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As much as we love warm and sunny days in the mountains, or the great outdoors generally speaking, winter is a season which makes the mountains look so peaceful and magical, don’t you think?
To enjoy the winter wonderland, you don’t need to go for a big expedition straight away. You can start small and build up to bigger adventures. It is all about enjoying the outdoors without putting yourself in danger.
If you feel cautious about winter walking – read our tips on how to prepare for winter hikes. We compiled tips and hints based on our own experience; undoubtedly you will find them helpful!
Ok, so you have decided to try winter hiking…. but where?
Don’t worry…. we’ve got it covered and can help you with stunning winter hiking ideas!
In search for more recommendations for winter adventures we reached out to outdoor and travel blogging community. Together, we created a list of 12 stunning winter hikes across Europe.
We are very excited to share these hikes with you! Many of them are lesser known, some are known only by the locals. Also, some of the below ideas will take you to countries which are not usually associated with winter sports. So, are you ready??
Let us know in comments, whether you are familiar with any of these hikes. Which one would you like to undertake and (as always!) let’s get inspired!
12 STUNNING WINTRY HIKES ACROSS EUROPE
1. Circular hike around Lake Bohinj, Slovenia
2. Val Lumnezia hike, Switzerland
3. Vilan peak, Switzerland
4. Seven Lakes and Ivan Vazov Hut hike in Rila mountains, Bulgaria
5. Helvellyn in Lake District, England
6. Patscherkofel near Innsbruck, Austria
7. Mogielnica peak in Beskid Wyspowy, Poland
8. Czerwone Wierchy ridge in Western Tatra range, Poland
9. Trebevic peak, Bosnia and Herzegovina
10. Mayar and Driesh, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland
11. Cross-country skiing in Tiilikkajarvi National Park, Finland
12. Gerontovrachos Peak, Mount Parnassos, Greece
Slovenia is a fantastic hiking destination, both in summer and winter. There are so many wonderful paths in the Julian Alps, Karawanks Alps, and Pohorje. Hence I am so happy that Joanna shared her experience with us.
Circular hike around Lake Bohinj
by Joanna from The World in My Pocket
Length 12 km. Difficulty: easy/moderate
Last winter I spent a weekend in Bled. I decided to go for a day trip to nearby Lake Bohinj and hike around it. It was probably the most spectacular hike I did while visiting Slovenia. Hiking around Lake Bohinj may be easy in summer, but in winter it proved to be quite challenging. The hike is circular and in normal circumstances (without the snow cover) it would take around 3-4 hours to walk the entire lake‘s perimeter of 12 km.
However, in winter, with the terrain covered by snow, you should consider adding some extra time. Although the trail is mostly flat, walking on snow will tire you out.
You need good waterproof boots (ideally with ankle support), in order to complete the Lake Bohinj Circumference Trail in winter.
The path gets cleaned from the snow only partially; only the section along the main road leading from the village of Ribcev Laz to the village of Ukanc is maintained. I also encountered plenty of fallen trees which I had to climb over (or go underneath) in order to continue the hike.
I recommend starting the trail at Robcev Laz, following the north path all the way to Ukank first, simply because I found it easier coming back on the cleared road.
In winter, the trail feels very magical with all the trees and ground covered by snow. It is also very peaceful as only few people walk along the lake. I loved the fact that the only other prints on the snow were deer‘s footprints!
About 70% of Switzerland is covered by mountains, 48 of them reaching over 4000 meters above sea level. Hence, in winter Switzerland becomes a true white wonderland, but is not for the faint-hearted! Winter hiking is therefore possible either below the snow level or on some artificially created paths, flattened and compacted by snow ploughs for beginner winter enthusiasts (see Val Lumnezia hike below).
Val Lumnezia hike
by Enikő from Travel Hacker Girl
Length 7.5 km. Difficulty: easy
Val Lumnezia, is also referred to as the Valley of Light as it enjoys sunshine for most of the year. Hence the valley attracts outdoor lovers from around the world. The area has a wide range of hiking trails, which are especially beautiful in the winter, when the ground and surrounding mountains are covered by snow. The Cumbel – Morissen – Cumbel winter hiking route is snow covered from December till March and the trail is well maintained, hardened and therefore easy to walk on even with plenty of snow around. It has scenic views of Piz Terri mountain, and it visits cute Swiss towns such as Morissen, which attracts visitors with its beautiful chalets known for carved motives.
The hike starts in Cumbel and is very well sign-posted. You won’t need any special equipment except for winter boots. Along the way you’ll find some benches to have a snack break and to take in the scenery. The trail is mostly in an open space, but there is a short section running thru the forest, along a stream. This circular hike is about 7.5 km with 255 metres elevation gain. It takes approximately 2-3 hours to complete.
Don’t forget the sunscreen, it is the Valley of Light after all!
by Alastair & Elke from Stunning Hikes
Length: 12 km. Difficulty: hard
If you, on the other hand, want to get away from the crowds you can challenge yourself by choosing your own way up a mountain, with the use of winter equipment. Having snow shoes or touring skis opens up a wider world of winter hiking routes. For instance, this tour to 2375 metres high Vilan mountain, which we have done several times, in summer and winter. The tour takes about 5-6 hours on snow shoes for its 12 km and 1400 metres ascent. It is not technically challenging but does require good fitness level and experience of using snow shoes or touring skis.
The tour from the stunning village of Seewis to the Vilan summit offers fantastic views all the way up. Once reaching the top, you can see the Churfirsten and the 4046 metres high mount Piz Bernina.
Park at the entry to the village, walk between the houses and start the tour at the open fields towards Fallider and Wurzaneina. Usually there are plenty of ski tracks to follow. From Wurzaneina, follow the forest road east until you see a sign post directing you upwards. Pass through the woods until you reach the huts at Sadreinegg (1893 masl). Make your way up the eastern ridge towards a cairn. From there, the ridge turns to the south-east and soon you will be at the top of Vilan.
For the way down, you can either retrace your footsteps, or in safe conditions, choose the steeper south route which starts at the cairn that you have passed on the way up.
Note that any winter tour has its dangers. Make sure to check the avalanche and weather forecast and make sure you take avalanche rescue equipment!
Bulgaria is already well know for its beautiful beaches at the Black Sea; and Sofia, its capital, attracts many foreign tourists . However, it may not be an obvious choice when it comes to winter adventures.
Bulgaria, however, enjoys decent snow fall between end of December and March and its mountains are often covered by the white powder. Hence, one can be spoilt for choice with winter trails. Alex shares his experience in snow walking in Bulgaria.
Seven Lakes & Ivan Vazor Hut hike in Rila mountains
by Alex from Alex Harford
Hiking in the Rila Mountains was one of the greatest highlights of my visit to Bulgaria.
I started the hike from the top of Pionerska chairlift. If the lift is not running (e.g. due to high winds), it takes around 1-2 hours to hike to the top station. ‘The 7 Lakes’ and further on to Ivan Vazov Hut are signposted walks, though sometimes the signs are not clearly visible from the distance; they may not be visible at all in snow or low cloud cover! Hence, it goes without saying that you should check the weather forecast, and carry a map and compass, should you need to navigate.
The blue and green lakes looked beautiful contrasted against the snow-covered surroundings, although the lakes may be frozen and covered by snow for much of the winter.
A circular walk to the lakes from the chairlift takes around 4-5 hours, so is doable on short winter days.
However, instead of descending back to the chairlift, I decided to continue to Ivan Vazhov Hut, which is an extra hour. The walk to the hut is on relatively level ground. With the surrounding mountains, it’s a beautiful extension to the ‘lakes walk’.
There isn’t a huge amount of ascent, as the lakes are situated between 2,000 and 2,500 metres high. The hike was challenging where the snow was deep, so snowshoes and walking poles could potentially make walking easier.
Despite having rather mild climate England can provide a fantastic winter mountain experience. The snow fall is not guaranteed as in other European countries, but I think I am safe to say that some parts of England are often topped with snow during winter months. That is especially true for Lake District. We love the English fells and visited them on many occasions.
Wintry visit to Helvellyn was especially memorable to Ela, who completed this hike solo, scrambling along frozen edges.
Helvellyn, Lake District
by Ela from Stunning Outdoors
Length: 8 km. Difficulty: hard
Helvellyn is one of our favourite mountains in Lake District. With only 950 masl may not be a high mountain but the two rocky ridges, Striding Edge and Swirral Edge from east side, make Helvellyn a fantastic grade 1 scrambling experience.
I have started this circular hike in Glenridding. The lower ground was not covered by snow, but I knew there will be full winter conditions higher up as I have seen the white fells from the distance. Halfway to the Striding Edge, I already could enjoy the snow! The frost covered rocky ridges provided fine scrambling experience with snow and/or ice.
Approximate hiking time may vary, but you should have at least 6 hours to complete it comfortably, also keep in mind that in winter this route is demanding/difficult.
Paths running on top of both edges are mildly exposed, hence I think hiking Helvellyn via the ‘edges’ in wintry conditions is more suitable for experienced hikers, who are familiar with using crampons (microspikes or mini-crampons) and ice exes if needed.
Having said that, the top of Helvellyn is a big plateau, so if you don’t feel confident with scrambling in winter conditions but would like to enjoy hiking on snow, you can choose to tackle Helvellyn from the west. The best starting points would be Wythburn or Highpark Wood. These trails are regarded a much easier way to Helvellyn with 770 metres of total ascent and 3.8 km long trails.
To return, you can either retrace your footsteps or get back to Thirlmere area: Wythburn or Highpark Wood. Please note that if you choose the latter, you will have to walk about 6 km along the road to return to your car.
I guess everyone knows that, similarly to Switzerland, some parts of Austria become a winter wonderland between December and April. Austrian Alps are well known skiing destinations… but what if you are not into skiing? The good news is – there is plenty to do in Austria’s winter wonderlands, including hiking. Mansoureh shares how she enjoyed both, hiking and Austrian hospitality.
by Mansoureh from Travel with Mansoureh
Innsbruck, in the north-west of Austria, is a great destination for winter sports’ lovers. The city is surrounded by ski resorts and hiking trails! Therefore, Patscherkofel mountain, located next to the Igls village and connected with Innsbruck by local bus service, is a popular destination for hikers.
You should alight in front of the Patscherkofel ski resort and start your hike at one of the paths behind the resort.
We hiked there in February, the path was covered by snow. We saw some hikers with snowshoes, but we were just fine with our hiking boots. Keep in mind that the path is open in all seasons, but from early December to April you should be prepared for snow hiking.
The path takes you to the top of the Patscherkofel mountain while going through one of the largest pine forests in Europe.
We got lost a few times and unintentionally left the path, but it was easy to get back on track. You don’t need to bring food with you, there are a few mountain restaurants on your way and next to the ski trail. Be careful, as you might need to cross the ski trails to get to the restaurants, depending on which one you choose.
It took us around 6 hours to hike to the top and get back to the same spot. We took it easy and stopped many times to take photos. If you want to get to the top faster you can take a cable car and then hike down the mountain.
Poland enjoys well defined seasons with warm summers but also with cold and white winters. The more south you go in winter time, the bigger is the chance to enjoy white winter. Although decades ago, the winters were much colder and severe than nowadays, Polish mountains are often topped with snow for months and offer hiking and skiing adventures. Of course, Tatra range always gets a lot of attention, but Poland has some more beautiful mountains in the south!
Mogielnica peak, Beskid Wyspowy
by Justi from Hasajace Zajace
Length: 10 km. Difficulty: easy/moderate
One of our favourite winter trails is a walk to the highest peak of the Beskid Wyspowy range – Mogielica (1171 masl), thru the Rydza-Śmigły (Chyszówka) Pass. This loop trail is neither long nor difficult. It takes about 3.5 – 4 hours to cover its distance in winter. We reached the top by following the green trail that runs near the parking lot on the Pass itself. It is well marked, runs thru glades and forests, and is very enjoyable. Along the way we went through the scenic Wyśnikówka glade, we also passed an interesting rock formation – Zbójnicki Table. Legends say that robbers used to count their money there.
After about 1 hour 40 mins we reached the destination of our trip.
At the top of Mogielica there is a 22-meter lookout tower, rising above the treetops. The wide panorama covers Beskid Sądecki, Pieniny, Tatra, Gorce, Babia Góra and other peaks of Beskid Wspowy. When the weather is favourable, one can even see the Slovak Mala Fatra range in the distance. It is simply beautiful! It is worth being here during the sunset – the impressions are unforgettable.
In addition to the tower, at the top of Mogielnica we also found a chapel, numerous crosses, an info board about the crash of a German bomber plane in 1944. We also found a booth with a hidden stamp for the conquerors of the ‘Crown of Polish Mountains’. In 2011, the Mogielica Nature Reserve was created, to protect the capercaillie habitats.
To return you can either retrace your steps to the pass or follow the yellow trail towards Słopnice Królewskie and continue along the red trail to the starting point.
Czerwone Wierchy ridge, Western Tatra mountains
by Beata from Stunning Outdoors
Length: 13 km. Difficulty: moderate
There is always something rewarding in walking along a mountain ridge; when that ridge is snow-covered it becomes magical. This is true about Czerwone Wierchy (Red Peaks) in Western Tatra range.
This beautiful hike along Polish-Slovak border through four peaks, each over 2000 meters high, provides a 360° views to both countries’ mountains.
To be able to complete this hike within shorter wintry days, opt to take a cable car to Kasprowy Wierch and then follow the ridge through Kopa Kondracka, Malolaczniak, Krzesanica and Ciemniak. The ridge walk is rather straight forward, but there are some rocky sections on the first leg of the hike. Hence diligence is required, especially if the rocks are icy. Having micro-spikes, poles or ice axe may be helpful as well. We have competed this hike on a nice sunny day, and used crampons and walking poles (found them sufficient).
The Czerwone Wierchy ridge is 6.5 km long with total ascent over 600 metres. The descent from Ciemniak (last top along the ridge) to the bus stop is additional 6.5 km, and it’s a long way down, with almost 1200 metres of total descent! Despite the way down being rather long and, I dare to say, a bit boring (I am not a great fan of this descent route), the options in winter are rather limited. However, have a look at our detailed post about Czerwone Wierchy to see the alternative way down, if you have enough daylight.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
If you look at the map of Bosnia and Herzegovina it is very clear that western and central parts of the country are very mountainous. And so these regions enjoy the biggest snowfall, providing endless hiking, snowshoeing or skiing opportunities for all outdoor enthusiasts. The capital, Sarajevo, is in close proximity to many peaks, hence we are so happy that Sabina shared the locals’ favourite hike with us.
by Sabina from Wild In The Balkans
Length: 8-10 km. Difficulty: easy/moderate
Trebevic is one of four Olympic mountains situated around Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In just half an hour, you come from bustling streets into the thick coniferous forest, away from city noise.
To enjoy a hike on this beautiful mountain you don’t need a car. From the Old town of Sarajevo, the cable car takes you in 10 minutes to remains of the bobsleigh run from the XIV Winter Olympics Games. Further, from a cable car and Pino Nature Hotel, a well-marked hiking trail is winding through a thick forest to the top of Trebevic. I have done this hike numerous times and every time it feels like first! The view from the top and while walking along the ridge is breathtaking and the best part of the hike.
If you’re searching for the least demanding trail to the top, the zig-zag trail from the Pino Nature Hotel is the best choice.
From the top of Trebevic (1,629 masl), the trail descends along the western ridge to the newly built mountain hut of Jure Franko. The location of the hut is great, as it offers a stunning view of Sarajevo town and surrounding mountains.
This hike is suitable for both, walking and snowshoeing.
Note: If you choose to use snowshoes, be aware that along one section, from the top along the ridge, you need to carry snowshoes on your backpack.
With its varied landscape, Scotland provides endless winter hiking opportunities. Whether you’re a seasoned mountaineer, experienced hiker or only just beginning your wintry adventures, you’ll easily find a stunning wintry walk across Scotland. Although the Central Belt and the islands don’t get too much snow, the Highlands are snow-covered most winters and thrive with winter sports and activities.
Mayar & Driesh, Cairngorms National Park
by Ela from Stunning Outdoors
Length: 14 km. Difficulty: moderate/hard
Mayar and Driesh are two neighbouring munros (Scottish mountains over 3000 ft / 914 masl), located approximately 2 hours drive from Edinburgh.
Due to their gentle, rounded shape and bump-like style, the duo is perfect for a winter adventure!
The recommended route starts at Glen Doll Ranger Centre car park and leads thru Corrie Fee Nature Reserve. This rugged mountain side is the steepest section of Mayar and Driesh hike. Once at the top of Corrie Fee, you’ll already see a cone of Mayar’s summit in the distance.
From Mayar, continue along a spacious, gentle ridge towards the second munro of the day, Driesh. It’s mostly a downhill walk, until you reach the foot of Driesh; then you’ll face a 200 metres of sweaty ascent, but that would be the hardest part already done.
To return, retrace your steps to the foot of Driesh and continue downhill via Corrie Kilbo and a lovely spruce forest, back to the car park.
We can’t recommend Mayar and Driesh enough! The route gives fantastic overview of Glen Doll and Glen Clova mountains, the south-east corner of the Cairngorms National Park. Despite the snow cover, it’s easy to navigate in good weather.
Finland is a fantastic country for cross country skiing. Plenty of snow and extremely comprehensive network of marked winter trails makes it a dream destination for this type of outdoor activities. No wonder almost every Finn loves the cross country skiing. I wrote ‘almost everyone’ as we have met one who doesn’t like it too much, so I guess it is safer not to put all Finns to one bag 🙂
However, there is no doubt that cross-country skiing is an important part of Finnish culture and I bet many of Finns end up in a sauna after day’s adventure.
Cross-country skiing in Tiilikkajärvi National Park
by Merja from Merja Paakkanen
Length: 7 km. Difficulty: easy/moderate
Tiilikkajärvi National Park is located in the Northern Savonia and Kainuu regions of Finland. The main feature of the park is the mix of forest and swamp. The park trails can be accessed at two main points: Pohjoisniemi parking area and Sammakkotammi information point, however note that only the latter is accessible in winter time. And this is where I started my hike.
Large open mires, beautiful lake Tiilikka and narrow ridge capes covered by pines are breathtaking. Tiilikkajärvi National Park is one of my favourite parks in Finland. Summers and winters are magical there. Despite this park being quite small, you need to have basic navigation skills as there are no marked winter trails; and the summer trails marks might not always be visible during wintertime.
At the end of March, I’m heading to Tiilikkajärvi for a day hike. I’m using OAC Kar Skinbased skis, which are great for these conditions. There is enough daylight for the whole day’s adventure. I’m skiing to Venäjänhiekka, where I’m planning to eat my lunch. Venäjänhiekka is located about 3.5 km from the parking slot. There are a campfire site and some firewood provided; Uiton kämppä is another campfire place located just across the bridge.
In the summertime, you can see the beautiful sand beach. Now everything is covered by snow. Spring is near, but only the long light time tells about it. Silence surrounds me. It is easy to move on skis. Sensitive ridges are now protected by snow, and it is allowed to ski/hike everywhere. Lake and mires are frozen and easy to cross. I’m skiing and looking for different animal tracks. Footprints of fox, wolverine and wolf have been seen in the area. I have no luck to see any signs of those animals…
At the end of my hike, it started snowing. It was a beautiful day in the wilderness!
Greece as a winter destination is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets, but it is hard to understand why. With almost 70% of the country’s territory covered by mountains and plenty of snowfall during the winter, Greece is an awesome place for all kinds of snowy adventures like winter hiking, mountaineering or ski touring. There are no ‘official’ winter routes in Greece, so once the snow falls covering summer trails and signposts you are on your own. You’ll need to bring your own navigation and winter safety equipment, know how to use it. We believe that the hike described by Helena would be suitable for experienced hikers who possess at least some mountaineering knowledge including orientation skills, avalanche safety and so on.
Gerontovrachos Peak, Mount Parnassos
by Helena from Just for One Summer
Length: 12 km. Difficulty: hard
Mount Parnassos is one of the best places to get a good taste of winter in Greek mountains and discover what it’s like. Lying only about two and a half-hour drive from Athens it is easily accessible and offers plenty of amenities, thanks to its busy ski center. There is a mountain refuge near the ski center in Kellaria as well, offering simple dorm accommodation, tasty meals, and mountaineering atmosphere. It fills quickly during the winter though, so ensure to make reservation beforehand.
One of the easier climbs on Mount Parnassos is an ascent from the ski resort car park at Kellaria to Gerontovrachos Peak at an altitude of 2396 meters. On a clear, sunny day, this is a straight forward climb following a ridge on the right side of the Parnassos ski center all the way to the top. The area is quite busy at first, bursting with skiers and loud music from the ski center. But all the noise fades away quickly and soon enough you will find yourself in a snowy solitude surrounded only by breathtaking views of the uncountable peaks of Central Greece. In foggy conditions, things can get a bit more difficult and the steep, rocky northeast face of Gerontovrachos, so popular among climbers, can pose danger to an average hiker. Therefore, make sure you are prepared to navigate your way around the mountain in poor conditions before heading out.
From the top of Gerontovrachos, you can either return the same way or continue towards other peaks of Mount Parnassos, like Touborachi or Liakoura. Alternatively, you can descent to the top station of the Parnassos ski center and enjoy a free (!) gondola ride back to the car park. Either way, you’ll have an unforgettable experience!