The world famous Haute Route crosses the highest mountain range in Western Europe, the Pennine Alps, and links the Mont Blanc region in France with the rugged Canton Valais in southwestern Switzerland. Starting in the bustling alpine center of Chamonix, France, beneath the mighty massif of Europe’s highest summit, Mont Blanc (15,781 feet), the trail crosses eastward into Switzerland and finishes in the famous resort village of Zermatt, set beneath the soaring pyramidal flanks of the Matterhorn.
First walked in 1903, and dubbed the “High Level Route” by early explorers, the path from Chamonix to Zermatt connects two distinct cultural regions, the French speaking and German speaking Alps. The Haute Route also passes beneath Europe’s highest glaciated mountains, Mont Blanc, the Grand Combin, Obergabelhorn, Weisshorn, Dent Blanche, Zinalrothorn, and the Matterhorn, just to name a few. A network of trail systems connects sleepy little villages, with their lush pastures, blackened timber houses and slate roofs, while lonely mountain passes lead to a stunning world of glaciers, aguilles (rock needles) and sparkling tarns.
Despite the fame of Chamonix and Zermatt, the trails remain largely untraveled. Quiet mountain paths lead to rough, remote sections with superb vantage points, while ancient trade routes wander in the shade of Arolla pines and larches. Accommodations range from three and four star inns, to two nights in simple hiker’s hotels offering south-facing decks and unforgettable views.
- Hike through the Pennine Alps, the highest mountains in Europe.
- Sip wine beneath the Alps’ famous icons, Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.
- Experience Valasian culture including fondue, chalets and tucked away villages.
Day 1 Independent transfer to Chamonix, France. Gaze 12,000 feet up to Mont Blanc. Meet guides and group for dinner.
Arrive and transfer to Chamonix, France (3,402 feet), located at the base of Western Europe’s tallest peak, Mont Blanc (15,781 feet). The transfer from Geneva takes about 3 and-a-half hours by rail, or just over an hour by taxi. Meet your guides and group for a welcome drink and dinner at 7:00 pm.
Day 2 Point-to-point hike. Hike the Grand Balcon Sud, one of the most beautiful trails in France. Enjoy huge views of Mont Blanc, its glaciers and the surrounding peaks. Chamonix-Argentiere
Start with a lift ride and enjoy a gentle introductory hike with spectacular views over the Mont Blanc range. Snap photos of Mont Blanc, the Mer de Glace, (an enormous, snaking glacier), l'Aiguille du Midi, les Aiguilles Rouges and more. We'll picnic at Lac Blanc, a high alpine lake with the most amazing views of the French Alps that you've ever seen. Descend back to treeline and overnight in a comfortable French country inn in the quiet hamlet of Argentiere.
Day 3 Point-to-point hike. More mountain views. Lunch on the France/Switzerland border. Hike into Switzerland. Argentiere-Trient
This is our last day in France as we climb through pine forests and across alpine tundra to the Col de Balme (7,231 feet), the border between France and Switzerland. Have a lunch at a hut on top of the pass, taking in more views of the Aiguilles, the rock needles of Chamonix, and the surrounding glaciers. Descend to the Swiss village of Trient and overnight at lively inn on the Col de la Forclaz.
Day 4 Point-to-point hike. Two hiking options, a remote mountain pass, or a working Swiss Farm. Trient-Champex
We offer two hiking options today. A challenging and dramatic hike climbs along the Glacier du Trient to the Fenêtre d'Arpette (8,743 feet), a high and beautiful pass with views of the Trient Glacier and the Swiss Val Ferret. Breathe the gentle air of solitude as you eat lunch on top of the pass. A gentler option wanders through flower-filled meadows to a working farm. This hike follows an old mule track across a high shelf, skirts the Orny massif, and overlooks the whole of the Rhone Valley from a height of more than 5,000 feet. Pet the cows, drink some tea and sample one of the best tasting omelettes in the Alps before continuing to a cozy three star, chalet style inn in the lakeside village of Champex.
Day 5 Point-to-point hike. Transfer by van to the village of Arolla. Take an afternoon hike beneath Mont Collon. Champex-Arolla
Transfer by van to Arolla, a tiny hamlet surrounded by Arolla pines at the end of the Val d'Hérens. Enjoy striking views of Mont Collon (11,932 feet) and its deep glacial trench. An optional afternoon hike wanders through pine forests and ancient herding settlements, and offers views of the Pigne d'Arolla (12,434 feet), with its cascading glaciers and lonely moraines. Overnight in a comfortable historic hotel dating from the turn of the twentieth century.
Day 6 Point-to-point hike. Spectacular views of the Pennine Alps. Lunch a climber's hut. Arolla-Les Haudères
A truly spectacular hike lies ahead with views of Mont Collon, L'Eveque, the Pigne D'Arolla, the Aiguilles Rouges and the Val D'Hérens (13,684 feet). We'll walk through more ancient herding settlements, stopping to admire the stone houses and the old barns that have been blackened by time. Stop for lunch at the Cabane des Aiguilles Rouges, a true climber's hut with a wood fired stove, dramatic views and pine-clad walls adorned with historic mountaineering photos. Descend through glacial moraine to a simple inn in the traditional, pastoral village of Les Haudéres.
Day 7 Point-to-point hike. Walking through traditional Swiss villages and alps. Les Haudéres
Ascend through alpine pastures where Swiss herding and farming traditions are alive and well. It is quite common to see women raking hay in traditional costume on the slopes above Les Haudéres. Snap photos of quintessential Swiss chalets and visually retrace your steps as you gaze back over the Aiguilles Rouges (yesterday's hike), the Grand Combin (14,153 feet) and the Alps in France. Cross the Col de Torrent (9,567 feet), then descend to Lac de Moiry for transfer to St. Luc and a charming old world inn.
Day 8 Point-to-point hike. Cross the language divide of German speaking Switzerland. Catch the first glimpse of the Matterhorn. St. Luc-Gruben
The language changes to German today as we cross the language divide between French speaking and German speaking Switzerland. Cross a remote, rarely traveled pass (9,429 feet) with views back to the Aiguilles Rouges and the Dent D'Hérens, and forward to the peaks above Zermatt: the Matterhorn (14,692 feet), OberGabelhorn (13,330 feet), Zinalrothorn (13,848 feet), Dent Blanche (14,295 feet) and Weisshorn (14,783 feet). Descend into the remote Turtmanntal, and savor a large weizenbier on the south-facing patio of our simple hiker's hosterly. No luggage access on this night.
Day 9 Point-to-point hike. Follow a medieval trading route. Unleash your inner German. Be amazed by the views of the Mattertal. Gruben-Zermatt
Another pass lies ahead (9,491 feet), this one along a medieval trading route with views of the Mischabel range, separating Zermatt from Saas Fee, and the peaks of the Oberland to the northeast. Picnic on the pass, then prepare to be amazed as views of the Mattertal, the valley that runs from Zermatt to the Rhone, unfold before you. Transfer to Zermatt and a first class hotel with superb cuisine and every comfort and amenity.
Day 10 We recommend spending an additional day or two in Zermatt. Otherwise, enjoy one last delicious breakfast, then depart. The transfer from Zermatt to Geneva Airport takes about four hours by rail.
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