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!
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
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
- 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
- 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
- fantastic glacier views
- finishes with the 2-day Europaweg – a true high-level path opened in recent years (and sometimes closed due to avalanche)
- some mountaineers use this trek for altitude acclimatization, climbing Mt. Blanc, the Matterhorn or, best, Weisshorn, after they finish
- opened 2017, the world’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge spans the valley between the towns of Zermatt and Grächen. Don’t miss it.
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.
- 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
If you are looking for a short trip in the area, Andrew from Pygmy Elephant recommends just the Europa Way:
You can take a 20 minute train to St. Niklaus, then another 20 minute bus to Graechen. From there, you hike to the Europa Hut (about 10 miles) to spend the night. The next day, you can hike to Zermatt (about 12 miles). The views are spectacular, and you also get to cross the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, the longest pedestrian hanging bridge in the world.
- 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)
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:
- Wilderness Travel
- Bredeson Outdoor Adventures
- Mont Blanc Treks
- Sherpa (pdf)
- Alpine Interface
- On Top
- Mountain Madness
- Great Walks
- McNab Alpine
- Chamonix Experience
- Mountain Tracks
If you sign on with a guided trip logistics will be organized for you. This section is for independent hikers. Like these.
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
- 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
Best Trekking Guidebooks
- Cicerone Chamonix to Zermatt: The Walker’s Haute Route – Kev Reynolds, 2010
- Trailblazer Walkers’ Haute Road: Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn – Alexander Stewart, 2008
- Cicerone Mont Blanc Walks – Hilary Sharp, 2005
- Au pays du Mont-Blanc: Balades pour petits et grands – Jean-Marc Lamory, 2003
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.
- Lonely Planet Walking in the Alps – McCormack, et al., 2004
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
- Mont Blanc: discovery and Conquest of the Giant of the Alps – Stefano Ardito, 1997
- Savage Snows: The Story of Mont Blanc – Unsworth, 1986
- The Mont Blanc Massif: The 100 Finest Routes – Gaston Rebuffat , 1996
- 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
- Haute Route – Wikipedia
- chamonix.net – Haute Route
- Chamonix – Wikipedia
- Mont Blanc – Wikipedia
- tripadvisor Haute Route
Best Trip Reports
- Travel 2 Walk segmented Walker’s Haute Route 2014
- Walker’s Haute Route: Unguided, Unmapped and with a Tent 2016
- Tom Dempsey
- David Galsworthy independently 2012
- Walking Womad 2014
- Mt Blanc to Matterhorn trip report & photos – besthike editor, Rick McCharles 2009. Solo and independent with tent.
- Haute Route – Pete Lockey, 2007
- The Hiking Life – Chamonix-Zermatt, France/Switzerland 2009
- StephAbegg – independent Haute Route, 2005
- Chamonix to Zermatt – Jed Micka, 2003
- Walkers’ Haute Route – Steve & Judy, 2001
- Walkers’ Haute Route – Dawn, 2002
- Walkers’ Haute Route – Dave Mercer, 2001
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.