There are so many great destination for hiking in the Alps. But should you head to the Dolomites, the Tyrol, the Swiss or French Alps? Here are our recommendations for hiking in the Alps in summer.


I’ve never been skiing. It’s something I feel the need to admit to people with shame and remorse. When I do, it’s normally met with a cross between pity and suspicion. How could you live so close to the Alps and not partake in this obligatory winter outing? Do you have no sense of adventure? What do you talk about in January?

But in January, my goal is not to spend more time in the freezing cold, my goal is to find some sun. So, heading over to the Alps to ski has never really fit into the schedule. But what does regularly feature in our travel plans is hiking in the Alps. For a European getaway, you can’t go past the fresh mountain air, exhilarating walking, quirky food and incredible scenery of the Alps in summer.

But the Alps covers so many countries and so much territory. How do you choose where to go? Here are  our recommended destinations for hiking in the Alps in summer.

1 / OUTDOOR ADVENTURES IN THE FRENCH ALPS FROM CHAMONIX

With arguably some of the best alpine scenery we’ve ever encountered, Chamonix is an ideal place to hike in the Alps in summer. It is wedged between two steep-sided valleys with cable-cars rising up each side. Walkng trails criss-cross the area and intersect with the cable car stations. This offers the chance to gain height quickly at the beginning of the day or cut short that descent in the evening.

One excellent walk takes you from the cable car station at Plan de l’Aiguille along the Grand Balcon du Nord to the Mer de Glace. Another is an energising hike up to Lac Blanc with impressive views back across the valley to the Mont Blanc massif. Although it takes a brave man to swim in the lake, even in the middle of summer.

Chamonix also offers a treasure trove of other activities; mountaineering, white water rafting, and mountain biking. But the real highlight of this region is the view from the top of the Aiguille du Midi – the closest you can get to Mont Blanc without actually doing it. The journey in the cable car is exciting enough – rising to over 3,800m – but the scenery from the summit is simply breath-taking. In our opinion – with the highest peaks in the Alps on show – it’s the best, easily accessible, single view in the Alps.

UPSIDE
  • Best mountain view of the Alps from the top of a cable car
  • Good variety of hiking on both sides of the valley
  • Great for adventure sports
DOWNSIDE
  • Chamonix is beautifully set, but otherwise, it’s not our favourite village in the Alps

2 / BEAUTIFUL BERNESE OBERLAND & GRINDELWALD AREA

The Bernese Oberland, set in the heart of Switzerland, is quintessential Alpine scenery. Picture perfect Alpine villages, perched on precipitous ledges, dot the rolling green meadows. Snow and ice crested mountains with vertiginous faces stand proud against the most dramatic of Alpine valleys. This is Alpine scenery at its very best.

The jewel in the Bernese crown is the spectacular Jungfraujoch. A train winds its way through rock up to 3,400m – the highest train station in Europe. From the saddle between the mighty Mönch and Jungfrau mountains, the stunning Aletsch Glacier, a river of snow and ice, stretches into the never-ending distance.

But there are many other jewels. Cable cars whisk you up to any of a hundred paths and ski-lifts take you to some of the finest ridge hiking in the Alps. The precipitous slopes of Mönch, Eiger and Jungfrau form a magnificent backdrop to every hike and every climbers challenge.

But for the view that will have you grabbing your smartphone, you can’t go past the spectacular Lauterbrunnen Valley. The steep gigantic rock sides of the Lauter Brunnen – or “many fountains” – is home to 72 cascading waterfalls and one of the finest vistas in the world

But its not just the hiking in the Alps, the Swiss settlements are beautiful too. Cute rural villages sit high up in the mountains and sophisticated towns rest on the edge of deep blue lakes. With their well preserved medieval architecture, it means whenever you are tired of walking, there are plenty of other things to do in Lucerne, Interlaken and Brienz.

UPSIDE
  • The stunning scenery of Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau mountains
  • Lauterburnnen valley - the most beautiful we’ve seen in Europe
  • Magnificent Swiss villages and chalets perched on precipitous ledges
DOWNSIDE
  • Switzerland is expensive – time for that second mortgage

3 / THE ICONIC MATTERHORN & ZERMATT

Yes, it’s not exactly a traditional town and yes, it’s full of tourists year-round. But Zermatt is a great place to base yourself for hiking in the Alps in summer. Set below the iconic Matterhorn, its impeccably cute, full of wooden houses, cuckoo clocks and rösti. The no-car zone keeps Zermatt feeling more local and relaxed than the crowds would otherwise suggest.

Cable cars, railways and funiculars rise out of Zermatt and up the steep sided valley to a large array of walking paths. The Glacier Paradise cable car rises to the summit of Klein Matterhorn, allowing you to walk on the snowy summit. Half way up a magnificent adventurous trail heads off to Hörnlihütte, a mountain hut where climbers get ready to ascend the Matterhorn in the early hours.

The cog railway up to Gornergrat passes Swiss forests, mountain lakes, rocky ravines and beautiful old bridges. Once at the top you’ll be presented with 29 mountains over 4000 ft and the incredible Gorner Glacier. Any of the many walks down back offer magnificent views of the Matterhorn and the glaciers that run down the valleys.

Additionally, a short train ride from Zermatt, brings you to a cable car that ascends Eggishorn, a 2212-metre-high viewpoint offering stunning views of the 23-kilometre-long Aletsch glacier. From here you can take one of the many walking paths either curling around the mountain, across the glacier or clinging to suspension bridges. There’s also a fantastic mountain-bike path stretching all the way back down to the cable car station at the bottom. Or if all that sounds too much, slowly float down under a paraglide..

UPSIDE
  • The exhilarating walk up to Hörnlihütte and views from Gornergrat
  • The extensive public transport makes getting around easy without a car
  • The amazing sight of the Aletsch Glacier as it meanders down the valley
DOWNSIDE
  • Zermatt is tucked under the valley wall, restricting views form the town
  • It’s an expensive place – time for that third mortgage
4 / INSTAGRAM WORTHY SCENES IN THE AUSTRIAN TYROL

The Austrian Tyrol region offers a different side to the hiking in the Alps in summer. The peaks are less dramatic, but the rolling hills, alpine flowers and picturesque lakes will have you singing along to the Sound of Music soundtrack playing in your head. Innsbruck is a great cosmopolitan city to base yourself in. From here you can walk in beautiful alpine scenery, climb steep rock faces or try your hand at a game of golf.

The Lüsens – Westfalenhaus hike is a 5km circuit with an ascent of 638 metres. It’s a fantastic walk that showcases some of the best variety this area has to offer. The walk starts above Innsbruck and meanders through a beautiful native forest beneath the rock face of the Lüsener Fernerkogel. There are a number of rifugios to stop at and feast on some traditional Austrian sausage and generously sized beers.

In this part of the world, most tourists make a beeline for Hallstatt, home of Instagram greatness. It’s easy to see why it’s so popular. Perfectly positioned between lake and mountain, Hallstatt – with its iconic church – was made to be photographed. Dating back to the iron age, Hallstatt has been beckoning tourists ever since. When you run out of things to do in town – and this won’t take long – explore some of the fantastic lakes and intriguing ice caves in the area.

UPSIDE
  • Rolling hills, open spaces and a Sound of Music scenery
  • Cosmopolitan Innsbruck and the very pretty Hallstatt
  • Excellent, but easy walks in rolling alpine countryside
DOWNSIDE
  • More foothills than big hills and less dramatic mountain peaks than other areas
  • The Austrian food scene can get very repetitive

5 / SURPRISE WILDCARD OF THE ITALIAN DOLOMITES

The Italian Dolomites didn’t appear on our hiking in the Alps in summer radar for quite some time. In our mind there were more impressive regions. But we were wrong. The Dolomites really won us over.

The Dolomites don’t have the height and grandeur of the snow-covered French peaks or cute villages and steep sided valleys of the Swiss Alps. But what makes the Italian Dolomites spectacular are the dramatic limestone crags that launch themselves out of rolling green meadows. As the sun rises in the early morning or sets in the evening these crags come alive in beautiful shapes and colours and are perfect for budding and professional photographers alike.

The different shaped crags offer fantastic walking opportunities whether you’re circumnavigating the mighty Sassolungo massif, struggling your way up to the Vajolet Towers or hiking Tre Cime. Since the mountains  are lower than their French and Swiss counterparts, you get the added satisfaction of actually getting to the top of many of them.

The Dolomites are also the home to the Via Ferrata, with many of the best routes in the world. If you’re more adventurous than us, you can clip yourself onto iron railings embedded in the rock and work your way along these “iron routes” as the valley floor sits thousands of meters below you. It looks a steep terrifying affair.

The last, and possibly best, bonus of the Dolomites is the huts. The Italian mountain rifugios are fantastic. I lost count the number of times we ate great food and downed a well-earned beer while staring at stunning scenery from the balcony of an atmospheric rifugio. For half the price of their Swiss counterparts, instead of saving money, we simply drank twice as much.

UPSIDE
  • Dramatic limestone mountains rising from green meadows
  • Rocks that glow in the changing light
  • Vast range of interconnecting paths taking you to the tops
  • Excellent huts with even better food and drink
DOWNSIDE
  • Not as high as other alpine areas so much less snow
  • Public transport links are not as good as Switzerland

BEST OF HIKING IN THE ALPS IN SUMMER

BEST OVERALL SCENERY / The vertiginous Lauterbrunnen valley backed by mighty mountains of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau

BEST SINGLE VIEWPOINT / The endless rows of needles from top of the cable car at Aiguille du Midi in Chamonix

BEST VALUE FOR MONEY / The Italian Dolomites. It’s no competition.

BEST TRANSPORT LINKS / The interconnectivity of trains, cable cars and funiculars in the Bernese Oberland

BEST RIFUGIO / Rifugio Dreizinnenhütte at Tre Cime has delicious food, cold beer and a stunning view

BEST OVERALL HIKING / The Italian Dolomites gets our pick for the best hiking in the Alps in summer. Yes it surprised us too.

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All the best spots to spend a fantastic summer in the Alps / Hiking in the Alps

All the best spots to spend a fantastic summer in the Alps / Hiking in the Alps

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