A woman recently asked me to recommend the absolute ideal 4 weeks for hiking in the Alps during mid June to mid October. I almost told her that the ideal week would be the one that includes free airline tickets. I knew though, that she would still want to know WHEN the best time to receive those free airline tickets would be. It’s a popular question that I answer regularly and reluctantly, since I liken the process choosing the best chocolate bar. Every month is great. Even more, one person’s standard of measure may not equal another’s and only a fool would try to forecast mountain weather. However, I am not afraid of a little Tom Foolery, so here is a simple breakdown of each month, with the advantages and disadvantages of each.
April and May
Advantages: This is our favorite time to explore the desert regions of Arizona and Utah. OK, it’s not Europe, but it is our backyard and a marvelous place to explore ancient ruins, stone arches, canyon labyrinths, soaring spires, desert wildflowers, pictographs and petroglyphs. Can we say spring break?
Disadvantages: If the snow gods blessed the Alps, then this month is off limits for hikers without snowshoes because the high alpine regions are still buried in white. The month of May also means off-season even without snow too, and the alpine accommodations that we typically rely on are closed. We couldn’t organize a tour through the alps no matter how hard we tried.
Recommended Tours: Arches & Canyonlands
Advantages: Relatively quiet trails during the first part of the month and wildflowers toward the end, (depending on snow pack). Snow capped peaks offer a splendid backdrop against lower valleys exploding with water and life. June can be very sunny.
Disadvantages: The weather can still be cold and hikers may encounter frozen snow pack at higher elevations, especially during the early part of the month. Accommodations, restaurants and lifts may also be closed until the middle of June depending on the region.
Advantages: Everything is open and the wildflowers should be in full bloom, depending on the previous winter’s snow pack. Days and nights are typically warmer and many of the high alpine passes should be free of snow. (Glaciated regions excepted)
Disadvantages: The trails start getting busy. Accommodations in Italy can be difficult to find for independent travelers after the middle of month. Rain clouds loom on the horizon.
Recommended Tours: Everything in Europe. Large, independent groups should try to avoid Italy after the middle of the month, or consider multiple night stays in each village.
Advantages: August 1, the Swiss National Day. This is a great time to see a bit of Swiss culture. The weather can be very warm and pleasant.
Disadvantages: August 1, the Swiss National Day. This can be a hard time to find accommodation in some villages. (We’ll try though). August is also the busiest month during the summer. Thunderstorms may test the raingear.
Recommended Tours: Everything in the Alps except Italy for self-guided travelers.
Advantages: The people of Appenzell wear traditional clothing as they lead the cows down from the high pastures. Hikers enjoy cooler days and quiet trails. This is a great month to get back into Italy and this is also a great time to explore the peak color season of the Alpine Southwest in Colorado.
Disadvantages: The weather can turn cold in a hurry and snow is a distinct possibility. Many of the accommodations, restaurants and lifts begin to close by the middle of the month depending on the region.
Recommended Tours: The Telluride Trek and everything in Europe through the middle of the month. Explore the Engadine through the end of September without a problem.
Advantages: We can only offer the self-guided Engadine trek, so the choice is easy. Very quiet trails and villages offer a very relaxing experience.
Disadvantages: The restaurants and lifts may be closed. Snow is a possibility (though not always a bad thing) and hikers may have to stay on lower trails.
Recommended Tour: The self-guided Engadine Trek
For those who don’t fit into summer: You may want to consider skiing or snowboarding from village to village. Please visit our sister company, Alpenglow Ski Safaris for more details.