Backpacking in the Netherlands: Tips and Trails

Backpacking in the Netherlands: A backpacker in the Zuid-Kennemerland National Park

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in the Netherlands offers plenty of scenic hiking for those looking to explore its diverse landscapes.

Despite its small size, the Netherlands boasts an extensive hiking trail system of over 3,700 miles (6,000 kilometers) of long distance footpaths crisscrossing the country. Most regions contain marked trail networks, including the 21 National Parks with over 283,000 acres of protected land.

In this post, we’ll delve into the world of backpacking in the Netherlands from a lightweight perspective, providing tips to help you prepare for your upcoming outdoor adventure.

We’ll share the TOP 5 trails in the Netherlands in two parts. The first is for day hikes under 25 miles, great for exploring in one day. The second is for longer multi-day backpacking trips.

Key Tips for Backpacking in the Netherlands

  • What to expect: Despite its size, the Netherlands offers plenty of marked trails for backpackers to explore diverse landscapes easily. With flat terrain and extensive trail networks, moving between overnight accommodations is straightforward. Lightweight, waterproof gear is essential due to frequent rainfall. Along these trails, you can discover coastal dunes and forests in national parks, offering accessible and picturesque views.
  • Essential gear: In addition to your usual gear, remember to pack lightweight, waterproof items like a rain jacket and pants, waterproof hiking shoes, and clothes that dry quickly. Trekking poles can be useful for dealing with the often windy weather. Don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle and something to treat water, like a filter or purification tablets, because there might not be many water sources available in some areas.
  • Wildlife: There are no predators, venomous snakes or other wildlife in the Netherlands that pose a significant danger to backpackers and hikers. The most hazardous animals are ticks which can transmit Lyme disease and, rarely, vipers which have a weak venom unlikely to cause serious harm. Mosquitos and wasps may also be bothersome.
  • Wild camping in the Netherlands is legally restricted. Camping is only allowed at designated campsites with permission from landowners. However, some tolerated wild camping does occur, especially outside of urban areas. Camping for one night may be overlooked in secluded natural areas if adhering to strict leave no trace principles and moving on early. But fines can still result from illegal camping.
  • Best time to go: The ideal times to backpack in the Netherlands are spring and fall when the weather is mildest and crowds are smaller. April to early June offers fewer tourists, comfortable temperatures, spring flowers, and accessible trails. Similarly, September and October bring cooler weather perfect for hiking along with fall foliage colors. Though popular, summer can have frequent rain. Winter sees cold temps and possible snow limiting trail access.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 25 Miles)

We’ve selected the top day hiking trails in the Netherlands, where lightweight gear is especially handy:

  1. N70 Nature Trail (8.7 mi / 14 km).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Pieterpad: Groningen – Zuidlaren Segment 1.3 (13.4 mi / 21.5 km).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Packraft Trail Biesbosch West (16.8 mi / 27 km).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Kampina – Oisterwijkse Vennen (9.5 mi / 15.3 km).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Pieterpad: Ommen – Hellendoorn Segment 1.10 (12.9 mi / 20.7 km).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Discover the most stunning long trails in the Netherlands for amazing adventures:

  1. Dutch Mountain Trail (62.9 mi / 101.2 km).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. Amerongse Berg – Elsterberg – Ruiterberg (33 mi / 53.1 km).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Krijtlandpad SP7 (57 mi / 91.73 km).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Reggepad (45 mi / 72.4 km).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Hilligenpad (64.2 mi / 103.3 km).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

The Netherlands has a temperate maritime climate with mild summers and cool winters:

  • Summer highs average around 70°F (21°C) and lows around 60°F (16°C) but rain is frequent.
  • Winter sees highs around 40°F (4°C) and lows around freezing, 32°F (0°C), with frost, fog and precipitation as rain or wet snow.
  • Spring and fall temperatures range from 40-60°F (4-16°C).

Strong winds often occur along the coast. Drier days mix with wetter days in all seasons.

Before you grab your backpack and head outdoors, take a look at the weather statistics for the Netherlands (Eindhoven):

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High °F424450586569737266584943
Low °F333336414752565550453935
Rain/Snow (D*)10887999999910
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain or snow.

FAQ

Can I have a campfire while camping in the Netherlands? 

When you go camping in the Netherlands, campfires are usually not allowed. This is because they can be really risky and harm the environment. In many natural places like parks, making open fires is against the rules because they could easily start a fire and damage the surroundings. Most camping sites don’t let people have their own campfires, but they might have special spots where everyone can gather around a fire pit. If you’re camping in remote areas, it’s usually not allowed to make open fires either. There are a few exceptions, like in certain places where you can have small fires for cooking, but you have to follow strict guidelines. So, instead of planning on having a campfire, it’s better to bring along camping stoves or other cooking equipment.

Do U.S. citizens need a visa to visit the Netherlands?

If you’re a U.S. citizen planning a tourist trip to the Netherlands for up to 90 days, you don’t need to get a visa in advance. All you need is a valid U.S. passport. When you arrive in the Netherlands, you’ll have to go through a passport check, but after that, you’re free to explore as a tourist under the visa waiver program. There’s no need to apply for a visa beforehand. However, if you plan to stay longer than 90 days within a 180-day period, you’ll have to get a residency permit before your trip.
For backpacking, hiking, and camping adventures lasting less than 90 days, U.S. citizens can enter the Netherlands without a tourist visa by just showing their passport.

What are some safety tips for backpackers in the Netherlands?

Use common sense precautions as you would anywhere when backpacking in the countryside of the Netherlands. Avoid deserted areas at night, store valuables securely in your tent, and don’t display expensive hiking or biking gear. Be wary of thefts at crowded windmills or along the canals and while walking or biking between towns. Learn basic Dutch phrases to overcome any language barriers. Research the areas you’ll hike or bike between and let someone know your itinerary. Check weather forecasts frequently and prepare for sudden changes in the wind while near the windmills. Bring adequate gear and navigation tools for the conditions. Understand local laws, customs, and camping regulations. Be sure to stop and enjoy the famous Dutch tulips in spring during your travels. Overall, backpacking in the Netherlands is very safe if travelers remain aware of their surroundings, take precautions, and prepare properly for the biking, walking, and camping activities and changeable climate.

What are the most popular national parks in the Netherlands?

The Netherlands has 21 national parks, but De Hoge Veluwe, De Biesbosch, and De Loonse en Drunense Duinen are among the most popular and best for hiking. De Hoge Veluwe has diverse landscapes with forests, heath, and grasslands crisscrossed by trails. De Biesbosch features reed marshes and ponds ideal for canoeing along with wildlife viewing. De Loonse en Drunense Duinen showcases coastal dunes, pine woods, and diverse bird species. Other top parks include Zuid-Kennemerland’s coastal scenery and Weerribben-Wieden’s lakes and bogs. Though small in size, the Netherlands’ national parks protect unique ecosystems and offer excellent hiking options relatively close to major cities.

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