In summer 2012 I did my longest continuous hike so far beside the CDT: A 4,500 km hike across Western Europe (Germany, France and Spain). The whole trip took me 5 months and 3 weeks and has been one of the best hikes I have ever undertaken. I liked it so much that I am already planning a similar hike for 2013.
This hike has been far too long to post a detailed trip report here. You'll find the whole trip report including pictures here on my blog.
I have created the route for this hike by linking together existing long-distance trails. For an overview over the route look here.
Germany: This hike has been part one of a much longer hike across the whole of Europe, but in summer 2012 I just wanted to cover WESTERN Europe. Therefore I started at a former West-East border at Zinnwald on the German-Czech border. From there I hiked 1 ½ months across my home country Germany. I had started my hike on April 1st and I still encountered lots of snow and low temperatures in the German mountain ranges. You'll find all the posts for the German section of my hike here.
France: My route through France has been the highlight of this trip. I had avoided the popular French Alps and had hiked instead along the Vosges mountains, the Jura and then the Chartreuse and Vercors - all of them veritable gems and still secret tips outside France. The only downside of this section was that I had to hike across Southern France in the height of summer temperatures and tourist season. You can find my tips for hiking in France here.
Pyrenees: I had planned to hike almost the complete Pyrenean mountain range on the GR 11 on the Spanish side. I had the Pyrenees expected to be a real highlight of this trip, but found them too demanding for my purposes. Although very beautiful and spectacular I did not feel very comfortable on the constant steep ups and downs. You can find my personal conclusion on the Pyrenees here.
Spain: I hiked through Spain entirely on pilgrimage trails, the so called caminos. I had chosen the Camino del Norte following the coast line and the „wild“ Camino Primitivo. I had known from various trip reports that the caminos would not provide the best hiking ever, but the Camino del Norte turned out to be the worst hiking I have done in my entire hiking career. I found the Spanish caminos and the whole pilgrimage experience very disappointing and you can find my personal conclusion on pilgrimage trails here.
I free camped almost the entire way and never encountered any problem, although free camping was a bit difficult along the Camino del Norte. I also used couchsurfing and youth hostels for town stays and only occasionally a cheap hotel. Except for the Pyrenees resupplying was easy and I came across a little supermarket almost every other day. The culinary experiences were actually one of the highlights of this trip and I have never eaten so well on any other hike. Costs of food are about the same as in the US, but accommodation will even be a bit cheaper, especially in Spain.
I have hiked all over the world inlcuding the Triple Crown in the US and I still like hiking in Europe. Although you won't find any wilderness in countries like Germany, France or Spain the hiking is still very pleasant and rewarding. Hiking in Europe is more of a cultural experience than a wilderness experience. Hiking opportunities in Europe are almost endless because you can legally hike anywhere where there is a trail or forest road even if it is on private property. Germany alone which is the size of the state of Montana has more than 400,000 km of hiking trails. That is 250,000 miles of hiking opportunities!