A “hike from place to place” vacation?
January 17, 2024 8:59 AM   Subscribe

Have you had a no-camping casual hiking trip? Tell me about it!

My spouse, teen, and I have had a couple of really lovely vacations in Ireland in which we hike from one BnB to another. We like going for long walks, having a picnic with a pretty view, and most importantly having a hot shower and a real bed at the end of the day. We aren’t especially interested in being part of a large group—a self-guided hike is preferable. We just like having the mental load of sorting rooms, luggage transportation, and itineraries taken on by knowledgeable locals.

I have looked for this kind of thing in other places but have largely struck out, and would like some fodder for midwinter daydreaming. Is there a general term for this sort of trip that might help me find more? Have you been on a similar trip you can recommend? We are in the northeast US and are up for hearing about basically any location worldwide.
posted by tchemgrrl to Travel & Transportation (36 answers total) 107 users marked this as a favorite
You used the word "casual" - what parameters might you have? Length? Difficulty?

I liked the Coast-to-Coast walk across England, and you can do just a bit of it, such as the Lake District, and stay in B&Bs and use a luggage service.
posted by brainwane at 9:04 AM on January 17 [5 favorites]

I met a German hiker in Northern Italy doing exactly this. He had started in Munich the week before. It was amazing to hear about his trip! His pack was small and he was a teacher on school break. You might try searching "hut to hut" hiking which (at least in the Alps) will get you many ideas of where to go. https://nymag.com/strategist/article/austrian-alsp-itinerary-things-to-do.html
posted by oxisos at 9:06 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Are you asking about places to do such a hike, or about how to find a local person to see to all the planning & arrangements?

It kind of reminds me of people walking the Catholic pilgrimage routes, other than you not actually asking for pilgrimages. :7) My cousin did one of those last year, and it seemed great to have hostels along the route that you could just roll into and get a bed. Still have to carry all your stuff, though.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:11 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

There's a pilgrimage walk on the Japanese island of Shikoku, that involves visiting 88 Buddhist temples. The whole thing takes 6-8 weeks, but you could easily do only part of it. No camping required.

Similarly the various Caminos de Santiago might be of interest?
posted by Jobst at 9:12 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]

I've looked into this but haven't done it myself; there is one package trip to do this in Vermont.
posted by damayanti at 9:13 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]

I find the term "inn to inn walking" to be useful when searching.

I've done that sort of trip in the Peak District in England, between the Pueblo Blancos in Andalusia, and along Monterey Bay in California.
posted by TORunner at 9:19 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]

You can do this in Japan (i did a 3 day version in the kii peninsula along a pilgrimage route, but there were many options.)

You can also easily do this in Switzerland. There are lots of hikes to huts that have restaurants and sleeping accommodations. You can also easily hike between towns or train stations.
posted by you'rerightyou'rerightiknowyou'reright at 9:23 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Agree with all of the above - slow / walking holiday another term
England has a lot: Canterbury, Augustine, North Downs Way, Hadrian's Wall, Cotswold Way
Via Francigena in Italy, also Cinque Terre for a short one
Kumano Kodo in Japan
Some in the US
posted by eyeball at 9:28 AM on January 17 [3 favorites]

Scotland's long distance walks are exactly this! I've personally done Speyside Way and West Highland Way, but there's a lot of hikes like this. You can book it yourself or pay a company like Mac's Adventures to book - you're not in a tour group but they've done the hard part of booking sequential B&Bs and given you maps and such.

In general, browsing Mac's Adventures will give you plenty of daydream fodder, even if you don't book through them.
posted by soleiluna at 9:30 AM on January 17 [8 favorites]

I did a chunk of the Cleveland Way in North Yorkshire this way, though carried our things. I believe there are companies that will at least transport your stuff along your route for most of the "canonical" walks in Britain, but we didn't need much more than a daypack anyway. There are detailed guides to the big walks, so you can pretty easily sketch out a route and book B&Bs or youth hostels at appropriate intervals.

Broadly speaking there's no camping in French and Spanish national parks so your hop from one refuge/refugio to the next. However, you're very much assumed to be carrying everything.
posted by hoyland at 9:32 AM on January 17

The owner of this place is a friend of friends. A group of us stayed in one of his houses a few years ago and did many day hikes through the surrounding area, returning to the same place each night. They also organize multi-day trips in the area, and rent donkeys to carry your gear.
posted by jon1270 at 9:36 AM on January 17

My 19yo son had a great time doing this last summer, both in the Julian Alps in Slovenia, and in the Dolomites in Italy. I have plans for GR20 in Corsica this year. Very much possible in many European countries.
posted by rd45 at 9:38 AM on January 17

The Prince Edward Island Walk is this, but I think most peope have to do a bit of shuttling to make it work.

You can also find "hiking resorts" that will organize hiking expeditions for you in one area -- you stay at the resort, and they drop you at a trailhead and pick you up at the end. It's not inn-to-inn because you stay at the same spot each night.
posted by OrangeDisk at 9:40 AM on January 17

We did a 5-day walk through the Cotswolds in late winuter of 1991 staying in B&Bs, we were carrying stuff in packs as needed to be prepared for an uncomfortable night out just in case, but it was a nice trip and a lot easier than full camping.

The Eden Valley in Cumbria UK is great for doing this as there's a train and you can train to the next trail, walk and few days, repeat, amazing area, deep deep history, and great food.
posted by unearthed at 9:44 AM on January 17

Also, when looking for this type of travel in US locations, I found the Walkabout California books helpful. Walkabout Northern California is my most used one, though there's a Southern California one as well.

(If you use these, I recommend thoroughly vetting tides passings and fully reading instructions in advance. At least in the first edition, there's a few spots I found the risk level a bit greater than expected the first time I did a given walk, and planned better the second time for very low tides.)
posted by soleiluna at 9:44 AM on January 17

If you would also be interested in the chill cycling version of this, there are tons of options in the Netherlands where you can see tulips and windmills and cute farm stands on your journey.
posted by A Blue Moon at 9:45 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Switzerland is perfect for this! My boyfriend and I hiked around 30 miles over 3 days, staying at hotels and airbnbs at night and supplementing our hiking with trains/busses to be able to get further/see more of the country. The hiking paths are all very well marked and kept in good condition. We went in September which turned out to be the perfect time of year as it was almost too hot in some areas but in others they had already had enough snow to limit driving on some of the mountain passes. Because we weren't carrying camping gear we were able to carry everything on our backs. We went from Brig to Sarnen (more than 30 miles but like I said supplemented by a lot of busses/trains!) but wouldn't necessarily recommend it over any other route- there's beautiful scenery in every part of the country.
posted by matcha action at 9:49 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]

I would search for ‘self guided walking holidays’, and there are various European companies that do this, I’ve done walks in Portugal and Majorca with Inntravel, who are great; I’ve also looked at companies like Headwater and Exodus before, but I can’t personally vouch for them. There are others as well.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 9:56 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

I forgot to add that Aotearoa / New Zealand has a number of private tracks of two to many days, eg Kaikoura Coast Track, where you are guaranteed not to meet anyone! We really enjoyed this trip, staying in nice huts and cabins on a series of farms.
posted by unearthed at 10:01 AM on January 17

In Japan you can kind-of-DIY this with takkyubin services - next day parcel delivery that takes suitcases. So you stay in hostel A, then divide your luggage into an overnight backpack and main suitcase, dropping the suitcase at a convenience store for delivery to hostel C the next afternoon. You do have to fend for yourself with an overnight bag in Hostel B in the meantime, but it seriously reduces your hiking load.
posted by I claim sanctuary at 10:03 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]

Just as a specific, doing this walk along the Atlantic coast of Portugal in spring with all the flowers in bloom is pretty special.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 10:06 AM on January 17 [2 favorites]

If you would also be interested in the chill cycling version of this

Dunno from 'chill' but if you're interested in a historical cycling version of this read The Wheels of Chance by H.G.Wells - Hoopdriver and the Lady in Grey exploring the Southern coast of England on his two-week holiday.
posted by Rash at 10:19 AM on January 17

We did five days on the Rheinsteig in Germany in fall of 2022, it would be right up your alley. I can give you some suggestions if you're interested. The route is really well set up for hikers - each leg is roughly 8-10 miles, punctuated by towns with hotels that are geared up for hiking (think - bagged lunches, shoe drying rooms, etc.). The whole route is also paralleled by a train route, so if you want to do non-contiguous sections or end up injured or tired it's very easy to move around. Early fall seemed like an excellent time to do this particular trek since the weather was perfect and it was the middle of grape harvesting, so it was fun walking through all the vineyards.

(In the cycling community, what you would be looking for is called "credit card touring" - not sure if hikers use the same nomenclature, but it might be good starting search.)
posted by backseatpilot at 10:30 AM on January 17 [4 favorites]

You can do this in Japan (i did a 3 day version in the kii peninsula along a pilgrimage route, but there were many options.)

I sort of did this when I visited Japan in the summer of 2022. For logistical reasons I ended up staying at the same hotel in Kawayu Onsen and doing 3 day hikes on different segments of the trail but the trail as set up is linear with nice places to stay along the way. By the hotel I stayed at there were outdoor baths which were very nice after a long day of hiking and there was also a river and you could dig out little pools on the side and heat from the ground would warm the water up.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 11:06 AM on January 17

Seconding the English Lake District for this. Look at the YHA Hostels: they're open to everyone, in some amazing locations through the district, and many have restaurants. You can put together a nice multi-day loop hike so you leave most luggage at one hostel and return to it a few days later. I started at Ambleside and did a loop that took me through Grasmere and Wordsworth's house at Mount Rydal. Folks at the YHA may be able to suggest services for luggage transport if you'd rather not loop, and/or recommend hiking routes.

I love this idea. It sure is nice to go on a long hike carrying nothing but a water bottle, a raincoat, and a light lunch.
posted by hovey at 11:12 AM on January 17

I haven't done it, but I recently read about the Liechtenstein Trail, which allows you to walk through pretty much the entire country, one town to the next.
posted by egregious theorem at 11:16 AM on January 17

I echo soleiluna's comment above about Scotland. I walked the West Highland Way in 2010. You can camp, but we did inn-to-inn with luggage transfer organized by Wilderness Scotland. It was beautiful, peaceful, and fun. Interesting people to walk with, gorgeous scenery, and plenty to drink at the end of the day.
posted by TrarNoir at 11:36 AM on January 17 [1 favorite]

I have hiked the whole Rheinsteig over several years and highly recommend it - see my reply to an earlier question. I didn't book accommodations for most of it because I used to live in the area.

Another great hike in Germany is the Schluchtensteig in the Black Forest, see also The Gorge Trail. It consists of five or six parts, and I booked a package tour complete with accommodations and luggage transport, so I only carried a small backback with lunch and a rain jacket during the day.
posted by amf at 12:05 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

We did a 3-day town-to-town hike in Italy that we found in Lonely Planet's Hiking in Italy. They have dozens listed, with detailed routes and logistics, and similar books for many other countries.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 12:46 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

Another recommendation for the Rheinsteig. I stayed at a hotel on the Rhine every night, staying in each hotel 3 nights by taking the train to the beginning of a leg and hiking it and then taking the train from the end of the leg back to the hotel.

I only did about 60 miles of the Northern end, but it was a great walk. The train was an incredible asset.

One thing to know though is that "steig" means "steep path". The path is along the rim of the valley and you’ll get some leg work walking up to it if you stay on the river.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:16 PM on January 17

Yes, I've done the Coast to Coast with Mac's Adventures, and a 5-day walk in wine country in Provence. Their trips usually include shuttling your bags for you between sites. They give you pretty good information -- GPS coordinates on a topo map for the trail directions, and a booklet with written directions.
posted by suelac at 1:20 PM on January 17

There are multiple companies who do this along Hadrian's Wall.
posted by praemunire at 1:47 PM on January 17

To riff on Bloxworth's suggestions about Portugal. In the fall of 1989, I walked the entire 700km Atlantic coast of Portugal in ~20km chunks. I planned nothing and never found myself involuntarily sleeping other than in a bed. I figured a) that navigation would be easy (keep left foot in the surf) b) there must be hotels, pensãos, hostels, because beaches. It was a close call because shoulder season meant there was less demand for beds but some places were closing / closed for the season. It may be shoulder-to-shoulder time-share apart-hotels now, but it was pretty magical 40+ years ago to see more dolphins in a day than people.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:22 PM on January 17

This book has a whole bunch of them, all in Europe. It's split into sections for hiking, biking, train rides, and boat rides, I think. There are lots of different lengths and styles; it's basically a mouth-watering guide to about 80 options that have various degrees of similarity to exactly what you're looking for, and once you zero in on one that looks good, you can research elsewhere to get detailed plans. I got it from the library randomly and ended up taking pages and pages of notes for future travel ideas. Enjoy!
posted by luzdeluna at 3:55 PM on January 17 [1 favorite]

The Via Francigena in Italy is totally awesome. There is a NYT Travel article about it.
posted by toomuchkatherine at 4:27 PM on January 17

I asked this same question years ago, here you go.

Sadly I haven’t done as much since then as I would have liked. I did hike a few days in the dolomites last year doing hut to hut for part of the Alta Via 2, but it’s the least casual hike I’ve ever done.
posted by monologish at 5:38 AM on January 18 [1 favorite]

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