It’s beginning to be high season in the Alps. Magdalena Seifert of Touching Nature has some useful advice.
The Bavarian Alps are paradise for the avid hiker. There are several stunning, long distance trails like the Maximiliansweg, where you hike from Lake Constance to Berchtesgaden, or the popular Heilbronner Höhenweg in the Allgäu Alps. The best part of such high-level hiking is that you don’t have to interrupt your journey every evening to descend into the valleys, thanks to a network of mountain huts with accommodation run by alpine clubs and private companies.
The German Alpine Club or DAV (Deutscher Alpenverein) has over 300 such huts throughout Germany, many of them spread throughout the Bavarian Alps. Members of the Alpine Club get many benefits, including discounts on accommodations and cheaper meals and booking preference, but their huts are open to non-members as well.
The DAV huts are subdivided into three categories, starting with the most remote. Category One huts are generally at least an hour’s hike away from any mechanical transport, such as a chairlift. Members may book beds in these huts ahead of time, but non-members may not. (DAV states on its website that it is general practice for all its huts to keep 25 percent vacancy until the evening so that they can provide accommodation to hikers in case of emergency). If you are staying at a Category One hut, they will only have a small food and drink selection, so you should plan on bringing extra refreshments.
Category Two huts are generally less rustic and have more meal options. They are also closer to mechanised transport. Members still have booking priority over non-members, but non-members may book ahead of time.
Category Three huts are the most accessible by road or mechanised transport, have limited overnight accommodation and generally cater to day visitors.
The Alpine Club’s sleeping arrangements vary from dormitory style, to bunk beds (four to a room); some even have private family rooms and double rooms. In the private rooms, there’s usually bedding provided, although it’s best to check. But in the dormitory-style rooms (Matratzenlager) which only have mattresses on the floor, and sometimes accommodate up to 40 people, you need to bring your own sleeping bag. Prices range from €10 to €25+, with cheaper fees for children and students.
When planning your hiking itinerary, it’s important to call and find out if the hut will be open and has availability. Huts nowadays have phones and most of them even their own website (just Google the hut’s name) and hut guardians usually speak some English. There’s no central agency, so you have to call the hut directly, as only they have the latest availability records.
A few huts are open year round, whilst most others are only open from late spring to early autumn. Some are closed one day a week.
Magdalena Seifert is a seasoned traveller, enthusiastic walker, nature lover and a qualified Mountain Leader, originally from Bavaria. Her website offers a directory of hiking-friendly accommodation throughout Germany in general, and also about the German Alpine region, particularly for the English-speaking market.