The Laugavegur Trail | Map, Routes, and Itineraries

The Laugavegur Trail and Fimmvörðuháls Trail offer the best of Icelandic trekking. Stunning waterfalls, brooding volcanoes, geothermal hot springs, powerful rivers, and deep canyons are just a few of the…

The Laugavegur Trail and Fimmvörðuháls Trail offer 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 these hikes. 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 and Fimmvörðuháls Trails two of the most popular hiking destinations in Iceland. Read on to learn how to plan for these epic treks!

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

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

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. 

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

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 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 trail 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

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 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 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 walker’s 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 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.

 

Want more?

Ready to keep planning your Coast to Coast adventure? Checkout all our helpful posts below:

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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
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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How to Train for the Laugavegur Trail

So you’ve decided to trek the Laugavegur Trail. Congratulations! You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started creating your itinerary, putting together a packing list, and booking…

So you’ve decided to trek the Laugavegur Trail. Congratulations! You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started creating your itinerary, putting together a packing list, and booking your accommodation, but have you thought about your physical preparation? Obviously, you’ve at least taken the first steps since you’ve found your way to this post, and for that your future self will thank you. That’s because being physically prepared for a tough trek like the Laugagevur is the single most impactful action you can take to ensure your trip will be as enjoyable as possible. 

Training for the Laugagevur will make your experience exponentially more rewarding for a number of reasons, including…

  • You’ll be able to focus on the beauty of your surroundings instead of the pain and fatigue in your body.
  • You’ll eliminate the unnecessary stress of falling behind schedule due to spending longer-than-anticipated days on the trail.
  • By taking the time to prepare in advance, you’ll enjoy the anticipation of your upcoming trip and completing your trek will be immensely rewarding.
  • You’ll improve your fitness and health by working towards a goal that is exciting and meaningful.

Keeping reading to learn how to feel strong and prepared for your Laugagevur Trail adventure.

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

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!

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What’s in this post?

landscape near Hvanngil on the Laugavegur Trail
Beautiful landscape near Hvanngil. The views make all of the training worthwhile!

How Difficult is the Laugagevur 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. 

Beyond the physical challenges of the Laugagevur, there are a few other factors to keep in mind when understanding the difficulty of this trek.

River Crossings: You will encounter several river crossings along the Laugavegur Trail. These can very from ankle-deep to waist-deep 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!

Weather: Icelandic weather should not be taken lightly. Weather conditions are a major factor that can greatly increase the difficulty of your trek.   Whiteout snowstorms 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!

Fimmvörðuháls Trail Extension: Many hikers opt to extend their hike by taking the Fimmvörðuháls Trail, which connects Þórsmörk and Skogar via a very difficult 15-mile trek. The Fimmvörðuháls trail is quite a bit more technical and challenging than the Laugagevur. There are some very exposed and steep sections that require the use of cables, chains, and holds to navigate them. Depending on which direction you choose to hike, you’ll either start or end your trek with a very big day which will add to the overall difficulty of your experience.

A large section of snow on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.
A long and tiring snow crossing on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.

The Laugavegur Trail in Numbers:

Laugavegur Trail Only

Total Distance: 55 kilometers (34 miles)
Total Elevation Gain: 1450 meters (4758 feet)

Laugavegur Trail + Fimmvörðuháls Trail

Total Distance: 79 kilometres (49 miles)
Total Distance: 2428 meters (7967 feet)
A deep canyon on stage 2 of the Laugavegur Trail
Fortunately, you can enjoy these views without too much climbing!

I don’t live near mountains…Will I be able to get fit enough?

Okay, so hopefully the first section of this post convinced you that yes, you CAN complete the Laugagevur, but also that you really, really should take our advice and train ahead of time. However, if you’re like a great many people who aspire to trek the Laugavegur Trail, you don’t have trails in your backyard on which to complete said training. If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We’ve known plenty of people who’ve become incredibly strong hikers without the benefit of mountain training. Here are some ideas for flatlanders:

  • Use the stairclimber machine at your local gym. Go slow, as this torture device machine definitely induces greater perceived exertion than most sections of the Laugagevur.
  • Walk or run up and down the stairs at a nearby high school stadium or similar venue.
  • Get on a treadmill and walk at a brisk pace. Play around with setting the incline to a variety of levels, ranging from 5-12%.
  • Many bridges make excellent artificial hills. Make sure the one you choose has a safe pedestrian area and then walk back and forth across that sucker a bunch of times. Sure, it’s not the most exciting option, but consider it an opportunity to build both physical strength and mental fortitude.

As much as possible, complete the above activities while wearing a weighted pack similar to the one you plan on hiking with. Commit to one or more of these moves and you might be shocked at the high level of hiking fitness you can build without ever leaving sea level.

A hiker walks on rocky terrain on the Laugavegur Trail
WAY better than the stairclimber machine!

Basic Laugagevur Trail Training Plan

Six Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Endurance Base

Even if you’re taking four days to complete the Laugagevur, you can expect to spend long days on the trail. Most walkers complete their trek in 2-4 days, meaning they’ll need to average well over 15 kilometers (10 miles) per day. To prepare for extended periods of hiking, you should try to build a solid foundation of aerobic endurance. So what does that actually mean? Simply put, your body needs to be accustomed to sustaining low(ish)-intensity exercise for longer than an hour.

Like a lot of training, the best way to get your body used to moving for a long time is-you guessed it- to regularly move for extended periods of time. You can achieve this a lot of different ways, but the important factor is that you’re frequently and consistently doing cardio exercise. Aerobic activity (AKA “cardio”) includes things like jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, using the elliptical machine, or anything else that requires moderate, sustained exertion (your heart rate should be elevated, but you should be able to maintain a conversation and keep up the activity for at least 30 minutes).

Starting six months prior to your trek, aim to complete 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times per week. If your fitness regimen already includes this kind of thing, just keep on keeping on!

Build your endurance base to cross vast landscapes like this one.

Three Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Strength

In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should begin to increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to continue to build your aerobic endurance while also training your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline (4-12% grade), or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to.

Additionally, now is the time to start incorporating a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Many hikers neglect strength training for any number of reasons; they don’t think they need it, they don’t know how, they don’t have time, or they just find it boring (this last one is the favorite excuse of yours truly!) However, strength training plays a huge role in giving you the power needed to tackle hard climbs, build stability, stay light on your feet, and prevent injury. You don’t need to spend a ton of time in the gym to get results, either. Even just a few minutes a week in the comfort of your home can make a world of difference.

Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Laugagevur-ready legs:

  • 10 goblet squats (with medium weight)
  • 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase the challenge)
  • 10 step-ups on each leg (weights optional)

Complete three sets of each exercise.

A trail sign on the Fimmvörðuháls Trail.
Your leg strengthening routine will certainly pay off on this difficult section of the Fimmvörðuháls.

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight.

Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! In the two months before your Laugagevur trek, try to complete at least one challenging hike at least once a week while wearing your pack. Your backpack should mirror the weight you intend to carry on your Laugagevur Trail hike, including food and water. Ideally, you should work up to hikes that are 15-18 kilometers (5-10 miles) long with 500 meters (1,500 feet) of elevation gain. If that’s not possible, try to complete a weekly long walk (5-10 miles) while wearing your pack and with as many hills as possible (see the previous section for more ideas on this). As an added bonus, these hikes/walks are a great opportunity to start breaking in new hiking boots and other gear.

Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections, simply replacing one of your weekly aerobic workouts with a long hike. 

A hiker walks through a large snow field on the Laugavegur Trail
You can still expect to encounter lots of snow on the trail in July!

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

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the Laugagevur, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking.

This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Keep up your established aerobic and strength training until 10 days to one week before the hike. In the last week before your trip, continue doing some light cardio and strength, but take extra rest days and don’t do any big, challenging hikes so your body is fresh for your upcoming adventure. Finally, pat yourself on the back and take pride in showing up to your Laugagevur trek fit, prepared, and the best version of yourself!

Camping at Alftavatn.
If you plan on camping along the Laugavegur, try to do a test run before your trek.

Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels

Unfortunately, the Laugagevur Trail is not the friendliest trek in terms of accessibility and adaptations.  Detours and shortcuts are nearly impossible, as there are few road connections along the route.  That being said, there are actions you can take to minimize the difficulty of your Laugagevur trek. If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Hike from north to south to minimize elevation gain and avoid the most strenuous climbs.
  • Skip the Fimmvörðuháls Trail extension, as it is much more difficult than the Laugagevur Trail.
  • Carry as light a pack as possible to reduce the strain on your body. You can store additional luggage in Reykjavik if needed. Check out our Laugagevegur Trail Logistics article for more details on luggage storage.
  • If possible, allow yourself four days to complete the Laugagevur. With this itinerary, you’ll never have to walk more than ten miles in a single day. See our Itineraries article for details.
Hvanngill Hut Laugavegur Trail
Staying in huts like this one will allow you to carry a lighter pack and reduce the overall challenge of the trek.

The Bottom Line

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

Disclaimer: This training plan  is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor is it a replacement for seeking medical treatment or professional nutrition advice. Do not start any nutrition or physical activity program without first consulting your physician.

Snow covered mountains on the Laugavegur Trail

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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How to Train for the GR20

While the GR20 gets a lot of hype for its spectacular beauty (and it doesn’t disappoint), it’s perhaps even better known for earning the title of being the “toughest trek…

While the GR20 gets a lot of hype for its spectacular beauty (and it doesn’t disappoint), it’s perhaps even better known for earning the title of being the “toughest trek in Europe.” There is no doubt that hiking the GR20 is an exceptionally challenging endeavor, but it’s not one that is reserved only for the superhuman elites. Nearly any healthy hiker with a decent fitness base can successfully complete the GR20, given they are willing to put in the work to get physically prepared.

Let’s be really clear about this: the GR20 is not a trek that you should attempt without proper training and preparation.

A rocky mountainside on the GR20
You’ll be glad you trained your body and mind to handle tough terrain like this.

 

Trying to “wing it” on the GR20 will set you up for a miserable and potentially unsafe experience. On the other hand, put in the work ahead of time and you’ll have an exponentially more enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Here’s a few reasons why that’s true:

  • You’ll be able to focus on the beauty of your surroundings instead of the pain and fatigue in your body.
  • You’ll eliminate the unnecessary stress of falling behind schedule due to spending longer-than-anticipated days on the trail.
  • By taking the time to prepare in advance, you’ll enjoy the anticipation of your upcoming trip and completing your trek will be immensely more rewarding.
  • You’ll improve your fitness and health by working towards a goal that is exciting and meaningful.

So keep reading to learn how to train for the GR20, and then get started! Your future self will thank you.

What’s in this post?

A high rocky path on the GR20
High up on the GR20.

How difficult is the GR20?

There’s no doubt about it- the GR20 is a challenging trek. Some of the major factors that contribute to its difficulty are the large amount of scrambling, steep ascents and descents, overall distance, heat and weather, and exposed nature of the trail. We believe that most reasonably fit people can complete the GR20, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should.  You’re much, much more likely to actually enjoy it if you are in good hiking shape and have backpacking experience. Most of the scrambling is pretty manageable; it is just tricky and awkward at times and can become tiring after you’ve been at it for awhile. If you are judicious about avoiding storms and careful on exposed sections, it really isn’t much more dangerous than other hikes. 

For an in-depth look at the various challenges of the GR20, be sure to check out this post.

A hiker uses a fixed chain to scramble up a rocky section of the GR20
Fixed cables and chains like this one can help on tricky sections.

I don’t live near mountains…Will I be able to get fit enough?

Okay, so hopefully the first section of this post convinced you that yes you CAN complete the GR20, but also that you really, really should take our advice and train ahead of time. However, if you’re like many people who aspire to trek the GR20, you don’t have trails in your backyard on which to complete said training. If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We’ve known plenty of people who’ve become incredibly strong hikers without the benefit of mountain training. Here are some ideas for flatlanders:

  • Use the stairclimber machine at your local gym. Go slow, as this torture device machine definitely induces greater perceived exertion than most sections of the GR20.
  • Walk or run up and down the stairs at a nearby high school stadium or similar venue.
  • Get on a treadmill and walk at a brisk pace. Play around with setting the incline to a variety of levels, ranging from 5-12%.
  • Many bridges make excellent artificial hills. Make sure the one you choose has a safe pedestrian area and then walk back and forth across that sucker a bunch of times. Sure, it’s not the most exciting option, but consider it an opportunity to build both physical strength and mental fortitude.

As much as possible, complete the above activities while wearing a weighted pack similar to the one you plan on hiking with. Commit to one or more of these moves and you might be shocked at the high level of hiking fitness you can build without ever leaving sea level.

Lac de Nino
Lac du Nino makes a lovely lunch stop and provides a very rare flat stretch of trail.

Adapting the GR20 for Varying Ability Levels

Unfortunately, the GR20 is not the friendliest trek in terms of accessibility and adaptations.  Most sections that don’t allow for shortcuts or detours and the ones that do exist can be less than perfect.  That being said, it is still possible to complete significant portions of the hike, even if you’re not able to do the whole thing. If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If possible, consider adding an extra day or cutting out a segment to reduce the average distance you’ll need to cover each day.
  • Use a luggage transfer service to eliminate the extra demands of carrying your heavy pack (note that these do not service all stops along the GR20 and require you to take a different route at times)
  • Plan for a rest day midway through your hike. Vizzavona is the best option.  See our logistics article for more information about luggage transfers, rest days, and detour options.
  • Enlist a few friends or family members to come with you and rent a car. You can alternate between hiking and driving the support vehicle to customize the amount of time spent on your feet.  Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy much of the same spectacular Corsican scenery from the road.
  • Plan to only complete the GR20 Sud. While still plenty challenging, the southern half of the GR20 is generally less strenuous and closer to civilization than the GR20 Nord
A rocky ridge on the GR20 Nord.
A typical section of “trail” on the GR20 Nord.

Basic GR20 Training Plan

Six Months Before Your GR20 Trek: Build Your Endurance Base

You should be prepared to spend many long days on the trail while hiking the GR20. Most walkers complete their trek in 13-16 days, meaning they’ll need to average around 11 kilometres (7 miles) per day. If that doesn’t sound like a lot, remember that it is slow and tiring to move across much of the terrain encountered on this trek. To prepare for extended periods of hiking, you should try to build a solid foundation of aerobic endurance. So what does that actually mean? Simply put, your body needs to be accustomed to sustaining low(ish)-intensity exercise for longer than an hour.

Like a lot of training, the best way to get your body used to moving for a long time is -you guessed it- to regularly move for extended periods of time. You can achieve this in a lot of different ways, but the important factor is that you’re frequently and consistently doing cardio exercise. Aerobic activity (AKA “cardio”) includes things like jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, using the elliptical machine, or anything else that requires moderate, sustained exertion (your heart rate should be elevated, but you should be able to maintain a conversation and keep up the activity for at least 30 minutes).

Starting six months prior to your GR20 trek, aim to complete 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times per week. If your fitness regimen already includes this kind of thing, just keep on keeping on!

Hiker crosses a large rock slab on Stage 14 of the GR20
All smiles and fresh legs 11 days into the trek!

Three Months Before Your GR20 Trek: Build Your Strength

In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should begin to increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to continue to build your aerobic endurance while also training your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline (4-12% grade), or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to.

Additionally, now is the time to start incorporating a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Many hikers neglect strength training for any number of reasons; they don’t think they need it, they don’t know how, they don’t have time, or they just find it boring (this last one is the favorite excuse of yours truly!) However, strength training plays a huge role in giving you the power needed to tackle hard climbs, build stability, stay light on your feet, and prevent injury. You don’t need to spend a ton of time in the gym to get results, either. Even just a few minutes a week in the comfort of your home can make a world of difference.

Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build GR20-ready legs:

  • 10 goblet squats (with medium weight)
  • 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase the challenge)
  • 10 step-ups on each leg (weights optional)

Complete three sets of each exercise. For extra credit, try to incorporate some core strengthening exercises (such as planks) into your routine.

Clouds surround a peak on Stage 15 of the GR20
The pay-off for all of that training? Enjoying views like this!

Two Months Before Your GR20 Trek: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try to get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight. This is especially true when it comes to navigating the awkward scrambles that are plentiful on the GR20.

Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! In the two months before your GR20 trek, try to complete at least one challenging hike every week while wearing your pack. Your backpack should mirror the weight you intend to carry on your GR20 hike, including food and water. Ideally, you should work up to hikes that are 15-18 kilometres (5-10 miles) long with 500 meters (1,500 feet) of elevation gain. If that’s not possible, try to complete a weekly long walk (5-10 miles) while wearing your pack and with as many hills as possible (see the previous section for more ideas on this). As an added bonus, these hikes/walks are a great opportunity to start breaking in new hiking boots and other gear.

Important Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections, simply replacing one of your weekly aerobic workouts with a long hike. 

Goats on the GR20 trail
Optional training exercise: channeling your inner Corsican mountain goat.

One Month Before Your GR20 Trek: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the GR20, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking.

This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Keep up your established aerobic and strength training until 10 days to one week before the hike. In the last week before your trip, continue doing some light cardio and strength, but take extra rest days and don’t do any big, challenging hikes so your body is fresh for your upcoming adventure. Upon arriving in Corsica, try to give yourself a day or two to rest and acclimate before starting your trek. Finally, pat yourself on the back and take pride in showing up to your GR20 trek fit, prepared, and the best version of yourself!

Disclaimer: This training plan  is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor is it a replacement for seeking medical treatment or professional nutrition advice. Do not start any nutrition or physical activity program without first consulting your physician.

The mountains are waiting for you!

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The GR20: How Difficult is it?

So how tough is Europe’s toughest trek? Short answer: pretty tough. And what about the GR20 makes it hard? Short answer: lots of things. Medium answer: the physical challenges, the…

So how tough is Europe’s toughest trek? Short answer: pretty tough. And what about the GR20 makes it hard? Short answer: lots of things. Medium answer: the physical challenges, the sheer length of the trek, the weather conditions, and the technical nature of the trail (Keep reading for the long answer).

What’s in this post?

 

Map of the GR20 in Corsica.

The GR20 takes trekkers across the island of Corsica.

 

The GR20 in numbers:

Total distance: 182 kilometers (113 miles)

Total elevation gain: 10,500 meters (34,500 feet- that’s about the same as climbing to the top of Mt. Everest from base camp three times!)

Average Daily distance*: 11.3 kilometers (7 miles)

Average daily elevation gain*: 655 meters (2,150 feet)

*Averages are based on a traditional 16-day itinerary

Read More: GR20 Maps

 

Hardest Sections of the GR20

On long treks, sometimes the toughest times come when we’re least expecting them: the “easy day” that feels endless, the downhill cruise that crushes our knees, or that chilly morning that we can’t summon up the willpower to unzip our sleeping bag. Those moments will undoubtedly occur on your GR20 adventure, adding a little spice and character-building to the experience (how’s that for a positive spin?) That being said, in addition to the parts that are personally challenging, there are sections of the GR20 that are universally tough for everyone.

It’s important to get physically and mentally prepared for these sections, but you shouldn’t be too intimidated. The purpose of sharing this information is certainly not to scare you, but to give you an idea of what to expect so you can approach your trek feeling prepped and confident. We’ve listed these in order by stage (not toughness), assuming you’re hiking in the traditional north-south direction.

Read More: Check out our Trip Report for an honest, in-depth account of our experience on the GR20.

The ridge walk between Bocca Piccaia and Bocca Carozzu (Stage 2): This is the first of many long, slow, and undulating ridge walks and arguably one of the hardest. Be prepared for lots of scrambling.

The Spatismata Slabs (Stage 3): Perhaps the most infamous of the entire trek, the so-called “Slabs of Doom” have the reputation for being sketchy and vertigo-inducing. These large, steep rock slabs are fitted with cables in many places. If you’re heading uphill, they actually aren’t too scary, but downhill hikers have reported feeling uncomfortable with the steep grade. The slabs can be extremely slippery and dangerous when wet.

Ascent to Pointe des Eboulis (Stage 4): Pointe des Eboulis is the highest point on the entire GR20 trek, and getting to it is no small feat. The ascent is long, very steep, and requires some pretty technical scrambling on the final push to the top. Additionally, in our opinion Stage 4 is the toughest stage overall, so your effort on the ascent is compounded by the other challenging aspects of the day.

View from Bocca Piacca Stage 2 GR20

The view from Bocca Piacca.

 

Ascent to Bocca a e Porte and ridgewalk to Bocca Muzzella (Stage 7): These sections are very characteristic of the GR20 Nord. Expect a very steep and strenuous climb followed by a long, slow ridge walk with lots of scrambling.

Descent into Vizzavona (Stage 9): If you don’t think hiking downhill can be hard, think again. Stage 9 entails nearly 5,000 feet of elevation loss, much of that on steep and stony paths. It’s a physical and mental grind, but the small luxuries waiting in Vizzavona make it all worthwhile.

Monte Renosu high-level variante (Stage 11): This optional alternate route is pretty straightforward on the initial ascent to the summit of Monte Renosu, but the following section requires some pretty technical scrambling and good navigation skills (the route is not well-marked).

Stage 12: Those who claim that the southern half of the GR20 is easy fail to take this stage into account. If you didn’t make it to Refuge de Prati on the previous day, you have a big ascent to start the day. Then there is a long, slow ridge walk in the middle, followed by yet another challenging climb and a final, maddeningly rocky descent.

Read More: The Ultimate Guide to the GR20

Sunrise on the Spasimata Slabs

Sunrise on the way up to the Spatismata Slabs.

 

Does it matter which direction I hike the GR20?

The traditional GR20 route starts in Calenzana in the north, passes through the midpoint in Vizzavona, and finishes in Conca in the south. However, it is possible to hike in either direction. The northern half of the GR20 has a reputation for being the toughest, while the southern half is a bit gentler. Some trekkers prefer to start in the south to get accustomed to the trail before tackling the tougher sections in the north. Others would rather start in the north in order to put the biggest days behind them early and do so with fresh legs.

So in terms of difficulty, one way isn’t significantly more or less challenging than the other. It is totally a matter of personal preference, although we hiked from north to south and would definitely recommend it. We benefited from the confidence boost that came with conquering the most challenging sections early on, and we felt the ascents and descents were more manageable in this direction. While slightly less people hike in the northbound direction, you probably won’t notice a significant difference in crowds since hikers headed both ways stay at the same refuges. 

Views of a sheer rock face from Refuge d'I Paliri

Views from Refuge d’I Paliri…Not a bad way to spend your last (or first) night on the trail!

 

Physical Challenges of the GR20

The GR20 does not require advanced mountaineering experience, but its challenges certainly should not be taken lightly. It is a very strenuous endeavor, with a staggering 34,500 feet or 10,500 meters of elevation change. When averaged out over the 16 stages, hikers have over 2,150 feet or 655 meters of elevation change to tackle per day. Many trekkers will complete the GR20 in fewer days, meaning they’ll have an even greater challenge! You’ll be carrying all of your necessities on your back and much of the hike requires walking on steep, loose, and rocky terrain, all of which add to the toll on your body.

One other consideration involves the health of your knees and overall leg strength. There are very long, steep descents on nearly every stage of the GR20, and these can create problems and irritate chronic injuries for those with sensitive knees, backs, and hips.

Read More: How to Train for the GR20

Hiker scrambling up a rocky gully on stage 2 of the GR20

Scrambling up a steep section on Stage Two.

Distance/Duration Challenges of the GR20

With a few exceptions (say, relaxing on a beach), it is difficult to get up and do the same activity all day every day for two weeks straight. Whether you complete the GR20 in twelve days or sixteen, that is a long time to be out there. Not only can the repeated long days on the trail wear you down physically, but they can also impact you mentally. Don’t despair- although the GR20’s length presents a major challenge, it is also one of the best parts. There is a beautiful and gratifying simplicity in the routines of life on the GR20, a simplicity you’ll likely yearn for long after your adventure ends.

Food and drink on the GR20

Enjoying the simple things on the GR20.

 

Weather Challenges of the GR20

No matter what time of year you choose to trek the GR20, weather conditions are more than likely to add to the challenge of your experience. The vast majority of hikers complete their trek in the summer months, which certainly has advantages (such as snow-free trails and stocked refuges). However, the heat can be absolutely brutal. Much of the trail is very exposed, meaning you’ll be laboring under the very strong Corsican sun. This increases your risk of dehydration and heatstroke and will totally sap your energy.

Additionally, the afternoon thunderstorms in July and August are nothing to take lightly. Lightning is especially dangerous when you’re on a high ridgeline or exposed peak. Fortunately, if you’re willing to get an early start, you can avoid the worst of the heat and get off the most exposed parts of the trail before the storms roll in.

Regardless of whether you choose to trek in May, July, or September, you will encounter weather elements that add to the challenge of the trek, be it gale-force winds, frigid mornings, glaring sun, or torrential storms. Get on the trail at sunrise, use good judgment, give the mountains the respect they deserve, and you’ll be just fine.

Sunrise on the GR20

One upside of unsettled mountain weather? Dramatically beautiful sunrises!

 

Technical Challenges of the GR20

In addition to the basic physical challenges, there are also many sections of the GR20 that are technically difficult. This reality really begins to sink in when you look at the time estimates for some stages of the trek. For example, the time estimate for completing Stage 3 is 5.5 hours, and yet the distance covered is just 3.75 miles. How is it possible that it could take such a long time to go such a short distance? you might ask. Welcome to the GR20.

The GR20 is a very technical hike, but it is still a hike. There are no points where you’ll need to use ropes or climbing implements, but there are a few things that make it technical. First and foremost, many stages require quite a bit of scrambling. Think of scrambling as slightly less vertical rock climbing. It’s not like you’ll need to shimmy straight up a sheer rock wall, but you’ll need to use your hands and really lean into the rock to get up or down certain sections. Additionally, there are cables and chains fixed to the rock to help you navigate some areas. These can seem intimidating, but they’re actually not so bad. Finally, the trail conditions add to the overall technicality of the GR20. Much of the rock can become slippery and treacherous if wet, and other sections of trail are quite loose and stony.

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

Fixed cables and chains like this one can help on tricky sections.

Many stages of the GR20 (particularly on the GR20 Nord) follow a similar pattern: long steep ascent, undulating ridge walk with lots of scrambling, long steep descent. Despite the fact that the ascents can be tiring and the descents knee-crunching, they are relatively straightforward. The ridge walks, however, can be very slow and arduous, due to the amount of scrambling involved. If you keep your mental game strong, you will discover that scrambling is actually really FUN and one of the most unique and wonderful parts of the GR20 experience!

 

A GR20 hiker silhouetted in the sunset

 

The bottom line…

If you approach it with a solid fitness base and some trekking experience, you should be well suited for the GR20. There’s no need to be too intimidated by this trek, but it’s a very good idea to train ahead of time, be realistic about your abilities and expectations, and use good judgment in the mountains.

Check out all of our great GR20 resources:

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West Highland Way | Maps

The West Highland Way meanders its way through the best of the Scottish Highlands. The route is typically completed in 8 stages, beginning in the town of Milngavie and finishing…

The West Highland Way meanders its way through the best of the Scottish Highlands. The route is typically completed in 8 stages, beginning in the town of Milngavie and finishing in Fort William. Covering 94 miles, the West Highland Way is a truly can’t miss experience in Scotland!

This post will provide all of the West Highland Way map and navigation resources you will need to familiarize yourself with the route, location, and all things map-related so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle this epic adventure!

In this post

Where is the West Highland Way?

The West Highland Way winds from Milngavie, just north of Glasgow, all the way to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. The route covers 94 miles and passes countless green pastures, serene lochs, and dramatic Highland scenery and is typically completed in 8 stages. Starting just outside of Glasgow makes getting to and from the trek a breeze. You can learn more about getting to/from the West Highland Way in our logistics article here. 

The West Highland Way is traditionally walked from south to north, although it is certainly possible to hike it from north to south. Following the traditional route, you’ll pass the iconic Loch Lomond, watch the landscape transform as you enter the Highlands, pass though the stunning Glencoe region, and finish near the base of Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest peak. The stages for the traditional south to north route are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Milngavie to Drymen
  • Stage 2: Drymen to Loch Lomond (Rowardennan)
  • Stage 3: Loch Lomond to Inverarnan
  • Stage 4: Inverarnan to Tyndrum
  • Stage 5: Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy
  • Stage 6: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse
  • Stage 7: Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
  • Stage 8: Kinlochleven to Fort William

Did you know we offer West Highland Way trip planning support? Check out how we can help you below!

 
Map of the West Highland Way
 
 

Interactive West Highland Way Map

The interactive West Highland Way 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 West Highland Way. You can click on each stage to see its total length, listed in both kilometres and miles.

 

How long is the West Highland Way?

The West Highland Way is approximately 94 miles or 151 kilometers long. This is based on following the traditional route from Milngavie to Fort William and not taking any of the possible alternates. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take side trips or shortcuts, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. 

The maps below show the approximate distance of each stage in both miles and kilometres, giving you a sense of the distances encountered on each section of the West Highland Way. For more detail on each stage be sure to check out our interactive map in the section above!

West Highland way map miles

Approximate stage distances of the West Highland Way in miles.

 

West Highland Way map kilometress

Approximate stage distances of the West Highland Way in kilometres.

 

What is the elevation profile of the West Highland Way?

Over the 94 miles it takes to complete the West Highland Way, you’ll traverse nearly 13,000 feet or 3,960 meters of elevation change! Given that most trekkers will take 8 days to complete the trek, you’ll average around 1,625 feet or 500 meters of elevation change per stage.

Looking for a custom itinerary for the West Highland Way? We can help!

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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!). Surprisingly, the section of trail along Loch Lomond has some of the most elevation change of the entire trek, as the shoreline is constantly climbing or descending.

Given that the West Highland Way is a point to point trail (meaning it does not start and finish in the same location) you’ll lose 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 West Highland Way 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 8-stage West Highland Way 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 Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy is rather short in distance, while the stage from Kingshouse to Kinlochleven has a lot of elevation change.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the West Highland Way 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. Don’t forget, we can also help create a custom itinerary for your trip!

West Highland Way elevation profile

Elevation profile for the West Highland way in feet and miles.

 

West Highland Way elevation profile

Elevation profile for the West Highland way in meters and kilometers.

 

Which maps should I carry on the West Highland Way?

On the whole, the West Highland Way is very well marked and relatively easy to navigate. There are signposts bearing the trail icon at frequent intervals and at most junctions.  However, it can still be easy to get turned around, mixed up, and generally off the main trail in some capacity. You may find yourself walking in a steady rain, struggling to look up to find the trail, or simply have taken a wrong turn at the last trail junction. For this reason we highly recommend that all trekkers have some form of wayfinding for the West Highland Way.

When we hiked the West Highland Way 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 sections of the West Highland Way, 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 or you drop it in a puddle along the West Highland Way you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.

There are several options available to ensure you have the entire West Highland way route covered via paper maps. 

We recommend the Cicerone West Highland Way map booklet, a convenient booklet that includes the entire West Highland Way in a pocket-sized book, or the West Highland Way Footprint Map, a more traditional folding map.

For those who have trekked in the United Kingdom before you’ll likely have used Ordnance Survey maps. These detailed maps provide an excellent level of detail for the West Highland Way, although you’ll need to carry six maps to cover the entire route:

Alternatively, the Ordnance Survey also offers a package of all six maps for a significant discount here.

In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Want custom GPS maps for your West Highland Way adventure? Learn more here!

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West Highland Way 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 West Highland Way GPS files for only $4.99. When you download the GPS files, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the West Highland Way as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

If you want to learn how to use the GPS data to navigate on the trail, be sure to check out our post on How to Navigate on the West Highland Way.

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

Map of the West Highland Way

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West Highland Way map app/offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while hiking the West Highland Way. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also isn’t reliant on a cell phone signal to display the map.

Our How to Navigate on the West Highland Way post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your West Highland Way map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

Want more West Highland Way content?

Be sure to check out all of our great West Highland Way content including packing listscamping guides, and much more. We also have a FREE West Highland Way Starter Kit and comprehensive West Highland Way planning service that we know you’ll love!

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Get Your FREE TMB Starter Kit!

This 10-page booklet will help you jumpstart the planning process for your Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. Our printable guide covers all of the need-to-know basics about the trek, including…

TMB Starter Kit cover page

This 10-page booklet will help you jumpstart the planning process for your Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. Our printable guide covers all of the need-to-know basics about the trek, including accommodation, when to hike, food and drink, typical costs, packing lists, and more!

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Get Your FREE West Highland Way Starter Kit!

This 10-page booklet will help you jumpstart the planning process for your West Highland Way adventure. Our printable guide covers all of the need-to-know basics about the trek, including accommodation,…

This 10-page booklet will help you jumpstart the planning process for your West Highland Way adventure. Our printable guide covers all of the need-to-know basics about the trek, including accommodation, when to hike, food and drink, budgeting, packing lists, and more!

Enter your email address to receive our awesome starter kit.

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