Hut to hut hiking is for those who don’t need frills on their forays into nature. Nature is beautiful enough without needing crisp white linen and a Chardonnay at the end of the day. If you are seeking out remote trails with a bed, bathroom and a bit of banter at the end of the day, then a mountain hut walking holiday is for you. If you want privacy and pampering, then they might not be. For people who love mountains, however, they are invaluable institutions where walkers are always welcome. Here are some of our favourite mountain huts as well as some general hut hints.
Our favourite mountain huts
Les Mouflons Toubkal Refuge, Morocco
Les Mouflons Toubkal Refuge is perfectly positioned for summit seekers, as in Morocco and North Africa’s highest peak, Mount Toubkal (4,167m). The guided ascent takes two days, spending one night at Les Mouflons Toubkal Refuge (3,207m). There are seven non-mixed gender dormitories sleeping up to 30 people, and shared bathroom facilities, as well as some single and family rooms with their own showers.
The owner, Mohamed Imzilen, is a professional Alpine mountaineer and wholly committed to safe, sustainable mountain trekking, with over thirty years’ experience working and walking in the High Atlas, as well as supporting his own Berber community. As he says himself: “Le Bon Dieu a offert ce majestueux massif qui fait vivre la population du Haut Atlas.” For more information, see our blog on climbing Toubkal.
DNT Lodges, Norway
The Norwegian Mountaineering Association are iconic lodges – also known as DNT lodges, an acronym for the association’s name, Den Norske Turistforening, founded in 1871. Ranging from traditional red to more earthy log cabins, there are 550 of them across the country. While hiking in the Jotunheimen Mountains, for example, you sleep at one of the oldest huts, on the shores of Lake Gjende, perfect for a wake up swim. Or when hiking on the King’s Road, you stay at Fondsbu Lodge, on the shores of Lake Bygdin, a lodge that is particularly famous for its great local cuisine.
You have private double or twin rooms throughout the trip, with some shared bathroom facilities, however, they are all very clean and well equipped for tired and hungry hikers. They do book up quickly though and so, in the case of private rooms not being available, we offer accommodation in a dorm instead (mixed gender), at a discounted price.
On our walking holiday in the Pirin and Rila Mountains, our itinerary takes you to some wonderful huts that are perfect for breaks. However, the one that we have chosen for you to stay at is Tevno Ezero (2,512m), which translates as ‘dark lake’ on the shores of which it is located. A wooden cabin with two mixed gender dormitories, it sleeps 30 people and has cooking facilities. However, this one has no bathrooms, and an outdoor loo – albeit with a view! And you can always bathe in the lake to freshen up. As this is a guided walking holiday, breakfast and dinner is provided and, as other nights are spent in mountain hotels, it’s worth bunking up for beauty on just one night.
“As well as the wonderful Tevno Ezero refuge where our guests spend a night in the wilderness, and is one of my favourites, I love Malyovitsa Hut in the Rila Mountains where we stop for a break while hiking through the Malyovitsa Valley. It is a cozy hut, serving the best bean soup and herbal tea.” – Katya Panchenkova, our Bulgaria tour manager.
Samtsikhe Guesthouse, Tusheti, Georgia
This is described as a guest house rather than a mountain hut locally but, like so many of the wonderfully welcoming rural accommodation in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia, they are basic but even more beautiful for it. Featuring on this Transcaucasian Trail trip, Samtsikhe Guest House, in Dartlo village, is a stone and wooden cabin perfectly positioned into one of the village terraces, with views across the wildflower-filled valley, mountains and so much more of Georgia’s gorgeousness. As well as having private rooms, the cafe serves delicious coffee, cakes and other traditional mountain fare, Georgian wine (a must) and has a roaring fireplace at its heart. And Samtsikhe has a big heart!
“We had a fantastic time in Tusheti, Georgia is the best place I’ve ever had the privilege of travelling to. The whole holiday was fantastic, the walks took us through the most incredible scenery from valley to mountain top.” – Hannah M, on our Transcaucasian Trail, Tusheti Explorer trip.
Przehyba Hostel, Beskid Sądecki, Poland
On this self-guided walking holiday in Poland’s Tatras Mountains, there is one little gem of a hostel tucked into a trip that otherwise has hotels to sleep in. But the Przehyba Hostel is one of those wakeup spots that stays with you forever, at an elevation of 1,175m, in the heart of the forest. There are private rooms, but there is a large dorm space for groups, so it has the hostel vibe. It also has a great foodie vibe, serving one of best żurek soups, made with smoked meat with an egg.
Rifugio Elena, Tour de Mont Blanc, Italy
You stay at a variety of mountain lodges on a Tour de Mont Blanc walking holiday, depending on your chosen itinerary. In French they are called refuges and rifugi in Italian. Whether they are at key trekking points such as Les Chapieux Valley, Col de la Forclaz or the Estellette Glacier, they all have shared bathroom facilities and mixed gender dorms.
One of our favourites is Rifugio Elena in Italy, on the lower section of the Grand Col Ferret at 2,061m, with views of Glacier de Pré de Bar. That’s one exquisite espresso the morning you wake up there. It has also been recently renovated and is big and buzzy, with beds for 127 people, and they do great food, specialising in Valle D’Aosta goodies such as pizza with fontina cheese and various venison dishes. As well as an excellent selection of local wines.
GR20 Corsica, France
Accommodation on the iconic GR20 long-distance walking trail is in mountain huts or basic gîtes, with mixed gender dorms and shared bathroom facilities. It’s hard to pick just one refuge on the GR20, but the Col de Verde (1,289m) is pretty spectacular, at the entrance to Taravo Valley, enveloped by forested mountain slopes. The food is also a Corsican feast of local charcuterie such as prisuttu and figatellu, and plenty of local cheeses, a favourite being Brocciu, a Corsican version of ricotta. You have a dorm rather than a tent to sleep it off in, but there are hot showers to wake you up in time for walking in the morning.
Our top hut hints
First and foremost, park all notions of privacy as mountain huts are all about sharing and caring. And sometimes snoring – so always bring earplugs. As well as all the items we recommend in our What to pack for a hiking trip blog, there are a few other top tips for mountain hut adventures.
Because mountain huts are so remote, resources are often limited, so bring your own charged power bank if you have a device, if you get a signal to use it, that is.
Bring a sleeping bag and a liner as some mountain huts insist on the latter and will ask you to hire one if you don’t bring one. Slipper socks are handy too, as they are easy to pack and keep your tootsies cosy while wandering around communal areas. Bring an eye mask if you don’t want to wake up with the early birds, and a travel pillow is good thinking.
Avert your gaze
Dorms in mountain huts are generally mixed gender, so it goes without saying that modesty prevails, and respecting others privacy as they change for bed and so on is a must.
Don’t be a fish out of water
Drinking water is nearly always available in mountain huts and, on the rare occasions that it’s not, we will always advise you in advance of water points. Always pack one or two reusable bottles, or a water bladder and, as you are walking in remote areas, a filtered water bottle such as the sugarcane, plant-based plastic Water to Go one is perfect if you want to top up from streams, ensuring that the water is free of any toxins.
Always carry some cash in your bag because some mountain huts don’t accept cards and you won’t find an ATM for days sometimes.
Be prepared for basic, and then you can only be pleasantly surprised if you find an indoor toilet, running water and a hot shower. Bring a head torch in case the loo is outside, and toilet paper just in case. And please don’t bring wipes, they are eco disasters, but anti-bacterial gel is a must. A flannel is very handy if you just want to do a quick wash and dry in the morning. In terms of bathroom etiquette, there are often lots of people waiting to wash, so this isn’t the time or place for pampering.
Silence is golden
Most people want to hit the sack and the hills early, so it’s important to let them bask in their well earned peace and not be chatting. And don’t do anything that might cause someone to shout ‘get a room’ – because, apart from anything, there usually isn’t a room. Save the cuddles for the city.