How Much It Cost Us to Hike the TMB

At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing three Western European countries and staying in the…

At first glance, the Tour du Mont Blanc might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing three Western European countries and staying in the many “quaint” (read: pricey) resort towns along the way? Buying enough food to fuel yourself through day after day of long miles on the trail? Doesn’t seem cheap, does it? The beautiful thing about the TMB, however, is that it’s pretty much up to you how expensive you want to make it. There are hikers who choose to spend more to take guided tours, stay in private rooms at upscale hotels and huts, and buy all of their meals at restaurants along the way. Others take the extremely frugal route, camping as much as possible, cooking their own meals, and minimizing expenses wherever they can. We tend to travel on the frugal side, as we enjoy the simplicity and authentic experiences that go hand in hand with this type of travel. That being said, we’re not claiming the most hardcore budget travelers out there; we certainly allow ourselves to indulge in things that bring value to our experience, such as a post-hike beer or a hotel room on our rest day. Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2017 Tour du Mont Blanc adventure. We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that an experience like the TMB is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!

Refuge du Col de Balme.

Accommodation

We chose to camp as much as possible along the Tour du Mont Blanc and we highly recommend it to others for a number of reasons. First, many of the campgrounds were quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We also preferred the privacy of our tent versus the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of the huts. Sleeping outdoors in such spectacular alpine surroundings became a highlight of our trip. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! There are a few places along the TMB where there are no official campgrounds and wild camping is not permitted. For those situations, we opted to stay in the mountain huts, which offered amazing ambiance and delicious meals for a reasonable price. We also stayed in a hotels for our rest day in Courmayeur, which proved to be a wonderful treat after roughing it for so many days. Here’s a breakdown of our accommodation spending:

  • Average Hut Price: €54 (per person)
  • Average Campsite Price: €8 (per person)
  • Hotel in Chamonix for before and after the hike: €72 (per night)
  • Hotel in Courmayeur for rest day: €132 (per night)

Transit

  • Bus from Geneva to Chamonix: €43 (round trip)
  • Bus from Chamonix to Les Houches: €3 (each way)
  • Shuttle Bus from Les Chapieux to Refuge Des Mottets: €3

Flights:

We strategically used credit card points and miles in order to fly from Denver to Geneva for nearly free. Read more about how we did it here.

Airline Taxes and Fees: $98.63 + 60,000 United Airlines miles (per person)

Food and Drink

You may be backpacking through rugged mountains, but that doesn’t necessitate spending a small fortune on fancy freeze-dried meals. We preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the TMB. We tended to eat ramen noodles or local cheese, sausage, and bread for most dinners. For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins, which we purchased copious amounts of whenever we found them at reasonable prices along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli with powdered milk and instant coffee. Occasionally, we’d pick up some fresh fruit from a local shop. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than those space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!

On average, we spent about €8-€12 per person, per day on our food and drink.

Of course, we allowed ourselves a few treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay, on average, for the following indulgences:

  • Beer: €6
  • Bottle of Wine: €10
  • Baguette: €2
  • Breakfast/Lunch Mountain Hut: €15
  • Dinner at Mountain Hut: €25
  • Coffee/Tea: €3
  • Sandwich: €10

Miscellaneous

As you can see, we happily teetered between dirtbag and deluxe on our TMB holiday. While there’s no escaping the high costs of some essentials, in general, one can experience the Tour du Mont Blanc on a modest budget (and enjoy some excellent wine and cheese while doing so). Obviously, you’ll also want to factor in the cost of hiking gear that you’ll need to purchase prior to setting off on your trek. Check out our packing list to get an idea of what you might need to purchase ahead of time. Also, our Backpacking Gear on a Budget article has some helpful ideas for keeping your costs low when putting together your backpacking kit. Whether you choose to splurge or keep it simple, we feel confident you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime.

What’s Next?

Ready to keep planning your TMB adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the Tour du Mont Blanc to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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How to Train for the West Highland Way

When it comes to having your best possible West Highland Way experience, there are some things that are out of your control (weather, midges, crowds, travel delays), but there are…

When it comes to having your best possible West Highland Way experience, there are some things that are out of your control (weather, midges, crowds, travel delays), but there are a few key things you can control that will make all the difference.  Perhaps even more important than planning out the logistics, knowing how to navigate, and packing the right gear, is making sure you are prepared both physically and mentally for this major undertaking.  Because of its relatively low elevation and minimal technicality, the WHW is a very approachable long-distance trek for the casual hiker. That being said, it’s still a serious feat of endurance that will push you to new limits.  You will enjoy your trip infinitely more if you train ahead of time. This is even more true if you plan on camping (and carrying the heavier backpack that goes with it).  If you don’t know where to start when it comes to training, don’t worry- we’ve got you covered. Read on for straightforward advice on how to feel your best and enjoy your West Highland Way experience to the fullest.

Views from the top of the Devil’s Staircase.

Six Months Before Your Trip: Build the Base

Obviously, everyone will approach the WHW with varying levels of fitness, past injuries, and overall health needs.  You’ll know your individual situation best, but you should generally focus on building your aerobic endurance in the months leading up to your trip. While most of your days on the Way won’t be particularly steep, they will be quite long.  On our 8-day trek we averaged around 12 miles (19.25 km) per day, with our longest day being 15 miles (24 km). These distances are no joke, especially when carrying a heavy pack and hiking day after day with little rest in between. For this part of the training, if you’re already a runner/walker/cyclist/etc, just keep doing your thing!  If you don’t regularly do any sort of “cardio” exercise, or you mainly focus on yoga and strength training, start trying to incorporate longer bouts of walking or running into your regular routine in order to build an endurance base. This will lay your fitness foundation for more challenging training in the future.

Three Months Before Your Trip: Focus on Strong Legs

Relative to other popular long-distance hikes, the topography of the West Highland Way is on the gentler side.  You won’t be required to traverse over high mountain passes each day or spend hours navigating insanely steep ascents and descents. Don’t let these facts fool you into thinking this hike will be easy though- it won’t be! You’ll still be covering long stretches of undulating terrain with a variety of underfoot conditions.  In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to build your aerobic endurance and train your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline, or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to. Additionally, try to incorporate a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Highland-ready legs: 10 goblet squats (with medium weight), 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase challenge), and 10 step-ups on each leg (weight optional). Complete three sets of each exercise.

Shoreline walking on Day Two.

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight. For me, the biggest adjustment was learning to deal with the extra strain on my hips and knees when hiking downhill. Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! You might be wondering how to add weight to your pack without completely packing for your trip. Our advice? Look around your home and throw anything-literally anything- heavy into your bag. When we were training, we threw  five-pound weights, jars of oats, bottles of water, blankets, and textbooks into our bags. Then we headed over to our local trail. Did some fellow hikers look at us like we were crazy with our giant backpacks? Yes. But did we strike up some awesome conversations AND get our bodies in shape for the WHW in the process? You better believe it.

Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections!

One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the Way, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking. This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to  hiking for consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Old drover roads can make for rocky underfoot conditions.

Special Considerations for the West Highland Way:

Underfoot Conditions

There are many sections of the WHW that present walkers with less than desirable “underfoot conditions.” When I read that term in my guidebook before starting the trek, I kept thinking to myself,  What does that even mean? Well, let me enlighten you. It means it’s going to be really, really rocky. Like, walking for several miles along an old drover road that seems to be entirely comprised of baseball-sized stones kind of rocky.  We didn’t find this troublesome to the point where a specific training regimen was warranted, but it is worth mentioning for a few reasons. First, even though the trail might be pretty flat, challenging underfoot conditions can mean that you are expending extra energy (both mental and physical) and using additional leg and core muscles to navigate the trail.  This is where your training will really pay off! You might also consider taking an added break and/or slowing your pace on these sections to prevent fatigue. Finally, make sure you have trekking poles and sturdy boots too minimize the chance of twisting an ankle or straining a muscle.

Get Your Head in the Game

This article mainly discussed how to train your body for the West Highland Way, but of equal (if not greater) importance is the mental side of things. Numerous research studies have demonstrated that we can train our brains to improve mental toughness. It is inevitable that you will face challenges during your hike from fatigue, long days, discomfort, poor weather, or swarms of midges.  Hopefully the long training hikes you took in preparation for the WHW will have helped you to build the confidence you need to remind yourself that you can push through the less-than-wonderful moments and savor the amazing experience you’re having. If you focus on building your mental endurance prior to your trek, it will not only pay off on the hike, but also in your life off the trail.  

Chafing and Blisters, Oh My!

So far we’ve talked about training your body and your mind, but unfortunately it’s a little harder to train your skin for the long miles you’ll be covering on the WHW. However, a little advance preparation can go a long way towards making your West Highland Way experience much more enjoyable.  It’s amazing how even a small blister or a little bit of nasty chafing can derail a beautiful day of hiking! This is the most common ailment we see fellow hikers struggle with when we’re out on the trail. Due to the variable and moist conditions (think pouring rain one day and hot and sunny the next) coupled with those lovely underfoot conditions, the West Highland Way presents a huge risk for chafing and blisters. Don’t let those pesky buggers ruin your trek! The best way to prevent blisters is to break in your boots in advance.  Make sure to use the same socks on your training hikes as you plan to use on the WHW. Good quality socks and sock liners can really make a difference. Additionally, if you are especially blister-prone, more breathable trail runners are worth looking into. In terms of chafing, pay attention to any hot spots that arise when you’re training. Try to train in a variety of temperatures, weather conditions, and clothing combinations to anticipate any potential issues. Products like BodyGlide can help prevent chafing and blisters, too.  Finally, make sure to bring some good-quality blister pads in case all else fails!

Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels

The West Highland Way is very accessible for hikers of all ability levels.  If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

  • If possible, consider adding an extra day or cutting out a segment to reduce the average distance you’ll need to cover each day.
  • Consider using a luggage transfer service to eliminate the extra demands of carrying your heavy pack.
  • Plan for a rest day midway through your hike. Bridge of Orchy, Tyndrum, and Glencoe Village all make great options.  See our West Highland Way Logistics article for more information about luggage transfer and rest days.
  • Enlist a few friends or family members to come with you and rent a car. You can alternate between hiking and driving the support vehicle to customize the amount of time spent on your feet.  Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy much of the same spectacular Highland scenery from the road.

The Bottom Line:

Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad we were that we’d prepared for the challenge of a thru-hike like the WHW, and I hope our experience can help you have your best possible trip.

What’s next?

Enjoyed reading our training tips and ready to keep planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way and learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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10 Essentials for the West Highland Way

The West Highland way is one of the best long-distance treks in the world. The walk is filled with incredible views, quaint towns, and friendly people, and it’ll surely be…

The West Highland way is one of the best long-distance treks in the world. The walk is filled with incredible views, quaint towns, and friendly people, and it’ll surely be a trip we never forget. We camped along our West Highland Way adventure and highly recommend that you do as well. We’ve also published our packing list for those curious as to what they may need to bring to ensure they are equipped for this adventure. But what other recommendations do we have for those considering tackling the awesome experience that is the WHW? Here are our 10 essentials for hiking the West Highland Way.

1. Bring good rain gear

This will come as a surprise to no one, but it can rain a lot in Scotland. Those green pastures and hills are green for a reason. While the rainy weather is a quintessential part of the West Highland Way experience, you’ll want to be prepared for long days of hiking in wet weather. We highly recommend bringing a top notch rain jacket as well as rain pants to keep yourself dry on those inevitable days when you encounter a downpour. Additionally, a good fitting pack cover is essential for keeping your belongings dry when you’re walking through the elements. Inside your pack, we recommend keeping your clothes and sleeping bag in a dry bag (or large trash bags work well, too). This will ensure that if any water does get into your pack you’ll at least have dry clothes to put on when you’re damp and cold at the end of a long day of walking. Finally, you’ll want to be sure your tent’s rain fly is in tip-top shape as there is nothing worse than a leaky tent!

Wet weather is quintessentially Scottish, but you’ll want to be prepared!

2. Take the train

As you’ve probably read in our West Highland Way Logistics post, you’ll have the option of taking either the bus or the West Highland train line for your return journey from Fort William to Glasgow. While the bus tends to be cheaper and faster, we’re here to tell you that taking the train is an experience not to be missed!

The line retraces much of the West Highland Way, and you’ll marvel at the distance you’ve walked while peering out at the stunning landscape from a cozy train car. Just be sure you book your tickets well in advance to avoid a sold out coach or expensive last-minute fares.

You’ll recognize much of the scenery on the train journey from Fort William to Glasgow.

3. Take the midges seriously

Midges-the tiny biting insects that have a mythical reputation in the Highlands-are not to be underestimated. Prior to our walk, we knew that they could be an unpleasant annoyance on our walk, but we didn’t know just how bad they can be. This isn’t to say that you should abandon all hope of camping or enjoying a cold beer outside in the evenings. It’s just that you’ll want to be sure you are fully prepared for their presence. The first piece of advice we offer all prospective walkers is to invest in a midge hat, and bring clothes that provide full coverage of your skin. Ideally these will be lightly colored as midges are more attracted to darker colors. Additionally, we found Ben’s Insect Repellent bug spray to be a very effective repellent. Finally, the midges are at their worst at dawn, dusk, and whenever the weather is overcast and the wind is still. Any substantial breeze or sunshine will eliminate them completely, which is pretty awesome. However, make sure to have your midge hat and spray ready when the sun starts to set because they really do set in quickly! Following these steps should ensure that the midges don’t ruin your trip!

You’ll enjoy the beautiful Highland’s scenery much more without midges eating you alive!

4. Be open to changing plans

If you’re anything like us, you’ll spend hours before a trip planning out all the details of where you’ll stay, what you’ll do, and how you’ll get to every place you want to see. This type of planning is invaluable and will certainly set you up for success, but you also have to be open to changing those plans, especially on the West Highland Way. Weather, the way you’re feeling on a particular day, and even the time you start can all influence a changing itinerary when you’re out hiking the WHW. Because it has so many accommodation options along the way, changing plans is relatively easy. Got a late start and the B&B is full? No worries if you’ve got your tent and the ability to find the nearest campground. Feeling especially good today? Why not put in a few extra hours of hiking to make your next day a little more leisurely? The point is that being open to different possibilities will make handling the unexpected much easier, and allow to you enjoy your adventure to the fullest.

5. Be prepared for blisters

The West Highland Way contains a variety of underfoot conditions, from the neatly placed stones along former drover’s roads to the large boulders, intertwining tree roots, and muddy banks of Loch Lomond. This wide variety of trail types makes for perfect blister conditions. Just when your feet have toughened up to a particular condition, the trail changes, your boots rub differently, and those callouses you’ve built up over the past few days are of no use.

To counter this, there are a few steps you can take prior to setting out to give your feet the best chance to withstand the West Highland Way. The first is to pack a broken-in pair of boots. There is nothing worse than unboxing your new pair of boots on the first day of a long hike. This will almost guarantee blister,s as they won’t be broken in enough to truly fit to your foot over the long hours of walking. Next, bringing several good pairs of merino wool hiking socks (our favorite are Darn Tough) will help to limit the moisture in your boots while also preventing odor and unnecessary chafing. Finally, a good first-aid kit complete with blister specific pads will help you be prepared when the inevitable first blister does show up. Stop and treat even the smallest hot spots right away to ensure that they don’t derail your next several days of walking!

6. Brush up on your navigation skills

While the West Highland Way is a very well-marked trail, you’d be wise to brush up on your navigation skills prior to starting your walk. We’re partial to using GPS to navigate along the trail, but you’ll want to be sure you’ve brought your compass and a paper map as a backup. Spend some time before the walk familiarizing yourself with the map, the route, and how to use your compass. You’re unlikely to encounter any issues, but if you do you’ll sure be glad you were prepared!

It’s important to know how to find you way on the trail!

7. Have a (realistic) understanding of how fast you hike

If you’ve brought the Trailblazer’s Guidebook along (and we highly recommend that you do), you’ll quickly notice that the description of each stage includes an approximate time for hiking. This is very valuable information because it will give you a sense of what your days will look like.   This affords you the ability to plan ahead for things like arrival times, how early you need to start in the morning, and how long of a lunch break you can enjoy. The problem arises when you realize that the times quoted in the book can vary significantly from your actual experience. You may be hours ahead or you may be well behind the times provided by our friends at Trailblazer. There is nothing wrong with being faster or slower, but you must be able to understand your pace and then estimate the distances you’ll realistically cover in a given timeframe. It’s a good idea to note your timing when you’re out on your training hikes, but you’ll want to pay especially close attention on your first day or two hiking of on the West Highland Way. A little ahead of the pace? You’ll be able to adjust your plans accordingly (and maybe snag an extra hour of sleep!) A little behind the pace? You’ll know to leave a bit earlier, or at least plan on slightly longer days on the trail. You may also want to pay attention to how steep inclines and declines impact your pace, and use the guidebook’s elevation profile to plan accordingly.  The important thing is to know yourself, and be able to accurately estimate the time it will take to cover a given distance. This will help you stay relaxed and happy throughout each day on the trail.

8. Make new friends

As you progress along the West Highland Way, you’re likely to start to recognize some familiar faces along the trail and in your campgrounds. Take advantage of this and make some new friends! You’ll surely meet people from all over the world and develop a sense of camaraderie over your shared experience on the WHW. Compare notes from the trail and plans for the next day over a pint or two with a new friend, and you’ll certainly find the experience of walking the West Highland Way more enriching.

Enjoy the lively atmosphere at many of the stops along the West Highland Way.

9. Enjoy one night out of your tent

The West Highland Way is a great walk for those looking to camp along the way. Campsites are abundant, reasonably priced, and have great facilities. You can easily walk the entire route camping each night, just like we did. However, we would also highly recommend spending at least one night out of your tent. You can save this for the last night in Fort William (what we did), or save it for that torrential rain storm that sneaks up on you. Either way, there are incredibly hospitable guesthouses, fantastic Airbnbs, and lovely hotels along the route and it would be a shame not to experience at least one of these on your walk.

10. Leave no trace

The West Highland Way is one of the most popular long-distance walks in the UK and the world. Thousands of hikers descend on the Highlands each year to enjoy the spectacular views, friendly people, and lovely lochs that Scotland has to offer. Given the popularity of the walk it is essential that walkers do their part to practice Leave No Trace principles when hiking and camping. Simply being aware of your impact on this great trail will do wonders to ensure it;s around for future generations of walkers!

Be sure and leave the trail as pristine as you found it.

What’s Next?

Enjoyed reading our 10 Essentials and ready to keep planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way and learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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West Highland Way Logistics

Many of the small details of planning your West Highland Way walk can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that climbing the Devil’s Staircase will be difficult,…

Many of the small details of planning your West Highland Way walk can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that climbing the Devil’s Staircase will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the finish in Fort William to your hotel in Glasgow. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own West Highland Way adventure. Enjoy!

Getting to Milngavie from Glasgow

Milngavie and the start of the West Highland Way are easily reached from Glasgow. Most international travelers will arrive at the Glasgow Airport prior to starting their walk, while those from the UK will likely arrive at the Glasgow Queen Street Station or Glasgow Central Station (the two main train stations). For those arriving at the airport there is frequent and convenient bus service from the Glasgow Airport to central Glasgow via the Glasgow Airport Express. The service runs 24 hours per day and takes approximately 25 minutes to get from the airport to central Glasgow. If you have a contactless credit/debit card, you can pay your fare right on the bus.  Otherwise, you can pay with cash on the bus or purchase a ticket online beforehand. If you’re spending the night in central Glasgow after your flight or planning to head to Milngavie from Queen Street Station, you’ll want to get off the bus at the ‘Dundas Street’ stop.

There is frequent train service to Milngavie from Glasgow’s Queen Street Station. The ride takes approximately 25 minutes and will drop you at the Milngavie train station, located just a short walk from the start of the West Highland Way. There is also frequent service to Milngavie from Glasgow Central Station. The ScotRail website contains schedule information and allows you to purchase tickets ahead of time.

To get to the official start of the West Highland Way from the train station, walk through the pedestrian underpass and onto Station Road. Keep straight on Station Road until you reach the pedestrian-only town square in Milngavie. The obelisk marks the start of your West Highland Way adventure!

The start of the West Highland Way is a short walk from the train station.

Getting to Milngavie from Edinburgh

Many walkers may not think of Edinburgh as an option prior to starting the West Highland Way, but we’re here to tell you that it makes a great stop before starting your walk! We flew into Edinburgh and enjoyed a few days in this beautiful city. We can tell you firsthand that it’s a breeze to get to Milngavie from Edinburgh.

There are several daily trains from the Edinburgh Waverley Station (the main train station) to Milngavie. The faster option bypasses many of the small towns in between the two cities but involves a transfer at Glasgow Queen Street Station. There is also a direct train between Edinburgh and Milngavie that takes slightly longer, due to making many stops along the way. The benefit of this train is that you won’t have to worry about switching trains with your heavy bags. Tickets are easily purchased for either option at the Edinburgh Waverley Station. We opted for the longer, direct option leaving Edinburgh around 8:30am and arriving in Milngavie by 10am – plenty of time for the first day’s walk to Drymen!

Edinburgh is a great city to visit prior to walking the West Highland Way.

Where to Stay Before and After the West Highland Way

There are several options for where to stay before starting the West Highland Way. Many walkers choose to stay in Glasgow or Milngavie given the proximity to the start of the West Highland Way. However, Edinburgh offers easy train connections to Milngavie, and therefore also makes a great option prior to starting the walk. Here are our top picks for where to stay in each town before beginning the WHW:

Milngavie

Milngavie is certainly the most convenient place to spend the night prior to starting the WHW. However, it has the smallest number of accommodation options. Here are your best bets for where to stay in Milngavie:

West Highland Way Apartments – The aptly named West Highland Way Apartments provide an extremely convenient and highly reviewed place to rest up before starting your walk.

Premier Inn Milngavie – The Premier Inn is a great budget hotel in Milngavie. You’ll be close to the start of the walk and can fuel up for your first day with their free breakfast.

Glasgow

Glasgow is the most popular place to spend the night before and after the West Highland Way, and for good reason. Glasgow provides easy transportation access to Milngavie, and is also a great city to experience on its own. Glasgow has plenty of grocery stores and outdoor supply stores to stock up on any last-minute items needed for your trek. Our lodging recommendations for Glasgow are below:

Point A Glasgow – We stayed at the Point A after hiking the West Highland Way and would highly recommend it. This is a great budget option with well-designed rooms and a price that can’t be beat! We’d recommend opting for a room with a window.

Motel One Glagow – The Motel One Glasgow gets great reviews for its central location, comfortable beds, and friendly service.

Edinburgh

As mentioned above, Edinburgh makes for a great city to stay in both before and after the West Highland Way. Steeped in history and beautiful architecture, Edinburgh was our favorite city in Scotland. Here are our recommendations for lodging:

The Lane Hotel – Located just over a mile from the city center, the Lane Hotel gets great reviews for its cleanliness and comfort.

The Inn Place – For those looking to stay in Edinburgh’s charming Old Town, the Inn Place is a great option. It’s known for its great breakfast and location near to the Royal Mile.

Fort William

Fort William makes for a nice final destination on the West Highland Way. Despite its slightly touristy and commercial facade, Fort William is a lovely town with an exciting vibe given all the walkers who finish the West Highland Way here. Here are our lodging recommendations:

Nevis Bank Inn – You’ll find the Nevis Bank Inn at the entrance to Fort William. This 4-star hotel is known for the friendly staff and excellent breakfast.

Fort William Backpackers – Fort William’s best hostel is located near the train station and has a variety of room options. The best budget choice in town.

Shelbeck Bed & Breakfast – For those looking for the traditional Scottish bed and breakfast experience look no further than the Shelbeck. Very helpful owners in addition to the full English breakfast.

The main pedestrian only street in Fort William.

Airbnb

There are many different accommodation options available in Milngavie, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Fort William on Airbnb. You’ll find everything from luxurious row-houses to rooms in a shared house. Airbnb’s often provide a kitchen and laundry facilities, which can be a welcome feature after hiking in the same two smelly outfits and eating instant ramen for the past 8 days! You can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay by registering here.

Getting from Fort William to Glasgow

The West Highland Way finishes in the town of Fort William in the Scottish Highlands. Fort William makes for a nice spot to spend the night after completing your walk, and the pedestrian-only main street has plenty of restaurants and pubs where you can celebrate your accomplishment. However, come the next morning you’ll most likely be ready to head back to Glasgow and conclude your West Highland Way walk. Luckily, there are several options for transport back to Glasgow.

The most scenic and most popular option is to take the West Highland Railway line which links Fort William with Glasgow’s Queen Street Station in just under 4 hours. This route is popular with tourists and locals alike, so we recommend booking your tickets on the ScotRail website as far in advance as you can. There are several trains per day, allowing for lots of flexibility in your departure and arrival times. The train ride is especially enjoyable for West Highland Way walkers as you will retrace much of the route you’ve just walked. It was quite enjoyable to look out the windows of the train and see walkers and familiar stops from the journey!

The other option for your return transport is to take the Scottish Citylink bus service between Fort William and Glasgow’s Buchanan Bus Station. This is the faster (just over 3 hours) and more budget friendly of the two options. While you won’t enjoy the same atmosphere of a Highlands train journey, the bus is efficient and still takes in much of the stunning scenery of the region.

You’ll recognize much of the scenery on the train journey from Fort William to Glasgow.

Luggage Storage and Transfer

Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might like to carry for 8 days on the West Highland Way. If that’s the case for you, you’ll find several options for luggage storage or luggage transfer on your trip. The best place to store your luggage is Glasgow. Both Queen Street Station and Central Station have luggage storage facilities and there are also private companies who will gladly keep your bags safe and secure while you’re on your walk. The Excess Baggage Company is one of the more popular and allows you to reserve your left luggage online ahead of time.

If, instead of simply having your luggage waiting for you when you’ve completed your walk, you’d rather have it transferred to each of your nightly destinations, there are plenty of companies who will help. These companies will pick up your bags in the morning and then deliver them to your destination each evening, ensuring that you’ll only ever need to carry a daypack along the Way. Travel-Lite and AMS Scotland are two of the most reputable baggage transfer providers.

The best option of course is to only pack what you need and avoid having to store any extra luggage!

Rest Day Options

The West Highland Way can be easily walked without taking a rest day. However, if you’ve got some extra time there are several lovely stops that make for a great day off. Here are your best options:

Tyndrum – Stopping for a day in Tyndrum will allow you to rest up before some of the best Highland walking of the West Highland Way. Tyndrum has a touristy feel, but it has plenty of restaurants and accommodation options to keep you entertained while you’re there. This will also be early enough in your walk that you’ll still have energy to explore some of the surrounding area.

Bridge of Orchy – A rest day at Bridge of Orchy will suit those who are truly looking to stay off their feet for the day. While there won’t be much to do, the beautiful hotel and grounds provide for a relaxing atmosphere before continuing your walk. The hotel bar is a great place for a couple of pints!

Glencoe Village (side trip) – Glencoe, one of the best known Highland towns, makes for a great rest day stop. If you take this detour, you’ll get the unique chance to experience a quintessential Scottish mountaineering town. However, given that it’s 9 miles from Kingshouse, you’ll have to to get their by either catching the Citylink bus, hiring a taxi, or arranging for a pick-up with your accommodation.

But wait…there’s more!

Be sure to check out our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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Tour du Mont Blanc Logistics

Many of the small details of planning the Tour du Mont Blanc can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing the Col du Bonhomme will be…

Many of the small details of planning the Tour du Mont Blanc can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing the Col du Bonhomme will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the airport in Geneva to your hotel in Chamonix. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own TMB adventure.

For those who want the best information all in one place, you can purchase our printable Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc for under $5! The Guide includes everything you’ll need to have an awesome experience on the TMB. Save yourself the time of endless searching to find the information you need to plan your trip and pick up our guide below!

Purchase your digital Guide for under $5 here (securely processed via PayPal):

Complete Guide to Camping on the TMB

  • Get our Complete Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc for only $4.99 USD! All payments are securely processed via PayPal and your guide will be sent directly to your inbox. Save yourself the trouble of searching all over the internet and get access to everything you need to plan your TMB adventure in an easy to read guide. All for only $4.99!

Getting to Chamonix from the Geneva Airport

The vast majority of walkers will get to the start of the Tour du Mont Blanc by first flying into the Geneva Airport (GVA). There are frequent flights to Geneva from the rest of Europe as well as a good number of flights from the U.S. Most U.S. flights arrive early in the morning, leaving you with ample time to get to Chamonix that same day. Once you’ve landed in Geneva, you’ll have several options for getting to Chamonix, outlined below:

  • OuiBus – We found this to be the cheapest option and would highly recommend OuiBus. The service departs directly from the Geneva Airport and will take you to the Chamonix Sud bus station, in the heart of Chamonix.
  • AlpyBus – AlpyBus runs a door to door transfer service from the Geneva Airport to hotels in the Chamonix Valley. It is more costly than OuiBus, but also more convenient since they’ll drop you directly at your hotel (or campground!).
  • Mountain Drop-offs – Similar to AlpyBus, Mountain Drop-offs runs a door to door transfer service for walkers arriving in Geneva. Very highly rated.

All of the options above will also be able to transport you back to the Geneva Airport at the end of the TMB. Many also offer discounts for booking a return ticket.

Getting from Chamonix to Les Houches

Many walkers will opt to stay at least one night in Chamonix before and after hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc. While Les Houches is a lovely town, there is no denying that Chamonix has more services and certainly more accommodation options. Luckily, the Chamonix Valley has excellent public transportation linking the various villages, and it is a breeze to get to Les Houches and the start of the TMB from just about anywhere in the valley.

If you’re staying in Chamonix, you’ll want to make your way to the Chamonix Sud bus station. Busses depart from the Chamonix Sud bus station every 30 minutes for Les Houches. You can find updated service schedules on the Chamonix Bus website. Once in Les Houches, we recommend getting off at the ‘Les Houches Mairie’ stop located in the center of the village. The stop, located on the Rue de l’Essert, is directly on the TMB. To start you’ll just begin walking along the road through Les Houches!

After you’ve finished the TMB you’ll utilize the same bus to return to Chamonix (after a well-deserved beer, of course). Make sure to save enough cash to pay the bus fare on the way back, as there isn’t a ticket office near the bus stop.

Beautiful flowers adjacent to the ‘Les Houches Mairie’ stop

Where to stay before and after the TMB

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the Tour du Mont Blanc, you’ve surely got your tent packed up and ready to go. While you’ll be doing plenty of camping during your hike, you may enjoy sleeping in a hotel both before and after the TMB. There is nothing quite like a soft mattress and hot shower after 10 days of trekking! Below are some of the best accommodation options in the Chamonix Valley for before and after the TMB:

Chamonix

Hotel Le Morgaine – We stayed at this highly-reviewed hotel both before and after the TMB. We found the rooms to be spacious, the staff very friendly, and the location to be excellent. Room rates are also quite reasonable.

Auberge du Manoir – Known for their friendly staff, beautiful rooms, and great location, the Auberge du Manoir is a great option in Chamonix.

Hôtel Le Refuge des Aiglons – The Hotel Le Refuge des Aiglons is located adjacent to the Chamonix Sud bus station, making it an ideal location for the night you arrive in or before you depart Chamonix.

There are lots of fantastic options for accommodation in Chamonix!

Les Houches

Hotel Les Campanules – Located just across the river from the town center of Les Houches, Hotel Les Campanules gets great reviews for its tremendous views and excellent food. It’s also a great budget option.

Rocky Pop Hotel – Located just outside of Les Houches, the Rocky Pop hotel has stellar reviews for its funky style and friendly staff.

Camping Bellevue – Of course we’d be remiss to not include the well-located campground in Les Houches, Camping Bellevue.

Airbnb

There are many different accommodation options available in the Chamonix Valley on Airbnb. You’ll find everything from luxurious chalets to rooms in a shared house. Airbnb’s often provide a kitchen and laundry facilities, which can be a welcome feature after hiking in the same two smelly outfits for the past 10 days! You can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay by registering here.

There are many stunning Airbnbs in the Chamonix Valley!

Luggage storage

Many walkers will be traveling with more luggage than they might want to carry for the entire TMB. Unfortunately, there are no luggage storage facilities at the train station in Chamonix. The best option for walkers on the TMB is to store your extra baggage at the Gite le Chamoniard, which charges between 4-6 euros per day depending on the size of your bag. Other hotels and accommodation may store your baggage if you have a reservation before and after you walk, but you’ll want to inquire ahead of time.

The best option of course is to only pack what you need and avoid having to store anything extra!

Rest day options

Many walkers will split up the TMB by taking a rest day along the way. If you have the time, we highly recommend this option as it will give your body a break and also let you explore one of the wonderful villages or towns along the route. Here are your best options:

Courmayeur

Courmayeur is understandably the most popular place for a rest day on the TMB. While it isn’t exactly the halfway point, you’ll have already crossed several major passes and your feet may be begging for a break. Courmayeur is also the largest town you’ll encounter on the TMB, making for an easy place to stock up on supplies and enjoy a shower and bed. Our lodging recommendations for Courmayeur are below:

Hotel Maison La Saxe – One of the best hotels we’ve EVER stayed at, you can’t find a much better spot for a rest day than Maison La Saxe. Located just up the valley from Courmayeur, this small hotel offers an incredible breakfast spread and beautiful rooms. Book early as they only have six rooms!

Cresta Et Duc Hotel – Centrally located with free breakfast. What’s not to love?!

La Fouly

La Fouly is past the halfway mark of the TMB, so naturally it makes a good rest day spot. The town is small so there won’t be as much to do as in Courmayeur, but it is a beautiful location nevertheless. Check out our favorite spot in La Fouly:

Maya Joie – A highly rated auberge with a variety of room types and free wi-fi.

Champex

Champex is a lovely Swiss town located on a pristine mountain lake. Most walkers will arrive in Champex at the end of their seventh day, and will be very ready for a break! Champex offers many services, accommodation options, and more to do than La Fouly. Our lodging recommendation for Chamex:

Hôtel du Glacier – Get a room with a balcony to enjoy the stunning views!

But wait…there’s more!

Be sure to check out our entire series on the Tour du Mont Blanc to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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How to Find All of your Campgrounds on the West Highland Way

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way in conjunction with our guide on how to navigate on the West Highland Way  you’re well on your way…

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way in conjunction with our guide on how to navigate on the West Highland Way  you’re well on your way to a fantastic WHW adventure! You’ll have your itinerary mapped out, with knowledge of where you’ll stop each day and you’ll be expertly using your smartphone’s GPS to stay on track. However, how will you know just how far you are from your next stop? Many of the campgrounds aren’t well marked on the GPS base maps and you’ll certainly want to know how much longer you have until you can drop your pack. As a resource for our West Highland Way series we thought it would be useful to provide downloadable GPS waypoints for all of the campgrounds included in our guide that work seamlessly with the Gaia GPS app! Keep reading to learn how to download this data and use it with our guide to navigating on the West Highland Way.

Step One – Download the location data

We’ve created a single file that contains location data for all of the campgrounds in our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way. Readers who purchase our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way (for under $5!) will get access to the location data for all of the campgrounds included in our guide. You’ll also get tons of useful information for planning your WHW adventure! Click here to purchase:

Complete Guide to Camping on the WHW

  • Get our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for only $4.99 USD! All payments are securely processed via PayPal and your guide will be sent directly to your inbox. Save yourself the trouble of searching all over the internet and get access to everything you need to plan your adventure in an easy to read guide. All for only $4.99!

Included in the Guide is a link to a Dropbox.com file and you’ll select ‘Download’, then ‘Direct Download’.

Step Two – Import the location data into Gaia GPS

Now that you’ve downloaded the .gpx file containing the location data, you’ll need to import it into the Gaia GPS app. To do this, follow the instructions below:

First, you’ll open the Gaia GPS app and select the ‘Create’ button in the top right corner. From here you’ll select ‘Import file’. Next you’ll need to navigate to your ‘Downloads’ folder, or whichever location you saved the .gpx file to. This was a bit tricky to locate for me, but I was able to find it in the ‘sdcard’ folder. From here, Gaia GPS will recognize any files that are compatible, including the West Highland Way Campground locations file. Select the file and the Gaia GPS app will import the location data.

Give your phone a moment to import the data and voila! You should now have all of the campgrounds that are included in our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way saved on your phone!

Navigation made easy!

Now when you’re out on the trail, you can see exactly how far you have to go until your next stop, and be able to easily find your campgrounds at the end of the day.

What about iOS?

The instructions above give you a step-by-step guide for importing the West Highland Way campground location data into Gaia GPS on Android. We happen to both use (and love) Android phones, but know that many readers will have iPhones and want to know how to import the file to their phones. Rest easy because the process is even easier on iOS!

The best way is to  select the ‘Direct download’ option (shown in Step One) when you click on the Dropbox file download link.  After the download is complete you should be prompted with a button that says ‘Open in Gaia GPS’. Simply select this and the file will automatically import into your Gaia GPS app!

You can find more details on importing .gpx files into Gaia GPS for iOS here: https://help.gaiagps.com/hc/en-us/articles/115003639048-Import-GPX-and-KML-files-in-Gaia-GPS-for-iOS

Be sure to let us know in the comments if you were able to download the campground data and if you found it useful on your trip!

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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Guide to Hiking Chasm Lake

Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours. Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular…

Length: 8.5 Miles. Moderate to Strenuous. Approximate Time: 6-8 hours.

Nestled against the granite wall that forms the Eastern face of Longs Peak, pristine Chasm Lake is a truly spectacular sight to behold. Getting there is pretty incredible too.  The trail climbs gently through varied terrains, offering spectacular views, waterfalls, and plenty of marmot sightings. This hike is only steep and moderately technical in the last half-mile or so; the rest of it should be quite manageable for most fit(ish) hikers.

Getting to the Trailhead

This hike starts at the Longs Peak Ranger Station in Rocky Mountain National Park, which is accessed via CO-7, either from Estes Park or Allenspark. If you are coming from the Front Range, head to Lyons, then turn left onto CO-7. Stay on that road past Allenspark, and keep an eye out for signs for the Longs Peak trailhead.  When you see the turn-off (just after you enter into Larimer County), take a left. You’ll follow this road until it reaches the ranger station and trailhead. If you are hiking on a busy weekend or holiday in the summer, expect to park along the road, as the lot fills up very early. Although the hike is within Rocky Mountain National Park, visitors do not need to pay an entrance fee at this location.

The Hike

Begin your hike by following the East Longs Peak Trail.  You’ll be on this trail for most of the hike, and all of the junctions are very well marked. For the first mile or so, you’ll climb at a mellow grade through lovely pine forests. At the first junction, follow the signage and veer left.  From here, you’ll traverse a few switchbacks as you start to see and hear a stream that courses alongside the trail in several places.  A bit higher up, you’ll cross the stream (there is a bridge), and the views open up towards the forest below.  This peaceful, shady spot is a great place to stop for a snack or a short break. As you keep hiking past the stream crossing, the pine forest dwindles until the only trees left are krumholz, the short, wind-sculpted trees found at higher elevations. As you get above treeline, the views really open up.

The first stream crossing en route to Chasm Lake.

Looking to the east, you get big vistas of the entire Front Range, and to the west Longs Peak looms large. The rest of the hike winds through alpine tundra. Make sure to keep an eye out for the wide array of delicate and colorful wildflowers that dot this landscape in the summer months. The trail continues to climb steadily (and a bit more steeply) until it reaches the next junction at about mile 2.5.  The right-hand fork will take you up Battle Mountain, while the left will continue towards Longs Peak and Chasm Lake. After another mile, you’ll reach a rocky ridge.  There’s an outhouse here, and this is another nice spot to take a break. This is where you’ll leave the Longs Peak Trail (that’s an adventure for another day), and make your final push towards Chasm Lake.

From the junction, the trail hugs the side of the ridge, narrowly in some places, as it curves towards the lake. We hiked in late June and encountered a small amount of snow in this section. While it wasn’t too difficult, traversing the snow on this narrow section of trail might be a bit unsettling for some hikers.  Use hiking poles and keep your weight leaned in towards the mountain, and you should be just fine.  As you approach Chasm Lake, you’ll be treated to stunning views of Peacock Pool and Columbine Falls.  Just before reaching the lake, you will encounter a steep section that contains large boulders.  You’ll need to do some scrambling in a few places, but this tricky section is very short (and very fun!).  Spectacular Chasm Lake is waiting for you at the top.  Grab a seat on one of the many large rocks ringing the lake, relax, and enjoy this beautiful little pocket of  earth. Make sure to head down early enough in the day to avoid being above tree line when afternoon thunderstorms roll in. We capped off this perfect summer day with a post-hike ice cream outing, and we’d highly recommend you do the same.

The final approach to Chasm Lake.

Enjoy the breathtaking views of Longs Peak!

Considerations:

  • If hiking in June, check the snow conditions before you go.  July and August are the best months to complete this hike.
  • The alpine section of this hike is quite exposed, which makes it a dangerous place to be in the event of a thunderstorm. Start early to avoid getting caught up there when weather moves in.
  • If hiking on a weekend, plan for an extra mile or so of walking along the road, as the parking lot fills up very early with hikers attempting to summit Longs Peak.
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How to Navigate on the West Highland Way

The West Highland Way winds through some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that Scotland has to offer. You’ll pass through green pastures, walk along the beautiful Loch Lomond,…

The West Highland Way winds through some of the most spectacular and varied scenery that Scotland has to offer. You’ll pass through green pastures, walk along the beautiful Loch Lomond, and take in incredible Highland vistas. While this incredible variety of landscapes undoubtedly has you excited for your adventure, it might also make you wonder how you’ll ever navigate the West Highland Way. Should you bring a map? Is the trail well marked? How will you find all the campgrounds you’re staying at?

This post will explain how we navigated on the West Highland Way, including which maps to bring, the tools we used, and even some custom resources for those using our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way. Let’s get started.

Should I bring a map?

This is one of the questions we get most often from readers who are getting ready to head out on the West Highland Way. They’ve heard that the trail is very well marked, well maintained, and that hikers are rarely far from a road of town (all of which are true). However, our answer is always a resounding YES- you should bring a map with you on the West Highland Way!

As you’ll read below we relied heavily on our smartphone’s GPS features and a handy app that allows you to navigate even without cell phone service. It’s a great system and one we highly recommend, but we would have been out of luck if our battery died or a torrential downpour rendered our phones useless. In some situations, there is nothing more useful than an old fashioned paper map to help you find your way and ensure that you have a great West Highland Way experience. We recommend the Cicerone West Highland Way map booklet, a convenient booklet that includes the entire WHW in a pocket-sized book, or the West Highland Way Footprint Map, a more traditional folding map.

Now that you’ve got your maps safely tucked away in your pack in case of emergency, let’s get started learning how to harness the power of your smartphone to navigate your way to a successful West Highland Way walk!

Readers who purchase our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way (for under $5!) will get access to the location data for all of the campgrounds included in our guide, as well as printable step-by-step directions for how to navigate using smartphone GPS. You’ll also get tons of useful information for planning your WHW adventure! Click here to purchase:

Complete Guide to Camping on the WHW

  • Get our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for only $4.99 USD! All payments are securely processed via PayPal and your guide will be sent directly to your inbox. Save yourself the trouble of searching all over the internet and get access to everything you need to plan your adventure in an easy to read guide. All for only $4.99!

Using your smartphone as a GPS

If you’re anything like us, you use your smartphone’s mapping capabilities on a daily basis. Whether it’s checking how bad the traffic is, consulting the bus schedule, or looking up the best bike route, apps like Google Maps provide tremendous value for navigating our world. These apps work by using the GPS location data that your phone provides, combined with a base map that shows you the surrounding context. You need both of these features (the GPS location + the base map) in order for the mapping app to be useful. Normally, your phone is able to source the base map information by utilizing  an internet connection or cellular data. This works great in most situations, but won’t help you when you’re hiking along the shores of Loch Lomond without cell phone service. In that case, all Google Maps will be able to show you is this:

Blank TMB map

Not a very effective way to navigate

In order to use the incredibly useful GPS functions on our phones to navigate in more remote areas (like the West Highland Way) we have to solve the base map problem. The solution? GPS navigation apps that allow us to download base maps ahead of time. These apps allow you to select the area you’ll need to access and download the base map directly to your phone. Then, when you’re without cell phone service, the app will pull up the downloaded base map and be able to show you exactly where you are on the trail! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. In the next section I’ll show you exactly how to set up your phone to navigate on the West Highland Way.

Setting up your app for offline navigation

We used the Gaia GPS app, which is available on both Android and iOS phones. You’ll have to pay for a premium membership ($19.99/year) in order to be able to download and save maps, but this is well worth it for the ability to know exactly where you are on the trail. Here are the step-by-step instructions for downloading the West Highland Way base maps in Gaia GPS:

Step One: Choose your map source

When using Gaia GPS you’ll have your choice of many different map sources. Some show detailed city maps, others show cycling routes, and still others include long-distance walks such as the West Highland Way. For our purposes I’ve found the ‘Outdoors’ layer to be the absolute best for the West Highland Way. To select the Outdoors map layer simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and select ‘Outdoors’.

Step Two: Navigate to the West Highland Way and download your background map

The next step once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map is to download the area that encompasses the West Highland Way.  This will ensure that you’ll have access to your base map once you lose cell phone service. To do this, you’ll want to zoom into the area between Milngavie and Fort William, and select that area to download. One of the great things about the “Outdoor” base map is that it already has the entire West Highland Way route shown, making your navigating that much easier! To download the base map data, follow these steps:

7. Wait for your map to download and then you’re done! As you can see here, the route for the West Highland Way is clearly shown for easy navigation!

Navigating on the trail

The final step for navigating like a pro on the West Highland Way is knowing how to use the Gaia GPS app out on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and if you have a fairly clear view of the sky, within a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow. You may need to move a few yards along the trail to ensure that the GPS system can locate you, but we didn’t have any major issues on our trip. Use this whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the road has you questioning the correct way.  NOTE: The yellow arrow will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing.  This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

A note on battery life

One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.

The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any should do.

Check out our downloadable West Highland Way Campground locations!

As mentioned above, if you’re using this navigation method in conjunction with our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way we want to provide you with some additional resources. Check out our post on How to find all of your Campgrounds on the West Highland Way to learn how to use our customized campground location data in the Gaia GPS app.

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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West Highland Way Trip Report

We completed Scotland’s iconic West Highland Way with a couple of friends in July of 2018.  The trail is 96 miles (154 km) long and took us eight days to…

We completed Scotland’s iconic West Highland Way with a couple of friends in July of 2018.  The trail is 96 miles (154 km) long and took us eight days to complete. The West Highland Way is an ideal trek for campers, as there’s a wealth of lovely places to pitch a tent along the route. Be sure to check out our Camping Guide for detailed maps, facility descriptions, booking information and more. In the meantime, we wrote this post to share about the less technical and more personal aspects of our journey in hopes that it will get you excited to embark your own WHW adventure. Read on for inspiration, advice, photos, and insider’s tips.

Day One: Milngavie to Drymen (5 hours)

As mentioned above, we hiked the West Highland Way with another couple.  Since we were each traveling separately prior to starting the hike, we had made a plan in advance to meet at the official WHW starting point on the morning of Day One.  Seeing our friends (who we hadn’t seen in nearly a year) in another country at the trailhead was about as good as it gets. Feeling totally jazzed, we set off on the flat and shady path towards Drymen.  We enjoyed warm, sunny weather the entire day as we walked through rolling hills and bucolic farmland.

Easy walking from Milngavie to Drymen.

Having read our Trailblazer guidebook (highly recommended, by the way), we knew to look for the Glengoyne Distillery as we neared Drymen. Without hesitation, we took the slight detour from the trail to check it out. We were expecting a quaint, hiker-friendly tasting room in which we could unload our dusty packs for a wee dram before continuing on our way.  Instead, we found ourselves in something that felt a little more Disneyland than Scotland.  The woman at the visitor’s center informed us that there was in fact no tasting room, and we would have to pay royally for an hour-long tour if we wanted to taste their whiskey.  Perhaps she saw the disappointment on our sweaty faces or maybe she just wanted to find a way to keep us from going on the tour, because she then proceeded to offer another option.  She suggested that we buy some shooter bottles in the gift shop as an alternative.

Glengoyne Distillery is just off The Way.

So a few minutes later we found ourselves back along the trail, picnicking in the sunshine while sipping on some fine whiskey.  Not a bad lunch break! The final hours of the day were challenging due to the long, hot stretches of road walking and the newness of having a heavy pack on our backs. We arrived at Drymen Camping early enough to secure a nice pitch, grab a hot shower, and savor some slow hours spent looking out across the green hills.

Day Two: Drymen to Sallochy (7 hours)

We awoke to gray skies, but the rain was kind enough to hold off until we’d packed up camp. After a relaxed breakfast of coffee and muesli, we hit the road.  Knowing that we needed to stock up on provisions, we made an early detour into the town of Drymen.  As we were picking up the customary instant noodles and granola bars, we made an important discovery in the bakery aisle: fresh, warm chocolate croissants! If there’s something better than a hot pastry on a damp and chilly morning, we haven’t found it yet.

Back on the trail, we headed towards Conic Hill, the first real ascent of the trek. As we climbed upwards, the rain grew steadier and the landscape became more rugged.  The steely weather made the scenery even more beautiful.  After cresting Conic Hill, we descended steeply towards Balmaha and caught our first glimpses of Loch Lomond.

Approaching the top of Conic Hill.

Shoreline walking on Day Two.

We made a quick, impulsive stop in Balmaha to pick up a bottle of wine for the evening (it was vacation after all), and then continued along the shores of the loch towards our campsite. Arriving at Sallochy, we had our pick of gorgeous lochside campsites, each with private beach access. We quickly made camp as the rain picked up again. Once it let up, we enjoyed a damp but fabulous dinner while watching the evening light play across the expansive loch.

A lovely lochside pitch at Sallochy Campground.

Day Three: Sallochy to Beinglas Farm (9 hours)

We’re still scratching our heads as to how this happened, but on Day Three we didn’t start walking until about 10:00am.  Knowing this was our longest and most difficult day, this was especially idiotic. The first part of the hike started innocently enough, ambling along gentle dirt roads.  A few hours in, we stopped at the adorable Cherry Tree Cafe for a slice of lemon cake and some fresh fruit, patting ourselves on the back for making it to the “halfway point.” Little did we know, we really had another five hours of hiking ahead of us!

The Cherry Tree Cafe makes for a great lunch break along Loch Lomond.

As we continued along the trail, it grew more and more challenging.  Hugging the shoreline, the path afforded some spectacular views of the lake, but also presented us with steep, undulating hills, technical rocky sections, and lots of ducking over and around tree branches. It was slow going, especially with heavy packs on.  Bearing in mind that we had to get past the end of the loch, it was a bit torturous to keep looking out at the long lake and viewing just how far we still had to go.

Leaving Inversnaid, the trail continues to follow Loch Lomond for a few more miles.

The steep ascent away from Loch Lomond.

When we finally reached the end of Loch Lomond, we still had a long climb and another hour or so of walking before we reached Beinglas Farm campground.  Learn from our mistake and don’t underestimate this stage of the hike! We finally arrived at Beinglas weary but very happy.  After a hot shower in the luxurious facilities, we opted to forgo stove cooking and treat ourselves to curry and beer in the restaurant. It was a splurge, but totally worth it. As we wandered back to our tent rather delirious from the exhaustion and a few pints, we didn’t realize that the campsite had transformed into a full blown midge-fest once the sun had set. Before we knew it, we were absolutely covered in the little buggers.  Up until this point, we’d experienced a few midges, but we now understood what all the hype was about. Luckily, we escaped into the shelter of our tent and immediately fell into a deep sleep.

Beinglas Farm camping.

Day Four: Beinglas Farm to Strathfillan (6 hours)

Day Four brought a much easier day of walking, and we didn’t mind at all. About halfway into the day, we took the twenty-minute detour into Crianlarich.  There, we stopped at the supermarket for a lunchtime feast of cheese sandwiches, bananas, and cookies- a real upgrade to our typical backpacking lunch which consists of handfuls of peanuts and not much else. Throughout the day, we did a lot of gentle climbing and passed several sheep farms.

Gentle walking through beautiful scenery.

Highland cattle grazing at Strathfillan.

Our day ended in a gorgeous valley, surrounded by green hills in every direction.  We arrived at the quirky Strathfillan Wigwams just as the sun began to peek through the clouds.  Although the place was a little strange (think Native American motifs and a slightly sad petting zoo), the actual campsite was downright stunning.  The valley offered peaceful, wide open views punctuated only by the occasional sound of sheep bleating. We forked over the extra fees for hot showers and laundry, and then we enjoyed a fabulous (midge-free) dinner at a picnic table near our tents. It was one of those perfect evenings: great weather, good times with friends, and a totally relaxed atmosphere.

Beautiful sunset at the Strathfillan Wigwams.

Day Five: Strathfillan to Bridge of Orchy (4 hours)

Due to the great conversation, easy walking, and gorgeous weather, this day flew by and we were at Bridge of Orchy before we knew it! The path followed the highway for quite a long stretch which didn’t make for the most ideal walking conditions, but the scenery was still pretty fabulous. Upon reaching Bridge of Orchy, we set up camp, soaked our feet in the river, and then headed up to the hotel for some afternoon beers. Expert tip: the stout at the hotel bar is really excellent.  The evening proved to be relatively midge-free, so we were able to enjoy our time outside long into the evening.

Beinn Dorain dominates the walk to Bridge of Orchy.

Lovely camping at Bridge of Orchy.

Bridge of Orchy frames the Highlands beyond.

Day Six: Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe Mountain Resort (4 3/4 hours)

We awoke  at Bridge of Orchy to another spectacularly sunny day. This stage of the trail was the most remote of the entire trek, winding through wide open moors and breathtaking highlands scenery. As we skirted past Rannoch Moor, fifty square miles of uninhabited wilderness, we remarked on the goodness of such wild land in an increasingly developed world.

Rannoch Moor, 50 square miles of uninhabited wilderness.

We tackled a few good climbs on this section, which was a nice change of pace from the mostly flat walking of the previous few days. After another short day, we arrived at the campground at Glencoe Mountain Resort. We’d heard that there was free camping further along the trail at Kingshouse Hotel, but since it was under construction we didn’t know what the conditions would be like.  Deciding to play it safe, we opted to stop at Glencoe instead.  Embracing the developed, ski-resorty vibe, we enjoyed a few pints in the lodge.

Buachaille Etive Mòr comes into view approaching Glencoe Moutain Resort.

Despite its location next to a large car park, our campsite had spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. Upon retiring to our tents after hanging out at the lodge, we discovered that the campground was being used by some enterprising kids as a mountain biking course.  We watched as they repeatedly caught air, landing within a foot or two of the surrounding tents.  It was pretty impressive and rather funny, but didn’t lend itself well to an early bedtime.  Eventually, as the sun set and the rain began, the kids packed it up for the evening and we did the same.

Great views from our campsite at Glencoe Mountain Resort.

Day Seven: Glencoe Mountain Resort to Kinlochleven (5 hours)

We started Day Seven in very wet, cold conditions.  After cooking breakfast under the covered porch of the lodge building, we forced ourselves to step out into the rain.  As is typical of these types of things, the rain wasn’t as bad as it looked.  Even better, it soon eased up into a more gentle mist.  As we walked towards the infamous “Devil’s Staircase,” we spotted several red deer set amidst the breathtaking valley views.

The walk towards the Devil’s Staircase.

Hiking into the clouds on the Devil’s Staircase.

Views from the top.

As for the dreaded staircase, it was a steep ascent, but nothing too terrible.  Plus, the views just kept getting better as we climbed! After a lunch break at the top, we began the winding descent to Kinlochleven.  If your knees are anything like mine, you’ll agree that the downhill portion of this day is way harder than the climb up Devil’s Staircase! In any case, we eventually made it down to our final campground of the trip. The Trailblazer guide describes Kinlochleven as “an ugly, modern village,” but we found it to be quite charming. It has an industrial vibe, but one that’s balanced out by friendly people, quaint pubs, and a beautiful natural setting.

Picnicking at the MacDonald Hotel.

We camped at the MacDonald Hotel, which was situated in a quiet location right on the edge of Loch Leven. Since the rain had cleared up, we decided to have one final picnic in this lovely setting.  After picking up wine, cheese, olives, and an assortment of other goodies in town, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner on the banks of the loch.

Day Eight: Kinlochleven to Fort William (7 hours)

Knowing we had another long day ahead, we applied the lessons learned on Day Three and made sure we were up and out a bit earlier this time. The day began with a fairly steep climb out of Kinlochleven, then passed through the wild expanse of the Lairigmor. We took our time on this final day, savoring our last hours of fresh air, simpler routines, and great companionship.

The winding path through the Larigmor.

As we neared Fort William, Ben Nevis came into view. This massive mountain is completely captivating, and we made frequent stops to admire it and snap more photos than were probably necessary. For the final stretch into Fort William, we took an alternate route in order to avoid another long stretch of road walking.  We followed the Cow Hill trail, which involved one last climb up to some great views of the town below.  Upon arriving in Fort William, walkers are required to traverse the entire length of the main commercial district before arriving at the official end of the Way. While it was a bit of a shock to the system to be back in the hustle and bustle of the town, the final stretch was fun and festive.

Catching a glimpse of Ben Nevis on our final day of walking!

We celebrated our achievement with  a delicious pub dinner at the Grog and Gruel, followed by an ice cream cone and a stroll through town. In the morning, we rode the train back to Glasgow.  As we sipped coffee, we gazed out at the green wilderness, recounting stories from the previous week, and soaking in the lifelong memories we had made on this amazing experience.

What’s Next?

Enjoyed reading our trip report and ready to get to work planning your own West Highland Way adventure? Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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West Highland Way Packing List

If you’re planning to walk the West Highland Way and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way you’re likely wondering what to pack for your own…

If you’re planning to walk the West Highland Way and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way you’re likely wondering what to pack for your own adventure.

Below you’ll find a detailed packing list that will provide you with great, trail-tested gear that won’t weigh down your backpack too much. This list reflects our personal packing list which will vary for each individual’s specific needs. However, this should serve as a great starting point for planning your own West Highland Way adventure!

You can also pick-up our printable West Highland Way packing list as part of our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for under $5! You’ll also get access to tons of useful information for planning your WHW adventure!

Complete Guide to Camping on the WHW

  • Get our Complete Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for only $4.99 USD! All payments are securely processed via PayPal and your guide will be sent directly to your inbox. Save yourself the trouble of searching all over the internet and get access to everything you need to plan your adventure in an easy to read guide. All for only $4.99!

 

Camping Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
TentSierra Designs - Clip Flashlight 2
or
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent
This is the best budget tent on the market and the best overall tent on the market!
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 30
Sleeping padNemo Astro Sleeping Pad If you are a side sleeper this is a must!
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowIf you're camping more than a few nights you will be glad you packed this!
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm headlamp
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking potGSI Halulite
UtensilsHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mug

Personal Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierPerfect for cutting cheese and bread!
First-aid kitAdventure Medical Kits
Camel BakCamel Bak Crux - 100 oz.Way easier than a water bottle!
Small day-packCotopaxi Luzon 18LGreat for walking around town and hiking up Ben Nevis!
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how much it can rain on the WHW!
Men's backpackGregory Baltoro 75L
Women's backpackOsprey Aura 65L
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Back Trekking polesEssential for long downhills!
Travel towelSea to Summit DryLite TowelGreat to have for campsite showers.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry SackKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Hiking GaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High GaitersThese will help keep your boots dry when walking.
Midge HatMidge Net HatDo not leave home without one!
Buff or BandanaOriginal Buff
Sleeping MaskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskThe sun sets late and rises early in Scotland!
Bug sprayBen's Insect RepellentYou'll be glad you brought this when the midges come out.
Blister padsBand-Aid Blister Pads
Lip BalmJack Black Lip Balm

Miscellaneous Gear

ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookWest Highland Way GuidebookA must-have resource
JournalMoleskin Journal
Ear plugsMack's ear plugsEssential for the more crowded campsites!
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraIan loves his Sony mirrorless camera!
TripodJoby GorillaPodThe perfect travel tripod.
Unlocked phoneMoto G PlayA simple, budget-friendly phone to use for navigation and local calls with a SIM.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 20100Great for charging electronics when you don't have access to an outlet.
Laundry Soap SheetsSea to Summit Trek and Travel Pocket SoapThese are the greatest travel hack ever! The best way to clean your clothes on-the-go.
Travel adapterJoomfeen All-in-one adapterGreat for all of your travels.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.

Women’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (5-6 pairs)Adidas Climacool underwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (5-6 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bras (2)Brooks Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 Crew
Short sleeve hiking shirt (3)Mountain Hardwear Wicked shirt
Leggings (1 pair)Nike Power Essential Running Tight
Flannel shirt (1)Columbia Simply Put II Flannel ShirtEmily enjoyed having something soft and cozy to put on after a day of hiking.
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsFor those heavy downpours!
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Basic black dressprAna Cali DressFor the nights we went out to dinner in town, it was nice to have one non-hiking outfit. This comfortable, versatile dress was easy to pack and worked great.
Underwire bra
GlovesSmartwool Liner Gloves
Hat
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1Super comfortable around camp with great support.

Men’s Clothing

ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (4-5 pairs)Exofficio Give-N-Go boxerHighly recommended! You can bring 4-5 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (4-5 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro CrewIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (2)Columbia Tech Shirt
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion shortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Running shorts (1)La Sportiva Aelous shorts
Down jacketPatagonia Down Seater HoodieSuper warm, and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II jacketA good rain jacket is a must!
GlovesSmartwool Liner gloves
HatOutdoor Research Performance Trucker hat
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandals
Hiking bootsVasque Talus UltradrySuper comfortable and super waterproof!
Digital watchCasio Classic Sports watchAll you'll ever need
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized sunglasses
Waterproof pantsMarmot Precip Pants

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the West Highland Way to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

No Comments on West Highland Way Packing List

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