Author: TMBtent

The Ultimate Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

In this post

About the Walker’s Haute Route

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

Jungen, Switzerland

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

 

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

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

Cabane de Moiry on the Walker's Haute Route.

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

 

How long is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The short answer: it depends!

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

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

Walker's Haute Route elevation profle

The Walker’s Haute Route covers approximately 207 kilometers.

 

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

When should I hike?

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

June

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

Snow on the Walker's Haute Route

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

July

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

August

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

September

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

Zermatt, Switzerland in the fall.

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

 

How difficult is the Walker’s Haute Route?

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

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

Pas de Chèvres on the Walker's Haute Route.

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

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

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

 

Stage 1: Chamonix to Trient

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Stage 2: Trient to Champex

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Stage 3: Champex to Le Chable

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

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

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

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

 

Stage 4: Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort

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

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

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

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

 

View from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stunning views from Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

Stage 5: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stage 6: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla

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

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

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

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

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

 

Ladder section on the Pas de Chevres

Ladder section on the Pas de Chevres.

 

Stage 7: Arolla to La Sage

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Stage 8: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stage 9: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stage 10: Zinal to Gruben

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Stage 11: Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried

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

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

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

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

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

 

Stage 12: St. Niklaus/Gasenried to Europa Hut

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

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

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

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

 

Stage 13: Europa Hut to Zermatt

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

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

Alternate finish to the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

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

 

Walker's Haute Route

 

Weather

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

A cloudy day on the Walker's Haute Route

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

 

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

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

Accommodation

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

Hotel on the Walker's Haute Route

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

 

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

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

Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

Campsite on the Walker's Haute Route.

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

 

Wild Camping

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

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

Food and drink

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

Food and drink on the Walker's Haute Route.

 

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

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

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

Water

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

Getting to and from the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

Maps & Guidebooks

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

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

GPS map for the Walker's Haute Route.

GPS map for the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

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

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

Walker's Haute Route Alternates map

BUY NOW

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

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

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

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

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

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

Budgeting

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

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

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

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

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

What to pack

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

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

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

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

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

 

How to train for the Walker’s Haute Route

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

To be best prepared we recommend focusing on the following:

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

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

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

 

What’s Next?

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

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The 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!

BUY NOW

What’s Next?

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

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Coast to Coast Walk | Maps & Routes

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

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

What’s in this post?

 

Where is the Coast to Coast walk route?

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

Coast to Coast walk map

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Alternate routes on the Coast to Coast walk UK

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

 

Interactive Coast to Coast walk map

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

 

How long is the Coast to Coast walk?

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

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

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

How long is the coast to coast walk?

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

 

Coast to Coast walk distance km

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

 

What is the elevation profile of the Coast to Coast?

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

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

Kidsty Pike on the Coast to Coast.

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

 

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

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

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

Coast to Coast walk elevation

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

 

Elevation of the Coast to Coast walk meters

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can purchase this map booklet here.

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

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

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

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

Coast to Coast walk GPS/GPX

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

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

Coast to Coast walk map

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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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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

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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 Navigate on the West Highland Way | GPS Maps

The West Highland Way winds through some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that Scotland has to offer. You’ll pass through green pastures, walk along the beautiful Loch Lomond,…

The West Highland Way winds through some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that Scotland has to offer. You’ll pass through green pastures, walk along the beautiful Loch Lomond, and take in incredible Highland vistas. While this incredible variety of landscapes undoubtedly has you excited for your adventure, it might also make you wonder how you’ll ever navigate the West Highland Way. Should you bring a map? Is the trail well marked? How will you find all the campgrounds you’re staying at?

This post will explain how we navigated on the West Highland Way, including which maps to bring, the tools we used, and even some custom resources for those using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way. Let’s get started.

Map of the West Highland Way

The West Highland Way winds its way north from Milngavie to Fort William

 

In this Post

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Should I bring a map?

This is one of the questions we get most often from readers who are getting ready to head out on the West Highland Way. They’ve heard that the trail is very well marked, well maintained, and that hikers are rarely far from a road of town (all of which are true). However, our answer is always a resounding YES- you should bring a map with you on the West Highland Way!

As you’ll read below we relied heavily on our smartphone’s GPS features and a handy app that allows you to navigate even without cell phone service. It’s a great system and one we highly recommend, but we would have been out of luck if our battery died or a torrential downpour rendered our phones useless. In some situations, there is nothing more useful than an old fashioned paper map to help you find your way and ensure that you have a great West Highland Way experience. 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.

Now that you’ve got your maps safely tucked away in your pack in case of emergency, let’s get started learning how to harness the power of your smartphone to navigate your way to a successful West Highland Way walk!

Offline GPS maps for the West Highland Way

An offline mobile map of the West Highland way is one of the easiest ways to navigate while you’re on the trail. You’ll simply open up your chosen GPS app (more on that below) and be able to view your location as well as the trail, alternate routes, and stopping points along the West Highland Way. We utilized this to find our campgrounds, check that we were still on the route, and know how far we had hiked at any point in the day.

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the WHW and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your own trek. Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Using your smartphone as a GPS

If you’re anything like us, you use your smartphone’s mapping capabilities on a daily basis. Whether it’s checking how bad the traffic is, consulting the bus schedule, or looking up the best bike route, apps like Google Maps provide tremendous value for navigating our world.

These apps work by using the GPS location data that your phone provides, combined with a base map that shows you the surrounding context. You need both of these features (the GPS location + the base map) in order for the mapping app to be useful. Normally, your phone is able to source the base map information by utilizing  an internet connection or cellular data. This works great in most situations, but won’t help you when you’re hiking along the shores of Loch Lomond without cell phone service. In that case, all Google Maps will be able to show you is this:

Blank TMB map

Not a very effective way to navigate

In order to use the incredibly useful GPS functions on our phones to navigate in more remote areas (like the West Highland Way) we have to solve the base map problem.

The solution?

GPS navigation apps that allow us to download base maps ahead of time. These apps allow you to select the area you’ll need to access and download the base map directly to your phone. Then, when you’re without cell phone service, the app will pull up the downloaded base map and be able to show you exactly where you are on the trail!

Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. In the next section I’ll show you exactly how to set up your phone to navigate on the West Highland Way.

West Highland Way Maps – What we provide

For those looking for West Highland Way GPS resources, we offer a complete mapping digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire West Highland way route along with common alternate routes and waypoints of all of the stops along the traditional, 8-day itinerary.

For those who aren’t following this standard 8-day itinerary, we offer a number of solutions to help you navigate on the West Highland Way. From our detailed Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way to custom itineraries we’re here to help!

LEARN MORE

 

Which app should I use?

There are two main offline GPS navigation apps that we recommend for those hiking the West Highland Way: Maps.me and Gaia GPS. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the West Highland Way displays in each of the apps.

As you can see, Maps.me can easily display the route as well as location markers along the way. However, the same section of trail displayed in Gaia GPS gives the user much more information such as adjacent trails, topographic lines, and elevation shading. For this reason, we highly recommend you invest the $20 to use Gaia GPS, although we certainly understand those who prefer to use a free option. Instructions for downloading and accessing the GPS data for the West Highland Way for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS are included below.

Using Gaia GPS for your West Highland Way map

The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom West Highland Way GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.

Step One – Download the West Highland Way GPS file (either .kml or .gpx)

When you purchase our West Highland Way GPS download or one of the premium versions of our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .GPX or .KML file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the West Highland Way route and waypoints for your specific itinerary displayed on the map.

West Highland Way - Gaia GPS

Success! You’ve imported the West Highland Way GPS data in Gaia GPS.

 

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

 

Step Three – Navigate to the West Highland Way and download your background map
Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the West Highland Way. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the map background data, follow the steps below:

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

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

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

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

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

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

Interested in camping along the West Highland Way? Our Premium Guide includes custom GPX data for your itinerary!

LEARN MORE
 

Maps.me GPS for your West Highland Way map

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom West Highland Way GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me. Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the WHW.

The primary shortcoming of  using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data. You won’t find detailed topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price! Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our West Highland Way GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the West Highland Way GPS file

When you purchase our West Highland Way GPS download or one of the premium versions of our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. Be sure to select the .KML file as Maps.me cannot read .gpx files. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you should do.

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

Step Two – Download the West Highland Way background maps

Once you have successfully loaded the West Highland Way GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area of the route as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the West Highland Way in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download two distinct regions in Maps.me to cover the entire route. They are:
    1. Scotland – South
    2. Scotland – North
  4. Continue to zoom in on different segments of the trail until you have downloaded both of these regions
  5. Verify that you’ve downloaded all of the required base maps by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  6. Once you’ve checked that both regions have been successfully downloaded you’re all done!

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

  1. Select the ‘Menu’ in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  2. Select ‘Download Maps’
  3. Select ‘United Kingdom”
  4. Select each country and verify that you have both of the following maps downloaded:
    1. Scotland – South
    2. Scotland – North

 

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

A note on battery life

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

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

LEARN MORE
 

What’s Next?

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

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How to Navigate on the GR20 | GPS Maps

It is often said that if you walk more than 20 feet on the GR20 without seeing one of the famous red and white paint flashes that you’ve gone off…

It is often said that if you walk more than 20 feet on the GR20 without seeing one of the famous red and white paint flashes that you’ve gone off the trail. In reality, navigating on the GR20 is a bit more complicated than that, especially given the multiple variants, difficult terrain, and exposed nature of the route. The last thing you want while tackling this famously difficult trail is to have to think too hard about navigating. That’s why we recommend all trekkers think about how they’ll find their way on the trail before arriving in Corsica.

Map of the GR20 with common trail variants.

We think that with the proper tools and preparation you’ll have no difficultly navigating on this incredible trail. In this post we’ll walk you step-by-step through exactly how we navigated on the GR20 utilizing offline GPS maps on our smartphones. We’ve even got some great resources for those who would like to do the same. Let’s get started!

In this post

Do I need a paper map for the GR20?

The GR20 presents some unique challenges when it comes to bringing physical maps. The route is so long that in order to cover it in its entirety you would need to bring no less than seven IGN maps. All this for a hike that you should be packing as light as possible! We did not rely on paper maps during our GR20 hike, instead choosing to utilize the GPS maps described in this article. That being said, we always recommend that trekkers carry some form of paper maps with them. There are just too many opportunities for you to run out of battery, break your phone, or have some other technical malfunction that renders your GPS map useless.

To cover the entire GR20 at a good scale (1:25,000) we recommend bringing the following IGN maps:

If you’re like us and don’t want to carry SEVEN IGN maps we would recommend picking up the 1:100,000 scale maps that IGN publishes for Corsica:

While these maps won’t provide great detail on the trail, they will at least help you orient and understand your surroundings.

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

Read more: Be sure to familiarize yourself with the route, elevation profile, and more by checking out our GR20 Map Resource.

Offline GPS maps for the GR20

Offline GPS maps for your smartphone are one of our favorite insider tips for those trekking the GR20. These maps make navigating the route a breeze by showing you exactly where you are on the trail as well as the surrounding terrain, next stopping point, and other important data. We utilized these features frequently on our own GR20 hike to know how far we had hiked at any given time, check that we were still on the trail, and know-how close we were to the next refuge on the trail.

Setting up these apps takes little effort on your part, but will make your GR20 much less stressful! Once you’ve selected your app of choice (more on that below) you simply download the necessary GPS files onto your phone, download some background maps, and you’ll be navigating like a pro in no time!

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the GR20 and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your own trek. Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Turn your phone into a GPS

Did you know your phone can do much more than just send email, take great photos, and video chat with someone halfway around the world? Our favorite feature that is often overlooked is the modern smartphone’s ability to act as a GPS device. This is especially useful for long-distance treks with limited cell phone service like the GR20! You regularly use this feature when navigating with Google Maps, Apple Maps, or other mapping software that comes standard on most phones these days.

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

Blank TMB map

Not a very effective way to navigate

 

Solving the background map problem

Given the excellent cell phone and internet coverage in cities and town, this typically isn’t an issue. However, this can be very problematic when you’re nearing the top of Monte Cinto on the GR20 without cell service! So what’s the solution?

GPS Navigation apps that allow for downloadable background maps. These apps allow you to select a predefined area, in our case the entirety of the GR20, and download the background map to your phone.

This allows you to access the map data without a cell phone connection and still know exactly where you are! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work and give you accurate location information. Pretty cool, huh? I’ll show you exactly how we did this for the GR20 below.

GR20 maps – How we can help

For those looking for GR20 GPS resources, we offer a complete mapping digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire GR20 route along with common alternate routes and waypoints of all of the stops along the traditional itinerary.

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

Which app should I use on the GR20?

There are countless GPS app options available for you to choose from. Of those we’ve used and recommend two options for GR20 hikers: Maps.me and Gaia GPS. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the GR20 displays in each of the apps. Instructions for downloading and accessing the GPS data for the GR20 for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS are included below.

Comparison of Maps.Me and Gaia GPS for the GR20

 

As shown above, both apps do a fine job of displaying the route and location points along the way. The major difference is that Gaia GPS provides much more in-depth information such as adjacent trails, topographic data, and elevation shading. It is for this reason that we highly recommend you spend the $20 to use Gaia GPS. However, we definitely understand those who prefer to use the free option. If you decide to go that route it is even more important for you to carry paper maps as you may need more detailed information than what Maps.me provides.

Gaia GPS for the GR20

The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom GR20 GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.

Step One – Download the GR20 GPS file

When you purchase our GR20 GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to open the email and download the .KML (or . GPX) file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. If you do happen to download the file to your computer you’ll need to transfer it to your phone. The easiest option for this would be to simply email it to yourself.

After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.

 

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the GR20 route and waypoints for your specific itinerary displayed on the map.

Success! You’ve imported the GR20 GPS data into Gaia GPS.

 

Step Two – Choose your map source

Next, you’ll want to select your base map for the GR20. This will be the background map that you will eventually download and use to navigate while hiking, even without cell phone service. There are tons of background maps available for download, but we highly recommend the “Outdoor” layer for those hiking the GR20. To choose this map source, simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and then select ‘Outdoors’.

 

Step Three – Navigate to the GR20 and download your base map

Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the GR20 – which is almost the entire island of Corsica! Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the map background data, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to Corsica and then the area of the GR20 in Gaia GPS
  2. Select the ‘Create’ button (circle with a plus sign in the upper right-hand corner)
  3. Select ‘Download Map’
  4. Draw a rectangle with your finger that encompasses the entire GR20
  5. Set the ‘Max Zoom’ to 17
  6. Name your map ‘GR20’ and select ‘Save’
  7. Allow the download to complete and you’re done! (you’ll want to be connected to WiFi for this)

 

That’s it! Now you’re all set to navigate on the GR20 like a pro with an offline GPS map in Gaia GPS. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the refuges along the route!

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

The final step for navigating like a pro on the GR20 is to know how to utilize the Gaia GPS app when you are out on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow. Use this whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the road has you questioning the correct way.  NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

Maps.me for the GR20

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom GR20 GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me. Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the GR20. The primary shortcoming of  using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data.

You won’t find any topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price! Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our GR20 GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the GR20 GPS file

When you purchase our GR20 GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the GPS file directly onto your phone to simplify the process. Be sure to download the .KML file as Maps.me cannot read gpx files. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you’ll want to go ahead and do.

 

After opening the GPS file with Maps.me, the app will navigate to your current location and will also display a message stating that your bookmarks have successfully been loaded. You’ll need to move the map from your current location to the GR20 and verify that you see the track and waypoints displayed.

 

Step Two – Download the GR20 base maps

Once you have successfully loaded the GR20 GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area of the GR20 as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to Corsica and then the area of the GR20 in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download the Corsica map in Maps.me to cover the entire GR20. 
  4. Verify that you’ve downloaded the required base map by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  5. Once you’ve checked that the Corsica map has been successfully downloaded you’re all done!

Zoom in on the trail until prompted to download the ‘Corsica’ map.

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

  1. Select the ‘Menu’ in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  2. Select ‘Download Maps’
  3. Select ‘France’
  4. Verify that the ‘Corsica’ map is downloaded

 

 

A note on battery life

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

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

Want more GR20 content? Keep reading!

Be sure to check out all of our GR20 posts below:

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Guide to Camping on the Tour of Mont Blanc

Have you ever wanted to spend 11 days in the world’s most majestic mountains, walking on rugged trails by day, indulging in artisanal cheese and plentiful wine by night, and…

Have you ever wanted to spend 11 days in the world’s most majestic mountains, walking on rugged trails by day, indulging in artisanal cheese and plentiful wine by night, and capping it all off by cozying up in your tent  under the stars as the crisp evening chill sets in? Maybe you’ve never considered it before. We didn’t know we wanted such a thing either…and then we learned about the TMB and that all changed.

Water and steep mountains on stage 4 of the TMB

We’re not exaggerating when we say this is one of the prettiest trails in the world!

 

We first hiked the Tour du Mont Blanc in July 2017. We camped most nights and stayed in a few huts. Even after experiencing several more incredible thru-hikes across Europe, the TMB still stands out as the most unique and rewarding.  We created this guide in hopes that it will inspire more people to camp along the route, which was one of our favorite parts of the entire trip. Ever since completing our own trek, we’ve spent the past few years researching the best campsites and most essential information to share with our fellow tent-dwellers. We even hiked much of the trek again in 2019 to ensure that our guide is accurate and up-to-date (and because we couldn’t help but return to one of the most beautiful trails in the world!)

Thanks for using our guide and we wish you a wonderful trip! As always, we’d love to answer your questions and hear your feedback in the comments below.

Happy Trails,

Emily & Ian

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

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, luxury, dirtbag or something in between, we’ve got you covered. From custom itineraries to maps created specifically for campers we can help you plan your perfect TMB adventure! Our downloadable Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip. Pick your digital guide below:

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

  • Custom GPS files for the entire trek
  • Stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Complete packing list for campers
  • Detailed information on getting to/from the Tour du Mont Blanc
  • A 15-week training plan to ensure you’re prepared for your hike

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

BUY NOW

What’s in This Guide:

About the Tour du Mont Blanc

The Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB) takes trekkers through France, Italy, and Switzerland on one of the most spectacular trails in the world. Typically completed in 11 stages, the route circumnavigates  Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Western Europe. The trail passes through seven unique and beautiful valleys, where charming hamlets and regional delicacies abound. Between the valleys, the route traverses rugged mountain landscapes and stunning high alpine scenery. The TMB is one of the most popular long-distance treks in Europe and is considered to be a classic walk that belongs on any passionate hiker’s bucket list.

The Mont Blanc massif covered in glaciers and seen from stage 11 on the TMB

The Mont Blanc Massif in all of its glacier-covered glory.

 

How long is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

Distance: 170 kilometers (105 miles)

Elevation Gain: 10,000 meters (32,800 feet)

 Check out our extensive collection of TMB Maps to get a better sense of distance, stages, elevation, and more! 

How long does it take to hike the Tour du Mont Blanc?

It typically takes walkers between 8-11 days to complete the TMB. One of the great things about the hike is that there’s a lot of room for customization when it comes to creating your itinerary. Camping will allow you a lot more flexibility in terms of not needing advance reservations, but you will be a bit more restricted in other ways since camping is not permitted on every stage of the TMB. We’ve structured this camping guide for the classic 11-stage version of the trek, but we’ve noted places where you can adapt your itinerary to combine or reduce stages.

A few other considerations to keep in mind when deciding how many days you need to hike the TMB:

  • If you plan on camping, you’ll need to carry a heavier pack and therefore may hike slower than usual.
  • Do you enjoy spending 8+ hours on steep trails every day? If not, you shouldn’t double-up on stages.
  • Fastpacking the TMB is possible in 7 days or less, but you’ll need to be very fit and experienced.
  • Do you want to take a rest day? If so, don’t forget to factor that into your itinerary.
  • Are you determined to exclusively camp along the trail? If so, you’ll need to adjust your itinerary to avoid stopping in places without camping options. See our stage-by-stage guide for more details on this.
  • Are you interested in taking shortcuts or cutting out sections of the trail? This can be a good option for those who don’t have enough time to realistically complete the entire route or want to tailor it for their ability level.

Signpost with several yellow trail signs pointing in two different directions.

There are lots of variants and shortcuts that can be used to customize your trek.

 

When to hike

The general season for hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc lasts from mid-June through mid-September, although this window is subject to great variability due to snow conditions on the higher passes.

June can be lovely, but you will likely have to negotiate large sections of the trail that are covered in snow. In some cases, you may need to reroute to avoid unsafe areas. Those hiking in June should bring crampons. You can expect an explosion of wildflowers in June and July.

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July and August are typically the best times to be on the trail, but these are also the most busy months on the TMB. Be sure to check when the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc is happening. This trail-race of the entire circuit typically occurs at the end of August and brings out thousands of spectators – not the best time to be trekking!

Expect increasingly cooler weather and fewer crowds in September; this can be a wonderful time to hike. However, it’s important to note that many campgrounds and other services along the route may already be closed for the season.

Crossing a snow field on the TMB

An easy snow crossing in July.

 

How difficult is the Tour du Mont Blanc?

If you are reasonably fit and have some backpacking experience, you should be well-suited to the physical challenges of the TMB. It is a tough trek that involves long, steep ascents and descents on nearly every stage, but it isn’t too technically demanding. Make sure you have healthy knees, as the downhill sections can take their toll! Keep in mind that carrying a heavier pack will greatly increase the physical demands of a trek like the Tour du Mont Blanc. If camping, some extra weight is inevitable, but if you’re strategic you can avoid carrying too big of a backpack.

Read More: How to Train for the TMB

Everything you need to plan your perfect TMB – all in one place.

LEARN MORE
 

Which Direction?

The TMB is traditionally hiked in a counterclockwise direction beginning in the French town of Les Houches, adjacent to Chamonix. It is also possible to walk the route in a clockwise direction, and trekkers headed this way typically start in the Swiss town of Champex. Below we’ve outlined some pros and cons of hiking in each direction:

Counterclockwise

PROS:

  • Follows the classic route, good if you’re a sucker for tradition.
  • Begins in Chamonix, which is easier to get to from the Geneva Airport than Champex.
  • Rewards hikers with jaw-dropping views of Mont Blanc on the final stage.

CONS:

  • More people hike in this direction, so the trail could feel more crowded throughout the day.

Clockwise

PROS:

  • Fewer hikers walking in the same direction as you.
  • The first few stages are a bit mellower, allowing you to get acclimated before tackling the tougher sections.

CONS:

  • You’ll pass a large wave of people walking in the opposite direction each day, which can get tight on narrow trails.
  • Champex (your starting point) has less amenities and is less conveniently connected by public transport than Chamonix. If you want to start in Chamonix and hike clockwise, be warned that the first day involves a doozy of a climb, which could be a major shock to the system.

Our stage-by-stage guide is organized for hikers walking the circuit in the traditional counterclockwise direction, but would be just as useful for those hiking in the clockwise direction.

Red boats on the shore of Lac Champex

Those who choose to hike clockwise will start in the pretty town on Champex.

Weather

Mountain weather is always volatile, and the Tour du Mont Blanc is no different. Conditions can change very rapidly in the Alps, meaning that you can find yourself in the middle of a whiteout blizzard or on an exposed ridge during a thunderstorm without much warning. For the most part, the weather during the hiking season is ridiculously lovely. Expect warm, sunny days, cool evenings, and not too much rain. However, you also need to be prepared for very hot temperatures, very cold temperatures, rain, and storms (and you could even see all of these in the same day!)  Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm or without the right gear is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions:

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

Gray clouds partially obscure the mountains on the TMB.

Weather can change quickly on the trail!

 

Food and Drink

One of the many wonderful things about the TMB is that you don’t need to worry about carrying (and eating) eleven days’ worth of underwhelming freeze-dried backpacker meals. Due to the fact that the trail passes through many towns and villages, you will be able to resupply every few days. We’ve noted the availability of shops and restaurants at every stop along the route in our stage-by-stage camping guide below. Make sure you plan accordingly, as there are not shops at every stage.

For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater and keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. You’ll need to bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the TMB. 

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

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

Dietary Restrictions

The restaurants and accommodation providers along the TMB are generally quite willing to provide a vegetarian option. Those who are vegan, gluten-free, or have a specialized diet will have a harder time finding suitable meals. While certain places will be able to accommodate your needs, that will be the exception and not the norm. We’d recommend bringing plenty of your own food as insurance.  

Water

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

Bread, cheese, fruit, and a bottle of wine.

Who says self-catering can’t be delicious?

 

Ready to start planning? Let us create your custom itinerary!

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Getting to and from the TMB

The circular nature of the Tour du Mont Blanc keeps logistical puzzles to a minimum, as you’ll start and end your hike in the same place. This makes it easier to store extra baggage and book round-trip transport to and from the trail. If you are travelling from further afield to reach the TMB, you will likely fly into the Geneva Airport (GVA). Depending on where you plan on starting your hike, you’ll either take a bus from GVA to Chamonix or a train/bus combination  from GVA to Champex.

We wrote an entire article with the sole purpose of providing you with in-depth information on TMB logistics. Check it out here! 

The bus stop in Les Houches, surrounded by pink flowers.

The worlds prettiest bus stop? This one in Les Houches has got to be a top contender!

 

Wayfinding

For the most part, the TMB is an extremely well-marked trail. You’ll see a variety of trail markers along various sections of the route, ranging from the iconic yellow and black diamond to the more modern bright green TMB logo. Generally speaking, if you go more than twenty minutes without seeing a trail marker, you’ve probably wandered off the trail. Despite its helpful paint flashes and signage, it is still surprisingly easy to get lost on the TMB if you’re not careful. The scenery is so darn pretty that it will often draw your eyes away from the path and cause you to miss a turn. That’s why carrying a map and (preferably) a GPS device is of the utmost importance. This is even more true if you plan on camping, as many of the campgrounds require you to leave the trail to access them.

No fancy GPS device? No problem! In this post we’ll walk you through exactly how to turn your regular old smartphone into a bonafide GPS– and you don’t need to use your precious data to do so!

Additionally, check out this post on how to find all of your campgrounds on the TMB and this one if you want to see our range of helpful maps and/or download the GPS waypoints for the hike.

Screenshot of GPS locations on a smartphone

You can easily turn your smartphone into a handy GPS device for the trail!

 

Budgeting and Money

Cash or Credit?

While an increasing number of accommodation providers, shops, and other services are beginning to accept credit cards, cash is still the primary payment method used along the TMB. It is important to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses for several days, as  ATMs are infrequent along the trail. Check out our stage-by-stage guide (later in this post) for availability of ATMs on specific stages. 

Currency

The TMB crosses the borders of three different countries, meaning that you’ll need to switch from using Euros in France to Swiss Francs in Switzerland then back to Euros upon entering Italy. While most places in Switzerland will accept Euros, you’ll be better off using Francs if you can. 

Typical Costs

Although it has the reputation for being one of the more expensive and luxurious thru-hikes, it is still very possible to hike the TMB on a tight budget (camping helps tremendously with this!) Furthermore, you can even eat delicious foods and drink some tasty beverages without breaking the bank.

The two keys to saving money on the TMB? Lodging and food.

Since you’ve found this camping guide, you’re well on your way to having the first one covered. Camping will save you boatloads of money, and you’ll have a better experience too!

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

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

Hikers take in the views from the top of a pass on the TMB

Fortunately, the best parts of the TMB-like the sense of accomplishment that comes with reaching the top of a pass- are completely free!

What to Pack

Packing for the TMB is balancing act between ensuring you have everything you need and ensuring you don’t feel like you’re giving a piggyback ride to a small elephant for 100+ miles. This is especially true for campers, as you’ll have a more extensive packing list and the stakes are a bit higher if you neglect to bring something essential.

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

How much should my pack weigh?

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

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? If not, you should really try to keep it below 25lbs (including water!) 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? If so, you need to make sure that backpack is below 20lbs!

Did you know we can help you create the perfect packing list? Learn more here!

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Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for preventing baby-elephant piggyback syndrome:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Before you write us off as total dirtbags, hear us out. First, you’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry (and we actually find it to be quite a fun camp chore). Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.

If you have other travel destinations before or after the TMB, you can store your extra luggage in Chamonix. See our logistics article for more on this. 

Caution sign showing a person falling off a cliff.

This poor fellow didnt follow our packing advice….

 

TMB MVG (Most Valuable Gear)

Footwear on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the TMB, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet. Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the TMB! That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!

In terms of other specifications, we feel that the only other must-have is a good, grippy vibrum (or similar material) sole for steep descents and loose paths. Otherwise it’s up to personal preference when it comes to how much ankle support you need, waterproof versus quick-dry, sturdy versus lightweight, and so on.

You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toesocks.

Trekking Poles

BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the TMB. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.

Hikers making their way down to the Vallee de l'Arve.

Big shout out to our trekking poles and pack covers!

 

Backpack

The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and same weight) you’ll carry on the TMB. Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. If you’re purchasing a new one, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs.

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Battery Backup

If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the TMB (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Many campgrounds will allow you to charge electronics, but this isn’t a guarantee everywhere. Carrying a small battery backup or one of these nifty portable solar panels will give you a little more freedom and peace of mind. In our guide, we’ve noted the availability of electronics charging along every stage.

A few other MVG honorable mentions…

Puffy down jacket: Lightweight, warm, packable and all you need (it’s not necessary to bring a heavy fleece, too).

Kev Reynolds’ Ciccerone Guide to the TMB: An excellent resource.

Don’t forget to check out our complete packing list for the TMB here.  Additionally, if you’re on a tight budget, be sure to take a look at this article for backpacking gear hacks to save you money.

Electronics

Charging

Many campgrounds and other accommodation along the route will allow you to charge your devices for free, although there is some variation in terms of availability from place to place. See our guide for specific information on each stage. We recommend using a multi-port USB adapter, as outlets can be in high demand. If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll need a travel adapter. Thankfully, you’ll use the same adapter in all three countries along the route.

Cell Service

Cell phone service is pretty widespread along the Tour du Mont Blanc, but it isn’t always reliable or predictable. Expect to get service in all of the larger towns, but less so as you go further from civilization. You might be able to pick up a few bars at high points and unobstructed areas (like the top of a mountain pass), but definitely don’t count on it.

Wifi

For better or worse, many of the campgrounds along the TMB now offer Wifi. It’s typically free to use, although some places may require an additional fee. You’ll usually have to move close to the reception building in order to connect to it. The mountain refuges (and most gites) along the TMB do not offer wifi, but it is commonplace at all hotels.

Hikers sitting in chairs and enjoying the views outside Refuge de la Flegere

No wifi? No problem! The views and camaraderie provide more than enough entertainment along the TMB.

 

Wild Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc

Wild camping along the TMB is complicated and discouraged (and often illegal). The trail passes through three countries and several local municipalities, each with their own specific rules and regulations. Generally speaking, wild camping may be allowed in France at high altitudes between sunset and sunrise, it may be permitted above 2,500 meters (from dusk until dawn) in Italy, and it is strictly forbidden in Switzerland. This website has helpful information on the specific legal codes for each country.

The good news is that there are many official campsites that are easily accessible along the TMB. While not entirely cheap, we feel it is important to use these facilities whenever they are available in order to give respect to the local communities and the fragile natural environment. Furthermore, there are quite a few opportunities to pitch your tent in free sanctioned wild and semi-wild camp spots along the TMB (see the guide below for specific details). If you choose to wild camp outside of these areas, set up after dusk, pack up at dawn, and utilize leave no trace practices.

Wildflowers on stage 4 of the TMB

This might look like an ideal place to camp, but it’s definitely not legal!

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GR20 Logistics

Planning a GR20 hike is a tremendous undertaking. Known as the hardest trek in Europe, the GR20 has more than its fair share of challenges. The route, weather, and trail…

Planning a GR20 hike is a tremendous undertaking. Known as the hardest trek in Europe, the GR20 has more than its fair share of challenges. The route, weather, and trail conditions all conspire to truly make this one of the most difficult hikes around. Adding to that difficulty is the fact that Corsica can be extremely tricky to get around when compared to the rest of Europe. Infrequent public transportation, limited train routes, and lack of clear schedules can make planning for the GR20 nearly as hard as the hike itself!

We wrote this guide to help you plan for all the small details and tricky logistical items that are sure to arise as you plan your own GR20 adventure.

View of Refuge d' I Paliri.

In this guide you’ll find:

Corsica can be reached easily from the rest of Europe by either air or sea. The most popular port of entry for either air travel of ferries will be Bastia on the northeast coast of the island. You will also have the option of flying into Calvi, Figari (near Porto Vecchio), or Ajaccio.

When considering which city you’ll arrive in, your main consideration should be whether you are hiking from north to south (starting in Calenzana) or hiking south to north (starting in Conca). 

For those hiking the GR20 in the traditional north to south direction, Bastia or Calvi will be your best bet. For those hiking from south to north, Porto Vecchio or Figari will be the most convenient. 

Bastia has the largest number of flights from the rest of Europe, with connections to France, England, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, and others.  For ferry connections, Nice and Marseilles in France serve all the major ports in Corsica .

Bastia is a lovely port town and will be most GR20 trekkers gateway to Corsica.

Getting to Bastia from the airport

Connecting from the Bastia Airport into central Bastia is relatively straightforward. The most cost effective means of transportation is the public bus linking the airport and Bastia. When exiting the terminal at the airport, look for a large, unmarked white bus. You can ask around at the airport information kiosk and they will point you in the right direction. 

Check bastiabus.com for schedules and more information.

A bus ticket from the Bastia Airport into Bastia costs 9 €

The bus costs 9 euros and drops travelers off near the port in the main part of Bastia, or adjacent to the train station.

Getting to the start of the GR20 (Calenzana)

For those hiking the GR20 from north to south the trail starts in the lovely town of Calenzana. Calenzana is just inland from the coastal town of Calvi. Your best bet will be to arrive in either Bastia or Cavli, both located in the north of the island. Making your way from either of those two cities to Calenzana is described below:

Getting to Calenzana from Bastia

Most trekkers will enter Corsica in Bastia and then make their way to Calenzana from there. While it is theoretically possible to arrive in Bastia and the start the GR20 the same day, we wouldn’t recommend it. It is much better to give yourself an entire day to reach Calenzana. Here are your options for getting from Calenzana to Bastia:

Getting to Calenzana by bus from Bastia:

The bus from Bastia to Calvi runs twice a day (including Sundays) in the summer season (generally July 1 – August 31st), with departures typically at 10:30 and 17:00. Outside of the summer season, the bus runs once per day at 16:30 (Monday – Thursday, and school holidays) and 17:00 (Fridays). Keep in mind there is no bus service on either Saturday or Sunday outside of the summer season! The route is operated by Les Beaux Voyages.

The bus leaves from the stop just adjacent to the train station in Bastia. Be sure to check corsicabus.org and the Les Beaux Voyages website for the latest bus schedules and to confirm exactly where the bus departs. The staff at the train station are a good source of information for this.

The bus to Calvi picks up from outside the Bastia train station.

Getting to Calenzana by train from Bastia:

Corsica has a very simple train line that connects Bastia, Ajaccio and Calvi. To get from Bastia to Calenzana via train, you’ll first need to take the line to Cavli. The schedule for this train is highly variable and changes by the season so be sure to check the “unofficial” Corsica Train website here. Trains typically run twice per day, but be aware that services can be greatly reduced or non-existent on Sundays. We paid 16 euros per person for our ticket in September 2019. 

Train ticket for the route from Bastia to Calvi.

Getting from Cavli to Calenzana:

Once you arrive in Calvi you’ll need to take the bus to Calenzana. The bus is operated by Les Beaux Voyages. You’ll want to stop by their office, which is located just up the street from the train station, to purchase a ticket before getting on the bus. The bus then picks up from across the street from the Les Beaux Voyages office. See the map below for locations of the train station, bus office, and bus stop.

Calvi to Calenzana bus
It is a short walk from the Calvi train station to the Les Beaux Voyages ticket office and bus stop to Calenzana.

The bus from Calvi to Calenzana and the start of the GR20.

Getting to the start of the GR20 (Conca)

For those hiking the GR20 from south to north, you’ll start in the town of Conca. Conca is just inland from the southern coast of Corsica and can be easily reached from either Porto Vecchio (via the Figari airport) or Bastia. As with all travel in Corsica, be sure to give yourself a full day to make it to Conca from any of the major cities in Corsica.

Getting to Conca by bus from Porto Vecchio or Figari airport:

There is no train service in the southern area of Corsica, so you’ll need to take the bus to Conca from either the Figari airport or Porto Vecchio. From the Figari airport you’ll need to catch the bus operated by Transports Rossi to Porto Vecchio. The bus operates only a few times per day, so be sure to leave yourself plenty of time to get to Conca.

From Porto Vecchio you will then take the bus operated by Les Rapides Blues towards Bastia. The bus departs from the Porto Vecchio bus station near the marina twice daily at 8:00 and 13:30. It operates daily from June 15th to September 16th. Outside of that time frame the bus only runs Monday – Saturday.

You’ll get off the bus at the Ste Lucie de Porto Vecchio stop. From there you’ll need to call the Gite La Tonnelle (04 95 71 46 55) in Conca to arrange for their minibus to pick you up and take you to Conca. You can also inquire at the Bar U Colombu across the street from the stop as they can also call the Gite. It is advisable to contact the Gite before you depart to be sure they can pick you up in Ste Lucie de Porto Vecchio. Alternatively, you can always take a taxi from the bus stop to Conca, though this is a pricey option.

Porto Vecchio to Conca
Your journey from Porto Vecchio to Conca will look something like this.

Getting to Conca from Bastia:

If you’ve arrived in Bastia, you’ll need to catch the Bastia-Porto Vecchio bus operated by Les Rapides Blues towards Porto Vecchio. You’ll take the bus to the Ste. Lucie de Porto Vecchio and then connect to Conca using the mini-bus operated by the Gite La Tonnelle (04 95 71 46 55). As stated above, be sure to contact the Gite in advance of your arrival to be sure they can pick you up! Otherwise, you’ll have to call a taxi for the ~20 minute ride to Conca. 

Where to stay before and after the GR20

Depending on whether you’re hiking the GR20 from north to south, or from south to north you’ll either start in Calenzana and finish in Conca or vice versa. Either way you’ll want to be sure you secure accommodation for before and after your trek. Here are your best options in both Calenzana and Conca:

Where to stay in Calenzana

Calenzana is a lovely, compact town with several lodging options. For those on a budget, the Gîte d’étape Communal offers dormitory accommodation as well as space for camping. It is located at the entry to the town and the bus from Calvi will almost certainly make its first stop at the Gite.

For those looking for slightly more luxurious accommodation we recommend the Hotel Au pied des Oliviers as well as the Hotel A l’ombre du Clocher. Both make for a lovely way to start or finish your GR20 adventure!

A street in Calenzana, Corsica.
Calenzana is a great place to start your trek.

Where to stay in Conca

For those starting or finishing the GR20 in Conca you’ll have a few accommodation options. On the more basic end the Gite La Tonnelle offers dormitory and private rooms along with camping. They also arrange transit to/from Ste. Lucie de Porto Vecchio for onward connections to either Bastia or Porto Vecchio.

On the more upscale end, the Hotel San Pasquale has lovely grounds as well as very friendly staff. We highly recommend.

Transportation on the GR20

For the most part the GR20 is an isolated trail, visiting only the occasional road or village. You’ll spend many of your days high in the mountains with no easy options for leaving the trail. However, there are a few points along the route that offer connections to the rest of Corsica should you need to leave the trail for any reason. Here are your main options:

Haut-Asco ski area

From the Haute Asco ski area there are twice daily minibuses that connect to the train station at Ponte Leccia. The service is operated by Corsica Giru (+33 6 26 65 38 00). From the train station at Ponte Leccia connections can be made to Bastia, Calvi, and Ajaccio. 

Hotel Castel de Vergio

From Hotel Castel de Vergio, a bus service offered by Autocars Cortenais connects trekkers with Corte. From Corte, onward connections to the rest of Corsica are possible. 

Vizzavona

Vizzavona is conveniently located on the main rail route, making it easy for trekkers to connect to Bastia and Ajaccio. 

Village de Bavella

From Village de Bavella it is possible to connect via bus to Ajaccio and Porto Vecchio. 

It is possible to leave the GR20 at the Haut Asco ski area.

 

Where to take a rest day on the GR20

There is no question about it, the GR20 is one of the hardest hikes in the world. If you’re looking for an easy and enjoyable way to make it a bit more manageable, we recommend taking a rest day to enjoy your beautiful surroundings and recharge your body. Here are our top options for taking a rest day on the GR20:

Vizzavona

Vizzavona is the most natural place to take a rest day. It is approximately half-way through the GR20 and has a range of services available including transportation links to the rest of Corsica. You have a variety of accommodation options including luxurious hotels as well as a nice campground. In addition, you’ll have the most options for dining of any of the stops along the GR20 and the chance for some nice excursions from town if you’re feeling up to it. 

Here are your best lodging options in Vizzavona:

Hotel Casa Alta: On our GR20 trek we opted to splurge a bit and stay at the lovely Hotel Casa Alta – a beautiful and well run bed and breakfast located in a secluded stand of pine trees on the outskirts of town. We highly recommend it!

View of a room at Casa Alta Hotel in Vizzavona.

Lovely views from a room at the Casa Alta B&B in Vizzavona.

 

Hotel U Castellu: Another excellent option for a break from the campgrounds and refuges of the GR20 is to stay at the Hotel U Castellu in Vizzavona. This hotel gets great reviews for its quiet setting and comfortable rooms.  

Vizzavona Campground: While certainly not luxurious, the Vizzavona campground has an excellent shop and laundry facilities. The location is also great, set just outside of the main part of town.

Castel di Vergio

Castel di Vergio and the accompanying hotel make a great rest day stop for those who are feeling the effects of the very difficult first few days of the GR20. For those heading from north to south you’ll have to endure some of the hardest days on the trek, and there is no shame in wanting to take a day off here and recover! While there aren’t many amenities to speak of, there is a nice hotel, restaurant, as well as a bus service that provides transit links to Corte and the rest of Corsica. 

There are really only a few accommodation options at Castel di Vergio:

Hotel Castel di Vergio: The hotel offers both private hotel rooms as well as a simple gite. While not the most scenic building, it does have an excellent restaurant, friendly staff, and a great bar. 

Castel di Vergio Campground: Adjacent to the gite, this is one of the nicer campgrounds you’ll encounter on the GR20. Hot showers, a covered cooking area, and an extremely well-stocked shop make this a nice place to spend an extra night, even if you’re camping. 

The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

The well-stoked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio

 

Luggage storage on the GR20

Given the difficulty of the GR20 it is essential to carry only what you need and nothing extra. However, many walkers may be traveling with more than just the essentials. When we hiked the GR20 we had plenty of additional luggage that we didn’t want to carry on the trek: a laptop, extra clothes, and some cold weather gear. We knew that we didn’t walk to take it with us on the GR20, but finding a way to store our luggage was difficult. 

Our solution was to strategically book a hotel in Bastia that we knew would agree to hold our luggage for the duration of the trek. This meant that we would stay at the hotel both before and after our trek, with the hotel keeping our excess luggage free of charge. You can’t beat free!

For this, we stayed at the Best Western Bastia Centre, which was happy to accommodate our luggage storage request. If you’re traveling through Bastia both ways for your own GR20 trek, we highly recommend staying at the Best Western to solve the luggage storage issue. If you’re not transiting through Bastia, staying at one hotel both before and after the GR20 is likely your best bet to find luggage storage. Just call or email the hotel you are thinking of staying at before booking to confirm they’ll store your luggage.

Luggage transfer on the GR20

For those who are interested in a luggage transfer service on the GR20 our simple advice would be to scrutinize what you are packing and plan to carry it all yourself. The reality is that luggage transfer on the GR20 is very expensive and is likely to require that you not hike the traditional GR20 route. The reason for this is that much of the GR20 is extremely remote and it is not possible for transfer companies to reach the various refuges along the route. Several companies offer guided and self-guided GR20 hikes that include luggage transfer, but be sure to look closely at their itinerary and think hard if you are okay sacrificing hiking the entire route in order to have your luggage transferred.

Hiker on the GR20

You’ll be much better off trying to lighten your pack than arrange for your luggage to be transferred .

 

Money on the GR20

The main consideration to think about regarding money on the GR20 is that it is pretty much a cash-only. There are no ATMs along the route, not even in Calenzana and Conca at the endpoints, nor in Vizzavona at the midpoint.

It is essential that you estimate your expected daily costs (food and lodging), plus some cushion for transportation and other miscellaneous or unplanned items. Keep in mind that if you made reservations for refuges or hire tents, you will have paid in full for this accommodation ahead of time and won’t need to carry quite as much money.

Hikers silhouetted at the top of a bocca on the southern half of the GR20.

They’re not going to find any ATMs around here!

 

A small number of places accept credit cards, (such as the campground shop in Vizzavona and many of the hotels) and you might be lucky enough to get cash back in a pinch. In general, things are relatively expensive in Corsica, especially along the trail. Check out our How Much It Cost Us to Hike the GR20 article for more on what you can expect to pay. 

Ready to keep planning your GR20 adventure?

Logistics on the GR20 are definitely not easy, but we hope this article provided you with some of the essentials to make sure you have a great trek. Our best advice is to be prepared and be flexbile!

If you’re looking to keep planning the perfect GR20, be sure to check out the rest of our comprehensive resources below:

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How to navigate on the Laugavegur Trail | GPS maps

Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail is on many hikers bucket list. The trek brings you to some of Iceland’s most beautiful scenery while also helping you escape from the tour bus crowds…

Iceland’s Laugavegur Trail is on many hikers bucket list. The trek brings you to some of Iceland’s most beautiful scenery while also helping you escape from the tour bus crowds that have become all too common at many of the country’s top sights. One question we frequently hear from readers who are interested in hiking the Laugavegur Trail is how we went about navigating while on the trail. Did we bring maps? Was the route hard to follow? How hard was it to find the huts and campgrounds along the Laugavegur Trail?

Finding your way on the Laugavegur Trail shouldn’t cause any headaches!

Rest assured that with the proper tools and resources, navigating on the Laugavegur Trail should be a straightforward endeavor. In this post we’ll explain exactly how we navigated on the trail, including how we utilized GPS on our phones to make navigating a breeze and also provide some resources for those who would like to do the same. Let’s get started!

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!

BUY NOW

In this post

Should I bring a paper map on the Laugavegur Trail?

The short answer is yes. You should always carry a paper map on any backcountry expedition. While we chose to rely on GPS data loaded into a navigation app on our phone, a paper map is an essential item to have as a backup. Technology has done wonders to make trail navigation easy and accessible, and we highly recommend you utilize it to help navigate on your own trip. However, if that iPhone you brought runs out of battery or you drop it in a puddle, you’ll be glad you had your handy paper maps to rely on.

Laugavegur Trail Map

At a minimum, we recommend carrying the Island Serkot 04 map, as it provides a useful overview of the Laugavegur Trail and surrounding areas. A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Once in Iceland, you’ll also be able to find maps with much better detail on the Laugavegur Trail, which we would also suggest picking up. You’re best bet in Reykjavik is to stop by one of the many outdoor stores. They should have several maps available.

Read more: Be sure to familiarize yourself with the trail, elevation profile, and more by checking out our Laugavegur Trail | Maps, Routes, and Itineraries post.

Offline GPS maps for the Laugavegur Trail

One of our favorite tools to utilize on long treks, including the Laugavegur Trail, is an offline GPS map of the entire route and surrounding terrain. It makes on trail navigation incredible easy and the set-up is a breeze. You simply download the necessary GPS files on to your phone and open your chosen GPS app (more on that below).

You can then easily view your location, the trail, huts, campgrounds, and more along the Laugavegur. We utilized this frequently on our own hike to know how far we had hiked at any given point, check that we were still on the trail, and know how close we were to our stopping point for the day.

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the Laugavegur Trail and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your Laugavegur trek. Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Using your phone as a GPS

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

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

Blank TMB map

 

Not a very effective way to navigate

Solving the background map problem

While the issue of a background map not displaying isn’t typically a problem in cities or towns where ample cell phone service (and thus internet connectivity) exists, it can be a huge problem when you’re, say, crossing a snow field on the Laugavegur Trail without service. The solution? GPS Navigation apps that allow for downloadable background maps. These apps allow you to select a predefined area, in our case the entirety of the Laugavegur Trail, and download the background map to your phone.

This allows you to access the map data without a cell phone connection and still know exactly where you are! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. Pretty cool, huh? I’ll show you exactly how we did this for the Laugavegur Trail below.

Laugavegur Trail maps – What we provide

For those looking for Laugavegur Trail GPS resources, we offer a complete mapping digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire Laugavegur route along with all of the huts and campgrounds on the trail.

This data will give you the confidence to know exactly where your next hut or campground is and exactly how to get there.

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

Purchase your own Laugavegur Trail GPS files here.

Which app should I use?

There are dozens of GPS apps that will work for navigating on the Laugavegur Trail, however, we have a few favorites. We recommend utilizing either Gaia GPS or Maps.me for your offline navigating. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the Laugavegur Trail displays in each of the apps.

Comparison of Gaia GPS and Maps.me for the Laugavegur Trail
Comparison of Maps.me and Gaia GPS for the Laugavegur Trail

As you can see, Maps.me can easily display the route as well as campground markers along the way. However, the same section of trail displayed in Gaia GPS gives the user much more information such as adjacent trails, topographic lines, and elevation shading. For this reason, we highly recommend you invest the $20 to use Gaia GPS, although we certainly understand those who prefer to use a free option. Instructions for downloading and accessing the GPS data for the Laugavegur for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS are included below.

Gaia GPS for the Laugavegur Trail

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

Step One – Download the Laugavegur Trail GPS file

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

Laugavegur Trail GPS download

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the Laugavegur Trail route and waypoints for the huts/campgrounds displayed on the map.

Laugavegur GPS map
Success! You’ve imported the Laugavegur Trail GPS data in Gaia GPS.

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

Laugavegur background map

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

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

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

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

The final step to navigating like a pro on the Laugavegur is to the able to successfully use Gaia GPS on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky, which should be no problem in Iceland) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow. Use this whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the road has you questioning the correct way.  NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

Maps.me for the Laugavegur Trail

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Laugavegur Trail GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me. Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the Laugavegur. The primary shortcoming of using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data. You won’t find any topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price! Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our Laugavegur GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the Tour du Mont Blanc GPS file

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

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

Laugavegur Trail Maps.me

Step Two – Download the Laugavegur Trail background maps

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

  1. Navigate to the area of the Laugavegur Trail in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download the ‘Iceland’ map to cover the entire Laugavegur Trail.
  4. Verify that you’ve downloaded the required base map by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  5. Once you’ve checked that the Iceland map has been successfully downloaded you’re all done!
Maps.me download for the Laugavegur Trail
Verify that the ‘Iceland’ map is downloaded.

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

A note on battery life

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

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

Want more Laugavegur content? Keep reading!

Be sure and check out all of our Laugavegur Trail resources below to help plan your perfect trip!

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GR20 Packing List

There are some long-distance hikes in which you can get away with carrying stuff you don’t need. Sure, you may find yourself huffing and puffing a little more than you’d…

There are some long-distance hikes in which you can get away with carrying stuff you don’t need. Sure, you may find yourself huffing and puffing a little more than you’d like and your knees might be cranky by the end of the day, but on the whole you’ll be alright. Maybe you’ll even be glad you brought along that collapsible camping tea kettle or extra fancy toiletries (although we seriously doubt it).

The GR20 is not one of those hikes.

Rugged mountains on the GR20 trail in Corsica.

You’ll be thankful you packed smart when you’re up here!

 

Not only is the GR20 very long and physically demanding, but it also has several sections that are quite technical. When you’re awkwardly climbing your way down a steep gully or hoisting yourself up a sheer slab of rock, you’ll be glad to have as light a pack as possible. Indeed, carrying a backpack that is too heavy is a common cause of hikers quitting their trek altogether. We’re not telling you this to scare you, but rather we want to spread the word about one of the most important keys to success on this trek-your GR20 packing list.

When packing for the GR20, you need to be ruthless. Leave behind everything except for the absolute essentials, and we promise your trek will be exponentially more enjoyable.  In this post, we’ll share our best advice for on must-have gear, as well as give you our tried-and-true GR20 packing list, organized into helpful categories and suitable for both campers and those staying in the refuges.

What’s in this post:

GR20 Packing Basics

There are limitless ways to hike the GR20; you can carry your own tent, stay in refuges or hire tents, self-cater, eat meals at refuges, hike at a slow pace, double up on stages, and so on. Your GR20 packing list will need to be tailored to your individual itinerary and needs. Someone who is purchasing most of their meals and staying in refuges will have a significantly different kit than someone who is carrying all of their own camping gear and cooking their own meals. Despite all of this variability, there are a few basic truths about packing for the GR20 that apply to everyone. These include:

  1. Keep your backpack as light as possible! (see the next section for more on this)
  2. It is essential to dial in your footwear.
  3. Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your GR20 trek.

 

Hiker with a backpack and trekking poles on the GR20

Puffy jacket? Check. Trekking poles? Check. Lightweight Pack? Check. Gorgeous scenery? Check!

How much should my pack weigh?

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

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

As a very general rule, campers (with their own tent) should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying in refuges should carry no more than 9kg.  If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.

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

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Before you write us off as total dirtbags, hear us out. First, you’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry. Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.

Hikers on a steep trail.

You’ll be happy to have a light backpack on steep trails like this.

Footwear on the GR20

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the GR20, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet. Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the TMB! That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!

In terms of other specifications, we feel that the only other must-have is a good, grippy vibrum (or similar material) sole for steep descents and loose paths. Otherwise it’s up to personal preference when it comes to how much ankle support you need, waterproof versus quick-dry, sturdy versus lightweight, and so on. I hiked in non-waterproof trail runners, while Ian used traditional hiking boots and we were both very happy with the results. Some people argue that trailrunners can’t withstand the wear and tear of the rough conditions of the GR20, but I didn’t have any issues in this regard, and I was grateful to have comfortable, reliable footwear.

Hiking boots

Your trusty boots are one of your most important pieces of gear.

You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toe socks.

Trekking Poles

BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the GR20. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections. Make sure your poles are lightweight and collapsible, as you’ll need to stash them frequently on scrambling sections that necessitate having your hands free.

Backpacking backpack

The type of pack you’ll need for the GR20 will depend on your individual itinerary.

Backpack

The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and with the same weight) you’ll carry on the GR20. Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. Those staying in refuges will find that 30-40L is perfect. If you’re purchasing a new one, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs. Bonus points if the pack has a system for quickly stashing your trekking poles!

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Battery Backup

If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the GR20 (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Even if you’re not, you’re likely to have something that necessitates having a full battery. Some refuges will allow you to charge electronics (sometimes for free & often for a small fee), but this certainly isn’t a guarantee everywhere. Carrying a small battery backup or one of these nifty portable solar panels will give you a little more freedom and peace of mind.

Cell phones charging

Charging electronics can get a little crazy on the GR20, if you’re lucky enough to find somewhere that’ll even let you.

 

Hydration Bladder

Corsica can get extremely hot in the summer months, and you are more than likely to face some sweltering temperatures while hiking the GR20. You should plan on drinking upwards of two liters of water per day- indeed some hikers will need three or even four liters on long, hot day. Staying adequately hydrated is crucial for this trek, as the heat and the physical exertion can take their toll. Although there are water refill points along most stages of the hike, these are not always the most dependable or conveniently located. Instead of relying on spotty water sources, we strongly recommend that you fill up a large hydration bladder with all of the water you’ll need before setting out for the day. We love using our 3L Platypus hydration bladders because they make it easy to fill up on larger quantities of water, their handy straws promote more frequent and efficient hydration while hiking, and they allow you to carry the weight in an optimized way against your back.  We definitely feel that a good bladder is an essential item for the GR20.

 

Sunset at Refuge d'Ortu di u Piobbu

You can choose to bring your own tent or use hire tents like these on the GR20.

 

Camping-Specific Gear List

If you plan on camping along the GR20, there’s a lot more gear you need to think about than just your hiking basics. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered!

Use this camping gear list in conjunction with the personal items list, miscellaneous list, and men’s or women’s clothing list to put together your perfect kit.

Our most recommended piece of camping gear: Freestanding Tent

In all honesty, we did not actually bring a freestanding tent with us on the GR20. We’re still using our trusty Sierra Designs Clip Flashlight, which has lasted us nearly a decade and hundreds of nights out in the backcountry. We typically recommend this tent wholeheartedly for any backpacking trek, due to its high quality design and affordable price tag. Even though we love this tent dearly, there were countless times we wished we had a freestanding tent on the GR20. This is because the ground at most camping areas consists of very hard-packed dirt, making it virtually impossible to get a stake in. Additionally, it can be very challenging to find an even surface to pitch your tent on, and sometimes you’ll realize you need to move it once you’ve already erected it. Unlike with a traditional tent which you have to completely break down to move, a freestanding tent allows you to simply pick it up and put it anywhere you please. Freestanding tents give you the ability to shake out all of the dirt, rocks, and grass that you’ll inevitably track in much more easily than with a traditional tent. And one last reason? Many freestanding tents are designed so that you can pack up the tent while the rain fly remains erected- a complete lifesaver on wet mornings. We met dozens of hikers along the GR20 who were using the MSR Hubba Hubba and absolutely loved it. This is arguably the best backpacking tent on the market right now.



ItemOur recommended gear 
TentMSR Hubba Hubba Backpacking TentThe MSR Hubba Hubba 2 is the best overall tent you can buy, and the freestanding features are perfect for the GR20.
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 30A 30° F or 0° C sleeping bag should keep you plenty warm on the GR20.
Sleeping pad Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping PadThis is a must-have for side-sleepers! Even if you're not, this is one of the most lightweight and comfortable sleeping pads out there. It held up well on the hard and rocky conditions of the GR20.
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowA camping pillow can be great when you're spending 14+ nights sleeping in a tent, but this is an optional item for those looking to save weight.
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it! A stove isn't 100% necessary on the GR20, as the refuges provide gas cooktops, but it can be nice to have.
Backpacking potGSI HaluliteFor those planning to cook their own meals this pot will serve you well.
UtensilsMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mugHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR 2-person mess kitWe find this bowl and mug combo to be light, durable, and perfect for camp dinners.

NOTES FOR CAMPERS:

  • If you plan on camping in hire tents, you do not need to carry a tent or sleeping pad, as those are included in your rental. You do, however, need your own sleeping bag.
  • If you plan on self-catering most of your meals, you should bring your own pot and utensils. Many refuges provide pots, pans, plates, cups, etc, but there is no guarantee what you’ll find at any given place. Nearly every refuge has a gas cooktop that you can use, so it’s not necessary to bring your own stove and fuel unless you don’t want to wait in line at the cooking area. You do, however, need to supply your own lighter/matches.

Refuge-Specific Gear List

If you’re planning on sleeping in refuges, gites, and hotels along the GR20, you can keep your pack relatively small. However, there are some specific items you’ll want to make sure you pack. While you don’t need much, there are some essentials that you’ll be glad to have for these communal accommodation situations. Use this list in conjunction with the other lists (except for the camping gear list) to ensure that you’re well prepared for your GR20 adventure.

Note: there are some repeats on this list that we’ve also included on the other lists. However, we wanted to highlight items on this list that are especially important for anyone who is staying primarily in dorm-style accommodation.

Our most recommended piece for the refuges: Eco-Friendly Bedbug Spray

We’re not trying to scare you, but the reality is that bedbug infestations are very common in the GR20 refuges and gites. Besides being pretty gross, bedbugs can really put a damper on your trek by covering your body in uncomfortable bites and getting into all of your clothing and gear. Many hikers swear by using a bedbug spray like this Eco-Friendly one to keep the nasty little buggers at bay. This spray comes in a 3.3 ounce travel-friendly bottle and doesn’t have a strong scent. While it may not reduce your risk of bedbugs entirely, it’s definitely worth a shot!


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
EarplugsMack's EarplugsThe perfect defense for that snorer next door!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges.
Sleep sheetVumos Sleep SheetIf you sleep warm, you may want this in addition to your sleeping bag for the nights when you need a lighter option.
Sandals/SlippersCrocsBoots cannot be worn inside the refuges, so you'll want something to wear indoors. While not the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect refuge shoes!
Sleeping BagMarmot Trestles 30Sleeping bags are required in all of the refuges. This one should keep you plenty warm, without being too heavy.
Bedbug SprayEco-Friendly Bedbug SprayBedbugs are a common issues in many of the GR20 refuges, but they don't have to be a nuisance if you're prepared.

Refuge de Carozzu GR20

Every refuge is unique, but you can expect them all to be quite cramped…er, cozy.

 

Personal Gear List

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for your GR20 packing list. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this trek, we’ve left it up to you to determine your personal list of additional self care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc).

Use this list in conjunction with the camping gear list OR refuge-specific list, and the miscellaneous and clothing lists to build your perfect GR20 packing list.

Our most recommended piece of personal gear: Headlamp

As we discussed in our trip report, we firmly believe that getting an early start each day is one of the most important keys to success on the GR20. The Corsican mountains and valleys can get unbearably hot in the afternoon sun, making it so that you’re exerting yourself more than necessary on terrain that is already challenging without adverse weather conditions. Additionally, in the summer months especially, the threat of afternoon thunderstorms is very real and should not be taken lightly. It’s of utmost importance that you’re off the high, exposed peaks and ridges before the storms move in. So why am I going on and on about all this in relation to a headlamp? Because there will be days on the GR20 where you need to pack up and get on the trail before daybreak, and hiking in the dark can be slow, frustrating, and dangerous without a good headlamp. Our Black Diamond Storm headlamps were absolutely invaluable on those early mornings; they are lightweight, long-lasting, have adjustable brightness settings, and they’re totally comfortable. Trust us on this one, you don’t want to leave for your trek without a good quality headlamp.


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for cutting cheese and bread, repairing gear, and a million other purposes!
First-aid kitAdventure Medical KitsA good backpacking first aid kit is essential. You hope to never have to use it, but will be glad you have it when you need it.
Camel BakPlatypus 3L Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle! We suggest carrying a 3 liter version.
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how hard it can rain on the GR20! The best pack-cover we've ever used.
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65LWhile backpacks are a very personal item, we find Osprey to make by far the most comfortable packs on the market.
Women's backpackOsprey Aura 65LOne of our favorite features of Osprey packs is the 'anti-gravity' mesh. So comfortable!
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Trekking PolesEssential for long downhills!
Travel towelSea to Summit Drylite TowelGreat to have in huts and campsite showers.
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm HeadlampGreat headlamp with long battery life and adjustable brightness.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil dry bagsKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
SunscreenWe recommend a waterproof sport version with SPF 30 or higher.
Toilet paperAs any hiker will tell you, it's always better to be prepared! Most of the bathrooms you'll find along the GR20 don't provide toilet paper.
Hand SanitizerMost bathrooms on the GR20 also don't provide hand soap.
Extra BatteriesIt's a good idea to have a few spare batteries for your headlamp, should you need them.

Miscellaneous Gear List

These odds and ends are the unsung heros of the GR20 packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your GR20 kit.

Our most recommended piece of miscellaneous gear: Battery Backup

Chances are, you’re getting out on the trail to get a break from the constant demands of screens and technology and that’s wonderful. However, don’t underestimate the importance of having a charged cell phone on the GR20. Your phone can be your navigational device, your camera, your guidebook, and your notepad all in one. Charging opportunities are extremely limited along the route, so a battery backup can be an absolute lifesaver. This one is dependable, relatively small, and can fully charge your phone 1.5-2 times between charges. Check it out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookThe GR20 Corsica: Complete Guide to the High Level Route (Cicerone Guides)A must-have resource, and also available digitally to save weight in your pack!
EarplugsMack's EarplugsEssential for sleeping in huts, but we also love using them in the tent at crowded campsites.
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges or campgrounds.
Travel adapterAll-in-one Travel AdapterGreat for all of your travels.
Digital watchCasio digital watchWe recommend a simple digital watch to keep track of hiking times.
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraOptional item for the photography lovers. Consider using your phone to save weight.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 10000Great for charging electronics when you don't have access to an outlet.
Biodegradable soapSierra Dawn Campsuds Outdoor SoapPerfect for doing the dishes or washing a few clothing items.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.

Gite U Fagone laundry

Pack light- you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do laundry along the GR20!

 

Women’s Clothing

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

Emily’s favorite piece of clothing: Altra Lone Peak Trailrunning Shoes

I recently became a believer in hiking in trailrunning shoes. For ages, I had happily hiked in my Keen Targhee boots (which I still enthusiastically recommend, especially for those with wide feet), but after a chronic injury and ensuring research to try to alleviate it, I decided to make the switch. I can confidently say that I don’t think I’ll ever go back to boots (except for on an extremely wet and  boggy trail like the Coast to Coast). I am completely in love with my Altras for a number of reasons. First, they held up to the gnarly conditions of the GR20, and that is no small feat. Additionally, I was grateful for the wide toe box that kept my feet very comfortable, while still feeling supported in the shoe. The zero-drop structure took some adjusting to, but now my feet and leg muscles are stronger and more stable as a result. These shoes are incredibly lightweight, yet I had no issues carrying a large pack while wearing them. The outsole is made of a very grippy rubber and has large lugs to keep you feeling confident on steep and loose terrain. I hiked hundreds of miles in these shoes this summer, in a variety of landscapes and weather conditions, and I never got a blister. Although they are not waterproof, I have come to prefer that, as I like quick-drying and breathable over something that traps moisture for days. If you’re looking to switch to the dark side, I highly recommend Altras as your first trail shoe!


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Women's UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Brooks Women's Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 CrewA great merino wool base layer for chilly mornings.
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1-2)Smartwool Women's Merino Short SleeveMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Leggings or hiking pantsprAna - Women's Halle Roll-upStylish, lightweight, and great to hike in.
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsOPTIONAL: Great for those heavy downpours, but arguably not worth their weight on the GR20
Hiking boots/Trail ShoesAltra Lone Peak Trail Shoes
or
Keen Targhee II Mid Hiking Boot
While Emily still highly recommends these Keens for those looking for traditional hiking boots, she recently switched to hiking in Altra trailrunning shoes and absolutely loves them.
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire/standard bra(1)After a long day of hiking in a sweaty sports bra this can be a welcome relief to change into.
GlovesSmartwool Liner GlovesPerfect for cold evenings and scrambling on frigid rocks early in the morning.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep the strong Corsican sun off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1Super comfortable around camp with great support.
BandanaIs everything from a small towel to extra sun protection.
BuffBuff Original Multifunctional HeadwearNice to use for sun protection or to keep your ears warm in chilly temps. Also makes a great headband.

Men’s Clothing

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

Ian’s most recommended piece of clothing: Smartwool T-Shirt

After years of hiking and traveling in synthetic tech tees, switching to Merino wool was a major upgrade. Like synthetic materials, Merino is quick-drying and moisture-wicking, but unlike the synthetic materials I can hike in it for days without any funky smells. When I did need to wash it, it would be dry and ready to wear again no time at all. Plus, I find it to be more comfortable and stylish, since it looks just like a normal t-shirt. This was convenient for times when I wanted to wear it off the trail. Smart wool makes an all around great shirt that is well worth the price. Check it out here:


 

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (2-3 pairs)ExOfficio Men's Give-N-Go Boxer BriefHighly recommended! You can bring 2-3 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (2-3 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Cushion SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)SmartSmartwool Men's Merino Short Sleeve shirtMerino wool is perfect for backpacking. Lightweight, quick drying, and odor resistant.
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion Hiking ShortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Down jacketPatagonia Down Sweater HoodySuper warm, and super packable.
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Men's Helium II JacketA good rain jacket is a must! This one packs up small and light.
GlovesSmartwool Merino Wool Liner Gloves Perfect for cold evenings and windy ridges.
Rain pantsMarmot Precip PantsOPTIONAL: These can be amazing for those heavy downpours, but are arguably not worth the extra weight.
HatHeadsweats Performance Trucker HatHelps keep the strong Mediterranean sun off your face.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandalsSuper comfortable around camp with great support.
Hiking bootsSalomon Men's X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking BootSuper comfortable and super waterproof! These held up well to the gnarly trail conditions on the GR20.
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
BandanaIs everything from a towel to extra sun protection.

 

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