The Best Tips For Hiking In Europe, According To Travel Pro Rick Steves

When it comes to experiencing the best that Europe has to offer, nobody knows better than the beloved travel guru Rick Steves. He is America's favorite expert when it comes to European getaways. If you've ever planned a trip to Europe, you've likely purchased one of his travel guidebooks or stumbled upon some of his online articles. Rick Steves has been creating bestselling guidebooks about European travel since the 1970s and has a successful PBS television series called "Rick Steves' Europe," so it's surprising that he considered himself a novice when hiking along the European continent.

Even though he's visited Europe more often than most of us ever will, Rick Steves recently found the true beauty of hiking. While he has always appreciated Europe's beautiful parks, cities, and landscapes, he strayed away from more extensive, multi-day treks. That changed in 2021, when he embarked on an epic 6-day hiking expedition through the French Alps along the famous Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB). It's one of Europe's most popular hiking routes. 

Being 66 years old at the time, Rick Steves proves you're never too old to follow your inspiration and try something new. Along the way, he learned a lot, including some essential tips for hikers of any age planning to enjoy Europe's great outdoors. In a post-trip article, Rick Steves shared his top tips for health and safety on a European hiking adventure, including packing the proper gear and taking good care of your body throughout your hiking adventure.

Come prepared with the proper equipment

Even though Rick Steves began his hike feeling like the "father of the hiking community," he assured his readers that anyone can enjoy the pleasant pastime as long as they're prepared. He shared that, "the Tour Du Mont Blanc is doable for any reasonably fit hiker, and there were plenty of people on the trail who were older than me." According to Steves, one key to a successful experience is to stock up on the best hiking gear that will make you more comfortable. He joked that he became somewhat of a "gear geek" in the weeks leading up to his trip.

His first tip is to invest in a great daypack. If you're not planning on camping along the way, or you're hiking with an organized tour that provides the food and accommodations, a daypack should be the perfect size for everything you need during your hike. Rick Steves recommends the brand Osprey, which has some great packs starting around $100 on REI. Consider a small pack, about 11-20 liters, for short day hikes, and for longer hikes requiring extra gear, you might choose a larger 21-35 liter pack.

Other items that Rick Steves appreciated during his trip were a great pair of hiking boots, liner socks, a metal water bottle, and wool clothing and accessories. "I was never so thankful for a wool cap in Europe," he wrote on his website. Steves also considers hiking poles to be a necessity to avoid tripping or slipping, especially during inclement weather.

Take care of yourself on the trail

Keep some first aid supplies around to protect your skin from rubbing or blisters. Rick Steves suggests anti-chafing powder and moleskin. Moleskin is a tightly woven cotton fabric that can be used as a wrap or an adhesive to help reduce friction on the skin. Further protect your skin by diligently applying sunscreen, even when it doesn't seem like the sun is very intense. "Don't be a hero," Steves wrote in his blog post. "If [your] skin is getting hot, wrap it up. I did the entire TMB hike without a blister — and then just got one on purpose in the last two hours."

Steves says it's important to eat a good breakfast packed with protein to keep your body fueled throughout your day of hiking. "The one day we had breakfast with no protein, climbing was tougher," he wrote. Additionally, carry a healthy snack with you to keep you energized between meals. Steve loves a good bag of trail mix.

Finally, Steves suggests stretching every day before you begin your hike. "After learning my lesson on other long hikes, I decided to be religious about stretching on the Tour du Mont Blanc from the start," he wrote. In addition to a morning stretch, he recommends taking a few moments to pause throughout the hike to stretch to keep your muscles from tensing. By following Rick Steves' hiking tips, you'll have a happy, healthy adventure on your next hiking expedition in Europe.