Section 4 of the Trans-European Alpine Route
Synonymous with European hiking, the Alps form the longest and most arduous section of the TEAR. Several of the Via Alpina mega-routes are pieced together, as well as other world class trails such as the Europaweg, Alta Via dei Giganti, and the Tour de Mont Blanc. The route travels over 1600km through Slovenia, Italy, Austria, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, and France and passes under iconic giants such as the Eiger, Matterhorn, and Mont Blanc before branching off to the west.
The 'nuts and bolts' of the section are provided in the map above, which can be exported for use in offline GPS apps. Information is divided into subfolders for easier viewing and additional details/context are given below.
The first 3 sections of the TEAR have only used two large trails, however the trekking routes within the Alps are well developed and the combination of paths that could lead you across them is nearly infinite. It would be simplest to stick to a single trail such as the Via Alpina Red, but it winds a longer path than the combination of routes I chose and it also bypasses many of the famous places listed above. The route provided here attempts to link as many highlights as possible while retaining a time-efficient route.
Blazes in the Alps are usually red on white, and signage at passes and major intersections is generally excellent.
The alternates that I've included are generally high route / low route options to be used depending on weather conditions. In general I'd recommend hiking all the high routes if possible.
The amount of detours that are possible throughout the Alps is staggering. Feel free to make the route your own, but make sure you're still covering ground. It's still a long way to the Atlantic.
See the resupply spreadsheet for details. The longest carry is a 150km stretch after Arnoldstein (Austria), which is also the only off-trail resupply town (flat 2km road walk). All other resupplies are ~100km or less, and you'll appreciate the lighter pack on the big climbs.
This section of the TEAR has the best chances of finding threaded fuel canisters. There are likely more shops which carry them than the ones that I've listed, but don't expect a gear store at every resupply.
The Slovenian Alps still have much of the karst character of the Dinaric Alps and you'll want to keep an eye on your next sources. Once you've entered Austria the water sources become fairly frequent in the mountains, although if you notice the route climbs up onto a ridge for a while you'll obviously want to fill up.
Huts / Shelters
There's an extensive system of mountain huts throughout the Alps which you can use as much or as little as you choose. You'll be passing through the Alps during the busy season, so the limited beds can fill up along popular hiking routes or weekends. Food is usually available, although the menu will be limited.
I highly recommend purchasing a one year membership to a European Alpine Club, which will grant you heavily discounted (up to 50%) stays at affiliated mountain huts as well as some insurance against mountain rescue costs in Europe. There are many clubs to choose from and the cost is well worth it. For example, the Alpine Association of Slovenia offers membership with basic benefits for 30EU (including shipping to your country). After three hut stays at mountain club huts the cost of the membership will have paid for itself. Some huts are privately owned and may not offer discounts, but a club membership is still very worthwhile.
Borders / Transportation / Other
No more worrying about border crossings! You'll be zigzagging between countries frequently and without a care. The only thing to note in this section is the many protected areas you'll be passing through which may limit or prohibit wild camping. Plan your days to sleep in huts or shelters when necessary.
Next Section: Massif Central