Summer in the Alps means countless hiking trails, cows grazing in flower-filled pastures, and welcoming alpine huts. We just returned from a month in Europe, stopping in mountain villages in Switzerland, Italy, and Austria. We hiked or biked every day and discovered a few things along the way. Beyond the obvious, like wear sunscreen and carry drinking water, here are a few more helpful tips for hiking in Europe.
1. Don’t Straddle an Electric fence
In the Alps, electric fences are common ways to contain cows and horses and protect them from predators. Hikers and bikers in Europe will encounter these barriers. Don’t climb over or touch one of these often innocent-looking fences made of wire or coloured tape – it’s a shocking experience. Instead, look for a gate or turnstile to pass through.
2. Mountain Weather is Unpredictable
Pack at least a rain shell and sweater in your backpack, even if it is warm and sunny when you go hiking or biking. The weather can (and often does) change quickly in the Alps. Be prepared for changing weather is one of our best tips for hiking in Europe.
3. Avoid Gondolas, Trams, and Chairlifts (If There’s a Chance of a Thunderstorm)
We were recently suspended over a mountainside while thunder, lightning, and rain raged around our gondola. The operator halted the lift when the storm began, and we were over half-way to the top – it was a memorable experience. One that I don’t want to repeat.
4. Give the Cows Some Space
When you are biking and hiking in Europe, you often share the trails with cattle. Steer clear of the cows and don’t attempt to pet or feed them. They can be grouchy. And their heads are hard!
5. Troughs Look Refreshing
But they aren’t water fountains. Animals drink this water, dogs wade in it, and hikers often use it to clean their boots. Just keep walking.
6. Don’t Fill Your Water Bottles from a Stream
Cows, horses, and sheep graze throughout the alpine. What goes in, comes out, and most streams flow through pastures. The water isn’t suitable for drinking.
Have you hiked or biked in Europe? Do you have any tips for hiking in Europe that I could add to this list?
You might be interested in reading more about hiking in Europe –
- The Best Places for Family Hiking in the Alps
- Family Hiking in Lech Zürs am Arlberg (Austria)
- Summer Vacation in Vorarlberg, Austria