There are few hiking experiences as enjoyable as a trailside picnic on a beautiful sunny day. Spreading out your bandana in a rolling meadow, surrounded by jagged mountain peaks, and arranging a charcuterie spread of delectable meats, mouth-watering cheeses, fresh veggies and baked breads alongside fruits, nuts and chocolate is just so quintessentially European you can’t help but smile! Below are a few tips to help you assemble the perfect trailside picnic.
Embrace Local Culinary Delights
Villages throughout the alps are known for their neighborhood markets, overflowing with fresh produce, varied meats and cheeses, warm bread, wine and much more. Acquiring provisions at these local shops is a favorite way to familiarize yourself with each town.
We suggest you take advantage of this culinary journey by trying an assortment of different foods while hiking. If time permits, consider visiting multiple markets to gather specialty items: cheese and meat in one location, produce and snacks in another, and bread and pastries at the town bakery. Pick up fresh ingredients in the morning or the night before if you plan an early start. Each region you visit will have specialties unique to that area, like Puzzone di Moena in the Dolomites or the Zermatter Bergkäse found in Zermatt.
Lunch with a View
Where is the best place to spread out your picnic? We recommend somewhere with dramatic views such as an open meadow adorned with wildflowers, by a serene alpine lake, or a scenic overlook with panoramic vistas. Remember to leave no trace after your picnic and clean up thoroughly, including scraps and trash. Pack out anything leftover so you leave your picnic spot better than you found it.
Keep it Light
No need to carry extra weight like a traditional picnic blanket when you have options already in your pack such as a bandana, rain jacket or fleece layer. Packing one cloth napkin and reusable utensils is recommended, and you can recycle these items each day to reduces waste.
To avoid burdening a single hiker in your group, distribute the weight of the picnic items among your hiking companions. Let everyone carry a portion of the lunch, ensuring a more enjoyable and balanced hiking experience. On guided treks, make sure the guide carries the watermelon!
The Essentials for a Perfect Picnic
The charcuterie spread mentioned above is ideal for larger groups where people can share in carrying the various items. If it’s just one or two hikers and you want to travel light, the deli counter at the market can make you a sandwich to order and you can pick up dried fruit or a bag of mixed nuts, and of course something sweet. You can also ask your accommodations to make you a lunch to go. (Please inquire the evening before and it will be ready for your departure in the morning).
If you plan to enjoy wine or share beer, bring along reusable cups that can serve multiple purposes throughout your journey. On that note, if you do bring wine, beer, or another alcoholic beverage along, ensure your hiking route following lunch is straightforward and doesn’t involve technical challenges.
Below is an example picnic list for hikers in the Chamonix Mont Blanc region of France, where Ryder-Walker offers several treks: French Alps, Tour du Mont Blanc, Hiker’s Haute Route, and Chamonix to Champex Mini Trek
Example Picnic Spread
- Reblochon: A creamy and aromatic cheese native to the region, like brie, it’s perfect for pairing with crusty bread.
- Beaufort: A firm and nutty cheese with a rich flavor, ideal for enjoying with dried fruits.
- Saucisson de Savoie: A traditional dry-cured sausage seasoned with local herbs and spices similar to salami, made from pork.
- Jambon de Pays: A flavorful, air-dried ham made from locally raised pigs.
- Baguette: The classic French bread, crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, perfect for making trailside sandwiches.
- Pain de Campagne: A rustic country bread with a hearty texture, ideal for accompanying cheese and charcuterie.
- Savoyard Honey: Locally produced honey with unique floral flavors, perfect for drizzling on cheese or bread.
- Walnuts: A regional specialty, these fresh and crunchy nuts add a delightful touch to any picnic spread.
- Cornichons: Tangy pickled cucumbers that provide a refreshing contrast to the rich flavors of cheese and meats.
- Tarte aux Myrtilles: A delicious bilberries tart, showcasing the region’s abundance of wild berries.
- Macarons: Delicate and colorful almond-based cookies in various flavors, offering a delightful ending to the picnic.
- Chocolate is a staple in most hiker’s packs and although the Swiss are known to produce some of the world’s best chocolates; Lindt and Läderach are familiar names world-wide, Italy’s Venchi and Novi and Germany’s Schogetten and Ritter Sport can be spotted being enjoyed on the trails throughout the alps.
- Apremont: A crisp and aromatic white wine from the Savoie region, featuring flavors of green apple and citrus.
- Chamonix Craft Beer: Explore the local brewery scene and select a refreshing beer with flavors that suit your taste.