The Haute Route was established almost a hundred years ago as a high mountaineering route that linked together two of Europe’s premier mountaineering centers, Chamonix and Zermatt. It was then developed into a ski route and more recently a high-level mountain hike.
Few long distance hikes offer the variety and grandeur of landscape as this route. Beginning in Chamonix at the foot of Mont Blanc, Western Europe’s highest peak, the Haute Route winds its way through the Swiss canton of Valais. Taking in what is thought to be the greatest collection of four thousand meter peaks in all the Alps, it culminates at the foot of the Matterhorn in Zermatt. While Mont Blanc will remain in view for much of the hike, we will also become familiar with other equally impressive peaks such as the Grand Combin, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Pigne d’Arolla, Dent Blanche, and the Weisshorn. This hike is nothing short of fantastic!
As with all of Europe’s long distance footpaths, this route offers the experience of traveling by foot. Carrying everything we will need for the duration of the trip (extra bags sent ahead to Zermatt), we will hike beneath imposing peaks and glaciers of the Swiss Alps, wander though alpine meadows and larch forests, cross high, barren passes and descend into lush green valleys. We’ll picnic beside cool mountain lakes, stay in remote mountain huts, visit bustling Swiss villages, and relax in the tranquility of isolated old-world hamlets.
This is a strenuous route crossing eleven passes, many over 9,000 feet. While there will be some ambitious days, there will also be leisurely days. We’ve tried to incorporate as little alternative transportation as possible and have used it only when necessary to allow for a smoother day. Join us for this classic hike through the heart of the Swiss Alps. It is a wonderful journey!
Since 1987, Distant Journeys has been guiding hiking adventures in the Alps. We pride ourselves on attention to detail, personalized service and safety. This is a great hike and we encourage you to speak with our past participants. They will give you honest insight to our Haute Route.
Day 1: We rendezvous at the Geneva Airport at 1:00 pm for a group transfer to our hotel in Chamonix, France. This transfer is included in the cost of the trip. Welcome dinner and orientation.
Day 2: From the end of the Chamonix Valley, we begin our journey ascending to the Col de la Balme (7,230′). Magnificent views of Mont Blanc and the surrounding peaks and glaciers will grace us as we enjoy the first day of our hike. Our day will end in the quiet hamlet of Trient.
Day 3: Our hike takes us from Trient to the high alpine pastures of Bovine with expansive views of the Rhone Valley. Our hike will conclude in the picturesque lakeside village of Champex and our wonderful hotel. All rooms with private bathrooms. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 4: Morning transfer from Champex Lac to the gondola in Verbier. From Verbier, we take the gondola to gain easy elevation to Ruinettes from where we begin our hike to Cabane Louvie, where we spend the night. This narrow trail leads us close by several clusters of chamois and bouquetin. In the distance rise the stunning Grand Combin (14,149′), draped with its numerous glaciers, and the Mont Blanc Massif.
Day 5: This is a day of great variety, the route rises to a high belvedere with expansive views of the Val de Bagnes and the Grand Combin before reaching the Col Louvie at 9,640′. From Louvie we traverse a landscape of barren rock with views of massive, remote mountains including the Rosablanche (11,000′), tumbling moraines, and drying glaciers before ascending to Col de Prafleuri (9,785′), our final col, and on to the Cabane Prafleuri for the night.
Day 6: Today is a wonderful hike with some “easy” sections interspersed with very steep, rugged and challenging trails. From Cabane Prafleuri we hike along Lac des Dix, across the decaying Glacier of Cheilon and over the Pas Chevres by way of the “ladders” route or over the steep pas of Col de Reidmatten and to Arolla.
Enroute there are great views of the great triangular mass of Mont Blanc de Cheilon and the green pastures of the Val des Dix bordering the huge five-kilometer lake. We may even get our first glimpse of the Matterhorn off in the distance. This is a stunning hike.
With the assistance of an alternating series of ladders and metal footbridges, one of which is fairly long and is attached to the side of the cliff, we reach the Pas de Chevres with its dazzling views of Pigne d’Arolla, Mont Collon, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Dent Blanche and the distant Matterhorn. The Col de Reidmatten is an alternate pass to the next valley, but is also demanding with rugged footing on very, steep, quick switchbacks.
Once over the pass the route soon becomes less demanding as it parallels a grassy moraine carved out by the long Tsijiore glacier. The hike concludes in the small village of Arolla. Overnight in a hotel with private bathrooms. This is a classic older style hotel, with simple rooms. Dinner and breakfast included. Today’s long hike includes several open and airy sections, a ladder section and metal footbridges, and very some difficult footing on lose rocks and across boulder fields.
Day 7: A short but pretty day leads down the valley to Les Hauderes to Evolene. The last 2 miles are alongside the very pretty stream, La Borgne. Evolene is situated in a wide-open basin offering plenty of sun and open green space. Overnight in a hotel with private bathrooms. This is a classic older style hotel, with its simple rooms is like stepping back in time. The family is friendly and they have been welcoming Distant Journeys hikers for over 25 years. Dinner on your own, breakfast included. The small village of Evolene is a classic Valasian village with old farmhouses, called mazots, narrow lanes and a pretty main street with small shops and restaurants.
• Extra luggage from Chamonix will be at the hotel in Evolene when we arrive. You can swap items from your pack. Luggage will then be transferred to our hotel in Zermatt.
Day 8: Short transfer to La Sage where we begin our hike to the remote Col de Tsate. This spectacular route is well worth the effort. The trail climbs steeply, passing by farms and rugged, stark landscape all the way to the pass. The downhill leads to the south end of Lac de Moiry. At this point we now climb on the rugged, rocky trail to the Cabane de Moiry. Cabane de Moiry is spectacularly perched overlooking the tumbling Moiry Glacier. The cabane is nothing short of astonishing with is enormous glass windows allowing views of the glacier below and the rising peaks. Dinner and breakfast included. Bunkrooms and shared facilities. This is a strenuous plus hike with significant elevation gain.
Day 9: Descending from Cabane de Moiry we join the trail on the east side of Lac de Moiry. This trail, high above Lac de Moiry leads to the Col Sorebois. This a wonderful morning hike as the sun rises, shining on the mountain peaks to the west. A 45-minute hike from the col leads to the cable car station from where we take the cable to the pretty village of Zinal. Overnight in a hotel with private bathrooms. Dinner and breakfast included.
Day 10: From Zinal we hike to Gruben via the Meiden Pass or the more challenging Col Forcletta. The weather will dictate which option we select.
The most challenging and longest route departs right from Zinal and leads over the Col Forcletta. The initial climb is steep, long and not for the faint hearted; however, this is a magnificent hike worthy of extra efforts. Eventually we reach the Col Forcletta and begin the long descent to Gruben.
The other option, shorter and less strenuous but still magnificent, begins with a bus transfer from Zinal to the small village to St. Luc followed by a funicular ride to Tignousa. From Tignousa the route leads to the Meidpass (9,207′). This is a wonderful hike and has an entirely different feel than the other hikes. The descent to the hamlet of Gruben in the Turtmanntal is like a hike into the past. Remote and relatively undisturbed, this valley with its one hiker’s hotel affords a beautiful and restful stopover. Private rooms, triples and twins with shared facilities. Dinner and breakfast included. This is a hiker’s hotel, simple and basic.
Day 11: Today we cross the last pass of the Haute Route, the Augstbordpass. During the middle ages, this was an important trading route from the Rhone Valley to Italy. It is a varied route through woodlands, pastures and stony wilderness and offers stunning views of the high mountain peaks including Balfrin, Nadelhorn, Lenzspitzen, Dom and Taeschhorn to the east and the Bruggenhorn, Bishorn and Weisshorn to the south. To the north and well across the Rhone Valley the Bietschhorn and the Breithorn stand tall and massive each rising well over 12,000′. The day will end in the village of St. Niklaus from where we board the train to Zermatt. We arrive Zermatt later in the afternoon.
Day 12: Individual departure from Zermatt. Please allow for travel time when making plans. The earliest train departs Zermatt at 5:40 am arriving the Geneva or Zurich Airports at about 9:45 and 9:20 respectively. Please plan flight times accordingly.
If you would like to spend an extra night(s) in Chamonix or Zermatt please let us know when you book your trip and we will try to make reservations at the same hotel.
Singles: If you wish to have your own room there is a single supplement charge of $550. However, single rooms are not available at the cabanes – Louvie, Prafleuri, Moiry – or at the hiker’s hotels at Trient or Gruben. 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.
All accommodations, group transfer from the Geneva Airport on day 1, all breakfasts, all dinners except 1, all group transfers on ski lifts, buses and trains as described in the itinerary, luggage transfer for 1 bag per participant to Evolene and then to Zermatt, guides, great hiking and memories.
Air fare, lunches, 1 dinner, individual transfers from Zermatt, extra nights in Chamonix or Zermatt, optional excursions, unexpected or unplanned transfers, extra luggage transfer costs, items not on set dinner menu, beverages, insurance, tips to guides/leaders, items of personal nature. (phone calls, laundry, postage, excess baggage charge, passport fees, etc.).
There is one luggage transfer – from Chamonix to Evolene and then Evolene to Zermatt. You will need to carry a moderate sized pack with only the clothing and accessories you will need for the duration of hike. (See our sample packing list.) With advances in synthetic clothing and other travel gear, it’s possible to keep your pack weight less than 20 lbs. including lunch and water. Any extra luggage or belongings not needed on the hike will be in Zermatt when we arrive.
Accommodations and Facilities
Hotels: In Chamonix, Champex, Evolene, Zinal and Zermatt we stay at comfortable hotels with private baths.
Hikers’ Hotels or hostels: We spend two nights in hiker’s hotels or hostels, Trient and Gruben, They offer private double/twin rooms with shared facilities. These hiker’s hotels offer simple, though comfortable accommodations.
Cabanes or Refuges: Louvie, Prafleuri and Moiry. They are high mountain huts and have shared bunkrooms, called dortoirs. Each bunk has blankets and pillows. The shared facilities include washing and bathroom areas. All have hot showers. The cabanes are rustic, but wonderful. You should be prepared to share bunk rooms with other hikers.
Breakfasts and dinners are served at the hotels or refuges and lunches are picnic style along the trail.
It is easiest to fly to Geneva where we will rendezvous at 1:00 pm on the first day for transfer to our hotel in Chamonix. This is included in the cost of the trip.
Who would like this trip?
Our Haute Route is a great trip for strong hikers looking for a fantastic long distant route. It is a challenging and varied route including many passes over 9,000′. The accommodations include hotels as well as high mountain cabanes.
Why travel with Distant Journey?
The founders and staff plan the trips, talk to prospective hikers on the phone carefully answering any questions or concerns. We want you to take a trip with us that is suited to you. All this allows for flexibility, value, personal attention and safety. We are very proud of our trips and our high return rate of hikers. Please ask us for a list of past participants as they will give you honest insight to Distant Journeys.
Day 1 at 1:00 pm at the Geneva Airport.
The hotel in Zermatt 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. Depending on your flight times it may be necessary to plan an extra night in either of these cities.
If you would like register, would like to receive more information including a detailed itinerary (including elevation gains, loss and distance) and/or request a list of past participants please contact us and specify which trip.
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.