Walker’s Haute Route Logistics

Many of the small details of planning for the Walker´s Haute Route (WHR) can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing Fenêtre d’Arpette will be difficult,…

Many of the small details of planning for the Walker´s Haute Route (WHR) can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing Fenêtre d’Arpette will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the airport in Geneva to your hotel in Chamonix. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own Walker’s Haute Route adventure.

The official start of the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Starting the Walker’s Haute Route: Getting to Chamonix from the Geneva Airport

The vast majority of hikers choose to walk the WHR in the traditional direction from Chamonix to Zermatt, and therefore most international travelers will get to the start of their hike by first flying into the Geneva Airport (GVA). There are frequent flights to Geneva from the rest of Europe as well as a good number of flights from the U.S. Most U.S. flights arrive early in the morning, leaving you with ample time to get to Chamonix that same day. Once you’ve landed in Geneva, you’ll have several options for getting to Chamonix, outlined below:

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

If you plan on returning to Chamomix upon finishing the Haute Route, you can purchase a return ticket. Most transport services offer discounts for booking a round-trip ticket.

Ending the Walker’s Haute Route: Zermatt to Geneva or  Zermatt to Zurich

Being a point-to-point hike (versus a loop), the Walker’s Haute Route presents hikers with slightly trickier travel logistics.  Fortunately, upon finishing your hike in Zermatt, you’ll have many options continuing onward to your next destination. Although Zermatt is a car-free town, it is well connected by train to many other cities and transit centers. Most international hikers will either return to the Geneva airport or travel on to Zurich to catch their flight home.

Getting from Zermatt to the Geneva Airport

By far the best way to get to GVA is to take the SBB train. There are private taxi services that will pick you up from the town of Täsch (the closest place to Zermatt that permits vehicles), but you’ll still need to take the train from Zermatt to Täsch and these services are extremely expensive. In general, the Swiss train service, SBB, is excellent, timely, and easy to navigate.  You can take the train all the way from Zermatt to GVA, although you’ll need to transfer in Visp. Trains run hourly from Visp to GVA and even more frequently from Zermatt to Visp. The whole journey typically takes around 3-4 hours and costs 40-60 CHF per person (depending on the time and type of ticket). By booking in advance, you might be eligible to purchase a supersaver discounted ticket.

Getting from Zermatt to Zurich

After finishing the Walker’s Haute Route, many hikers choose to travel out of Zurich because of its proximity to Zermatt and/or to experience another great Swiss city before heading home. Just like if you’re traveling to Geneva, the SBB train is the best way to go. You’ll need to transfer in Visp, and the entire journey takes between 3-4 hours and typically costs 50-60 CHF. Trains run hourly from Zermatt, and supersaver tickets may be available if you book in advance.

It’s a lot easier to travel by train out of Zermatt than it is to hike into it!

 

Where to Stay Before and After the Walker’s Haute Route

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the Haute Route, you’ve surely got your tent packed up and ready to go. While you’ll be doing plenty of camping during your hike, you may enjoy sleeping in a real bed both before and after the WHR. 

Before Your Hike:

Many hikers choose to stay in Chamonix before setting off on the Walker’s Haute Route, but Les Houches is a great option, too. Below are some of the best accommodation options in the Chamonix Valley for getting some good rest before beginning the WHR:

Chamonix

Hotel Le Morgaine – We have stayed multiple times at this lovely hotel before and after various trekking adventures. We found the rooms to be spacious, the staff very friendly, and the location excellent. Room rates are also quite reasonable.

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

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

AirBnB: There are many different accommodation options available in the Chamonix Valley on Airbnb. You’ll find everything from luxurious chalets to rooms in a shared house, depending on your needs and your budget. You can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay by registering here.

View from our Airbnb in Les Houches.

 

Les Houches

The smaller, quieter (and often less pricey) town of Les Houches is also a great place to stay before starting the WHR. There are frequent bus and train connections between Les Houches and Chamonix, and both transit options are free with the tourist card provided by your accommodation. We chose to stay in Les Houches before hiking the WHR and enjoyed the low key atmosphere.

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

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

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

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

 

Booking.com

After Your Hike:

Zermatt

There is nothing quite like a soft mattress and hot shower after nearly two weeks of trekking! Below we’ve provided a range of accommodation options in Zermatt to suit a variety of tastes and budgets:

Hotel Walliserhof Zermatt 1896: This hotel boasts a convenient central location and traditional Alpine charm. The beautiful sauna and hot tub are welcome indulgences for sore muscles!

Hotel Bellerive: This hotel is also close to the city center, has great views, a spa area with steam and sauna, and a fantastic breakfast.  

Zermatt Youth Hostel: For budget accommodation that isn’t a tent, this hostel is an excellent option. Dorms and private rooms are available, and your rate includes a very good breakfast buffet. As an added bonus, there is laundry available on-site.

Camping Matterhorn: For the hardcore campers, this is a good option and it’s centrally located near the train station. Since Zermatt is car-free, this tent-only campground is mellower than many on the WHR.

You can check out all Zermatt accommodation options below:



Booking.com

The mighty Matterhorn outside Zermatt.

 

Luggage Storage and Transfer

The Walker’s Haute Route is a very challenging trek, with several technical and exposed sections along the trail. Therefore, we can’t stress enough the importance of carrying as light a pack as possible. We’ve heard too many stories of hikers who had to end their walk early due to injuries and ailments from too much time on steep, snowy trails with too heavy a pack. Of course, if you choose to camp you’ll need to carry a significantly larger load than other hikers, but it’s very possible to keep it below 25 lbs (12 kilos). Check out our packing list for specific recommendations. Obviously, the best way to minimize your pack size is to simply leave all of your extra stuff at home (trust us, you really don’t need that extra pair of pants!) However, those who are traveling for an extended period of time or for work might be forced to bring some extra items.  If that’s the case for you, you may want to consider storing or transferring your unneeded luggage. Unfortunately, there aren’t many cheap or easy options for luggage storage and transfer on the Haute Route, due to the remote nature of the trail and its point-to-point route. Here are your best options for extra luggage:

Luggage Storage in Geneva

If you are flying in and out of the Geneva Airport, you can store your luggage in Geneva for the duration of your hike. Unfortunately, the public lockers provided by the airport and train station are only available for short-term rentals, so you’ll need to use a private luggage storage service. Eelway is a service that partners with local hotels to store your items. Expect to pay at least 150€ per bag for two weeks of storage. You’ll also need to get to and from the luggage storage location to drop off and pick up your bag(s). BAGBNB is another good resource that provides a list of luggage storage options throughout the city.  You can find rates as low as 75€ per bag for two weeks. Advance online booking is required for both of these options. Additionally, if you’ll be staying at the same hotel in Geneva (or Chamonix) before and after your hike, you can ask the hotel to hold your bags for you. Many hotels will provide this service if you have multiple reservations with them. 

You’ll be happy to be carrying a lighter load on your way up to Pas de Chevres!

 

Luggage Transfer From Geneva/Chamonix to Zermatt

If you are not returning to Geneva or Chamonix after completing the WHR, you’ll need to find a way to get your luggage from Geneva/Chamonix to Zermatt. Depending on your needs, bag size, and budget, you have a few options: 

Transfer Service: There are several companies that will transport your luggage directly from Chamonix to Zermatt and hold it for you until you finish your hike. This is a very expensive option, but it is quite convenient and secure. Taxi services like Taxi Follonier and tour services like Alpenwild provide the option of transferring luggage to most stages along the WHR. Expect to pay upwards of 400€ per person for this convenience. 

Train: The SBB Rail Service offers a good option for transporting your bags to Zermatt. Since the SBB services runs exclusively in Switzerland, you’ll need to travel from Chamonix (France) into Switzerland to send your bags. Martigny is the closest and most convenient option from Chamonix. From Martigny, you can ship your bag(s) to Zermatt. You’ll need to buy a train ticket to Martigny (and back to Chamonix), plus you’ll need to pay 12€ per bag. It typically takes two days for bags to arrive at their destination.  The train station in Zermatt will hold your bag(s) for free for the first five days, then you’ll need to pay 5€ per day after that. 

Post: If you have a few smaller unneeded items (such as an extra pair of shoes, clothes, laptop, etc), the cheapest and easiest option is to mail your luggage from Chamonix to Zermatt. If you need to purchase a box at the post office, you’ll buy a Colissimo box. For 46€, you’ll be able to send up to 5kg (box dimensions: 290x210x150mm) or for 56€ you can send up to 7kg (box dimensions: 400x275x195mm) directly to Zermatt. You’ll receive a tracking number that will allow you to check on your package (most arrive in a couple of days). If you have your own box, you may be able to ship your items for a lower cost. Upon arriving in Zermatt, the post office will hold your package for up to four weeks free of charge. To have your package sent to the post office and held for you until pickup, you’ll need to address it to the Zermatt post office and indicate in the address that you want “Post Restante.” Detailed instructions and examples are available on the Swiss Post website

Detours and Transit

Regardless of the time of year you choose to hike the Walker’s Haute Route, there’s a decent chance you’ll need to adjust your plans due to weather, trail conditions, or other issues. The WHR is a very demanding hike that traverses some rugged places. In the nearly two weeks you’ll be on the trail, it is likely that you may need to reroute or skip a section. Fortunately, despite the remote regions it traverses, the Walker’s Haute Route is actually quite well connected via trains, buses, and gondolas. Here are a few good services to familiarize yourself with in order to make getting around as efficient as possible. 

SBB Rail: If you have access to a mobile device, we strongly recommend downloading the SBB app. This app allows you to plan out routes, view timetables and prices, and purchase mobile tickets for all Swiss trains. The SBB trains pass through a few of the towns visited along the Haute Route, including St. Niklaus and Zermatt. They can also be key connections if you need to detour from certain sections of the trail. 

Postbus: Nearly all of the towns along the Walker’s Haute Route are serviced by the Postbus.  While this app is a little less reliable in terms of providing accurate prices, it is still very useful for planning routes and finding timetables. Tickets can be purchased in the app or directly from the bus driver. 

Tourist Cards: Every valley you’ll pass through on the Haute Route offers its own version of a “tourist card.” You’ll quickly notice that you’re required to pay a tourism tax at each place you stay (it varies from valley to valley, but ranges from 1.50CHF to 4 CHF per person). In exchange for the added tax, most accommodations (including campgrounds) will provide you with a card that is valid for your stay. Most cards are valid for the day you arrive as well as the day you check out. These tourist cards vary in the types of offers and discounts they provide, but most will give you access to free travel within the valley on the Postbus and free rides on any gondolas in the valley. These gondolas can be a great option for avoiding long, steep descents with tired knees! 

The Postbus is a convenient way to get around on the Haute Route.

 

Rest Day Options

Many hikers power through the entire Walker’s Haute Route without taking a day off, but if you have room in your itinerary you may want to consider building in a rest day. Rest days give you the chance to get to know an area in a deeper way, and they give your mind and body a welcome reprieve from walking to prevent injury and/or burnout. The WHR route doesn’t present one clear and obvious place for a rest day location, but there are definitely a few great options, depending on when and where you want to fit it in. Here are our top picks: 

Les Haudères: This quaint town has everything you might want on a rest day: cute cafes, an excellent bakery, a well-stocked grocery store, a post office, a bus stop, and an outdoors store. There are a range of accommodation options available, including nice hotels, airbnbs, and even a campground. Most hikers will reach Les Haudères around the halfway point of their trek, so it works well in terms of breaking up the hike.  In terms places to stay, L’hôtel – Gîte des Alpes and  Hotel Dents de Veisivie come highly recommended. 

Zinal: If you want to schedule your rest day for a bit further along in your hike, Zinal is probably your best option. This small ski resort town also offers a variety of services (bus stop, post office, gondola) as well as a variety of grocery stores, outdoor retailers, bakeries, and restaurants. There are many choices for accommodation, ranging from upscale hotels to the campground. We’ve heard good things about Hotel le Trift and Hotel Europe

Les Hauderes is a charming place to spend a rest day.

 

Money

Many grocery stores, mountain huts, and campgrounds along the Haute Route accept credit cards, but ultimately cash is king in this part of the world. It’s best to assume that you’ll need to pay for everything in cash and plan accordingly. Only the larger towns along the route have ATMs (see our Camping Guide for more details), so you’ll need to take out enough money to cover all of your expenses until you reach the next big town. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need Euros for the first two stages of the Haute Route, but you’ll use Swiss Francs from Champex onward. Check out our post on how much it cost us to hike the Haute Route to get an idea of what kinds of prices to expect. 

But wait…there’s more!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Haute Route, we can help! Learn more about our personalized coaching services. 

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

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Walker’s Haute Route Packing List

If you’re planning to walk the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Haute Route you’re likely wondering what to pack…

If you’re planning to walk the Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Haute Route you’re likely wondering what to pack for your own adventure.

Below you’ll find a detailed packing list that will provide you with great, trail-tested gear that won’t weigh down your backpack too much. This list reflects our personal packing list which will vary for each individual’s specific needs. However, this should serve as a great starting point for planning your own Walker’s Haute Route adventure!

Camping Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
TentSierra Designs - Clip Flashlight 2
or
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent
This is the best budget tent on the market and the best overall tent on the market!
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 15Nights can get cold on the Haute Route, so a good sleeping bag is a must!
Sleeping padNemo Astro Sleeping Pad If you are a side sleeper this is a must!
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowIf you're camping more than a few nights you will be glad you packed this!
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm headlamp
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking potGSI Halulite
UtensilsHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mug

Personal Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierA handy, must-have on the trail.
First-aid kitAdventure Medical Kits
Hydration BladderPlatypus 3 Liter Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle!
Small day-packCotopaxi Luzon 18LGreat for short day hikes and excursions in Chamonix or Zermatt!
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how much it can rain on the Haute Route!
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65The most comfortable backpack on the market!
Women's backpackOsprey Ariel 65
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Back Trekking polesEssential for long downhills!
Micro-spikesKahtoola MicrospikesYou'll almost certainly encounter snow at some point on the Haute Route and micro-spikes can be essential to safely navigating it.
Travel towelSea to Summit DryLite TowelGreat to have for campsite showers.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry SackKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Hiking GaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High GaitersThese will help keep your boots dry when walking on snow covered trails.
Warm, waterproof glovesSeirus Waterproof Gloves
Buff or BandanaOriginal Buff
Sleeping MaskAlaska Bear Sleeping Mask
Blister padsBand-Aid Blister Pads
Lip BalmJack Black Lip Balm

Miscellaneous Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookThe Walker's Haute Route (Cicerone Trekking Guide)This is the best guidebook available and a truly essential item to bring.
JournalMoleskin Journal
Ear plugsMack's ear plugsEssential for the more crowded campsites!
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraIan loves his Sony mirrorless camera!
TripodJoby GorillaPodThe perfect travel tripod.
Unlocked phoneMoto G PlayA simple, budget-friendly phone to use for navigation and local calls with a SIM.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 20100There are many long sections without access to outlets on the Haute Route.
Laundry Soap SheetsSea to Summit Trek and Travel Pocket SoapThese are the greatest travel hack ever! The best way to clean your clothes on-the-go.
Travel adapterJoomfeen All-in-one adapterGreat for all of your travels.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.

Women’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (3-4 pairs)ExOfficio Women's Sport UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (3-4 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Brooks Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 Crew
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Mountain Hardwear Wicked shirt
Leggings (1 pair)Nike Power Essential Running Tight
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsFor those heavy downpours!
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire bra
HatA hat with a wide brim provides valuable protection for sun and rain.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1The perfect camp sandals!

Men’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (3-4 pairs)Exofficio Give-N-Go boxerHighly recommended! You can bring 4-5 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (3-4 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro CrewIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Columbia Tech Shirt
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion shortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Running shorts (1)La Sportiva Aelous shorts
Down jacketPatagonia Down Seater HoodieSuper warm and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II jacketA good rain jacket is a must!
Rain pantsMarmot Precip Pants
HatOutdoor Research Performance Trucker hatA hat with a wide brim provides valuable protection for sun and rain.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandals
Hiking bootsSalomon X-Ultra 3 MidSuper comfortable and super waterproof!
Digital watchCasio Classic Sports watchAll you'll ever need
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized sunglasses

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the Walker’s Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

After completing the Tour du Mont Blanc a few years back, we learned a few things about ourselves. First, we loved hiking as a means to experience new places in…

After completing the Tour du Mont Blanc a few years back, we learned a few things about ourselves. First, we loved hiking as a means to experience new places in the world, discovering hidden gems and pockets of culture with just our tent and our own feet to get us there. Second, we were completely smitten with the Alps. The way the light hits the high peaks in the mornings, the dynamic glaciers, the juxtaposition of rugged stony passes and verdant green valleys, and did we mention the cheese? While hiking on the TMB, we crossed paths with a few hikers who were completing the Walker’s Haute Route, and thus the seed was planted. It only took a few years until we made our way back.

Some people say that the Haute Route is a more challenging version of the Tour du Mont Blanc. While there are arguably many similarities (including the fact that the routes overlap for a couple of stages), to make that characterization would be to oversimplify and unfairly represent the Haute Route. The Walker’s Haute Route (WHR) is resolutely and beautifully unique, a rugged, varied, and challenging adventure, sure to bring unforgettable rewards to all that traverse it. One major difference between the Walker’s Haute Route and the TMB is that while the TMB makes a loop across three different countries, the WHR is a point-to-point route that takes walkers from Chamonix to Zermatt, with the lion’s share of the trail residing within Switzerland.

There are many wonderful aspects of spending most of the roughly two weeks inside Swiss borders, but anyone who is remotely aware of their budget will quickly realize that Switzerland is expensive! If you are wanting to do the Haute Route on a smaller budget, or if you simply want to experience the joys of maximizing your time outdoors in the most spectacular Alpine settings, camping along the Haute Route is your best bet. As we began researching how to camp on the WHR, we realized that there are many options, but not a ton of clear, straightforward information about how to make it happen. With this guide, we hope to share what we learned through lots of planning, research, and experience to help our fellow tent-dwellers have their best possible Walker’s Haute Route Adventure.

Chamonix Train Station, the start of the Haute Route.

Starting at the Chamonix train station, the Walker’s Haute Route winds its way all the way to Zermatt.

 

A bit about the hike:

Direction: Unlike many other long-distance hikes, the Haute Route is almost exclusively walked in the Chamonix to Zermatt direction. You can certainly walk the other direction (from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc) but most information you’ll find will assume you’re walking from Chamonix to Zermatt.

When to do it: The general season for hiking the Haute Route lasts from mid-June through mid-September, although this window is subject to great variability due to snow conditions on the higher passes. July and August are probably the best times to do it, but anytime you go there’ll be a real chance that you’ll need to reroute to avoid snow-covered sections or adverse weather conditions. If that happens, don’t despair. Chalk it up to being part of the Haute Route experience and make sure to give the mountains the respect they deserve.

Notes:

  • All prices listed in this guide are per person, per day.
  • The Haute Route is a very difficult trek with some technical and exposed sections and a lot of elevation gain and loss. Therefore, we cannot stress enough how important it is to keep your pack weight down. Campers will obviously need to carry more than other hikers, but you should still make every effort to only bring absolute necessities. Check out our logistics article for more on how to transfer your extra baggage to Zermatt.
  • This guide is based on a moderately-paced 12-day itinerary. There are many variations along the Haute Route, and these have been noted within the stages where they apply.
  • Wild camping along the Haute Route is complicated and discouraged (sometimes illegal). The trail passes through two countries and several local municipalities, each with their own specific rules and regulations. There are many 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.
  • Reservations are not necessary for any of the campgrounds along the Haute Route. 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/mountain hut meals. We’ve noted the availability of shops and services along each stage of the Walker’s Haute Route. 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). On some days you’ll pass through hamlets with public water fountains, but this is certainly not guaranteed on every stage of the walk.
The Matterhorn near Zermatt.

The Matterhorn, your final destination on the Haute Route.

 

Stages One and Two: Chamonix to Le Peuty

Camping Availability: Le Peuty Campsite

While many walkers choose to stay in nearby Trient, Le Peuty lies more directly on the WHR trail and offers a simple, pretty option for camping. This campground is located next to a small Gite and consists of a grassy field with basic facilities. It’s easy to miss if there aren’t any tents set up yet. There is no registration; instead someone will stop by in the evening to collect payment. You can pay in either Swiss Francs (CHF) or Euros.

Services: Potable water (cold), Toilets (no TP or soap), sinks, sheltered cooking area with picnic tables, trash and recycling, one outlet, portable showers (hot water wasn’t working when we were there), clothesline.

Nearby: There is a restaurant at the Gite next to the campsite, as well as a few other restaurant offerings in Trient. There are no grocery stores or ATM’s in the area, so stock up before leaving Chamonix or Argentiere.

Price: 6 CHF per person (cash only)

Tent at the Le Peuty campsite on the Haute Route.

Nice views from the tent at Le Peuty.

 

Alternative Option #1: Chamonix to Argentiere

Camping Availability: Camping du Glaciers

We combined the first two stages of the Haute Route into one longer day. If you don’t want to do that, you could stop at the end of Stage One and camp in Argentiere.

Services: Toilets, hot showers, potable water, laundry, wifi, a restaurant (which serves breakfast), and a place to purchase snacks and stove fuel.

Nearby: Grocery store, ATM, restaurants, a Tourist Office, and bus services.

Price: 6.10€ per person + 3.10€ per tent + 0,20 € per person tourist tax (includes transit card)

Alternative Option #2: Chamonix (or Argentiere) to Hotel de la Forclaz

Camping Availability: Hotel de la Forclaz

If you decide to opt out of the challenging  Fenêtre d’Arpette route for Stage Three and instead choose to take the Bovine Route, you could get a head start by continuing past Le Peuty for about 45 minutes uphill to Hotel de la Forclaz (and along the Bovine Route). If you’re completing the  Fenêtre d’Arpette, you would not want to do this, as it would add an unnecessary detour. Camping at Hotel de la Forclaz is a bit more luxurious than at Le Peuty, as you’ll have access to hot meals, a small shop, and real showers.

Services: Toilets, showers, potable water, option to purchase breakfast and/or dinner from the hotel restaurant, and a small shop selling snacks and ice cream.

Nearby: There are no other shops or services near the hotel.

Price: 8 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent

 

Stage Three: Le Peuty to Champex

Camping Availability: Camping Les Rocailles

Camping Les Rocailles is one of the first things you’ll pass as you enter Champex, about a 10-minute walk from the town center.  This lovely little campground offers three terraces with mostly flat spots to pitch your tent, but not much shade to be found.   Check in at the registration office before setting up camp.

Services: Toilets, sinks (with potable water), hot showers, a dishwashing/laundry room (3 CHF for wash, 1 CHF per 10 minutes for the dryer), outlets, microwave, electric kettle, covered cooking areas, and an area for drying wet clothes.  The office sells beer, wine, soda, and chips.

Nearby: Champex has a grocery store, cafes, bars, restaurants, outdoor retailers, and an ATM. The lake offers several tranquil spots along its shore for relaxing after a long day on your feet.

Price: 16 CHF per person (cash or most credit cards accepted)

The Trient Glacier.

Fantastic views await those who hike the Fenêtre d’Arpette

 

Stage Four: Champex to Le Châble

Camping Availability: Camping Champsec

While there isn’t a campground in Le Châble (the official stop of this stage of the WHR), there is a campground a short bus ride away (or a one-hour walk) in the small town of Champsec. To get to the campground, catch the #253 Postbus from outside of the convenience store at the gondola station in Le Châble. The ride takes about 10 minutes and costs 3.50 CHF per person. From the bus stop in Champsec, follow the signs and walk about 10 minutes to the campground. The campground is located in a lovely pastoral setting next to the river.

Tip: the tourist tax you’ll pay at the campground will make you eligible for a free transit card for the following day. The next morning when you take the bus back to Le Châble to continue your hike, simply tell the driver that you stayed at the campground and you shouldn’t have to pay the bus fare (you can then obtain your actual transit card from the tourist office in Le Châble if you also want to access the gondola for free).

Services: Toilets (TP but no hand soap), covered sinks for washing up, warm shower, indoor space with tables and chairs, outdoor seating, and outlets inside the reception and in the bathrooms.

Nearby: There aren’t any services in Champsec, but there is a grocery store (closed on Sundays), bakery, restaurants, bus/train/gondola connections, and an ATM in Le Châble. You could also use your transit card and ride the gondola or bus up to Verbier for more grocery stores, outdoors shops, and restaurants.

Price: 8 CHF per person+ 6 CHF per tent + 1.5 CHF tourist tax per person (includes transit card access) (cash only)

Stage Five: Le Châble to Cabane du Mont Fort

Camping Availability: None

On stage five, the traditional Walker’s Haute Route route climbs steadily upwards to the mountain hut at Cabane du Mont Fort and stays at high elevation throughout stage six. You won’t find any official camping areas again until you’re back down at lower elevations in Arolla, at the end of stage seven. If the weather conditions are really good, you could conceivably wild camp between stages five and seven. Our plan was to stay at the Cabane du Mont Fort at the end of stage five, then hike past the typical end of stage six the following day and reach the Refuge de La Barma, which is unmanned on weekdays. However, bad weather forced us to reroute after spending the night at Cabane du Mont Fort. We ended up taking the train and bus to reach Arolla, then hiking up to Pas de Chèvres from the Arolla the following day. Below we’ve provided an overview of Cabane du Mont Fort, plus other alternative options for these stages.

Cabane du Mont Fort

We camped nearly every night on the Haute Route, but we made exceptions on three occasions. Two of these exceptions were to stay at mountain huts (the other was to stay in a cozy Airbnb on our rest day). We reserved beds ahead of time at Cabane du Mont Fort and Cabane du Moiry, due to the difficulty of camping on these stages and the rave reviews about these huts. If you can, we recommend staying in at least one good mountain hut (known as cabanes) along your hike. It is a unique experience in which you’ll meet fellow hikers and enjoy a fun evening in an incredibly atmospheric setting. Tip #1: Both of the huts that we stayed at along the Walker’s Haute Route allowed us to opt out of purchasing meals and self-cater instead. We paid half as much with this option, while still enjoying all the ambiance and coziness of the hut. Tip #2: Get there early. Some rooms at Mont Fort only have two or four beds. If you’re lucky, you may end up with a private room.

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), drinking water, public wifi access, a la carte food and drinks available for purchase, hot showers (5 CHF for 5 minutes), kitchenette with stove, sink, and cookware, and a classic, cozy hut with great views.

Nearby: The Les Ruinettes gondola station is about an hour’s hike back down the trail. You can present your confirmation email from Cabane du Mont Fort at the Le Châble tourist office and receive a transit card which will allow you to ride the gondola for free down to Verbier and Le Châble. If you need to detour to Arolla due to bad weather or hazardous conditions, this is a great option. There are no other shops or services available along the trail until Arolla (with the exception of a few mountain huts which serve meals).

Price: 37 CHF (dorm only) or 75 CHF (half pension)

View from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Looking out from Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

Alternative Option: Le Châble to Cabane de Prafleuri

If you want to eliminate a day that doesn’t have easy camping options, you could take the gondola up from Le Châble to Les Ruinettes, then walk all the way to Cabane de Prafleuri. The next day you would descend to Arolla, where you’d have access again to a campground. We wouldn’t recommend this option for a few reasons. First, this would set you up for two very long and challenging days of walking in potentially hazardous conditions. Second, everyone we’ve talked has given poor reviews of Cabane de Prafleuri (it was actually closed for a bed bug infestation while we were hiking the WHR). If you’re going to spend the money on a hut, Mont Fort or Cabane des Dix are better options. Cabane des Dix is a further walk from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stage Six: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Camping Availability: Not available

Unfortunately, this section of the Haute Route does not have any options for camping. Here, the trail stays in the high mountains and does not encounter any towns, and thus does not encounter any campsites. The traditional Haute Route has walkers stop at Cabane du Prafleuri after Cabane du Mont Fort, although you can continue on to La Barma or Cabane des Dix as described above or head down to the Hotel du Barrage.

Services: Toilets, sinks (NO drinking water), showers, restaurant, outlets.

Nearby: No services nearby.

Price: Contact the Cabane for current prices.

 

Stage Seven: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla

Camping Availability: Camping Arolla

After a couple of days of crossing rocky, barren, snow-covered high mountain landscapes, the sunny, green valley and the village of Arolla are bound to look very inviting. As you descend into the small town, you’ll pass a couple of shops and hotels. To reach the campground, you’ll need to hike about 15-20 minutes further downhill. There’s a nice trail leading to the campground which can be accessed behind the Hotel du Glacier. You can’t miss the hotel, as it takes Alpine flower boxes to a whole new level. Camping Arolla is a nice, large campground with decent facilities and grassy terraces for tents. The reception has limited hours in the morning and evening, so pitch your tent and check back in later if they’re closed when you arrive. Tip: there are only a couple of showers for a whole bunch of campers, so try to get in there early if you want to avoid a long wait.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), sinks for washing up (hot and cold potable water), showers (1 CHF for 4 minutes), shop at the reception (limited hours) which sells snacks, beer/wine/soda, camper meals, toiletries, but no stove fuel, morning bread available for order, outlets in the bathrooms, wifi near the reception building, recycling (need to purchase bag for trash items), tent and camping gear rentals.

Nearby: The campground reception has a small shop and there is a pizza restaurant in the hotel next door to camping Arolla. There’s also a bus stop (Arolla, La Monta) just down the road from the campground. For all other services, you’ll need to walk back up to Arolla proper. There, you’ll find two small grocery stores, a few restaurants, and a tourist office.

Price: 8.70 CHF per person + 7.50 CHF per tent (cash or credit cards accepted)

Tents at Camping Arolla on the Haute Route.

A lovely evening at Camping Arolla.

 

Stage Eight: Arolla to La Sage

Camping Availability: Camping Molignon (Les Haudères)

The typical endpoint for this stage of the Haute Route is the town of La Sage, but those wanting to camp should stop instead in the town of Les Haudères, where there is a large campground with good facilities. Bear in mind that Les Haudères is at the bottom of the valley, while La Sage is further up the hillside. This means that you’ll have about 45 minutes of additional climbing to do at the beginning of the next day’s stage. We think this is a worthwhile trade-off, since Les Haudères is a charming village and also has way more services than La Sage. Camping Molignon is a big, busy campground on the edge of town. It’s located on a grassy area next to the river with nice views and easy proximity to the grocery store and bus stop. You’ll be in the minority with your tent, as most of the campground is occupied by camper vans. Though it is very large and crowded, you’ll find the facilities are quite nice and the location is ideal.

Services: Toilets (TP and hand soap), several covered sinks for washing up, potable water (hot and cold), showers, outlets, restaurant, small shop selling snacks and essential items, pool, hot tub, ping pong, playground, recycling, and trash (bag purchase required).

Nearby: Les Haudères has a grocery store, restaurants, cafes, outdoor shop, post office, and bus stop. You won’t find much in La Sage except for a few hotels and restaurants, so stock up in Les Haudères regardless of where you decide to spend the night.

Price: 7.50 CHF per person + 10 CHF per tent + 1.10 per person tourist tax

Campground near Les Hauderes, Switzerland.

Not a bad place to pitch a tent at Camping Molignon.

 

Stage Nine: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry (or Grimentz)

Camping Availability: Camping Ilôt Bosquet (Grimentz)

According to many Haute Route hikers, an overnight stay at Cabane de Moiry is a “can’t miss” experience. We opted to spend the night at Moiry instead of camping and found it to be a worthwhile splurge. The mountain hut is situated remarkably close to a truly stunning glacier, and the modern renovations (glass-walled dining room and spacious terrace) make for an atmospheric and wonderful space in which to study the glacier and soak up the views. However, by taking a variant to Grimentz, you have the option to camp instead, if you prefer.  Additionally, if you want to stay along the Moiry variant of the trail but still want to camp, we did see many people wild camping in the area between the upper reservoirs and Lac de Moiry.

Cabane de Moiry:

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), drying room, complimentary tea and coffee served in the afternoon and complimentary fruit tea in the morning, option for self-catering, restaurant/bar, sleep sheets available for rent (5 CHF), showers (5 CHF for 5 minutes), foosball, picnic tables, sinks but NO potable water (we recommend bringing a lightweight filter instead of buying the overpriced plastic bottles at the hut).

Nearby: There is a drinking water fountain located about an hour down the trail past Cabane de Moiry. There are also bathrooms at the parking lot next to Lac de Moiry.

Price: 40.50 CHF (dorm only) or 86.50 CHF (half board) (cash or credit cards accepted)

View of the Moiry Glacier.

The terrace at Cabane de Moiry gets you up close and personal to the incredible Moiry Glacier.

 

Alternative Option: Camping Ilôt Bosquet

If you would prefer to (legally) camp on this stage, your best bet is to continue hiking past the Barrage de Moiry and onwards for about two more hours to the town of Grimentz. If you plan on spending the following night at the Hotel Weisshorn, you’ll head straight there the next day, effectively cutting out a stage of the WHR. Alternatively, if you still wanted to complete the typical stage ten segment, you could take the bus back to Barrage de Moiry the next day and the complete the hike to Zinal. Another option (which would also cut out stage ten) would be to hike directly from Grimentz to Zinal (about 2.5 hours) and then continue on to complete stage eleven to Gruben all in the same day (which would be quite a long day of walking). Regardless of the option you choose, here’s a bit about the Camping Ilôt Bosquet:

Services: Toilets, potable water, picnic tables.

Nearby: Bus stop, tourist office, restaurants, bank, post office, shops.

Price: 5 CHF per person + 4 CHF tourist tax per person

Stage Ten: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

Camping Availability: Camping Relais de la Tzoucdana

As you begin your long descent towards Zinal, you’ll be able to see the campground far below. It sits next to river on the far edge of town (about 20 minutes’ walk to the town center). If you arrive in the afternoon, don’t be surprised to find the campground’s restaurant positively buzzing with families and hikers stopping by for a drink or some ice cream. Don’t worry, the crowds disperse as the evening sets in. At first glance, the campground is a little strange; there are various animals housed on site, people recreating everywhere you turn, and the area for tents is a bit cramped. However, it grew on us as we spent more time there. The showers are hot and clean, the staff is super friendly, the pitches are flat and grassy. Tip: There are two options for your descent from the gondola station into Zinal. If you choose the less steep variant (which follows a gravel road), the trail ends immediately next to the campground. If you take the steeper option, you’ll have to walk through town for a bit to reach the campground. The reception is located at the restaurant.

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), hot showers, water tap with cold, potable water in the camping field, sink with hot and cold potable water in the main building, porta potties in the camping field, restaurant/bar, picnic table, outlets, and a playground.

Nearby: Grocery store, shops, ATM, bakery, restaurants, bus stop, gondola station, tourist office, post office.

Price: 7 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 4 CHF per person tourist tax (includes transit card) (cash and credit cards accepted).

Stage Eleven: Zinal to Gruben

Camping Availability: Wild camping only

The typical route for this stage brings hikers into the lovely, quiet Turtmanntal Valley and to the little hamlet of Gruben. Gruben is a quaint town situated along the river. However, for what it provides in rural, small-town charm, it lacks in camping options. If you want to camp along this stage, your only option is to camp wild. If you choose to do this, keep in mind that it is not technically legal, and you should therefore make every effort to minimize your impact. Upon arriving in Gruben, most campers continue uphill past the Hotel Schwarzhorn, following the trail towards the next stage. If you continue up past Gruben, you can scout for potential camping spots tucked within the trees. There are few flat spots, but they do exist. Once you find a workable spot, you can head back into Gruben, grab a beer at the hotel, fill up on drinking water at the tap in front of the church, and wait for the sun to set before setting up camp. In the morning, make sure to get packed up early. Bonus: you’ll have a head start on the next day’s walk! Tip: We chose to cook and eat our dinner on a bench next to the water tap. This allowed us to minimize our impact at our campsite and gave us easy access to water for cooking and washing up.

Services: Drinking water is available in town in front of the church. If you purchase something at the hotel and ask for the password, you can get wifi access there.

Nearby: Besides the hotel and restaurant, there’s not much in Gruben. Be sure to stock up at the shop in Zinal unless you want to buy some very expensive meals at the Hotel Schwarzhorn.

Price: Free

Big mountain view on the Haute Route.

Fantastic vistas on the descent to Gruben.

 

Stages Twelve through Fourteen: Gruben to St. Niklaus to Zermatt

Camping Availability: Camping Attermenzen (Randa) or Camping Alphubel (Täsch )

The final days of the Haute Route present hikers with a lot of choices. You can choose to complete all, some, or none of the high-level Europaweg trail, you can complete the stages in two or three days, and you can use various forms of transit to shorten some sections. If you want to complete the entire Europaweg section, you won’t have many convenient options for camping. We’ve laid out all of your options for the final stages below:

Alternative Option #1: Gruben to St.Niklaus/Gasenried/Grächen, then  St.Niklaus/Gasenried/Grächen to the Europa Hut, then Europa Hut to Zermatt.

Camping Availability: None

If you want to complete the entire Europaweg section of the Walker’s Haute Route, your options for camping will be quite limited. You can choose to finish stage twelve either in St. Niklaus, Gasenried, or Grächen. Unfortunately, you won’t find campsites in any of these towns. Upon finishing stage twelve, you’ll first pass through St. Niklaus, which has a budget hotel, a grocery store and bus connections to Gasenried and Grächen. If you keep walking for about two hours uphill (or take the bus from the St. Niklaus train station), you’ll reach Gasenried next. This is the most convenient location from which to start the long and challenging Europaweg section the following day, but there is only one hotel in the town. Alternatively, you could detour to Grächen (2 more hours or bus) where you’ll find a shop, restaurants, and a few budget accommodation options. From our observations, it appeared to be quite difficult to wild camp near St. Niklaus, as it was quite populated. We didn’t pass through the other towns, so we can’t say how possible it would be.

Europa Hut:

Services: Toilets (TP), sinks, dining room, terrace, restaurant.

Nearby: No services nearby.

Price: 30 CHF per person (dorm only) or 65 CHF (half board)

Alternative Option #2: Gruben to Randa or Täsch, then Randa /Täsch  to Zermatt.

If you’d rather stick with camping instead of having to stay at the Europa Hut, or you want to cut out the sketchier parts of the Europaweg Trail, or if you just need to shorten your hike by a day this option is for you. After reaching St. Niklaus at the end of stage twelve, you’ll have a choice between two campgrounds. If you want to take the valley trail the following day, we’d recommend staying at the Randa Campground (it’s actually a bit past Randa towards Täsch). This campground will be closer to get to after a long day of hiking from Gruben and balance the remainder of the hike so your next day isn’t ridiculously short. If you want to hike on the Europaweg trail for the final day (highly recommended in good weather), we suggest camping in Täsch. You can hike directly up from the campground in  Täsch to meet up with the Europaweg Trail (about 1.5-2 hours) and take that all the way to Zermatt. By choosing this option, you’ll still get the incredible Matterhorn views that the Europaweg trail has to offer, while avoiding most of the exposed areas and the suspension bridge (of course some hikers will see this as a disappointment while others will rejoice). If you decide to stay in Täsch, you’ll likely want to shorten your hike there by either taking the gondola down from Jungen to St. Niklaus or taking the train from St. Niklaus to Täsch. If you want to walk all the way from Gruben to Täsch, prepare for a 10-12-hour day and a lot of downhill and uninteresting valley walking.

Camping Attermenzen (Randa):

Services: Toilets (TP), sinks for washing up, hot and cold potable water, washer/dryer, shop selling food, drinks, and camping equipment, and outlets.

Nearby: Keep in mind that this campground is about a 15-20 minutes’ walk past the town of Randa. To get to the grocery store, restaurants, bank, post office, or train station, you’ll have to walk back to town.

Price: 7 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 3 CHF tourist tax per person + 1 CHF waste fee per person

Camping Alphubel (Täsch):

This van-packed campground is located conveniently next to the train station and grocery store. However, you’ll pay for that convenient location in the form of frequent noise from the road and railroad tracks. Ear plugs are a total game changer here, so make sure you pack them! The area for tents is small and cramped, but the facilities are decent and the proximity to the trail can’t be beat.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), potable water, covered sinks for washing up (hot and cold water), wifi (2 CHF), laundry room, outlets in the bathrooms, bread available for order, recycling and trash, picnic tables, and ping pong.

Nearby: Grocery store, ATM, train station, shops, tourist office, restaurants, post office.

Price: 9 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 4 CHF per person tourist tax + 1 CHF garbage tax (cash only).

View of the Matterhorn and Zermatt.

First glimpse of Zermatt from the Europaweg.

 

Zermatt

Camping Availability: Camping Matterhorn

Upon completing a challenge like the Haute Route, many hikers consider rewarding themselves with a night or two in a hotel in Zermatt. However, once they start looking at the prices of hotels in Zermatt, many of those hikers decide that one more night of camping doesn’t sound so bad after all. Lucky for them, there is a decent campground located near the center of town. While it is quite noisy, a bit cramped, and the showers aren’t the warmest, this campground has a lot of redeeming qualities, too. The wifi is excellent, there are plenty of chairs and tables that can be moved around to suit your campsite, and the proximity to the grocery store and train station are quite convenient. This campground is a great budget option if you’re just staying one night in Zermatt before traveling onwards.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), covered area with sinks for washing up, potable water (hot and cold), “free stuff” exchange shelf, tables and chairs, warm showers, wifi (get password from the reception), and outlets in the bathrooms.

Price: 17 CHF per person (cash only).

We think that camping is the best way to do the Haute Route, not only for the money-saving aspects, but because it allows you to more fully immerse yourself in the natural surroundings you’re there to experience and to meet some really cool fellow campers along the way. Hopefully this guide helps to pave the way for your own Haute Route camping adventure. Happy trails!

What’s Next?

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

 

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Laugavegur Trail Photo Gallery

Take a visual tour along the Laugavegur Trail in anticipation of your upcoming adventure! The Laugavegur Trail traverses 34 miles of the Icelandic Highlands and takes you through a stunning…

Take a visual tour along the Laugavegur Trail in anticipation of your upcoming adventure! The Laugavegur Trail traverses 34 miles of the Icelandic Highlands and takes you through a stunning array of landscapes. You can also add on the famous Fimmvörðuháls Trail to the end of your Laugavegur Trail hike, which we highly recommend!

Be sure to check out the rest of our Laugavegur Trail posts below:

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Laugavegur Trail Packing List

If you’re planning to walk the Laugavegur and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail you’re likely wondering what to pack for your own adventure. Below you’ll…

If you’re planning to walk the Laugavegur and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail you’re likely wondering what to pack for your own adventure.

Below you’ll find a detailed packing list that will provide you with great, trail-tested gear that won’t weigh down your backpack too much. This list reflects our personal packing list which will vary for each individual’s specific needs. However, this should serve as a great starting point for planning your own Laugavegur Trail adventure!

Camping Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
TentSierra Designs - Clip Flashlight 2
or
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent
This is the best budget tent on the market and the best overall tent on the market!
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 15If planning to camp at Hrafntinnusker plan on bringing a 0 degree Fahrenheit sleeping bag. Otherwise the Marmot 15 is a great all around bag.
Sleeping padNemo Astro Sleeping Pad If you are a side sleeper this is a must!
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowIf you're camping more than a few nights you will be glad you packed this!
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm headlampWith nearly endless daylight in the summer you may not use this, but should nevertheless bring in case of emergency.
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking potGSI Halulite
UtensilsHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mug

Personal Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierA handy, must-have on the trail.
First-aid kitAdventure Medical Kits
Hydration BladderPlatypus 3 Liter Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle!
Small day-packCotopaxi Luzon 18LGreat for short day hikes and excursions in Reykjavik!
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how much it can rain on the Laugavegur!
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65The most comfortable backpack on the market!
Women's backpackOsprey Ariel 65
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Back Trekking polesEssential for long downhills!
Travel towelSea to Summit DryLite TowelGreat to have for campsite showers.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry SackKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Hiking GaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High GaitersThese will help keep your boots dry when walking on snow covered trails.
Warm, waterproof glovesSeirus Waterproof GlovesEssential for the cold, wet weather on the Laugavegur.
Buff or BandanaOriginal Buff
Sleeping MaskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskThe sun never sets in Iceland during the summertime!
Blister padsBand-Aid Blister Pads
Lip BalmJack Black Lip Balm

Miscellaneous Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookThe Laugavegur Trail Hiking CompanionA great resource for planning your walk. It also includes a wealth of information about the geology of the area.
JournalMoleskin Journal
Ear plugsMack's ear plugsEssential for the more crowded campsites!
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraIan loves his Sony mirrorless camera!
TripodJoby GorillaPodThe perfect travel tripod.
Unlocked phoneMoto G PlayA simple, budget-friendly phone to use for navigation and local calls with a SIM.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 20100There are no outlets for campers along the Laugavegur, so this necessary for many people.
Laundry Soap SheetsSea to Summit Trek and Travel Pocket SoapThese are the greatest travel hack ever! The best way to clean your clothes on-the-go.
Travel adapterJoomfeen All-in-one adapterGreat for all of your travels.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.

Women’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (3-4 pairs)ExOfficio Women's Sport UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (3-4 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Brooks Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 Crew
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Mountain Hardwear Wicked shirt
Leggings (1 pair)Nike Power Essential Running Tight
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsFor those heavy downpours!
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire bra
HatA hat with a wide brim provides valuable protection for sun and rain.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1These are a must-have for the several river crossings along the route.

Men’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (3-4 pairs)Exofficio Give-N-Go boxerHighly recommended! You can bring 4-5 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (3-4 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro CrewIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Columbia Tech Shirt
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion shortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Running shorts (1)La Sportiva Aelous shorts
Down jacketPatagonia Down Seater HoodieSuper warm and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II jacketA good rain jacket is a must!
Rain pantsMarmot Precip Pants
HatOutdoor Research Performance Trucker hatA hat with a wide brim provides valuable protection for sun and rain.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandalsThese are a must-have for the several river crossings along the route.
Hiking bootsSalomon X-Ultra 3 MidSuper comfortable and super waterproof!
Digital watchCasio Classic Sports watchAll you'll ever need
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized sunglasses

What’s Next?

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

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Laugavegur Trail Logistics

Many of the small details of planning your Laugavegur Trail trek can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that the river crossing will be difficult, but you…

Many of the small details of planning your Laugavegur Trail trek can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that the river crossing will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the Keflavik Airport to your hotel in Reykjavik and then on to the start of the Laugavegur trail in Landmannalaugar. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own Laugavegur trail adventure.

Keflavik Airport (KEF) to Reykjavik

Most, if not all, walkers will arrive in Iceland at the Keflavik Airport (KEF), which is about 50km from the center of Reykjavik. If you are flying from the United States, your flight will likely arrive early in the morning, leaving you plenty of time to get settled in your accommodation in Reykjavik before starting your walk the next day. Here are your best options for getting from Keflavik to central Reykjavik:

  • Public Bus (Straeto)By far the most economical way to get from the airport to Reykjavik is the public bus. Straeto, Iceland’s public transportation company, runs an efficient airport bus (Route number 55) that picks up from the airport and makes several stops en route to central Reykjavik. The bus runs hourly during peak times, and as of 2019 the cost for a one-way fare to Reykjavik is 1,880 ISK. Tickets can be purchased from the bus driver upon boarding. Straeto has a very helpful smartphone app that allows you to plan your journey as well as pay for tickets, and we highly recommend travelers with phone access make use of it. 

  • FlyBus: FlyBus, operated by Reykjavik Excursions, is your best bet for private transfers from the airport to central Reykjavik. The bus picks up travelers from the airport and drops them off at either the central bus station (BSI Terminal) or at selected hotels throughout the city. The FlyBus can be booked in advance through the Reykjavik Excursions website and costs 3,449 ISK as of 2019. 

Where to Stay in Reykjavik

Lodging (and everything, really) is expensive in Reykjavik. Luckily, there are several good options to suit all budgets for staying in Reykjavik both before and after walking the Laugavegur Trail. Here are your best bets:

  • Reykjavik Campsite: The most economical option in town is to simply camp at the lovely Reykjavik Campsite. Located approximately 20-30 minutes by walking from central Reykjavik, the campground provides great facilities at a fraction of the cost of a hotel room. As a bonus, the bus to Landmannalaugar picks up directly from the campsite. 

  • Reykjavik City Hi Hostel: The most convenient hostel for those planning to walk the Laugavegur, the City Hi Hostel is located adjacent to the campsite as well as the bus pick-up location for getting to Landmannalaugar.

  • Hilton Reykjavik Nordica: For those looking for a more traditional hotel, we would highly recommend the Hilton Reykjavik Nordica. Located on the edge of central Reykjavik, the hotel offers nice rooms, a fantastic breakfast, and is just a short walk from the campsite for catching the bus to Landmannalaugar. 

You can check out all the options in and around Reykjavik here:

Booking.com

The Reykjavik Campsite is an affordable and convenient option for Laugavegur hikers.

 

Getting to/from the Laugavegur from Reykjavik

For those hiking the Laugavegur Trail from north to south, you’ll start in Landmannalaugar. There is no public bus service to Landmannalaugar so you’ll need to arrange private transportation. The best option in our opinion is the Reykjavik Excursions Iceland on Your Own Hiker Pass. The hiker 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 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 walkers at the campsite as well as the BSI bus terminal. If you choose to complete the Fimmvörðuháls and finish in Skogar, Straeto (the public bus company) picks up here via Route 51. Check Straeto’s website for more details and timetables. 

For those hiking the trail from south to north and starting in Þórsmörk, you’ll need to use the Reykjavik Excursions service described above as there is no public bus to Þórsmörk. If you are starting your Laugavegur hike by first completing the Fimmvörðuháls, then you will also have the option of utilizing Straeto’s Route 51 described above. 

Keep in mind that all routes between Reykjavik and any of the three main access points for the Laugavegur take several hours. The journey between Reykjavik and Landmannalaugar takes about 4.5 hours, Reykjavik to/from Þórsmörk takes about 4 hours, and Reykjavik to/from Skogar takes about 3.5 hours. Therefore, you’ll want to plan the start and end of your hike accordingly to allow for enough time to complete each segment and also catch your return bus. 

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

 

Money

There are no ATMs along the Laugavegur Trail, so you’ll need to be prepared to pay for all of your expenses with cash you’ve brought along or with a credit card. All of the huts/campsites give you the option to pay for your accommodation and anything additional you may purchase with a credit card, although savvy travelers will want to   bring at least some cash as it’s possible that the credit card machines may not be working due to limited solar power.

Luggage Storage

Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might like to carry while hiking the Laugavegur Trail. If that’s the case for you, you’ll find several options for luggage storage in Reykjavik. Luggage Lockers Iceland has several options throughout Reykjavik, with the most convenient locations for Laugavegur walkers being the Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool (adjacent to the campsite) and the BSI Bus Station, as both are pick-up and drop-off points for the bus to/from the Laugavegur. Note that the maximum luggage storage time at the BSI Bus Station is 5 days, while the Laugardalslaug Swimming Pool will allow you to store your luggage for up to 30 days. Both locations have several locker sizes as well as easy to use self-service kiosks. You can check locker sizes, prices, and opening hours for all of their locations here

Alternatively, many hotels in Reykjavik will gladly store your extra luggage if you are staying with them both before and after your Laugavegur Trail. The best option of course is to only pack what you need and avoid having to store any extra luggage at all!

But wait…there’s more!

Be sure to check out our entire series on the Laugavegur Trail get the all the information you need to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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Guide to Camping on the Laugavegur Trail

Hiking in Iceland gives a whole new meaning to the term wide open spaces. The volcanic landscapes on this stunning island are dynamic, colorful, wild, and unbelievably vast. One of…

Hiking in Iceland gives a whole new meaning to the term wide open spaces. The volcanic landscapes on this stunning island are dynamic, colorful, wild, and unbelievably vast. One of the most wonderful ways to experience the best of what Iceland’s backcountry has to offer (waterfalls, glaciers, geothermal activity, canyons, aquamarine rivers…you get the idea) is to hike the iconic Laugavegur Trail. This 34 mile (55 km) walk typically takes hikers 2-4 days.  It allows walkers to experience the remote and often harsh landscapes of the Icelandic wilderness while still providing some basic comforts and amenities. Those who want to maximize comfort might choose to stay in the mountain huts, while those seeking a more rugged (and affordable) experience can camp at every stage of the trek. Completing the hike is pretty straightforward, but there are nonetheless some important factors to consider in advance. This is particularly true if you are planning to camp along the trail. This guide will cover everything you need to know in order to prepare for an amazing Laugavegur camping adventure! 

Cascading falls on the way to Skogar.

 

First, a few basics about the hike:

Direction: 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 be more likely to have the wind at your back.  If you do plan on hiking from south to north, expect a more challenging hike 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. 

When to do it: 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. This is especially important for campers. 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), campers can typically complete the hike 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. 

Notes:

  • All prices in this guide are per person, per day.
  • This guide is based on a moderately-paced four day itinerary that begins in Landmannalaugar and ends in Þórsmörk (pronounced Thorsmork). There is an option to extend your hike by completing the Fimmvörðuháls Trail which connects Þórsmörk to Skogar. We have included information about this option in the guide as well. Many segments of the hike can be easily modified and these have been noted in the guide. For those hiking from south to north, most of this information still applies in reverse. Any exceptions have been noted in the guide. 
  • Wild camping is not permitted in Iceland. 
  • Campers will not have access to outlets for charging electronics until they reach the campground at Skogar. Plan accordingly. 
  • Reservations are not necessary for any of the campgrounds. 
  • You’ll find only a very limited inventory of (very expensive) supplies for sale at some of the huts along the trail. You should plan on stocking up on food, stove fuel, and provisions for your entire trek before leaving Reykjavik.

Campsite and hut at Landmannalaugar, the start of the Laugavegur Trail.

 

Day One: Landmannalaugar to Hrafntinnusker

If you are planning on starting your hike in Landmannalaugar, you’ll likely need to catch a bus there from Reykjavik (see our Laugavegur Trail Logistics article for more on how to do this). The bus ride takes about 4.5 hours, so you’ll want to take this into consideration when planning out your first day of hiking. If you take a morning bus and arrive in Landmannalaugar by midday, you could complete the first stage to Hrafntinnusker in the same day. Alternatively, you could camp at Landmannalaugar and begin hiking the following morning. If you went with the latter option you could combine the first two stages into one longer day to make up time and avoid camping at Hrafntinnusker (see more on that below). Additionally, there are some great day hikes near Landmannalaugar as well as some truly incredible hot springs. 

Landmannalaugar: 

Services at Landmannalaugar: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), hot showers (500 ISK for 5 min), clothesline, sheltered cooking area, trash and recycling, small shop selling snacks, beer, and hiking necessities (blister pads, maps, and stove fuel), picnic tables. Note: The ground at the Landmannalaugar campsite is very hard and rocky. You’ll need to use the rocks provided to secure your tent, as you are unlikely to be able to get your stakes into the ground. A nice sleeping pad is also recommended. 

The “Mountain Mall” is also located at Landmannalaugar. This eccentric shop is housed within a ring of retro school buses. They sell snacks, hiker meals, warm drinks, beer/wine, and hiking necessities. They also have some nice indoor and outdoor seating areas. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person.

The lovely hot springs at Landmannalaugar.

 

Hrafntinnusker: 

The camping area at Hrafntinnusker is adjacent to the small hut which is located near the top of the pass. This is definitely the most exposed and rugged of all the campgrounds along the Laugavegur. You should think twice before deciding to camp here, since it is likely to be very cold and windy. As with all huts along the route, campers will not be allowed inside the hut, even in stormy conditions. If you decide to camp here, you’ll want a 0°F sleeping bag and a high-quality three season tent. If you’re feeling slightly less hardcore, you have a couple of options. You could splurge on a bed inside the hut for this stage (book in advance on the Ferðafélag Íslands website), or you could combine the first two stages of the hike and camp either at Álftavatn or Hvanngil. More on these alternatives below. 

Services at Hrafntinnusker: Drop toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person

The hut at Hrafntinnusker in early July.

 

Harsh camping conditions at Hrafntinnusker.

Alternative Options for Day 1:

If you’d like to combine the first two stages of the Laugavegur into one long day, this is definitely possible if you are prepared and start early. However, due to the nature of the steep climbs and possibility of snow-covered trails late in the day, we do not recommend combining these stages if you’re hiking from south to north. If hiking north to south, you can either hike to Álftavatn (24km) or continue on to Hvanngil (an additional 3.8km, or 27.8 km total). There are some pros and cons of each option. 

Álftavatn:
Pros: Closer (it’s already a long day). More services (see below). Beautiful setting on a very lovely lake. 

Cons: More crowded. Very exposed campground-could be unpleasant in poor weather. 

Hvangill:
Pros: Much smaller and less crowded than Álftavatn. You’ll begin the third stage of the hike with a head start since you’ll be 3.8 km closer to the next hut. 

Cons: Fewer services. There is a river crossing between Álftavatn and Hvanngil which might seem daunting at the end of a long day of walking-some people may prefer to tackle it with fresh legs on the next day. 

Day Two: Hrafntinnusker to Álftavatn (or Hvangill). 

Services at Álftavatn: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, restaurant/bar selling hot meals, hot showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), picnic tables. There are sinks very close to the camping area, while the bathrooms are slightly further away. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person. 

The restaurant/bar at Álftavatn.

 

Camping at Álftavatn.

 

Services at Hvangill: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, semi-sheltered picnic table. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person.

Approaching the hut and campsite at Hvanngil.

 

Day Three: Álftavatn to Emstrur

The Emstrur Hut and campground are located in a lovely little valley alongside a pretty stream. The hut has some nice decks with great views and picnic tables that are accessible to campers. The camping area is located below the hut and is reached by descending down a rather long flight of stairs to the banks of the stream. Campers will need to climb back up the stairs to use the toilet facilities and sinks. 

Services at Emstrur: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, picnic tables, clothesline. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person.

The hut and campsite at Emstrur.

Alternative Option for Day Three:

It is possible to complete stages three and four into another long day and make it to Þórsmörk at the end of your second day. We chose this option in order to take advantage of good weather and free up time to complete the Fimmvörðuháls stage. Plan for 9-11 hours of hiking to complete these stages in one day. 

Day Four: Emstrur to Þórsmörk

Upon nearing Þórsmörk, hikers will reach a junction in the trail with a sign that denotes three options for camping. The campgrounds are a few kilometers apart, so pay attention to which direction you want to head before setting off. 

Volcano Huts: This privately-run campground is located in the opposite direction of the other two camping options. If ending your hike in Þórsmörk, be sure to check with your bus service to ensure that they pick up from Volcano Huts, not just the Þórsmörk/Langidalur Campsite. 

Services at Volcano Huts: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), indoor cooking area, restaurant/bar, free wifi access at the main service building, shop selling snacks and hiking basics, trash and recycling. 

Price: 2600 ISK (includes access to hot showers, sauna, natural warm soaking pool, and wifi access). 

Þórsmörk/Langidalur Campsite: This campground is a bit more basic than Volcano Huts, but is still lovely nonetheless. It is run by the Icelandic Touring Association (Ferðafélag Íslands or FI for short), which operates all of the other huts and campsites along the Laugavegur up to this point and the facilities will likely feel familiar.  It is located on the riverbed and has plenty of nice grassy areas for pitching a tent. It is well-positioned for pickup if ending your hike in Þórsmörk, but it would also be a good option if you’re continuing on to Skogar. If you plan on completing the Fimmvörðuháls hike, you should definitely plan to camp either here or at the Básar Campground. 

Services at Þórsmörk/Langidalur: Toilets, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (500 ISK for 5 minutes), shop selling beer, snacks, and hiking basics, picnic tables, sheltered area for cooking, trash and recycling. 

Price: 2000 ISK per person.  

The Þórsmörk/Langidalur Campsite and Hut at the end of the Laugavegur Trail.

 

Básar Campsite:  This sprawling campground is run by the Útivist Travel Association. You’ll have to walk another 1.5 km past the Þórsmörk/Langidalur campsite across the rocky riverbed to reach it, but you’ll have a head start if you’re hiking to Skogar the next day (which could be valuable since Fimmvörðuháls is a long hike). This campground doesn’t have a lot in the way of views, but it does offer nice facilities, sheltered campsites, and grassy pitches. 

Services at Básar: Indoor toilettes, cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, picnic tables, hot shower (500 ISK), cell phone charging (500 ISK), BBQ area. 

Price: 1500 ISK per person + 300 ISK tax per tent. 

Conveniently located campsite at Básar.

 

Day Five: Þórsmörk to Skogar (the Fimmvörðuháls Trail)

The trail from Þórsmörk to Skogar is long and challenging, but the beautiful sights are incredibly rewarding. If you are committed to camping, you’ll need to complete the entire 25km (10-12 hours) hike in one day since there are no camping options along the way. If you would like to break it up into two days, you have the option of either staying at the Útivist-owned Fimmvörðuháls Hut or the more basic FI-owned Baldvinsskali Hut, both of which require advance reservations. Otherwise, if you complete the hike in one day, you’ll end at the impressive Skógafoss waterfall and right in the center of the Skogar Campground. Be warned that after being in the remote wilderness for the past few days, Skogar might feel like a bit of a zoo. The falls are a big destination for large tour buses, as well as individuals driving the famous Ring Road. You’ll know you’re getting close to the end of the hike when you start to see jean-clad tourists leaning precariously over the edges of cliffs with their selfie-sticks. You’ll hear all sorts of people and traffic noise late into the evening at the campsite, so ear plugs are a good idea. Because of the campground’s central location, non-campers frequently use the facilities. Expect to wait for the bathroom during the middle part of the day. If you can get past the crowds, you’ll find that Skogar is a pleasant place to camp, with grassy pitches and views of the falls from your tent. 

Services at Skogar: Indoor toilets, hot and cold water (safe for drinking), sinks for washing up, warm showers (300 ISK for 5 minutes), free cell phone charging (just ask the warden), picnic tables. There is also a more upscale restaurant/bar in the hotel/hostel nearby, as well as a more casual restaurant and a shop selling some souvenirs, camping equipment and snacks. There are a couple of other restaurants if you walk further down the road. 

Price: 1300 ISK per person. 

Waterfall views from the Skogar Campsite.

 

Many people are intimidated by the idea of  backpacking in Iceland, citing the prohibitive costs, tricky logistics, and harsh conditions. Camping along the Laugavegur Trail is the perfect way to see Iceland’s most beautiful sights without spending a fortune or getting caught in the tourist circuit. Hopefully our guide can help you plan out your best possible adventure in one of the most incredible landscapes on earth. Happy trails!

What’s Next?

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

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Update from the Trail: Iceland

Greetings from the Reykjavik Campground in Iceland! The first two segments of our trip of a lifetime/mini-retirement are in the books. It’s hard to believe it’s already been nearly two…

Greetings from the Reykjavik Campground in Iceland! The first two segments of our trip of a lifetime/mini-retirement are in the books. It’s hard to believe it’s already been nearly two weeks since we locked up our Boulder apartment and hit the road.  We spent a wonderful week in the Midwest visiting family and friends before hopping on an easy direct flight from Chicago to Reykjavik. We spent a night in this cozy capital before heading out to hike the Laugavegur trail in the south of the country. Before we get into the hike, quick aside about our first night in Reykjavik: 

When planning for an extended trip while trying to maintain a rather modest budget, we knew we needed to keep our lodging costs down.  We have managed to travel hack our way into a nice bounty of points and miles, but not nearly enough to cover five months of travel. Therefore, we created two guiding rules for strategically booking hotels using travel rewards.  

Rule #1: Maximize value. We tried to use the bulk of our rewards-fueled hotel stays in expensive places where we’d pay a pretty penny for accommodation if using cash. Lucky us, our Europe-heavy travel itinerary includes plenty of cities that fit the bill (pun intended). When traveling through southeast Asia, on the other hand, we will use cash for more of our accommodation since lodging is typically very reasonable in those parts. 

Rule #2: Hotels on travel days.  There is nothing better than finishing a long travel day with an easy check-in process (no fumbling in the dark to find the AirBnB lockbox or waking up the host), a hot shower, baggage storage options, and a clean bed.  We will happily rough it in our tent for most nights of our trip, but we are insanely grateful for the small luxuries of hotels when arriving somewhere new sleep-deprived and weary. 

After a very comfortable stay at the Reykjavik Hilton (early check in? Heck yes. Amazing breakfast buffet? Even better), we are feeling pretty swell about how The Rules have been working out. We spent a day exploring Reykjavik and running some pre-hike errands before hopping on a bus to Lannamanalugar, our starting destination for the  Laugavegur Trail, a 48-mile trek through rugged landscapes in the south of the country. 

Starting out on the Laugavegur Trail

The Laugavegur Trail is Iceland’s most popular and iconic long-distance trek. It is divided into four segments, each marked by a mountain hut and camping area at the finish. At the official end of the trail, there is the option to add on another day’s hike on the Fimmvorduhals Trail, which climbs up to pass between two glaciers and then descends into the small town of Skogar. Our plan was to combine the first two segments of the Laugavegur Trail on our first day to complete the entire thing and make it to Skogar in a total of four days. 

We arrived in Landmannalaugar in the afternoon with plans to camp there for the evening and then set off for our hike early(ish) the next morning.  Landmannalaugar is known for it’s amazing geothermal landscape, which is punctuated by otherworldly colors, random steam-spewing crevices, and some truly lovely hot springs. We almost talked ourselves into skipping the hot springs, considering the fact that we hadn’t brought swimsuits and didn’t want to haul around wet clothes in our packs for the next few days. Fortunately, Ian pulled the whole “It’s not everyday that you find yourself at some dope geothermal hot springs” card and I was quickly convinced. Us Coloradans would have preferred to soak in nude, but after a quick survey of the scene we determined that Iceland wasn’t ready for all that and opted to sacrifice one of our precious few pairs of underwear for the cause. Soaking in the hot springs, surrounded by dramatic mountains and dynamic colors in every direction was truly an unparalleled way to kick off our trek. We returned to a very chilly night in our tent before hitting the trail the next morning. 

The lovely hot springs at Landmannalugar.

We began Day 1 in good spirits. The initial uphill climb helped us thaw out a bit (did I mention that Iceland is a cold place for camping?) and the views blew us away from the start. Iceland is like no other place on Earth that we’ve ever been. The geothermal activity, volcanic landforms, vibrantly colored mountains, wide rivers, black sand deserts, and powerful waterfalls all come together to give this place a character that is completely unique and totally spectacular. The first day of hiking on a long-distance trek is always a bit of a euphoria-filled blur.  For example, we were so blissed out on our first day of the Tour du Mont Blanc that we missed an obvious turn and walked in the wrong direction for an hour before realizing it. On our first day of the West Highland Way, we stopped for a very long lunch (whisky included) thinking we were much closer to our stopping point than we actually were. On the Laugavegur, the trail really gave new meaning to the expression, “a surprise around every corner.” It seemed like every hill we crested or bend we rounded presented a completely new and wondrous landscape. Despite hiking for over eight hours, we finished feeling energized and totally stokey about the next day. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that we decided to combine the next segments into another big day the following day. Why sit around and be cold at the campsite when we could spend the entire day exploring the trail? 

Emily doing her best to stay warm.

On Day 2, we packed up camp in damp conditions and a literally bone-chilling wind. One plus side of this weather is that it makes instant coffee taste like the elixir of life. Another positive was that although we had nearly perfect weather throughout the hike, we did at least get a little taste of Iceland’s moody dark side. We set off towards the next hut feeling a little stiff after the previous day’s efforts but totally excited for what the trail would bring. We did have some trepidation however, as we’d read that the biggest of our river crossings would occur on this stage of the hike.  For such an expensive country with otherwise impeccable infrastructure, Iceland seems curiously reluctant to build bridges over rivers. Both people and vehicles are routinely expected to ford sizable rivers if they would like to carry on towards their destination. The warden’s notes at the previous huts warned hikers to take caution crossing the Emstur River, and recent reports suggested the water could reach mid-thigh depths. We’d hoped we’d get an hour or two of walking behind us to warm up before crossing the icy water, but lo and behold, we met it within a few minutes of starting the day. For the second time this week in Iceland, we found ourselves stripping down to our underwear and stepping into the steely glacial waters. This time, however, there was no geothermal action to soften the blow. We forged into the icy, fast-moving currents, carefully choosing every step even though we just wanted to run to the other side and get out as fast as possible. Well, that was one wickedly efficient way to wake up in the morning. 

The rest of Day 2 was tremendously beautiful, but definitely more of a slog than Day 1, due to very long stretches through rocky desert and the fact that our bodies were starting to feel the miles a bit more. Still, we saw so many amazing sights, like the enormous canyon where two rivers-one slate gray and the other sepia toned-together hundreds of feet below us. Finally, we reached Þórsmörk, the technical end of the Laugavegur. We bought a ridiculously overpriced, but yet so necessary, Twix bar at the Þórsmörk campsite shop and then continued on another mile to the campsite at Basar where we’d be better positioned to start the next day’s big hike. Upon reaching camp, the sun had fully made an appearance and we enjoyed some very relaxing evening hours soaking up the endless daylight before putting on our sleeping masks and turning in for the night. 

The confluence of rivers on Day 2.

Day 3 brought more excellent sunny weather, and we knew we had to take advantage of it and bust out the last big day of walking before allowing ourselves a rest day. Today we would complete the Fimmvorduhals Trail.  Have you ever wanted to climb between two glaciers, see the youngest mountains on earth, witness recent volcanic eruptions where black ash meets white snow, crest a mountain pass to see the ocean in the distance, or gaze at 20 waterfalls all in one day? Well we never knew we wanted all those things either until we hiked this trail, but it turns out that it definitely doesn’t suck. You’ve got to work for your views though.  The trail included some ridiculously steep climbs, a mildly sketchy exposed section, and lots of hiking through slushy snow fields. Technically, today was supposed to be way harder in terms of challenge than the previous day, but we both felt significantly better. It was one of those all-around perfect days in nature.  

Cascading falls on the way to Skogar.

Reaching the end of the hike was an interesting experience. Skogar, where the Fimmvorduhals terminates, is a huge draw for tourists due to its proximity to the main highway and its very impressive waterfall, known as Skogafoss.  To us, after being on the lightly trafficked trail for the past few days, it felt like a total zoo. Giant busses dropped off camera-wielding tourists who aggressively fought their way into position for the perfect instagram shot.  It was such an entertaining spectacle that we had no other choice to embrace it and relish the experience. The campground was smack dab in the center of the action, so we enjoyed an endless stream of premium people-watching from the comfort of our tent. The waterfall views were pretty sweet too. Although we appreciated Skogar for what it was worth, we realized pretty quickly that we would struggle hang around at the campground for the nearly 48 hours until our bus was scheduled to pick us up (since we finished a day early). Fortunately, we were able to change our tickets and decided to make the most of our extra time by heading back to Reykjavik, which is how we ended up at the lovely campground where I began this post. We walked around the city for quite awhile yesterday before enjoying a picnic feast for dinner. Soon, we will head off to Chamonix, where we’ll spend a few days in town before beginning our next trek, the Haute Route.  We’ll spend nearly two weeks traversing the Alps as we make our way from Chamonix to Zermatt, sleeping in our tent all but a couple of nights. As we wrap up in Iceland, it is easy to get caught up in looking ahead to what’s next. Sure, that excitement is certainly part of the fun, but we have to keep reminding ourselves to try to stay in the moment. We’ve been planning this thing for so long and already the days are getting ticked off the itinerary at a remarkable pace. It’s amazing how time moves when you wake up every day and get to do exactly the thing you want to be doing. It has been an incredible experience to be in a given moment and realize that you honestly don’t want to be any other place or in any other time. What a rare and fortunate feeling. Until the next post, we’ll do our best to keep soaking it all up. 

All smiles after the Laugavegur Trail!

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Planning the Trip of a Lifetime

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

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

The Plan

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

Hike #1: The Laugavegur Trail, Iceland

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

Beautiful landscapes of the Laugavegur Trail in Iceland.

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

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

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

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

Lech, Austria

Hike #4: The Coast to Coast Walk, England

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

The iconic Lakes District.

Hike #5: The GR20, Corsica

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

Stunning Corsican landscape

What’s Next?

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

The Logistics

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

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

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

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

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

What does one pack for a trip like that?

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

 

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

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Personalized TMB Coaching

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

 

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

Who’s it For?

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

What We Offer:

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

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

Price: $100 USD

Why Choose Us?

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

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

TMB Coaching Inquiry

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