Red Trail on the Via Alpina

The Red Trail is the main artery of the whole Via Alpina system; it traces the complete arc of the Alps from Trieste to Monaco. The Red Trail penetrates the border of eight different countries: Monaco, France, Germany, Austria, Italy, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, and Switzerland. At a total length of 161 stages and about 1,500 miles, it is extremely difficult to cover the entire Red Trail within a single hiking season. It is possible – a backpacking expert recently completed the length of the Red Trail from start to finish between April and September. But most people want to take their time along the way, not set a personal endurance record. Whatever your speed or fitness level, Via Alpina’s Red Trail definitely packs the answer to any amount of excess time and energy you might have to spare.

The Red Trail incorporates some of Europe’s most famous and majestic hiking trails through timelessly beautiful mountain scenery from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. What could be more inspiring than a foot trek between two of the most famous mountains in the world? The Red Trail visits all of the greatest 4,000+ meter peaks in the Alps, such as the Triglav, the Tre Cime of Lavaredo, Hochfeiler, the Barre des Ecrins, Silvretta, Bernina, and the sadly threatened Vanoise glaciers.

A couple of the most interesting and gastronomically rich regions in all the Alps lie along the Red Trail: Bavaria and Liechtenstein. Here you can sample some of the most hearty pastries, beer, and sausages in all the world. Go ahead and sample to your heart’s delight – don’t worry, the rest of the hike on the Red Trail will burn it off.

Besides the highest peaks and some of the best food on the Via Alpina, the Red Trail also sports some of the premier nature preserves and national parks in Europe. Schedule time into your itinerary to purposefully discover the rich natural diversity of these special ecosystems. Marvel at the unique flora and fauna on display like mountain meadow wildflowers, marmots, and chamois.

If you’re backpacking a large section of the Red Trail, one downside is you’ll need gear to cover virtually all scenarios and weather conditions. The Red Trail literally reaches from seashore to mountaintop. The temperature range is wide, from snow-covered peaks to warm and humid valleys. Summer is the best time – many of the famous 4,000+ meter peaks that should be part of any trek are either impassable or dangerous in winter storms.

A hiking trail especially rich in history, the Red Trail harbors many different linguistic areas that demonstrate the historic trade route significance of these Alpine passes. In addition to the common German, Italian, French and Slovene languages, you can also hear romantic and highly specialized dialects like Romansch, Franco-Provençal and the Langue d’Oc. The Red Trail crosses current-day national borders a total of 44 times. But along the trail there are also many markers that denote former borders over the last few centuries and ruins of the long military past. The Via Alpina’s Red Trail can teach us a lot of things, including how the peaceful mountains have all too often been the scene of long destructive confrontations.