One of the world's greatest hiking trails has finally opened. And if you're a backpacking glutton, you can take it all the way across the European Alps.
And how far is that you ask?
Well, if you start in Monaco, work your way up to Chaminox, and then cross over into Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria, and then finally, down to Slovenia, you would have covered 3,100 miles. Via Alpina
officially opened in 2005 after many years of effort to link together the numerous trails crisscrossing Europe's most fantastic mountain range. This would never have been possible prior to the formation of the EU since the trans-Alp trail crosses borders so often. The section known as the Red Trail, for example, crosses back and forth 44 times--backpackers would have filled up an entire passport with stamps just hiking the trail 20 years ago.
But now, all one needs is a warm sleeping bag, some gorp and donkey-like endurance to travel the same distance. The best thing about stitching all these trails together, however, is that the Alps are extraordinarily user-friendly thanks to a series of huts where backpackers can spend the night during their journey. In addition, large swaths of trail pass through villages and resort areas where trail blazers can stop for a beer and schnitzel instead of eating dehydrated food for 44 days straight.
If you're considering such an adventure yourself, check out the trail's official site, Via-Alpina.org
, where you can download maps, read trail descriptions, and even hook up with hiking partners