to always check with the hut wardens for the latest conditions and never attempt to hike through unsafe weather. 

June: This is considered “early summer” in Iceland, meaning there will typically be a significant amount of snow remaining on the trail. It will still be quite cold, especially in the first part of the month. If you plan on hiking in June, be sure to check with the huts in advance, as some don’t open until the end of the month. Also be prepared to pack crampons and know how to use them. 

July: This is peak season for the Laugavegur. Hikers will enjoy nearly 24 hours of daylight, and relatively milder weather (although snowstorms and bitter cold are possible any time of year). Expect more crowds on the trail, and be sure to reserve in advance if you plan on staying in huts. 

August: The first half of the month sees continued mild conditions and busy trails. During this time, the trail will be at its clearest in terms of snow, although large patches remain throughout the year. As the month wears on, the days get shorter and colder. The huts typically close for the season by the second week of September. 

A hiker walks through a large snow field on the Laugavegur Trail

You can still expect to encounter lots of snow on the Laugavegur in July!

How difficult is the Laugavegur Trail? 

As far as long-distance hiking trails go, the Laugavegur is very approachable in terms of difficulty. There are several factors that impact the challenge of this hike, including the distance covered in each day (see our itineraries for more on this), the weight of your backpack (it will be much larger if you choose to camp), the direction you hike in (there is significantly more uphill walking if you trek from south to north), and the weather and trail conditions. Therefore, someone carrying camping gear and hiking northbound in two days will have a much different experience than someone staying in huts, heading southbound, and completing their trek in four days. Most reasonably fit hikers with some trekking experience will have no problem completing the Laugavegur in three days. 

River Crossings: You will encounter several river crossings along the Laugavegur Trail. These can very in depth from ankle deep all the way up to your waist depending on the time of year, recent rainfall, and weather conditions. We can’t stress enough that you need to check with the wardens at each hut about the current condition of the rivers, and always cross in the designated areas. Also, you’ll want to bring a pair of sturdy sandals or other water shoes to make these crossing. Flip-flops will be pulled right off your feet by the swift currents and walking across barefoot is a dangerous endeavor.

 

A river crossing near the Alftavatn Hut on the Laugavegur Trail

River crossing after Álftavatn. Be prepared for lots of these!

 

Which direction to hike the Laugavegur Trail

We hiked the Laugavegur from north to south and we’d certainly recommend traveling in this direction if you want to avoid some very long climbs and increase the chances of having the wind at your back.  If you decide to walk from south to north, expect a more challenging trek and plan for longer days on the trail. The “traditional” direction to hike is from north to south, but don’t expect to have the trail all to yourself if you go in the opposite direction. We saw several dozen hikers traveling northbound each day while we were out there.

Clouds on the Laugavegur Trail

Weather

If it hasn’t become clear from the previous sections of this post, Icelandic weather should not be taken lightly.  Whiteout snow storms can occur any time of the year on the Laugavegur, as can gale force winds and freezing temperatures. It is imperative that hikers check the weather conditions before setting out. The easiest way to stay up to date on the weather is to talk to the wardens at the huts. Weather updates are usually posted outside, but you can also ask the warden for more information. If they advise you not to hike in the conditions, be sure to listen to them! Additionally, the Icelandic Met Office’s website provides quality forecasts for wind, precipitation, and temperature in specific areas. 

Read more: Check out our Trip Report to get the full scoop on what the Laugavegur was really like!

Accommodation

The Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trails feature an excellent system of mountain huts and campsites along the routes. Most of these are run by Ferðafélag Íslands (FI), which is the Icelandic Touring Association. Additionally, there are private campgrounds and huts located at Þórsmörk and the Fimmvörðuskáli Hut (along the Fimmvörðuháls Trail), as well as a privately-run hostel and hotel located at Skogar.

The mountain huts along the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trails provide basic communal sleeping quarters (bring your own sleeping bag), cooking facilities (you’ll need to bring your own food), bathrooms and showers (with the exception of Hrafntinnusker, which does not have showers) and are staffed by very knowledgeable wardens. Additionally, the huts have small shops carrying some basic food items and trekking essentials. If you’re planning to stay in the huts along the Laugavegur Trail advance bookings are essential as the huts fill up quickly! You can make your reservations here: Laugavegur Trail Hut Reservations.

All of the huts along the Laugavegur Trail cost 9,000 ISK per night, while the Fimmvörðuháls / Baldvinsskáli hut costs 7,000 ISK per night.

Ferðafélag Íslands publishes a very helpful Frequently Asked Questions page on the Laugavegur Trail huts here.

Hrafntinnusker Hut

Looking down on the hut at Hrafntinnusker along the Laugavegur Trail.

 

Camping: In addition to the excellent hut system, camping is allowed at all the huts along the Laugavegur Trail. The campsites do not require any advance reservations and cost 2,000 ISK per night. We always recommend camping as it provides an added layer of flexibility and an escape from the sometimes crowded huts! For an in-depth guide on camping check out our Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail.

Please note that you must camp in the designated campsites! Wild camping is not permitted in Iceland.

Camping at Álftavatn on the Laugavegur Trail

Camping at Álftavatn on the Laugavegur. 

Food and Drink

With the exception of the restaurants at Alftavatn and Thorsmork (at the hut operated by Volcano Huts), there is nowhere to get a hot meal along the Laugavegur trail. You’ll find only a very limited and very expensive inventory of supplies for sale at some of the huts along the trail. The provisions vary from hut to hut, but typically include candy bars, beer and soda, chips, and sometimes instant noodles. Most hikers will find it necessary to carry a camp stove and cooking equipment. You should plan on stocking up on food, stove fuel, and provisions for your entire trek before leaving Reykjavik.

There is clean drinking water available at all of the huts along the Laugavegur. We recommend filling up for the entire day before setting out, as water sources along the trail can be unreliable and/or unsafe. 

Getting to and from the Laugavegur Trail

The best way to get to and from the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trails is to utilize Reykjavik Excursions’ Iceland on Your Own Hiker’s Pass. The Hiker’s Pass provides walkers with transportation to the start of the Laugavegur trail as well as back to Reykjavik from the finish. You can take as much time as you need to complete the hike and can be picked up from any of the three main access points on the Laugavegur: Landmannalaugar, Þórsmörk, and Skogar (for those also completing the Fimmvörðuháls). The cost as of 2019 is 14,000 ISK and the bus picks up at the Reykjavik Campground as well as the BSI bus terminal.

For in-depth information on transportation, lodging, luggage storage, and other essentials be sure to check out our Laugavegur Trail Logistics article.

Reykjavik Excursions bus

Reykjavik Excursions provides easy access to and from the Laugavegur Trail.

 

Maps & Guidebooks

The Laugavegur Trail is relatively well-marked. Trail signs are located at all major junctions and intervals, with distances to the next hut provided in kilometers. In clear conditions, it is easy to navigate along the trail. However, storms, snow cover, fog, and other issues can make it frighteningly easy to lose your way. It is essential to carry a good map. Many maps for the route are available locally in Iceland, although you can purchase a 1:100,000 scale map here

Even with a paper map, we highly recommend utilizing an offline GPS navigation application like Gaia GPS or Maps.me on your smartphone. This will allow you to see your precise location, as well as the overall trail map, next stopping point, and more, all without using cell service. This post explains how to set your phone up to work as a GPS for the Laugavegur Trail. 

Get the Ultimate Laugavegur Trail Guide

Our downloadable Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Pick your digital guide for under $20 below:

Laugavegur Trail Guide

LEARN MORE
The 50+ page guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Custom GPS files for the entire trek
  • Three unique stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Complete packing list for campers and those staying in huts
  • Detailed information on getting to/from the Laugavegur
  • A 15-week training plan to ensure you’re prepared for your hike

We truly believe this is the best guide available for the Laugavegur.  Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

BUY NOW
 

A trail sign on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.

A helpful trail sign near a difficult section of the Fimmvörðuháls.

 

Budgeting and Money

There’s no way around it- Iceland is an extremely expensive country. While you will be able to mitigate a ton of travel expenses by hiking (free entertainment), camping or staying in huts (cheaper than a hotel), and bringing your own food, you can still expect high prices for all of the necessary aspects of your Laugavegur trek. The mountain huts typically don’t accept credit cards and there are no ATM’s along the route, so plan on bringing enough cash to cover all of your expenses for the entirety of your trek. 

Some people (us included!) purchase food supplies at home and bring them to Iceland to avoid having to pay for expensive items at the grocery store on arrival. Specific rules may vary depending on your country of origin, but visitors are typically allowed to bring in small quantities of sealed, packaged foods such as trail mix, instant noodles, energy bars, and coffee packets. 

To get a better idea of what everything costs in Iceland, from snacks at the huts to groceries in Reykjavik to your transportation to the trail, check out this comprehensive budgeting post. 

 

Snow covered mountains on the Laugavegur Trail

Sunshine and snow in the same day? Typical Iceland!

 

What to pack for the Laugavegur Trail

For anyone walking the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trails there are some essential items you’ll want to be sure to pack.

For the complete list of what to pack for the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trails be sure to check out our full packing/kit list here.

Good rain gear 

Hiking in the freezing, blowing rain (commonplace on the Laugavegur) can be downright miserable if you’re not prepared. Furthermore, if things get soaked in a heavy rain (such as base layers or your sleeping bag), it will be hard to get them dry again for the remainder of your trek. Good quality waterproof items will keep you comfortable and warm, while also protecting the items in your backpack so you can put on a cozy, dry change of clothes when you’re done hiking for the day.

We absolutely love these packable, effective, super lightweight Outdoor Research jackets. For a great pair of rain pants (that are also excellent for wearing around camp), we recommend Marmot’s comfortable, flexible Precip pant.

Finally, don’t even consider hiking the Laugavegur without a reliable pack cover. Many newer packs come with one built in, but if your doesn’t, check out this Sea to Summit one. These pack covers have extra strong elastic and a well-designed strap to keep them in place (and your stuff dry), even in high winds and heavy downpours. 

Warm clothes 

No matter the time of year that you hike the Laugavegur, it is very likely that you’ll be wearing a jacket and long pants for the majority of your trek. Therefore, you’re going to want warm layers that are comfortable and lightweight. This Patagonia jacket is unbeatable when it comes to warmth, packability, and weight. It’s one of our all-time favorite pieces of backpacking gear. Additionally, if you’re looking for a great pair of quick-drying, flexible, and stylish hiking pants, check out Prana’s Brion (men’s) and Briann (women’s) pants


Eye mask and ear plugs 

If you plan on sleeping in the huts, you’ll want to be prepared for the cramped cozy sleeping arrangements that are common on the Laugavegur. Even if you’re camping, you might end up close enough to hear your neighbor’s thundering snores or late-night pillow talk. Good quality sleep can be hard to come by on the trail, especially with 24 hours of daylight, but it is vital for ensuring your body recovers after long days of trekking. We have found that these two small things make a huge difference when it comes to getting a good night’s rest.

We love this silky, adjustable eye mask because it does a great job blocking out light while still being super comfortable. In terms of ear plugs, we swear by these Mack’s silicone ones. They are way more effective than the foam kind, and they also stay in place much better. Add in these two things and we promise you’ll sleep much more soundly! 


Good Sleeping Bag

Another thing that can derail your rest and recovery on the Laugavegur? Being too cold to sleep. If you’ve never experienced this phenomenon while camping, count yourself lucky (or maybe just smart and well-prepared). Even though the sun stays up all night in the peak summer season, the temperature still drops significantly at night. If you are camping, make sure you pack a sleeping bag that is rated to 15° Fahrenheit or less. We used the Marmot Trestles 15 and stayed cozy and warm every night. If you’re sleeping in the huts (which are heated), you can bring a lighter bag (30°F), but you’ll still need to bring your own bag as there is no bedding provided. 


Shoes for river crossings (sturdy sandals or other water shoes work best)

You’ll need to complete several major river crossings while hiking the Laugavegur. Depending on the time of year, the water levels can range from waist deep to knee deep. Regardless, expect the water to be shockingly cold and very fast-moving. You absolutely need to wear sturdy shoes when crossing- no flip flops or bare feet!

Without sturdy footwear, you will greatly increase your chances of losing your balance and putting yourself in a situation that is unpleasant at best and very dangerous at worst. While you can cross in your hiking shoes, most walkers prefer to use water shoes so they don’t have to wear cold, wet shoes for the remainder of the day. We are huge fans of Chacos sandals for their comfort and support, and they work great for river crossings. Plus, strap them on the outside of your pack afterwards and they’ll be dry in no time!



For the complete list of what to pack for the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trails be sure to check out our full packing/kit list here.

Electronics

Charging

Whether you are camping or staying in the huts, you will not be able to charge your electronics at any point along the Laugavegur Trail until you reach Thorsmork. Only two of the three lodging options in Thorsmork provide electronics charging (Volcano Huts and Utivist Basar). Those continuing on the Fimmvorduhals Trail will also be able to charge at the Skogar campground or hostel. It’s a good idea to bring along a portable battery pack or solar panel to ensure you can use your phone for photos and GPS purposes throughout your trek. 

Cell Phone Service

The Laugavegur Trail is one of the rare, wonderful places in the world where it’s still very difficult to get cell phone service. You may be able to pick up some reception at a few points along the trail, but don’t rely on it being available. 

WiFi

With the exception of the Volcano Hut at Thorsmork and the hostel at Skogar, you will not have access to WiFi anywhere on the Laugavegur. Get ready to spend your downtime taking in the views and enjoying a good book! 

More information: Be sure to read our Laugavegur Trail Logistics article to prepare for all of the practical aspects of your trek!

Hvanngill Hut Laugavegur Trail

No outlets to be found here (just amazing views)!

 

Itineraries and Routes

The Laugavegur Trail can be walked in 2 – 4 days depending on your hiking ability, pace preferences, and weather conditions. If you’re interested in adding on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, plan on an additional 1 – 2 days of walking. The following itineraries give you a sense of the possibilities. Even if you don’t want to add on the Fimmvörðuháls section, you can still use the first part of each itinerary to customize your hike for your desired time frame.  Also, be sure to check out our interactive map and elevation profile for the route to get a comprehensive understanding of all of  your options!

 

Click on the interactive map above to learn more about each of the stops on the trail!

Laugavegur Trail Elevation Profile

2-day Laugavegur Trail + 1-day Fimmvörðuháls Trail

Completing the Laugavegur Trail in 2-days with the option of adding the Fimmvörðuháls Trail on the third day is the fastest way to complete the walk. This is the itinerary we chose and found it to be quite enjoyable; there were certainly long days of walking, but still plenty of time to enjoy the scenery and sights.

2-day Laugavegur Trail itinerary

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hvangill (15.5 miles)

Starting your trek early from Landmannalaugar ,you’ll climb steadily along the well-marked trail  and eventually reach the first hut along the walk at Hrafntinnusker. Enjoy the spectacular view from the hut and be glad you’re not camping in this harsh location! Continuing on from Hrafntinnusker you’ll enjoy a gentle downhill leading to a short but steep climb before a long descent to the hut and campground at Álftavatn, approximately 13-miles into your walk. While it may be tempting to stop here, we highly recommend continuing on for another 2.5 miles to Hvangill to shorten your day tomorrow as well an enjoy the smaller and quieter hut at Hvangill.

Day 2: Hvangill to Þórsmörk (17.5 miles)

Get up early and prepare for a long, but lovely day on the trail! Leaving Hvangill, you’ll walk on an undulating trail before making the largest river-crossing of the Laugavegur Trail at Bláfjallakvísl. Take great care here, as the current moves fast and can water levels can typically reach thigh-high depths! After crossing the Bláfjallakvísl River, the trail flattens out and you’ll walk through what seems like an endless black sand desert before reaching the hut and campground at Emstrur. Upon leaving Emstrur, you’ll soon come to a spectacular bridge over the Syðri-Emstruá River – take a moment to enjoy the incredible views! From here, you’ll continue down the trail to a final river crossing before reaching the well-maintained hut and campground at Þórsmörk and the end of the Laugavegur Trail!

Optional Day 3: Fimmvörðuháls Trail to Skogar (15 miles)

Those who wish to add on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail to Skogar will want to get another early start for this epic walk! Plan on 10-12 hours of walking to complete the Fimmvörðuháls Trail in a single day, and be sure to reward yourself with a beer once you reach Skogar! Climbing steeply out of Þórsmörk, the trail winds steadily uphill before passing between the two glaciers- Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull.  You’ll also witness firsthand the volcanic remnants of the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano and the youngest mountains in the world. The juxtaposition of jet black ash beneath blindingly white snow are simply magnificent. As you start your descent, keep your eyes pealed for glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean on the horizon. You’ll then begin the long trail down, descending past dozens of beautiful, glacially-fed waterfalls. The trail finishes at the spectacular Skogafoss Waterfall – an apt finale to a wonderful walk!

Hvanngil Hut along the Laugavegur Trail.

The Hvanngil hut and campground, a perfect stop for those completing the Laugavegur in 2 days.

 

3-day Laugavegur Trail + 1-2 day Fimmvörðuháls Trail

Adding an extra day to complete the Laugavegur Trail will make for a gentler pace and ample opportunities to enjoy some of the great side trips along the route. This moderately paced itinerary will be best for the majority of walkers. You’ll have the option of completing the Fimmvörðuháls Trail in a single day, or overnighting at one of the huts along the trail.

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Álftavatn (13 miles)

Starting from Landmannalaugar you’ll climb steadily along the well-marked trail past the Hrafntinnusker hut and campground. Continue on, enjoying the spectacular views on the trail before beginning the long-descent to Álftavatn. You’ll be able to see the large lake at Álftavatn well before arriving. Just before reaching Álftavatn you’ll cross the  Grashagakvísl River, which does not have a bridge (requiring you to walk through it). Finally, you’ll arrive at the excellent facilities at Álftavatn – be sure to enjoy a cold beer at the bar/restaurant!

Day 2: Álftavatn to Emstrur (10 miles)

Leaving Álftavatn, you’ll soon cross another river (no bridge) before reaching the Hvangill hut and campground. Continue on, soon after arriving at the Bláfjallakvísl River, which requires great care to cross safely. From here you’ll walk through a flat, desert-like landscape before reaching the Emstrur Hut and Campground with its spectacular views.

 

Day 3: Emstrur to Þórsmörk(10 miles)

Leaving Emstrur, you’ll cross the spectacular gorge formed by the Syðri-Emstruá River. Continuing on you’ll soon have the option for a short detour off the trail to view the confluence of the Markarfljót and Syðri-Emstruá Rivers – we highly recommend checking them out! Finally, you’ll continue down the trail to a final river crossing before reaching the well-maintained hut and campground at Þórsmörk and the end of the Laugavegur Trail!

Optional Day 4 and 5: Fimmvörðuháls Trail to Skogar (15 miles)

We highly recommend adding on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail to your Laugavegur adventure. This 15-mile trail can be tackled in a single, long day or broken up into two days with a stay at either the Baldvinsskáli Hut owned by Ferðafélag Íslands (7,000 ISK per night) or the Fimmvörðuskáli Hut owned by Útivist (also 7,000 ISK per night). The huts are located approximately 7.5 miles from the start of the trek, a nice halfway point if you decide to stop. Be sure to take your own hiking abilities into consideration before deciding whether to tackle the Fimmvörðuháls Trail in one or two days.

Emstrur hut looking out over a large expanse.

The hut and campground at Emstrur offer exceptional views!

 

4-day Laugavegur Trail + 2 day Fimmvörðuháls Trail

The most leisurely-paced way to walk the Laugavegur Trail is to take 4-days, with no single day requiring more than 10 miles of walking. This itinerary is best for less confident walkers or those who wish to take their time and enjoy all the sights along the way. For trekkers utilizing this itinerary who also wish to add on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, we recommend completing it in an additional 2-days with an overnight at the Baldvinsskáli Hut.

Day 1: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker (6 miles)

The six-mile walk from Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker is one of the more physically demanding sections of the trail. You’ll gain approximately 1,500 feet of elevation over six-miles before reaching the Hrafntinnusker Hut and Campground. We don’t recommend camping here as the conditions can be quite rough.

 

Day 2: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (8 miles)

Leaving Hrafntinnusker you’ll enjoy a gentle downhill trail before a short-climb leads to excellent views. From here you’ll embark on a long and steep downhill to the Álftavatn Hut and campground with spectacular views of its namesake lake!

Day 3: Álftavatn to Emstrur (10 miles)

Walking out of Álftavatn, you’ll cross the Bratthálskvísl river (no bridge) before reaching the Hvangill hut and campground. Continuing on, you will soon arrive at the most difficult river crossing of the walk at the Bláfjallakvísl River. From here you’ll walk through a flat, desert like landscape before reaching the Emstrur Hut and Campground with its spectacular views.

Day 4: Emstrur to Þórsmörk(10 miles)

Leaving Emstrur, you’ll enjoy a nice trail with a spectacular crossing of the Syðri-Emstruá River gorge. Continuing on you’ll soon have the option for a short detour off the trail to view the confluence of the Markarfljót and Syðri-Emstruá Rivers – we highly recommend checking them out! As you make your way further down the trail you’ll have a final river crossing before reaching the well-maintained hut and campground at Þórsmörk and the end of the Laugavegur Trail!

 

Optional Day 5: Þórsmörk to Baldvinsskáli Hut (7.5 miles)

Walking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail in two days will give hikers a chance to fully enjoy every moment of this spectacular hike. Leaving Þórsmörk, you’ll hike steeply uphill while taking in beautiful views of the surrounding glaciers. After crossing a very exposed section you’ll climb an extremely steep (but short) section of trail to reach the high point between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull Glaciers before overnighting at the Baldvinsskáli Hut.

Optional Day 6: Baldvinsskáli Hut to Skogar

Leaving the Baldvinsskáli Hut you’ll have a steady downhill walk all the way to Skogar. With the most difficult sections of the Fimmvörðuháls Trail out of the way you’ll be able to enjoy the dozens of spectacular waterfalls along the route. Take your time and enjoy the steadily changing landscape before reaching the end of the Fimmvörðuháls Trail at the awe inspiring Skogafoss Waterfall!

Hiker walking on the Fimmvorduhals Trail.

Otherworldly landscapes near the top of the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.

 

Walking the Laugavegur South to North

If you’re interested in walking the Laugavegur and Fimmvörðuháls Trail from south to north, the following is a basic 4-day itinerary. Be sure to take a look at the elevation profile to get a sense of how much climbing each day will entail, as it will be significantly more than if you walk the route from north to south!

Laugavegur Trail Elevation Profile

Be sure to study the elevation profile before deciding to walk from south to north!

Day 1: Fimmvörðuháls Trail: Skogar to Þórsmörk (15 miles)

Walking the two trails from south to north means your first day will be by far your most difficult. You’ll begin your walk on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail in Skogar and climb steadily past a beautiful landscape of waterfalls and rushing rivers. You’ll continue upwards and the landscape will begin to change from the lush green hills to a barren, volcanic landscape. At around the half-way point you’ll arrive at the Baldvinsskáli Hut, where you can stay if you’d like to break the Fimmvörðuháls into two days. From here you’ll continue uphill until reaching the high-point between the Eyjafjallajökull and Mýrdalsjökull Glaciers before starting a long, steep, and at times exposed descent towards Þórsmörk. Take your time here and enjoy the beauty surrounding you! From the high point of the trail it’s about 7 miles down to Þórsmörk, where you’ll undoubtedly need to treat yourself to a beer!

Day 2: Þórsmörk to Emstrur (10 miles)

Upon leaving Þórsmörk you’ll quickly have a river-crossing to navigate. Once across, you’ll wind your way up steadily with plenty of excellent views. As you near Emstrur you’ll have the option to take a quick loop trail to view the beautiful canyon formed at the confluence of the Markarfljót and Syðri-Emstruá Rivers – a highly recommended detour! From here you’ll have a short walk before reaching the hut and campground at Emstrur.

Day 3: Emstrur to Álftavatn (10 miles)

Continuing on the Laugavegur from Emstrur, you’ll enjoy a relatively flat day en route to the lakeside hut and campground at Álftavatn. Soon after leaving Emstrur you’ll traverse a large, black sand desert before coming to the major river crossing at Bratthálskvísl. Take extra care here as this is the most difficult crossing of the walk. Once past the river, you’ll come to the hut and campground at Hvangill before tackling one more smaller river crossing just before reaching Álftavatn.

Day 4: Álftavatn to Landmannalaugar (13 miles)

Your final day will be one of your toughest, with a steep uphill section starting just after leaving Álftavatn. There is another river crossing at this point, so be prepared to get your feet wet. Once you’ve finished your climb out of Álftavatn you’ll soon come to the hut and campground at Hrafntinnusker. It’s all downhill from here! After leaving the hut you’ll enjoy tremendous views on the steep descent into Landmannalaugar and the finish of the Laugavegur Trail. Be sure to commemorate your accomplishment with a soak in the natural hot springs!

Hikers soaking in the hot springs at Landmannalaugar.

A soak in the hot springs at Landmannalaugar is a must!

Everything you need to to plan your Laugavegur Trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, or something in between, we’ve got you covered. Our downloadable Guide to Trekking the Laugavegur Trail is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Pick your digital guide for under $20 below:

Laugavegur Trail Guide

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The 50+ page guide contains resources you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Custom GPS files for the entire trek
  • Three unique stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Complete packing list for campers and those staying in huts
  • Detailed information on getting to/from the Laugavegur
  • A 15-week training plan to ensure you’re prepared for your hike

We truly believe this is the best guide available for the Laugavegur.  Pick up your guide below and if your not satisfied for any reason we’ll give you a full refund!

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What’s Next?

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

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Coast to Coast Walk | Maps & Routes

The Coast to Coast walk is one of the UK’s most iconic long-distance treks. Starting in St. Bees on the Irish Sea and finishing in Robin Hood’s Bay on the…

The Coast to Coast walk is one of the UK’s most iconic long-distance treks. Starting in St. Bees on the Irish Sea and finishing in Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea, this incredible journey takes walker’s across Britain. The Coast to Coast route is typically completed in 12 – 16 days, although countless opportunities exist to shorten or lengthen your walk.  This post will introduce you this magnificent trail and provide an overview of the Coast to Coast route as well as provide detailed maps, navigational resources, and much more so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle Wainwright’s most famous trail. 

What’s in this post?

 

Where is the Coast to Coast walk route?

The Coast to Coast walk traverses Northern England and connects the two seaside villages of St. Bees in the west and Robin Hood’s Bay in the east. In between start and end points, the Coast to Coast visits three National Parks (Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, & the North York Moors) and takes in some of England’s best scenery and friendliest towns. The nearest major city to the traditional start of the walk in St. Bees is Carlisle to the north and Manchester to the south. In Robin Hood’s Bays the nearest  large cities are Middlesbrough in the north and Leeds in the south.

Coast to Coast walk map

The Coast to Coast walk crosses England, connecting St. Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay.

 

The route visits countless small villages as well as a few larger towns such as Richmond and Kirkby Stephen. You’ll have no problem finding accommodation at any of the stops along the route as plentiful B&Bs, hotels, and campgrounds exist to serve all budgets. The walk is typically completed in 14 stages, although plenty of options exist to extend or reduce your time on the route. The stages of the traditional Coast to Coast walk are as follows:

  • Stage 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge
  • Stage 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite
  • Stage 3: Rosthwaite to Grasmere
  • Stage 4: Grasmere to Patterdale
  • Stage 5: Patterdale to Shap
  • Stage 6: Shap to Kirkby Stephen
  • Stage 7: Kirkby Stephen to Keld
  • Stage 8: Keld to Reeth
  • Stage 9: Reeth to Richmond
  • Stage 10: Richmond to Danby Wiske
  • Stage 11: Danby Wiske to Osmotherley
  • Stage 12: Osmotherley to The Lion Inn (Blakey Ridge)
  • Stage 13: The Lion Inn to Grosmont
  • Stage 14: Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay

Coast to Coast walk map

The Coast to Coast route is typically completed in 14 stages.

 

As mentioned above, and as with many long-distance walks, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take alternate trails on the Coast to Coast. These variants are more abundant in the Lake District than other sections of the trail and will give walker’s the opportunity to shorten or lengthen their walk depending on their preferred level of difficulty and time allotted. The alternate routes can also be used to add challenge, avoid certain sections, or provide a low-level route in the case of bad weather. In addition, the section of trail between Kirkby Stephen and Keld has three route options that must be taken depending on the time of year. This has been implemented to reduce the environmental impact on this sensitive area and walker’s should be sure to follow the guidelines.

Below is a list of the common alternates on the Coast to Coast walk as well as the required routing between Kirkby Stephen and Keld. These alternates are also shown on the Coast to Coast map below.

  • 03A – Rosthwaite to Grasmere (Helm Crag) – Takes walker’s on a high-level route with spectacular views before descending into Grasmere. This option should be avoided in bad weather.
  • 04A – Grasmere to Patterdale (Sunday Crag) – Similar to 03A, this alternate route takes the high-level trail above the valley as you descend to Patterdale. This option should also be avoided in poor weather.
  • 07 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld – As mentioned above, the route between Kirkby Stephen and Keld requires walker’s to take a specific route depending on the time of year:
    • Red Route: May to July
    • Blue Route: August to November
    • Green Route: December to April

Coast to Coast walk map

The Coast to Coast walk has several alternate routes that can be taken.

 

Alternate routes on the Coast to Coast walk UK

Between Kirkby Stephen and Keld walkers are required to take different routes depending on the time of year.

 

Interactive Coast to Coast walk map

The interactive Coast to Coast walk map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route. The map also displays the common alternate routes that are a part of the Coast to Coast, as described above.

 

How long is the Coast to Coast walk?

Famously, the Coast to Coast walk is purported to be 192 miles from St. Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay. While this is certainly a close estimate, we measure (via GPS) the Coast to Coast to be 186 miles long for those who stick to the traditional route. For those on the metric system that’s a whopping 300 km!

Of course, measuring the exact distance of the Coast to Coast has little practical value, as walkers will certainly end up walking further than the specific measured distance. The taking of alternate routes, detours, and the occasional jaunt off the trail to visit the local pub will assuredly make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

Even so, it is helpful to have an idea of the distances of each section of the Coast to Coast, which is exactly what the maps below show. Each map shows the approximate distance of each stage in both miles and kilometres. Note that none of these distances include alternates or variants, and should only be used to get a general idea of distance.

How long is the coast to coast walk?

Distances of the various stages of the Coast to Coast walk in miles.

 

Coast to Coast walk distance km

Distances of the various stages of the Coast to Coast walk in kilometres.

 

What is the elevation profile of the Coast to Coast?

Over the entirety of the Coast to Coast’s 186 (or 192!) miles the trail has approximately 29,000 feet or 8,850 meters of elevation gain! Averaged across the traditional 14 stages this equates to around 2,000 feet of elevation gain each day. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

However, much of that elevation gain is concentrated in the earlier stages of the walk, especially in the Lake District. The high point of the Coast to Coast is Kidsty Pike at 2,559 feet above sea level, located on the eastern edge of the Lake District. Given that the Coast to Coast starts and finished at the sea you’ll at least have the solace in knowing that for every uphill section you’ll have an equally downhill section at some point!

Kidsty Pike on the Coast to Coast.

Kidsty Pike is the high point on the Coast to Coast walk.

 

The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the Coast to Coast Route is like in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 14-stage walk, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Osmotherley to the Lion Inn is rather long in distance, while the stage from Patterdale to Shap has a lot of elevation gain.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the Coast to Coast be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.

Coast to Coast walk elevation

Elevation profile for the Coast to Coast walk in miles and feet.

 

Elevation of the Coast to Coast walk meters

Elevation profile for the Coast to Coast walk in kilometers and meters.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Coast to Coast walk?

Given that the Coast to Coast is not a National Trail in the UK, you won’t find the usual trail signs giving clear direction at every turn. Rather, the Coast to Coast is often very poorly marked and can be difficult to navigate on. For that reason we highly recommend that every walker have some sort of map (digital or paper, preferably both) that they bring with them on their Coast to Coast trek.

When we walked Wainwright’s Coast to Coast we did not utilize paper maps, other than those included in our guidebook. Instead we utilized downloadable GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where our next stop was. Given that cell phone service can be spotty along the route, especially in the Lake District, it is critical to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location.

If you’re interested in utilizing this method of navigating as well you can purchase the GPS files needed for the Coast to Coast walk in the section below.

Even with the convenience of GPS navigation, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet for the Coast to Coast. This will provide a bit of insurance should that trusty phone of yours get dropped in a puddle or soaked in one of the many downpours you’ll surely encounter.

Given the long distance of the Coast to Coast walk we highly recommend bringing a compact map booklet that contains the entire route. We highly recommend the version created by Cicerone which contains Ordnance Survey (the UK’s national mapping service) maps for the entire Coast to Coast route at 1:25,000 scale.

You can purchase this map booklet here.

If instead you’d like to carry full size Ordnance Survey maps for the entire Coast to Coast you’ll need the following OS maps:

  • Ordnance Survey OL4
  • Ordnance Survey OL5
  • Ordnance Survey OL19
  • Ordnance Survey OL26
  • Ordnance Survey OL27
  • Ordnance Survey OL30
  • Ordnance Survey 302
  • Ordnance Survey 303
  • Ordnance Survey 304

Lucky for you, the complete set of the maps above is available for purchase in a set here.

If you do plan to carry paper maps, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Coast to Coast walk GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Coast to Coast walk GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the Coast to Coast route as well as all of the common alternate route, plus way-points for each stop along the way.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Coast to Coast walk map

BUY NOW

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Coast to Coast. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map. Our Coast to Coast Offline Mapping post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

 

What’s Next?

Check out our other great Coast to Coast Walk Resources:

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10 Essentials for the GR20

The GR20 is an intimidating trek. Between the complicated logistics and the serious physical challenges, traversing the rugged spine of Corsica is no small feat. The GR20 doesn’t allow much…

The GR20 is an intimidating trek. Between the complicated logistics and the serious physical challenges, traversing the rugged spine of Corsica is no small feat. The GR20 doesn’t allow much room for error or easy outs; little oversights can quickly become big issues on the trail. The reward for all of your toil? An unforgettable adventure like nothing else.

You’ll work hard enough on the trail without having to deal with avoidable snafus that result from poor preparation. We were infinitely glad that we did our homework ahead of time, and now we want to share our experience with others. Below we’ve listed our best, most essential advice for anyone hoping to tackle the GR20. It’s in no particular order, but it’s all guaranteed to help you have a smoother, safer, and more enjoyable experience on the GR20.

 

Trail in the foreground with a peak in the background on the GR20.

Your GR20 adventure awaits!

 

1. Start Early

Morning people rejoice! There are so many reasons why it’s important to get on the trail at daybreak each day.

First, as most hikers will be trekking the GR20 in the summer season, it is imperative to minimize your exposure to the intense Corsican heat.

Furthermore, the afternoon thunderstorms on the GR20 (an almost daily occurrence in July and August, but common throughout the year) need to be taken seriously. Getting caught in a storm on high, exposed peaks or ridgelines is extremely dangerous. Starting early will allow you to get off these sections of trail before the storms roll in.

Beyond the crucial safety reasons for hitting the trail early, there are some additional perks. These include getting your pick of the best bunks and campsites before the crowds (and avoiding the long line for the shower!), witnessing incredible sunrises from the trail, and having ample time to relax and recover in the afternoons. Your exact starting time will depend on your hiking pace, the time of year, and your daily distance goal, but many hikers choose to start just before sunrise (somewhere between 5:30-6:30 am). If you’re starting in the dark, don’t forget your headlamp!

Sunrise over a rocky outcropping on the GR20

Just one of the many incredible sunrises we enjoyed on the trail!

 

2. Carry Plenty of Cash

We wrote more extensively about GR20 money and budgeting in this post, but this advice is important enough to earn a spot on the Essentials list too. You will not find ATMs or banks at any point along the GR20, and very few shops, refuges, hotels, and restaurants accept credit cards. Therefore, you need to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses for your entire trek.

Running out of money can completely sabotage your trek, as you’ll need to leave the trail to find an ATM (which will take a full day or more). Even if you plan on traveling frugally, you’ll need to restock food and other supplies along the route. It is also important to have some backup funds in case unexpected emergencies arise. Make sure you check out our How Much It Cost Us to Hike the GR20 article to estimate your expenses and avoid this common GR20 pitfall.

 

The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

The well-stoked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio- You never know when you’ll need to resupply on cookies and crisps!

 

3. Think Through Your Logistics

Corsica is known for many wonderful things (incredible beaches, rugged mountains, rich history), but excellent tourist infrastructure isn’t one of them. It can be quite difficult to get to and from the GR20. This is due to limited and infrequent transportation connections, unclear and constantly-changing schedules, and a general lack of accessible information.

It’s a very good idea to plan ahead of time for how you will get to and from the GR20, as you’ll need to make sure that busses/trains are running when you want to start and finish your trek. Additionally, we highly recommend booking your lodging in advance and researching any luggage storage or transfers you may need.

Fortunately, our in-depth GR20 Logistics article covers all of this and more. It’s an excellent place to start sorting through all of the important nuts and bolts of your trip.

 

Bus ticket for Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio to Bastia

Most buses and trains use high-tech ticketing systems like this one 😉

 

4. Ditch Your Ego

When it comes to the GR20, all previously held notions of your hiking speed will need to go out the window. When looking at the time estimates for certain stages in your guidebook, you might be inclined to think there’s been a mistake, but indeed they are accurate (or perhaps even underestimated). The GR20 requires so much scrambling and careful navigation of technical terrain that it can take several hours to cover even a couple of miles.

Here’s the thing: it’s okay to move slowly. The rugged nature of the trail is exactly what makes it so fun and rewarding; make sure to give yourself enough time to actually enjoy it. Furthermore, it is incredibly unwise and unsafe to try to move faster than you can realistically manage. We met so many hikers who thought they could “double-up” on stages only to end up burnt out, nursing injuries, or just downright miserable. If you don’t have enough time to complete the entire trek, it’s better to simply cut out a stage or two instead of trying to rush through all of it.

Read More: How to Train for the GR20

 

A hiker uses a fixed chain to scramble up a rocky section of the GR20

Some sections require you to slow down quite a bit!

 

5. Book Ahead

Unless you plan on carrying your own tent, it is pretty much essential that you reserve your accommodation in advance. During the peak season (June-September), the refuges are full every night. While you can try to show up early and score a bed without prior booking, it is unlikely that you’ll get lucky every stage of the way. Bookings are strongly encouraged for the refuges, and they are just as necessary if you plan on renting a tent. Additionally, it’s a good idea to reserve your accommodation in Calenzana, Conca, and Vizzavona, as these towns are quite small and the lodging options are limited.

Another important note on bookings: At many of the refuges, the warden will want to see a printed copy of your reservation. It’s not uncommon for people to lose their spot or pay twice if they don’t have a printed booking. If your itinerary changes due to weather or other issues, you can call ahead to the refuges and try to modify your reservation.

Check out The Ultimate Guide to the GR20 for details on how to reserve refuges and tents. 

 

Tents outside the Refuge de Matalza

A full campground on the GR20. The refuge was even more packed!

 

6. Feast on Local Delicacies

Because the GR20 doesn’t pass through many villages, hikers have very few opportunities to experience traditional Corsican culture during their trek, which is a shame. However, you can get a [literal] taste of Corsica through the incredible culinary delights you’ll encounter along the trail. Not only are these foods fresh, local, delicious, and reasonably-priced, but they are a great way to learn a little more about the place you’re lucky enough to be exploring. Here are a few can’t miss items:

  • Charcuterie: Known worldwide as some of the best, many of the refuges serve up uber-local varieties.
  • Cheese: Most of the traditional Corsican cheeses are made with goat and/or sheep’s milk, including Brocciu, arguably the most popular and widespread varietal. Be sure to sample the local cheeses whenever you get the chance!
  • Canestrelli: These treats are very similar to biscotti and they come in a wide range of delicious flavors. They’re available at nearly every refuge and they make an excellent hiking snack.
  • Pietra Beer: Made with chestnuts from the island, Pietra beer has a complex, slightly sweet, and entirely unique flavor. Even though beer is shockingly expensive across Corsica, we think you’ll find that enjoying a cold Pietra after a big day in the mountains is money well spent.

 

Block of Corsican cheese.

That block of local cheese may be calling your name after a long day!

 

7. Take A Rest Day

As we mentioned earlier, the GR20 is a very difficult endeavor. It will put both your physical and mental endurance to the test. Throughout your trek, it will be imperative that you make a conscious effort to take care of yourself in order to prevent injury and burnout. One of the best ways to do this is to plan for a day off in your itinerary. Obviously we know that the GR20 is already very long, and not everyone will have the time to make this work. However, if it’s at all possible, we strongly recommend that you take a rest day. Not only will you give your body time to recover and rejuvenate, but you’ll have a chance to explore Corsica in ways that don’t involve hiking.

Vizzavona, located halfway through the route, is arguably the best place to spend a rest day. There are a couple of good shops where you can restock supplies, and there are several lovely restaurants and hotels where you can indulge in some creature comforts. Our GR20 Logistics article has tons of helpful information on rest day options and considerations.

Woman with a glass of wine in front of Casa Alta B&B in Vizzavona Corsica

Living it up on our day off in Vizzavona!

 

8. Make New Friends

Many people are drawn to the GR20 because it offers the opportunity to experience solitude while trekking in wild and rugged landscapes. This is without a doubt one of the best parts of the trek, and you’ll certainly get to savor many moments alone in the mountains. Therefore, it might come as a surprise that time spent socializing with other people is one of the most memorable parts of many GR20 hikers’ experiences.

Since you’ll be starting and ending at the same refuges as many others each day, you’ll become familiar with those following a similar itinerary. You’ll have ample opportunities to chat along the trail, share a beer and a picnic table at sunset, cook your meals alongside your camp mates, and swap stories with new friends. Don’t pass up these opportunities! Meeting people from all over the world who share your love of the outdoors will make your experience so much richer. It was definitely one of the most fun, rewarding, and memorable parts of our GR20 adventure.

Trekkers sitting on rocks at Refuge de Manganu.

Kicking back and making friends at Refuge de Manganu.

 

9. Practice Your French

We’d be lying if we said it was utterly impossible to trek the GR20 without knowing any French. You could likely get yourself to and from the trail, navigate refuge check-ins, purchase food and supplies, and muddle your way through any unexpected issues that might arise. But just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should try. You’re going to have a much, much easier and more enjoyable experience if you take the time to brush up on your French skills before your trek. Not only will people appreciate your efforts (and therefore be more friendly and helpful), but there will undoubtedly be situations where English isn’t spoken and you need to communicate something.

You don’t need to be fluent, but you should learn some basic phrases relating to accommodation, weather, navigation, transportation, and food and drink.

 

Chalkboard menu at Refuge de Carozzu

Learn how to order food and drinks in French before your GR20 trek.

 

10. Leave No Trace

The GR20 traverses some truly stunning wild places. It is our responsibility to respect these places so that others can enjoy them now and many years into the future. This might seem unnecessary to discuss; after all, as hikers we have shared passion for the outdoors. However, if I had a Euro for every piece of trash or used toilet paper I saw on the trail, I would easily have enough money to take a luxury vacation. It’s simple: pack it in and pack it out. Stay on the designated trail. Don’t pick flowers or other vegetation. Furthermore, carry a small bag with you so you can pick up any trash you find along the trail, leaving it even more beautiful for those who come after you. Do your part and the mountains will reward you with their awe-inspiring beauty. 

Do your part to protect this incredible place!

 

That’s it!

We hope you found this list to be helpful and we genuinely believe following this advice will allow you to have a less stressful and more rewarding experience.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments below. And don’t forget to check out all of our other great GR20 content: 

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Walker’s Haute Route | Maps & Routes

The Walker’s Haute Route is an incredible trail that connects the two iconic mountain towns of Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. The trek traverses some of the best…

The Walker’s Haute Route is an incredible trail that connects the two iconic mountain towns of Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. The trek traverses some of the best scenery in the Alps and is often included on list of the best hikes in the world. The route has many iterations, as you’ll see below, but is traditionally broken into 13 stages.

This post will provide you with an overview of the route and tons of mapping resources to familiarize yourself with the Walker’s Haute Route map, route, location, and elevation profile so you can be sure you are ready to take on this incredible adventure!

What’s in this post?

Where is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The Walker’s Haute Route is located in the Alps, and connects the French mountaineering town of Chamonix with the legendary Swiss alpine village of Zermatt. The closest major city to the beginning of the hike in Chamonix is Geneva, Switzerland. When finishing in Zermatt, the closest major cities will be either Geneva or Zurich, Switzerland.

Walker's Haute Route overview map

The Walker’s Haute Route connects Chamonix in France with Zermatt in Swizerland.

The trek crosses no fewer than eleven mountain passes (Col de Balme, Fenetre d’Arpette, Col de Louvie, Col de Prafleuri, Col des Roux, Pas de Chevres, Col du Tsate, Col de Sorebois, Forcletta, and Augstbordpass) passes through many quaint mountain villages, and stops at breathtaking alpine refuges. For many, the route finishes with two days on the famous Europaweg trail as you make your way to Zermatt. The walk is typically completed in 13 stages, although plenty of options exist to extend or reduce your time on the route. The stages of the traditional Walker’s Haute Route are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Chamonix to Trient
  • Stage 2: Trient to Champex
  • Stage 3: Champex to Le Chable
  • Stage 4: Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort
  • Stage 5: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri
  • Stage 6: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla
  • Stage 7: Arolla to La Sage
  • Stage 8: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry
  • Stage 9: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal
  • Stage 10: Zinal to Gruben
  • Stage 11: Gruben to St. Niklaus
  • Stage 12: St. Niklaus to Europa Hut
  • Stage 13: Europa Hut to Zermatt

Want more great info on the Walker’s Haute Route? Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route here!

Walker's Haute Route map

 

As discussed above, the Walker’s Haute Route includes several ‘alternates’ in addition to the traditional trail shown above. These alternate trails typically connect the same start and finish points, but take walkers on a different route between the two points. There are also variant routes that allow trekkers to shorten or lengthen their trek depending on their desired level of difficult and time on the trail.

The alternate routes can be used to add challenge, visit nearby villages, avoid certain sections, or provide a low-level route in the case of bad weather. Additionally, there is an alternate route that allows trekkers to add a day to the Haute Route by spending a night at the Hotel Weisshorn.

Here are the common alternate routes on the Walker’s Haute Route, which are also shown on the map below:

  • 02A – Trient to Champex (Bovine Route) – Allows trekkers to avoid the difficult Fenetre d’Arepette. 
  • 05A – Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri via Col de la Chaux – Shortens stage five and avoids a vertigo inducing balcony trail. 
  • 08A – La Sage to Cabane Barrage de Moiry – Offers a more direct route for those who do not wish to stay at Cabane de Moiry. 
  • 09A – Descent into Zinal – Provides a less steep option to reach Zinal. 
  • 10A – Zinal to Hotel Weisshorn – Adds a day to your trek, but visits the beautiful Hotel Weisshorn.
  • 10B – Hotel Weisshorn to Gruben – Connects trekkers who say at the Hotel Weisshorn back with the main trail in Gruben. 
  • 12A – St. Niklaus to Zermatt – Takes a day off of the Walker’s Haute Route and skips the Europaweg Trail. 
Walker's Haute Route Alternates map

The Walker’s Haute Route has many route variations.

 

Walker’s Haute Route Interactive Map

The interactive Walker’s Haute Route map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route. The map also displays the common alternate routes that are a part of the Walker’s Haute Route, and described above. You can click on each stage to see the total length, listed in both kilometers and miles.

 

How long is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The Walker’s Haute Route is approximately 128 miles or 207 kilometers long. This is based on following the traditional route described above and not taking any of the alternate routes. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take several of the alternate routes, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. You’ll have the option to walk less or more depending on the weather, your preferences, and the conditions encountered on the trail.

The maps below show the approximate distance of each stage in both miles and kilometers, giving you a sense of the distances encountered on each section of the Walker’s Haute Route. For more detail on each stage be sure to check out our interactive map in the section above!

Walker's Haute Route distance

Approximate stage distances of the Walker’s Haute Route in miles.

 

Walker's Haute Route distance

Approximate distances of the Walker’s Haute Route in kilometers.

 

What is the elevation profile of the Walker’s Haute Route?

Over the course of all 128 miles, the Walker’s Haute Route has a staggering 41,000 feet or 12,600 meters of elevation gain! Averaged out over 13 stages this means that each day you’ll have over 3,150 feet or 960 meters of elevation change per stage. Quite the challenge!

Of course, the elevation gain and loss isn’t spread out evenly from stage to stage. You’ll have days with a tremendous amount of climbing and you’ll also have days with much less (although always some!). Given that the Walker’s Haute Route is a point to point trail (meaning it does not start and finish in the same location) you’ll gain a tad more elevation that you’ll gain over the course of the entire route.

The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the Walker’s Haute Route is like in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 13-stage Walker’s Haute Route, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Arolla to La Sage is rather short in distance, while the stage from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort has a lot of elevation gain.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the Walker’s Haute Route be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine.

Walker's Haute Route elevation profile

Elevation profile of the Walker’s Haute Route in feet and miles.

 

Walker's Haute Route elevation profle

Elevation profile of the Walker’s Haute Route in meters and kilometers.

 

What maps should I carry on the Walker’s Haute Route?

Carrying a good map is essential on the Walker’s Haute Route. While the trail is generally well-marked and easy to follow, there are countless trail junctions, detours, and confusing sections that require some form of navigation. 

When we hiked the Walker’s Haute Route we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along the route, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.

With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.

To cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at a good scale (1:50,000) we recommend bringing the following Swiss Topo maps:

  • Swiss Topo 282T – Martigny
  • Swiss Topo 283T – Arolla
  • Swiss Topo 273T – Montana
  • Swiss Topo 274T – Visp
  • Swiss Topo 284T – Mischabel

You can purchase all of these maps on the Swiss Topo website here. In addition, Swiss Topo also has hiking maps at a larger scale (1:33,000), although it would be quite cumbersome to carry maps to cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at that scale. 

A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Walker’s Haute Route GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Walker’s Haute Route GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the Walker’s Haute Route as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Walker's Haute Route Alternates map

BUY NOW

 

Apps and Offline Navigation

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while hiking the Walker’s Haute Route. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map. Our Walker’s Haute Route Offline Mapping post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

 

Want more?

Ready to keep planning for a perfect Walker’s Haute Route adventure? Be sure to check out all of our great content below:

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