Europe, Hiking

Don’t Straddle an Electric Fence (and Other Helpful Tips for Hiking in Europe)

August 3, 2017

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.

Tips for hiking in Europe

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!

Alpine Cows tips for hiking in Europe

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.

Helpful tips for hiking in Europe

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 –

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9 Comments

  • Reply Anna @ shenANNAgans September 9, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Havent hiked in Europe, but did Mount Kosciuszko in Australia last year, we hiked in the summer, at the bottom of the mountain it was 30c, yet as we went up, up, up experienced rain, hale, snow and sunshine. I suggest packing for all weather conditions cause it can change in a matter of minutes. Guess its the same on most big mountains right?

    And Electric fences… OUCH. Its a weird sensation to be got by a fence huh?

  • Reply Maxine September 9, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    Great advice, especially about the grouchy cows haha. Your gondola experience sounds scary! Great read, enjoyed it 🙂

  • Reply Travel with Mei and Kerstin September 10, 2017 at 4:56 am

    Since we live in Europe, we often go hiking, may it be in France, Germany, Italy, Austria, Greece or here at home in Luxembourg. It might sound weird, but I would suggest to always bring a scarf or two, because even during summer time it can get chilly and windy in the mountains. Since a scarf doesn’t weigh much, you can bring one to be used as a picnic blanket, or just to sit or rest on it. And if you fall and hurt yourself, use it to bind your ankle. 🙂

  • Reply Carrie September 10, 2017 at 8:09 am

    Yikes, getting trapped on a gondola in a storm does not seem like a fun experience. I’d love to do some more hiking in the Alps, and these tips are super useful. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Megan Jerrard September 10, 2017 at 10:51 pm

    Really great tips! We’ve actually just moved to rural Tasmania (island at the bottom of Australia) and we love hiking, though many of the neighbors have eletric fences around their properties – used to just jumping fences, I can attest that it is a shocking experience – so I had to laugh when I read the title and your first tip.

    Excellent point though on drinking water from troughs and streams – yes, one of the best ways to get sick when you’re hiking through land grazed by animals.

  • Reply Laura Lynch September 11, 2017 at 1:27 am

    Haha. I got a laugh from the electric fence. I’ve touched one before by accident. The Alps are so refreshing in the summer. It’s like having a huge playground all around you. But the weather can definitely change fast!

  • Reply Vanessa September 11, 2017 at 10:13 am

    Bhahahaha – don’t straddle an electric fence indeed! This sounds exactly like a mistake I would make. However, you don’t have to tell me twice to give the cows some distance. These creatures have spooked me since childhood and even thought I know they’re generally gentle I don’t plan on challenging them any time soon.

  • Reply Candiss September 11, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    #1 and #3 sound like hard lessons to learn! In regards to #6 I purchased a water bottle with a filter so that I can now do this safely as I am always tempted to stop and drink in a stream!

  • Reply Drew September 11, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    Great tips for hiking. The whole complex network of gates was new to me when I moved to the UK and went on some walks in the country. I’ve been pretty lucky with animals though, as they tend to keep their distance, but again, I’ve never really tempted fate! Oh, and getting stuck suspended over the valley in a gondola during a thunderstorm? That is my nightmare!

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