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8 of the World’s Greatest Hut-to-Hut Hikes

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8 of the World’s Greatest Hut-to-Hut Hikes
The planet’s most scenic elevated spots demand more than a hasty overnight stay. That’s why hikers across the globe have flocked to designated hut networks that let you extend your outdoor explorations to epic proportions via immersive “hut-to-hut” multi-day hikes. Depending on the destination, you can opt to navigate these memorable overnight treks on self-guided routes, or you can entrust the logistics of your journey to a seasoned outfitter, which will arrange lodging, meals, and guiding services, too. (We recommend some of the best here.) Just be forewarned: Once you’re settled into one of these remote mountain huts, which offer innlike—if sometimes barebones—amenities such as comfy beds, restorative meals, and, occasionally, even niceties like espresso and aperitifs, you won’t want to leave—unless it’s to reach the next one.
By Kelly Bastone, AFAR Contributor
Courtesy of Outdoors.org
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    Presidential Range, New Hampshire
    The western United States has no monopoly on vistas above the tree line. New Hampshire’s White Mountains also offer inspiring alpine scenery from bald summits that hover around 6,000 feet in elevation. The mightiest are located in the Presidential Range, where the trails are rough but the landings are soft thanks to a string of simple, high-mountain bunkhouses operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club. The highest hut (Lakes of the Clouds, at 5,012 feet) is often ensconced in its namesake mist, but on a clear day, hikers savor sweeping panoramas of craggy summits and plunging valleys. And each night, an appetizer of soup and freshly baked bread precedes the likes of spaghetti and meatballs. The classic Presidential Traverse 20-mile route takes three days, staying overnight at Lakes of the Clouds and Madison Spring huts; stringing together all eight White Mountain huts requires nine days and covers 56 miles.

    Book It: Most people make their own arrangements and hike the Presidential Range without a guide, but if you want to offload the planning, REI Adventures offers guided trips.
    Courtesy of Outdoors.org
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    Tour du Mont Blanc, Alps
    Three countries (France, Switzerland, and Italy) surround mighty Mont Blanc, the Alps’ highest peak at 15,770 feet. Its blazing white glaciers and snaggled peaks are gorgeous from any angle, and the Tour de Mont Blanc hiking route showcases the lot of them, as well as the cultural differences that persist along this international 105-mile loop. You’ll sip espresso and eat wild mushroom pappardelle at huts in Italy, admire flower boxes and wooden chalets in Switzerland, and savor regional cheeses and coq au vin in France, along a hut-to-hut circuit that takes most trekkers 10 to 12 days to complete. The food is scrumptious but the bunk accommodations are basic in all three countries’ huts (called rifugi in Italy; refuges in France and Switzerland), which treat guests to panoramas of the surrounding Alps. Between huts, you’ll cross ancient Roman footbridges, visit high-Alpine chapels, and hike beneath hulking glaciers.

    Book It: Hiking and walking tour outfitter Distant Journeys offers guided and self-guided itineraries. Or arrange your own tour and book huts through the Tour du Mont Blanc site.
    Courtesy of Distant Journeys
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    Salkantay Trail, Peru
    Hike to Peru’s Machu Picchu on this lesser-known, 39-mile alternative to the Inca Trail, which also follows an ancient Andean footpath across impossibly steep mountainsides. But this route spans seven days—and connects exclusive lodges where hikers recharge with goose-down bedding, outdoor hot tubs, and elevated versions of Peruvian meat-and-potato dishes. The hiking is even more rewarding, with trails through orchid-filled cloud forests and the restored Llactapata ruins.

    Book It: Mountain Lodges of Peru is the only outfitter to offer the luxe-hut experience, as well as guided hiking and horseback options that let beginner and experienced equestrians ride purebred steeds throughout the seven-day trip.
    Courtesy of Mountain Lodges of Peru
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    High Sierra Camps, California
    Backpacking isn’t the only way to explore remote corners of California’s High Sierra: The High Sierra Camps in Yosemite National Park let hikers take in some of the most scenic locations in this glorious range, without sleeping on the ground each night. Spaced six to 10 miles apart, along a 49-mile loop that takes six days to complete, these five basic camps house hikers in heated tent cabins outfitted with cots (three camps even offer hot showers). Family-style dinners feature options like wild Alaskan salmon and fruit cobbler, hearty breakfasts fuel hikers for the day’s hike ahead, and sack lunches are available to go so that you can stage your own picnic in one of the Sierra’s granite-rimmed wildflower meadows. 

    Book It: Coveted reservations at the High Sierra Camps go exclusively to lottery winners, and park rangers are available to serve as hike guides (although no guide is required).
    Courtesy of Yosemite Hospitality
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    Kumaon Region, India
    Never heard of Kumaon? Neither have the vast majority of global outdoor backpackers, who often bypass this bucolic region of India (accessible via an overnight train from Delhi) in favor of better-known Indian hiking destinations like the Valley of Flowers and Roopkund. Kumaon’s views are just as splendid—it occupies the foothills of the Great Himalaya Range to the north—but its farming villages stand out for retaining their ancient traditions.

    Book It: The region isn’t specifically set up for trekking—hikers follow unofficial farmers’ paths and country roads—so a guided tour is the best option. Luxe regional outfitter Shakti recruits local guides to lead village-to-village walks through the foothills here lasting from four to nine nights, with participants staying at comfortable, renovated houses and trekking among terraced farms and Hindu temples. The optional grand finale is a stay at 360º Leti, a lodge perched at 8,000 feet that’s surrounded by rhododendron bushes and wild cherry trees. Here, Shakti operates four teak-and-slate cottages, each with two walls of windows that frame the Himalayas’ snowy summits. Guests are also invited to help make the evening’s traditional dishes, such as Parsi curry chicken with apricots.
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    Milford Track, New Zealand
    Even without its huts, New Zealand’s Milford Track, set within the South Island’s Fiordland National Park, would still be wildly popular. The four-day, 33-mile footpath connects rain forest waterfalls (one side trip visits the 1,903-foot-high Sutherland Falls) with steely peaks and glacier-carved valleys of New Zealand’s Southern Alps. But the three basic huts boost the appeal: Each contains 40 bunks and kitchen facilities (hikers tote their own food), and some are convenient to backcountry swimming holes. Plus, the trek starts and ends with a boat ride: A water taxi carries you across Lake Te Anau to the trailhead, and you finish with a trip across superb Milford Sound, a fjord surrounded by near-vertical mountainsides and chasms.

    Book It: Go Orange arranges self-guided trips that include trailhead transportation and hut reservations. Or you can book your own trip through the Department of Conservation, but note that you’ll need to book as soon as spots open on February 1st, 2018.
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    Alta Via 2, Italy
    Hiking in the Dolomites is like exploring a sculpture garden. Peaks here don’t have the conical shape common to other mountain ranges; instead, they form impressively jagged monoliths, towers, and cliffs. Some mountainsides are so steep that vie ferrate (designated climbing routes using steel cables and bolted metal footholds) are the only way across. Various rifugi and trail networks facilitate short and long trips here; the blockbuster trail is Alta Via 2, a 13-day, 100-mile path through the Dolomites’ most photogenic spots, connecting a network of basic huts such as the Rifugio Franz Kostner, a high-mountain lodge offering unbeatable sunrise views of sharp peaks bathed in pink light. And because Italians take their food seriously—even at 8,000 feet—hut meals feature upgraded options like polenta with mountain herbs and hearty hunter-style stews.

    Book It: You can make your own arrangements. Or Holimites offers guided and self-guided trips on a 77-mile, nine-day portion of the Alta Via 2.
    Courtesy of Rifugio Franz Kostner
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    Overland Track, Tasmania
    This five- to six-day walk, spanning 40 to 51 miles (if extending the route to skirt Lake St. Clair) through the Traveller Range and Du Cane Range, offers ample opportunity to glimpse Tasmania’s unique wildlife. It includes wallabies, echidnas, and just maybe wombats (which are particularly shy, but leave behind bizarre piles of square-shaped scat for hikers to ponder). The scenery is just as impressive: The walk from Cradle Valley to Lake St. Clair crosses rain forests, wrinkled peaks, and ethereal eucalyptus forests.

    Book It: In the Cradle Mountain Huts—only accessible via a guided tour with Tasmanian Walking Co.—trekkers enjoy greater comforts than in the trail’s government-managed shelters. Hot showers, picture windows, afternoon tea, veggie-studded stews, and Australian shiraz ease away the rigors of the trail.
    Courtesy of Tasmania Walking Co.
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