The Top 5 Day Hikes in the European Alps
The Alps are home to some of the most beautiful and challenging mountain hikes in the world. Although we could easily spend days exploring what these beautiful mountains, sometimes one day is all you need! So here are 5 of the most beautiful day hikes the in the Alps, accessed from some of our favourite ski resorts.
Time: 3-5 hours depending on route chosen
Part of the iconic Tour de Mont Blanc walking trail, the Lac Blanc hike is one of the classic hikes in Chamonix. Offering some of the most beautiful views across the Mont Blanc Massif and the Mer de Glace, it is a fantastic option for hikers of all ages and fitness levels thanks to the different approaches. The easiest option is to get the Flegere cable car up to the midstation, then hop on the index chairlift which takes you to an altitude of 2,595m. From the top of the lift, the pathway is clearly signposted and in just over 1 hour of relatively easy walking you will find yourself coming into the entrance of Lac Blanc. Once at the top, there is a lovely mountain hut serving food and drinks, and even offering overnight stays if you are looking for an authentic mountain experience. For a slightly harder route, you can start walking directly from the mid station (1877m) which involves a bit more climbing and will take around 2 hours. For those with a good level of fitness, walking to Lac Blanc from Tre-le-Champ will take around 3 hours and take you past exceptional scenery including another alpine lake, Lac Cheserys. To descend from Lac Blanc, simply do the reverse of any of the paths we have mentioned above.
Difficulty: Medium/ Difficult due to the altitude
Time: 4-6 hours
Zermatt has hundreds of hiking options for all abilities, but the Gornergrat hike is the must-do hike in Zermatt with the most iconic views. Accessible by train and foot, the best option is to hop on the Gornergratbahn from Zermatt to Riffelberg, walk the rest of the way to the summit and get the train all the way down again. Once you get off at Riffelberg, there is a well-marked trail to Riffelsee (the next train station) that you should follow. On the way, you will come across 2 small alpine lakes which offer some of the most famous views of the Matterhorn. Once you arrive at Riffelsee, you can hop on board the train to the top but if you are up for more of an adventure, the hike from Riffelsee from Zermatt is a must-see and offers stunning views of Monte Rosa. Once at the summit, you have a phenomenal view of the Gorner Glacier as well as over a dozen 4000m peaks. When you are done at the summit, simply hop on the train back down to Zermatt.
Difficulty: Medium – it is not a technical walk, but a long one!
Time: 4 hours
A mammoth 413 kilometres in total, our pick for one of the top day hikes in Austria is the last section of the Eagle Walk trail between the Kaiser Mountains and the Tirol which is a challenging (but not technically difficult) 17km. Taking around 4 hours, the final part of the walk takes you from the rugged Lechtal Alps in Kaiserjochhaus to St Christoph am Arlberg, just 10 minutes from its more famous neighbour, St Anton. Clambering up the mounts of Schindlekopf and Bergleskopf, you frequently catch views of the Swiss Alps, and to make the journey more pleasant there are two delightful mountain huts to rest and pick up refreshments from along the way.
4. Sella Herbetet Traverse, Cogne, Italy
Length: 8-10 hours
You can break this trip up over 2 days by staying at one of the huts on the way, but it is doable in one day if you have a good level of fitness. 19km in total, the hike starts from the town bridge in the small village of Valnontey and ends here too. From the bridge you follow the old mule trail, Alta Via 2 (clearly signposted) uphill to the Rifugia Sella (2.5hr). From the refuge, the path is narrow but well maintained and takes you along the western side of the valley offering breath-taking views of glaciers, alpine lakes, wildlife, beautiful forests and some of Italy’s highest mountains. Following the entire route should take no more than 10 hours, though make sure the weather is set to be clear for the entire day as the narrow paths can become dangerous if visibility is limited.
Length: 2.5-4 hours
This beautiful hike is one that you cannot miss if you are in the Dolomites on a hiking holiday. Great for all members of the family, it is relatively flat and offers stunning views of the three pinnacles that give Tre Cime its name and is a fantastic day trip option from the resort of Cortina. To begin the hike, drive (or hop on the bus) to the Rifugio Auronzo and park your car. From here, follow the signs to Rifugio Laverdo and from there towards Rifugio Locatelli where you will have the best views of Tre Cime and the valley. Once you have taken in the views, take the downhill path through the wildflower covered valley in front of the Tre Cime and follow it back to the Rifugio Auronzo.
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