While the US does have an amazing set of mountain ranges Sierra Nevadas, the Rockies, the Appalachians, the European Alps are spectacular and must be experienced by the serious hiker. Its terrain and mountainous views are perfect for thrill seekers who want to spice up their summer or weekend getaway. An increasingly popular type of day hike is a walking tour in Europe.
If you are on your own you can hardly go wrong … Europe is a hiking wonderland and is easy to get around. The infrastructure of Europe lends itself to hiking without the need of a car since many trailheads are accessible by bus. While a car can still be more convenient, it is nice to have the option of not being burdened with one.
Cow bells, alpine huts, and chair lifts means you are in Europe.
Happy cows, with a chorus bells clanging, wander the mountains eating grass and doing their thing (usually on the trails).
The Alpine Hut (Refugio in Italian) concept is incredible. You hike for hours and thousands of vertical feet, struggling the last few hundred yards to finally the top and what is there? Usually a full service bar, restaurant, and beds and indoor plumbing. The Europeans make hiking really civilized. Many mountain ranges have a Alpine Hut spaced over several peaks – the idea being, one could hike every day to a new one, staying overnight before continuing the journey. While the dormitory type beds are not quite 5 star accommodations, it certainly beats tents, cold ground, etc.
The Alps are packed with ski venues, operating in the summer as hiking Disneyland’s. Almost all seem to be open to the dayhiker’s advantage. Taking a chair lift, cable car, bergbahn, etc, leverages the day to longer and higher hikes.
Here are two favorites of the DayHiker:
Interlaken Jungfrau Region (Switzerland)
Just a couple of hours by train from Zurich (via Interlaken), one can find themselves in the alpine fairy tale land of Grindlewald, Wengen, or Murren shortly after a plane trip from the US. The myriad of hiking trails is accentuated by trains, cable cars, and chairs lifts allowing for day hike combinations limited only by your imagination. Wengen and Murren do not allow cars making for the perfect idyllic alpine post card setting..
The German speaking Italians of South Tirol along with the ancient enclave of Ladins (they resisted the Romans and still speak their language today) make the this region unique. None the less is the white jagged spires of mountain tops which make for interesting mountain tops. For the more adventuresome, and probably with some rock climbing experience, many hikes are aided by the ferrata (iron bars embedded into the rocks) where one wears a harness with a shackle to clip on the bars as you climb.