We deserve an adventure in the Bavarian Alps and this is how I'm planning it to rebound from the start of school. The mountains call in September.
Seeking Stillness from a Hike, After the Start of School
I love connecting with my daughter with time spent moving through the Great Outdoors, especially hiking in the Alps. It’s the great escape from so many things, including middle school drama. If you’ve got tweens and teens, you’ll understand how hard the new school year can be to break the spell of screens and angst of friendship drama, new classes, bus registration and trying to not get cut from the team/band/etc.
Planning a Hut to Hut Hike in the Alps: Table of Contents:
Skip to #8 for Itinerary
Well-Being Prescription: Hiking Outside, Stat!!!!
Finding the balance between guiding your kids’ moral, mental and physical development with quality time spent enjoying the moment generally feels like a losing proposition.
At best, it’s just hard to see clearly that everything is going to be fine raising teen girls. At worst, we’re all trapped in a sick culture that prioritizes busy-ness, likes and money. Not to mention runaway global warming or an alarming and increasing rate of mental illness and disorders amongst adolescent girls unimaginable a generation ago.
Finding the way back to things like love, kindness, preserving and protecting Nature takes space. Space away from screens, social media, household chores and rumination is empowered by hiking in the Alps.
Day Hikes are Awesome, but What is Hut to Hut Alps Backpacking?
I’d never heard of hut to hut hiking prior to moving to Germany for work. It’s equal parts culture and adventure, something rare to find in the United States. Very popular in Europe and New Zealand, hut to hut hiking let’s hikers experience the magic of the mountains without having to rough it.
Mountain refuges or huts (Hütte in German, rifugio in Italian) are located directly on the high elevation trails and provide warm beds and delicious food and drinks. Some are very rustic and some are pretty fancy with saunas on the deck.
They definitely vary but the vibe is generally pretty laid back and filled with hungry hikers hopped up on a days’ endorphins from movement and Nature.
It’s all up to you to plan it how you want. Some hikers will plan 2 hours between huts and some 2 days. Do it your way on these hiking tours.
FREE PACKING LIST DOWNLOAD
Hut to Hut Hiking in the USA
The demand for hut to hut hiking is growing in the USA and the hut2hut organization is trying to build momentum by sharing hut to hut hiking systems in Colorado, the White Mountains of New Hampshire and more.
Multi day hiking from one mountain hut to the next brings a clear and simple objective to the day that gives purpose. It’s certainly more interesting than coming back to the same hotel each night, adventure awaits! Something inside adolescents requires a thrill, right? Not knowing exactly what’s around the bend scratches that itch, without actually being overly risky.
Traveling by Foot - the Ultimate Eco Adventure Travel
Once at the trailhead the car stays parked and your carbon footprint is your respiratory system vs the car or plane while traveling. A light backpack is all that’s needed and walking on a breathtaking mountain path keeps all the angsty, rumination and to-do lists at bay. Check out our packing list here.
Fatigue the body with a hiking tour to relax the mind, right?
I’d say that the bribe of a delicious 3 course meal with hot cocoa at the end of the day is what I use to motivate my kid to hike, but I’d be lying.
It motivates me. That and the tasty local wines.
Alps Backpacking in September
Our first family experience on the Alta Via 1 trail in the Italian Dolomites was so wondrous and incredible that we convinced 14 friends and family from Italy and the United States to repeat it the following year. No surprise, it was even better the second time. Great friendships gilded with sweat, wine and apfelstrudel.
But the Italian Dolomites is about an 8 hour road trip not ideal for a quick labor day escape from Ramstein, Germany where we live. That’s something 26 year old Morgan would have done. But that time I got chased by a bear in a California state park and now my knee gets stiff sitting too long, ya know?
The Alps weather looks good in early September, highs in the 70s and lows in the 40s.
September is likely the last few weeks of the high altitude hiking season in the Alps before it gets dicey and far beyond the scope of this blog.
We’re definitely fair weather hikers so it’s time to figure out where to go hiking close to Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
Hiking in the Alps Hiking Trail Planning
The idea was to skip all hours of online research to find some closer hut to hut hiking trails and just follow the book. Only the blues or reds. Just like skiing. I go on blacks only after 6 inches of fresh power the night before.
I’d found a hardcover book called “Hohenweg” in a Heidelberg book store. My German is pretty crappy but that’s gotta mean “high way”. And “high way” is like Alta Via, just like the Alta Via in Italy. (Thank you Duolingo.) Boom!
The very serious looking “trekkers” in this book annotated a blue route that should take 9 hours and had several hütten (singlar hütte) listed with websites and phone numbers. Wow, this was going to be easy!!! We’d get there on Saturday and take the Nebelhorn gondola to the top, and hike half of the 9 hour route, sleep in a hütte and then do the rest on Sunday and return home. Easy peasy.
Trail #4 was located inside Germany in the Allgäuer Alps. This is just east of Lake Constance and west of the world famous Neuschwanstein castle (the crazy king Ludwig II built a dreamy castle vacation home that disney basically tried to copy).
I’d never actually heard of this mountain range, but it’s only a 4 hour drive from Ramstein and perfect for a labor day escape from Ramstein, Germany so we’re going hiking in Bavaria!
And heck, why not take our 2 year old Alaskan husky Shadow too! Maybe the steepness of the Alps would finally get him tired for once!
Walking with my daughter and my dog in the unknown Alllgäuer Alps on the blue hut-to-hut path...paradise.
Blogs and Youtube Better Than Hardcover Books
After 10 Emails not answered, crappy german websites (not unusual, germany really has a great tech avoidance culture) and phones that ring endlessly - I discovered that the so-called “hüttes” listed in the book were not, in fact, places you could stay. Despite the authors listing it with cute green symbols as summer sleeping, their information wasn't accurate.
I’m glad I got the book because honestly I don't think I'd have come across the idea of the Allgäuer Alps, nor the E5 thru trail (see below). Place like the Dolomites, Mont Blanc, and Camino de Santiago tend to get the google love and blog love and there’s so many options hiking in the Alps, it’s hard to find.
It’s like google thinks everyone is a black level hut to hut hikers. Some of us like the easier stuff, only semi- treacherous. Not the full blown vertigo inducing challenge of a crazy ferrata or cliffside death march.
Finding Dog Friendly Accommodations Hiking in the Alps
The search was on for dog friendly mountain huts and 2 places that are adequately far apart and in some sort of “loop” . And nothing crazy dangerous.
Since the book was kinda false advertising I decided to find my own huts in the area somewhere near the path #4.
Best online resources to start planning trips:
Google Maps begins it all
Hütte Booking Sites
The Hohenweg book suggested taking the gondola from the town of Oberstdorf, Germany to the top of a peak called Nebelhorn - then walk a 9 hour loop at elevation counterclockwise back to Oberstdorf with an overnight stop at the Kaiseralpe or Gertrubenalpe.
But since these places didn't have beds I started looking around online.
Also I looked for the highest mountain peaks nearby and searched those keywords combined with “hiking”. The results are mostly in German, but google chrome is amazing and google reviews too.
The European long distance E5 path came up in the search. Those are a goldmine when researching because they have huts littered around them as hikers come from around the world to do crazy things like walk from the Black Sea to the Adriatic Sea all at once, or in sections.
I discovered that from one of the peaks back to the valley the town is in was “tedious and boring and long”. This hohenweg book - starting to grow ever more doubtful of ever buying a hut to hut hiking “book”in the future.
Mountain Hut Booking Sites
So where to stay for 2 nights, then I could plan our own less boring path. I checked in with the Alpenverien. They have an app I cant figure out and a pretty good website for mountain refuges in the alps. I might want to join this group for the future and get german itunes so the app works correctly.
They state everywhere no dogs...but not true. In fact, at the top of the gondola to Nebelhorn peak there is a hütte in their system that did take dogs. Except they were having massive construction (maybe covid has given them motivation to do renovations, this has been a trend I’ve noticed) and you had to rent out an entire 4 person room to bring your dog. There are only 2 of us humans, so that one was out.
I stumbled on another aggregator site for huts: https://www.huetten-holiday.com/
It’s very useful on booking the huts, but not really in the way of planning.
I used a combination of guesswork, google maps, the map in the book, and komoot maps to see about potential walking times between huts. Valleys in the Alps are usually very obvious because the mountains are super steep, there’s not so many foothills like in the Rockies or especially the Appalachians.
The hütte that would make sense four our tour definitely didn't take dogs, they had a “bad experience” in the past and now dogs are banned.
This is another site to book huts for hikes but i’ve not yet explored it in detail….https://www.alpsonline.org/guest/login
It seems promising though. Next time. Where to stay???
Alps Town Websites to Find Hotels, Hostels and Huts
You’d be surprised how seriously Germans take their village history. My village in western germany has a wikipedia page that goes back to the Roman times. It’s got a population of 800 people, 23 cows and 11 llamas.
The rabbithole started with Gerstruben, the hütte mentioned in the book I’d bought. A villager had created this detailed history and hiking page with links to a few other places nearby.
One was a mountain hostel and not exactly part of the alpenverein, but it was tucked up a long valley from Oberstdorf and they accepted us and our dog. https://www.mountain-hostel.de/
It’s a jugendherberge, or youth hostel. A place for kids to have a week or two summer camp. They are popular as a starting place for the E5 long distance path also.
This town page had some great maps including dotted hiking paths with elevation, so combined with komoot we’ve got several options this weekend. If it rains we can stay lower and off the slippery rocky parts, or if it’s sunny we’ll go up to Nebelhorn via Gerstruben but avoid the “long and tedious route around the Höfats and Schneck peaks.
This site helps a lot too. https://www.ok-bergbahnen.com/aktiv-sport/wandern/wandern-oberstdorf/wandern-nebelhorn/
I found our Sunday night dog friendly accommodation via Youtube - a place called Explorer hotels. A cute german hiker influencer had some links to it...seems like a hipstery, cheapish hotel. Only 10 euros for the dog too.
It wasn’t available on booking.com but through their own website they accepted my reservation without any credit card payment. Love German trust.
Pro tip: Don’t be surprised if a hotel or hostel is listed on booking but unavailable. Always check their direct site or call. There’s less of a consumerist attitude here than in the US. Sometimes I ask, “Don’t you want my money?”
Itinerary Hiking in Bavaria Alps Hut to Hut
2 Days Allgäuer Alps
Day 1: 3-4 hours, will record the km
Day 2: 6-9 hours, will record the km, but expect significant elevation gain.
Day 3: 4 hours
Day 1: Saturday: Drive 4 hours, park in Obertsdorf. Lock the car and backpack south in the valley along the Trettlach river. Past the moorweiher pond. Past Christlesee. The walking path basically skirts the trettlach all the way to Spielmannsau mountain hostel.
Approx 3-4 hours with some stops at the Cristlesee.
Day 2: Sunday: Weather dependent, and with guidance from local staff, decide on these options:
Spielmannsau north to Cristlesee, then take the Rautweg east to Gerstruben Valley. Skipping Gerstruben alpe, staying west and going UPHILL just past the Marienkappelle church north toward the Hahnenköpfle 1735m toward Oytal Valley. Looks steep.
Lunch at Lugenalpe im Oytal. Stay left and head down to Berggasthof Oytalhaus Oberstdorf.
From Oytal, if we're really tired, head west down the valley back to Oberstdorf. If full of energy: Take Gleitweg north (STEEP) to Seealpssee. This seems aggressive. We’ll see. From Seealpsee (42 meter deep alpine lake) there is the Hofatsweg to the Nebelhorn gondola to take down to Oberstdorf.
Or we could go from Spielmannsau even further north to Gruben to Oytal valley, then back to Oberstdorf.
Day 3: Monday will be a day hike:
Find a quick loop around Oberstdorf or if we didn’t get to the top (which I suspect) we’ll gondola up to the Nebelhorn. Path 4A will take 4 hours to go from the station to Seealpssee and back.
It’ll be off the beaten path either way. It’s going to be fun “winging it” and not following some book or someone else's Komoot. However, we should time a clear day to be at the Nebelhorn peak. Clouds are a bummer up that high.
I finally bought it. I’ll be creating a plan on the komoot app of this mini alps hiking journey so it can be repeated. I like komoot because it’s so detailed, but it’s crowdsourced and it’s really hard to trust if something is black, blue, red, etc.
And often, it’s so overly wordy and too many photos it can be like pinterest. Aka a huge time suck. But I'm gonna give it a shot. The maps are great and offline with paid subscription. It’s not too expensive either, 40 euros per year.
Inspiration: E5 from Oberstdorf to Merano
I’ve really got to learn German just so I can watch the documentary on youtube of the family doing the E5 with their maltese dog and kids and grandparents. The books and sites call it “advanced”. But…. Sometimes I wonder if sites call it advanced so that you’ll hire their guide?
This article will cause you to drool over the 3 country, 6 valley 180km long hut to hut hiking in the Alps journey.
We’re headed there this weekend and can't wait to share the experience of this labor day mountain escape. Sage, Ruby and I’ll see where the trails take us.
Until Next Time, Climb Your Mountains!
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Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a family adventurer, physical therapist and travel writer. She is actively involved in the community and advocating for connection and sustainability with her community projects at Cornhole Europa and Sustainable Investors Group.