Alpine Huts and Cottages

What’s a hut, anyhow? Or more to the point, what’s an alpine hut? In German, the word “Hütte” (hut) is a general term for just about any building you might encounter in the Alps, from a simple hay shed

Hay Shed in the Ennstal

Hay Shed in the Ennstal

to an alpine lodge with more than 100 bed spaces.

Franz-Senn-Hütte, Stubai Alps - Tirol Photo by Kogo via Wikimedia Commons

Franz-Senn-Hütte, Stubai Alps – Tirol
Photo by Kogo via Wikimedia Commons

The alps are populated with huts; in fact it’s difficult to hike very far without coming across one type or another. All of them are connected by a network of trails that have been in use for centuries, in some cases since the time of Ötzi the Iceman. Huts fall into two general categories.

Alpine Association Huts

Many of the alpine huts have been established as refuges by one of the Alpine Clubs or Associations to make the Alps more accessible to mountaineers and hikers. Their huts range in ranging in size from bivouacs

Gössnitzkopf Bivouac - Schobergruppe Photo Franz Unterwainig via Wikimedia Commons

Gössnitzkopf Bivouac – Schobergruppe
Photo Franz Unterwainig via Wikimedia Commons

to large lodges.  The largest resemble hotels more than what we would call a hut.

Alpine Association huts are often managed by a host. Their accommodations are similar to what you’d expect from a youth hostel, but they also serve hot food and all sorts of hot and cold drinks (sometimes you can also get heated beer, should you care for it). Typically they also have common areas for socializing around tables. Many have terraces where you can sit outside in fine weather, eat, drink and enjoy the view.

Kellerjoch Huette - Tuxer Alps Photo by Haneburger via Wikimedia Commons

Kellerjoch Huette – Tuxer Alps
Photo by Haneburger via Wikimedia Commons

They may even have hot showers.

Alm Huts and Cottages

There are even more huts associated with alpine farmsteads, called Alms. Originally, they provided shelter and work space for farm hands who tended their livestock on alpine pastures in the summer. Thousands still exist for that purpose alone. Many also offer food and drink to hikers and mountaineers.

Mahdegg Alm - Tennengebirge

Mahdegg Alm – Tennengebirge

A great number, also provide beds or mattresses for overnight stays. There may be some, still, that let you sleep in the hay shed, but for the most part, the days when you could walk up to an Alm and sleep in the hay are gone. (more on alms in another post).

The Alpine Hiking Experience

These are the kinds of huts and cottages you can use for overnight stays and meal breaks as you hike on one of the many trails through the Alps. And this is the kind of landscape you’ll pass through: alpine landscapes near or above tree line, dotted with mountain pastures and quaint cottages. When you venture into the higher country, where barren rock, glacier and mountain peaks dominate the landscape, you can often find huts managed by the Alpine Associations, sometimes even on mountain tops.

Watzmannhaus - Berchtesgaden Alps Photo: LuckyStarr via Wikipedia Commons

Watzmannhaus – Berchtesgaden Alps
Photo: LuckyStarr via Wikipedia Commons

It’s one of the features that makes hiking in the Alps completely different from hiking in just about any other mountain range on the planet. Many of these huts have generous lodgings, good food, drink and company, and the views tend to be breath taking.

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  1. Why (Travel) Art Journaling? - Hut-n-Trek : Hut-n-Trek | August 23, 2014
  1. Sharon Sokol says:

    It looks magnificent! What an adventure – I hope to be part of it!
    S

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