Accommodations: 2 and 3 star hotels and one mountain hut
Dates: Mid July into September
Self-Guided Land Cost 2019: $2,495 per person sharing a twin or double, $2,795 for a single or solo hiker. Land cost will vary depending on final itinerary.
Hiking Trip Summary
Resting just east of the Matterhorn is the stunningly beautiful Monte Rosa. Anchoring one of the most heavily glaciated areas in the Alps, Monte Rosa Massif encompasses the highest peaks in Switzerland and is the centerpiece of this circular hike.
Beginning in Valtournenche on the Italian Matterhorn, this route dips into the Aosta and Piemonte regions of the northern Italy, winding its way over mountain passes and down into quiet villages. Circling into Switzerland and the western Valais, the route will bring you to the resort towns of Saas Fee and Graechen before ending in Zermatt hiking on the famous Europa Weg.
From the hushed mountains passes and isolated stone farms to the broad green valleys dotted with wooden Swiss chalets; from the buzz of thriving Swiss mountain resorts to the tranquility of remote Italian mountain villages, from pasta to rosti this trip will undoubtedly offer yet another intriguing mix of landscapes and cultures.
This itinerary below represents only one of a few options.
Important Note: This trip requires that all participants feel comfortable not only hiking long days but also feel very comfortable traveling to and through this remote region (notably in Italy) using buses, trains, taxis or any combination, particularly if the weather forces a change in the itinerary.
Day 1: Independent travel to the small village of Paquier located in the narrow Valtournenche, Italy. This valley extends all the way to the base of the Monte Cervino, known on the Swiss side as the Matterhorn. Access this village via Aosta, Chamonix or Courmayeur. We are happy to help with travel.
Day 2: Hike to St. Jacques. The day begins with a short transfer to Cheneil, a small hamlet of stone farmhouses. From where you climb through open pastures to the Colle di Nina at nearly 9,200’ with its impressive views of the range of peaks between the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa. The long descent to St. Jacques is a classic high alpine experience: amazing views, open meadows, craggy outcroppings. You end the day in the small, quiet village of St. Jacques.
Day 3: Today’s hike is accented by a wild and timeless feeling. After a cable car ascent, you first hike to the tiny hamlet of Cunez with its historic buildings. Climbing up to the Colle de Pinter (9,164’) and then descending to the picturesque village of Gressonay-St.Jean, you hike through untamed pastures and past old rustic farms. This is hike breathtaking and has a real feeling of remoteness.
Day 4: From Gressonay there are two hiking options. One utilizes a series of cable cars arriving at the Passo Salati. From Salati you can descend to Alagna on foot or take another series of cable cars all the way to the valley effectively making for a nice rest day. The other option is the remote route over the Colle Valdobbia. This little traveled route is remote and unspoiled. Either option ends in the pretty and isolated village of Alagna located in the Piemonte region of Italy and the valley of Walsers.
Day 5: From Alagna you climb to the Colle di Turlo at 9,035’. This amazing, though very long climb is almost entirely on a cobbled “road”. It was built in the 1950’s by the Italian Army Corps of Engineers. The scenery is rugged and unspoiled. We think this hike is the longest and most remote of this trip and really of any hikes in the alps. The long descent is about 4,400’, also a good part of it on a cobble road, and eventually leads to Isella. From Isella it is about 30 minutes to the quiet village of Macugnaga. Macugnaga is at the end of a narrow valley and is surrounded by Monte Moro and the east facing wall of Monte Rosa. This is a long and strenuous plus day with significant elevation gain and loss.
Day 6: From Macugnaga you take the cable car to the Passo di Monte Moro. Looking back, the views of Monte Rosa and her east wall equal the most impressive of mountain landscapes. Its precipitous rise is awesome. At the pass, Passo di Monte Moro, you now leave Italy and cross into Switzerland. At the pass is a large golden statue of the Madonna.
With the aid of handrails and stepping stones, you begin the descent to the large damned lake of Mattmark. On the descent you hike an ancient “paved” trade route used by mules in the early days. Arriving at the dam at Mattmark, you take a Swiss Post bus to the bustling resort village of Saas Fee. The views from Saas-Fee take in the Mischabel Range with its peaks the Taeschorn, Dom, Lenzspitz, Alphubel and Allalinhorn all rising to over 4,000 meters (13,200’).
Day 7: From Saas Fee you climb to the high alpine pastures of the Stafelalp. From there the narrow trail to Graechen skirts the rocky mountains of the Gemshorn, Lammenhorn, Rihorn and many others. The amazing trail wends its way in and out along the east side of the Mischabel Range. This hike has challenging footing, and is open and exposed in many places. Arriving at Hannigalp, you take the cable car to the village Graechen. This is a long day.
Day 8: From the hotel in Grachen you start the day with a very pleasant 45-minute walk to the hamlet of Gasenried. Once in Gasenried you begin your climb to the high belvedere and the famous Europaweg to the Europa Hut. This wonderful hike offers a completely different view of the mountains including the Weisshorn, which dominates the skyline. There are outstanding views of the Rhone Valley to the north and the Mischabel Range to the south. The Matterhorn will now be showing herself with some regularity.
Though the mountain scenery has been fantastic all along, some say this day is the “jewel in the crown”. However, this is a strenuous plus day and the very rocky and rugged trail is open and exposed for many sections. Europa Hut is a classic mountain hut with its small bunk rooms and limited personal space. It caters to high mountaineers as well as hikers. It is usually very busy. The views from the hut are incredible.
Note: The hike from Grachen to Europa is a very challenging hike with significant exposure across very rugged terrain. It is not suitable or recommended for all hikers. Please ask us for more information. Should you elect to skip it you can spend the night in Grachen. The next day you descend to the valley and hike to Zermatt via the valley route.
Day 9: By now the mountains: The Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, Ober Gabelhorn, Zinalrothorn and Weisshorn will be readily recognizable. You begin your final and spectacular hike into bustling village of Zermatt. This is not a day to rush as the route continues to amaze.
Day 10: Individual departure from Zermatt. Please allow for travel time when making plans.
If you would like to spend an extra night(s) in Zermatt, please let us know when you book your trip and we will make reservations at the same hotel.
General consulting regarding hiking dates and abilities
Travel information and suggestions
Detailed Swiss Topo maps covering the route
Detailed trail notes – we keep our notes updated and as accurate as possible
Additional information covering various aspects of your trip (i.e. lunches, laundry, water, refuge routines, alternate transportation, etc.)
All overnight accommodations, which include breakfasts and most dinners (hotels with private baths as described in itinerary, other overnight accommodations may vary)
All private taxi transfers, if any, as detailed in the final itinerary
The above may change depending your final confirmed itinerary.
Air fare, lunches, any transfers or excursions on trains, lifts, buses, taxis, luggage transfer to Zermatt, extra charges due to changes in itinerary, items not on set dinner menu, dinners in Valtournenche and Zermatt and as described in the final itinerary, beverages except what is served at breakfast, insurance, items of personal nature (phone calls, laundry, excess baggage charge, medical expenses, evacuation costs, insurance, passport fees, etc.). This may change depending on your final confirmed itinerary.
Swiss Travel Passes
Switzerland has a wonderfully extensive, organized and efficient public transportation system. There are any number of passes available through the Swiss Rail service that can help economize on your travel within Switzerland, as well as help make your travel go more smoothly. Passes can allow for reduced fares on most, but not all, trains, buses, lifts, and ferries as well as on transfers on unaccompanied luggage.
For more information on how your self-guided trip might benefit from a Swiss pass, please contact us or you may also like to visit My Switzerland and Swiss Rail .
This trip is not luggage supported. You carry with you what you will need for the duration of the trip. We provide a detailed packing list; however, plan on carrying roughly a 20 lbs. pack. (See our sample packing list.) With advances in synthetic clothing and other travel gear, it’s possible to keep your pack weight to 20 lbs. including lunch and water. Any extra luggage you will not need can be sent to Zermatt to meet you at the end of your hike; however, there are some restrictions and limitations. The best option will include either arriving in Valtournenche without any additional luggage or sending extra luggage directly from the Geneva Airport on your arrival. We are happy to describe options. Please call us before making any plans. Any luggage transfer costs are not included in the cost of the trip.
Accommodations and Facilities
The accommodations vary from comfortable 2 and 3 star hotels to one night in a rustic mountain cabane. Your trip may or may not included the following depending on your final confirmed itinerary.
Hotels: Hotels with private baths included Valtournenche, St. Jacques/Champoluc, Gressonay, Alagna, Macugnaga, Saas Fee, Graechen and Zermatt. These hotels are comfortable and welcoming.
Cabanes or Refuges: Europa Hut is a classic, old-fashioned mountain hut with its small bunk rooms and limited personal space. It caters to high mountaineers as well as hikers. It is usually very busy. The views from the hut are incredible.
The atmosphere is friendly and jovial as hikers from many countries gather to spend the night. We believe that staying in the cabanes and small hotels offers a wonderful opportunity to meet hikers from other parts of the world, experience something new and wonderful and take part in the simple tradition of the European style of hiking hut-to-hut.
Meals: Breakfasts are served each morning at the hotels and at Europa Hutte. Lunches are picnic style on the trail. Dinners are served at most hotels and at Europa Hutte. Dinners are not included in Valtournenche, Alagna, Macugnaga or Zermatt.
Milan Malpensa (Italy) is the closest international airport to Valtournenche. The other option is the Geneva Airport. From Geneva you can take the train to Martigny, and then the bus to Aosta and on to Valtournenche. We will be happy to help with your travel options. Please allow for travel time when making plans.
Who would like this trip?
Our Tour Monte Rosa is a fantastic route for strong hikers with self-guided experience. If you enjoy quiet trails and challenging days, staying in small villages then this is the trip for you. If you like the sound of this hike but are not sure of doing on a self-guided basis, we encourage you to join our guided hike.
What makes this trip different
We are a small company. The founders take part in every aspect of the business from designing our trips, to speaking directly with prospective hikers, to guiding. We are intimately familiar with our trip areas, the hotel and hut owners and service providers with whom we work. At the end of a day of hiking you will be greeted with the same welcome as if we were arriving along with you. We are dedicated to providing personal attention and crafting a quality experience at good value that is just right for you. We are happy to send you a list of past participants. They will give you an honest insight to their experiences.
This route normally starts in Valtournenche, Italy. However there are other places from where you can start this hike. Call us with your travel time frame and we can come up with some ideas.
Normally this route ends in Zermatt, however you can end the hike is other Swiss villages.
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.