National Geographic Adventure - Dream It. Plan It. Do It.

Via Alpina: The Alps
Where Next: The Alps
People and Places: The Alps
MapMachine: Interactive Maps
World Music: Music + Videos
Web Favorites
Travel Directory

Photo: African safari

Our Travel Directory is now
available online. Browse
more than 50 trip outfitters,
sorted by region.
Travel Directory

Action Photography Contest Winners:
Round III

Photo: Kayaker

Presenting the third round
winners in our Action Photography Contest, selected by National Geographic photographer
Bill Hatcher.
Photo contest winners

Via Alpina Hike

Logo: Via Alpina

Logo: Mountain Hardwear

Logo: Garmin

 Logo: Scarpa

 Logo: Canon

 Logo: Nokia

 Logo: Leki

 Logo: Buzz Off

Via Alpina Trail Dispatches: The Alps Connection
In mid-July writer Alex Crevar and photographer Carly Calhoun set out to thru-hike 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers) along the Via Alpina.
Text by Alex Crevar   Photograph by Carly Calhoun  
Map by Lindsey Balbierz

Map: The Alps' Via Alpina megatrail

SUCH GREAT HEIGHTS: Hiking the Via Alpina in Slovenia

Slovenia: Trail Dispatch  |  Photo Slide Show  |  Where to Stay

  Austria: Trail Dispatch  |  Photo Slide Show  |  Where to Stay

Via Alpina: Plan a trip >>

Photo: Alex Crevar and Carly CalhounAbout two years ago, photographer Carly Calhoun and I first encountered something called the "Via Alpina" in a guidebook dedicated to hiking the Alps. Described in just four sentences, the Via Alpina would form the first trans-Alps route by linking a series of existing trails in all eight alpine countries: Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, France, Italy, and Monaco (see map below). At the time, the Via Alpina was still in the planning stages and not yet ready for public consumption, but that didn't keep us from salivating over the prospect of trying it out.

See the trail dispatches and photo slide shows >>

That opportunity came during the summer of 2005. "You will be like pioneers," the members of the nascent staff at Via Alpina headquarters said when we told them we wanted to trek a small, multi-country part of the trail. We knew they were just being nice because, by that time, several folks had hiked portions of the entire main trunk—the Red Trail—which traverses all eight countries, covers around 1,500 miles (2,414 kilometers), and takes about four months to complete.

Map: The Via Alpina

Then an idea dawned on us—let's walk the whole darn thing from end to end. The more we considered it, the more it made sense: Neither of us was gainfully employed; friends and family generally don't notice if we're not around for chunks of the year anyway; and, logically, I'll do just about anything for bacon cured on the high pasture—not to mention Carly's love for unpasteurized cheese.

We decided early on to keep with the mission of the Via Alpina: to use the trail as a vehicle for experiencing regions of Alps. The idea was that anyone with enough time and basic fitness could experience the trail. Our goal was to see area festivals, sights of merit, villages, folk in pointy hats, painted gnomes arranged in compromising positions, and, of course, eat bacon. In short, we wanted to know what it means to live in the Alps in the 21st century. 

This meant that we'd occasionally elect to hop aboard motorized transport to visit those happenings, which often take place in the regions of the trail, but not always directly on it. After said happening, we'd return to our place on the path. We wanted to hike and enjoy alpine regions we'd never experienced before.

While charting the trek on the map, I figured I'd just do my utmost to keep up with Carly, eat the tiny bits of cheese that she leaves on the rind, and search like a dog for bacon. With that in mind, we left the States with packs that felt like they were loaded by blacksmiths and began hiking from the Adriatic Sea in Trieste, Italy, on July 14. 

Our plan is to stay in mountain huts when available, a tent when there's no hut, and a lodge when we can't stand another day without showering. Our trail would go up, over, and around with the hopes of seeing the Mediterranean from Monaco by mid-November … a point that has raised more than a few eyebrows—including our own—with regard to weather. To this we can only hope that the white stuff holds off, in large amounts anyway, until we leave, and then dumps like crazy for powder hounds the world over.

Slovenia: Trail Dispatch  |  Photo Slide Show |  Where to Stay

Austria: Trail Dispatch  |  Photo Slide Show  |  Where to Stay

Via Alpina: Plan a trip >>


 E-mail a Friend

Cover: Adventure magazine

Adventure's September 2006 issue features 31 amazing adventure towns; chaos at the top of Mount Everest; an inside look at surfing California's Lost Coast; 11 fall weekend getaways near you; the best high-tech footwear, world class adventure travel; hiking the Alps, and more!

Subscribe now and save!

Adventure Subscription Offer