+ Trek the full Chamonix to Zermatt route in two weeks
+ High passes, rocky corries and verdant valleys
+ Complete the trek in your own style
Latest news June 2019
Please ask us about a trip. We still have good availability during our 2019 season. Thank you.
Trek the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt, thus completing one of Europe's most challenging and thrilling treks.
The Walker's Haute Route is a trekking route, as opposed to the original, Classic Haute Route that takes to the glaciers and is often made as a ski tour. This trek calls for no rock climbing or technical skills but is nevertheless right at the hardest end of the spectrum of Alpine treks. Many sections call for self-reliance, strong fitness and good navigation. Passes at nearly 3,000m take much climbing to reach; the terrain is rugged and wild.
This being a self-guided holiday, you're free to complete the walks as you choose: we arrange everything for you, including booking accommodation and providing you with our detailed routecards for the walking, and then it's up to you to carry out the walks yourself.
We book your accommodation in an intriguing mix of hotels, auberges and mountain huts (cabanes). The huts are high, characterful, yet comfortable.
HRTsg Walker's Haute Route (Self-guided)
21 July to 15 September 2019
Prices in GBP
1 rest day
Our main HRT
|Baggage transfer||Please ask us|
Here is our normal schedule of 14 stages:
Arrival day: Arrive in Chamonix
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
Stage 1: Chamonix to Argentière
Red3 grade, 15.5km with 1340m ascent, 1120m descent
Our aim is Argentière higher up the Chamonix valley, and to reach it we take in one of the area's most impressive spots: the high mountain lake of Lac Blanc. It’s a shame to rush out of Chamonix! (A gentler valley alternative goes via Les Bois.)
Hotel in Argentière
Stage 2: Argentière to Trient
Red3 grade, 15km with 1180m ascent, 1130m 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
Stage 3: Trient to Champex
Black3 grade, 14km with 1380m ascent, 1190m descent
One of the most challenging passes, the Fenêtre d’Arpette (2,665m), is on today's stage. There are higher passes to come, but few as rocky and steep. Descend for a night in the quiet resort of Champex with its lake. (A less challenging yet still unusually scenic alternative goes via the Bovine alp.)
Hotel in Champex
Stage 4: Champex to Le Châble
Blue3 grade, 13km with 260m ascent, 930m descent
There follows a relaxing day’s walk through quiet Swiss countryside to Le Châble. Drop to Sembrancher in the valley, a taste of small-town Switzerland, then walk steadily up to Le Châble. This is a gentle day as an interlude before the three tough days to come.
Hotel in Le Châble
Stage 5: Le Châble to Cabane du Mont Fort
Blue4 grade, 9.5km with 1700m ascent, 60m 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 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.
Stage 6: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri
Black3 grade, 8.5km with 990m ascent, 820m descent
This remote, rocky stage will be among the trickiest and a challenge for everyone. Boulder-hopping and close navigation are consistent almost from start to finish. It’s also quite spectacular. 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.)
Stage 7: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla
Black3 grade, 15km with 780m ascent, 1400m descent
Perhaps the most consistently awe-inspiring 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 a choice of Pas de Chèvres (with ladders) or the very steep Col de Riedmatten. 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
Stage 8: Arolla to La Sage
Red2 grade, 10.5km with 260m ascent, 590m descent
This is an easier valley walk. Take in the lush countryside between Arolla and Les Haudères, typical Valaisian villages. There is an option to see Lac Bleu as a detour. Still in Val d’Herens, finish with a short uphill walk to the hamlet of La Sage.
Hotel in La Sage
Stage 9: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry
Red4 grade, 12km with 1680m ascent, 520m descent
This is a stage of three sections: up, down and up again to Cabane de Moiry. The pass is the Col du Tsaté, followed by a long drop to the foot of Glacier de Moiry. At that point we are in the basin near the Lac du Moiry, often a turquise blue in the sun. Our final climb is beside the glacier to Cabane de Moiry, perhaps the best-sited of all our Haute Route huts. Its modern extension offers tall windows over the glacier.
Stage 10: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal
Red3 grade, 12.5km with 530m ascent, 1680m descent
A traverse 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 village at the head of the valley and has good options for dinner.
Hotel in Zinal
Stage 11: Zinal to Gruben
Red3 grade, 15km with 1250m ascent, 1110m descent
A 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
Stage 12: Gruben to St Niklaus
Red3 grade, 13km with 1080m ascent, 1790m descent
The Augstbordpass at 2,893m is the last pass before the valley of Zermatt is reached: the Mattertal. 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 but not yet to Zermatt or the Matterhorn themselves. A last descent in woods and you arrive in the valley at St Niklaus. (We offer Grachen as an alternative, a sweet resort on a shelf above the valley.)
Hotel in St Niklaus
Stage 13: St Niklaus to Europahütte
Black4 grade, 12.5km with 1820m ascent, 690m descent
After an initial climb to Gasenried we join the Europaweg, the 2-day trail into Zermatt. The route is a traverse at a high level, crossing rocky combes sometimes on loose ground where rockfalls have occurred. Views to the Matterhorn open up later in the day. Arrive at a fine hut high above the valley.
Stage 14: Europahütte to Zermatt
Black4 grade, 18.5km with 620m ascent, 1270m descent
Complete the route to Zermatt, again crossing rocky ground but now with the aid of tunnels and shelters in places. An easy high traverse in full view of the Matterhorn takes you to Sunnegga above Zermatt from where you drop steeply via the hamlet Findeln. This last section is a fitting finale to the Haute Route. Arrive with time to see Zermatt.
Hotel in Zermatt
Departure day: Depart from Zermatt
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. Congratulations on the Haute Route!
Our usual schedule of accommodation might not be available, especially if there is not much time between booking and your trip. We book accommodation as closely as possible to this itinerary and present a schedule for you to check before we proceed.
There is not too much to carry on the Walker's Haute Route. As per normal our trips do not include baggage transfer; we carry our own kit throughout. Please ask us about our baggage transfer option. We also advise on sending kit ahead to Zermatt.
The Europaweg in 2019
We were thrilled in 2017 that the Europaweg's suspension bridge re-opened. This allowed the 2-day high-level finish into Zermatt without diversions. However, since our first Haute Route season in 2009 the solidity of the Europaweg trail has been reduced steadily and the risk from rocks overhead has increased.
For 2019, a rockfall on the first day of the Europaweg has forced a big diversion on this stage that is likely to affect trekkers all Summer.
For accommodation on our self-guided trips we recommend to stick to your current plan whether it is two days (the Europaweg) or one day via a choice of routes. As every year, our June and July recces give us the latest and we advise clients in our Season Update.
The Walker's Haute Route has a few possible variations along its length, which we book as follows.
Instead of the Cabane de Moiry, drop to Grimentz which is a pretty Valaisian village. From Grimentz you still reach Zinal the next day, or can walk across Val d'Anniviers to Hotel Weisshorn or Cabane Bella Tola...
Stay high at Hotel Weisshorn or Cabane Bella Tola
Instead of Zinal, clients who prefer to sleep high sometimes opt for the venerable old Hotel Weisshorn in its high position, or Cabane Bella Tola in the same area. Alternatively, instead of substituting these for Zinal, keep Zinal and make them an extra night.
Detour to Grachen
Grachen is a superb village on a sunny shelf above St Niklaus. It's a treat. We can advise on replacing St Niklaus with Grachen, either as an extra night (for a relaxing day) or as a straight swap thanks to our cunning logistics in this area. Please ask us about the ins and outs.
Finish through the Mattertal
Instead of the tough two-day Europaweg finale, walk the Mattertal valley in one day. This is an interesting and modest (compared with what's come before) walk through the valley to Zermatt.
Other variations fit within the day and can be chosen whatever your itinerary, according to how you feel on the day; all variants are described in our routecards.
Alternative starts and pacings
Walked the Tour du Mont Blanc?
The first 3 days of the Haute Route, to Champex, take the same trails as the TMB. If you'd like to skip these, please ask us about starting from Champex.
A quicker trek
If 14 stages is too many, we can make it 10, 11, 12 or 13 while still walking the whole route from Chamonix to Zermatt. Fewer than 10 gets tricky. For example, our quicker clients sometimes ask to walk straight from Chamonix to Trient, or walk the Chamonix to Argentiere stage on the afternoon they arrive. Further mergings of stages are possible down the line. Please ask us to adapt things to your time available.
The Haute Route has two relatively easy valley days which reduce the need for full rest days. However, rest days can be welcome, as can days at the end in Zermatt. We recommend adding a rest day or two if you have time. Please contact us to discuss your approach.
As standard our itinerary is fairly comfy, using charming hotels except where auberges and huts are essential or preferable. A simple way in which we can add luxury is to swap the 2* hotels for our lovely 3*s. If you're not keen on dorms then we can request private rooms at some huts, and swap other huts for hotels; however, there has to be one dorm night at least.
We can add huts and swap hotels for auberges. At the extra auberges you can still have private rooms, but to economise further we can book plenty of dorms. We have come to know some buzzing, friendly options at all levels. Please just ask.
Our approach to the Haute Route
Our trip gives a complete journey on foot from Chamonix to Zermatt. No transport is needed and on arriving in Zermatt’s town centre you’ll have completed the entire Haute Route under your own steam. Standardly our trip has 14 stages. The Haute Route is a loosely defined trail where map and compass skills are needed to supplement any waymarks on the ground. There are no ‘Haute Route’ waymarks to follow. Where the trail splits we follow routes via Fenêtre d’Arpette, Col de la Chaux, Cabane des Dix, Col de Tsate, the Forcletta and the Europaweg, but our routecards describe alternative routes too.
The Walker’s Haute Route’s terrain 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 cols. At one point, Pas de Chèvres, there is a long section of steep ladders. (This can be avoided by a very steep and loose alternative path.) However, the Haute Route has no via ferrata or climbing sections and is a trek throughout, albeit a tough one. On the Europaweg into Zermatt, some loose and rocky corries need extra care.
How to get there
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.
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.
Key information Summer 2019
Trip name: Walker's Haute Route
Prices Summer 2019
14 stages, per person:
Research Summer 2019
The Europaweg (Photo gallery)
Alpine Exploratory's service
The Haute Route in the Alps
Find out more
About our walking holidays Our FAQs page covering equipment, weather, insurance and more about how our trips work
Ready to book?
Our booking form to get things started: