Trek the Alps - The Haute Route for Hikers
The Alps have long been known as one of the most picturesque mountain playgrounds in the world. This summer Haute Route, or "high route," provides just the right combination of alpine splendor and cultural intrigue. Join us for the trek of a lifetime through the heart of the French and the Swiss Alps and enjoy gourmet meals, rigorous hiking, and vistas you'll not soon forget.
The Matterhorn, just outside of Zermatt. Aeron Ries
Each day, you will carry only snacks, water, and clothes as you make the 11-day journey near Chamonix, France, to Zermatt, Switzerland (9-day itinerary available, see below). You will pass through quaint mountain villages and will journey over high mountain passes with jaw-dropping views including some of the highest mountains in Europe - Mont Blanc, Matterhorn, and the Dent Blanche, as well as many more peaks over 14000 feet. The Haute Route is easily the best of the Alps.
Trek the Alps - The Haute Route for Hikers
Besides the stunning scenery and the gourmet food, another attractive aspect of this trek is that there is a good amount flexibility from day to day. Often, trekkers can opt to take a cable car or train for part of the day's journey, creating a less-strenuous hike if needed.
Those for whom the 11-day itinerary is too much of a commitment can choose our 9-day option. This choice skips Days 1 and 2 of the itinerary below, and trekkers meet the group in Le Chable on Day 3. It should be noted that the hike out of Champex is strenuous (6.5 miles and 5400 feet of elevation gain, with optional gondola ride), so trekkers choosing this option should be in very good physical condition as they will have two less acclimatizing days as they would have benefited from on the 11-day itinerary.
11-Day Itinerary Details
Day 1: Arrival in Chamonix
The group meets in Chamonix and spends the day acclimating on optional day hikes or touring the city.
Day 2: Chamonix to Trient
Our trek begins at the Col de Balme, on the border of France and Switzerland around 2pm. Beverages and lodging are available at the hut. This pass has impressive views of Mont Blanc and can be reached by hiking from Chamonix (10 miles of hiking, 3700 feet elevation gain) or by taking a train to Le Tour and then either hiking or using a gondola and chairlift to get up to the hut area. Descending into the valley village of Trient is a pleasant 2.5 mile walk all downhill.
Day 3: Trient to Champex
This is the first of the more challenging days, though we are immediately rewarded by the ever-intensifying views of the Glacier du Trient. We climb a high pass and descent down into pasture lands, stopping in Arpette for lunch before the last small section into the resort lake village of Champex. 8.5 miles, 4500 feet elevation gain.
Throughout the trek, we hike over pasture lands and through quaint mountain villages. Jeff Ries
Day 4: Champex to Mont Fort
This is another very strenuous day, as we gain 5500 feet in 6.5 miles. Optional gondola ride shortens the hike to about 3 miles, 2000 feet elevation gain. We stay in our first alpine hut, high above Verbier with unforgetable scenery. They provide four-course meals and have hot showers. Ibex sightings likely. *Those choosing the 9-day option will meet the group this morning in Le Chable. 5-7 hours
Day 5: Mont Fort to Prafleuri
This is usually our longest day, climbing over three passes and through a national park with many ibex. Expect excellent wildlife viewing. There are no options for gondolas or trains, as we are in high alpine terrain all day away from villages and farms. We will stay at the lively Prafleuri. 10 miles, 3900 feet of elevation gain, 6-8 hours. We will need to carry extra water this day.
Day 6: Prafleuri to La Sage
We start the day by climbing over a pass into a beautiful valley with a gorgeous greenish-blue lake. We are rewarded with views of the Glacier de Cheilon, and we may catch our first, distant view of the Matterhorn. We descend into the cozy, charming village of Arolla and bus to La Sage, where we stay in an elegant (possibly the best) hotel with gourmet food well presented. 10 miles, 2500 feet elevation gain, 5-6 hours.
The Moiry Glacier as we see it on Day 5. Aeron Ries
Day 7: La Sage to Moiry Icefall
It will be hard to leave such a nice setting and hotel, but you won't be disappointed. A pleasant morning climb over pasture lands leads us to a high pass with great views of snow capped peaks. 4000 feet gain in 3 miles over 3 hours. Views of the Moiry Glacier are stunning from here, and we descend gently to the turquoise blue Moiry reservoir. After a nice snack we climb 1350 feet in 1.5 miles to stay in a comfortable, modern hut with a delightful view of nearby icefall.
Day 8: Moiry Icefall Lake to Weisshorn
Many options are available for todays section. We can walk a few miles (using a bus for most of the rest), 12 miles (shorter bus ride) or the full 14.5 miles. Elevation gain can be a few hundred feet, 2400 or 4000 feet, depending on weather and energy. Most of the day is spent along the lake and through the valley. We start up high by the icefall and end up near the other end of the valley at a majestic and historic hotel, overlooking an impressive panorama.
Day 9: Hotel Weisshorn to Grueben
This is yet another spectacular, less strenuous day, and we are treated to astonishing views of the Turtmann and Brunegg Glaciers. After leaving the french speaking Valais region for the German speaking Turtmannal, we overnight at the Hotel Schwarzhorn and treated to yet another four-course meal. 5.5 miles, 2000 feet elevation gain, 3650 feet descent, 3 hours.
Day 10: Grueben to St. Niklaus-Zermatt
This is a bittersweet day as it is our last trekking day. We cross one last pass, savoring the high alpine views and then have a long descent into St. Niklaus (cable car available to ease descent if necessary). An additional ascent is optional that affords us another amazing panoramic view of the Swiss Alp range. We catch a train to Zermatt and spend our night at the Elite Hotel. 8 miles, 3700 feet elevation gain, 4 hours.
Day 11: Zermatt
A day to explore the many views and sights of the Matterhorn from around Zermatt. Options are unlimited and gondolas and trains can eliminate much of the climbing. Summer skiing or hang-gliding are options. An evening train ride can get you back to Geneva for your next adventure.