Resting in the Swiss Alps, just east of the Matterhorn, is the stunningly beautiful Monte Rosa. Anchoring one of the most heavily-glaciated areas in the Alps, Monte Rosa is the highest peak in Switzerland and the centerpiece of this circular hike. Beginning on the Italian side of the Matterhorn in Val Tournanche, this route dips into the Aosta and Piedmont regions of northern Italy, winding over isolated mountain passes and down into quiet villages. Circling into Switzerland and the western Valais, the route will bring us to the Swiss villages of Saas Fee and Gspon before delivering us to Zermatt.
From the hushed mountains passes and isolated stone farms to the immense green valleys and wooden Swiss chalets, from the buzz of thriving Swiss mountain resorts to the tranquil quiet of less-visited Italian villages, and from pasta to rösti, this trip will undoubtedly offer an intriguing mix of landscapes and cultures.
Day 1: Rendezvous in Aosta, Italy, in the afternoon. This village is easily reached by train from Milan, Italy, or from Geneva, Switzerland. Once we have gathered as a group, we will transfer to the small village of Val Tournenche. Welcome dinner.
Day 2: Hike to St. Jacques. Our day begins with a short transfer to Cheneil, a small hamlet of stone farmhouses. From here, we climb up through open pastures to the Colle di Nina, at nearly 9,200′, with impressive views of the range of peaks between the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. Our long descent to St. Jacques is a classic high alpine experience: amazing views, open meadows, craggy outcroppings.
Day 3: Today’s hike is accented by a wild and timeless feeling. Climbing up to the Colle de Pinter (9,164′) and then descending to the picturesque village of Gressonay-St. Jean, we hike through untamed pastures and past old rustic farms.
Day 4: Having left the Val d’Aosta, we have now entered the Piedmont region and the valley of Walsers. The Walsers, a people originally of German descent, migrated over the mountains from Switzerland to this region, bringing their culture, language and architecture. We’ll arrive in the early afternoon and will have time to explore Alagna and the small Walser Museum.
Day 5: From our starting point at 4,810′, we climb to the Colle di Turlo, at 9,035′. Wild and unscarred by ski lifts, roads and hotels, this hike will prove to be the longest and most remote hike of the trip. Our descent of about 4,900′ leads us to Isella and then to our hotel in the small village of Macugnaga for the night.
Day 6: From Macugnaga, we will take the cable car to the Passo di Monte Moro. Looking back, the views of Monte Rosa and her east wall will equal the most impressive of mountain landscapes. Its precipitous rise is amazing. We’ll leave Italy and cross into Switzerland at the pass. On our descent from the pass, we’ll take an ancient trade route paved for use by mules. Arriving at the dam at Mattmark, we’ll then take a bus to Saas Fee.
From Saas Fee we take the bus to Sass Grund and the lift to Kreuzboden mid station. From here we hike the high belvedere to Gspon. This is one of the classic hikes in the alps, with stunning views of the Mischabel Range with its numerous peaks and tumbling glaciers. From Gspon we take the cable car (2 sections) to Stalden. Once in Stalden take the next train to Zermatt. Arrive in Zermatt in the late afternoon. Overnight in hotel in Zermatt. Elevation gain: some, but not very much; Elevation loss: 1,850’; Distance: about 8.6 miles; Hiking time: 5 – 5 ½ hours. D
Day 8: Day hike to the Hohenbalmen. This strenuous hike is stunning, but not easy or short. What makes it special is there are no lifts, no cars, no roads, no bikes – there are only paths, open meadows and outstanding views of the Matterhorn and the entire Mischabel Range – Monte Rosa, Dom, Dufour, Liskamm, Breithorn, Castor and Pollox. The trail, busy with hikers at first, leads to the Edelweiss Restaurant and the Trift Hotel. Many day hikers stop at these points, but those willing to continue to climb and put in the effort will be richly rewarded. After our fill of views, we descend, sometimes steeply, and circle back back to Zermatt. Farewell dinner.
Day 9: Independent departure from Zermatt. Please allow for travel time when making plans. Allow for about 4 hours of train travel time to either the Geneva or Zurich Airports. The earliest train departs Zermatt at 5:40 am. Travel to Milan Malpensa takes about 3 1/2 – 4 hours by train and a short taxi ride for the last bit. Please plan flight times accordingly.
If you would like to spend any extra nights in Val Tournenche or Zermatt, please let us know when you book your trip and we will make reservations at the same hotel.
All accommodations, all breakfasts, all dinners, all group transfers on ski lifts, buses and trains as described in the itinerary, guides, great hiking and memories.
Airfare, travel to the meeting point (Aosta, Italy) and from the ending point (Zermatt, Switzerland), lunches, optional excursions, unexpected or unplanned transfers, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to guides/leaders, items of a personal nature (phone calls, laundry, postage, excess baggage charge, passport fees, etc.). Allow roughly $300 – $400 in additional costs.
Singles: If you wish to have your own room there is a single supplement charge of $450. Please let us know if you would like a single at the time of registration. If you are traveling alone and would like to share a room, we will match you with a roommate. If there is no one with whom you can share, we will not charge you extra for this “forced” single during the hike.
This hike is not luggage supported each day, however, our extra luggage will be transferred from our hotel in Valtournanche to Alagna, to Macugnaga and to our hotel in Zermatt. In between those overnight stops you need to carry your personal items and clothes. (See our sample packing list.) With advances in synthetic clothing and other travel gear, it’s possible to keep your pack weight to about 14 – 20 lbs., including lunch and water.
Accommodations and Facilities
Hotels: Comfortable 2- and 3-star hotels with private baths. The hotels will reflect the rich culture and atmosphere of the area. Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels and lunches are picnic style along the trail.
Nearest airports are Milan, Italy, or Geneva, Switzerland.
The group meets at the Aosta, Italy, train station on Day 1 at 2:00 pm.
The trip ends at the hotel in Zermatt on the last morning. From Zermatt, it will take about 4 hours to reach either the Geneva or Zurich Airports. The earliest train departs Zermatt at 5:40 am. Travel to Milan Malpensa takes about 4 hours by train and bus. Depending on your flight times it may be necessary to plan an extra night.
If you would like register or would like to receive a more detailed itinerary (including elevation gains, loss and distance) and/or request a list of past participants please contact us.
My husband and I have trekked with Distant Journeys three times now and each and every experience has been exceptional. The guides are knowledgeable and fun, the trails challenging, the inns charming and the food has been outstanding. We would go anywhere, anytime with Andrea and Julie.
Any hiking trip in the mountains requires a certain amount of effort and proper fitness training will enhance your enjoyment. In the mountains, time and elevation gain or loss as opposed to distance, tend to be the determining factors when defining hiking grades or level of difficulty. We have done our best to grade our trips consistently, please contact us for further clarification. We are happy to offer names of past participants.
Easy: Hike 3 to 4 hours daily carrying a day pack on generally gentle terrain. Distances from 4 to 8 miles. Elevation gain and loss 500' to 1,500'.
Moderate: Hike an average of 4 to 5 hours daily on varied terrain. Distances from 5 to 9 miles. Elevation gains and losses generally 1,500' to 2,500' or about 2 hours.
Strenuous: Hike 5 to 7 hours daily on varied terrain, with consistent ascents and descents of 2 to 3 or more hours generally 2,500' - 3,500'. Distances from 6 to 11 miles. There are some sections that include steep uphill and downhills.
Strenuous Plus: 5 to 8 hours partly on rocky, challenging terrain with consistent steep ascents and descents of 2 to 3 or more hours generally 3,000'-5,000'. Distances from 6 to 15 miles. Though each day is not strenuous plus there are some sections that may include rough terrain and open and exposed trails.