Your trip starts on arriving at your hotel in Chamonix. This is a bustling Alpine centre as trekkers, mountaineers and tourists pass through. Enjoy dining out in the town centre.
Hotel in Chamonix (breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 17.5km with 1340m ascent, 1100m descent
Our aim is the village of Argentiere higher up the Chamonix valley, and to reach it we visit one of the area's most impressive spots: the high mountain lake of Lac Blanc with views of the Mont Blanc massif. (A gentler valley alternative goes via Les Bois, a half-day's walk that is steadily uphill.)
Hotel in Argentiere (breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 15.7km with 1150m ascent, 1100m descent
Climb the first pass of the route, Col de Balme, via the ridge of the Aiguillette des Possettes. The col is one of the easier ones on the Haute Route and is the border with Switzerland. We are in Switzerland for the rest of the trek.
Auberge in Trient (dinner and breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 14.5km with 1370m ascent, 1180m descent
One of the most challenging passes, the Fenetre d'Arpette (2,665m), is the focus of today's stage. There are higher passes to come, but few as rocky and steep. Descend for a night in the quiet Swiss resort of Champex with its lake. (A less challenging yet still unusually scenic alternative goes via the Bovine alp. Views are long into the Rhone valley and its vineyards.)
Hotel in Champex (dinner and breakfast)
Blue 3 (grade) 13.9km with 240m ascent, 890m descent
Here follows a relaxing day's walk through quaint Swiss countryside to Le Châble. Drop to Sembrancher in the valley, a taste of small-town Switzerland, then walk steadily up-valley to Le Châble. This is a gentle day as an interlude before the three tough days to come. (We book a hotel in Verbier as an alternative on our comfy trips, reached by cable car or from Le Chable or by hiking a little further onto tomorrow's stage.)
Hotel in Le Châble or Verbier (breakfast)
Blue 4 (grade) 12.6km with 1670m ascent, 40m descent
The only way is up! Settle into a steady rhythm for this solidly uphill stage, your goal being the Cabane du Mont Fort which is typical of Swiss Alpine Club (CAS) huts. Views widen throughout the day as you gain height. Terrain is not unduly difficult being on farming paths and tracks, but the ascent is unrelenting. A hearty meal awaits and a first night in the mountains. (We can also book a night in Cabane de Louvie if preferred - please ask us for more details.)
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 16.7km with 1050m ascent, 1085m descent
This remote, rocky stage will be among the trickiest and a challenge for everyone. Boulder-hopping and the need for close navigation are consistent almost from start to finish through this spectacular landscape. Cross Col de Louvie and Col de Prafleuri, at 2,987m the highest point on the Haute Route, to arrive at the Cabane de Prafleuri. (Col de la Chaux is an option; we generally recommend lower routes via Col Termin.)
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 18.3km with 760m ascent, 1400m descent
Perhaps the most consistently awe-inspiring, evolving and exhilarating stage of the whole journey, today we walk along Lac des Dix, climb up the lateral moraine, cross underneath Glacier de Cheilon and then cross the very steep Col de Riedmatten. After a rockfall in June 2023, we no longer advise the route via the famous ladders over the Pas de Chevres. There is a sense of being among high mountains. Dropping to Arolla seems simple after this, on solid paths, albeit at the end of a long day.
Hotel in Arolla (breakfast)
Blue 2 (grade) 10.8km with 250m ascent, 580m descent
This is an easier valley walk, a welcome interlude for many. Take in the lush countryside between Arolla and Les Hauderes, typical Valaisian villages. We recommend the option to see the beautiful Lac Bleu as a detour. The blue glacial waters are a scenic highlight of the Haute Route. Still in Val d'Herens, finish with a short uphill walk to the hamlet of La Sage. Our hotel here is a Swiss delight.
Hotel in La Sage (dinner and breakfast)
Purple 4 (grade) 11.4km with 1670m ascent, 520m descent
This is a stage of three sections: up, down and up again. Climb from La Sage through woods and scattered wooden chalets to Col du Tsate. Across the pass, the long descent on the other side is steep. Now in a wilder and uninhabited landscape, reach the foot of the Glacier de Moiry. Our final climb is beside the glacier to Cabane de Moiry, perhaps the best-sited of all our Haute Route huts. Arriving at the hut sited above the glacier is an unforgetable moment! Large glass windows in the dining room overlook the glacier. It's a destination and then a favourite for many of our hikers.
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast)
Purple 3 (grade) 15.7km with 530m ascent, 1680m descent
A traverse above the turquoise blue Lac du Moiry and a relatively short climb lead to Col de Sorebois. This is a grassy col overlooking the two upper sections of the Val d'Anniviers. Then we descend, steeply at the end but with a cable car option, to Zinal. Zinal is a quiet mountaineering village at the head of the valley and has good options for dinner.
Hotel in Zinal (breakfast)
Red 3 (grade) 16.9km with 1220m ascent, 1080m descent
A famous traversing path gains height from Zinal with long views back to the head of the valley. Higher up, reach the Forcletta pass. We now enter the German-speaking part of the Valais. Gruben is a small village in the quiet Turtmanntal valley. (An alternative is to walk via the Hotel Weisshorn - and a night is possible here too - and cross at the Meidpass, similar in character to the Forcletta.)
Auberge in Gruben (dinner and breakfast)
Purple 4 (grade) 17.5km with 1080m ascent, 1790m descent
Today cross the Augstbordpass at 2,893m, and the final pass of the trip! The ascent should feel very manageable, being well-angled and full of interest. Drop to Jungen above the Mattertal valley and with views into its upper reaches, though not yet to Zermatt or the Matterhorn themselves. A last steep descent in woods and you arrive in the valley at St Niklaus. (We offer Grachen as an alternative on our comfy trips, a sweet resort on a shelf above the valley.)
Hotel in St Niklaus or Grachen (breakfast)
Black 3 (grade) 11.7km with 1410m ascent, 250m descent
Today marks the first of 2 days along the famous Europaweg trail, a high traverse above the Mattertal into Zermatt. Hiking the Europaweg in full is a long and tough day (adding 6km and 700m of ascent and descent), so our main route follows the valley from St Niklaus to Herbriggen, joining the Europaweg here for an exciting climb to the friendly, well-sited Europahutte. Our routecards also describe the full Europaweg, for purists!
Mountain hut (dinner and breakfast)
Black 4 (grade) 22.3km with 640m ascent, 1300m descent
This stage completes the Europaweg route to Zermatt, again crossing rocky ground but now with the aid of tunnels, shelters, and the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the world. An easy high traverse in full view of the Matterhorn takes you to Sunnegga above Zermatt, from where you drop steeply via the hamlet of Findeln. This last section is a fitting finale to the Haute Route. Dinner in Zermatt - always bustling - will feel so well earnt.
Hotel in Zermatt (breakfast)
Our breakfast in Zermatt is a treat. Afterwards, take the train out of the valley and connect to the Swiss network for Zurich or Geneva airports. Please ask us to advise on onward Swiss travel, which we have made it our business to experience widely. Congratulations on completing the Haute Route!
Make the trip longer
Extending the trip to 15 or 16 stages is a great option, if you'd prefer a slightly less challenging pace or would like to spend a little more time in the mountains. An extra night can be added at Cabane des Dix between Cabane du Prafleuri and Arolla on the Western section of the trail, thus breaking up a long stage (and making it 5 huts). Or, add a night at the historic Hotel Weisshorn or at Cabane Bella Tola, between Zinal and Gruben on the Eastern half. These additions make for shorter days either side, but are excellent options for extending your trip. Please ask us for more details.
Make the trip shorter
Our classic 14-stage trek can be made quicker for strong hikers, by skipping sections or combining days together. We emphasise, however, that our normal Walker’s Haute Route is already the most challenging trek that we offer by some way, and its difficulty is not to be underestimated. Therefore 14 stages is a good length for the majority of hikers.
For those with extensive trekking experience and who are fit and strong walkers, it's possible to combine stages, either by walking from Chamonix to Trient in a single long first stage, or walking direct from La Sage to Zinal later on in the trail (missing Cabane de Moiry). These are exceptionally long days, both over 25km with roughly 1500m of ascent and descent, so the challenge is considerable.
If you're happy with skipping a few short sections of trail, it's feasible to use public transport to shorten the trip. For example, you may wish to skip the long ascent from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort using the Ruinettes cable car, walking from Champex to Cabane du Mont Fort in a day. It's also possible to skip our first stage by taking the bus or train from Chamonix to Argentiere.
A final option would be to walk from St Niklaus to Zermatt through the valley in a single day, skipping the Europaweg. Even shorter schedules are also possible, but at a cost to the evenness of the stages, and they will often miss parts of the route in order to achieve this.
The Walker's Haute Route is quite loosely defined, and while our usual 14-stage itinerary is our preferred way of approaching the route from Chamonix to Zermatt, we're more than happy to look into arranging your preferred itinerary if you'd prefer a slightly different approach. For example, some guidebooks start the route from Argentiere rather than Chamonix, or hike via Grimentz and Hotel Weisshorn instead of Cabane de Moiry. We're more than happy to accommodate either of these options - just let us know what your preferred itinerary would be!
Already hiked the TMB?
The first three stages of the Haute Route coincide with the famous and popular Tour du Mont Blanc, albeit in the opposite direction. If you have already walked the Tour du Mont Blanc, you may wish to start your Haute Route trip from Le Chable; this skips the 3 stages shared by these two famous routes, and the short valley stage between Champex and Le Chable.
We can also tailor a trip to fit the exact length of time that you have available for your holiday. For one week, we like to offer our 7-stage Haute Route West (Chamonix to Arolla) and Haute Route East (Arolla to Zermatt), which are superb trips in their own right.
Add a rest day
The full Walkers Haute Route has two relatively easy valley days (Champex to Le Chable and Arolla to La Sage) which reduce the need for full rest days. However, rest days can be added and are much appreciated by some clients. For one rest day we suggest peaceful Arolla, half-way. For two rest days, we like Champex then Zinal, two of the bigger villages and spaced at thirds. We can also add additional nights in Chamonix and Zermatt, to give time to see these two bustling Alpine towns. Please ask us about the options.
Hike with a leader
Hike with confidence in the company of Alpine Exploratory's fully qualified International Mountain Leaders (IMLs), with the navigation, accommodation and arrangements taken care of. If your group would like a guide for your trip, please get in touch about a private guided trip or view our scheduled guided trips.
Walker's Haute Route
15 July to 15 Sept 2024
(11 nights - starting from Le Chable)
1 rest day
|Please contact us for a quote!
|Scheduled guided trips
|Please see our Walker's Haute Route Guided page for full details.
|Please ask us
Our Classic mix of accommodation aims to give a broad taste of the hospitality on offer in the French and Swiss Alps. We mix good family-run hotels in the towns and villages with auberges and huts that fit the route. As standard our Walker’s Haute Route has 4 nights in huts, 2 nights in auberges (similar to a guesthouse or simple hotel, with shared facilities and a mix of private and dormitory accommodation) and the remaining 10 nights in 2* and 3* hotels. We have worked with many of the hotels and huts for many years and have come to know some friendly, personable and memorable places to stay.
Hut accommodation options
As standard we book 4 mountain huts (Cabane du Mont Fort, Cabane de Prafleuri, Cabane de Moiry and the Europahutte) on this trip. Accommodation in mixed-gender dormitory accommodation is the norm in the huts on the Haute Route. These huts are an important part of the route, and offer magnificent views from remote locations. The size of dormitories at the huts varies, and two of the huts have a small number of smaller shared rooms, normally sleeping either 4 or 6 people; we aim to book these smaller shared rooms if they are available.
If you'd like more nights sleeping high in the mountains, it's possible for us to include extra nights at Cabane des Dix (between Prafleuri and Arolla) or Cabane Bella Tola (between Zinal and Gruben). We are also happy to book your accommodation at the friendly Cabane de Louvie instead of Cabane du Mont Fort, meaning you would take a slightly different route on stage 5. Please ask us for more details about these options.
Our 'comfy' trip adds a touch of luxury, upgrading your hotels on 7 nights - you'll stay in a mix of 3 and 4* hotels, rather than the 2 and 3* hotels on our 'classic' itinerary. As part of this, we swap our 'classic' hotel in Le Chable for a night in the Swiss resort of Verbier, linked by cable car. We also swap our 'classic' hotel in St Niklaus for a comfier option in nearby Grachen, a pretty village up the hillside only a short bus ride away. Our 'comfy' trip still stays in 4 huts and 2 auberges - the remote nature of the Haute Route means that opportunities to upgrade your accommodation on these nights are limited.
Our Hutty mix of accommodation swaps your hotel night in Argentiere for an auberge in Tre-le-Champ, and we would book more basic hotels on the remaining nights, mostly in 2* hotels. On a Hutty trip we book dormitory accommodation in the auberges as the norm. We have come to know some buzzing, friendly options at all levels.
Can I avoid dormitories?
The spacing of accommodation on the Haute Route, and the lack of private rooms at the huts on the route, means that travel off-route (and, sometimes, extra hiking) is needed to avoid dormitories altogther. We see the huts as a key part of the Haute Route experience, but are happy to suggest ways to minimise nights in shared accommodation. Please contact us if you'd like to explore options.
Single Room Supplement
If you would like to stay in single rooms rather than sharing a double, twin or triple room we add our single room supplement. This covers the additional cost of booking single occupancy rooms. The single supplement is only applied to nights where single rooms are available, and is not applied to hut nights which do not offer single rooms. In the auberges, we may be able to book single rooms or if not, we will book the smallest room available.
We do not take bookings for solo walkers on self-guided trips. If you are still interested in this trip, we do have availability on our guided trips.
Our trip gives a complete journey on foot from Chamonix to Zermatt (Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn), walking every step of the Walker’s Haute Route. The route itself is often loosely defined and there are no official waymarks, but the signposting in the Swiss mountains is generally excellent. The Haute Route offers a number of variants and optional additions, all described in full in our routecards, allowing you to make the journey your own. Where the trail splits, we recommend routes via the Fenetre d'Arpette, Col Termin, Col du Tsate, the Forcletta and the Europaweg, but our routecards describe alternative routes too.
In 2019, a rockfall on the first day of the famous Europaweg trail into Zermatt forced a major diversion. The trail has been re-routed since 2021, and this new route leads from St Niklaus steeply uphill to Gasenried, before returning to the valley at Herbriggen and then climbing back up to the Europahutte, perched on the hillside. From the hut the route can be followed as normal, taking the suspension bridge (the longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the Alps) before a striking traverse along the hillside with views of the Matterhorn.
Between Gasenried and Herbriggen, the new Europaweg is often largely below the treeline and crosses a number of steep and loose rocky gullies, making progress challenging and slow at times. While our routecards still describe the full Europaweg as an option (for purists!), we feel that the extra added effort of hiking this section (around 6km, and 700m of ascent and descent) is not worth the rewards in terms of scenery. As such, our recommended route follows the valley between St Niklaus and Herbriggen before joining the Europaweg here for the ascent to the Europahutte.
As every year, our June and July recces give us the latest information and we advise clients in our Season Update what we think is the best option overall. Please contact us if you would like more specific recommendations about your trip.
The Walker's Haute Route comprises wide tracks through forests, the odd country lane, zig-zagging hillside paths and steep, rocky mountain paths. In some places the paths are particularly steep and loose, for example on the final approaches to mountain passes. The most challenging stages are along the Europaweg into Zermatt, due to the loose and exposed nature of the trail, and along the stage from Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri, which is particularly rocky with some tough route finding. On a standard day you climb from the valley bottom up to a high col, before dropping down to the next valley in the afternoon.
Is it for me?
The Haute Route is a fine trek with a fantastic mix of high mountain passes and pretty trails in the valleys. It’s manageable for the fittest mountain walkers who are happy to walk for between 6 and 9 hours - or more - per day along a long-distance trail. Unusually even for an Alpine trek at this level, some of the mountain passes are particularly steep, loose and rocky, calling for good prior mountain experience and steady balance. If you are considering this route as your first Alpine hiking route, we would recommend you consider tackling something a little less challenging first, such as the Alta Via 1 or the Tour du Mont Blanc.
Map and compass skills are also essential for safe navigation in poor weather. It will greatly help your enjoyment of the trek to arrive fit at the start, used to walks of similar distance and height gain to those that you are about to face.
The Walker's Haute Route is first and foremost a walk, but it is essential to note that it is graded a Black4 and is at the very top end of difficulty in terms of Alpine trekking. The difficulty of the terrain is often underestimated and previous hiking experience in mountainous regions is essential. There is no glacier walking and there is no rock climbing. There are however some sections where the path crosses exceptionally rocky and steep ground. Our main route finishes on the Europaweg into Zermatt which presents loose and exposed hillsides, boulder fields, and navigational challenges. Please contact us and we'll be happy to describe these spots in more detail.
Most of the challenge to many hikers comes not in the terrain underfoot, but in the consistently big ascents and descents every day, for 14 consecutive days. A good degree of stamina and fitness is therefore very important. In poor visibility, there are sections that can be difficult to navigate, particularly on rocky and remote terrain. It is essential for all parties on the Haute Route to have at least one competent navigator with a map and compass.
Although graded a Black4, there are a few ways to make some of the stages a little easier. For example, the final 2 stages along the Europaweg can be merged into one easy day by taking the valley route. Please ask us for details about the various difficulties along the route and we can advise.
Walking Guide to Walker's Haute Route - our detailed read
Your holiday starts in the major French Alpine resort of Chamonix and ends in the Swiss resort of Zermatt. Most Swiss airports work well but perhaps Geneva is the easiest for Chamonix, while Zurich (or Geneva) is the easiest from Zermatt. The transfer is quickest by a minibus service to Chamonix and the superb Swiss trains out of Zermatt to either Zurich or Geneva. For most Haute Route hikers, Geneva will work well both in and out.
Since 2005 Alpine Exploratory has made it its business to explore widely in the countries of our hikes, and Switzerland is one of our favourite to travel around. The Swiss trains really do work, steaming into stations right on time and offering - normally - masses of space. Timetables are easy to work out. We have come to know the biggest Swiss cities very well and we love to suggest Bern for clients with time to explore. Our notes show how to reach all the airports including Basel.
A Swiss rail pass giving half-price tickets once bought, is not worthwhile for the Haute Route given the amount of hiking as opposed to travel. If you will be traveling around Switzerland after the trip, then an extensive week of trains can make a pass worthwhile, but generally it's hard to rack up enough trains to pay for the pass. We can advise.
Travel to and from the trip is not included in the holiday price. We take care to give the most useful notes possible about all the travel options. We supply these both on booking and in your info pack, and we offer personalised tips at any point. The aim is that our trekkers arrange their travel by the simplest and most scenic means as suits their plan.
- Bespoke accommodation itinerary - tailored to suit your particular requirements
- Breakfast every morning
- Dinner at the huts and auberges, and some of the hotels (8 nights)
- Detailed Routecards HRT1-14 of the Exploratory system, printed on waterproof paper
- The 2 Swiss topographical maps needed, showing the whole route at 1:50,000
- GPX tracks covering the route
- Expert advice and local information
- A comprehensive 'Season Update' following our pre-season recce
- Full support during your trip from the Alpine Exploratory team (9am until 9pm in the Alps)
- Travel to and from your trip
- Local transport whilst on the trip unless specified
- Travel insurance
- Lunches, snacks, drinks and evening meals in the towns (this would be 8 nights on our main trip)
- Baggage transfers (available as an extra)
Baggage transferWe can arrange baggage transfer as an optional extra, to all stops except the huts, but due to the high cost of transferring luggage by road in Switzerland and the environmental impact of the long journeys necessary to carry out baggage transfer in this remote area, we generally recommend that you carry everything you need for the trip on your back if you can. Alternatively there is the possibility to send luggage ahead to Zermatt, or to have a single luggage drop in Arolla in the middle of the trip - please let us know if you'd like more information about these options.
If you prefer, please feel welcome to email or call us. Thanks!
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Monday to Friday
|02 8319 2266
|04 889 4515
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Since Alpine Exploratory started in 2005 we have loved getting to know our clients from around the world. Along with the UK, our best-represented countries are the US, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Please use our national-rate numbers for a cheaper call to contact our office in Edinburgh.