I spent a week walking the Via Alpina trail in Switzerland from late September to early October 2016. I inevitably collect cool thoughts and cool photos when I hike for 8 hours a day and have always wanted to write a trip report, but motivation/time is eaten when I rejoin society and work/school. I have neither of those responsibilities right now! Posts will be serialised under Via Alpina.

>when you go to a fancy modern country to sleep on the side of the road

I love that the alps are super accessible (grandmas and dogs and babies all over the places, rails running out of every town to the top of every pass), and people go there specifically to enjoy the European charm and convenience of mountain cabins/huts. So of course I ignored all the modern comforts the country had to offer, wild camping and hitchhiking instead. I took one train, two hours from Zurich to my arbitrarily selected trailhead in Engelberg, which was a fresh and smooth experience that, like all the other Swiss things, put the quality of their counterparts in other countries to shame, but also used all my food budget for the month. It was lovely for being the only train I pay for my entire stay in Europe.

The trail was really developed and full of cows and people, so we got pretty creative about finding places to sleep! (Ominous foreshadowing music)


  • I’m on a fairly tight budget, but Switzerland is notoriously expensive.
  • I like packing ultralight but I was flying to a wedding right and needed nice clothes ✨

Even with cautionary tales of $20 McD from friends who visited earlier in the summer, I was unable to handle how crazy Switzerland prices were, even with my recent past life in the luxurious San Francisco tech startup reality sphere. We brought our food in from Germany, an excellent country with reasonable grocery bills and an appreciation for tasty dehydrated meals (in the US you have to go to a sport store for that).

>Here are some ways I prepared for the trip, because I sometimes get questions about how I travel \o/

Basically I like to collect a ton of info so I can put off deciding on specifics for as long as possible. This is the kind of thinking that both leads me to sleeping on the side of the road but also in a secluded magical fairy wonderland (both happened).

  • activity workshop .net, an oddly-named website which provided kickass gps maps and elevation reliefs and info about the towns along the Swiss via alpina.
  • OSM-AND and Maps.me android apps, which I used to read gps coordinates/trails from above. Both superior to google maps for (my style of) travel because of
    • excellent offline support
    • easy bookmarking/note-taking that exports to standard formats
    • you can search for bathrooms omg
    • more data for hiking trail/natural features (eg mountain peaks)
  • I also highly recommend the OSM-AND topo plugin for a super awesome hiking experience :D
  • Hitchwiki – a wiki and map contributed by hitchhikers for hitchhikers!
  • Pocket, which I used to offline cache aforementioned resources.