If you’ve read any of our other posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out by now that we really love to hike. If you ask me, there’s only…
Dream Lake in all of its frozen beauty.
If you’ve read any of our other posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out by now that we really love to hike. If you ask me, there’s only one thing more fun than hiking…hiking in the snow! And the only thing better than hiking in the snow? Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park! You might be thinking, “Well, no… It’s cold and difficult and boring.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “She’s crazy. Skiing is WAY better.” Before you click over to one of the six other tabs you have open right now, hear me out.
Snowshoeing allows you to see familiar trails in a completely new way, it’s a challenging and rewarding workout, and it gives you the opportunity to experience popular hikes without the crowds. Oh, and unlike skiing, you don’t have to get up at 4am to battle traffic for hours just to get there. You can rent or buy snowshoes for a very reasonable cost, especially when compared to skis. Snowshoeing for the win!
As I’ve gotten into the sport in recent years, I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to find good information about snowshoeing near the Front Range, especially snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know in order to have a fantastic snowshoe outing in one of our favorite places: Rocky Mountain National Park.
But first, a few reasons why you should showshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park…
-It has a pretty consistent snowpack throughout the winter months.
-It is significantly less crowded in the off-season, allowing you to enjoy its natural wonders in peace and solitude.
-It has a wealth of trails of varying lengths, difficulty levels, and terrain types, making it a great destination for snowshoers of every ability and experience level.
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.
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.
Everything you need to camp on the TMB – all in one place.
For those who want specific information about trekking with a tent, this printable guideincludes campground locations, custom maps, a complete itinerary, and much more. At less than $10, it’s an unbeatable value!
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 in all of its glacier-covered glory.
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.
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.
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.
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. .
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:
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.
More people hike in this direction, so the trail could feel more crowded throughout the day.
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.
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.
Those who choose to hike clockwise will start in the pretty town on Champex.
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:
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Who says self-catering can’t be delicious?
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 worlds prettiest bus stop? This one in Les Houches has got to be a top contender!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for preventing baby-elephant piggyback syndrome:
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.
Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
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.
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.
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.
Big shout out to our trekking poles and pack covers!
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.
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).
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 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.
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.
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.
This might look like an ideal place to camp, but it’s definitely not legal!
There are endless ways to fail at the GR20. It’s got a reputation for being the toughest trek in Europe, and for good reason. In fact, some statistics indicate that…
There are endless ways to fail at the GR20. It’s got a reputation for being the toughest trek in Europe, and for good reason. In fact, some statistics indicate that over half of those who start the GR20 don’t complete it. There are a ton of genuinely legitimate reasons for quitting, and those are totally understandable.
Want to know the stupidest, least excusable reason for quitting the GR20? Running out of money.
There’s plenty of delicious food available along the trail, but it’s definitely not cheap!
Nearly everything you purchase on the GR20 will need to be bought with cash. There are no ATMS along the route, not even in Calenzana, Vizzavona, or Conca, and most establishments do not accept credit cards. If you’re prepared, this is no problem at all. However, without advance planning this could be catastrophic to your trek. Indeed, when we hiked in 2019 we met multiple hikers who were forced to leave the trail due to a lack of cash. Don’t let that happen to you.
Since you’ve clearly got your act together enough to find this article (and hopefully you checked out our Ultimate Guide to the GR20 too), we feel pretty confident that you won’t earn a place in the GR20 Hall of Shame (at least not for this reason…we can’t vouch for what anyone will do after a couple of Pietras!)
Now that you know you need to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses along the trail, you just need to figure out exactly how much cash that will be. That’s what we’re here for.
Camping is a fun and budget-friendly way to do the GR20.
Below we’ve outlined what you can expect to pay for all sorts of common goods and services on the GR20. Obviously, you can expect some variation in prices from place to place, but this should give you a general idea of things so you can more confidently estimate your budget.
The GR20: Average Price List
Dorm bed in a PNRC Refuge: €15
Hire tent at a PNRC Refuge: €11 tent rental fee + €7 per person
Camping (bivouac) with a personal tent at PNRC Refuge: €7 per person
Dorm bed in a gite d’etape: €20 per person (€45 per person for half board)
Camping at a bergerie with personal tent: €8 per person
Camping at a bergerie in a hire tent: €20 per person
Double room in a hotel: €100
Food and Drink:
Evening Meal at a bergerie, gite, or PNRC Refuge: €22
Breakfast at a bergerie, gite, or PNRC Refuge: €8
Picnic lunch from a bergerie, gite, or PNRC Refuge: €8
Meal at a nice hotel restaurant: €30
Large can of Pietra Beer: €6
Half liter of wine: €6
Large coffee or tea: €2.5
Can of soda: €3.5
A-la-carte omelette or sandwhich: €7-9
Charcuterie or cheese plate: €10
Large chunk of local cheese: €11
Bag of pasta: €2
Jar of pasta sauce: €3
Can of ravioli: €3
Saucisson (cured Corsican sausage): €10
Bag of peanuts: €2
Bar of chocolate: €2
Loaf of bread: €2
Bus from Bastia Airport to Bastia city center: €9 per person
Train from Bastia to Calvi: €16.2 per person (see the full list of train prices here)
Bus from Calvi to Calenzana: €8 per person
Navette from Conca to Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio: €4- €6 per person (depending on number of passengers)
Bus from Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio to Bastia: €23 per person + €1 per bag
Train from Vizzavona to Bastia: €14.6
Hot shower: €2 for 6 minutes (This varies quite a bit; some refuges offer free hot showers, while others only offer cold showers
Electronics Charging: €2 per device (this is also free at some refuges and unavailable at others)
Stove fuel: €6
Roll of toilet paper: €0.50
Compeed blister bandages: €9
Hike all the miles, eat all the snacks.
How to estimate your expenses on the GR20
First, think about the type of accommodation and meals you plan on purchasing. Are you going to sleep in refuges and hotels as much as possible? Are you going to eat most meals at the refuge or will you choose to buy provisions to self-cater? Will you pay for any of your accommodation in advance? (PNRC reservations require full payment when you make your booking). Don’t forget to account for your meals and lodging in Calenzana, Vizzavona, and Conca. Once you’ve taken all of these variables into account you can get a general idea of what you plan to spend on accommodation per day.
Next, consider all of your other miscellaneous expenses. These include transportation to and from the trail, electronics charging and hot showers, any needed toiletries or other necessities that arise. Use our list of average prices (above) to determine the amount of money that will cover all of your miscellaneous items. Our advice? Expect the unexpected and give yourself a little extra cushion here!
Before you get any further, be honest with yourself about what you’ll want and need on the trail. It’s easy to think you’ll adhere to a strict budget, but once you’ve been hiking all day in the blistering sun that cold beer or bag of crisps is going to be awfully tempting, and you’ll get far greater enjoyment out of your GR20 experience if you allow yourself a few indulgences here and there. Plus, you’ll be exerting yourself much more than in your typical day-to-day life and therefore your calorie needs will be significantly greater. Keep this in mind when calculating your food budget- hiker hunger is no joke!
That block of local cheese may be calling your name after a long day!
Finally, the amount of money you’ll need will depend on how long you plan on being out on the trail. If you are hiking for longer, that’s more days of food and lodging you’ll need to pay for. We recommend building an extra day into your itinerary to allow for bad weather or other issues that may arise.
Here’s a breakdown of average daily costs for a few different budgets. Drinks, treats, and unexpected necessities have been accounted for in the “Miscellaneous” category.
Food & Drink
Average Daily Expenses
NOTE: All hikers, regardless of their budget, should add at least €65 to their overall estimate to account for transportation costs.
Luckily, the best parts of the GR20 are completely free, like this perfect spot for soaking tired feet.
Okay. I made my budget, but WOW that’s a LOT of cash! Is it safe to hike with that much money?
Generally speaking, yes. The GR20 attracts a really awesome community of humans who just want to conquer a challenge and savor the outdoors. There is a sense of camaraderie among GR20 hikers, and people tend to look out for one another. Plus, pretty much everyone you meet on the trail is in the same boat as you, so you really shouldn’t be any more susceptible to theft as the next trekker.
That being said, you should take the same precautions you would take in any other situation where you’d be walking around with a big wad of cash. These include:
Keep your money on your person or within sight at all times. Many hikers choose to wear a fanny pack for easy and safe access to their valuables.
If traveling with others, split up the money among the members in your group.
Report any suspicious activity to the warden.
Listen to your instincts if something doesn’t feel right.
Keep your money and valuables in a waterproof pouch.
Making new friends on the GR20.
Can I even take that much money out of an ATM, especially in another country?
Yes, sort of. It will depend on your specific institution, but some banks limit withdrawals to €500 at a time. If this is the case for you, you may need to make a series of withdrawals over the course of a couple days or use multiple accounts. Hopefully you are using a card that reimburses you for ATM fees! And of course, make sure to notify your bank prior to any travel to prevent fraud alerts and/or getting your account frozen.
Don’t forget to factor in your transportation costs when estimating your budget!
So are you going to share how much you spent or what?
Time for the big reveal on how much the GR20 cost us! But before we do, we’d like to preface it with a few important points. These are very necessary to take into account in order to truly understand our expenses:
– Our spending number only accounts for what we spent whileactually on the GR20. It does not include our flights to Corsica or any gear we purchased for the trek.
-This number is based on the cost for two people who camped on nearly every stage with our own tent. We were on the trail for 17 days, including a rest day in Vizzavona.
-We brought about four days’ worth of meals, which we purchased ahead of time. The cost of that food is not accounted for in this total, and reduced our on-trail spending.
-We are vegetarians who were happy to cook our own dinners every night (seriously, we ate so much pasta) and snack on peanuts and bread. Due to our natural frugality in this area we tend to spend much less than the average person on meals.
-A great way to save money, which we made sure to employ on a near-daily basis, is to drink wine. Too good to be true? Not at all! Two people can happily split a half liter of decent wine for the same price as just one beer. Who can pass up a value like that?
So, in total, we carried €1200 with us on the GR20.
We actually only spent around €700 of that, but we tend to do things very, very frugally. Most people will spend significantly more than this, but this shows that it’s definitely possible to hike the GR20 for this amount or even much less!
Whatever your budget, we know you’re going to have an amazing trek!
It is totally possible to hike the GR20 on nearly any budget and have a great time doing it. With a little advance planning and a good sense of your personal travel style, you can eliminate many of the stressors that come with managing finances while on the trail. If you found this article helpful, make sure to check out our other great GR20 content. Happy trails!
“The toughest trek in Europe” “One of the top trails in the world” “More rock climbing than hiking” “Unimaginably rugged mountains” “Awe-inspiring scenery” “Mythical.” With so many legendary stories surrounding…
“The toughest trek in Europe” “One of the top trails in the world” “More rock climbing than hiking” “Unimaginably rugged mountains” “Awe-inspiring scenery” “Mythical.”
With so many legendary stories surrounding it, what can we say about the GR20 that hasn’t been said already? We’re here to tell you that the legends are legit. The GR20 is all of those things and more. If you’re a passionate hiker, consider this trek to be your piece de resistance, your Superbowl, your ultimate adventure. Due to its challenging reputation, many hikers feel too intimidated to take on the GR20, and among those who do attempt it, a large percentage don’t complete it. Don’t let that be you!
Some of the stunning scenery you’ll encounter on the GR20.
With the right preparation, you can tackle the infamous GR20 and even (gasp!) have a ton of fun doing it. The key is having realistic expectations and doing some advance planning. Our guide will walk you through everything you need to know to prepare for this epic adventure. Trust us, it is so worth it.
You can expect rugged landscapes like this one throughout the GR20.
About the GR20
The GR20* runs roughly north to south across the island of Corsica. Corsica is a semi-autonomous French territory located in the Mediterranean Sea. Sometimes referred to as the ‘Granite Isle,’ Corsica owes much of its beauty to its rich and diverse geologic history. This relatively small island boasts a wide array of spectacular natural scenery, including towering granite spires, lush wooded valleys, and turquoise rock pools.
* GR=”Grande Randonee,” a term for a collection of Europe’s greatest long-distance footpaths
How long is the GR20?
Distance: 180 km (112 miles)
Elevation gain: 10,000 meters (32,808 feet)
How long does it take to hike the GR20?
Typically 12-15 days, depending on fitness and pace. Many hikers may want to give themselves 16 days to allow for a rest day and flexibility in the case of inclement weather. Attempting to complete the entire route in less than 12 days is only recommended for the very hardcore hiker who is up for spending long days on the trail. It is important to keep in mind that the GR20 is different from many other hikes due to the amount of scrambling required. While you might have a good sense of your hiking pace on normal trails,those estimates tend to go out the window on the GR20.
Our advice? Give yourself more time than you think you need and don’t try to “double up” on stages. The trek is way more enjoyable (and still plenty challenging) when you’re not rushing through it or pushing your limits too far. That said, when we were hiking, we met a superhuman who was trying to do the entire thing in five days. Different strokes for different folks I guess!
The landscape becomes much gentler on the southern half of the GR20.
I only have time to do half…should I hike the North or South?
The GR20 is neatly divided into two sections, the northern (“nord”) and southern (“sud”), with the town of Vizzavona at the midpoint. This makes it relatively easy to hop on or off the trail at Vizzavona in order to only hike one half. If you have to choose, take comfort in the fact that the GR20 is truly spectacular from start to finish and you can’t go wrong with either section!
In our opinion, the north has the most rugged and beautiful mountain scenery and it’s more fun and interesting to hike. The trade-off, however, is that it also entails the most scrambling and greater sections of trail that are steep and technical. The south is a bit mellower, but it definitely isn’t easy. There are still plenty of tough climbs and parts that require scrambling. If you choose to only hike the southern half, you’ll still get some beautiful mountain views, but you’ll also spend a good amount of time down in the forests and valleys.
How difficult is the GR20?
There’s no doubt about it- the GR20 is a challenging trek. Some of the major factors that contribute to its difficulty are the large amount of scrambling, steep ascents and descents, overall distance, heat and weather, and exposed nature of the trail. We believe that most reasonably fit people can complete the GR20, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they should. You’re much, much more likely to actually enjoy it if you are in good hiking shape and have backpacking experience. Most of the scrambling is pretty manageable; it is just tricky and awkward at times and can become tiring after you’ve been at it for awhile. If you are judicious about avoiding storms and careful on exposed sections, it really isn’t much more dangerous than other hikes.
Our top tips for making the GR20 less challenging:
1. Carry the lightest backpack possible.
2. Only hike one stage per day. Don’t try to double-up stages and take on more than necessary. Give your body time to recover in the afternoon rather than spending 8+ hours on the trail every day.
3. Start early! High temperatures increase your effort level significantly. Avoid the worst of the afternoon heat (and storms) by getting on the trail at sunrise.
These three simple things can absolutely be the difference-maker in terms of whether or not you complete the trek (and do so without hating every second of it).
Sections like this one that require scrambling are frequent on the route.
When to Hike the GR20
The typical hiking season for the GR20 lasts from June through September. It may be possible to hike in the later part of May, but you’ll need to be prepared for snow and ice on the trail.
If hiking in May, the refuges will be open but not staffed, meaning that you’ll need to bring all of your own food and fuel.
Beginning in June, the refuges will be staffed and supplied, but you may still need to negotiate some sections of snow and ice along the trail. The weather in June will be warm, but not too hot.
July and August are the most popular months for hiking the GR20. All of the services (accommodation, busses, etc) will be fully operating and the trail should be clear of snow. Expect very hot weather and afternoon thunderstorms.
September brings cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. The refuges remain staffed through the end of the month, but the bus services are reduced and some of the bergeries start to close.
Hiking is possible in October, but the refuges will not be staffed (they will remain open) and snow is likely from mid-October onwards.
May and October are the least crowded times on the trail. June and September are quieter than the peak season, but still quite busy. The trail is the most crowded in July and August. We recommend making advance reservations for all accommodation (unless carrying your own tent) if you’re planning on trekking anytime between June and September.
Not only will starting early help you avoid getting caught in afternoon storms but you will also get to see beautiful sunrises.
Mountain weather is always volatile, and the GR20 is no different. However, the GR20 is rather unique in the sense that the trail stays high up on exposed ridges for long stretches, making it more important than ever for hikers to be vigilant about the conditions. Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions.
Always ask the wardens at the refuge for the latest weather forecast and heed their advice.
The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for checking 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.
Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to camp before the crowds, and avoid the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms.
These clouds may look pretty now but the weather on the GR20 is unpredictable.
The traditional GR20 route starts in Calenzana in the north, passes through the midpoint in Vizzavona, and finishes in Conca in the south. However, it is possible to hike in either direction. The northern half of the GR20 has a reputation for being the toughest, while the southern half is a bit gentler. Some trekkers prefer to start in the south to get accustomed to the trail before tackling the tougher sections in the north. Others would rather start in the north in order to put the biggest days behind them early and do so with fresh legs.
It is totally a matter of personal preference, although we hiked from north to south and would definitely recommend it. We benefited from the confidence boost that came with conquering the most challenging sections early on, and we felt the ascents and descents were more manageable in this direction. While slightly less people hike in the northbound direction, you probably won’t notice a significant difference in crowds since hikers headed both ways stay at the same refuges.
Either direction you choose to hike is bound to be a great adventure!
Food and Drink
As we’ve mentioned before (and certainly will remind you about again!), keeping your backpack as light as possible is essential for having a successful GR20 trek. Fortunately, you don’t need to carry much food, which will significantly reduce your pack weight. Food can be purchased at all of the refuges along the route. However, there is a lot of variation in terms of what’s available at any given refuge on any given day. It’s not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive either, providing that you cook your own meals. On the other hand, if you order meals at the refuges, expect to pay upwards of €20 for a glorified bowl of pasta.
Most refuges on the GR20 also have small shops where you can get basics like bread, pasta, sauce, canned fish, canned meals, chocolate, and biscuits. All of the refuges also serve dinner and breakfast, and some offer a-la-carte meals throughout the day as well. Beer, wine, soda, coffee, and tea are sold everywhere. There are no grocery stores along the GR20. The closest you’ll get to a supermarket are the larger, better-stocked shops available at a few refuges and campgrounds along the route. We’ve noted the locations of these within the guide. On the trail between the refuges, there generally isn’t anywhere to purchase food, save for the rare exception of a bergerie selling cheese and charcuterie.
Typical food and drink on offer at the refuges.
The GR20 is not very accommodating to those with special diets. Vegetarians will be alright, provided they are okay with eating pasta for dinner every night and consuming large amounts of cheese and bread. We recommend carrying at least one “backup” meal in case you can’t find veg-friendly food at a refuge. Those who are vegan or gluten-free should plan on bringing most of their own food, as their options will be very limited.
Nearly every accommodation along the route provides a cooking area that is free to use for all who are staying there, campers included. All of these cooking areas have a gas-powered cooktops, many have pots/pans, and some have dishes and cutlery. It isn’t necessary to bring your own stove and fuel, but many people choose to do so, as the cooking areas can get crowded. If planning to self-cater regularly, you’ll probably want to bring your own pot and bowl/utensils, since those aren’t provided at most places. Also, you’ll need to bring your own lighter to ignite the stoves.
All of the refuges provide potable water (usually from a tap labeled “source”). It is generally safe to drink, and most hikers choose to do so without filtration. There are some water sources along the trail, but they are not always at regular intervals, they’re not on every stage, and many are season-dependent. Some of these require filtration, due to the proximity of livestock (Corsican cows are amazing hikers and you’ll see them in shockingly high places!) Our advice would be to fill up at the refuges before setting out and carry enough water for the entire day (2-4 liters, depending on stage length, heat, and personal preference).
If nothing else you’ll always find good views and excellent local cheese along the route.
You’ll have a range of lodging options along the GR20, although most will be at the PNRC-run refuges and nearly all will be “rustic” at best. We’ve outlined what you can expect from each option below.
If you prefer not to camp along the GR20, you’ll spend most of your nights in the park-run mountain huts (or refuges). These offer basic, dorm-style accommodation. Beds are provided, but you’ll need your own sleeping bag and pillow. All offer an evening meal and basic breakfast for an additional charge. The refuges vary in terms of their amenities; some refuges have hot showers, proper toilets, and electronics charging, while others have only a couple of cold showers and squat toilets. Refuges can be reserved through this website.
Refuge d’ I Paliri is one of the most beautiful along the GR20.
In addition to the PNRC Refuges, there are some privately-owned bergeries along the GR20. These are quite similar to the refuges in that they offer basic dorm-style accommodation and the option for half-pension (dinner and breakfast).
Auberge U Vallone is an example of the many bergeries you’ll encounter.
There are a few opportunities to stay in hotels while hiking the GR20, typically these opportunities arise when the trail brings you closer to civilization. These hotels offer the typical amenities you’d expect from this level of lodging, such as hot showers, private bathrooms, bedding and towels, and WiFi.
Lovely views from a room at the Casa Alta B&B in Vizzavona.
Renting a tent
Many GR20 hikers choose to stay in the “hire tents” that are available for rent at all of the refuges and most bergeries. This option costs less than sleeping in dorms, but more than camping with your own tent. Hire tents are typically the Quechua pop-up style for two or three people, and include a sleeping pad or mattress. They offer a good option for those who want the perks of camping (more privacy, less risk of bedbugs) without having to carry all of the gear. While you can reserve a place in a hire tent ahead of time, you cannot reserve a specific tent. The tents vary quite a bit in terms of location within the camping area, levelness of the pitch, and general niceness. Get there early to have your pick of the best tents.
Hire tents at Refuge de Petra Piana.
Carrying a tent
Carrying your own tent will cost you the least and give you the most flexibility. Wild camping is forbidden on the GR20 (with the exception of one designated spot between Refuges d’Usciolu and Refuge d’Asinau). However, you can pitch your tent outside all of the refuges along the route, and most of the bergeries and gites allow camping as well. Campers have access to all of the facilities at the refuges, including the toilets, showers, cooking areas, and meals. Carrying your own tent is the only accommodation option that does not require advance reservations. That being said, in the busy season you’ll still want to arrive at the campground early to snag a good spot. All of the camping pitches are definitely not created equal! Many pitches are uneven, rocky, and quite far from the facilities, and the campgrounds can get very full by about 4:00pm. If you’re considering carrying a tent, you’ll want to carefully weigh the benefits of added comfort and flexibility versus the added weight in your pack.
Carrying your own tent gives you more flexibility and freedom.
A few other things you should know about GR20 accommodation:
The GR20 is an extremely popular trail with limited accommodation options. Unless you are hiking very early or very late in the season, you can expect the refuges and campgrounds to be full at every stage of your hike. Hikers with their own tent do not need reservations (and we wouldn’t recommend making them), but all others-those using hire tents, those staying in dorms, and those staying in hotels- must make advance bookings.
Bookings can be made online at http://reserver.sitecresa.fr/centraleresa/parcnaturel and need to be paid in full to be confirmed. Wardens at the refuges expect you to print your reservation and present it upon arrival. If you need to change your reservation, you’ll need to call or email the PNRC using the information provided on your booking receipt. Reservations can be cancelled within 15 days of the initial booking date for a full refund.
Other Important Information:
–You need to provide your own toilet paper. Some refuges sell it, but it is not available everywhere. It pays to be prepared!
-Toilets, showers, and dormitories are almost always mixed gender.
–Bedbugs are a common problem in the refuges. Bring bedbug spray and be vigilant.
Wherever you choose to spend the night you can bet on waking up to a beautiful sunrise.
Corsica is known for a lot of great things, such as its mountains and beaches, but not necessarily for its well-connected, timely, easy-to-navigate transportation system. However, it is certainly possible to get to and from the GR20 without too many headaches, provided that you plan ahead and give yourself enough time. Check out our logistics article for all of the details.
The GR20 is extremely well-marked with red and white paint flashes every 20 feet or so. Keep a close eye out for markers, as sometimes the trail heads in seemingly improbable directions! The markers show you the easiest way up or down, so follow them closely, especially when scrambling. If you choose to take one of the many alternate route options, you can expect these trails to be less well-marked. We recommend carrying a map at all times and using a GPS.
Can you spot the next trail marker?
Money on the GR20
The most important thing you need to know here is that the GR20 is pretty much a cash-only economy. There are no ATMs along the route, not even in Calenzana and Conca at the endpoints, nor in Vizzavona at the midpoint. Therefore, it will be essential for you to estimate your expected daily costs (food and lodging), plus some cushion for transportation and other miscellaneous or unplanned items. Multiply your daily costs by how long you plan to be on the trail, again factoring in some cushion for rest days, bad weather, and your time in Calenzana and Conca. If you make 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.
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.
Unless you’re a cow you can’t camp for free!
What to Pack for the GR20
Deciding what to pack (and not pack) for the GR20 is one of the most crucial steps in preparing for a successful trek. The trail demands that you pull yourself up chains on sheer rock faces, squeeze through awkward gullies, and ascend and descend endless scree slopes. Trust us, this is hard enough without a big, bulky backpack throwing off your center of balance and increasing your overall exertion…no need to make it any harder than it has to be! The good news is, with a little strategic planning you can minimize your pack size while still having everything you need, and you don’t need to go out and buy all of the fanciest lightweight gear to do so.
A few of our top tips:
Only carry 1-2 days’ worth of food, since provisions can be purchased at every refuge.
Unless you are a passionate photographer, leave your bulky camera at home. Most smartphones take excellent pictures. Plus, you won’t have many chances to recharge a camera battery.
Only pack clothes that you absolutely need. Two shirts will be plenty, as you can rinse them out and dry them in the sun quite easily.
You can cook at the refuges, so you don’t need to carry much stove fuel (if any).
Bring trekking poles. They are invaluable on many of the steeper sections.
Many hotels will let you store extra luggage if you have an upcoming reservation with them.
Either hiking boots or trail runners will work, just make sure they are comfortable and supportive. They should be broken in a little, but otherwise fairly new (the gnarly GR20 trail conditions put a lot of wear and tear on shoes).
You’ll be happy to have a light backpack on steep trails like this.
Some of the refuges and other accommodations along the GR20 will allow you to charge your electronics, but there is a lot of variation from place to place. Many refuges require a small payment for charging (typically €2) and will only allow you to charge your phone (not your smartwatch, camera, etc). Others will do it for free and allow you unlimited access to plug in whatever you want. Still others only provide charging during a set time in the afternoon, due to the fact that they rely on solar. We’ve noted the availability of device charging within each stage of this guide. If you plan on using your phone for navigation, we strongly recommend bringing a battery backup or portable solar panel.
Cell Phone Service
Cell phone service is unreliable along the GR20. You might get signal at the high points on the trail and at some of the accommodations that are close to a road or town.WiFi is even less common; you’re only likely to find it at a few of the fancier hotels along the route.
Charging electronics can get a little crazy on the GR20!
A Stage-by-Stage Guide
Below you’ll find a brief description of every stage of the GR20 in terms of the accommodation options and services you can expect to find there. This guide is written for the typical north to south direction, but could easily be reversed.
Prices for accommodation at the PNRC Refuges are as follows:
Dorm Bed: €15 per person
Hire Tent: €11 per tent, plus €7 per person
Camping (bivouac) in personal tent: €7 per person
These prices are the same at every PNRC refuge, and therefore we haven’t listed prices for each individual refuge. For all other accommodations, prices have been noted in the guide whenever possible or links are provided fo r the most up-to-date information.
Stage Zero: Calenzana
We strongly recommend that you stay in Calenzana the night before starting your hike, as it’s essential to get an early start on stage one. Calenzana is a pretty town with a good range of accommodation options and services available. If you absolutely don’t want to spend a night in Calenzana, you could stay in Calvi and arrange an early taxi to the trailhead the next morning.
Accommodation in Calenzana:
Dorm beds and camping are available at the Gite d’Etape Communal on the edge of town. Contact them at 04 95 62 77 13 or firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations and prices.
There are also a few AirBnBs available in town which offer nice apartments for a reasonable price.
Services in Calenzana
There is a Spar Supermarket in town which sells a wide range of items, including stove fuel. A bus operated by Beaux Voyages which runs between Calenzana and Calvi, although it’s pretty infrequent (once or twice daily, depending on the time of year). There are several restaurants and bars in town offering everything from casual pizzas to hearty Corsican fare. A post office is located in the center of the village. Keep in mind that there is no ATM in Calenzana.
Calenzana is a great place to start your trek.
Stage One: Calenzana to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu
In his Cicerone Guide, author Paddy Dillon describes this first stage of the GR20 as a “baptism of fire” Personally, we think this is a little dramatic, but it’s certainly no cakewalk. Regardless of how tough your first day on the trail feels, you’ll be thrilled to get to Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu. With its friendly warden and sweeping sea views, it is the perfect introduction to your GR20 experience. When we hiked in 2019 the refuge building had recently burned down, but they were still providing a wide range of services and accommodation was available in hire tents (no dormitory though). There are many good, flat campsites available, most of which are on hard-packed dirt.
Hire tents, camping, warm(ish) showers, composting toilets, sinks, potable water available from a spring a few hundred yards down the trail, a small shop, a-la-carte food items (omelettes, charcuterie, sandwiches, etc) available until dinnertime, electronics charging possible (ask the warden), cell phone service, picnic tables.
Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu is known for its spectacular sunsets.
Stage Two: Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu to Refuge de Carozzu
PNRC Refuge de Carozzu is tucked into the woods in a way that gives it summer camp vibes. The refuge has a dormitory with 36 beds, as well as a kitchen and dining room. There are camping pitches in an open area next to the refuge, as well as dotted in the surrounding trees in every direction from the refuge. Keep in mind that the campground can get very crowded, making it difficult to find a good spot. The warden doesn’t arrive until 3:00pm, so if you get there earlier you can pitch your tent (or grab a hire tent) and pay later. There is a lovely terrace in front of the refuge with lots of picnic tables for enjoying the amazing views down the forested valley.
Dormitory, hire tents, camping, composting toilets, cold showers (available after 3pm), potable water, shop with very limited offerings, a-la-carte food items available all day, indoor kitchen, outdoor cooking area, sinks, clotheslines, picnic tables.
Views from the terrace at Refuge de Carozzu.
Stage Three: Refuge de Carozzu to Ascu Stagnu
Many hikers approach stage three with a sense of trepidation, as the trail requires the crossing of the Spasimata Slabs (nicknamed the “slabs of doom” by some hikers). These large, tilted rock slabs are set in a dramatic gorge, and they are fitted with chains and cables to aid crossing in some places. You can relax though; in dry conditions, especially when traveling uphill, they really aren’t scary at all and the surrounding gorge is seriously beautiful!
In any case, you’ll have earned a bit of luxury by the end of stage three, and that’s what you’ll get when you reach the Ascu Stagnu ski area (also known as Haute Asco). What it lacks in prettiness, it makes up for in services. In addition to the 32 dorm beds in the PNRC refuge, hikers can also stay in the Hotel le Chalet (€100 for a double room) or in a dorm bed in the hotel-run gite d’etape (€45 for half pension). Campers will have tons of good pitches to choose from. If camping, you can pay at the PNRC refuge and use its facilities.
All of the accommodation options offer indoor flush toilets, sinks with hot water, hot showers, and electronics charging. The refuge has a well-stocked shop, provides meals, and sells snacks, drinks, and charcuterie. It has a nice indoor kitchen with a wide assortment of pots, pans, dishes, and cutlery available, plus a large indoor dining room and some outdoor terrace seating. The refuge also has an outdoor cooking area and clothesline. There is a casual snack bar across the parking lot from the refuge which sells hot meals, drinks, and ice cream. There’s also a fancier restaurant and bar attached to the hotel. Transportation to the town Ponte Leccia can be arranged and laundry services are also available.
The PNRC Refuge at Haute Asco.
Stage Four: Ascu Stagnu to Auberge U Vallone or Refuge de Tighjettu
You’ll have two choices for your accommodation on stage four. The first option you’ll come across is the PNRC Refuge de Tighjettu, located on a hillside with big valley views. This is a good option if you want to stop a bit earlier (this stage is one of the longest and most difficult of the entire trek) or if you like the predictability of the PNRC Refuges. Tighjettu is also a bit less expensive than your other option, the Auberge U Vallone. If you continue another 30 minutes on the trail past Tighjettu, you’ll reach the privately-run Auberge. In all honesty, the place is a little odd, but the gorgeous views from the terrace, easy access to perfect rock pools, and piping hot showers more than compensate for its quirks.
Services at Tighjettu:
Dorm beds, hire tents,camping, showers (sometimes warm), toilets, indoor kitchen and dining area, potable water, small shop, meals, sinks.
Services at Vallone:
Hire tents and camping. Hot showers, flush toilets, terrace, potable water, electronics charging, very limited shop, restaurant, camping and hire tents available. There is no cooking area here, and camping costs €8.5o per person (if carrying your own tent). Reservations for hire tents can be made on their website.
On Stage 4 hikers will climb to Pointe des Eboulis, the highest point on the GR20.
Stage Five: Auberge U Vallone to Hotel Castel di Vergio
The Hotel Castel di Vergio is another example of a stop along the GR20 that you might just fall in love with, certainly not because of the natural beauty of its surroundings (there’s not much of that), but because of the little luxuries you’ll enjoy there. Due to its roadside location, the hotel shop is one of the best along the entire GR20 route, stocked with everything from duct tape and batteries to fresh produce and warm bread. The camping area is one of the few along the route that has nice soft grass (instead of hard packed dirt) on which to pitch one’s tent. It’s the little things in life, right?
Hot showers, electronics charging, cell service, flush toilets, sinks, potable water (available from the cooking area sink), well-stocked shop, and a bar and restaurant located in the nearby hotel. Camping (€7 per person) is available for those with their own tents, but there are no hire tents for rent. Lodging is available in the hotel (€100 for a double room) or in dorms in the gite (€20 per person). Both campers and those staying in the gite have the option for half pension. A complete list of prices and booking information can be found here.
The well stocked shop at Hotel Castel di Vergio.
Stage Six: Hotel Castel di Vergio to Refuge de Manganu
After the challenges of the first five stages, stage six is a welcome and relaxing change of pace. The hiking is capped off perfectly by a stay at the PNRC Refuge du Manganu. This small refuge is located on a scenic rocky outcrop and enjoys tranquil views of the valley below. There is a dorm with 21 beds, plus many hire tents and camping pitches scattered around the refuge. Despite its sprawling size, it can still get quite crowded and lines for the sinks and toilets are pretty common. Manganu has a fun and lively atmosphere- hikers gather on the rocks to drink beers and enjoy the views or to take a dip in the picture perfect rock pool below the refuge.
Dorm beds, hire tents, camping, composting toilets, sinks, potable water, electronics charging (€2), hot showers (€2 for six minutes), outdoor cooking area, a-la-carte snacks available all day, meals, and a shop with limited provisions for sale.
Kicking back at Refuge de Manganu.
Stage Seven: Refuge de Manganu to Refuge Petra Piana
PNRC Refuge Petra Piana gets a bad rep for its cold, cloudy, inhospitable location. In fact, many trekkers choose to double-up on stages and continue all the way to Refuge L’Onda in order to avoid staying at Petra Piana. It’s true that Petra Piana is often shrouded in layer of chilly fog, but it’s a charming spot nonetheless. The tiny refuge houses a small dorm and a cozy kitchen with a couple of picnic tables where hikers can gather to enjoy the warmth and camaraderie. If you decide to keep hiking instead of stopping at Petra Piana, be aware that there is no lodging available until you reach Refuge de l’Onda. Many trekkers mistakenly think they can stay at one of the bergeries along the way to L’Onda and end up setting themselves up for a much longer day than they anticipated.
Dormitory, hire tents, camping, squat toilets, sink, hot showers (€2 for six minutes), meals, small shop, well-stocked indoor kitchen, and potable water. No electronics charging. Credit cards may be accepted here.
The cozy kitchen at Refuge de Petra Piana.
Stage Eight: Refuge de Petra Piana to Refuge L’Onda
The setting for Refuge L’Onda couldn’t be more different than that of Petra Piana. Instead of the high, misty mountain top location of the previous stage, L’Onda sits down in a sunny, pastoral valley. There is a PNRC refuge up the hill, but most hikers choose to camp down in the valley next to the Bergeries L’Onda. In fact, unless you took the high-level variant to get there, you probably won’t even get close to the actual refuge. If you do intend to stay in the refuge, make sure to inquire ahead of time as it isn’t always open. If camping, hire tents are available, as well as grassy (though not super flat) pitches for those with their own tents. While you are technically camping at the bergeries, everything runs the same as at the PNRC campsites and prices are identical. Insider tip: though not immediately obvious, there are some lovely rock pools nearby, perfect for cooling off after a hot day on the trail!
The campsite next to the Bergeries has squat toilets, sinks, a cooking area with pots, pans, and dishware, showers (€2 for hot water, free if cold), lots of picnic tables, and a clothesline. The bergeries sells a la carte items all day, plus meals, and it offers a decent selection of provisions at its shop. The refuge has a small dormitory, kitchen, toilets, and showers.
You’ll pass through beautiful mountains and forested valleys on Stage 8 of your trek.
Stage Nine: Refuge L’Onda to Vizzavona
This is an exciting stage! In reaching Vizzavona, you’ll be marking the halfway point of the GR20. Better yet, you’ll get to celebrate this achievement with all of the luxuries that Vizzavona has to offer. In reality, Vizzanona is a tiny town with just a few hotels, restaurants, and a train station, but it is nevertheless a great place to spend the night or even take a rest day if you have the time. There is a range of accommodation available, from dirtbag to deluxe, but all options offer hot showers and electronics charging (things you’ll want at this point in the trek, trust us). With the exception of the campground, most places also provide WiFi, and many of the hotels offer a laundry service.
Hire tents, pitches, and dorm beds in a small gite are available at the L’Alzarella campsite on the edge of town. This campground has electronics charging, hot showers (€2.50), clothesline, sinks, toilets, a cooking area, and probably the best stocked shop on the entire GR20. It also accepts credit cards. The campground doesn’t take advance bookings, except for large groups. Camping costs €7.50 per person for campers with their own tents.
If you want to sleep indoors without spending a fortune, you have a couple of dorm-style accommodations to choose from. There is a refuge at the Bar Restaurant de la Gare, as well as at the Hotel Restaurant I Laricci (no website available). Expect to pay around €20 for either of these options.
For a little bit of luxury, we recommend staying at the Casa Alta B&B. The friendly owners go out of their way to make your stay special, the wooded setting is tranquil and beautiful, and the breakfast is ridiculously good. Another upscale option is the Hotel U Castellu.
There is also more lodging available in La Foce, which can be accessed by taking a shortcut before reaching Vizzavona.
It’s all downhill to Vizzavona from here!
Stage 10: Vizzavona to Bergeries d’E Capanelle
There are a few options for accommodation at this stage of the trek, although it can be a little tricky to figure out what they are. Upon arriving from the north, you’ll first come across the Gite d’Etape U Fagone (which also calls itself the Gite de Capanelle). This is the most convenient and popular place to spend the night. There are beds available in small chalets and large dormitories, plus hire tents and pitches available (although space is very limited).
Just above the gite, you’ll find the very small, very basic PNRC Refuge d’E Capanelle. This unstaffed refuge costs less than the other PNRC refuges, and can be paid for in the gite. Our guidebook said that free camping is permitted outside the refuge, but we found that to be false when we stayed there. All campers were required to pay at the gite. You can also travel up the road to reach the Gite d’Etape U Renosu, which has a few small dormitories and a camping area.
Services at Gite d’Etape U Fagone:
Hot showers, flush toilets, sinks, potable water, clothesline, restaurant serving al-la-carte items all day, meals, well-stocked shop, washing room, cell service, shady terrace with sea views. It costs €7 per person for camping, €10 per person for a hire tent, and €39 per person for half-pension in the gite. Reservations can be made on their website.
Services at Refuge d’E Capanelle:
Basic cooking area, picnic table, bunk beds. You’ll need to walk down to the gite to access toilets, water, and showers. Those camping outside the gite can use the cooking facilities in the refuge.
Services at Gite d’Etape U Renosu:
Toilets, hot showers, potable water, restaurant, small shop, and cell phone service. It’s €7 per person for camping and €38 per person for half-pension in the gite. Reservations can be made at +33 6 77 06 25 17.
Corsica’s legendary sunrises can make even the most unsightly ski areas look stunning!
Stage Eleven: E’Capanelle to Bocca di Verdi or Refuge de Prati
You’ll need to choose between two different accommodations at the end of stage eleven. There are a few factors to consider when deciding where to spend the night. First, it will depend on whether you take the classic low-level route on stage eleven or if you decide to tackle the high-level variant and the ascent of Monte Renosu. The high-level route is much longer and more challenging than the rather mellow low-level route. Therefore, if you took the classic low-level path on stage eleven, you might want to keep going past Bocca di Verdi to reach Refuge de Prati (another two hours uphill) to get a head start on the long day that awaits you on stage twelve.
Alternatively, if you took the high-level route, you will likely be more than ready to stop at Refuge Bocca di Verdi (Also known as Relais San Petru di Verde) rather than face another two hours of tough climbing after an already long and strenuous day. The other factor to consider is the nature of the facilities at each accommodation option. Refuge de Prati is a PNRC Refuge. Therefore, you can expect basic facilities and the usual prices. On the other hand, Bocca di Verdi is privately-run and provides much nicer facilities at a slightly higher cost (€8 per person for camping).
Services at Refuge de Prati:
Dormitory, large camping area with grassy pitches, hire tents, squat toilets, basic cold shower, meals, very limited shop, potable water.
Services at Bocca di Verdi:
Flush toilets (with toilet paper provided- a rare sight on the GR20!), hot showers, restaurant, meals, picnic tables, sinks, clothesline, potable water, small shop, cell phone service. Campers can use the kitchen in the main refuge building. Camping costs €8 per person and it’s about €40 per person for half-pension in the refuge. Beware of the aggressive pigs that wander the campsite in search of food! More information can be found on their website.
There are plenty of nice places to relax outside the Relais San Petru di Verdi, but watch out for hungry pigs!
Stage Twelve: Bocca di Verdi or Refuge de Prati to Refuge d’Usciolu
Those who claim the entire southern half of the GR20 is “easy” obviously haven’t completed stage twelve. Make no mistake, it is a big day and it’s even bigger if you started at Bocca di Verdi! Don’t worry though, you’ll have a real treat awaiting you at the PNRC Refuge d’Usciolu. This refuge and its charismatic warden are GR20 legends, and rightfully so. The shop is downright magical, offering a dazzling array of provisions and tasty treats from a tiny shack. The refuge itself boasts an equally magical setting, perched impossibly on a rocky hillside. The only downside of such a setting for campers is that they’ll find themselves hiking a long way up and down that steep rocky hillside to get from their tent pitch to the refuge and its facilities.
Dormitory, hire tents, camping pitches, composting toilets, cold showers, sinks for washing up, potable water, clothesline, outdoor cooking area, terrace with picnic tables, restaurant serving a-la-carte items, meals, amazing shop, electronics charging (ask the warden).
Refuge d’Uscoilu boasts an incredible mountainside location, but you may have to hike down the hill to find a good pitch!
Stage Thirteen: Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge de Matalza or Bergerie d’ I Croci
Here’s another stage where hikers will yet again be faced with several choices. The official GR20 route is broken up into two stages before it reaches Refuge d’Asinau, with Matalza as the first stopping point and Refuge d’Asinau on the following day. However, for those moving at a faster pace it’s possible to take an alternate trail directly from Refuge d’Usciolu to Refuge d’Asinau, effectively cutting out an entire day of hiking. If you opt to stick to the traditional path, you’ll still come across three options for accommodation. First, you’ll pass the Bergeries de Basetta. Keep in mind that if you choose to stop here, you’re in for a very short day with a significantly longer one the following day. Next, you’ll pass the PNRC Refuge de Matalza, which offers a small dorm and camping area. It doesn’t boast the high mountain vistas of some GR20 refuges, but the friendly warden and peaceful pastoral setting more than make up for it. Finally, if you walk another hour along the trail, you’ll reach the privately-owned Bergerie d’ I Croci. The benefits of pushing on to I Croci are the slightly more luxurious accommodations and head start the following day.
Services at Bergeries de Basetta:
Cabins, dormitory/dortoir, camping pitches, hire tents, well-stocked shop, restaurant, and transport off-trail. Camping is €10 for two people with their own tent, half pension in the dortoir is €38.50 per person, and it’s €43.50 per person for half-pension in a cabin. Reservations can be made at 06.27.25.95.33 o4 email@example.com
Services at Refuge de Matalza:
Dormitory, hire tents, camping pitches, toilets, sink, potable water, clothesline, lounge chairs, shady terrace, warm showers (much nicer than they look!), decent shop offerings, electronics charging for a set time period in the afternoon, and a cooking area.
Services at Bergerie d’ I Croci:
Dormitories, camping pitches, toilets, hot showers, potable water, restaurant, small shop, meals, transport to the town of Zicavo. Camping is €6 per person, and it costs €10 per person for a bed in the dormitory. Reservations can be made by calling 06 75 49 60 59 and 09 82 12 33 10 and more information is available on their website.
The “luxurious” showers at Refuge de Matalza.
Stage Fourteen: Refuge de Matalza to Refuge d’Asinau
After being destroyed by a fire a few years back, PNRC Refuge d’Asinau has recently been rebuilt and it’s quite cozy and tidy inside. It has a small dormitory, with space for camping both on the hillside behind the refuge and down below the front of the refuge (many people don’t realize there are pitches down there so you might score something really good!). This is another one of those places where your hiking never really ends for the day, as there’s a long, stony walk to get to the bathrooms and showers. Views from the terrace are wonderful.
Dormitory, hire tents, camping pitches, composting toilets, potable water, cold showers, very limited shop, meals, electronics charging (€2).
The trail is (thankfully!) a bit gentler on stage fourteen.
Stage Fifteen: Refuge d’Asinau to Village de Bavella or Refuge d’I Paliri
Stage fifteen officially ends at Village de Bavella, but if you’re camping, or if you want one last night at a (very beautiful!) PNRC Refuge, or if you want to get a head start on long final stage to Conca, you should keep hiking for about two more hours to the PNRC Refuge d’I Paliri. On the other hand, if you want to spend your last night on the GR20 in a more luxurious fashion, you’ll have your pick of gites and restaurants at Village de Bavella. It’s your final trail decision… it’s Conca or bust tomorrow!
Services at Village de Bavella:
Dorm beds are available either at Les Aiguilles de Bavella (€34 for half pension) or the Auberge du Col de Bavella (€45 for half pension). Both of these establishments also have restaurants. There is a well-stocked shop across the road from the Auberge du Col de Bavella. Bus and taxi services can be accessed from Village de Bavella.
Services at Refuge d’I Paliri:
Small dormitories, hire tents, camping pitches, squat toilets, showers (cold, very basic, and a loooong hike from camp-not recommended!), potable water (also need to hike down the trail for this), stunning views of rugged mountains and the sea in the distance, sinks, indoor and outdoor cooking areas, small shop, meals, and electronics charging (€2).
Views from the tent at Refuge d’I Paliri…Not a bad way to spend your last night on the trail!
Stage Sixteen: Village de Bavella or Refuge d’I Paliri to Conca
You did it! Upon reaching Conca, we sincerely hope you beeline to the first establishment that will sell you a cold beer (FYI-that place is called Bar le Soleil Levant) and toast to your amazing accomplishment. The GR20 is a seriously challenging hike, both mentally and physically, and those who complete it have really achieved something special. Once you’ve enjoyed a celebratory cold one with your fellow badass hikers, you’ll need to think about moving on. If you want to leave Conca that same day, the Bar le Soleil Levant and the Gite d’Etape La Tonnelle offer shuttle services to Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio, where you can catch buses to Bastia, Ajaccio, or Porto Vecchio. You may be able to arrange direct service to Porto Vecchio (instead of transferring at Sainte Lucie) as well.
If you want to spend the night in Conca, we think that you’ll find it to be quite a nice little town. You can either stay at the more upscale Hotel San Pasquale(around €90 for a double room) or the budget-friendly Gite d’Etape La Tonnelle, which has rooms for 2-5 people and a 7-person dorm (€40 per person for half-pension),and camping (€7 per person). Hire tents are also available for €14 per person.
Services at Conca:
Both the Hotel and Gite have restaurants. There are two small shops in town, as well as a post office. The gite and the hotel also offer a laundry service. You can arrange transport to Sainte Lucie de Porto Vecchio through the gite.
You’ll enjoy fabulous views of the mountains and the Mediterranean until the very end of your trek.
We hope the information in this guide leaves you feeling confident and prepared to tackle the GR20, one of the world’s finest treks. Be sure to check out all of our awesome GR20 resources, and as always, post your questions and feedback in the comments below. Happy trails!
The Tour du Mont Blanc 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…
The Tour du Mont Blanc 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. This post will provide all of the TMB navigational resources you need to familiarize yourself with the route, location, and all things map-related so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle this epic adventure!
The Tour du Mont Blanc is an approximately 101 mile/162 km trek that takes walkers around Mont Blanc and through France, Italy, and Switzerland. The closest major city to the TMB is Geneva, Switzerland. The route passes through seven mountain valleys (Val d’Arve, Val d’Montjoie, Vallee des Glaciers, Val Veni, Italian Val Ferret, Swiss Val Ferret, and Vallee du Trient) and is typically completed in 11 stages.
The TMB is traditionally hiked in a counter-clockwise 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. The TMB also passes through the French towns of Les Contamines, Les Chapieux, and Tre-le-Champ, the Italian town of Courmayeur, and the Swiss towns of La Fouly and Champex. The stages for the traditional counter-clockwise route are as follows:
Stage 1: Les Houches to Les Contamines
Stage 2: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux
Stage 3: Les Chapieux to Rifugio Elisabetta
Stage 4: Rifugio Elisabetta to Courmayeur
Stage 5: Courmayeur to Rifugio Bonatti
Stage 6: Rifugio Bonatti to La Fouly
Stage 7: La Fouly to Champex
Stage 8: Champex to Col de la Forclaz
Stage 9: Col de la Forclaz to Tre-le-Champ
Stage 10: Tre-le-Champ to Refuge La Flegere
Stage 11: Refuge La Flegere to Les Houches
While for many the mere mention of Mont Blanc conjures up images of the famous French mountaineering town of Chamonix, the route of the TMB does not actually go through the town, instead taking a trail high above the Chamonix Valley.
In addition to the traditional route, the Tour du Mont Blanc also includes several ‘alternates’. These trails still connect the same start and finish points, but take walkers on a different route between the two points. Alternates can be used to add challenge, avoid certain sections, or lengthen/shorten a particular stage. The map below shows the common alternate routes on the TMB.
Interactive Tour du Mont Blanc Map
The interactive Tour du Mont Blanc 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 TMB. You can click on each stage to see the total length, listed in both kilometers and miles.
How long is the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The Tour du Mont Blanc is approximately 101 miles or 162.5 kilometers long. This is based on following the traditional route and not taking any shortcuts or alternates. Of course, few if any walkers will stick to this route exactly. You could easily walk less or more depending on your preferences, route choices, and the conditions encountered on the trail.
The maps below show the approximate distance of each stage in miles as well as kilometers. For more detail on each stage be sure to check out our interactive map in the section above!
What is the elevation profile of the Tour du Mont Blanc?
Over all 11 stages, the Tour du Mont Blanc has approximately 37,000 feet or 11,300 meters of elevation change! That averages out to over 3,300 feet or 1,000 meters of elevation change per stage for those who complete the walk in 11 days. Of course, there will be days with more elevation gain and days with less. Given that the TMB is a loop trail, you’ll ascend and descend the exact same amount over the course of your trek.
The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the Tour du Mont Blanc is like in terms of total elevation change and distance. On the charts elevation is shown on the left hand side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 11 stage TMB route, with the stop name shown at the top.
The steepness of the line between any two points shows 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 Tre-le-Champ to La Flegere is rather short in distance, while the stage from Les Contamines to Les Chapieux has a lot of elevation gain.
Which maps should I carry on the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The TMB is a very well marked trail with frequent signs and trail markers. As a result, when we hiked the TMB we did not rely heavily on any of the various paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred to utilize GPS maps on our phones, as described in the next section. However, that doesn’t mean we didn’t bring paper maps with us. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery or you drop it in a puddle you’ll be glad you had your handy paper maps to rely on.
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 Tour du Mont Blanc 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 TMB as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.
As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while hiking the TMB. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also isn’t reliant on a cell phone signal to display the map. Our How to Navigate on the TMB post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your Tour du Mont Blanc map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.
We firmly believe that every trail has unique rewards to anyone who is lucky enough to wander along them. Some trails grant the satisfaction of summiting high peaks or passes,…
We firmly believe that every trail has unique rewards to anyone who is lucky enough to wander along them. Some trails grant the satisfaction of summiting high peaks or passes, others promise stark and beautiful solitude, while still others transport their walkers to incredible vistas and uncommon places. If you’re searching for a rugged and demanding high mountain trek, the Lechweg isn’t for you. Instead, the Lechweg gently meanders its way through a variety of landscapes as it follows the wild Lech River from its alpine source, across country borders, and to its terminus in the beautiful hills of Bavaria. It isn’t without challenges, however, and it certainly promises to be a rewarding and unforgettable experience for all who walk it. This is a hike that will appeal to a wide range of walkers: nature lovers, less experienced walkers, dedicated backpackers, gastrophiles, history buffs, and truly anyone who appreciates the good life. If you want to spend your days wandering through mossy forests, passing alpine lakes and crumbling castles, viewing the rushing turquoise river, visiting quaint, friendly villages, and tasting fantastic food, this hike surely won’t disappoint!
Looking back towards Lech from the trail.
We walked the Lechweg over six days in late July 2019. This was the third of five treks that would make up our “trip of a lifetime” round the world adventure. After completing the Laugavegur Trail and then the Haute Route, we welcomed the mellower profile of the Lechweg. Despite its good underfoot conditions and its relatively flat nature, we still felt plenty challenged by the fast pace at which we completed the trek (averaging 13 miles per day) and the added effort of camping along the way. As with all of our long-distance treks, we chose to camp as much as possible along the Lechweg. We prefer camping for its budget-friendly nature, flexibility, and because it allows us to maximize our time outdoors in the wild places we’re experiencing. We had a great time camping on the Lechweg and we highly recommend it to others. When we began researching the Lechweg,we found very little information out there, especially when it came to camping. This is a relatively new trail (opened in 2012), and hikers are still discovering its awesomeness. We hope this guide will be helpful for our fellow tent-dwellers as they plan for their own Lechweg adventure!
Lake Formarinsee and the start of the Lechweg Trail.
A bit about the hike:
Direction: The Lechweg is traditionally walked northeast from Lech, Austria to Füssen, Germany. This trajectory allows hikers to follow the Lech River from its source at Lake Formarinsee down to its terminus at the Lechfall. Since it follows the flow of the river, the trail is predominantly downhill in this direction. We hiked the Lechweg in the traditional northeast fashion and enjoyed watching the river and landscape change along the way. We didn’t feel that it was too much downhill walking (it’s mostly flat with some undulating sections). You could easily hike in the other direction, however. It would be a bit more challenging, as you’d be generally hiking uphill the entire way, but it’s still very doable. If you hiked southwest, you could simply reverse the itinerary and wouldn’t need to make any major changes to the route or logistics. You’ll see plenty of other hikers going both ways, but we never found the trail to be overly crowded in either direction.
When to do it: The general season for hiking the Lechweg typically lasts from mid-June through early October, although this window is subject to some variability, especially at the higher elevations. You can usually hike the sections between Steeg and Füssen in May, which is a good option if you wanted to do a shorter variation and skip the snowier stages between Steeg and Formarinsee. Most of the accommodation you’ll find along the Lechweg is open year-round (including the campgrounds).
All prices listed in this guide are per person, per day.
Campers will obviously need to carry more than other hikers, but you should still make every effort to only bring absolute necessities and keep your pack weight down.
This guide is based on a fast-paced 6-day itinerary. There are many itinerary options, ranging from 6-8 days, but the itinerary we recommend in our guide will allow you to camp as much as possible.
According to the official Lechweg website, wild camping in along the trail is prohibited by law. Fortunately, there are official campsites that are easily accessible along the route. 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. If you choose to wild camp, set up after dusk, pack up at dawn, and utilize leave no trace practices. As the trail remains close to civilization for a large portion of your hike, wild camping would be very difficult in many places. In this guide, we noted areas where it would be particularly easy or hard to wild camp.
Reservations are not necessary for any of the campgrounds along the Lechweg. If you’re worried about getting a good pitch, try to get to the campground before 5:00pm and you should be just fine.
Overall, food and water are plentiful along the route. However, you’ll need to be a bit strategic if you want to save money by purchasing your food at grocery stores instead of spending a fortune on restaurant meals. We’ve noted the availability of shops and services along each stage of the Lechweg. Use this guide to plan ahead and stock up ahead of longer stretches without shops. Keep in mind that most stores are closed on Sundays. In terms of water, we filled our hydration bladders in the morning and carried 2-3 liters per day (it was quite hot when we hiked). All of the campgrounds provide potable water. On most days you’ll pass through towns with public water fountains, but this is certainly not guaranteed on every stage of the walk.
Flat grassy pitches and mountain views. What more could you want?
A Note on Camping:
If you are wanting to camp along every stage of the Lechweg, you’ll need to be a bit strategic, as camping options are limited on some parts of the trail. There are no official campsites until you reach just past the village of Häselgehr (Camping Rudi). The first stage of the Lechweg begins at Lake Formarinsee and terminates in the town of Lech. We saw a few possible wild camping spots near Formarinsee and also a few miles past Lech. Keep in mind however, that wild camping is technically not permitted. Additionally, there is quite a bit of agricultural land in this area, so make sure to ask the landowner’s permission before pitching your tent near grazing cattle or farmland. Further past Lech, wild camping becomes pretty difficult, since you’re never far from civilization. If you want to camp, but only in official campsites, you have the option of using one campsite as a base and then taking the bus (Bus 110 runs between Lech and Reutte and you can the tourist card provided by your accommodation to ride for free) to the start of your hiking stage each day. If you choose this option, we recommend choosing Camping Vorderhornbach, due to the fact that it has the nicest facilities and easiest proximity to the bus stop.
Of course, your other option is to stay indoors for the first three stages of your Lechweg walk and camp for the second half. We opted to stay in an AirBnb in Stubenbach (a small village just south of Lech) and use it as a base for completing the first two stages. We stayed in a hotel in Steeg, and then camped from that point onwards. This was a great way to balance luxury with frugality, and it allowed us to thru-hike the trail more flexibly without worrying about the bus schedule or reservations for the later stages of the hike.
The first few stages on the Lechweg take hikers through higher mountains.
Day One: Formarinsee to Lech
Camping Availability: None
As mentioned above, you might be able to wild camp near Formarinsee or on the outskirts of Lech, but there are no official campgrounds on this stage. For budget accommodation, consider staying in Stubenbach, which is a smaller more affordable town next to Lech. You could also stay at the Freiburger Hütte before beginning the first stage of your hike. This is a cozy, friendly spot with beautiful views of the lake.
Nearby: There are two grocery stores in Lech, as well as an outdoor retailer, bakeries, ATM, restaurants, a post office, and bus stop. Other than bus stops, there are no services available in Formarinsee or Stubenbach.
The first stage of the Lechweg Trail finishes in the lovely village of Lech, Austria.
Day Two: Lech to Steeg
Camping Availability: None
Despite the lack of camping availability, we recommend spending a night in Steeg if you’re able to. This was one of the most charming towns we visited on our walk, and it has a variety of options for accommodation and services.
Nearby: Grocery store, bus stop, restaurants, ATM, fromagerie.
If you’re up for a long day (17 miles), you can finally reach your first real campground on this stage of the walk! The lovely Camping Rudi is located a bit past Häselgehr, and requires a short detour from the trail. Despite a recent fire which damaged the original facilities, the campground still provides very nice toilets and showers in a portable structure. They are in the process of building new facilities in the near future. The campground, like most along the Lechweg, is dominated by caravans and camping vans, but there is a nice grassy area with plenty of flat spaces to pitch a tent.
Price: €8.60 per person + €4 for small tents + €1.30 tourist tax per person (cash only)
Services: Hot showers, toilets (soap and toilet paper provided), room for washing up, small covered sitting area, outlets in bathrooms, and free wifi. Ice cream, beer, and stove fuel are available for sale at the reception. Bread and pastries can be ordered for the morning. Trash and recycling available. Tourist card provided (includes bus pass).
Nearby: There are no shops or other services near the campground. You’ll need to walk about 15 minutes to reach the bus stop.
Day Four: Camping Rudi to Vorderhornbach
If you’re feeling tired after the long distances you’ve covered over the previous days, you’ll be happy to know that it’s just a short hike to reach Camping Vorderhornbach. Even though today’s walk will likely take you less than three hours, Camping Vorderhornbach is the most practical next stop for campers. Plus, with its excellent facilities, it’s the perfect place to spend an afternoon off.
Price: €9 per person + €12.50 per tent + €1.40 per person tourist tax.
Services: Very nice facilities including showers with hot water, sinks for washing, and an indoor space with coffee machine. Free wifi available throughout along with restaurant, beer garden, laundry drying racks, and swimming pool (additional cost). Bread and pastries can be ordered for the morning.
Nearby: There is a bus stop and a restaurant in the town of Vorderhornbach, which is a ten-minute walk from the campground. There are no shops within walking distance of the campground, however.
The Lech River widens as you make your way towards Fussen.
Day Five: Vorderhornbach to Reutte
In order to camp on this stage of the Lechweg, you’ll need to detour from the trail a bit (the detour takes about half an hour). Reutte, although not officially on the Lechweg, is worth a visit. There are multiple supermarkets, several cute cafes, shops, and good restaurants. The campground is a sprawling collection of caravans with retro-looking facilities (which are rather far from the tent pitches), but it is a convenient stop before your final stage on the Lechweg. Keep in mind that getting to Reutte requires another long day of walking, as well as the additional 30 or so minutes you’ll spend walking back to rejoin the trail the following day.
Price: €10 per person + €2.00 per person tourist tax (cash only)
Services: Toilets (TP and soap provided), sinks with hot and cold water, washing up room, covered area near tent pitches with picnic tables and clotheslines, hot showers (€0.5 for 4min or €1 for 8 min), washing machine and dryer, restaurant, free WiFi available near reception, and sauna.
Nearby: There are a few supermarkets and an ATM within 15 minutes’ walk from the campground. There is a bus stop 5 minutes away. It’s about a 25 minute walk to the shops, cafes, and restaurants in the city center.
Quaint villages and lovely flowers along the Lechweg.
Day Six: Reutte to Füssen
Upon completing your Lechweg trek, it would be quite understandable (and well deserved) if you opted to splurge on indoor accommodation in Füssen. That’s what we did, staying at the lovely, moderately priced, and centrally located Hotel Ludwigs. However, if you prefer to camp, Camping Brunnen is located a bit outside of town, but can be easily accessed via the #78 bus.
Price: €12.10 per person + €1.90 visitor tax per person + €9-15 per tent (depending on type of pitch)
Services: Toilets, hot showers, spa access, laundry, dish washing room, electronics charging, restaurant, beer garden, mini-mart, wifi, and bicycle rentals.
Nearby: The campsite is located on the shores of Lake Forggensee. Although there’s not much in terms of services in the surrounding area, this large campsite has its own restaurant and shop, and it’s about a 10-minute walk to the bus stop.
The magical town of Fussen and official finish of the Lechweg.
The Lechweg Trail is a truly unique and beautiful hike that can be customized to all paces, abilities, styles, and budgets. Like so many other great walks, we believe it is best experienced by carrying your tent and spending as many nights under the stars as possible. Hopefully this guide will help and inspire you to embark on your own Lechweg adventure!
Take a visual tour along the Haute Route in anticipation of your upcoming adventure! The Haute Route traverses 112 miles of the French and Swiss Alps and takes you through…
Take a visual tour along the Haute Route in anticipation of your upcoming adventure! The Haute Route traverses 112 miles of the French and Swiss Alps and takes you through a stunning array of landscapes. Walking from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn brings an endless array of unforgettable sights and vistas.
Be sure to check out the rest of our Haute Route posts below:
At first glance, the Haute Route might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing two very expensive and staying in the many “quaint” (read:…
At first glance, the Haute Route might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing two very expensive and staying in the many “quaint” (read: pricey) resort towns along the way? Buying enough food to fuel yourself through day after day of long miles on the trail? Doesn’t seem cheap, does it? The beautiful thing about the Walker’s Haute Route, however, is that it’s pretty much up to you how expensive you want to make it. There are hikers who choose to spend more to take guided tours, stay in private rooms at upscale hotels and huts, and buy all of their meals at restaurants along the way. Others take the extremely frugal route, camping as much as possible, cooking their own meals, and minimizing expenses wherever they can.
We tend to travel on the frugal side, as we enjoy the simplicity and authentic experiences that go hand in hand with this type of travel. That being said, we’re not claiming the most hardcore budget travelers out there; we certainly allow ourselves to indulge in things that bring value to our experience, such as a post-hike beer or an Airbnb on our rest day. Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2019 Walker’s Haute Route adventure, as well as some tips for keeping your expenses down . We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that an experience like the Haute Route is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!
Note: We’ve listed most prices in Swiss Francs, since that’s the currency you’ll use for the majority of the trek. When applicable, we’ve listed prices in Euros and U.S. dollars as well.
You’ll need to bring a bigger pack if you want to camp, but the freedom and money-saving perks of packing your tent are pretty unbeatable!
We chose to camp as much as possible along the Walker’s Haute Route and we highly recommend it to others for a number of reasons. First, many of the campgrounds are quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We also preferred the privacy of our tent versus the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of the huts. Sleeping outdoors in such spectacular alpine surroundings became a highlight of our trip. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! There are a few places along the Haute Route where there are no official campgrounds. For those situations, we opted to either stay in the mountain huts, which offered amazing ambiance for a reasonable price, or to wild camp along the trail. In general, wild camping is discouraged (and sometimes illegal) along the Haute Route, so if you choose this option make sure to ask permission before camping on private land, use leave no trace principles, and be as discrete as possible. We also stayed in an Airbnb for our rest day in Les Hauderes, which proved to be a wonderful treat after roughing it for so many days. Here’s a breakdown of our accommodation spending:
Average Hut Price: 40 CHF (dorm only) or 80 CHF (half pension)
Average Campsite Price: 15 CHF (per person)
Hotel in Chamonix for before the hike: €85 (per night)
Airbnb in Les Hauderes for our rest day: 70 CHF (per night)
Average Price of dorm bed in a dortoir: 35 CHF (per person)
Mid-range hotel in Zermatt for after the hike: 150 CHF (per night)
Shower at a mountain hut: 5 CHF for 5 minutes
Staying at Cabane du Mont Fort isn’t the cheapest option out there, but the views from the terrace are worth every penny!
Bus from Geneva to Chamonix: €20 (per person, one-way)
Train from Zermatt to Geneva Airport: 55 CHF (per person, one-way)
Local ride between towns on the Postbus: 3-8 CHF (per person, one-way)
*Alaska Airlines is a partner with IcelandAir, thus allowing us to use their miles to purchase our tickets. Unfortunately, the amount of miles required for this trip has increased since the time we booked our flights.
Food and Drink
You may be backpacking through rugged mountains, but that doesn’t necessitate spending a small fortune on fancy freeze-dried meals. We preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the Walker’s Haute Route. We tended to eat ramen noodles or local cheese, sausage, and bread for most dinners. For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins, which we purchased copious amounts of whenever we found them at reasonable prices along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli and instant coffee. As much as possible, we’d pick up some fresh fruit and veggies from a local shop. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than those space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!
On average, we spent about 8-12 CHF per person, per day on our food and drink.
Of course, we allowed ourselves a few treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay, on average, for the following items and indulgences:
At a restaurant or mountain hut:
Beer: 5 CHF
Bottle of wine: 30 CHF
Meal: 20-30 CHF (per person)
Coffee: 4 CHF
Pastry: 6 CHF
Packed lunch from mountain hut: 10 CHF
At a grocery store:
Ramen/Instant Meal: 2-3 CHF
Loaf of bread: 2 CHF
Cheap Beer: 1 CHF
Cheap bottle of wine: 3 CHF
Block of local cheese: 3 CHF
1 kg bag of Muesli: 3 CHF
Bag of peanuts: 2-4 CHF
Pre-packaged sandwich: 5 CHF
Money saving tip: If you choose to stay at the mountain huts, be sure to ask them if you can self-cater instead of paying for half-board. At most huts, the price is double if you want meals included. Sure, they typically serve pretty tasty food, but for half the cost we were happy to cook our own food. Plus, some huts (like Cabane du Mont Fort) even have a small kitchen area that you can use.
Self-catering at the mountain huts gives you a chance to eat outside and enjoy the views!
Luggage transport from Chamonix to Zermatt (via the post-see our logistics article for more on this): €46
Average Tourist Tax (paid at every accommodation): 1.5-4 CHF (per person)
A sink and a clothesline offer a budget-friendly alternative for getting those stinky hiking clothes clean(er)!
As you can see, we happily teetered between dirtbag and deluxe on our Walker’s Haute Route trek. While there’s no escaping the high costs of some essentials, in general, one can experience the Haute Route on a modest budget (and enjoy some excellent wine and cheese while doing so). Obviously, you’ll also want to factor in the cost of hiking gear that you’ll need to purchase prior to setting off on your trek. Check out our packing list to get an idea of what you might need to purchase ahead of time. Also, our Backpacking Gear on a Budget article has some helpful ideas for keeping your costs low when putting together your backpacking kit. Whether you choose to splurge or keep it simple, we feel confident you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime.
Be sure to read our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!
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!
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 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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Reykjavik Excursions provides easy access to and from the Laugavegur Trail.
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. Additionally, we recommend turning your smartphone into a GPS device, using an application like Gaia GPS or Maps.me. This will allow you to see your precise location, as well as the overall trail map, all without using cell service. This post explains how to set your phone up to work as a GPS for the Tour du Mont Blanc hike, but the same method could be used for the Laugavegur.
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.
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.
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.
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 crampedcozy 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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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!
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!
A soak in the hot springs at Landmannalaugar is a must!
Be sure to read our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!
At first glance, Laugavegur Trail may seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. After all, Iceland has a reputation for being one of the most…
At first glance, Laugavegur Trail may seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. After all, Iceland has a reputation for being one of the most expensive countries in the world. There’s no doubt that it’s not a cheap place to travel, but those on a budget need not despair. In fact, trekking the Laugavegur might be one most affordable ways to see the best of Iceland, if you know what you’re doing.
We tend to travel on the frugal side, as we enjoy the simplicity and authentic experiences that go hand in hand with this type of travel. That being said, we’re not claiming the most hardcore budget travelers out there; we certainly allow ourselves to indulge in things that bring value to our experience, such as a post-hike beer or a hotel room on our rest day. Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2019 Laugavegur adventure, as well as some tips for keeping your expenses down. We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that an experience like the Laugavegur is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!
Looking over the hut and campground at Landmannalaugar.
We chose to camp along the Laugavegur Trail and we highly recommend it to others for a number of reasons. First, there is camping available at every hut along the trail, making easy to customize your itinerary. Unlike the huts, you don’t need to reserve your campsite in advance, affording you flexibility while hiking. The campgrounds provide drinking water, sinks, toilets, showers, and small shops, making them quite convenient and mildly luxurious. We also preferred the privacy of our tent versus the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of the huts. Sleeping outdoors in such spectacular surroundings became a highlight of our trip. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! In you decide to stay in the huts instead, expect to pay a bit more. However, many hikers who’ve chosen to stay in huts have found it to be well worth the extra money for a warm, dry place to end the day and for the ability to carry a much lighter pack. Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for either accommodation:
Average Hut Price: 9,000 ISK (per person)
Average Camping Price: 2,000 ISK (per person)
Shower at huts: 500 ISK (5 minutes)
Hostel in Skogar: 6,500 ISK (per person for dorm bed)
Average mid-range hotel in Reykjavik: 18,000 ISK
The hut at Hrafntinnusker.
Round-trip transport between the Laugavegur Trail and Reykjavik (via the Reykjavik Excursions “Hiker Pass”): 14,000 ISK (per person)
Strateo (public) bus between Skogar and Reykjavik: 5,640 ISK (per person-one way)
Strateo bus from Keflavik Airport (KEF) to central Reykjavik: 1,880 ISK (per person-one way)
Private Transfer from Keflavik Airport (KEF) to central Reykjavik: 3,449 ISK (per person-one way)
*Alaska Airlines is a partner with IcelandAir, thus allowing us to use their miles to purchase our tickets. Unfortunately, the amount of miles required for this trip has increased since the time we booked our flights.
Food and Drink
Iceland’s reputation for being expensive is largely due to the pricey nature of food and drink. While preparing for our trip, we came across tales of tourists bringing extra suitcases full of food from home and of people swearing that you couldn’t find fresh produce anywhere in the country without paying a king’s ransom. These reports are certainly unfairly dramatic. In general, you can find decent prices on necessities at the grocery stores in bigger cities, such as bread, cheeses, and other staple items. We found that Budget and Krónan stores had the best prices. Produce is expensive, but once again, you can find reasonably priced items if you’re willing to keep it simple and be somewhat flexible.
Outdoor dining at its finest!
However, since you can’t buy much food along the trail anyways, you may want to consider bringing some of your hiking foods from home. This will ensure that you’ll have a better selection and more predictable prices. Obviously, you can only bring sealed, packaged items through customs, but that jives well with nonperishable hiker foods anyways. We brought all of our meals for the trek from home, and it definitely saved us some money. If you choose to buy your food once you get there, be sure to stock up on as much as possible while in Reykjavik. The huts (with the exception of the restaurants at Álftavatn and Þórsmörk) do not provide meals, which is helpful on the budget since eating out in Iceland tends to be insanely expensive! Most huts have a small shop stocked with candy, chips, soda, beer, and sometimes ramen, but you’ll still need to cook it yourself and the prices at these shops are quite high. This is understandable, considering the effort it takes to get a Twix bar from the point of production to a remote location in the far reaches of the Icelandic wilderness! Below we’ve listed what you can expect to pay for a variety of items along the trail and in Reykjavik in order to give you an idea of what things might cost:
At a grocery store in Reykjavik:
Loaf of sandwich bread: 350 ISK
Bag of muesli: 800 ISK
Block of cheese: 400 ISK
Package of noodle soup: 500 ISK
At a shop in the huts:
Beer: 1,300 ISK
Bag of chips: 500 ISK
Candy bar: 400 ISK
Cup of noodles: 700 ISK
Meal at Álftavatn or Þórsmörk: 3,500 ISK
The Mountain Mall at Landmannalaugar – a great place to pick up snacks.
Stove Fuel: 1,500 ISK
Laundry: 500 ISK for wash + another 500 ISK for dryer
Luggage storage (medium sized locker) at the BSI Bus terminal in Reykjavik: 990 ISK per day
While there’s no escaping the high costs of some essentials, in general, one can experience the Laugavegur Trail on a modest budget (and have an amazing experience while doing so). Obviously, you’ll also want to factor in the cost of hiking gear that you’ll need to purchase prior to setting off on your trek. Check out our packing list to get an idea of what you might need to purchase ahead of time. Also, our Backpacking Gear on a Budget article has some helpful ideas for keeping your costs low when putting together your backpacking kit. Whether you choose to splurge or keep it simple, we feel confident you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime.
Ready to keep planning your Laugavegur trek? Be sure to read our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!