HAUTE ROUTE

World → EuropeAlpsHaute Route

One of the best hikes in the world

Chamonix-Zermatt Haute Route

Sometimes called …

  • The Walker’s Haute Route
  • “High Route”
  • Mt Blanc to the Matterhorn
  • Chamonix to Zermatt

Chamonix to Zermatt, Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn – in two weeks of mountain travel you will see the greatest collection of 4000 metre peaks in the Alps!

MatterhornMatterhorn as seen from the end of the Haute Route

AT A GLANCE

  • one of our top 10 hikes in the world
  • the best hike in Europe!
  • Alpine charm: valleys, lakes, glaciers
  • great food, history, culture
  • from Mont Blanc, the highest peak in Europe (4810m, 15,781ft)
  • to the Matterhorn, the most beautiful peak in the alps
  • 9-15 days
  • 180+kms (112mi)
  • best months June-Sept
  • crosses 11 passes, gains more than 12,000m elevation
  • difficult hiking

hauterte-map

Why We Like This Hike

  • in 2010 this hike replaced the more famous TMB (Tour de Mont Blanc) on our top 10 list
  • the TMB is similar and excellent, but much more crowded than the Haute Route. As independent hikers, we don’t like mobs on the trail.
  • the Haute Route is challenging, but with creature comforts en route

horses-Arolla

flowers-Arolla

  • by staying in huts (refuge in French, rifugio in Italian) and hostels (gîtes), and eating your meals there, you can hike with a very light pack

alpine hut

Rosti

  • frequent opportunities to buy food & supplies
  • good trails
  • good signage though you still need a map
  • excellent guidebook by Kev Reynolds, the #1 trekking author in the world
  • start in France, walk to Switzerland
  • you could carry your own tent, if you prefer, as wild camp tenting is not illegal in Switzerland (unfortunately it is illegal in France)
  • almost certain to see ibex and chamois in the wild

Ibex

Ibex-horns

  • fantastic glacier views
  • finishes with the 2-day Europaweg – a true high-level path opened in recent years (and sometimes closed due to avalanche)
tent-and-Matterhorn

Tenting the high Europaweg. Matterhorn beckons.

  • some mountaineers use this trek for altitude acclimatization, climbing Mt. Blanc, the Matterhorn or, best, Weisshorn, after they finish

Considerations

Rain is highly likely. Be ready for it.

  • it can even snow on high passes any day of the year
  • off-season footing can be treacherous. Crampons and ice axe may be useful, but it’s not likely you’ll need them.
  • late afternoon dangerous thunderstorms possible
  • mid-July through August accommodation may be full
  • mountain huts can be crowded & noisy (we prefer tenting, to be truthful)
  • iron ladders bolted into the mountain en route, though there is a way to bypass them
  • cable-cars and chair-lifts are cheating, but you certainly may want to use them to shorten some hiking days (available June-Sept during daylight hours)
  • German is the main language of the Haute Route though French is useful too. Anglophones may struggle.
  • at times there are several different paths all heading the same direction. It can be confusing.

Routes

  • most start and finish in Chamonix, one of our top 10 hiking towns in the world
  • finish at the stunning Matterhorn above Zermatt
  • get our recommended hiking guide book to decide how many days you wish to spend hiking
  • check trip reports (bottom of this page) to get a feel for how much distance you will want to hike each day

Cost

  • in 2009 the cost for those organizing their own trek was around $70 / night for bed, bedding, breakfast and an evening meal

The Haute Route is not inexpensive. Compare your total cost against what you’d pay a trekking guide. (below)

Trekking Guides

Alpenwild is the largest tour operator leading this trek

They offer three different guided itineraries. About $3,995 per person, double occupancy from Geneva.

Then compare what’s offered by the competition:

Increasingly popular are self-guided tours. A company organizes all your logistics, but you trek independently. A typical price for a self-guided Haute Route in 2013 was about $1800.

Haute Route SELF Guided Tours:

Logistics

If you sign on with a guided trip logistics will be organized for you. This section is for independent hikers. Like these.

U.K. hikers

First decision: do you want to stay in huts and gîtes, or carry your own tent & gear? (off-season some huts are closed so you may have no choice.)

Very, very few prefer carrying their own gear, including tent, to have more choices en route. Check the 2009 trip report by besthike editor Rick McCharles. He tented every night but one.

The biggest hassle with the Haute Route is getting reservations for accommodation. Especially if you don’t speak French or German. There is not yet any one place you can book everything independently for the entire tour. (This is one good reason to sign-on with a guided tour rather than hiking it independently.)

Many of the huts are privately owned. Membership in any organization is not required to use the huts, but discounts apply to some alpine club members.

Our advice is to book just your first few nights. As you hike, make a reservation at the next hut before you leave your current hut in the morning. The hut guardian will normally telephone ahead for you to confirm your next demi pension (bed, dinner and breakfast). This is risky as the hut you want next might be full — but it allows you much more freedom in your itinerary.

Most hikers in 2009 were calling ahead using their own mobile phone, a day or two in advance.

  • the closest major airport is Geneva about 100km away
  • the train to Chamonix is our favourite transport, but there are many other bus & shuttle options to get you there
  • from Zermatt it’s easy to return to Chamonix by train, necessary if you’ve left any luggage at a hotel there
  • some Swiss rail stations have luggage lockers, but there are none in France

ROUTES

  • most start and finish in Chamonix, one of the great hiking centres of the world
  • finish at the stunning Matterhorn
  • get our recommended hiking guide book to decide how many days you wish to spend hiking
  • checking trip reports (bottom of this page) is another excellent way to get a feel for how much distance you will want to hike each day

Local Information

Best Trekking Guidebooks

There are many other good guidebooks, but English language speakers should use Cicerone. In recognition of all the good work done for us by Kev Reynolds over the decades. It’s as good as any other guidebook, certainly.

Lonely Planet provides a great overview of other options in the region.

Best Travel Guidebooks

Of dozens of good options, we prefer Lonely Planet guides. Start with Europe, then search for the specific countries in which you are most interested.

Other Recommended Books

Best Maps

  • Pays Swiss survey Landeskarte der Schweiz (LS or Carte nationale de la Suisse) 1:50:000 series (5 sheets) is recommended
  • Kummerley + Frey single sheet 1:120,000

Most hikers shop the maps available in Chamonix once they arrive.

The maps in the Cicerone guidebook are enough so that you won’t get lost en route. (It’s not exactly wilderness.)

Best Web Pages

Best Trip Reports

beer-Matterhorn

Movies

Click PLAY or watch an Alpenwild promo video on YouTube. (guided)

David Galsworthy and a friend did it independently in 2012, using Kev Reynolds. Click PLAY or watch his video trip report on YouTube.

Check our blog for posts tagged “”Haute Route”.

Questions? Suggestions? Leave a comment on this page. Our editors will reply.

18 thoughts on “HAUTE ROUTE

  1. Thanks for the kind mention of me and my brothers trip report and YouTube video on the site. It is an amazing walk through the most wonderful scenery imaginable and justifiably gets a place in your top 10 walks of the world. I have also put a trip report and Youtube clip for another of your top Ten – the John Muir Trail on my Bigwalksclub website if you are interested. Kind regards and thanks for the great site – truly inspirational!
    David Galsworthy

  2. Pingback: The Next Adventure

  3. Pingback: Buen Camino

  4. Dear,

    Will surfing the internet and Google your site got my attention.

    I have started a community about the Alps on http://www.thealpsforum.com and im looking for people who are willing to share the stories on my forum.

    Maybe you have some nice stories to share on our community and of course promote your own site while writing your experiences.

    I hope you can find some time for us and like our initiative, i really does like yours.

    Best Regards,
    Guido

  5. Pingback: Quinton Wall | Two Strikes For Antartica

  6. Hi,
    This rute looks beutiful, we have seen Ricks pictures and log of the trip. Afterwards we agreed that this is the rute we will go on, but first we have some questings about the hike.
    My friend and I are planning to do this hiking in late July, and therfore we were wondering, what is the typical weather in the alps during sommertime?
    We would like to go by tent, and camp outside, any tips and trick we should learn before travelling?
    My friend and I are both in good shape but we have never tried to hike before, do you think it would be possible for us to even complete the hike?

    Best Regards,

    William and William

    • Go for it, William. This are is not wilderness. If you do have any problems you can easily escape to civilization.

      My main tip would be to put up the tent right at dark in a quiet place. Wake up around dawn.

  7. Due to time constraints we are considering doing the route in sections and/or using lifts to gain altitude quickly. Can this be done? Suggestions please?

  8. Hey, thanks for the good info! I’m planning on making this trek this summer. I saw you had a page about tent camping on the Haute Route, but it only links to this page which doesn’t say much about tent camping on the trail. Any info you would like to pass on about camping vs. staying in the huts on the trail would be much appreciated. I’ve heard that wild camping is illegal (or looked down upon), or that it’s more accepted away from the towns… Any info that can clear that up would be much appreciated! Thank you!

    • I wild camped every night but one. My assumption was that all those locations were illegal.

      But I set up my tent late. Took it down at first light. No problems.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s