Hut Hiking in Germany: What It’s Really Like

Hut Hiking in Germany: What It’s Really Like

Despite usually preferring more of an upscale experience, I love hut hiking in Germany.

Seekarkreuz, a peak less than an hour from Lenggries Hütte

Seekarkreuz, a peak less than an hour from Lenggries Hütte

So much in fact that I’ve celebrated two out of the last three New Years Eves (referred to as Silvester in Germany) in a mountain hut. The same one to be exact.

So What Exactly is Hut Hiking?

It’s when you hike to a hut and sleep over.  It can be for one night, or multiple nights as when we did the Tour du Mont Blanc. It allows you to explore more terrain each day, since you don’t have to account for your return time as you do with day hiking – which I tend to do more of.

Schweinebraten and potato salad for dinner, a traditional Bavarian meal.

Schweinebraten and potato salad for dinner, a traditional Bavarian meal.

Each hut is unique, but generally speaking in Germany, they serve traditional Bavarian food, and the entertainment for the evening is sitting around drinking beer chatting or playing cards. The good ‘ol fashion fun is part of the charm and is especially entertaining when done with good friends as we did.  Accommodations are usually shared and very simple.

Me, my husband and friend celebrating NYE in a mountain hut.

Me, my husband and friend celebrating NYE in a mountain hut.

It can also be very cost-effective.  A place to lay your head  in a room with 13 other hikers will set you back €18, or only €8.50 with a DAV (German Alpine Club) membership.  Among other benefits, your membership also includes insurance to assist you should you need to be rescued. Check it out here for full details. (Note:  Not an affiliate link, I just believe everyone should have insurance if you’re heading to the mountains). In Munich their office is located on the top floor of the sports store Globetrotter. But I digress….

View from the Seekarkreuz Peak, above Lenggries Hütte

View from the Seekarkreuz Peak, over the Alps.

Don’t think that hut hiking is just a summer activity.  While you won’t have wild flowers, you will have undisturbed piles of snow instead.  Hiking in winter really is very pretty and if there’s a lot of snow, you can turn it into a snowshoe or skiing trip instead!

Fireworks at midnight - but only on New Years Eve.  People brought their own just for the occasion.

Fireworks at midnight – but only on New Years Eve. People brought their own just for the occasion.


So What Is it Really Like to Sleep in a Mountain Hut in the Alps?

View over the Alps from Lenggries Hütte

View over the Alps from Lenggries Hütte

As much as I enjoy hut hiking, I don’t want to do it every weekend.  I wasn’t kidding when I said that accommodations are usually very simple.  I.e. in Lenggries Hütte (Hut) where we stayed (~1:10 minute train ride from Munich to the start of the hike) there was one toilet for ladies, 2 urinals for the men – all meant to accommodate  52 people! Albeit it there were a couple of extra sinks where you could brush your teeth or check yourself out in the mirror.  Needless to say, no one is all glammed up at the hut!

Despite the fact that the only way to get to Lenggries Hütte is a 2 hour+ hike, there are no showers. We were soaked to the bone the first time we did it as it was snowing so much, but it was pretty – check out the photos here. Furthermore, sauerkraut is almost always on the menu, so you’ve got a hut full of sweaty hikers eating sauerkraut….Let’s just say that it doesn’t  exactly smell of roses.

The sunset at Lenggries Hütte was the reward for our hiking!

The sunset over the Alps at Lenggries Hütte was the reward for our hiking!

Some huts have private rooms (but still a shared bathroom), but others just offer a few sharing options.  The Lenggries Hütte has rooms for 6-14 people.  Both times I’ve stayed there I’ve ended up in the room with 14 people.  That means that unless you’re with a big group, you will be nestled up to a potentially smelly stranger who snores!  I always try to grab a spot near the wall and make my husband sleep in the middle.  Trust me ladies, it’s a good tip! Huts can be busy so if you want one of the private or slightly more private rooms make your reservations as far in advance as possible.  We made our reservation for 4 people for New Years in the middle of October and all the semi-private rooms were already booked.

I don’t say any of this to try to discourage you. I think everyone should sleep in a mountain hut at least once in their lives, but I do think you should have some idea of what you’re getting yourself into.  And despite the lack of creature comforts I always really end up enjoying myself.  The simpleness of it all, really helped me to focus on what was important – spending time with people who I love….even if they did eat too much sauerkraut.

Know Before You Stay in a Mountain Hut

  • Find a hut through DAV.  They have a list of almost 200 DAV huts in Bavaria alone (in German only).
  • If you have food allergies as I do (gluten allergy) notify the hut in advance.  Most huts have very limited menus and may be more accommodating if you give them as much notice as possible.
  • You are required to bring a sleeping bag liner.  This is just a very lightweight sack.  Don’t worry about it not being thick enough.  Huts provide blankets, the sack just keeps you from sweating on the blankets, which I’m guessing are not washed all that often.
  • You will also be required to wear house shoes. These can be slippers or flip-flops, it doesn’t really matter as long as you only wear them inside.  Some huts provide them as the Lenggries Hütte does, others require you to bring your own.
  • You should also bring your own hand towel or body towel(if showers are available).  These are not usually provided in huts.
  • I highly recommend eear plugs in case you end up sleeping next to someone who snores like a bear.
Laurel Robbins is the founder of Monkeys and Mountains, an adventure travel blog and company that helps people plan their active holidays in a sustainable way. Although Canadian, she lives in Germany. You can find her in the mountains on most weekends.
2016-01-20T15:34:42+00:00

14 Comments

  1. Sofie January 2, 2014 at 9:50 pm - Reply

    I’m all for hiking, ubt I don’t know if I’d be up for that hut experience:)

    • Laurel January 4, 2014 at 10:13 pm - Reply

      @Sofie – You could try one that has private rooms and showers, those are also my preference.

  2. Leigh January 3, 2014 at 3:45 am - Reply

    I have done my fair share of back country skiing to huts in Colorado and if I still lived there I would definitely fit in 3 weekends a winter. Those huts were nicely done (270 degree views, many bedrooms) but I’m not so keen on cramped huts with no views and your head in a stranger’s armpit for the night.I had such an experience at one of the Alpine Huts of Canada and I’m with you – give me a bit of luxury or my own tent if it’s the summer.

    Happy New Year.

    • Laurel January 4, 2014 at 10:12 pm - Reply

      @Leigh – I’m aiming to do 2 more this winter, I usually end up just doing one in winter. I’m so with you on the really nice huts and nothing beats a shower at the end of a long hike. It’s easy to find huts in beautiful locations in Germany, but most of them are shared rooms, unless you book early which I’m not a fan of either.

  3. Kae Lani | A Travel Broad January 3, 2014 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    Makes me miss Germany so much! I absolutely loved going for an adventure and then ending the day with a hearty meal and a delicious locally brewed beer!

    • Laurel January 4, 2014 at 10:11 pm - Reply

      @Kae Lani – Yep, my idea of a perfect day too, but with wine instead of beer.

  4. Dale January 3, 2014 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I’ve never done hut hiking before, but just the other week we went hiking one some mountains across the Swiss/French border and not being hikers it was a strain – but incredible! The view just made everything so worth while.

    • Laurel January 4, 2014 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      @Dale – Often, the view is the only thing that keeps me going and I’m a regular hiker. Glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Jennifer January 4, 2014 at 11:43 pm - Reply

    The views are certainly beautiful and I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a picture of your husband before. Happy New Year!

  6. Tara March 5, 2015 at 9:51 pm - Reply

    I have been doing some research for our upcoming trip to Germany and stumbled upon your site. Do you see many kids staying in the huts? Actually, our kids are teens, but I’m curious about hiking and camping opportunities.

    • Laurel March 8, 2015 at 7:29 am - Reply

      @Tara – Absolutely. You’ll see really young kids hiking up the mountain and staying at huts. All the ones I’ve been in have been really family friendly. It’s worth making a reservation in advance though since they can be full, especially if you’re going at peak times. Enjoy your trip!

  7. Nick May 3, 2016 at 6:26 am - Reply

    @Tara – My wife and I are planning a 5-day trip to Bavaria at the end of June. We are hoping to do 2-3 nights of hut-to-hut hiking in the Alps. We are considering the Oberreintal region near Garmisch-Partenkirchen. We don’t speak any German which has made navigating some of the hut sites difficult. Could you help us plan this trip?? Thanks very much.

    • Laurel May 11, 2016 at 11:45 am - Reply

      @Nick – Sounds like a great trip! I’m in the process of getting the necessary paperwork to become a licensed tour operator in Germany so that I can plan trips, but won’t have all the paperwork in place for a few weeks unfortunately. In a pinch, you can use Google Translate on the sites. Most of the huts don’t have an online reservation system, so you would need to either call them or send them an email. It’s probably easier to send an email, that way, they can use Google translate if they don’t speak much English – some of them will, some of them might not. Hope that helps.

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