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!
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)
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
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Special Considerations for the West Highland Way:
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
After camping along the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we quickly realized that backpacking is one of the most fun, rewarding, and budget-friendly ways to travel. After researching many options…
After camping along the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we quickly realized that backpacking is one of the most fun, rewarding, and budget-friendly ways to travel. After researching many options for our next adventure, we finally settled on the West Highland Way, a 96-mile (154 km) trek that begins just outside of Glasgow, winds past the iconic Loch Lomond towards rugged moors and emerald hillsides, and ends in the stunning highlands at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis.
In addition to its dramatic beauty, the West Highland Way offers some other great perks: both ends of the hike are easily accessed by public transportation, it can be completed in just over a week, and it is possible to camp every night (many long-distance treks require at least one or two expensive hut stays). If you haven’t considered camping, we are here to tell you that you should! Camping along the West Highland Way allowed us to meet so many great people from all over the world, sleep in stunning locations, keep our trip expenses very low, and earn the satisfaction of carrying everything we needed on our backs. Below you’ll find tons of practical information, tried and true tips, and handy maps.
A few notes: This guide is based on a moderately-paced 8-day itinerary that begins in Milngavie and ends in Fort William. There are a few sections that would be relatively easy to modify, and those have been noted in the guide. Reservations are not necessary for the campsites, unless explicitly stated. Prices listed are per person. Wild camping is possible on some sections of the walk, but keep in mind that would be very difficult on the first night due to the lack of public land, it is unlawful along Loch Lomond, and has the potential to be very midgey (but certainly doable) in other sections. In general, we found the comfort and convenience of the campgrounds to be well worth the small fees we paid to stay there.
For those who want the best information all in one place, you can purchase our printable Guide to Camping on the West Highland Way for under $5! The Guide includes everything you’ll need to have an awesome experience on the WHW. Save yourself the time of endless searching to find the information you need to plan your trip and pick up our guide below!
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This small campground is surrounded by rolling hills and picturesque farmland. You’ll see it on the lefthand side of the road about a mile and a half before reaching the town of Drymen. The modest nightly fee includes access to a covered cooking area, toilets (bring your own TP!), hot showers, outlets, a dishwashing sink, and potable water.
Nearby: Not much. The town of Drymen is another 1.5 miles up the road, so it is unlikely you’ll want to make the trek into town after a long day of walking. However, it does make for a nice stop in the morning of your second day, as you can pick up any forgotten supplies and maybe even a freshly baked treat to start your day. Moreover, Drymen is your last opportunity to visit a full grocery store along the trail until you reach Tyndrum.
Drymen Camping is located in a peaceful, pastoral setting.
Day Two – Drymen to Loch Lomond
Camping Availability: Milarrochy Bay Campsite, Cashel Caravan and Campsite, & Sallochy Campsite.
The second stage of the West Highland Way presents many options for camping. As you walk north along Loch Lomond, you’ll reach Milarrochy Bay Campsite first, then you’ll see Cashel about a mile further, and if you keep going for another mile or so, you will reach Sallochy. Remember, wild camping is not permitted on this section of the WHW.
Milarrochy Bay Campsite: This large campground has hot showers, a cooking room, toilets, wifi (for an added fee), and a small shop.
Sallochy Campsite: We chose to stay at Sallochy and highly recommend that you do the same for a number of reasons. First, the lochside campsites are secluded, peaceful, and totally gorgeous. While this is the most basic of the three camping options, the lack of major facilities means that you get an experience that feels more connected to the amazing natural surroundings of the Loch Lomond area. Additionally, Stage 3 of the WHW is the longest and most strenuous day of the entire trek, so make it all the way to Sallochy on Stage 2 and you’ll have a head start for the day ahead. Sallochy offers simple, clean composting toilets, drinking water, and sinks for washing up. Fire pit rentals and firewood bundles are available from the camp warden for £5 each. You must make reservations in advance for this campsite (the website makes it quick and easy). Make sure to book a lochside site, as the main camping area can get noisy and crowded. As you approach the campground, you’ll see the higher numbered lochside pitches first. The higher the number, the further away from the toilets and water tap you’ll be, but you’ll also be further from the noise of the main campground.
Beinglas Farm: We loved camping at Beinglas Farm! Perhaps it was because of the cold beers they sold us after nine hours of hiking, or the excellent and clean hot showers, or the friendly staff. Regardless of the exact reason, this is a great campground that offers flat pitches, free wifi in the bar/restaurant, a well-stocked shop, a cooking room, laundry facilities, and drinking water. This was the most midgy place we camped, however, so be prepared to get out your net and bug spray as soon as the sun starts to set. We were very grateful for the indoor cooking area and restaurant, as these provided a welcome escape from the bugs.
Nearby: It’s about a 10-minute walk from Beinglas Farm to the village of Inverarnan. There you’ll find a few hotels, a pub, and access to public transportation. Additionally, you can detour to Crianlarich (15 minutes from the trail each way) halfway through your walk tomorrow (Stage 4). This detour is highly recommended if you’d like to resupply at a proper supermarket.
Alternative Option: To break up the 15-mile stretch from Sallochy to Inverarnan into two easier days, you can camp at the Rowchoish Bothy, which is about five miles past Sallochy. It is located along the lower alternative route, but can be accessed by doubling back a short distance from where the upper and lower routes meet. This is a simple, free shelter with a fireplace.
For a shorter day, stop at the spectacular Doune Bothy.
Day Four – Inverarnan to Tyndrum
Camping Availability: Strathfillan Wigwams, By the Way Hostel and Campsite & Pine Trees Caravan Park and Camping
Strathfillan Wigwams: You’ll see this camping option about 2 miles short of the town of Tyndrum. This was one of the quirkiest places we camped on the Way, but also one of the most beautiful. Set in a dramatic valley, this spacious campground is next to an idyllic sheep farm and a lovely river. The campground itself boasts some strangely painted “wigwams” and a slightly sad petting zoo. The facilities are excellent though. There is a lovely indoor kitchen and sitting area with laundry (wash and dry are £1 each), outlets, and wifi (for an extra fee), sinks, and drinking water. The showers are hot and clean, and cost £1 for eight minutes. The shop offers some kitschy souvenirs alongside snacks and treats.
Pine Trees Caravan Park and Camping: This huge campground hosts large families in RVs, minimalist backpackers, and everyone in between. There are showers, toilets, drinking water, a shop, laundry, and wifi available. Situated next to the road, this campground is certainly less scenic than Strathfillan, but offers convenient proximity to the town of Tyndrum.
By The Way Hostel & Campground: This hostel and campground is located near the lower Tyndrum train station. Note that they will only accept one or two-person tents and they may not accept any campers if there has been a significant amount of rain, due to the ground being too water-logged. The Way passes right by this hostel (as the name implies) and offers showers, laundry, wifi, a heated drying room and an indoor pot washing room.
Nearby: Make sure to check out the ruins of St. Fillian’s Priory and the adjacent graveyard for some fascinating history! You’ll see these just before approaching the Strathfillian campground. In Tyndrum, there’s an outdoor goods store, a supermarket, a post office, ATM’s, and two train stations. Make sure to stock up on food and supplies while in Tyndrum, as you won’t have another chance until you reach Kinlochleven on the final night of the WHW.
Quintessential Highlands camping at Strathfillan.
Day Five – Tyndrum to Bridge of Orchy
Camping Availability: Free camping behind the hotel.
When you arrive at Bridge of Orchy, continue past the hotel and across the bridge to the free camping area. There are no facilities here, but there is a potable water tap next to the main entrance of the hotel. In terms of your bathroom options, there’s a wooded area directly behind the campsite. Unfortunately, you won’t be the first person to use these natural facilities, and they were a bit polluted with human waste when we were there. Bring your trowel and a positive attitude, and you’ll be fine. Alternatively, you can use the hotel restroom if you purchase something at the bar/restaurant or if you leave a donation on the tray by the bar. If the weather is nice, make sure to soak your tired feet in the river while you take in the views of the quaint stone bridge and the green hills beyond.
Nearby: The Bridge of Orchy Hotel serves food all day long, and it’s also a great place to enjoy a well-deserved post hike beer. You won’t find a real town along the trail until Kinlochleven. The Inverornan Hotel is three miles past Bridge of Orchy, and it offers free camping, a water tap, and a restaurant.
Soak your tired feet under the Bridge of Orchy before enjoying your free campsite.
Day Six – Bridge of Orchy to Glencoe/Kingshouse
Camping Availability: Glencoe Ski Center/Mountain Resort & Kingshouse Hotel
Glencoe Ski Center/Mountain Resort: A very slight detour off the main trail leads to this campground. This ski area offers nice, flat pitches, hot showers (£1 for 5 minutes), outlets, washing sinks, drinking water, and a bar/restaurant with free wifi. While it can get crowded, Glencoe has a fun atmosphere and is the best option for this segment of your trek.
Kingshouse Hotel: At the time of writing (August 2018), the hotel was under construction. However, free camping is still possible. Walk past the hotel, cross the bridge, and you’ll see a field on your right. The hotel’s water tap appeared to be functioning during construction.
Nearby: Nothing. From the A82, you can catch a bus or hitch a ride to Glencoe Village (9 miles away). There you’ll find a grocery store, ATM, and a medical center.
Beautiful views of Buachaille Etive Mòr from the Glencoe Moutain Resort.
Day Seven – Glencoe/Kingshouse to Kinlochleven
Camping Availability: MacDonald Hotel & Blackwater Hostel
MacDonald Hotel: This campground is at the far end of town, and can feel quite tedious to get to after a long day of hiking. It’s worth the extra walking though! The staff is very friendly, the views of the loch are magical, and you’ll start right next to the trail in the morning. There are toilets, free hot showers, an indoor cooking and washing hut, a heated drying room, wifi, a restaurant, and a casual walkers’ bar. Reservations recommended.
Blackwater Hostel: You’ll see this campground immediately upon entering Kinlochleven. It is located on a lovely spot alongside the river. There are toilets, showers, a drying room, and an indoor cooking area.
Nearby: The town of Kinlochleven has a post office, ATM, supermarket, outdoor equipment store, and a handful of pubs and restaurants. These can all be reached within a 10-minute walk from either campground.
The MacDonald Hotel campground is located on the idyllic shores of Loch Leven.
Day Eight – Kinlochleven to Fort William/Glen Nevis
Camping Availability: Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park
Upon completing the West Highland Way, many hikers choose to treat themselves to accommodation that includes four walls and a real bed, but there is an option for the hardcore campers out there. While the hike officially ends in the town of Fort William, you can stop a couple miles earlier in the town of Glen Nevis and pitch your tent at the Glen Nevis Caravan and Camping Park. This massive campground has laundry, toilets, and a shop.
Nearby: There is a visitor center and a few restaurants in the village of Glen Nevis. This location also provides easy access to the trail that leads to the summit of Ben Nevis.
Catch a glimpse of Ben Nevis on your final day of walking!
If you’ve completed steps described above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience camping on the West Highland Way. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! 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!
This is the snowshoeing adventure that has it all: easy proximity to the Front Range, minimal crowds in the wintertime, challenging climbs, spectacular views, and long peaceful stretches of trail…
This is the snowshoeing adventure that has it all: easy proximity to the Front Range, minimal crowds in the wintertime, challenging climbs, spectacular views, and long peaceful stretches of trail flanked by towering pines. Getting to Heart Lake on snowshoes is not an easy task. The hike is strenuous, and will likely take up the better part of your day. However, the challenge of the trek makes the stunning views of the lake and the Continental Divide that much more rewarding. Read on as we share all the essentials for planning your own Heart Lake snowshoe outing.
While snowshoeing shares many similarities with summer hiking, it does require some different gear. Our packing list will ensure that you have everything you need to stay warm and get…
While snowshoeing shares many similarities with summer hiking, it does require some different gear. Our packing list will ensure that you have everything you need to stay warm and get the most out of your next snowshoeing adventure.
While not a necessity, a bladder will allow you to drink frequently without having to stop hiking and take off your gloves to open a water bottle. It also keeps your water from freezing, since it's kept warmer near your body and inside your pack.
If you’ve read any of our other posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out by now that we really love to hike. If you ask me, there’s only one…
Dream Lake in all of its frozen beauty.
If you’ve read any of our other posts on this blog, you’ve probably figured out by now that we really love to hike. If you ask me, there’s only one thing more fun than hiking…hiking in the snow! You might be thinking, “Well, no. It’s cold and difficult and boring.” Or maybe you’re thinking, “She’s crazy. Skiing is WAY better.” Before you click over to one of the six other tabs you have open right now, hear me out. Snowshoeing allows you to see familiar trails in a completely new way, it’s a challenging and rewarding workout, and it gives you the opportunity to experience popular hikes without the crowds. Oh, and unlike skiing, you don’t have to get up at 4am to do it. Snowshoeing for the win! As I’ve gotten into the sport in recent years, I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to find good information about snowshoeing near the Front Range. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. In this post, I’ll share everything you need to know in order to have a fantastic snowshoe outing in one of our favorite places: Rocky Mountain National Park. RMNP is a great place to snowshoe for a number of reasons: it has a pretty consistent snowpack throughout the winter months, it is significantly less crowded in the off-season, and it has a wealth of trails of varying lengths, difficulty levels, and terrain types.
Recently, I took a trip to Palm Springs, California to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. We’re spread out all over the country, so the desert city is always…
Sunset over Palm Springs. CA
Recently, I took a trip to Palm Springs, California to spend the Thanksgiving holiday with my family. We’re spread out all over the country, so the desert city is always the perfect place to meet up and get some early winter sun. One of our favorite traditions is to hike the iconic Museum Trail. This trail winds straight up from the parking lot of the local art museum (hence the name), and is accessed from the center of downtown. We like to do the hike late in the afternoon so we can watch the sun set and the city lights turn on below us as we descend. My family likes to cap off this annual hike with a trip to the Mexican joint a few blocks from the trailhead for margaritas. This year, I came to an important realization: city hikes are awesome. Don’t get me wrong, I love and appreciate the solitude of trekking the remote backcountry as much as any nature fanatic. However, there is also something fabulous about walking or biking to a trailhead, savoring spectacular urban views, and having an array of apres-hike venues mere steps from your finishing point. In this post, I’ll share my five favorite city hikes right here in Colorado. I hope they’ll make you love urban hiking as much as I do.