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Self-Guided Haute Route

Chamonix to Zermatt

Haute Route Hiker

Trip Details

  • Location: France and Switzerland
  • Length: 13 days; this is flexible
  • Grade: Strenuous and strenuous plus. Experienced hikers only.
  • Accommodations: Hotels, hiker’s hotels and mountain huts
  • Dates: July to mid September
  • Self-guided land costs for 2017 for the 13 day trip. Land cost may vary depending on final itinerary.
  • $2,375 per person sharing a double or twin; $2,795 for solo hikers

Hiking Trip Summary

Click for more detail 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 you need for the duration of the trip (it is possible to send extra bags to Zermatt), you 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. You 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 and strenuous plus route crossing eleven passes, many over 9,000 feet. While there will be some ambitious days, there will also be leisurely days. We have tried to incorporate as little alternative transportation as possible and have used it only when necessary to allow for a smoother day. This is a classic hike through the heart of the Swiss Alps.

Itinerary

Day 1:  Independent travel to the hotel in Chamonix, France. Chamonix is home to a dazzling array of many of the highest peaks in the Alps including Mont Blanc (15,860′). Overnight in Chamonix, dinner on your own.

Day 2:  A short bus transfer north from Chamonix to Le Tour will bring you to the starting point of your hike. Ascending to the Col de la Balme (7,230′) you have impressive views of the Chamonix valley and the Mont Blanc massif before descending into the quiet settlement of Trient. Dinner and breakfast included.

  • Some of our hikers depart on foot from Chamonix and spend the first night in the village of Argentiere and hike to Trient the next day.

Day 3: There are two hiking options for today, one via the high alpine pastures of Bovine with expansive views of the Rhone Valley, and the other more difficult route up and over the ruggedly beautiful Fenetre d’Arpette. You can decide on your hike in the morning. The hike concludes in the picturesque lakeside village of Champex. Dinner and breakfast included.

Day 4: Morning transfer from Champex Lac to Verbier where you take the gondola up to its terminus at Ruinettes. From here you begin the hike to the remote Cabane Louvie. This narrow trail leads close by several clusters of chamois and bouquetin. In the distant rise, the stunning multi-peaked Grand Combin (14,149′), draped with its numerous glaciers and the Mont Blanc Massif. Dinner and breakfast included.

If the weather is poor, you can take a Swiss Post bus to Fionnay, a small hamlet tucked near the end of the Val de Bagnes, where there is the start of a shorter hike to Cabane Louvie. This steep but short climb offers fantastic views of the Grand Combin (14,149′).

Day 5: Today’s hike is a remarkable and very remote route, as you hike from lush alpine meadows and across high barren plateaus. Leaving Cabane Louvie, the route rises to a high belvedere with expansive views of the Val de Bagnes and the Grand Combin before reaching the Col Louvie (9,639′). In this cirque you may be lucky enough to see grazing herds of chamois and bouquetin.

From this Col, you traverse a landscape of barren rock and massive mountains, including the Rosablanche (11,000’), tumbling moraines, and drying glaciers before ascending to your final Col, Col de Prafleuri (9,785′). Your final descent leads to Cabane de Prafleuri (8,660′), your refuge for the night. This is a fantastic and remote hike; however, it is a strenuous plus day on an very demanding and rocky trail. The trail is frequently open and exposed on one side. Dinner and breakfast included.

Day 6: From Cabane de Prafleuri, a short climb leads to the Col des Roux (9,253′) with its 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. Descending to the lake, you will follow its west bank and at the southern most end begin the climb to the refuge, Cabane des Dix (9,660′), dramatically perched above the Glacier de Cheilon at the foot of Mont Blanc de Cheilon. En route you may get your first glimpse of the Matterhorn off in the distance. This is a stunning hike. Dinner and breakfast included.

Day 7: Leaving Cabane des Dix, a short, steep descent leads to the Glacier de Cheilon. Crossing this relatively “level” glacier presents no extra challenges and no special equipment is needed. It can, however, be slippery and wet as with any terrain on this route. After about 45 minutes you begin the rocky climb up to the Pas de Chevre. With the assistance of iron ladders (70‘ high) secured to the cliff, you reach the Col with its dazzling views of Pigne d’Arolla, Mont Collon, Mont Blanc de Cheilon, Dent Blanche and the distant Matterhorn. Descending from the Col, the route soon becomes less demanding as it parallels a grassy moraine carved out by the long Tsijiore glacier. The hike concludes in the village of Arolla. Swiss Post Bus to Evolene. breakfast only, Dinner not included. There are several restaurants in Evolene. (It is possible to end or begin this hike in Evolene.)

  • Some hikers combine the shorter hiking days of day 6 and day 7 into one longer, more strenuous day and hike from Prafleuri to Arolla, where they take a late afternoon bus to Evolene.
  • Some stay in Arolla and hike to La Sage the next day. The hike from Arolla to La Sage is mostly in the valley.

Day 8: About a 25 -35 minute taxi trip or Swiss Post Bus transfer takes you to the small hamlet of Le Cotter or La Villa from where you begin your hike. The morning will be spent climbing through green alpine pastures to the Col de Torrent (9,632′) with its magnificent views. On a clear day it’s possible to see Mont Blanc, as well as the Bernese Alps on the far side of the Rhone Valley. Descending to huge damned Lac de Moiry, you hike through pastures and farms and past the small picturesque mountain Lac des Autannes.

From the dam at the north end of the lake, you follow the stream La Gougre down the Val de Moiry to Grimentz, said to be one of the most attractive villages in the Valais. Overnight in a hotel. Dinner and breakfast included.

  • Note: The taxi to Le Cotter is not included. Allow roughly $ 60 – $80 for 1 – 4 persons. It is also possible to take the Swiss Post Bus (morning departure times from Evolene at about 7:20 and 9:20; about $8 per person) to the small village of La Villa from where you begin your hike.
  • Some of our hikers continue from Lac de Moiry and hike over the Col Sorebois and down to the sweet, little village of Zinal for the night. From Zinal it is possible to hike over the Col Forcletta or the Meidpass. This is a great option for strong hikers or those looking for a challenge.

Day 9: From Grimentz, transfer by bus across the valley to the village of St. Luc. After a short funicular ride, you’ll begin your hike to the Meidpass (9,207′) hiking from the French-speaking Valais into the German-speaking Valais. The descent down 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. Dinner and breakfast included.

Day 10: Today you 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. Some say this is one of the finest stages of the hike, but you can decide. 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 a short bus trip takes you to the picturesque village of Grachen, your overnight stop. Dinner and breakfast included.

Day 11: 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 hike 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. If the weather conditions are poor, it is possible to hike to Europa Hut via a more direct and shorter route (about 2 ½ hours) that begins in the valley. 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. Dinner and breakfast included.

  • 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. Or when you arrive in St. Niklaus on day 10 you take the train to Zermatt arriving at about 5:00 pm.

Day 12: By now the mountains: the Matterhorn, Dent Blanche, Ober Gabelhorn, Zinalrothorn and Weisshorn will be readily recognizable. After many days on the trail 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. Breakfast only. Dinner in Zermatt not included.

Day 13: After breakfast, individual departure from Zermatt. Please allow for travel time when making plans.

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 make reservations at the same hotel.

The above itinerary represents one of many possibilities. There are many variations depending on your time frame. Please contact us if you would like a more detailed itinerary including elevation gain, loss, distance and additional information.

Additional Information

Included

  • 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.

Not Included

Air fare, lunches, any transfers or excursions on trains, lifts, buses, taxis, luggage transfer, Swiss Travel Passes, extra charges due to changes in itinerary, items not on set dinner menu, some dinners as described in the final confirmed 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 .

Luggage

This trip is not luggage supported. You will be carrying a pack with all you 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, if you have any, can be sent to Zermatt to meet you at the end of your hike. There are several ways to transfer your extra bags to Zermatt, taxi, train from the Geneva or Zurich Airport Rail stations or mail. All options are detailed in final information. Luggage transfer costs are not included in the cost of the trip.

Accommodations and Facilities

The accommodations on the Hiker’s Haute Route vary from comfortable 3 star hotels to rustic mountain cabanes. Your trip may or may not included the following depending on your final confirmed itinerary.

Hotels: Hotels with private baths included Chamonix, Champex, Evolene, Grimentz, Zinal, Grachen and Zermatt. These hotels are comfortable and welcoming.

Hikers’ Hotels or hostels: The hiker’s hotels/hostels offer simple and basic, though comfortable accommodations. They have private double rooms with shared facilities.

Cabanes or Refuges: They are high mountain huts and have shared bunkrooms, called dortoirs, complete with blankets and pillows. The shared facilities include washing and bathroom areas, most have showers.

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, hiker’s hotels and cabanes. Lunches are picnic style on the trail. Dinners are served at most hotels, hiker’s hotels and cabanes.

Travel

The nearest airport to starting point is Geneva. The nearest airport to the ending point is Zurich. It is about a 4-hour train trip from Zermatt to either the Geneva or Zurich Airport. The first train departs Zermatt at about 5:30 am. Please allow for travel time when making plans.

Who would like this trip?

Our Haute Route is a great trip for strong, able 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.

What makes this trip different

We are a small company. As founders we 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 on one of our self-guided itineraries, whether you are ending your day at a mountain hut or village hotel, you will be greeted with the same anticipation and 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.

Starting Point

This route normally starts in Chamonix; however, if you are short on time there are many other logical places to start this hike. Call us with your travel time frame and we can come up with some ideas.

Ending Point

Normally this route ends in Zermatt; however, you can start the hike in a number of places end the hike is several other Swiss villages.

For a more detailed itinerary that includes elevation gains, loss and distance, or to register please call or email us.

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.