Suggestions for hiking in Europe early May?
March 2, 2012 8:48 AM   Subscribe

A hiking trip for two fit late-20s males in Europe in the first week of May: where do we go?

A previous similar question yielded few responses, and my question is slightly different. My brother and I want to hike in the first week of May for about 5 to 6 days, camping along the way or staying in shelters. As we live in the rather flat Netherlands, the more mountainous the scenery the better. We currently have two options we're considering, but would like the input of the hive mind.

One option is the West Highland Way: 5-6 is perhaps a bit short, so we were thinking about doing only part of this trail. How are the midges in this season, and is there any certainty about rainfall this time of year?

The other option is the Pyrenees. We'd really like to hike here, but are not sure how safe it would be early May. We're pretty fit, but not seasoned hikers, so we're concerned snow would make the trip too difficult.

So: is there anything you can add to our consideration of these two options, or suggest another trail in Europe for the specified period? Anything you can share would be appreciated.
posted by ar0n to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
This Previously with further previouslies inside might help.
posted by vacapinta at 9:11 AM on March 2, 2012

You may also want to consider Abisko in Sweden.
posted by Adrem at 9:16 AM on March 2, 2012

My SO and I hiked the West Highland Way back in October in 5 days. It was tough and if I ever do it again, I will certainly take more time. That being said, if you are fit and active now, it is perfectly doable. My advice is to skip the first 20 miles or so. From Milngavie to Balmaha was a slow and boring trek for us. Unfortunately, I can't speak on the weather in May, but I do recommend the WHW for a great hiking trip!
posted by allnamesaretaken at 9:39 AM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

You may also want to consider Abisko in Sweden.
GREAT suggestion (wild camping, fresh water, lots of wildlife, no civilization but well-stocked huts) but early May would still be the winter season, that is, cross-country skiing. Summer season is from mid-June to mid-August. Also, you'll have better luck searching for Kungsleden, which is the name of the trail itself, rather than Abisko, which is the village/train station at the northern end of the trail. It goes past Sarek national park ("Europe's last wilderness") which is another fantastic, but trail-less and more dangerous option. I spent a month in this region last summer and it was just to die for.

The other option is the Pyrenees.
I did a little section of this in late May-- maybe 5 days-- stretching from Hendaye in the north to St. Jean Pied de Port, where I joined the Camino de Santiago. The weather was fine, but it was super tough. Make sure you train a bit before starting-- I hadn't because it was an impulse trip booked a week in advance.
posted by acidic at 9:42 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

My wife and I did the Hexenstieg in Germany's Harz Forest. Wonderful time we had. Also the Panaramaweg in the Swiss Saxony area.

Vacapinta's previously has some great suggestions.

Goede reis,
posted by humboldt32 at 9:47 AM on March 2, 2012

How about the Picos de Europa in Northern Spain. stunning mountains, lots of multi day options and very few tourists. May is a perfect month, usually pretty stable, although you can be unlucky with the rain. I moved to Asturias in part because of the fantastic hills and mountains.
posted by itsjustanalias at 10:35 AM on March 2, 2012

Might be touristy, but Verdon Gorge.
posted by rhizome at 11:00 AM on March 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

How about The Way? You don't have to walk the whole thing, and there are many hostels along the route.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 11:13 AM on March 2, 2012

Another vote for the West Highland way. If you do the whole thing in five days it's pretty brutal; my feet were swollen and painful beyond belief for the next week. But it's a bracing challenge and I would do it again.

Oddly, the way we broke it up left us with a fourteen-mile walk on the last day, from Kinlochleven to Fort William (whereas our previous days had been more like twenty miles) but the last day was by far the toughest in my view.

One thing to keep in mind is that yes, the WHW is doable by an ordinary active and fit person. But it's a punishing journey in my experience. Believe everything you read about it being wet all the time, wearing good boots and waterproof clothes. Get a waterproof pack cover (I didn't). I can't speak to midges since it wasn't midge season when we went.

Consider staying at the Bridge of Orchy Hotel (in Bridge of Orchy) and Rhu Mhor Guest House (in Fort William). Loved those places. The first is a wonderfully comfortable hotel, the latter is an old mansion that feels like a climber's lodging from the nineteenth or early twentieth century. (It seems to be popular among people climbing Ben Nevis.)
posted by jayder at 12:12 PM on March 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Oh, and I second what allnamesaretaken says about skipping the first twenty miles of the WHW. If you're looking to shorten the walk, that's the part to miss.
posted by jayder at 12:24 PM on March 2, 2012

How about the Schluchtensteig in the Black Forest in Germany? We hiked the 120 km (including 2500 metres in elevation gain) in six days last summer and loved it. You can also do it in five if you're more ambitious. Many people book a package that include nights in hotels and luggage transfer, but you can do it on your own, too. The Schluchtensteig has been awarded "Germany's most beautiful hiking path" in 2011. The season starts in May.

Another possibility is hiking part of the Rheinsteig along the river Rhine between Wiesbaden and Bonn. It's not quite as mountainous as the Black Forest, but the views and the landscape are spectacular as well. Since it's 320 km long (with over 10.000 metres of elevation gain altogether) you will have to pick a part of it. We've hiked the whole Rheinsteig from Wiesbaden to Bonn (see this map) except for the last 30 km or so, and I would recommend you start in Schlangenbad and hike at least as far as the Loreley (St. Goarshausen) if you want to make sure to include the most spectacular parts.
posted by amf at 12:54 PM on March 2, 2012

As you speak English may I suggest any part of the SW Coastal Path, one of the most beautiful walks anywhere.
You might find Corsica challenging and it might be hot.
The Ruta de Pedra en Sec of Mallorca is fun though its getting warm in May.
posted by adamvasco at 2:04 PM on March 2, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks guys, this is all very helpful!
posted by ar0n at 4:44 AM on March 3, 2012

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