Thinking About Hiking the Alps? Here’s Some Advice From Past Tour Groups
What does it take to hike the Alps with us? We’ve got all the logistics and planning covered. Here’s what you can do to make sure it’s your best adventure yet.
by EF Ultimate Break
If you’ve signed up for our European Alps hiking trip, you’ve made a very awesome, very amazing decision. And soon enough, you will realize this in all its glory (as will all your Instagram fans). But if you’re still considering whether this is the trip for you, it’s understandable that you might have some questions, and perhaps even some nervous feelings about what you’re about to get yourself into. Do you need to train a lot beforehand? Is everyone going to walk together? Can you still imbibe at night?
Below, we compiled the best bits of advice from past EF Ultimate Break tour groups to make sure you feel confident in your decision, are well prepared to have the best experience ever, and know what to expect once you’re on the trails.
Do at least some training for the trip, locally.
You don’t have to show up in the best shape of your life, but ask anyone whose been on the trip and they’ll tell you it’s a good idea to spend a couple weeks preparing your body. Walking your dog around the block is a nice start, but, yeah, you’ll probably want to go a little bit further than that. Remember, the more you practice now, the better you’ll feel on the trail and the more wine or beer you can drink the night before enjoyable the walks will be for you.
Getting out on local trails wherever you live is ideal, since it tends to be the most pleasant and gets you used to walking on uneven terrain. Alternatively, you can hit the gym and hone in on specific exercises that focus on uphill movement, such as walking at an incline on the treadmill or getting after the Stairmaster. Heck, fire up a 45-minute yacht rock ride on the Peloton if you want, we won’t tell anyone. Just be sure to mix in some general cardio workouts, whatever you enjoy most—running, biking, power walking, dancing, classes, etc—and make a point to exercise on back-to-back days.
Don’t worry about training with the intention of being the “best” hiker—there’s no prize for being first, and you’ll just end up sitting around and waiting for everyone. Simply get to the point where you feel comfortable within yourself. Our Hike the Alp trip allocates plenty of time for the hikes, with ample time to rest and walk at a leisurely pace. No one will be left behind, we promise you that!
Break in your hiking boots. We repeat: Break in your hiking boots.
Whether it’s on the trails or the treadmill, the most important thing is to break in your hiking boots. Start by wearing them around the house or on errands for a few days, then work in a some two- or three-mile hikes. At that point, your boots should start to feel like home, and there shouldn’t be any “hot spots” that cause blisters. Pro tip: Buy your boots from a store like REI, which allows you to return gear after you’ve tried it out. If you’ve put about ten miles on your boots and they still don’t feel comfortable, return them and try out a different brand or style. Buy your boots sooner than later so you aren’t rushing to break them in.
Armor yourself against the elements.
The hikes on the tour are selected to showcase the region’s scenic beauty, which, in the Alps, means you’ll spend considerable time in high altitude environments ranging from 8,000 to 10,000 feet. At this altitude, hikers experience the best views, but they also encounter more exposure to wind, sun, rain, and variable temperatures.
Past tour groups tell us that it’s better to have too many layers than not enough. It might be sunny when you set off at 9:00am, but what if it starts pouring at 11? You might be hot on that uphill climb, but how will you feel when you sit still for lunch? It might seem silly to pack a hat and gloves back home in June or July, but you might be really, really glad to have them if it’s cloudy and windy at 10,000 feet. A rain jacket or a poncho is a must for every hike, just in case.
As a famous author once said, “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” Follow this advice and you’ll be comfortable no matter what the conditions.
Find your own quiet moment.
Hiking the Alps with EF Ultimate Break provides the perfect platform to get to know your fellow travelers, with the opportunity to walk and talk in a low pressure, quiet atmosphere. Indeed, past travelers tell us that one of the best parts of group travel—whether you’ve signed up to travel solo or with a friend—is forging these new relationships, and the trails are a great place to meet and mingle.
In this way, we definitely encourage you to be social on the trail. But, carving out some time for yourself to connect with nature mano a mano is also important. The group will naturally spread out over the course of the hike, and every so often, in between conversations, you’ll find you have a little space to yourself. It’s the perfect time to take a break from socializing and look inward.
You don’t have to be weird about it. You don’t have to make an announcement or excuse yourself. Just pull off to the side for a quiet, reflective breath. Allow gratitude to flow through you in these moments, and open yourself to the grounding, rejuvenating energy of the mountains. Think about where you are, and where you want to go.
You’ll no doubt feed off the vigor and enthusiasm of the group, especially in the (brief) challenging moments of the hikes. Yet each person should still work to establish their own private connection with the natural scenery. Only then can the full potential of this trip be reached!
Food equals fuel.
We know, it would be nice to lose weight on the trip. And you just might. You’ll be hiking for more than a week, and you wouldn’t be the first person to come back a few pounds lighter.
You shouldn’t, however, treat the trip like a weight-loss program. Food equals fuel on the trail, and though most people have no problem recharging at dinner (who can resist Italian pasta and pizza), many make the mistake of not eating enough during the actual hike, leading to sluggishness and fatigue.
Each morning, you’ll stop at a local grocery store to pick up rations for lunch. In addition to a main meal, like a sandwich, our travelers say it’s smart to bring a variety of small snacks, like fruit, granola bars, and local chocolate. Though you may not feel hungry, it’s best to eat something small once an hour, and it’s also wise to drink about 50% more water than you typically would (your body dehydrates faster at altitude).
Fueling your body in this way will give it sustained energy, so you feel good from start to finish. Trust us on this one.
Celebrate each hike…but be ready for the next one.
We know what you’re thinking: If we have to drink 50% more water to stay hydrated during the day, then we should plan on drinking 50% more wine to stay festive at night, right?
Yeah, you wish! While a beer at altitude is the same as a beer at sea level as far as your blood alcohol content is concerned, drinking exaggerates, or should we say, enhances, the effects of the dehydration process, which will, to use the scientific term, make you feel more “loopy” than usual.
Is that good news or bad news? We’re not really sure. But here’s something: You can save some money if you play your cards right. It won’t take as many drinks to get where you want to go, which could mean half the bar tab, so long as you don’t go feeling all friendly and buy a round of shots for everyone (been there, done that).
Our recommendation is to move the party up a bit—that is, have your fun earlier in the evening, say, at happy hour and dinner. Chug lots of water between drinks and then get to bed at a reasonable hour. Groups that do this tend to have the most fun overall. It only takes one hung-over hike to realize that life in the mountains is better when your body and mind are in harmony, and someone learns it the hard way every trip. Don’t let it be you. Make good decisions at night, and you’ll thank yourself (and us?) in the morning.
Have other questions about our European Alps hiking trip? Just ask! One of our Trip Consultants will be happy to talk to you.
Hike Europe: The Alps
12 days. 3 countries. 4 cities.
When you think of Europe, it's probably old churches and busy shopping streets. This trip is none of that. Instead, hike through vineyards, by glaciers, and up some of the most famous mountains in Switzerland, Italy, and France. You might even see a cow or two. Because this trip is all about the great outdoors. Where the air is cleaner, the sounds are calming, and you can eat endless amounts of Swiss chocolate to counteract all the calories you’re going to burn.