Rifugio Bonatti, Courmayeur, Italy
Length: Seven miles (11.3 kilometers) one-way from Courmayeur
Payoff: European comfort in the shadows of the wild Mont Blanc massif
Do It: Tucked at the foot of the hulking white mass of 15,776-foot (4,809-meter) Mont Blanc, or Monte Bianco as it’s called in Italian, the village of Courmayeur is more laid-back than the extreme-sport-minded French town of Chamonix on the other side. But it has a long history of mountaineering, including the second oldest mountain guide association in the world, the Società delle Guide di Courmayeur, which was established in 1850 and operates an extensive museum of climbing history in town.
The valley also boasts one of the best hut systems in the Alps, including the gem of Rifugio Bonatti, named for pioneering Italian mountaineer and photographer Walter Bonatti. With a sweeping view of glaciers and the peaks of the sharp ridge of the 13,806-foot (4,208-meter) Grandes Jorasses, the rifugio is more mountain hotel than hut, serving up Italian delicacies and aperitifs from a full bar. While the hike from town takes in about 2,800 feet (853 meters) of vertical gain, a sip of espresso or fernet, an Italian spirit, at the hut will certainly ease the pain (or you can get a shuttle ride up the valley and cut the hike down to about an hour and 900 vertical feet/274 meters).