Great Glen Way | Maps & Routes

The Great Glen Way is a classic Scottish walk connecting Fort William in the south with Inverness in the north. The route is a natural extension of the West Highland…

The Great Glen Way is a classic Scottish walk connecting Fort William in the south with Inverness in the north. The route is a natural extension of the West Highland Way, which finishes in Fort William. However, the Great Glen Way features much more loch-side walking, including along the famous Loch Ness, Loch Lochy, and Loch Oich. Traditionally, the walk is completed in 5 – 8 days, with six days seeming to be most common. 

Although the Great Glen Way visits some of the more remote parts of northern Scotland, it is still well served by a variety of small towns and accommodation options. These include quaint B&Bs, hostels, small hotels, and several campgrounds. This post will introduce the Great Glen Way through a series of maps, navigational resources, and more. 

Let’s get started.

Green hillside above Loch Ness

The green hillsides above Loch Ness are a highlight of the Great Glen Way.

 

In this Post

 

Where is the Great Glen Way?

The Great Glen Way is located in northern Scotland and connects the port town of Fort William in the south with Highlands capital of Inverness in the north. Along the way the route passes several idyllic lochs as it traces what is known as the Great Glen fault line. The walk is almost exclusively completed from south to north, although it can certainly be walked in the opposite directions as well.

The route is well served by a variety of small towns filled with friendly locals to compliment the stunning scenery this part of Scotland is known for.

The Great Glen Way is surprisingly easy to get to from the rest of Scotland and the UK, with plenty of rail connections available. Fort William is easily reached from Glasgow via the spectacular West Highland line while Inverness has good rail service to both Edinburgh and Glasgow. From the rest of the UK you can reach both Glasgow and Edinburgh by coach, train, or plane!

Map showing the location of the Great Glen Way

The Great Glen Way is located in Northern Scotland. Click to enlarge.

 

Between Fort William and Inverness the Great Glen Way provides some of the best walking in Scotland and is also much less crowded than other popular routes in the area. Highlights of the walk include tracing the length of the Caledonian Canal, walking along the famous Loch Ness, and finishing at the famous Inverness Castle. You’ll walk the length of three different lochs, Loch Lochy, Loch Oich, and Loch Ness on the Great Glen Way.

The route is traditionally completed in six days walking, although it is possible to shorten or extend your walk to suit your own personal timeframe. It is possible to camp along the Great Glen Way as there are both developed campgrounds as well as some excellent wild camping spots along the route. For those that prefer sleeping indoors, you’ll find plenty of accommodation options at each stop along the way.

Below is the standard route for the Great Glen Way:

  • Stage 1: Fort William to Gairlochy
  • Stage 2: Gairlochy to Laggan
  • Stage 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus
  • Stage 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston
  • Stage 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit
  • Stage 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness
Map of the Great Glen Way

Map of the Great Glen Way. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition to the standard route outlined above, there is also the option to take two high-route alternates between Fort Augustus and Drumnadrochit. These alternate routes leave the lochside trail to climb into the hills adjacent to Loch Ness. These alternates provide exceptional views of the Loch and also provide a bit of variety to the walk and we recommend that most walkers seriously consider taking them.

The high routes are split over two days, with the first option leaving the main trail on stage 4 shortly after leaving Fort Augustus. The route then keeps walkers in the hills before descending back to the main trail just before reaching Invermoriston.

The next day, on stage 5, the second high-level route begins just after leaving Invermoriston and rejoins the main trail about half-way through the stage to Drumnadrochit.

Take a look at the map below for more detail on the Great Glen Way high-level alternate routes.

Great Glen Way High Route

The two high-route alternates on the Great Glen Way. Click to enlarge.

 

Interactive Great Glen Way map

The interactive Great Glen Way map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.

 

How long is the Great Glen Way?

The official Scotland Great Trails website lists the Great Glen Way as 125-kilometers long. While this is certainly an accurate estimate, we measure (via GPS) the Great Glen Way to be 118.8-kilometers or 73.8 miles long from Fort William to Inverness.

If you plan on taking either or both of the high-routes described above you’ll want to plan on covering a bit more distance.

However, the exact measurement of the trail will have little practical value to the average walker. The nature of long-distance walks provides that you will certainly walk further than any official trail length. Evening walks to stretch your legs, short detours to visit the local pub, and even the occasional side trip to a nearby attraction will all add up.

However, it is still helpful for trip planning purposes to have a sense of the total length as well as individual segment lengths on the Great Glen Way. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances for the standard six stage itinerary shown in kilometers.

Note that these distances do not include the high-level routes and should only be used to get a general idea of distance.

Map of the Great Glen Way with stage distances

Stage distances on the Great Glen Way.

 

Great Glen Way Elevation Profile

The Great Glen Way is certainly not the most challenging walk in the Scottish Highlands, although it still has a not insignificant amount of elevation change.

Much of this is due to the undulating nature of the shorelines of the three Lochs that the route follows. The Great Glen Way has approximately 1,600 meters or 5,250 feet of elevation gain over its 119 kilometers. That averages out to approximately 267 meters of elevation gain per stage, although as you’ll see below it is not so evenly distributed.

The vast majority of the elevation gain occurs on the walk’s final two stages, with the final day being the most difficult in terms of both distance covered as well as elevation gained. The high point of the walk is reached on the final stage just after leaving the shores of Loch Ness and climbing to approximately 370 meters above sea-level.

However, don’t be deceived by the loch-side sections of the walk, as there is still significant elevation to be gained/lost here!

Trail in the Scottish Highlands

 

The elevation profile below will give you an overview of what each stage of the Great Glen Way entails in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional six-stage walk, with the stop names shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the stage. For instance, you can see that the stage from Drumnadrochit to Inverness is rather long in distance, while the stage from Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit has a lot of elevation gain.

Keep in mind that the profile below does not include either of the two high-route options, so count on some additional climbing if you plan to take those alternates.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the Great Glen Way be sure to reference this elevation profile. It will give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.

Elevation profile for the Great Glen Way

Great Glen Way Elevation Profile.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Great Glen Way?

The Great Glen Way is generally a very well marked trail. You’ll find the Scotland Great Trails symbol on signposts and at trail junction along the route, making navigation fairly simple. This is especially helpful where different trails intersect with the Great Glen Way, giving the walker clear direction on where to go.

However, it is still quite easy to get turned around or otherwise off-track on the Great Glen Way due largely to the number of trail junctions encountered. For this reason, we recommend all walkers carry a few Great Glen Way maps to ensure they don’t spend an afternoon walking the wrong direction!

Our preference is generally to rely on GPS maps on our smartphones when out on a multi-day walk, and we can highly recommend this method for most walkers. All you’ll need is a GPX file for the route and a GPS app. We like Gaia GPS, although there are many great options available.

In addition to digital navigation methods, we also recommend you bring a paper map or map booklet of the Great Glen Way along on your walk. There is simply no replacement for a physical map, afterall you never know when you may find yourself with a dead battery rendering your GPS app useless!

There are several excellent physical maps available for the Great Glen Way, outlined below:

The Great Glen Way Guide & Map Booklet – Cicerone Guides
In our opinion, your best bet will be to pack this excellent resource from Cicerone Guides. Their Great Glen Way guidebook comes complete with a map booklet that contains helpful maps for the entire route, neatly organized into a small and portable booklet.

 

Harvey Maps Great Glen Way Map
Another convenient and highly recommended option is the Great Glen Way map published by Harvey Maps. This map consists of the entire Great Glen Way route, although it does not include much outside of the trail. It is also a bit larger and easier to read when compared to the Cicerone Map Booklet, which many walkers will prefer.

 

Ordnance Survey Explorer – Great Glen Way maps
Finally, no article on maps for the Great Glen Way would be complete without referencing Ordnance Survey maps. These detailed maps provide an excellent resource for the walk, although you’ll need to carry three OS maps to cover the entire route:

In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Stage-by-stage Great Glen Way maps

The Great Glen Way is most commonly walked in six stages, with a wide variety of accommodation options available at each point along the walk. The stage maps below provide a general outline for each of these six stages and we’ve also included the distance and elevation change for each day below.

Stage 1: Fort William to Gairlochy

Distance: 17.43 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +159 m / -132 m

Map of Stage 1 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 1 – Fort William to Gairlochy

 

Stage 2: Gairlochy to Laggan

Distance: 18.73 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +413 m / -407 m

Map of Stage 2 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 2 – Gairlochy to Laggan

 

Stage 3: Laggan to Fort Augustus

Distance: 17.24 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +238 m / -250 m

Map of Stage 3 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 3 – Laggan to Fort Augustus

 

Stage 4: Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

Distance: 11.72 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +507 m / -487 m

Map of Stage 4 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 4 – Fort Augustus to Invermoriston

 

Stage 5: Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

Distance: 23.32 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +701 m / -713 m

Map of Stage 5 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 5 – Invermoriston to Drumnadrochit

 

Stage 6: Drumnadrochit to Inverness

Distance: 30.32 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +653 m / -665 m

Map of Stage 6 of the Great Glen Way

Stage 6 – Drumnadrochit to Inverness

 

Have an excellent Great Glen Way adventure!

We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Great Glen Way. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!

No Comments on Great Glen Way | Maps & Routes

North Downs Way | Maps & Routes

The North Downs Way is one of the most popular of England’s National Trails. Given the route’s location just south of London, it is easy to understand why. The walk…

The North Downs Way is one of the most popular of England’s National Trails. Given the route’s location just south of London, it is easy to understand why. The walk crosses the North Downs and traverses a number of beautiful landscapes, including the Surrey Hills and Kent Downs Areas of Outstanding National Beauty. Beginning in Farnham in the west and finishing at the coast in Dover, the walk is traditionally completed in ten stages.

Unique to the North Downs Way, you’ll have two options for the last two stages into Dover. The first option, known as the Southern Loop, takes walkers to the coast along the White Cliffs of Dover. Alternatively, the Northern Loop heads through the cathedral town of Canterbury before turning south to Dover. Whichever route you choose you’re sure to have a great adventure!

This post is designed to provide an introduction to the North Downs Way though in-depth maps, elevation profiles, stage-by-stage maps, and more!

Let’s get started.

View of the North Downs in Surrey

The North Downs.

 

In this Post

 

Where is the North Downs Way?

The North Downs Way is located just south of London and connects Farnham in the west with the port city of Dover in the east. The walk is traditionally walked from west to east, although you can certainly walk in the opposite direction as well. Along the way the route visits several lovely villages and explores some of the best countryside this close to London. For those interested in venturing a bit further afield, be sure to consider a walk on the South Downs Way as well.

Given the walk’s location, it is easy to get to the start and finish from London and other parts of England via rail or bus. Farnham sits on the Southwestern Railway which has frequent connections, while Dover is a major transit hub for the southeast coast.

Check out the map below to get a general sense of where the North Downs Way is located.

Overview map of the North Downs Way

The North Downs Way connects Farnham and Dover. (Click to enlarge).

 

Highlights of the North Downs Way include the Rochester Castle, Canterbury Cathedral (for those who opt for the Northern Loop), and White Cliffs of Dover (for those who opt for the Southern Loop).

The walk is commonly completed in ten days, although it is always possible to shorten or extend your walk as you see fit. The North Downs Way is also especially well situated to be completed over a series of trips rather than in a single walk.

Northern & Southern Loops

As alluded to above you’ll have two options to complete the final two stages of the North Downs Way. This is a bit unusual for a National Trail, but gives walkers two attractive options. The route splits at Boughton Lees, and gives walkers the two options described below:

Southern Loop
The Southern Loop is probably the more popular way to finish the walk as it takes walkers along the White Cliffs of Dover. From Boughton Lees you’ll head south to Etchinghill before heading to the coast and finishing in Dover.

White Cliffs of Dover.

The Southern Loop of the North Downs Way finishes with a spectacular walk along the White Cliffs of Dover.

 

Northern Loop
The Northern Loop is a good option for history buffs or anyone who wants to visit the stunning cathedral at Canterbury. From Boughton Lees you’ll head northeast and overnight in Canterbury before continuing on to Dover. This option adds approximately 11-kilometers to the walk.

Canterbury Cathedral

The Northern Loop allows walkers to visit the stunning Canterbury Cathedral.

 

Below is the standard 10-day itinerary for the North Downs Way:

  • Stage 1: Farnham to Guildford
  • Stage 2: Guildford to Westhumble
  • Stage 3: Westhumble to Merstham
  • Stage 4: Merstham to Oxted
  • Stage 5: Oxted to Otford
  • Stage 6: Otford to Rochester
  • Stage 7: Rochester to Hollingbourne
  • Stage 8: Hollingbourne to Boughton Lees
  • Stage 9: Boughton Lees to Etchinghill (Southern Loop)
  • Stage 10: Etchinghill to Dover (Southern Loop)

For those who opt to complete the Northern Loop, the final two stages will look like this:

  • Stage 9A: Boughton Lees to Canterbury
  • Stage 10A: Canterbury to Dover

Check out the North Downs Way map below for a detailed overview of the walk. 

North Downs Way Map

Map of the North Downs Way. Click to enlarge.

 

Interactive North Downs Way map

The interactive North Downs Way map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.

 

How long is the North Downs Way?

When researching the North Downs Way you’re likely to find any number of distances given for the walk by the various guidebooks and websites covering the topic. The distance of the walk is of course highly dependent on whether you opt for the northern or southern loops, as the two have a difference of about 11 kilometers.

We measure (via GPS), the North Downs Way to be 203-kilometers long for those completing the Southern Loop and 214-kilometers long for those opting to take the Northern Loop through Canterbury.  

While this exact measurement provides little practical value to anyone planning a walk on the North Downs Way, it is important to have a general understanding of the distances involved. The two maps below provide the stage distances for each of the 10-stages on the North Downs Way in both kilometers and miles. Use these to help get a sense of the walk and also plan your own itinerary.

Keep in mind that the distances provided here assume no detours, side trips, or other diversions off of the main route. Given this fact, you will certainly end up walking further than the distances we’ve provided.

Map of the North Downs Way with stage distances

Stage distances on the North Downs Way in kilometers. (Click to enlarge).

 

North Downs Way map with stage distances in miles

Stage distances on the North Downs Way in miles. (Click to enlarge).

 

North Downs Way Elevation Profile

The North Downs Way is not known for its difficulty or significant elevation gain. The route has modest hills, making it an ideal first National Trail to walk for someone new to hiking or a great walk for the experienced hiker looking to take things a bit easier.

For those taking the Southern Loop through Etchinghill the route gains 2,535 meters over the course of 203 kilometers. This equates to approximately 253 meters of elevation gain per day, which should be manageable for most walkers. For those who opt to take the Northern Loop via Canterbury, you can expect to gain 2,467 meters over the routes 214 kilometers.

Much of this elevation gain is evenly spread out along the undulating route providing a nice cadance the the walk. The most notable climb on the North Downs Way is the walk up St. Martha’s Hill and Newlands Corner which occurs on day two. 

The high  point of the North Downs Way sits at Titsey Plantation (263m above sea-level) which you encounter after a steep climb to start stage 5 out of Oxted.

View from the Surrey Hills on the North Downs Way

 

The elevation profiles below, displaying both the Northern and Southern Loops, will give you an overview of what each stage of the North Downs Way entails in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 10-stage walk, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the stage. For instance, you can see that Stage 6 from Otford to Rochester is rather long in distance, while Stage 2 from Guildford to Westhumble has a lot of elevation gain.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the North Downs Way be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.

 

Elevation profile of the North Downs Way.

Elevation profile of the North Downs Way.

 

Elevation profile of the North Downs Way.

Elevation profile for the North Downs Way, Northern Loop.

 

Which maps should I carry on the North Downs Way?

As the North Downs Way is a National Trail, walkers can expect the path to be very well sign posted and easy to navigate. However, as with many walks in England, it can be quite easy to get turned around or generally off the correct track.

There are countless trail intersections, bridleways, and footpaths that can be easy to confuse with the North Downs Way. For this reason, we always recommend that walkers bring a few map resources when walking the route.

Our preference is generally to rely on GPS maps on our smartphones when out on a multi-day walk, and we can highly recommend this method for the North Downs Way. All you’ll need is a GPX file for the route (available for free on the National Trails website here) and a GPS app. We like Gaia GPS, although there are many great options available.

In addition to digital navigation methods, we also recommend you bring a paper map or map booklet along. There is simply no replacement for a physical map, afterall you never know when you may find yourself with a dead battery rendering your GPS app useless!

There are several excellent physical maps available for the North Downs Way, outlined below:

The North Downs Way Guide & Map Booklet – Cicerone Guides
In our opinion, your best bet will be to pack this excellent resource from Cicerone Guides. Their North Downs Way guide and map booklet contain Ordnance Survey maps for the entire route, neatly organized into a small and portable packet.

North Downs Way Adventure Atlas
Another convenient and highly recommended option is the North Downs Way Adventure atlas. This map consists of OS Explorer maps for the entire North Downs Way route, but saves you the hassle of assembling all of the Ordnance Survey maps yourself. It is also a bit larger and easier to read when compared to the Cicerone Map Booklet, which many walkers will prefer.

Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps
Finally, no article on maps for the North Downs Way would be complete without referencing Ordnance Survey maps. These North Downs Way maps provide an excellent level of detail , although you’ll need to carry several maps to cover the entire route:

In addition, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Stage-by-stage maps for the North Downs Way

The North Downs Way is traditionally completed in ten stages, with a wide variety of accommodation options available at each point along the walk. The maps below provide a general outline for each of these ten stages and include distance and elevation change. Also included are maps for the Northern and Southern Loops, the two options for the final two stages to Dover.

Stage 1: Farnham to Guildford

Distance: 17.33 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +324 m / -353 m

North Downs Way Stage 1 map

Stage 1 – Farnham to Guildford

 

Stage 2: Guildford to Westhumble

Distance: 21.77 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +426 m / -422 m

North Downs Way Stage 2 map

Stage 2 – Guildford to Westhumble

 

Stage 3: Westhumble to Merstham

Distance: 15.89 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +580 m / -521 m

North Downs way Stage 3 map

Stage 3 – Westhumble to Merstham

 

Stage 4: Merstham to Oxted

Distance: 13.5 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +541 m / -475 m

North Downs Way Stage 4 map

Stage 4 – Merstham to Oxted

 

Stage 5: Oxted to Otford

Distance: 19.31 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +488 m / -586 m

North Downs way Stage 5 map

Stage 5 – Oxted to Otford

 

Stage 6: Otford to Rochester

Distance: 28.65 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +751 m / -788 m

North Downs Way Stage 6 map

Stage 6 – Otford to Rochester

 

Stage 7: Rochester to Hollingbourne

Distance: 24.13 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +758 m / -700 m

North Downs Way Stage 7 map

Stage 7 – Rochester to Hollingbourne

 

Stage 8: Hollingbourne to Boughton Lees

Distance: 20.72 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +373 m / -393 m

North Downs Way stage 8 map

Stage 8 – Hollingbourne to Boughton Lees

 

Southern Loop Stage 9: Boughton Lees to Etchinghill

Distance: 22 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +513 m / -460 m

North Downs Way Stage 9 map

Stage 9 – Boughton Lees to Etchinghill

 

Southern Loop Stage 10: Etchinghill to Dover

Distance: 19.6 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +514 m / -628 m

North downs way stage 10 map

Stage 10 – Etchinghill to Dover

 

Northern Loop Stage 9: Boughton Lees to Canterbury

Distance: 20.39 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +502 m / -548 m

North Downs Way Stage 9 Northern Loop map

Stage 9A – Boughton Lees to Canterbury

 

Northern Loop Stage 10: Canterbury to Dover

Distance: 31.95 km
Elevation Gain/Loss: +513 m / -523 m

Stage 10A – Canterbury to Dover

 

North Downs Way GPS/GPX

If you are interested in getting access to the GPS data for the North Downs Way head on over to the National Trails website. You’ll find a free GPX download for the walking route.

Click here to access the free GPS data for the South Downs Way

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we highly recommend utilizing offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the North Downs Way. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you may not have) to display the map.

Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the North Downs Way.

Have a great North Downs Way adventure!

We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the North Downs Way. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!

No Comments on North Downs Way | Maps & Routes

The Best Hikes in Badlands National Park

Badlands National Park Weather Badlands is a land of extremes, and that certainly holds true when it comes to the weather. Temperatures can peak in the triple digits in the…

If you’ve never been to Badlands National Park before, you are in for an experience like no other. The 240,000 acres of protected land are home to some of the country’s most stunning rock formations, sweeping grassland prairies, and the kind of wide-open spaces that can really put everything in perspective. Additionally, Badlands National Park is home to more than 300 archeological sites dating back thousands of years, and more recent sites from the regions’ current inhabitants, the Arikara and the Oglala Lakota tribes. From fascinating fossils to dramatic rock spires to wildlife viewing, there’s no shortage of things to see and do in Badlands National Park.

One of the best ways to enjoy all that Badlands National Park has to offer by exploring it on your own two feet. There are many incredible hikes in Badlands, ranging from beginner and family-friendly to longer, more strenuous outings. We’re confident that there’s a trail for everyone in Badlands National Park, and that hiking it will be a highlight of your visit.

In this post, we’ll share the best trails and everything you need to know to have your best possible adventure hiking in Badlands National Park.

In This Post:

A hiker sits and enjoys the views in Badlands National Park
Hiking in Badlands National Park provides endless ways to enjoy the magnificent scenery. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Badlands National Park Basics

Before any trip to Badlands, it is a good idea to get familiar with some important information about the national park so you know what to expect when you visit. The next two sections will provide some essential background that you’ll need for planning your Badlands National Park hiking adventure.

Permits, Entrance Fees, and Opening Times

Permits are not required for any hikes in Badlands National Park, including overnight backpacking and off-trail hiking.

Entrance fees must be paid to access any part of the national park, including all of the hikes described in this post. There are a variety of passes available, depending on the length of your visit and your mode of entry. Details can be found on the NPS website.

Badlands National Park is open 24/7, although fee stations and visitor centers have limited hours. Opening times for the park’s visitor centers can be found here.

Additionally, some roads may be closed in wintery or other hazardous conditions. If traveling in the park during inclement weather, be sure to check current road conditions.

Entrance sign for Badlands National Park
One of the quieter entrances to Badlands National Park.

Badlands National Park Weather

Badlands is a land of extremes, and that certainly holds true when it comes to the weather. Temperatures can peak in the triple digits in the summer months and they can get down to -40 in the winter!

Be prepared for sudden and dramatic changes in the weather, as conditions can be variable and unpredictable. Dress in layers, pack sunscreen, and carry plenty of water. It’s always a good idea to check current conditions and talk to the ranger before setting out.

June is typically the rainiest month in Badlands National Park, while December and January are the driest. For monthly averages, including temperatures and precipitation, check out this webpage.

A stormy sky over rocks in Badlands National Park.
The weather can change quickly in Badlands National Park. Photo Courtesy of NPS/Shaina Niehans.

Hiking Trails in Badlands National Park

Trails in the Cedar Pass Area of Badlands National Park (North Unit)

The vast majority of hikers will spend their time in the NPS-operated North Unit of Badlands National Park, specifically in the Cedar Pass Area. This area has easy access from I-90 and includes the park headquarters, the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Most of the park’s best hikes are in the Cedar Pass Area, and the well-marked trail network has something for every ability level. Since many of these hikes are quite short and close together, you can easily knock out a few in one day. Keep reading to find the perfect hike in the Cedar Pass Area.

Map of Cedar Pass area
Detailed Map of the Cedar Pass section of Badlands National Park. NPS Map.

Door Trail

Distance: 0.75 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This easy walk follows a boardwalk for the first 0.25 miles, making it a great option for wheelchairs, strollers, and anyone who enjoys less rugged surfaces. Despite its short distance, you’ll gain access to spectacular views through the Badlands Wall and to the unique badlands landscape beyond. This is a great place to watch the sunrise!

The Door Trail following a boardwalk that leads between two parts of the Badlands Wall.
The Door Trail. An easy boardwalk leads visitors through a natural “door” in the Badlands Wall. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Window Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This family-friendly trail takes hikers to a spectacular natural window that has eroded into the Badlands Wall. The window provides a unique vantage point to view some of the Badlands’ most dramatic scenery, and it’s a photographer’s dream!

Views of rock formations from the Window Trail in Badlands National Park.
Views from the Window Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Notch Trail

Distance: 1.5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

This hike begins as a mellow canyon walk, but ends with a dramatic flourish. After traversing within the canyon, hikers will climb a ladder out of its depths. The trail then follows an exposed ledge to reach “the Notch,” an incredible viewpoint overlooking the White River Valley. Keep in mind that this hike involves some very exposed and steep sections, and it is dangerous during periods of heavy rain.

The Notch Trail traverses an exposed ledge on the side of the canyon in Badlands National Park.
The Notch Trail traverses an exposed ledge on the side of the canyon. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Castle Trail

Distance: 10 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Trailhead: Door and Window Parking Area

Hikers looking for a longer outing will enjoy the Castle Trail. Not only does this 5-mile out-and-back trail boast great views of Badlands rock formations, but it ends at the Fossil Exhibit Trail, allowing hikers to explore the informative exhibits and replicas in that area. There are many options for customizing your hike on the Castle Trail. Those only wanting to hike one way can shuttle a vehicle to the Fossil Exhibit Trailhead. Additionally, there are options for making a loop by connecting with the Medicine Root Trail or the Saddle Pass Trail.

The eastern trailhead of the Castle Trail in Badlands National Park with green grassland in the foreground and rock formations in the background.
The Castle Trail begins by winding through prairie grasslands on its eastern end. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Cliff Shelf Trail

Distance: 0.5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Cliff Shelf Parking Area

Don’t be fooled by the short distance of this hike- it is quite a workout! The trail follows a series of boardwalks and stairs up along the Badlands Wall. The Cliff Shelf hike allows walkers to experience a rare oasis in the heart of the Badlands. The trail weaves through a Juniper forest and past a seasonal pond. This area is a great place to see wildlife, such as bighorn sheep.

The Cliff Shelf Trail passes through juniper trees in Badlands National Park.
The Cliff Shelf Trail is unique because it passes through juniper forests. Trees are a rare sight in the Badlands. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Saddle Pass Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Trailhead: Saddle Pass Trailhead

This is another hike that packs a lot of climbing into a short distance. The Saddle Pass Trail steeply winds its way up the Badlands Wall before reaching a viewpoint overlooking the White River Valley. It ends at a junction with the Castle and Medicine Root Trails, providing lots of options for extending your hike. Use caution coming down the Saddle Pass Trail, as some sections are very steep and loose.

A steep section of trail along the Saddle Pass Trail in Badlands National Park.
The Saddle Pass Trail is very steep the entire way! Photo courtesy of NPS.

Medicine Root Trail

Distance: 4 miles (does not inlcude the distance required to access the trail)
Difficulty: Moderate
Trailhead: Saddle Pass Trailhead

This lovely trail can only be accessed via one of the other trails in the Cedar Pass network. The most direct (and also most strenuous) way to reach the Medicine Root Trail is by climbing up the Saddle Pass Trail, although it can also be accessed by starting on either end of the Castle Trail. Once you’re on the Medicine Root Trail, the terrain is mostly flat, winding its way through prairie grasslands. A nice loop can be made by connecting with the Castle Trail. There are some gorgeous wide-open views of the surrounding rock formations.

The Medicine Root Trail extends through dry grasslands towards the horizon under a blue sky in Badlands National Park.
Wide open views on the Medicine Root Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS/Ed Welsh.

Fossil Exhibit Trail

Distance: 0.25 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Fossil Exhibit Parking Area

It is a bit of a stretch to call this a “hike,” as the trail follows a level boardwalk for its entirety. That being said, it is worth a visit to see the fascinating exhibits and replicas of the prehistoric creatures that once roamed the area. Additionally, the trail can be a nice starting point for accessing the Castle Trail and the rest of the Cedar Pass trail network.

A parking lot and a trailhead sign at the Fossil Exhibit Trail in Badlands National Park.
The trailhead for the informative and interactive Fossil Exhibit Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Popular Back Roads Hikes (dog-friendly)

Sheep Mountain Table Hike

Distance: 5 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy
Trailhead: Sheep Mountain Table Overlook

This hike offers a great way to explore this scenic area without having to navigate the very rugged road in your vehicle. Park at the Sheep Mountain Table Overlook and walk along the dirt road for about 2.5 miles. This is an easy, scenic walk that makes for a great pet-friendly option. It also provides a unique opportunity to explore the remote middle section of the Badlands, straddling the North and South Units of the park.

The dirt road stretches ahead towards Sheep Mountain Table in Badlands National Park.
Sheep Mountain Table makes for a great back roads hike. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Old Northeast Road

Distance: Varies
Difficulty:Easy
Trailhead: Parking area located 0.25 miles along the road after turning off Badlands Loop Road. 

This quiet gravel road is a great option for hiking with your four-legged friend or for anyone seeking a mellow excursion. Old Northeast road is easily accessed from the Badlands Loop Road and you can customize the length of your trip to fit your preferences. The road passes through active ranchland, so keep in mind that you may encounter cattle grazing nearby. Hikers will enjoy sweeping Badlands scenery and some fascinating rock formations.

Rock formations seen while hiking along Old Northeast Road in Badlands National Park.
There are plenty of interesting rock formations to see while hiking on Old Northeast Road. Photo courtesy of NPS/Cathy Bell.

Open Hiking (Unofficial Trails)

Badlands is an “open hike” National Park, meaning that hikers are permitted to venture practically anywhere into the backcountry, regardless of if they’re on one of the designated trails. Beyond the well-marked paths, there are quite a few unofficial “social trials” in Badlands National Park. These vary from being frequently-trafficked and relatively easy to follow to being vague tracks that require advanced navigation skills. Given that these trails can lead to remote areas with little or no waymarking, it is essential that you come prepared with a navigational device and some backcountry experience. It’s a good idea to download gpx data for the trails into your phone or other device and bring a paper map as a backup.

More information about Badlands National Parks Maps is provided in this post.

Here are our two favorite unofficial trails in Badlands National Park:

Deer Haven Trail

Distance: 6-7 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Easy/Moderate
Trailhead: Conata Picnic Area

This out-and-back hike is popular with backpackers, but it also makes a great day trip. The trail begins at the Conata Picnic Area, which is easily accessed from the Badlands Loop Road and the Ben Reifel Visitor Center. Hikers will follow a well worn social trail through quintessential Badlands scenery. Upon rounding a corner a couple of miles in, the grassy oasis of Deer Haven will come into view. This is a dramatic swath of green set amid endless miles of rocky, barren Badlands. The trail is generally easy to follow but becomes vague or nonexistent at points so it’s important to bring a map and GPS.

A trail sign next to the start of the Deer Haven Trail in Badlands National Park.
The beginning of the Deer Haven Trail is very well defined as it leads away from the Conata Picnic Area. Photo courtesy of NPS/Ed Welsh.

Sage Creek Loop

Distance: 23 miles (round trip)
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Trailhead: Conata Picnic Area

This adventurous hike should only be attempted by hardy, experienced walkers who are confident in their navigational abilities. Most hikers complete the Sage Creek Loop in three days, allowing for a challenging but manageable pace. In addition to the somewhat strenuous physical exertion required to complete the Sage Creek Loop, hikers must also contend with route-finding (which is very unclear in places) and volatile weather conditions. It is essential that you bring enough water, as there is none available along the trail. In the summer heat, that means carrying a gallon per person, per day. The payoff for all of your hard work? Solitude, dynamic and beautiful landscapes, and abundant wildlife viewings, such as bison and pronghorn.

A rocky butte beneath blue sky with green prairie in the foreground in the Sage Creek Wilderness area in Badlands National Park.
The colorful Sage Creek Wilderness Area. Photo courtesy of NPS/Larry McAfee.

Hiking in Badlands National Park: Need to Know

What to Bring

There are a ton of variables that need to be taken into account when packing for a hike in Badlands National Park. You’ll need to consider the weather conditions (and forecast), length of your hike, and availability of nearby services.

That being said, there are a few universal items that are essential for all Badlands hikers:

  • Water: 1 quart per person per hour is recommended. We like carrying water in a hydration bladder for better weight distribution and easy access.
  • Sturdy Boots: The Badlands are very rugged, and it’s important to have supportive footwear that is up to the task and protects your feet and ankles. The terrain can also get extremely muddy, so waterproof footwear is a good idea.
  • Layers & Sunscreen: The weather changes quickly in the Badlands. It’s important to dress in layers so you can quickly adapt to the elements. Additionally, the sun is strong in the Badlands, even in the winter, making it a good idea to pack sunscreen.
  • Backpack: Most hikers will need a comfortable backpack for their outing in Badlands National Park. This is especially important for hikes like the Notch Trail and Saddle Pass Trail, where hikers will need their hands free to climb ladders and navigate steep terrain.

If you plan on backpacking in Badlands National Park, this gear list is a great starting point.

Hikers walk in the snow on the Door Trail in Badlands National Park.
You can hike year-round in Badlands National Park, provided you pack the appropriate gear. Photo courtesy of NPS/Dudley Edmondson.

Safety

  • As with any hike, notify someone of where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  • Be prepared with extra food, water, and layers.
  • Talk to the ranger and check the weather forecast before you set out.
  • Carry and map and GPS device with you.
  • Don’t approach wildlife.
  • Wear proper footwear to protect against rocks and cacti.
  • Watch for rattlesnakes.
A bison stands in green grasslands in Badlands National Park.
There are many incredible animals that call Badlands National Park home, but it’s important to view them from a safe distance. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Time

For safety and convenience, it’s important to be able to accurately estimate how long a given hike will take you. Everyone hikes at a different pace, and your pace can be greatly affected by the terrain, weather, your hiking companions, and navigational challenges. It’s a good idea to be generous in your time estimates so you can be properly prepared. Additionally, if you want to hike at sunrise or sunset, keep in mind that you’ll travel significantly slower in the dark.

Sunset over rock formations in Badlands National Park.
Hiking at sunrise or sunset can be very rewarding, but keep in mind that you’ll cover ground more slowly in low light conditions. Photo courtesy of NPS/Mackenzie Reed.

Navigation

Even some of the official hikes in Badlands National Park can be a little tricky to follow at times. The landscape lends itself to navigational challenges because trails can easily blend into the rocky, scrubby terrain, and the canyons and washes can feel like labyrinths. It’s a good idea to use your phone or another navigational device and carry a compass and a map.

This article provides more information about Badlands National Park maps.

An aerial view of rock formations in Badlands National Park.
Navigating in Badlands National Park can be very difficult so it’s important that hikers bring a map and/or GPS.

Conclusion

Whether you’re looking for a quick family-friendly walk or a multi-day backcountry adventure, Badlands National Park has plenty of great options. The dramatic scenery, varied landscapes, and unique wildlife can be enjoyed from any of the trails in the park and there’s no better way to experience the magic of the Badlands than to get out for a hike.

Got questions or experiences you want to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Happy Trails!

Rainbow over the Badlands Wall.
Have a great trip! Photo courtesy of NPS/Larry McAfee.

Keep reading…

No Comments on The Best Hikes in Badlands National Park

Abel Tasman Coast Track | Maps & Routes

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk and a true classic. One of the more approachable Great Walks, the Coast Track follows the spectacular coastline…

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is New Zealand’s most popular Great Walk and a true classic. One of the more approachable Great Walks, the Coast Track follows the spectacular coastline of Abel Tasman National Park with stunning beaches and beautiful scenery throughout.

The walk is well serviced by a network of Department of Conservation huts and campsites, as well as a few privately run accommodation options. We think this is a great trek for the first-time tramper all the way up to the most experienced backpackers out there.

This post will provide an introduction to the incredible Abel Tasman Coast Track by providing in-depth maps, navigational resources, and much more!

Let’s get started.

In this post

Anchorage Bay, New Zealand

 

Where is the Abel Tasman Coast Track?

The Abel Tasman Coast Track is located in the northwest corner of New Zealand’s South Island. The walk begins just outside the small town of Marahau and finishes in Wainui. However, many walkers do not finish at Wainui, opting instead to finish at Totaranui given its better transportation connections back to Marahau.

Overview map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track

The Coast Track is located in the far north of New Zealand’s South Island.

 

Getting to Marahau from the rest of New Zealand is generally a straightforward affair as a result of the popularity of the walk. Bus services connect the town of Nelson to Marahau multiple times per day during the peak season from December – March.

For the return trip upon completing the walk, we recommend taking a water-taxi from Totaranui back to Marahau and catching an onward bus from there. 

Find complete details on getting to and from the Coast Track here.

Between the start and finish points, the Abel Tasman Coast Track provides some of the best walking in New Zealand. The highlight is certainly the golden beaches and crystal clear waters that this section of the country is famous for. Yet don’t overlook the beautiful rainforest and unique tidal estuaries that complement the beach views of the Coast Track.

The route is incredibly well served with a huge array of accommodation options. This includes four Department of Conservation huts and 19 campsites. In addition, there are several private lodges along the walk that offer a more luxurious experience. There is even a floating backpacker’s hostel!

Given that the Coast Track is the most popular Great Walk advance bookings for the the huts and campsites is essential. 

Get complete details on accommodation on the Coast Track here.

The route is typically completed over five days, although countless alternative itineraries exist. Below is the standard itinerary for the Abel Tasman Coast Track:

  • Stage 1: Marahau to Anchorage
  • Stage 2: Anchorage to Bark Bay
  • Stage 3: Bark Bay to Awaroa Bay
  • Stage 4: Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi
  • Stage 5: Whariwharangi to Totaranui (via Gibbs Hill Track)

See the map below for additional detail:

Map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Click to enlarge.

 

In addition the main route, there are a few alternate routes that trampers can choose to complete. These include short detours to see stunning waterfalls, or the alternate finish in Wainui.

In addition, there are some portions of the route that will only be walkable during low tide.

This include the Awaroa Inlet, which is only passable between 1.5 hours before and 2 hours after low tide. At Torrent Bay, just past the Anchorage Hut, you can only be cross the bay within two hours of low-tide. Fortunately, there is a high-tide track that circumnavigates the bay and allows walkers to cross at anytime.

Learn more about tides on the Coast Track in our Complete Guide here.

 

Interactive Abel Tasman Coast Track map

The interactive Abel Tasman Coast Track map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route.

 

How long is the Coast Track?

The official Department of Conservation website lists the Coast Track as 60 kilometers long. However, in reality it will vary greatly depending on a number of decisions and factors, as described below.

The two most common ways to complete the Abel Tasman Coast track involve either finishing in Totaranui by taking the Gibbs Hill track at the end of the walk, or by finishing in the Wainui car park.

For those who opt to finish in Totaranui, we measure the walk to be 62 kilometers long. If you opt instead to finish at the Wainui car park, plan on 58 kilometers.

Of course, measuring the exact distance of the walk has very little practical value as you’ll certainly end up walking a bit further than any exact distance we provide. Evening explorations to stretch the legs, countless opportunities to take in view points along the walk, and short trips to trail-side waterfalls will make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

However, it is still helpful to have an idea of the distance of each stage of the Coast Track. The map below shows just that, with the approximate distances of each stage provided. The distances are calculated based on the classic itinerary outlined above.

Map of the Abel Tasman Coast Track with stage distances

Distances for the traditional five stages of the Coast Track. Click to enlarge.

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track Elevation Profile

At its core, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a mellow coastal walk. Famous for being able to be walked in running shoes, the route is approachable for even the newest trampers out there. However, it is still important to have a sense of what you’re getting yourself into in terms of elevation and distance.

Over the course the Coast Track’s five stages you’ll gain (and lose) just under 2,000 meters in total elevation. This averages out to about 400 meters per day, although as you can see below most of this occurs on the Gibbs Hill Track. While Gibbs Hill is the high point of the walk, you shouldn’t underestimate the undulating nature of the path as it winds along the coast. It can still be tiring!

We’ve put together the elevation profile for the Abel Tasman Coast Track below to help you gain and understanding of the various stages and plan your own walk. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents one of the Department of Conservation Huts/Campsites along the route. For instance, you can see that the stage from Awaroa Bay to Whariwharangi covers quite a bit of distance, while the final stage from Whariwharangi to Totaranui (via Gibbs Hill Track) has a lot of elevation gain.

You can use the elevation profile below to help plan your own itinerary for the Abel Tasman Coast Track, taking into account distance and elevation between any two stopping points.

Elevation profile of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

Elevation profile of the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Coast Track?

As with all the Great Walks, the Abel Tasman Coast Track is a well marked and easy to follow trail. Given the number of hikers, clear path, and good signage, there will be little opportunity to take a wrong turn. However, we always recommend carrying a physical map with you on any tramping trip. 

The best physical map to bring on the Coast Track is the NewTopo Abel Tasman Topographic map. This map covers the tramp at a 1:40,000 scale and also includes the nearby Inland Track, which traverses less frequented parts of the national park.

Given that you are more likely than not to experience at least some rain on your walk, we also recommend bringing a waterproof carrying case like this one.

Beyond just a physical map, we highly recommend all hikers along the Coast Track have some type of GPS navigation on their trek.

Since there is limited cell phone service on the Abel Tasman Coast Track, it is very important to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location along the walk.

These apps combined with our Abel Tasman GPS digital download should give you a solid foundation to navigate from while on the tramp.

Stage-by-stage maps for the Abel Tasman Coast Track

We typically include stage-by-stage maps for all the walks and hikes we feature in our mapping articles. However, we’ve already covered that (and more!) in our complete guide to the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Check it out below:

TMBtent Guide to the Abel Tasman Coast Track

 

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Abel Tasman Coast Track GPX file for only $4.99.

When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each stage of the Coast Track, way-points for each of the Department of Conservation huts along the route, as well as alternate routes along the walk.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Click here to purchase the Abel Tasman Coast Track GPS files

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Abel Tasman Coast Track.

This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map.

Our How to Navigate on the Tour du Mont Blanc post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. Although written for a different hike, this step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device for the Coast Track.

Have a great Coast Track Adventure!

We hope this post has given you all the information you need to get a basic overview of the Abel Tasman Coast Track. Let us know your questions or comments below. Happy trails!

Water taxis in Bark Bay

No Comments on Abel Tasman Coast Track | Maps & Routes

The Ultimate Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route offers the best of what the Alps have to offer. Incredible mountain passes, pastoral villages, jaw-dropping views, friendly locals, exceptional cuisine, and the sense of completing…

The Walker’s Haute Route offers the best of what the Alps have to offer. Incredible mountain passes, pastoral villages, jaw-dropping views, friendly locals, exceptional cuisine, and the sense of completing one of the world’s great hikes. Traversing from Chamonix in France to Zermatt in Switzerland by foot will give you an appreciation of these mountains that most can only dream of. From Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn you’re sure to have the adventure of a lifetime. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know to plan the perfect Walker’s Haute Route adventure!

 

In this post

Everything you need to to plan your Haute Route trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, luxury, dirtbag or something in between, we’ve got you covered.

From custom itineraries and GPS maps created specifically for you we can help you plan your perfect Walker’s Haute Route adventure!

Our downloadable Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip.

Walker's Haute Route

LEARN MORE
Our 50+ page downloadable guide has everything you need to know to plan your Walker’s Haute Route adventure. From three unique itineraries with custom GPS data to a full training plan, our guide is the quintessential handbook for trekking this incredible trail. Each section provides in-depth information and resources, including:

  • Stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Detailed maps for every stop
  • Complete 11-day, 13-day, and 14-day Haute Route itineraries
  • Custom GPS data for the entire route & all three itineraries
  • Offline map access for the entire route
  • Lodging recommendations
  • Getting to/from the Haute Route
  • The ultimate packing list
  • A 15-week training plan

Get your digital guide today and start planning!

BUY NOW
 

About the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route is a classic alpine trek that connects the two mountain villages of Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland. The route traverses over 200 km and crosses 11 mountain passes on its journey from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn. You’ll take in a wide variety of landscapes, from rugged mountain passes, to remote alpine villages and spectacular mountain huts. The trek is typically completed by starting in Chamonix and finishing in Zermatt, but it is certainly possible to walk in the opposite direction.

Jungen, Switzerland

Jungen, Switzerland. One of the many alpine hamlets you’ll visit on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

The Walker’s Haute Route does not require any mountaineering skills, but it should be considered a very difficult trek. Over 13 stages you’ll gain nearly 1,000 meters each day and much of your time will be spent above tree line. That being said, the Walker’s Haute Route should be able to be completed by reasonably fit hikers who are adequately prepared for the trek (read more on that below).

Accommodation options on the Walker’s Haute Route are typical of most multi-day treks through the Alps with an excellent network of mountain huts, campsites, and hotels available to suit all preferences (learn more below).

Cabane de Moiry on the Walker's Haute Route.

Cabane de Moiry. One of the most spectacular places to spend the night on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

How long is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The short answer: it depends!

The Walker’s Haute Route has many variations and route options as it winds it way from Chamonix to Zermatt. These variations include options to stay in unique accommodation (such as the Hotel Weisshorn) or to avoid difficult sections in bad weather (such as the Bovine Alp alternate).

All things considered, the most common route is approximately 207 kilometers long. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take several of the alternate routes, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. You’ll have the option to walk less or more depending on the weather, your preferences, and the conditions encountered on the trail.

Walker's Haute Route elevation profle

The Walker’s Haute Route covers approximately 207 kilometers.

 

If you’d like to take a closer look at all the possible route options, check out our Walker’s Haute Route | Maps & Route article here. 

When should I hike?

The hiking season for the Walker’s Haute Route lasts from late-June through mid-September. Generally speaking, we recommend hiking between mid-July and late-August to have the best chance at good weather and to ensure most of the mountain passes will be free from snow. The trail will be at its busiest during this time, so we recommend booking as much of your accommodation in advance as possible. A breakdown by month is below:

June

Early in the season, you are likely to encounter snow on the trail. Depending on the snow levels, there could be sections that will be impassible and you may need to reroute. Be prepared with either micro-spikes or crampons and know how to safely navigate snow covered terrain.  Expect cool evenings, bright sunny days, and less crowded trails.

Snow on the Walker's Haute Route

Those who brave the Walker’s Haute Route in June are likely to encounter snow on the trail.

July

Hikers could still encounter some snow along the trail, but chances of significant snow will diminish as the month wears on. Expect beautiful warm days and abundant wildflowers. This is a popular month to hike the trail.

August

Another busy month on the trail, hikers can expect snow-free paths and warm, sunny weather. Accommodation will be busy so be sure to book ahead.

September

A lovely time to trek the Walker’s Haute Route. Expect shorter days and increasingly chilly weather. You’ll be rewarded with fewer people on the trail, although some accommodation may be closed for the season.

Zermatt, Switzerland in the fall.

September can be a lovely time to be in the Alps.

 

How difficult is the Walker’s Haute Route?

To put it simply, the Walker’s Haute Route is a challenging trek. The distance, elevation gain, exposure on many parts of the trail, steep ascents and descents, and weather conditions all contribute to the difficult nature of the trail. It is certainly more difficult than its popular cousin, the Tour du Mont Blanc.

All that being said we truly believe that most walkers who invest a bit of time in training and preparation can complete the Walker’s Haute Route and have a great time doing it! Our best advice is to be sure you are in good physical condition and also make sound decisions when you encounter bad weather or snow.

Pas de Chèvres on the Walker's Haute Route.

The hike up the Pas de Chèvres is one of the most difficult sections of the Walker’s Haute Route.

A Stage-by-Stage Itinerary for the Walker’s Haute Route

We recommend hiking the Walker’s Haute Route over 10 – 15 days depending on your hiking ability, pace preferences, and weather conditions. The classic itinerary described below takes 13 days to complete and will be the best option for the majority of hikers. Be sure to check out our interactive map and elevation profile for the route to get a comprehensive understanding of all of your options!

 

Stage 1: Chamonix to Trient

Distance & Elevation: 23.5 km // +1,355 m, -1,111 m
Where to stay:
Auberge du Mont Blanc
Description:

The first stage of the Walker’s Haute Route is a perfect introduction to trekking in the Alps. You’ll wind your way up the relatively undemanding Col de Balme before a steep descent down to the small hamlet of Le Peuty. From Le Peuty continue along the road for 10 – 15 minutes before reaching the town of Trient with its lovely pink church.

Stage One of the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Trient.

Stage One of the Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Trient.

 

Chamonix train station - the start of the Walker's Haute Route.

Chamonix train station – the start of the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 2: Trient to Champex

Distance & Elevation: 14.5 km // +1,489 m, -1,299 m
Where to stay:
Hôtel du Glacier
Description:

Stage two of the Walker’s Haute Route is one of the most demanding of the entire trek, but is also incredibly rewarding. You’ll cross the famous Fenêtre d’Arpette en route to Champex. Enjoy stunning views of the Trient Glacier and be sure to exercise caution on the initial descent from the top of the pass. Enjoy a relaxing evening in the lovely lakeside village of Champex.

In addition to the Fenêtre d’Arpette route described above, the alternate ‘Alp Bovine’ route is also an option for Stage 2. This route shares the trail with the Tour du Mont Blanc and is a good bad weather alternative as it never reaches the heights or exposed nature of the Fenêtre d’Arpette. However, it is still a lovely walk and we highly recommend it should you have bad weather. The Alp Bovine route is shown on the map below as an alternate.

Stage 2 on the Walker's Haute Route from Trient to Champex.

Stage 2 on the Walker’s Haute Route from Trient to Champex. The Alp Bovine route is shown in purple.

 

View of the Trient Glacier on the Fenêtre d'Arpette.

View of the Trient Glacier on the Fenêtre d’Arpette.

 

Stage 3: Champex to Le Chable

Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +410 m, -1,060 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Le Giétroz
Description:

A welcome change after yesterday’s challenging walk, stage three is mellow throughout. You’ll leave Champex and wind your way downhill to the village of Sembrancher. From here, you’ll have a short walk adjacent to farmland before reaching Le Chable your stopping point for the evening.

Stage 3 of the Walker's Haute Route from Champex to Le Chable.

Stage 3 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Champex to Le Chable.

 

Stage 4: Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort

Distance & Elevation: 12.5 km // +1,824 m, -194 m
Where to stay: 
Cabane du Mont Fort
Description:

Stage four of the Walker’s Haute Route is perfect for those who don’t enjoy steep descents because it is straight uphill! You’ll gain over 1,800 meters of elevation as you make your way from the valley to the spectacularly situated Cabane de Mont Fort. Note that it is possible to utilize the cable car in Le Chable to Les Ruinettes via Verbier before continuing on to Cabane du Mont Fort. This will eliminate much of the hiking today if you are in need of an easier trek.

Stage 4 of the Walker's Haute Route from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stage 4 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

View from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stunning views from Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

Stage 5: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Distance & Elevation: 14 km // +1,135 m, -932 m
Where to stay:
Cabane de Prafleuri (no website, call +027 281 17 80)
Description:

Stage five is a very difficult stage and the route often holds snow well into July. The primary route takes the spectacular Sentier des Chamois trail before crossing the Col Termin. From here walkers will hike across the hillside before reaching the Col de Louvie and the Grand Desert beyond. The Grand Desert is an especially isolated area of the trek and care should be exercised, especially when snow is present. Trekker must then navigate across the Col de Prafleuri before descending to the mountain hut by the same name.

It is important to note that there is a popular alternate route on Stage five that avoids the Sentier des Chamois trail altogether. This route, shown on the map below, is more direct and crosses the Col de la Chaux. Check-in with the warden at Cabane du Mont Fort before deciding which route to take.

Stage 5 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Stage 5 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri. The Col de la Chaux alternate route is shown in purple.

 

Stage 6: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla

Distance & Elevation: 18 km // +795m, -1,440 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Aiguille de La Tza
Description:

Stage six brings another difficult day for those on the Walker’s Haute Route, this time with the crossing of the Pas de Chèvres and its famous ladders. In our experience, the hike up to the ladders over the boulder-strewn landscape is much more difficult than the actual ladders themselves. Either way be sure to take your time and exercise caution as you approach the top of the pass and on the ladders. The alternate option of crossing the adjacent Col de Riedmatten is often considered more difficult and we would recommend that most trekkers opt for the Pas de Chèvres.

Once over the pass you’ll enjoy a beautiful descent into the lovely Swiss village of Arolla.

Stage 6 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla.

Stage 6 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla.

 

Ladder section on the Pas de Chevres

Ladder section on the Pas de Chevres.

 

Stage 7: Arolla to La Sage

Distance & Elevation: 11 km // +670 m, -1,007 m
Where to stay:
Hotel de la Sage
Description:

Phew! After several difficult stages trekkers can finally enjoy a relatively easy day on stage seven of the Walker’s Haute Route. The trail passes the idyllic Lac Bleu as it winds it was along the shoulder of the valley between Arolla and Les Hauderes. From Les Hauderes it is a short and pleasant climb to the endpoint for the day in La Sage.

Stage 7 of the Walker's Haute Route from Arolla to La Sage.

Stage 7 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Arolla to La Sage.

 

Looking back towards Arolla on the Walker's Haute Route.

Looking back towards Arolla on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 8: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry

Distance & Elevation: 11 km // +1,724 m, -574 m
Where to stay:
Cabane de Moiry
Description:

As the elevation change suggests, Stage eight has lots of climbing! You’ll leave La Sage and immediately begin the long ascent up the Col du Tsaté which will bring walkers into the stunning Val de Moiry. After the initial descent from the Col into the valley you’ll then encounter a steep and somewhat exposed final section to bring you to Cabane de Moiry. The Cabane is certainly one of the most spectacular places to spend the night on the Walker’s Haute Route with its up-close views of the Moiry Glacier.

Alternatively, walkers can opt to take the Col de Torrent alternate route if they do not plan to stay at Cabane de Moiry as shown on the map below. In that case you’ll plan to stay either at the base of the Lac de Moiry at the Cabane Barrage de Moiry or continue on into the town of Grimentz where more accommodation is available. While this may be a good option for some, we highly recommend spending a night at the Cabane de Moiry with its spectacular views!

Stage 8 of the Walker's Haute Route from La Sage to Cabane de Moiry.

Stage 8 of the Walker’s Haute Route from La Sage to Cabane de Moiry. The Col de Torrent alternate route is shown in purple.

 

Stage 9: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

Distance & Elevation: 16 km // +655 m, -1,806 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Le Trift
Description:

You’ll get a head start on the crossing of the Col de Sorebois on stage nine given that you’ve already done much of the climbing on the previous stage. The walk starts with tremendous views as you walk high above the Lac de Moiry as you approach the Col. Once you reach the Col de Sorebois you’ll be treated to some incredible views of the mountains beyond. Here, the descent winds its way through a ski-area (with the option of taking the cable car down) before arriving in the ski resort town of Zinal.

There is also an alternate route down from the Sorebois ski lift to Zinal that winds its way on much gentler paths than the traditional route. We highly recommend for anyone with tired legs!

Stage 9 of the Walker's Haute Route from Cabane de Moiry to Zinal.

Stage 9 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Cabane de Moiry to Zinal.

 

Stage 10: Zinal to Gruben

Distance & Elevation: 17 km // +1,239 m, -1,138 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Schwarzhorn  (option for an alternate route to stay at Hotel Weisshorn)
Description:

On stage 10 of the Walker’s Haute Route you’ll officially cross the ‘Rosti Line‘ – the unofficial boundary between French and German-speaking areas of Switzerland. The trek is strenuous, but certainly nothing compared to some of the more difficult stages you’ve already completed. The Forcletta pass marks the high point for the day and from there you’ll descend into the sleepy village of Gruben.

Stage 10 also brings the alternative option for those who wish to spend a night at the Hotel Weisshorn or Cabane Bella Tola. This adds a day to your Walker’s Haute Route itinerary, but many find it a worthwhile alternative. As shown on the map below, rather than crossing the Forcletta you’ll continue along the shoulder of the mountainside before reaching the Hotel Weisshorn. You can also continue on further if you wish to stay at the lovely Cabane Bella Tola. For those who opt to take this route, the following day (Stage 11) you’ll cross the Meidpass before rejoining the main Walker’s Haute Route in Gruben.

Stage 10 of the Walker's Haute Route from Zinal to Gruben.

Stage 10 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Zinal to Gruben. The alternate route via Hotel Weisshorn and the Meidpass to Gruben is shown in purple.

 

The views approaching Gruben on the Walker's Haute Route.

The views approaching Gruben on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Stage 11: Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried

Distance & Elevation: 17.5 km // +1,167 m, -1,861 m
Where to stay:
Hotel La Reserve (for those staying in St. Niklaus) // Hotel Alpenrosli (for those staying in Gasenried prior to starting the Europaweg – see below)
Description:

Stage 11 brings trekkers on the Walker’s Haute Route over their final mountain pass and into the Mattertal valley, at the base of which sits Zermatt. The descent from the top of the Augstbordpass will bring incredible views of the Alps beyond. Upon reaching the quaint village of Jungen you’ll have the option of taking a cable car descent into St. Niklaus to rest tired legs.

If you plan to hike the Europaweg trail to finish your Walker’s Haute Route adventure we recommend either hiking or taking the local bus from St. Niklaus to the town of Gasenried, just up the hill. If you have trouble finding accommodation in Gasenried, head a bit further to the village of Grachen. This will save a very strenuous start to the next stage and set you up for a great final two days on the Europaweg to complete the Walker’s Haute Route!

Stage 11 of the Walker's Haute Route from Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried

Stage 11 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Gruben to St. Niklaus/Gasenried.

 

Stage 12: St. Niklaus/Gasenried to Europa Hut

Distance & Elevation: 13.5 km // +1,352 m, -748 m
Where to stay:
Europa Hut (Europahütte)
Description:

The Europaweg trail is a two-day trek that completes the final section of the Walker’s Haute Route. It has several exposed sections, but also is an incredible way to finish your trek! Leaving Gasenried you’ll have a steep climb up to the shoulder of the Breithorn. As the trail climbs be especially cautious on the sections of loose rock and scree you’ll encounter. After reaching the high-point for the day you’ll wind your way down to a beautiful suspension bridge before arriving at the Europa Hut.

Stage 12 of the Walker's Haute Route from Gasenried to Europa Hut

Stage 12 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Gasenried to Europa Hut. The low-level alternate route from St. Niklaus to Zermatt is shown in purple.

 

Stage 13: Europa Hut to Zermatt

Distance & Elevation: 21 km // +1,102 m, -1,749 m
Where to stay:
Hotel Bahnhof
Description:

The final stage of the Walker’s Haute Route will take you across the famous and spectacular Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge, the world’s longest suspension bridge. While this is certainly a highlight of the trek, don’t forget to enjoy the stunning views of the Matterhorn as you make your way to Zermatt. As you approach the finish of the trek you’ll find yourself among Zermatt’s many ski slopes and the increased number of tourists they attract. Enjoy a final descent before celebrating an incredible achievement in Zermatt!

Alternate finish to the Walker’s Haute Route

For those who are not interested in completing the Europaweg trail to finish the Walker’s Haute Route, a mellow valley trail makes a great alternative. From St. Niklaus, walkers will follow a lovely valley path that travels through the villages of Randa and Tasch en route to Zermatt. This option can also be completed in a single stage, making for a great option for those short on time.

Stage 13 of the Walker's Haute Route from Europa Hut to Zermatt.

Stage 13 of the Walker’s Haute Route from Europa Hut to Zermatt. The low-level alternate route from St. Niklaus to Zermatt is shown in purple.

 

Walker's Haute Route

 

Weather

Weather on the Walker’s Haute Route can be extremely volatile. You may wake up to heavy rain in the valley, see snow on the mountain tops, and be hiking in the sun by the end of the day! However, generally speaking, the weather during the hiking season is quite enjoyable. You can expect warm, sunny days, cool evenings, and relatively little rain.

A cloudy day on the Walker's Haute Route

The weather on the Walker’s Haute Route can change in an instant!

 

However, you also need to be prepared for very hot temperatures, very cold temperatures, rain, and storms (and you could even see all of these in the same day!)  Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm or without the right gear is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions:

  1. The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for predicting the weather on the Walker’s Haute Route. It allows you to see the forecast for specific peaks or coordinates, plus it has excellent radar displays and wind predictions. Check it every time you have cell service.
  2. Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to your destination before the crowds, and avoid the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms.

Walker’s Haute Route Accommodation

There is no shortage of excellent accommodation options along the Walker’s Haute Route. The villages and towns along the route have a wide variety of hotels, gites, auberges. These will suit almost any taste from more luxurious hotels to simple bunk rooms catering to the budget traveler.

Hotel on the Walker's Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route has a wide variety of accommodation options.

 

Of course, many of the stops on the Walker’s Haute Route do not occur in alpine villages, but rather at spectacular mountain huts. For those unfamiliar with trekking in the Alps, these mountain huts will be a highlight of your trip.

In stark contrast to the simple mountain huts found in other parts of the world, the huts along the Walker’s Haute Route are downright luxurious. You’ll be treated to fresh-baked bread, excellent dinners, beer and wine, and simple sleeping quarters. Our can’t miss mountain huts along the Walker’s Haute Route are:

Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

Camping along the Walker’s Haute Route is possible for the majority of the stages with a bit of creativity. Most of the valleys and villages along the route have fully serviced campgrounds, making an easy option for those carrying a tent. There will be a few stops that require a slight detour (Le Chable, for example), but local transportation makes for an easy adjustment here.

If you’re interested in camping along the Walker’s Haute Route we highly recommend you read our Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route here. 

Campsite on the Walker's Haute Route.

Camping at Le Peuty on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

Wild Camping

Wild camping along the Haute Route is complicated and discouraged (and often illegal). The trail passes through two countries and several local municipalities, each with their own specific rules and regulations. Generally speaking, wild camping may be allowed in France at high altitudes between sunset and sunrise, but it is strictly forbidden in Switzerland. This website has helpful information on the specific legal codes for each country.

If you choose to wild camp outside of sanctioned areas, set up after dusk, pack up at dawn, and utilize leave no trace practices.

Food and drink

One of the many wonderful things about the Walker’s Haute Route is that you don’t need to worry about carrying two weeks’  worth of food. The trail passes through many towns and villages along the way, making resupply easy. Additionally, all of the huts along the route serve excellent meals and will often be able to pack a lunch for you for the following day.

Food and drink on the Walker's Haute Route.

 

For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater and keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. In this situation we’d recommend you bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the Haute Route. There are several outdoor stores that sell stove fuel in Chamonix and Zermatt.

Additionally (for those with deeper pockets), many of the hotels, gites, and refuges sell meals and offer the option of purchasing meals. You can just show up for lunch, but you’ll need to order ahead of time for dinner.

Whichever way you approach your food and drink strategy, we think you’ll find that trekking in the Alps is every bit as much a culinary delight as a natural one! 

Water

All of the hotels, gites, and campgrounds provide potable water. You will pass through many villages with public drinking fountains, but make sure to plan ahead and carry 1-2 liters of water each day. Due to the presence of agricultural activity near large swaths of the trail, we do not recommend drinking any water from natural streams without filtering it first.

Getting to and from the Walker’s Haute Route

Most international travelers starting the trek in Chamonix will arrive at the Geneva Airport. To get from Geneva to Chamonix, you can take a bus or use a private shuttle service. We recommend AlpyBus.  On the other end, Zermatt is easily accessed by train from Geneva, Zurich, and many other Swiss cities.

We wrote an entire article dedicated to giving you the best, most in-depth information on everything concerning Haute Route logistics. Check it out here. 

Maps & Guidebooks

Carrying a good map is essential on the Walker’s Haute Route. While the trail is generally well-marked and easy to follow, there are countless trail junctions, detours, and confusing sections that require some form of navigation.

When we hiked the Walker’s Haute Route we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along the route, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.

GPS map for the Walker's Haute Route.

GPS map for the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Walker’s Haute Route GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the Walker’s Haute Route as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Walker's Haute Route Alternates map

BUY NOW
With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.

To cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at a good scale (1:50,000) we recommend bringing the following Swiss Topo maps:

  • Swiss Topo 282T – Martigny
  • Swiss Topo 283T – Arolla
  • Swiss Topo 273T – Montana
  • Swiss Topo 274T – Visp
  • Swiss Topo 284T – Mischabel

You can purchase all of these maps on the Swiss Topo website here. In addition, Swiss Topo also has hiking maps at a larger scale (1:33,000), although it would be quite cumbersome to carry maps to cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at that scale.

As for guidebooks, you’ll have several excellent options to choose from. The first, and the one we recommend is  Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route published by Cicerone Trekking Guides. The author, Kev Reynolds, is extremely knowledgeable about the Alps and the Walker’s Haute Route in particular.

Another good option is Walker’s Haute Route: Chamonix to Zermatt published by Knife Edge Outdoors. The benefit here is that the guide includes Swiss Topo maps for the entire route.

Budgeting

Although Switzerland has a reputation for being extraordinarily expensive, it is still very possible to hike the Walker’s Haute Route on a tight budget (camping helps tremendously with this!) Furthermore, you can even eat delicious foods and drink some tasty beverages without breaking the bank.

In terms of food, the best thing you can do is to avoid eating meals at restaurants and refuges. Sure, stop for a coffee and a pastry, enjoy a post-hike beer, and definitely pick up some local cheese, but if you cook your own meals you will greatly, greatly reduce your overall spending.

Here are some general guidelines for what you can expect to spend on the Walker’s Haute Route:

  • Average Hut Price:  40 CHF (dorm only) or 80 CHF (half pension)
  • Average Campsite Price: 15 CHF (per person)
  • Meal at hut or restaurant: 20-30 CHF (per person)
  • Packed lunch from mountain hut: 10 CHF

Check out this thorough post in which we break down exactly what you can expect to pay for food, accommodation, transportation, and more. 

What to pack for the Walker’s Haute Route

Packing for the Walker’s Haute Route is a balancing act between ensuring you have everything you need and ensuring you aren’t carrying more than you need. For those staying in huts and hotels, you can avoid the extra weight of a sleeping bag, tent, and associated camping gear.

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

Our best advice for packing for the Walker’s Haute Route is to adopt the mantra less is more. Here’s a few tips for ensuring you pack weight is manageable:

  • You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. You’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  • Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need. This is especially true for those camping along the route.
  • Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.

Hiking on the Walker's Haute Route.

Keeping your pack weight down will help immensely on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

How to train for the Walker’s Haute Route

We can guarantee you’ll have a better experience on the Walker’s Haute Route if you invest some time before your trek ensuring you’re in good hiking shape. You’ll be gaining around 1,000 meters per day in elevation and be on your feet for between 6 – 8 hours. Given those facts, spending some time in the weeks and months before your trip will do wonders to help prepare you.

To be best prepared we recommend focusing on the following:

  • Building your physical endurance
  • Building your physical strength
  • Hiking with a fully packed backpack prior to your trip

Finally, beyond simply being physically fit it is important to make sure you are mentally prepared for the rigors of the Walker’s Haute Route. Long days, bad weather, and empty stomachs can significantly dampen your mood and wear on your mental strength. If you haven’t completed a long-distance trek before you’ll want to be sure you’re keeping a positive attitude and embracing the challenges as a part of the journey!

For more detail on how to best train for the Walker’s Haute Route, check out our post here. 

 

What’s Next?

If you’ve read our Guide above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience on the Walker’s Haute Rout. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

No Comments on The Ultimate Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route

Canyonlands National Park Camping: The Complete Guide

Canyonlands National Park is eastern Utah protects an array of stunning landscapes, geology, and history. The park features two beautiful rivers in the Colorado and Green River, which have left…

Canyonlands National Park is eastern Utah protects an array of stunning landscapes, geology, and history. The park features two beautiful rivers in the Colorado and Green River, which have left their mark on this landscape by creating the stunning canyons the park is known for. Exploring the four unique districts of the park (Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze, and the actual rivers) is an experience of a lifetime.

We think the best way to experience Canyonlands is to spend a few nights in your tent taking in the incredible stargazing and desert landscape that is best appreciated firsthand. Pitching your tent or parking your RV allows visitors to slow down and take in everything this beautiful park has to offer.

Canyonlands National Park and the surrounding areas have camping options to suit any style. From the national park’s two developed campground, to its expansive backcountry that can be explored on foot, bicycle, or 4WD vehicle, to a packrafting trip on the Colorado or Green Rivers, there are nearly infinite options for camping in Canyonlands.

In addition to the campgrounds within the national park you’ll also find great options for RV,  car camping, and tons of free dispersed camping just outside the Canyonlands National Park boundary.  Needless to say, you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keeping reading to get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Canyonlands National Park.

View of the Green River in Canyonlands National Park

 

In this Post

 

Canyonlands National Park Campgrounds

Canyonlands National Park occupies nearly 340,000 acres of Utah’s canyon country in the southeastern portion of the state. The park is split into its various districts by the Green and Colorado Rivers, which meet at a confluence in the center of the park. Of the three land districts (the fourth is the rivers themselves), Island in the Sky is the most visited and easiest to access. 

Visitors are likely to arrive at Canyonlands by first coming though Moab and either heading the the Island in the Sky District via Highway 313 to the north, via Highway 211 south of Moab to the Needles District, or from the remote dirt roads that lead to the Maze District from the west.

The park’s developed campgrounds are located in the Island in the Sky and Needles District, respectively, while there are no developed campgrounds in the Maze. Backcountry campsites are located throughout the park and accessed via a variety of primitive roads or hiking trails.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the developed campgrounds are located in Canyonlands National Park as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park.

Map of campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park. Map courtesy of NPS. Click to enlarge.

 

Both of the campgrounds in Canyonlands, with the exception of Loop B at the Needles Campground, are open year round making a trip any time of year possible.

Keep reading to learn more about reserving your campground and securing the proper permits to camp in Canyonlands National Park.

Reservations & Permits for Canyonlands Camping

Only the Needles Campground in Canyonlands accepts advance reservations for a campsite. These reservations are  for campsites located in Loop B of the campground and are available from March 15th – June 30th as well as during the months of September and October.

Additionally, the three group campsites in the Needles District are reservable in advance between mid-March and mid-November. Reservations for both individual and group sites in Canyonlands can be made up to six months in advance via Recreation.gov.

Click here to make a reservation for the Needles Campground via Recreation.gov

The Willow Flat Campground in the Island in the Sky District does not accept reservations, and all campsites here are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Needles District

The Needles District offers countless opportunities for backpacking in Canyonlands.

 

For those interested in exploring the vast backcountry wilderness in Canyonlands on a backcountry camping trip you’ll need to secure a backcountry permit and reservation for the specific campsite you plan to stay at.

These permits & reservations can be obtained via Recreation.gov and are required for any overnight stay in the Canyonlands backcountry. The permit reservation fee is $36, regardless of how many nights you plan on backpacking.

Click here to secure a backcountry camping permit for Canyonlands National Park

Finally, for anyone planning an overnight river trip on either the Green or Colorado (or both!) Rivers in Canyonlands are required to obtain an overnight river permit prior to their trip. Similar to backpacking permits, overnight river permits for Canyonlands are secured through Recreation.gov. Permits cost $20.

Click here to secure an overnight river permit for Canyonlands National Park

River trip in Canyonlands.

Those planning an overnight river camping trip in Canyonlands will need to secure a permit in advance.

 

What to bring on your Canyonlands National Park Camping trip

Preparing for your Canyonlands National Park camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Canyonlands:

  • Coleman Camping Stove – This camping classic is perfect cooking up campsite dinners.
  • Pop-up canopy – The sun in Utah can be extremely strong. While there are shade structures at some of the campsites it’s always good to be able to create your own. We recommend bringing a portable shade structure like this one.
  • Portable water container – These portable water containers are a life saver.
  • Cooler – The hot temperatures here make a good cooler essential. We can’t recommend Yeti enough!
  • Canyonlands National Park Map – An essential for any trip, a good map is a must.
  • Canyonlands Guidebook – A good guidebook will provide insights and information to help you plan your perfect trip to Canyonlands. We like this guide to Utah’s National Parks from Fodor’s.

When to Camp in Canyonlands

Both of the campgrounds in Canyonlands are open year round, providing the opportunity for a camping trip anytime of year. However, most visitors will find that peak season in Canyonlands, generally the spring and fall, makes for the best time to plan a camping trip here.

Peak camping season in Canyonlands generally begins around mid-March and lasts through the end of April or mid-May when temperatures start to really heat up. Camping season then picks up again in the fall once the summer temperatures become more moderate in September and October.

The winter months bring cold temperatures to Canyonlands, making camping only appealing to the hardcore winter campers out there. Although large snow falls are not common, you should still be prepared!

The summer months of June, July, and August bring high temperatures consistently reaching over 100 degrees. While you can still camp during these months, you’ll need to be prepared with plenty of water and you will be limited in what you can do in the park

Find more information on the weather conditions you can expect to encounter in Canyonlands National Park here. 

Developed Campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park

There are two developed campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park as well as three group campsites. Each campground provides access to a different district of the park and provides easy access to many of the best things to do in Canyonlands.

Keep reading to learn more about your options.

Willow Flat Campground – Island in the Sky District

Number of Sites: 12 sites
Fee: $15/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 28′. No hookups
Reservations: First-come, first-served
Season: Open year round.
More Information

Willow Flat Campground in Island in the Sky Canyonlands National Park

The Willow Flat Campground. Photo credit NPS/Chris Wonderly.

 

The Willow Flat Campground is located in the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands National Park. This popular campground provides easy access to the Island in the Sky Visitor Center, Green River overlook, and Mesa Arch Trail.

Willow Flat contains just 12 campsites that can accommodate tent campers as well as small RVs and trailers. The official length limit for RVs or trailers at Willow Flat is 28′.  The campground is organized in a single large loop with individual campsites located on both sides of the road.  Campsites feature nice shade structures, picnic tables, and fire rings.

There is no potable water available at the Willow Flat Campground, so be sure to plan accordingly. The closest place to get water is at the Island in the Sky Visitor Center which has an outdoor drinking water tap available from Spring – Fall.

All of the campsites at Willow Flat are available on a first-come, first-served basis. If you’re hoping to secure a campsite here during either the spring or fall, be sure to arrive early as it is almost always completely full.

Mesa Arch in Canyonlands National Park

Explore the Mesa Arch trail from your campground at Willow Flat.

 

The Needles Campground – Needles District

Number of Sites: 26 individual sites
Fee: $20/night
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 28′.
Reservations: 12 sites reservable between March 15th – June 30th & September 1st – October 31st. Click here to reserve.
Season: Open year round.
More Information

The Needles Campground, Canyonlands National Park

The Needles Campground. Photo credit NPS/Sheena Harper.

 

Located in the Needles District, the aptly named Needles Campground is the largest in Canyonlands National Park. The Needles Campground is the perfect place to spend the night before exploring some of the highlights of the Needles District including Elephant Canyon, the Puebloan “Roadside Ruins”, and the short Pothole Point hike.

The campground contains 26 individual campsites organized into two loops. The campsites in Loop B feel a bit more secluded from the road than those in Loop A. There is potable water available seasonally at the campground and each of the campsites features a fire ring and picnic table.

Reservations are available for 12 of the campsites located in Loop B of the Needles Campground during peak season, from March 15th – June 30th and September 1st – October 31st. All of the campsites located in Loop A are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Click here to reserve your campsite at the Needles Campground

The campground can accommodate both tents and RVs, although five of the sites are tent-only. RVs are required to be less than 28′ at the Needles Campground.

Sandstone rocks in the Needles District

 

Needles Group Campsites – Needles District

Number of Sites: 3 group campsites (Squaw Flat Group, Wooden Shoe Group & Split Top Group)
Fee: $70 – $225/night depending on the number of people.
RVs: Yes, max length of approximately 25′.
Reservations: Required. Available on a six month rolling basis here. 
Season: March 15th – November 15th.
More Information

In addition to the individual campsites at the Needles Campground described above, there are also three group-campsites located in the Needles District of Canyonlands. These campsites are spread out along the main park road and can accommodate groups of between 11 – 50 campers depending on the site.

The three group campsites are reservable up to six months in advance for stays from March 15th – November 15th. The three group sites are closed outside of this time frame. Get more information or make a reservation below:

 

Backcountry camping in Canyonlands National Park

The Canyonlands backcountry presents nearly endless opportunity for an adventurous camping trip. Possibilities exist for backpacking, bikepacking, 4WD camping, and even riverside camping along one of the two rivers in the park. Each option has its own set of regulations and camping opportunities, which we’ve outlined below.

Be sure to check out the helpful videos on the Canyonlands backcountry here to help plan your trip. 

Regardless of how you plan to explore the Canyonlands backcountry you’ll need to secure an overnight permit. Advance reservations are not required for overnight permits, but they are recommended. This is especially so for trips along White Rim road during the spring and fall. Get more information on backcountry permits in Canyonlands National Park below:

Get more information on overnight permits for Canyonlands here.

Canyonlands backcountry camping

 

Backpacking in Canyonlands National Park

Backpacking in Canyonlands National Park is regulated differently depending on the section of the park you plan to explore, as outlined below.

Needles District backpacking
For those planning a trip in the Needles District you’ll need to secure a permit and reservation to stay at specific backcountry campsites. This is the most popular section of the park to backpack in, and permits are highly competitive during peak season.

Find more information on exploring the Needles District backcountry here.

Island in the Sky District backpacking
Island in the Sky backpacking is not faint of heart. This is serious canyon country and backpackers will need to be prepared for loose slopes, lack of trails, and little water availability. For those up to the challenge you’re overnight permit will specify a general backcountry zone where you are allowed to camp.

The lone exception to this is the Syncline Trail, which requires backpackers to stay at a designated campsite.

Find more information on exploring the Island in the Sky District backcountry here.

The Maze District backpacking
The least visited and most difficult district to backpack in Canyonlands is the Maze. Here you won’t find many trails and will likely need some technical rock climbing or canyoneering experience to navigate the difficult terrain. Backpackers will then be able to camp in designated zones.

For all backcountry campers in Canyonlands it is important to minimize your impact. These means practicing Leave No Trace principles and avoiding walking on or camping on the park’s unique biological soil.

Canyonlands National Park camping

 

Riverside camping in Canyonlands National Park

A float trip along either the Green or Colorado Rivers is a popular way to explore Canyonlands National Park. There are options for mellow floats along the flat water sections of the river or more adventurous trips through Cataract Canyon’s whitewater.

Whatever your preference, if you plan to camp along the river you’ll need an overnight backcountry permit. These can be obtained from the backcountry reservation office located in Moab, or from any of the visitor centers in the park.

Find more information on overnight River permits in Canyonlands National Park here.

 

4WD/Bicycle camping in Canyonlands National Park

The final way to explore the Canyonlands backcountry is to do so in your 4WD vehicle or on a mountain bike.  The park contains hundreds of miles of rugged dirt roads that provide access to some of the more remote sections of Canyonlands.

As with backpacking, you’ll need to obtain an overnight backcountry permit if you’re planning to camp while either mountain biking or exploring in your vehicle. Some of the most popular trips include:

Permits for White Rim Road can be difficult to obtain, so be sure to apply early if you hope to camp along the route during the peak fall or spring season. Also, be sure you have a plan for water as it is not available at any of the campsites along the route.

A bikepacker on White Rim Road

 

Canyonlands National Park Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Canyonlands National Park. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • Only camp in designated sites.
  • No more than ten people per campsite at the park’s two developed campgrounds.
  • Always store your food in your car, or in an animal proof container.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.

Campfires in Canyonlands

Campfires are permitted at the two developed campgrounds in Canyonlands National Park. This includes the group campsites located in the Needles District.  The fire must be contained within the provided fire pit/grate or grill and should never be left unattended.

It is also important to ensure that any wood you bring into the park is properly sourced, as firewood can introduce invasive pests that can cause irreparable damage.

In addition, campfires are permitted along the two rivers in the national park, but be sure to minimize the size to help reduce environmental impacts.

As always, do not gather any wood from the national park!

Campfires are not allowed in the backcountry of Canyonlands, so if you’re planning a backpacking trip be sure to bring a camp stove.

Campfire in grate.

 

Wildlife

The wildlife than calls Canyonlands National Park home can be difficult to spot. These desert creatures have adapted to living in a harsh environment where water is scare and temperature extremes make surviving difficult.

However,  desert adaptations of many of these animals are truly incredible and it is important to limit your impact on their fragile ecosystem. Most animal life is active during the night, although you’re likely to encounter lizards, plenty of birds, a possibly a few mammals during the day.

Campers should be especially aware of the following in Canyonlands:

  • Pack rats: This is mammal you are most likely to encounter on a camping trip in Canyonlands. Be sure to securely store all food, especially in the backcountry to limit your impact and keep these critters from eating your breakfast!
  • Snakes: Canyonlands is home to a wide variety of desert snake species. Snakes are most active at night, but be sure to always be scanning the trail for them. Although rare, the midget-faded rattlesnake is quite venomous and inhabits much of Canyonlands National Park.
  • Lizards: A hallmark of Canyonlands and the surrounding wilderness, you’re sure to see countless lizards during your trip to Canyonlands. These are harmless, but can cause quite a surprise if you’re not looking out for them.

Learn more about the wildlife in Canyonlands here.

Pets

Pets are allowed in Canyonlands National Park, but only in specific areas and under specific rules, as outlined below.

Pets are permitted in both of the developed campgrounds, on paved scenic drives, and in any parking lots in the park.

We generally recommend against bringing you pet to Canyonlands, but if you do please follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Pets are allowed within campgrounds, on park roads, and in parking lots.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails, or in the backcountry.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Temperatures can get extremely hot in Canyonlands.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Canyonlands National Park website here.

Where to get supplies

Canyonlands National Park sits in a very remote section of Utah’s canyon country. As a result, there are few services available in or immediately adjacent to the park. This makes it very important to stock up on any camping supplies you need before venturing into the park.

Check out your best bet for supplies below:

  • Moab, Utah: The adventure capital for many of Utah’s national parks, Moab is located a short drive north of oc Canyonlands National Park. Here you’ll find any services you could possibly need before a camping trip including gas stations, grocery stores, several excellent outdoor stores, as well as medical services for any needs you may have.

Find a complete list of services on the Discover Moab website here. 

 

Car driving towards Moab, Utah.

Moab is just a short drive from Canyonlands National Park.

 

Camping near Canyonlands National Park

A Canyonlands National Park camping trip is an experience not to be missed. However, given the popularity of the national park and the relatively limited camping options it is always possible that you’ll arrive to find no campsites available.

If this happens, all is not lost as there are plenty of good campgrounds just outside the national park boundary. From RV campgrounds with full hookups to great car camping and free dispersed camping on adjacent BLM land the you’re sure to find something that suits your needs.

Keep reading to learn more.

RV campgrounds near Canyonlands

RV camping near canyonlands National park

 

Kayenta Campground (Dead Horse State Park)

Number of sites: 22 sites
Fee: $50/night during peak season
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, electric hookups available.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Kayenta Campground in Dead Horse State Park is located just north of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands. While not a full fledged RV campground with tons of amenities, you will have access to electric hookups as well as a dump station here. For those looking for a more rustic RV camping experience near Canyonlands, look no further.

Archview RV Resort & Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $58 – $77/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Archview RV Resort and Campground is located just north of Moab, UT along State Highway 191. From here, your just a 30 minutes drive from the Island in the Sky Visitor Center. Archview has all the trappings of a full service RV resort including a pool, splash pad, playground, picnic shelters, and more.

Archview gets great reviews for its location, which is perfect if you’re hoping to visit any of the other national parks in the area.

 

Needles Outpost Campground

Number of sites: Plenty!
Fee: $22/night
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

The Needles Outpost Campground is located about as close to Canyonlands National Park as you can get. Immediately adjacent to the Needles District and only a short drive to the Needles Visitor Center, this is the perfect place to stay if you want to be close to the park.

The campground is unique in that it is completely off the grid, so no RV hookups here. However, they do have gas, propane, and a small general store. Guests rave about the friendly hosts and tranquil setting. Highly recommended.

 

Car camping sites near Canyonlands

If you’re looking for car camping sites near Canyonlands National Park you’ll have a few good options to choose from.

In addition to the campgrounds listed below, car camping is permitted and recommend at all of the campgrounds listed in the RV camping section above.  Keep reading below to see what your best bets are for car camping near Canyonlands National Park.

Camping near Canyonlands National Park

 

Dead Horse State Park

Number of Sites: Kayenta Campground (21 sites) & Wingate Campground (21 sites, 11 are tent only)
Fee: $35 – $50/night depending on season and campsite type (RV or tent)
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes, both campgrounds feature electric hookups at select sites.
Reservations: Recommended. Click here to reserve.
Pets: Allowed.

Situated just north of the Island in the Sky District of Canyonlands, Dead Horse State Park offers two developed campgrounds that can accommodate both RV and tent campers. The Kayenta and Wingate campgrounds are located adjacent to each other and all sites feature shade structures, picnic tables, and fire pits.

It is important to note that there is no water source at either campground, so you’ll need to come prepared with all of the water you plan on needing.

The campgrounds here are also great if you’re interesting in exploring any of the excellent hiking trails in Dead Horse State Park.

Dead Horse State Park

Dead Horse State Park makes a great place to camp if all of the campgrounds in Canyonlands are full.

 

BLM Developed Campgrounds

Number of Sites: Plenty!
Fee: $20/night
Capacity: 10 people per campsite, group sites more
RVs: Permitted at some campgrounds, but check individual campsite pages for details.
Reservations: All campgrounds are first-come, first-served
Pets: Allowed.

The Bureau of Land Management maintains dozens of developed campgrounds in the Moab area. These campgrounds are all first-come, first-served and make a great option for basic car camping just outside of Canyonlands National Park.

While all of the campgrounds in the Moab area will work well for a visit to Canyonlands, the following are especially well-located:

  • Cowboy Camp: North of the Island in the Sky District. 7 campsites, and no RVs.
  • Horsethief: North of the Island in the Sky District. 85 individual campsites, five group sites. RVs allowed, but no hookups.
  • Hatch Point: East of the Needles District. 10 campsites.
  • Windwhistle: East of the Needles District. 15 campsites.

You can check out the BLM map below which shows all of their campgrounds in the Moab area. Also, be sure to check our their excellent brochure for additional information.

Map of BLM campgrounds near Canyonlands National Park

Map of BLM campgrounds near Canyonlands National Park. Map courtesy of BLM. Click to enlarge.

 

Glamping Canyonlands

Number of Sites: Three “glamping” tents available
Fee: $85/night
Capacity: Two people per tent.
RVs: N/A
Reservations: Required. Reserve here. 
Pets: Not allowed.

Glamping Canyonlands is not a typical campground, but may appeal to your more luxurious side. Located east of the Needles District in Canyonlands, this upstart glamping operation currently has three tents that all feature queen beds, a small deck, and comfortable chairs.

You’ll be well located here to explore both Canyonlands and the rest of the Moab area.

 

Free dispersed camping near Canyonlands

The final option for camping outside of Canyonlands National Park is to find a free, dispersed campground on the adjacent BLM land. This is a bit trickier than you might expect given the huge swaths of public land in this section of Utah, but it is important to know where dispersed camping is allowed.

First, and most importantly, there is no dispersed camping permitted within 20 miles of Moab.

This is to help protect the sensitive ecosystem of this extremely popular landscape. Please obey this requirement and take advantage of the options below or stay at of the campgrounds listed in the sections above.

Here are you best bets for free dispersed camping near Canyonlands National Park:

  • Dubinsky Well Road: Located north of the Island in the Sky District, this free dispersed camping area can accommodate up to 12 groups. Located north of the Lone Mesa Campground just off BLM Road 137.
  • Gemini Bridges Road: Just south of Moab a 4WD road leads to the Bride’s Canyon trailhead. Just before reaching the trailhead there are several beautiful campsites located on the north side of the road.
  • Mineral Bottom: The Mineral Bottom dispersed camping area is located just northwest of Canyonlands National Park, although it will be quite a drive to actually enter the park. Recommended only if the other options are full.

 

Have a great trip!

That’s it! We hope you’ve found all of the information on Canyonlands National Park camping in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

Canyonlands National Park camping

 

No Comments on Canyonlands National Park Camping: The Complete Guide

The Complete Guide to Camping in Dinosaur National Monument

Dinosaur National Monument is a place where diverging paths come together. The monument itself straddles the border of Colorado and Utah, and it contains the confluence of the Green and…

Dinosaur National Monument is a place where diverging paths come together. The monument itself straddles the border of Colorado and Utah, and it contains the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers. It is also a place where nature, history, and culture all meet in captivating ways.

Named after the famous Dinosaur Quarry, it is the home of over 800 paleontological sites and numerous fossils of a variety of prehistoric species. Dinosaur National Monument also contains beautiful and well-preserved petroglyphs created by the Fremont People. And of course, the monument has endless recreational opportunities, such as hiking, rafting, and fishing. It is an official International Dark Sky Park, meaning that the stargazing there is top-notch.

Given all that, we think the best way to experience all that Dinosaur National Monument has to offer is by spending the night in your tent or RV where you’ll experience this incredible landscape firsthand.

Dinosaur National Monument and the surrounding areas have plenty of options for camping. From the six developed campgrounds located within the national monument to the primitive riverside sites, to the infinite backcountry options, you’re sure to find the perfect campsite in Dinosaur National Monument.

In addition to the campgrounds within the national monument, you’ll also find great options for RV and car camping just outside the park boundary.  Needless to say, you’ll be spoiled for options.

Keeping reading and get all the details to plan your perfect camping trip in Dinosaur National Monument.

In This Post

Dinosaur National Monument Campgrounds

There are six developed campgrounds located with Dinosaur National Monument. Three of these are located on the Utah side of the park (Green River, Split Mountain, and Rainbow Park), and three are located on the Colorado side (Echo Park, Deerlodge Park, and Gates of Lodore).

In addition to these six campgrounds, Dinosaur National Monument also features nearly two dozen primitive riverside sites and an endless array of at large backcountry options for those really wanting to get off the beaten track. All of the campgrounds are well located throughout the park, giving visitors plenty of campsites to choose from regardless of which section of Dinosaur National Monument they want to explore.

The map below gives you a general sense of where each of the developed campgrounds are located in Dinosaur National Monument as well as their relation to the surrounding area. 

Map of campgrounds in Dinosaur National Monument

Pay close attention to when each campground is open, as many are closed or difficult to access in the winter months. Additionally, the price for camping varies with the season; it is more expensive to camp during the summer months when water is available.

Generally speaking, April through October are the best months to visit Dinosaur National Monument. The weather is most agreeable and all of the campgrounds are typically open and accessible during this period.

Reservations and Permits

The following sites can be reserved on recreation.gov:

There are two backcountry sites located at the confluence of Jones Hole Creek and Ely Creek, along the Jones Hole Trail that require reservations. Call (435) 781-7700 to reserve these sites.

Reservations can be made up to six months in advance of your trip, but are not accepted less than 48 hours prior to arrival.

All other campground sites and backcountry sites in Dinosaur National Monument are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

To secure a first-come, first-served campground during peak season, you will want to be sure to arrive early!

If you want to camp anywhere outside of the developed campgrounds (whether in a designated backcountry site or at large), you’ll need to obtain a free backcountry permit before heading out. You can get your permit by contacting either the Quarry Visitor’s Center: (435) 781-7700 or the Canyon Visitor’s Center: (970) 374-3000.

Deerlodge Park Camping Dinosaur National Monument
Deerlodge Park is a peaceful and scenic riverside campground. Photo courtesy of NPS.

What to bring on your Dinosaur National Monument Camping trip

Preparing for your Dinosaur National Monument camping trip involves more than deciding which campground best fits your needs. There is also the important job of making sure you have all the right gear you’ll need to ensure a great trip.

We’re sure you’ll already have the essentials like a great tentsleeping bags, and camp chairs, but below are some of our favorite items specifically for camping in Dinosaur National Monument:

Developed Campgrounds in Dinosaur National Monument

There are six developed campgrounds located in Dinosaur National Monument. These campgrounds vary in size and services and give plenty of options for those looking to explore all that Dinosaur has to offer. Details for all six campgrounds are below.

Green River Campground

Number of Sites: 80 sites
Fee: $18/night ($9.00 for seniors and access pass holders)
RVs: Yes, max size of 30′ RV or 20′ trailer.
Reservations: Available for B Loop sites (27 sites). Click here to reserve.
Season: Mid April through Mid October
More Information

Green River Campground, Dinosaur National Monument
Many sites have beautiful views of Green River and the surrounding peaks. Photo courtesy of NPS.

The Green River Campground is set in a tranquil cottonwood grove on the banks of the Green River. Located just five miles from Dinosaur Quarry, it’s the closest lodging option to this popular destination. The Green River Campground also provides good proximity to the Split Mountain boat ramp, a common endpoint for rafting trips in the area.

The Green River Campground contains 80 campsites. Site #41 and the adjacent bathroom are accessible for wheelchair users. The campground is organized into several loops with potable water and restrooms available throughout. There are flush toilets, but no showers. 27 out of the 80 total campsites are reservable in advance on Recreation.gov, while the remaining sites are always available on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground typically only fills up on weekends near holidays.

RV’s are welcome at the Green River Campground, although there are no hookups or dump station available. RV’s longer than 30′ and trailers longer than 20′ are not recommended at the campground due to the narrow roads.

Green River Campground Map, Dinosaur National Monument
Map of the Green River Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Split Mountain Campground

Number of Sites: 4 group sites
Fee: $40/night during peak season, $6/night during the off season
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Available for group sites in peak season. Click here to reserve.
Season: Peak Season is early April through Mid/late October
More Information

Split Mountain Campground, Dinosaur National Monument
The Split Mountain Campground consists of four large group sites on the banks of the Green River. Photo courtesy of NPS/Dan Johnson

The Split Mountain Campground is conveniently located adjacent to the Split Mountain Boat Ramp and just a few miles from the popular Dinosaur Quarry. Its riverside location allows campers to enjoy great views of Green River and the iconic Split Mountain towering above.

During the peak season (typically early April through mid to late October), the Split Mountain Campground functions as a group campsite only, with four large sites accommodating 8-25 people and up to six vehicles. In peak season, reservations can be made for group sites on recreation.gov. Throughout the remainder of the year, the group sites are split up into several individual sites that are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Potable water and flush toilets are available from early April through early October. Vault toilets are available for the off season, but there is no running water during this time.

The Split Mountain Campground can accommodate RVs, but there are no hookups or dump stations. Generator use is allowed from 7 am-9 pm.

Split Mountain Campground Map, Dinosaur National Monument
Map of Split Mountain Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Rainbow Park Campground

Number of Sites: 4 sites
Fee: $6/night ($3.00 for seniors and access pass holders)
RVs: No
Reservations: N/A
Season: Open all year, but the road to the campground is impassible when wet and not serviced in the winter.
More Information

Rainbow Park Campground, Dinosaur National Monument
Views from the head of Split Canyon, near the Rainbow Park Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS/Dan Johnson.

This small, primitive campground is located on the Utah side of Dinosaur National Monument and is 28 miles from the Quarry Visitor Center. It is located next to the boat ramp at the head of Split Mountain Canyon, a popular launch point for single-day rafting trips. The Rainbow Park area is packed with historical and natural attractions, including petroglyph panels from the Fremont People at McKee Springs, the Ruple Ranch, and several hiking trails and picnicking spots.

The Rainbow Park campground is located on the banks of the Green River. It consists of just four walk-in sites that can accommodate up to eight people each. Sites have picnic tables and campfire rings, and vault toilets and trash/recycling are available at the campground. It is important to note, however, that there is no potable water available at the Rainbow Park Campground. Water will need to be brought in or filtered from the river.

RV’s are not permitted at the Rainbow Park Campground, due to the rugged nature of the access road and sites.

The Rainbow Park Campground is open all year, although the road may be impassible in wet or winter conditions. All sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Rainbow Park Campground Map, Dinosaur National Monument
Map of Rainbow Park Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Echo Park Campground

Number of Sites: 22 sites
Fee: $10/night for individual sites and $15 for the group site during peak season when water is available. $6.00/night when water is not available.
RVs: No
Reservations: The group site can be reserved at recreation.gov. All other sites are first-come, first-served.
Season: Open all year, but the road to the campground is impassible when wet and not serviced in the winter.
More Information

Tent in front of Steamboat Rock at the Echo Park Campground in Dinosaur National Monument
Great views from the Echo Park Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS.

For those campers willing to have a more rugged experience, Echo Park provides an incredible chance to sleep in one of Dinosaur National Monument’s most spectacular places. Situated in the shadow of the impressive Steamboat Rock and surrounding cliffs, nearly every site in this campground has uninterrupted views. The campground provides access to several trails that lead to the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers, the acclaimed Mitten Park trail, and more. Camping at Echo Park also gives you good proximity to unique sites like Whispering Cave and the Pool Creek Petroglyphs.

The Echo Park Campground consists of 22 sites, 17 of which are arranged around a loop road and accessible for cars and camper-top trucks. One of the sites on this loop is handicapped-accessible. There are also four walk-in tent sites, which are reached by following a short trail at the far end of the loop road. One group site is available at Echo Park Campground, which can accommodate 9-25 people. Vault toilets, picnic tables, and campfire rings with grills are provided. Water is available seasonally.

Due to the rugged road used to reach the Echo Park Campground, RV’s and trailers are strongly discouraged from attempting to access this area. Additionally, high-clearance vehicles are advised, due to the steep grades, sharp turns, and generally rough road conditions.

The Echo Park Campground is open all year, although the road is impassable in wet and winter conditions. Water is available at the campground only from late May through Mid-September.

Reservations for the group site can be made up to 12 months in advance at recreation.gov. All other sites at the Echo Park Campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis. The campground typically only fills up during holiday weekends in the summer.

Echo Park Campground Map, Dinosaur National Monument
Map of Echo Park Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Deerlodge Park Campground

Number of Sites: 7 sites
Fee: $10/night during peak rafting season when water is available. $6.00/night when water is not available. (50% discount for seniors and access pass holders)
RVs: No
Reservations: N/A
Season: Open all year, but the road to the campground is impassible when wet and not serviced in the winter. The campground typically floods in late Spring.
More Information

Deerlodge Park Campground, Dinosaur National Monument
Deerlodge Park Campground has seven shady walk-in sites on the banks of the Yampa River. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Deerlodge Park is a small, tent-only campground located on the eastern edge of Dinosaur National Monument. Set on the banks of the Yampa River, the campground enjoys plenty of shade and lovely views. It is located next to the boat ramp at the head of the Yampa Canyon. The campground is commonly used for boaters prior to beginning their raft trips.

The Deerlodge Park Campground has seven walk-in sites, each with a fire pit and picnic table. Each site can accommodate up to 25 people. There are vault toilets, and running water is typically available from mid-May through Mid-July. All trash must be packed out, as there is no garbage service at this campground.

Due to the rugged road used to reach the Deerlodge Campground, RV’s and trailers are strongly discouraged from attempting to access this area. Additionally, high-clearance vehicles are advised, due to the steep grades, sharp turns, and generally rough road conditions.

While the campground is open all year, the road is not accessible in wet or wintery conditions. Water is only available during the peak boating season for the Yampa River, which is typically mid-May through Mid-July. All sites at the campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Gates of Lodore Campground

Number of Sites: 19 sites
Fee: $10/night during peak season when water is available. $6.00/night when water is not available. (50% discount for seniors and access pass holders)
RVs: Yes
Reservations: N/A
Season: Open all year, but the campground may be difficult to access in winter due to snow.
More Information

Gates of Lodore Campground, Dinosaur National Monument
A shady site at the Gates of Lodore Campground. Photo courtesy of NPS.

The Gates of Lodore Campground is located on the northern edge of Dinosaur National Monument. It is adjacent to a boat ramp that serves as a popular launch point for rafters heading down the Green River. The campground provides easy access to the Gates of Lodore Trail, as well as many other hiking options in the backcountry within this remote part of the Monument. The campground is also near other regional attractions, including the Brown’s Park National Wildlife Refuge and the John Jarvie Ranch.

The 19 sites in the Gates of Lodore Campground sit side-by-side along an unpaved dirt road. Vault toilets and bear-safe lockers are located throughout the campground, and picnic tables and fire pits are provided at each site. Drinking water is available during the peak summer season, typically late April through late October. There is no trash service at Gates of Lodore Campground, so all waste must be packed out.

RV’s and trailers are welcome at the Gates of Lodore Campground, but there are no hookups or dump stations available. All of the sites are quite flat and can easily fit a 25′ RV, while some sites can accommodate even larger vehicles.

The Gates of Lodore Campground is open all year, although it may be hard to access during winter months. Water is only available during the summer season. Reservations are not accepted for this campground; all sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Gates of Lodore Campground Map, Dinosaur National Monument
Map of Gates of Lodore Campground, courtesy of NPS.

Designated Backcountry Sites

If you would prefer to get away from the bustle of the campgrounds and enjoy more solitude in the wilderness, Dinosaur National Monument offers plenty of great options for backcountry camping. The sites described in this section are only reachable by foot or boat, but they have basic facilities, including picnic tables and vault toilets. The majority of the designated backcountry sites are located along the river and are primarily used by boaters. There are two additional sites that are located along the Jones Hole trail.

River Campsites

Designated backcountry sites are located along each of the three major river-running routes in Dinosaur National Monument: Lodore Canyon, Yampa Canyon, and Whirlpool and Split Mountain Canyons. Campsites are generally spaced every couple of miles along the route. This map provides an overview of river camping options:

Backcountry River Sites Map, Dinosaur National Monument
Map of river sites in Dinosaur National Monument, courtesy of NPS.

A complete list of river sites, distances between sites, and camping regulations can be found on this page.

There are vault toilets provided at each site, but campers must filter their own water. The use of soap on the banks of the river is forbidden, and campers must pack out their own trash.

The high-use river-running season is from the second Monday in May through the second Friday in September. During this time, river sites may only be used by boaters. Outside of the high-use season, backpackers may also use the river sites. Sites are open all year and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Permits are required for backcountry camping at any of the river sites. Permits are free, although you’ll still need to pay the Dinosaur National Monument entrance fee. Boaters will also be required to pay River Recreation fees, detailed on page 11 of this booklet.

Jones Hole Trail Backcountry Sites

In addition to the backcountry sites for boaters located along the Green River, there are two campsites near the confluence of Jones Hole Creek and Ely Creek. To reach these sites, campers will start at the trailhead parking area at the Jones Hole Fish Hatchery, and hike about two miles along the Jones Hole Trail.

There are picnic tables and a vault toilet available at the sites. Each site can accommodate up to eight people. Fires are not permitted, and all trash must be packed out. There is no potable water provided at these sites, so campers should plan on filtering water from the creek. Sites are open all year, but must be reserved by calling (435) 781-7700.

Jones Hole Backcountry Campsites, Dinosaur National Monument
One of the two backcountry sites located along Ely Creek and the Jones Hole Trail. Photo courtesy of NPS.

At Large Backcountry Camping in Dinosaur National Monument

Beyond the campgrounds and designated backcountry sites, there’s yet another option for camping in Dinosaur National Monument. Experienced and adventurous campers can sleep out under the stars in the spot of their choosing, provided they follow a few important rules and regulations. This option, referred to as “At Large” backcountry camping, allows campers to hike on or off trail and pitch their tent anywhere in the Monument.

If you’re considering At Large Backcountry Camping in Dinosaur National Monument, it’s imperative you know some key information.

You CANNOT Camp in the following areas:

  • Within 1 mile of developed areas
  • Within half a mile from roads
  • Within 100 feet of any water source (river, stream, pond, etc)
  • Within 100 yards of any cultural, paleontological, or historic site
  • With 1/8 of a mile from any river
  • Along any of the following trails: Desert Voices, Sound of Silence, Box Canyon or Hog Canyon.

Also, keep in mind:

  • Water sources are scarce. Have a plan (and a backup plan) for where and how you’ll obtain all of the water you need for drinking and cooking.
  • You are camping in bear country. Use proper techniques for securing food and other scented items that might attract bears.
  • Campfires are only permitted in certain areas of the Monument. See this page for details.

Permits are required for At Large Camping. See this section for more information on permits.

Contact a ranger at (435) 781-7700 if you have questions about At Large camping in the backcountry.

Quarry Visitors Center, Dinosaur National Monument
The Quarry Visitor Center is one of the two places where you can obtain a backcountry camping permit. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Dinosaur National Monument Camping Must Know

The following sections contain all the basic information you need to ensure you have a great time camping in Dinosaur National Monument. Before we dive in, there are a few important regulations to note:

  • Water is not widely available, especially during the winter offseason. Check if your campsite will have access to potable water when you plan to camp and prepare accordingly.
  • Only camp in designated sites or areas that abide by the At Large Backcountry regulations.
  • No more than eight people per individual campsite and 25 people per group campsite.
  • Always store your food using the provided food storage locker, in your car or in an animal-proof container.
  • Always practice Leave No Trace principles.

Detailed information on fires, pets, wildlife, and more can be found in the sections below.

Fires

Fires are permitted at all designated campsites and picnic areas, but only in the fire rings and grills provided. Always check with the ranger or visitor center upon arrival, as seasonal fire bans may be in effect. Additionally, it is important to note that wood gathering is prohibited in all developed and riverside areas of the monument. Visitors must bring in their own locally-sourced firewood.

Fires are typically permitted in the backcountry, EXCEPT:

  • Jones Hole Creek Canyon (including the designated backcountry sites along the Jones Hole Trail)
  • Upper Pool Creek Canyon
  • Lower Sand Canyon
  • Pats Draw
  • Green and Yampa Rivers Canyons (with the exception of designated river campsites)
  • Within 1 mile of developed areas and campgrounds.

If you plan to make a fire in the backcountry, you must exercise extreme caution to ensure that the fire and sparks are properly contained and monitored, and fully extinguished before departure.

Campfires in Dinosaur National Monument

Fires are ONLY permitted in backcountry at large and river campsites IF:

  • A fire pan is used and all fire debris is removed from the backcountry.
  • The fire pan must be at least 3 inches above the ground and be placed on a fireproof tarp or blanket to catch all debris from the area around the pan.

Wildlife

Dinosaur National Monument’s diverse landscapes host a multitude of unique ecosystems. The deserts, canyons, rivers, and mountains are home to a wonderful range of species. Some notable fauna include the peregrine falcon, the greater sage grouse, and several species of endangered fish. While the chance to see wildlife in their native habitat is certainly an unforgettable experience for those lucky enough to witness it, there are some precautions to keep in mind when spending time in Dinosaur National Monument.

Black Bears: Even though it may not seem like it, Dinosaur National Monument is bear country. Black bears are not typically aggressive, but they are curious and they can be dangerous when they feel threatened. The most common encounters with bears happen when they are seeking food. Be sure to read these safety guidelines before camping in Dinosaur.

Mountain Lions: Dinosaur National Monument is home to mountain lions, although it is incredibly rare to encounter this elusive big cat. That being said, they can be dangerous to humans and it’s important to know what to do if you cross paths with a mountain lion. Learn more about mountain lion safety here.

A Great Blue Heron catches a fish on the banks of the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument.
A Great Blue Heron catches a fish on the banks of the Green River in Dinosaur National Monument. Photo courtesy of NPS/Dan Johnson.

Pets

Pets are allowed in Dinosaur National Monument, but only in specific areas and under specific rules. Pets are not allowed in the backcountry, on certain trails, or on river trips.

They are permitted in the developed campgrounds, adjacent to park infrastructure, and on the main park roads. They are also allowed on the following trails:  Plug Hat Butte and other trails at the Plug Hat Picnic Area, Canyon Overlook, Echo Park Overlook, Iron Springs Bench Overlook, Swelter Shelter Petroglyphs Trail, and the River Trail.

If you bring your pet to Dinosaur National Monument, you must follow these regulations:

  • Pets must be on a leash at all times.
  • Pets are allowed within campgrounds, on park roads, and in picnic areas.
  • Pets are not allowed in park buildings, on trails (except the ones noted above), or in the backcountry.
  • Do not leave your pet unattended in your vehicle. Temperatures can get extremely hot in Dinosaur.
  • Always properly dispose of pet waste.
  • Properly documented and trained service animals are permitted to accompany individuals with disabilities anywhere members of the public may normally go within the park.

For a complete list of regulations related to pets check out the Dinosaur National Monument website here.

Dogs happily exploring one of the pet-friendly trails in Dinosaur National Monument.
Dogs happily exploring one of the pet-friendly trails in Dinosaur National Monument. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Where to Get Supplies

Dinosaur National Monument is a vast area with no supplies or services available within the park (with the exception of a few snack items at the Visitor centers). This means it is extremely important that you enter the monument well-stocked on food, water (if there’s none available at your destination), gas, and any other necessities you may need while camping.

Map of Services near Dinosaur National Monument
This map provides a sense of the available services near Dinosaur National Monument. Courtesy of NPS.

The available services and their proximity to the Monument vary depending on which direction you’ll be coming from. Your options are outlined below:

Vernal, UT: Located just twenty minutes from the Quarry Visitor Center, this is the major portal to Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah side of the park. In Vernal and the surrounding area, you’ll find grocery stores, outdoor retailers, gas stations, restaurants, hotels, and a medical center.

Dinosaur, CO: Less than 10 minutes from the southern entrance to the Monument and the Canyon Visitor Center, the town of Dinosaur has a gas station, convenience store, restaurant, and a liquor store. However, if you’re looking for lodging, several restaurant options, and a full grocery store, you’ll need to head about 18 miles southeast to the town of Rangely, CO.

Maybell, CO: If you plan on camping at Deerlodge Park and exploring the eastern side of the Monument, the tiny town of Maybell is located just 30 minutes driving from the Deerlodge Park Campground and is the closest place for supplies and services. Maybell has a gas station, post office, small general store, and one hotel. If you’re needing more services, the town of Craig, CO is 37 miles east of Maybell and has several dining and lodging options, supermarkets, gas stations, and a hospital.

Camping Near Dinosaur National Monument

While camping within the confines of Dinosaur National Monument is a remarkable and unrivaled experience, there are many reasons why you might seek out one of the developed campgrounds in the nearby area. Considering there are no hookups nor dump stations at any of the campgrounds inside the Monument, RV’s may prefer to set up camp in one of the more accommodating sites nearby. Additionally, the campgrounds listed in this section provide a great place to stay before or after your trip to Dinosaur National Monument, as they give you more convenient access to services, supplies, and major roadways.

Vernal, Utah Camping
Camping in Vernal, Utah gives you easy access to the famous Dinosaur Quarry.

Camping Near Vernal, UT

Ashley National Forest

Number of sites: Varies
Fee: $12-25/night for tents, $25-50/night for RVs (plus entry fee and optional additional dump station fees)
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended for RV sites and cabins. Call 1-877-444-6777 or visit recreation.gov
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Located about 40 minutes north of Vernal, Ashley National Forest has a wide range of options to suit all types of campers. RV’s are welcome at many of the numerous campgrounds in Ashley National Forest, although the Lodgepole Campground is the best option given it’s the only one with a dump station that gives easy proximity to Dinosaur. Beyond traditional developed campgrounds, there are also options for cabin rentals and dispersed camping.

Vernal/Dinosaurland KOA

Number of sites: 86
Fee: $39-44/night for tents, $47-85/night for RVs, $75-250/night for cabins
Capacity: None stated.
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended for RV sites and cabins.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

With a convenient location in the center of Vernal and plenty of great amenities, this is a fantastic option for RVs and families. Extra-large sites and well-equipped hookups make this a welcoming place for even the biggest rigs.

Amenities include a swimming pool, small shop, laundry, wifi, and pet park.

Fossil Valley RV Park

Number of sites: 70
Fee: $41-49/night for RV’s and tents
Capacity: 6 people per standard site
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed (max 2)
More Information

This Good Sam park is within walking distance to shops and restaurants in central Vernal, making it a convenient choice. It is well suited for RVs of all sizes, with full hookups, large flat pitches, and a dump station. Both tents and RVs will appreciate the plentiful shade trees and grassy areas.

Amenities include laundry, wifi, picnic tables, and bathrooms with showers.

Outlaw Trail RV Park

Number of sites: 29
Fee: $35-38/night for RV’s, $15-20/night for tents, $30-95/night for cabins
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Situated in the town of Jensen and just seven miles from the entrance of Dinosaur National Monument, this RV park is the closest option on this side of the Monument. While you won’t be quite as close to restaurants and services as you would be in Vernal, you’ll be well-positioned for endless adventures. Outlaw Trail offers pull-through and back-in gravel sites with full hookups, grassy tent pitches, and two rustic cabins.

Amenities include laundry, coin-operated showers, and a playground.

Red Fleet State Park Campground

Number of sites: 29
Fee: $25-28/night for RV’s, $15/night for tents, $35/night for teepees
Capacity: 8 people per site
RVs: Yes (sites #18-22 have hookups)
Reservations: Recommended for peak season (May 15th-October 1st)
Pets: Allowed
More Information

This beautiful campground is situated on the edge of the Red Fleet Reservoir and surrounded by the dramatic scenery of Red Fleet State Park. The 29 sites all welcome tents and RVs, although only sites #18-22 have hookups. The campground is about 10 miles north of Vernal and 40 minutes’ drive from the entrance of Dinosaur National Monument.

Amenities include picnic tables, firepits, flush toilets, trash collection, and boat rentals.

Car camping near Dinosaur National Monument
Car camping is a fun way to explore Dinosaur National Monument.

Camping Near Moffat County, CO

Craig KOA

Number of sites: 103
Fee: $39-64/night for RV’s, $30/night for tents, $63-72/night for cabins
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended
Pets: Allowed
More Information

This popular KOA is one of the best options for those entering Dinosaur National Monument from its eastern side. It is set on the edge of the town of Craig, providing easy access to shops and dining. The campground offers a variety of full hookup RV sites, plus tent camping and cabin rentals.

Amenities include a small shop, laundry, playground, and dog park.

Elkhead Reservoir State Park

Number of sites: 46 (30 electric at the Pronghorn Campground & 16 nonelectric at the Bears Ears Campground)
Fee: $22/night for a basic site (Bears Ears), $30/night for an electric site (Pronghorn)
Capacity: 6 people per site
RVs: Yes, electricity available at the Pronghorn Campground only
Reservations: Required. Reservations can be made online or by calling 1-800-244-5613.
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Elkhead Reservoir State Park offers two great campgrounds located just under an hour from the east entrance of Dinosaur National Monument. RVs and tents are welcome at both campgrounds, but electric hookups are only provided at the Pronghorn Campground. All sites have picnic tables, firepits, parking pads and access to nearby restrooms. Many sites enjoy shoreline locations on the edge of the reservoir. Keep in mind that reservations are required to camp in Elkhead Reservoir State Park.

Many of the campgrounds near Dinosaur National Monument can accommodate RVs of all shapes and sizes.

Camping Near Dinosaur, CO

Rangely Camper Park

Number of sites: 26
Fee: $15/night
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes,
Reservations: Recommended in peak season
Pets: Allowed
More Information

This friendly, city-run campground is conveniently located in the center of Rangely, and within walking distance to shops and restaurants. It’s about a 25-minute drive from the southern entrance of Dinosaur National Monument. The paved sites, 30 amp hookups, dump station, and shady, grassy pitches make this a welcoming place for both tents and RVs. Amenities include bathrooms, hot showers, and a kids’ fishing pond.

Buck ‘N’ Bull RV Park

Number of sites: 29
Fee: $15/night for tents, $35/night for RVs
Capacity: None stated, but additional fee for more than 2 people
RVs: Yes
Reservations: Recommended in peak season
Pets: Allowed
More Information

This is a no-frills campground that provides well-equipped sites for both tents and RVs. It is located just a few miles outside of the town of Rangely, meaning its just a short drive from shops and restaurants and about 30 minutes from Dinosaur National Monument.

Amenities include laundry, wifi, and restrooms.

Kenney Reservoir

Number of sites: Varies
Fee: $8/night
Capacity: None stated
RVs: Yes
Reservations: N/A
Pets: Allowed
More Information

Seasonal camping (April-October) is allowed in designated sites along the edge of the reservoir. RVs are welcome, but there are no hookups and some spots can be tight. There are bathrooms, picnic tables, and swimming areas available for campers to use. Kenney Reservoir is just six miles from the town of Rangely and 30 minutes from Dinosaur National Monument.

River campsites Green River Dinosaur National Monument
A peaceful backcountry site along the Green River. Photo courtesy of NPS.

Have a great trip!

That’s it!

We hope you’ve found all of the information in this post helpful and we know you’ll find the perfect campsite for your upcoming adventure in Dinosaur National Monument! Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you have any questions or had a great time out camping!

No Comments on The Complete Guide to Camping in Dinosaur National Monument

Walker’s Haute Route | Maps & Routes

The Walker’s Haute Route is an incredible trail that connects the two iconic mountain towns of Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. The trek traverses some of the best…

The Walker’s Haute Route is an incredible trail that connects the two iconic mountain towns of Chamonix in France and Zermatt in Switzerland. The trek traverses some of the best scenery in the Alps and is often included on list of the best hikes in the world. The route has many iterations, as you’ll see below, but is traditionally broken into 13 stages.

This post will provide you with an overview of the route and tons of mapping resources to familiarize yourself with the Walker’s Haute Route map, route, location, and elevation profile so you can be sure you are ready to take on this incredible adventure!

What’s in this post?

Everything you need to to plan your Haute Route trek – all in one place.

Whether you prefer mountain huts or tents, fastpacking or meandering, luxury, dirtbag or something in between, we’ve got you covered.

From custom itineraries and GPS maps created specifically for you we can help you plan your perfect Walker’s Haute Route adventure!

Our downloadable Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip.

Walker's Haute Route

LEARN MORE

Our 50+ page downloadable guide has everything you need to know to plan your Walker’s Haute Route adventure. From three unique itineraries with custom GPS data to a full training plan, our guide is the quintessential handbook for trekking this incredible trail. Each section provides in-depth information and resources, including:

  • Stage-by-stage itineraries
  • Detailed maps for every stop
  • Complete 11-day, 13-day, and 14-day Haute Route itineraries
  • Custom GPS data for the entire route & all three itineraries
  • Offline map access for the entire route
  • Lodging recommendations
  • Getting to/from the Haute Route
  • The ultimate packing list
  • A 15-week training plan

Get your digital guide today and start planning!

BUY NOW

Where is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The Walker’s Haute Route is located in the Alps, and connects the French mountaineering town of Chamonix with the legendary Swiss alpine village of Zermatt. The closest major city to the beginning of the hike in Chamonix is Geneva, Switzerland. When finishing in Zermatt, the closest major cities will be either Geneva or Zurich, Switzerland.

Walker's Haute Route overview map

The Walker’s Haute Route connects Chamonix in France with Zermatt in Swizerland.

 

The trek crosses no fewer than eleven mountain passes (Col de Balme, Fenetre d’Arpette, Col de Louvie, Col de Prafleuri, Col des Roux, Pas de Chevres, Col du Tsate, Col de Sorebois, Forcletta, and Augstbordpass) passes through many quaint mountain villages, and stops at breathtaking alpine refuges. For many, the route finishes with two days on the famous Europaweg trail as you make your way to Zermatt. The walk is typically completed in 13 stages, although plenty of options exist to extend or reduce your time on the route. The stages of the traditional Walker’s Haute Route are as follows:

  • Stage 1: Chamonix to Trient
  • Stage 2: Trient to Champex
  • Stage 3: Champex to Le Chable
  • Stage 4: Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort
  • Stage 5: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri
  • Stage 6: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla
  • Stage 7: Arolla to La Sage
  • Stage 8: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry
  • Stage 9: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal
  • Stage 10: Zinal to Gruben
  • Stage 11: Gruben to St. Niklaus
  • Stage 12: St. Niklaus to Europa Hut
  • Stage 13: Europa Hut to Zermatt

Want more great info on the Walker’s Haute Route? Be sure to check out our Ultimate Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route here!

Walker's Haute Route map

 

As discussed above, the Walker’s Haute Route includes several ‘alternates’ in addition to the traditional trail shown above. These alternate trails typically connect the same start and finish points, but take walkers on a different route between the two points. There are also variant routes that allow trekkers to shorten or lengthen their trek depending on their desired level of difficult and time on the trail.

The alternate routes can be used to add challenge, visit nearby villages, avoid certain sections, or provide a low-level route in the case of bad weather. Additionally, there is an alternate route that allows trekkers to add a day to the Haute Route by spending a night at the Hotel Weisshorn.

Here are the common alternate routes on the Walker’s Haute Route, which are also shown on the map below:

  • 02A – Trient to Champex (Bovine Route) – Allows trekkers to avoid the difficult Fenetre d’Arepette. 
  • 05A – Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri via Col de la Chaux – Shortens stage five and avoids a vertigo inducing balcony trail. 
  • 08A – La Sage to Cabane Barrage de Moiry – Offers a more direct route for those who do not wish to stay at Cabane de Moiry. 
  • 09A – Descent into Zinal – Provides a less steep option to reach Zinal. 
  • 10A – Zinal to Hotel Weisshorn – Adds a day to your trek, but visits the beautiful Hotel Weisshorn.
  • 10B – Hotel Weisshorn to Gruben – Connects trekkers who say at the Hotel Weisshorn back with the main trail in Gruben. 
  • 12A – St. Niklaus to Zermatt – Takes a day off of the Walker’s Haute Route and skips the Europaweg Trail. 
Walker's Haute Route Alternates map

The Walker’s Haute Route has many route variations.

 

Walker’s Haute Route Interactive Map

The interactive Walker’s Haute Route map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route. The map also displays the common alternate routes that are a part of the Walker’s Haute Route, and described above. You can click on each stage to see the total length, listed in both kilometers and miles.

 

How long is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The Walker’s Haute Route is approximately 128 miles or 207 kilometers long. This is based on following the traditional route described above and not taking any of the alternate routes. Of course, many trekkers will opt to take several of the alternate routes, which will lengthen or shorten the total distance, depending on the routes chosen. You’ll have the option to walk less or more depending on the weather, your preferences, and the conditions encountered on the trail.

The maps below show the approximate distance of each stage in both miles and kilometers, giving you a sense of the distances encountered on each section of the Walker’s Haute Route. For more detail on each stage be sure to check out our interactive map in the section above!

Walker's Haute Route distance

Approximate stage distances of the Walker’s Haute Route in miles.

 

Walker's Haute Route distance

Approximate distances of the Walker’s Haute Route in kilometers.

 

What is the elevation profile of the Walker’s Haute Route?

Over the course of all 128 miles, the Walker’s Haute Route has a staggering 41,000 feet or 12,600 meters of elevation gain! Averaged out over 13 stages this means that each day you’ll have over 3,150 feet or 960 meters of elevation change per stage. Quite the challenge!

Of course, the elevation gain and loss isn’t spread out evenly from stage to stage. You’ll have days with a tremendous amount of climbing and you’ll also have days with much less (although always some!). Given that the Walker’s Haute Route is a point to point trail (meaning it does not start and finish in the same location) you’ll gain a tad more elevation that you’ll gain over the course of the entire route.

The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the Walker’s Haute Route is like in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 13-stage Walker’s Haute Route, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Arolla to La Sage is rather short in distance, while the stage from Le Chable to Cabane du Mont Fort has a lot of elevation gain.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the Walker’s Haute Route be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine.

Walker's Haute Route elevation profile

Elevation profile of the Walker’s Haute Route in feet and miles.

 

Walker's Haute Route elevation profle

Elevation profile of the Walker’s Haute Route in meters and kilometers.

 

What maps should I carry on the Walker’s Haute Route?

Carrying a good map is essential on the Walker’s Haute Route. While the trail is generally well-marked and easy to follow, there are countless trail junctions, detours, and confusing sections that require some form of navigation. 

When we hiked the Walker’s Haute Route we did not rely on traditional, paper maps that are available for the route. Instead, we preferred utilizing GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where we were in relation to it. Cell phone service is very limited along the route, so it is critical to have a good offline mapping app such as Gaia GPS to ensure you’ll be able to view the map at any point along the route.

With all this considered, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet. While technology has done a tremendous amount to make navigating while hiking easier, there is simply no replacement for carrying a physical map with you. If your phone runs out of battery you’ll be glad you had your handy paper map to rely on.

To cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at a good scale (1:50,000) we recommend bringing the following Swiss Topo maps:

  • Swiss Topo 282T – Martigny
  • Swiss Topo 283T – Arolla
  • Swiss Topo 273T – Montana
  • Swiss Topo 274T – Visp
  • Swiss Topo 284T – Mischabel

You can purchase all of these maps on the Swiss Topo website here. In addition, Swiss Topo also has hiking maps at a larger scale (1:33,000), although it would be quite cumbersome to carry maps to cover the entire Walker’s Haute Route at that scale. 

A weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Walker’s Haute Route GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Walker’s Haute Route GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the Walker’s Haute Route as well as all of the common alternate route, plus waypoints for each stop along the way.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Walker's Haute Route Alternates map

BUY NOW

 

Apps and Offline Navigation

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while hiking the Walker’s Haute Route. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map. Our Walker’s Haute Route Offline Mapping post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

 

Want more?

Ready to keep planning for a perfect Walker’s Haute Route adventure? Be sure to check out all of our great content below:

No Comments on Walker’s Haute Route | Maps & Routes

Coast to Coast Walk | Maps & Routes

The Coast to Coast walk is one of the UK’s most iconic long-distance treks. Starting in St. Bees on the Irish Sea and finishing in Robin Hood’s Bay on the…

The Coast to Coast walk is one of the UK’s most iconic long-distance treks. Starting in St. Bees on the Irish Sea and finishing in Robin Hood’s Bay on the North Sea, this incredible journey takes walker’s across Britain. The Coast to Coast route is typically completed in 12 – 16 days, although countless opportunities exist to shorten or lengthen your walk.  This post will introduce you this magnificent trail and provide an overview of the Coast to Coast route as well as provide detailed maps, navigational resources, and much more so you can be sure you’re ready to tackle Wainwright’s most famous trail. 

What’s in this post?

 

Where is the Coast to Coast walk route?

The Coast to Coast walk traverses Northern England and connects the two seaside villages of St. Bees in the west and Robin Hood’s Bay in the east. In between start and end points, the Coast to Coast visits three National Parks (Lake District, Yorkshire Dales, & the North York Moors) and takes in some of England’s best scenery and friendliest towns. The nearest major city to the traditional start of the walk in St. Bees is Carlisle to the north and Manchester to the south. In Robin Hood’s Bays the nearest  large cities are Middlesbrough in the north and Leeds in the south.

Looking for more Coast to Coast resources? Check out our Ultimate Guide to the Coast to Coast Walk here.

Coast to Coast walk map

The Coast to Coast walk crosses England, connecting St. Bees and Robin Hood’s Bay.

 

The route visits countless small villages as well as a few larger towns such as Richmond and Kirkby Stephen. You’ll have no problem finding accommodation at any of the stops along the route as plentiful B&Bs, hotels, and campgrounds exist to serve all budgets. The walk is typically completed in 14 stages, although plenty of options exist to extend or reduce your time on the route. The stages of the traditional Coast to Coast walk are as follows:

  • Stage 1: St. Bees to Ennerdale Bridge
  • Stage 2: Ennerdale Bridge to Rosthwaite
  • Stage 3: Rosthwaite to Grasmere
  • Stage 4: Grasmere to Patterdale
  • Stage 5: Patterdale to Shap
  • Stage 6: Shap to Kirkby Stephen
  • Stage 7: Kirkby Stephen to Keld
  • Stage 8: Keld to Reeth
  • Stage 9: Reeth to Richmond
  • Stage 10: Richmond to Danby Wiske
  • Stage 11: Danby Wiske to Osmotherley
  • Stage 12: Osmotherley to The Lion Inn (Blakey Ridge)
  • Stage 13: The Lion Inn to Grosmont
  • Stage 14: Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay

For a complete C2C accommodation directory, be sure to check out our Accommodation Guide!

Coast to Coast walk map

The Coast to Coast route is typically completed in 14 stages.

 

As mentioned above, and as with many long-distance walks, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take alternate trails on the Coast to Coast. These variants are more abundant in the Lake District than other sections of the trail and will give walker’s the opportunity to shorten or lengthen their walk depending on their preferred level of difficulty and time allotted. The alternate routes can also be used to add challenge, avoid certain sections, or provide a low-level route in the case of bad weather. In addition, the section of trail between Kirkby Stephen and Keld has three route options that must be taken depending on the time of year. This has been implemented to reduce the environmental impact on this sensitive area and walker’s should be sure to follow the guidelines.

Below is a list of the common alternates on the Coast to Coast walk as well as the required routing between Kirkby Stephen and Keld. These alternates are also shown on the Coast to Coast map below.

  • 03A – Rosthwaite to Grasmere (Helm Crag) – Takes walker’s on a high-level route with spectacular views before descending into Grasmere. This option should be avoided in bad weather.
  • 04A – Grasmere to Patterdale (Sunday Crag) – Similar to 03A, this alternate route takes the high-level trail above the valley as you descend to Patterdale. This option should also be avoided in poor weather.
  • 07 – Kirkby Stephen to Keld – As mentioned above, the route between Kirkby Stephen and Keld requires walker’s to take a specific route depending on the time of year:
    • Red Route: May to July
    • Blue Route: August to November
    • Green Route: December to April

Coast to Coast walk map

The Coast to Coast walk has several alternate routes that can be taken.

 

Alternate routes on the Coast to Coast walk UK

Between Kirkby Stephen and Keld walkers are required to take different routes depending on the time of year.

 

Interactive Coast to Coast walk map

The interactive Coast to Coast walk map below will allow you to zoom in on the various stages as well as view the traditional stops along the route. The map also displays the common alternate routes that are a part of the Coast to Coast, as described above.

 

How long is the Coast to Coast walk?

Famously, the Coast to Coast walk is purported to be 192 miles from St. Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay. While this is certainly a close estimate, we measure (via GPS) the Coast to Coast to be 186 miles long for those who stick to the traditional route. For those on the metric system that’s a whopping 300 km!

Of course, measuring the exact distance of the Coast to Coast has little practical value, as walkers will certainly end up walking further than the specific measured distance. The taking of alternate routes, detours, and the occasional jaunt off the trail to visit the local pub will assuredly make the distance actually walked vary from person to person.

Even so, it is helpful to have an idea of the distances of each section of the Coast to Coast, which is exactly what the maps below show. Each map shows the approximate distance of each stage in both miles and kilometres. Note that none of these distances include alternates or variants, and should only be used to get a general idea of distance.

How long is the coast to coast walk?

Distances of the various stages of the Coast to Coast walk in miles.

 

Coast to Coast walk distance km

Distances of the various stages of the Coast to Coast walk in kilometres.

 

What is the elevation profile of the Coast to Coast?

Over the entirety of the Coast to Coast’s 186 (or 192!) miles the trail has approximately 29,000 feet or 8,850 meters of elevation gain! Averaged across the traditional 14 stages this equates to around 2,000 feet of elevation gain each day. That’s nothing to sneeze at!

However, much of that elevation gain is concentrated in the earlier stages of the walk, especially in the Lake District. The high point of the Coast to Coast is Kidsty Pike at 2,559 feet above sea level, located on the eastern edge of the Lake District. Given that the Coast to Coast starts and finished at the sea you’ll at least have the solace in knowing that for every uphill section you’ll have an equally downhill section at some point!

Kidsty Pike on the Coast to Coast.

Kidsty Pike is the high point on the Coast to Coast walk.

 

The elevation profiles below, displayed in both imperial and metric units, will give you an overview of what each stage of the Coast to Coast Route is like in terms of total elevation change and distance. Elevation is shown on the left side while distance is shown on the bottom. Each blue dot represents a stop along the traditional 14-stage walk, with the stop name shown at the top.

The steepness of the line between any two points reflects the steepness of the trail for that particular stage. The distance between the two points shows the length of the stage. So for instance you can see that the stage from Osmotherley to the Lion Inn is rather long in distance, while the stage from Patterdale to Shap has a lot of elevation gain.

When thinking about how many days or stages you’ll take to complete the Coast to Coast be sure to reference these elevation profiles. They’ll give you a sense of how hard each day is and will let you see which stages may make sense to combine or split up on your walk.

Coast to Coast walk elevation

Elevation profile for the Coast to Coast walk in miles and feet.

 

Elevation of the Coast to Coast walk meters

Elevation profile for the Coast to Coast walk in kilometers and meters.

 

Which maps should I carry on the Coast to Coast walk?

Given that the Coast to Coast is not a National Trail in the UK, you won’t find the usual trail signs giving clear direction at every turn. Rather, the Coast to Coast is often very poorly marked and can be difficult to navigate on. For that reason we highly recommend that every walker have some sort of map (digital or paper, preferably both) that they bring with them on their Coast to Coast trek.

When we walked Wainwright’s Coast to Coast we did not utilize paper maps, other than those included in our guidebook. Instead we utilized downloadable GPS maps on our phones to ensure we knew where the trail was as well as where our next stop was. Given that cell phone service can be spotty along the route, especially in the Lake District, it is critical to have a good offline mapping app, such as Gaia GPS, to ensure you’ll be able to access your location.

If you’re interested in utilizing this method of navigating as well you can purchase the GPS files needed for the Coast to Coast walk in the section below.

Even with the convenience of GPS navigation, we still recommend carrying a paper map, or map booklet for the Coast to Coast. This will provide a bit of insurance should that trusty phone of yours get dropped in a puddle or soaked in one of the many downpours you’ll surely encounter.

Given the long distance of the Coast to Coast walk we highly recommend bringing a compact map booklet that contains the entire route. We highly recommend the version created by Cicerone which contains Ordnance Survey (the UK’s national mapping service) maps for the entire Coast to Coast route at 1:25,000 scale.

You can purchase this map booklet here.

If instead you’d like to carry full size Ordnance Survey maps for the entire Coast to Coast you’ll need the following OS maps:

  • Ordnance Survey OL4
  • Ordnance Survey OL5
  • Ordnance Survey OL19
  • Ordnance Survey OL26
  • Ordnance Survey OL27
  • Ordnance Survey OL30
  • Ordnance Survey 302
  • Ordnance Survey 303
  • Ordnance Survey 304

Lucky for you, the complete set of the maps above is available for purchase in a set here.

If you do plan to carry paper maps, a weatherproof carrying case like this one wouldn’t hurt to have either.

Coast to Coast walk GPS/GPX

If you’re interested in getting access to the GPS data used to create all of the maps in this post, we are happy to offer our Coast to Coast walk GPX files for only $4.99. When you download the GPX file, you’ll get route data for each of the traditional stages of the Coast to Coast route as well as all of the common alternate route, plus way-points for each stop along the way.

You’ll be able to load the GPX file into the mapping software or GPS phone app of your choice!

Coast to Coast walk map

BUY NOW

Apps and offline mapping

As mentioned above we utilized offline downloadable GPS maps on our smartphones to navigate while walking the Coast to Coast. This is a great way to navigate on the trail as it allows you to see your progress for the day and also doesn’t require a cell phone signal (which you likely won’t have) to display the map. Our Coast to Coast Offline Mapping post has all the information you need to get set up using an app for your map. This step-by-step article will teach you how to quickly and easily turn your phone into a GPS device.

 

What’s Next?

Check out our other great Coast to Coast Walk Resources:

No Comments on Coast to Coast Walk | Maps & Routes

Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

Some people say that camping on the Walker’s Haute Route is a more challenging version of the Tour du Mont Blanc. While there are arguably many similarities (including the fact…

Some people say that camping on the Walker’s Haute Route is a more challenging version of the Tour du Mont Blanc. While there are arguably many similarities (including the fact that the routes overlap for a couple of stages), to make that characterization would be to oversimplify and unfairly represent the Haute Route.

The Walker’s Haute Route (WHR) is resolutely and beautifully unique, a rugged, varied, and challenging adventure, sure to bring unforgettable rewards to all that traverse it. One major difference between the Walker’s Haute Route and the TMB is that while the TMB makes a loop across three different countries, the WHR is a point-to-point route that takes walkers from Chamonix to Zermatt, with the lion’s share of the trail residing within Switzerland.

There are many wonderful aspects of spending most of the roughly two weeks inside Swiss borders, but anyone who is remotely aware of their budget will quickly realize that Switzerland is expensive! If you are wanting to do the Haute Route on a smaller budget, or if you simply want to experience the joys of maximizing your time outdoors in the most spectacular Alpine settings, camping along the Walker’s Haute Route is your best bet.

As we began our research on camping along the Walker’s Haute Route, we realized that there are many options, but not a ton of clear, straightforward information about how to make it happen. With this guide, we hope to share what we learned through lots of planning, research, and experience to help our fellow tent-dwellers have their best possible Walker’s Haute Route Adventure.

Chamonix Train Station, the start of the Haute Route.

Starting at the Chamonix train station, the Walker’s Haute Route winds its way all the way to Zermatt.

Everything you need to to plan your Haute Route camping adventure – all in one place.

Our downloadable Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip.

Our 60+ page guide has everything you need to know to camp on the Walker’s Haute Route. From campground locations to detailed maps, our guide is the quintessential handbook for Haute Route campers. Each section provides in-depth information and resources, including:

  • Stage-by-stage hiking and accommodation descriptions
  • Detailed maps for every stop
  • Complete 10-day, 12-day, and 13-day Haute Route itineraries for campers
  • Custom GPS data for the entire route
  • Detailed instructions on using your phone as a GPS device
  • Lodging recommendations
  • Getting to/from the Haute Route
  • The ultimate camping packing list
  • A 15-week training plan

BUY NOW
 

What’s in This Guide?

About the Walker’s Haute Route

The Haute Route is a quintessential Alpine adventure. The classic route begins in Chamonix at the foot of the majestic Mont Blanc and ends in Zermatt at the base of the iconic Matterhorn. The hike is typically broken into fourteen stages which include strenuous high-level traverses and mellower valley walks.  There are several possible variants throughout the trek, so the exact distance covered will vary based on your individual route choices.

The Haute Route passes through two countries and crosses eleven mountain passes. It presents some serious physical challenges, but your exertions are guaranteed to be rewarded royally with some of the world’s most beautiful and varied scenery. Unlike its hundred-year old brother the High Level Route, the Walker’s Haute Route does not require skiing or mountaineering experience. Anyone with good physical fitness, some trekking experience, and an adventurous spirit is destined to fall in love with the Walker’s Haute Route.

Overlooking a chalet and mountain views on the Walker's Haute Route

 

How long is the Walker’s Haute Route?

Distance: 225 kilometers (140 miles)

Elevation Gain: 14,000 meters (45,932 feet)

How long does it take to hike the Walker’s Haute Route?

It typically takes walkers between 10-14 days to complete the Walker’s Haute Route. One of the great things about the hike is that there’s a lot of room for customization when it comes to creating your itinerary. Camping will allow you a lot more flexibility in terms of not needing advance reservations, but you will be a bit more restricted in other ways since camping is not permitted on every stage of the WHR. We’ve structured this camping guide for a 12-stage version of the trek, but we’ve noted places where you can adapt your itinerary to combine stages or choose other variants.

A few other considerations to keep in mind when deciding how many days you need to hike the Haute Route:

  • If you plan on camping, you’ll need to carry a heavier pack and therefore may hike slower than usual.
  • Do you enjoy spending 8+ hours on steep trails every day? If not, you shouldn’t double-up on stages.
  • Fastpacking the Haute Route is possible in 7 days or less, but you’ll need to be very fit and experienced.
  • Do you want to take a rest day? If so, don’t forget to factor that into your itinerary.
  • Are you determined to exclusively camp along the trail? If so, you’ll need to adjust your itinerary to avoid stopping in places without camping options. See our stage-by-stage guide for more details on this.
  • Are you interested in taking shortcuts or cutting out sections of the trail? This can be a good option for those who don’t have enough time to realistically complete the entire route or want to tailor it for their ability level.

Lac Bleu on the Walker's Haute Route

The aptly named Lac Blue, a highlight for many on the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

When to hike

The general season for hiking the Walker’s Haute Route lasts from mid-June through mid-September, although this window is subject to great variability due to snow conditions on the higher passes.

June can be lovely, but you will likely have to negotiate large sections of the trail that are covered in snow. In some cases, you may need to reroute to avoid unsafe areas. Those hiking in June should bring crampons. Campgrounds and mountain huts typically don’t open until the later part of June.

July and August are typically the best times to be on the trail, but these are also the most busy months on the Haute Route. Be sure to check when the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc is happening. This trail-race typically occurs at the end of August and brings out thousands of spectators. The first few stages largely overlap with the UTMB course, so try to avoid being on those segments during the race.  You can expect an explosion of wildflowers in June and July.

Expect increasingly cooler weather and fewer crowds in September; this can be a wonderful time to hike. However, it’s important to note that many campgrounds, mountain huts, and other services along the route may already be closed for the season.

The best time to hike is mid-August through mid-September, but anytime you go there’ll be a real chance that you’ll need to reroute to avoid snow-covered sections or adverse weather conditions. If that happens, don’t despair. Chalk it up to being part of the Haute Route experience and make sure to give the mountains the respect they deserve.

A large patch of snow below Refuge Col de Balme.

A large patch of snow lingers below Refuge Col de Balme in mid-July.

 

How difficult is the Walker’s Haute Route?

The Haute Route does not require advanced mountaineering experience, but its challenges certainly should not be taken lightly. For one thing, it is a very strenuous endeavor. Expect to cover around 15km and 1,000m of elevation gain each day. Much of the hike requires walking on steep, loose, and rocky terrain.

In addition to the basic physical challenges, there are also some sections that are technically difficult. Parts of the trail along the Europaweg and on the approach to Pas des Chevres are very exposed and come with a small risk of falling rocks.  There are ladders and chains to negotiate at a few points along the trail as well, with the toughest being near Pas des Chevres. Additionally, some hikers opt to take a variant that involves a short glacier crossing, but that can be easily avoided.

One final consideration involves the health of your knees and overall leg strength. There are very long, steep descents on nearly every stage of the Haute Route, and these can create problems and irritate chronic injuries for those with sensitive knees.

If you have a high level of physical fitness and some trekking experience, you should be well suited for the Haute Route. There’s no need to be too intimidated by this trek, but it’s a very good idea to train ahead of time, be realistic about your abilities and expectations, and use good judgement in the mountains.

Climbing a ladder to reach the Pas des Chevres on Stage 7 of the Walker's Haute Route

The ladders are actually the easiest part of the ascent to the Pas des Chevres!

 

Which direction?

Unlike many other long-distance hikes, the Haute Route is almost exclusively walked in the Chamonix to Zermatt direction. You can certainly walk the other direction (from the Matterhorn to Mont Blanc) but most information you’ll find will assume you’re walking from Chamonix to Zermatt. Generally speaking, the difficulty is the same in either direction. However, some of the best views come on the final stretches of the walk (if heading in the traditional west-to-east direction), as the Matterhorn comes sharply into sight for the first time. There is something truly unforgettable about completing your trek with this dramatic peak towering above the deep, green valley. It will literally take your breath away, and it makes for the perfect conclusion to such a rewarding and spectacular experience.

Weather

Mountain weather is always volatile, and the Walker’s Haute Route is no exception. Conditions can change very rapidly in the Alps, meaning that you can find yourself in the middle of a whiteout blizzard or on an exposed ridge during a thunderstorm without much warning. For the most part, the weather during the hiking season is ridiculously lovely. Expect warm, sunny days, cool evenings, and relatively little rain. However, you also need to be prepared for very hot temperatures, very cold temperatures, rain, and storms (and you could even see all of these in the same day!)  Getting caught high up in the mountains during a storm or without the right gear is extremely dangerous, but you can greatly minimize your risk by taking a few important precautions:

  1. The Meteoblue App is arguably the best resource for predicting the weather. It allows you to see the forecast for specific peaks or coordinates, plus it has excellent radar displays and wind predictions. Check it every time you have cell service.
  2. Start hiking early in the day! Not only will you enjoy gorgeous sunrises, get to the campground before the crowds, and avoid the heat, but you’ll also greatly reduce your risk of getting caught in afternoon thunderstorms.

Dark clouds gathering above the Moiry Glacier.

Dark clouds gathering above the Moiry Glacier.

 

Food and Drink

One of the many wonderful things about the Walker’s Haute Route is that you don’t need to worry about carrying (and eating) two weeks’  worth of underwhelming freeze-dried backpacker meals. Due to the fact that the trail passes through many towns and villages, you will be able to resupply every few days. We’ve noted the availability of shops and restaurants at every stop along the route in our stage-by-stage camping guide below. Make sure you plan accordingly, as there are not shops at every stage. Keep in mind that shops often close for a midday break and almost always close on Sundays.

For budget travelers, it is possible to self-cater and keep your food and drink costs quite reasonable. You’ll need to bring your own camp stove and cooking equipment if you plan on fixing most of your own meals along the Haute Route. There are several outdoors stores that sell stove fuel in Chamonix and Zermatt.

Additionally (for those with deeper pockets), many of the hotels, gites, and refuges sell meals and offer the option of purchasing meals. You can just show up for lunch, but you’ll need to order ahead of time for dinner.

Whichever way you approach your food and drink strategy, we think you’ll find that trekking in the Alps is every bit as much a culinary delight as a natural one! 

Dietary Restrictions

The restaurants and accommodation providers along the Walker’s Haute Route are generally quite willing to provide a vegetarian option. Those who are vegan, gluten-free, or have a specialized diet will have a harder time finding suitable meals. While certain places will be able to accommodate your needs, that will be the exception and not the norm. We’d recommend bringing plenty of your own food as insurance.

Water

All of the hotels, gites, and campgrounds provide potable water. You will pass through many villages with public drinking fountains, but make sure to plan ahead and carry 1-2 liters of water each day. Due to the presence of agricultural activity near large swaths of the trail, we do not recommend drinking any water from natural streams without filtering it first.

Pastries on a balcony in Les Houches, France.

Fueling up on pastries in Les Houches before beginning our trek.

 

Getting to and From the Walker’s Haute Route

Since the Walker’s Haute Route starts and finishes in different places, it’s a good idea to have a plan for how you’ll get to the trailhead and make your onwards when you complete your trek. Most international travelers will travel through the Geneva Airport. To get from Geneva to Chamonix, you can take a bus or use a private shuttle service. On the other end, Zermatt is easily accessed by train from Geneva and many other Swiss cities.

We wrote an entire article dedicated to giving you the best, most in-depth information on everything concerning Haute Route logistics. Check it out here. 

Wayfinding

For the most part, the Walker’s Haute Route is an extremely well-marked trail. The route is usually marked with red and white paint flashes at frequent intervals.  If you go more than twenty minutes without seeing a trail marker, you’ve probably wandered off the trail. Despite the helpful paint flashes and signage, it is still surprisingly easy to get lost on the Haute Route if you’re not careful. The scenery is so darn pretty that it will often draw your eyes away from the path and cause you to miss a turn. That’s why carrying a map and (preferably) a GPS device is of the utmost importance. This is even more true if you plan on camping, as many of the campgrounds require you to leave the trail to access them.

Trail sign with mountains in the background on the Walker's Haute Route.

Trail signs and markers are plentiful along the Haute Route.

 

Budgeting and Money

Cash or Credit?

While an increasing number of accommodation providers, shops, and other services are beginning to accept credit cards, cash is still the primary payment method used along the Walker’s Haute Route. It is important to carry enough cash to cover all of your expenses for several days, as  ATMs are infrequent along the trail. Check out our stage-by-stage guide (later in this post) for availability of ATMs on specific stages.

Currency

The Haute Route crosses international borders, meaning that you’ll need to switch from using Euros in France to Swiss Francs in Switzerland. While most places in Switzerland will accept Euros, you’ll be better off using Francs if you can. You’ll only spend about a day of your trek in France, so you won’t need many Euros.

Typical Costs

Although Switzerland has a reputation for being extraordinarily expensive, it is still very possible to hike the Walker’s Haute Route on a tight budget (camping helps tremendously with this!) Furthermore, you can even eat delicious foods and drink some tasty beverages without breaking the bank.

The two keys to saving money on the Haute Route? Lodging and food.

Since you’ve found this camping guide, you’re well on your way to having the first one covered. Camping will save you boatloads of money, and you’ll have a better experience too!

In terms of food, the best thing you can do is to avoid eating meals at restaurants and refuges. Sure, stop for a coffee and a pastry, enjoy a post-hike beer, and definitely pick up some local cheese, but if you cook your own meals you will greatly, greatly reduce your overall spending.

Check out this thorough post in which we break down exactly what you can expect to pay for food, accommodation, transportation, and more. 

Zermatt Campground, Walker's Haute Route

Camping along the Walker’s Haute Route is one of the best ways to keep your costs down!

 

What to Pack for the Walker’s Haute Route

Packing for the Walker’s Haute Route is balancing act between ensuring you have everything you need and ensuring you don’t feel like you’re giving a piggyback ride to a small elephant for 100+ miles. This is especially true for campers, as you’ll have a more extensive packing list and the stakes are a bit higher if you neglect to bring something essential.

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

How much should my pack weigh?

This isn’t easy to answer, since there are a ton of factors that influence how much is too much for any individual hiker. Some things to think about…

  • How fast are you hoping to hike? Generally speaking, lighter=faster
  • Have you completed a multi-day through hike with this specific backpack and this amount of weight before? If not, you should really try to keep it below 25lbs (including water!) 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? If so, you need to make sure that backpack is below 20lbs!

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for preventing baby-elephant piggyback syndrome:

  1. You only need a couple of shirts. Same goes for underwear and socks. Before you write us off as total dirtbags, hear us out. First, you’ll have plenty of time and sunshine to wash and dry laundry (and we actually find it to be quite a fun camp chore). Second, clothes are heavy, so cutting out everything but the absolute essentials will make a huge difference.
  2. Plan out when/where you’ll restock food provisions and don’t carry more food than you need.
  3. Consider leaving your bulky camera equipment at home. Unless photography is your passion, most smartphones take great photos and save a ton of space and weight.

If you have other travel destinations before or after the Walker’s Haute Route, you can store or transfer your extra luggage. See our logistics article for more on this. 

Hiking boots

Your trusty boots are one of your most important pieces of gear.

Walker’s Haute Route MVG (Most Valuable Gear)

Footwear on the Walker’s Haute Route

Traditional hiking boots, hiking shoes, or trail runners will all work for the trail conditions on the Haute Route, but you need to make sure they will work for you too. This means that you should bring a pair of boots or shoes that you know from experience don’t cause problems for your feet. Ideally, you should put at least 30 miles on them in various terrain and weather conditions to reduce the chance of running into issues on the trail. A nasty blister can be catastrophic on a multi-day trek like the Haute Route! That being said, you also don’t want your boots/shoes to be too broken in, as you need them to hold up faithfully for many miles of gnarly terrain. I know we’re asking you to work some Goldilocks magic here, but it’s definitely worth it!

In terms of other specifications, we feel that the only other must-have is a good, grippy vibrum (or similar material) sole for steep descents and loose paths. Otherwise it’s up to personal preference when it comes to how much ankle support you need, waterproof versus quick-dry, sturdy versus lightweight, and so on.

You’ll probably need to cross some snow at some points along your hike. Gaiters and waterproof boots can be helpful for these situations, but certainly aren’t essential.

You’ll also want to make sure you have some good socks. Socks are one of those rare things in life where you really do get what you pay for, and high quality socks can be a game changer. Once again, try to do some hiking in a few different types to figure out how what you like in terms of thickness, cushion, and height. We love merino wool for its quick-drying and anti-stink qualities.

If you’re blister prone, consider trying sock liners. Many hikers swear by them. Other tried-and-true blister prevention tactics include putting bodyglide on potential hotspots or wearing toesocks.

Trekking Poles

BRING THEM. Enough said. Seriously, these are a total game-changer on a tough trek like the Walker’s Haute Route. You (and your knees) will be so glad to have them on steep sections, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.

Hiker with trekking poles on the Walker's Haute Route

Thank goodness for trekking poles (and improvised sun protection)!

 

Backpack

The same rule for shoes applies to backpacks: make sure you complete several hikes with your bag packed the same way (and same weight) you’ll carry on the Haute Route. Also similar to shoes, backpacks need to be broken in through use, and your body needs to get used to the feeling of wearing it for extended periods of time. In terms of size, most campers will need between 45 and 65 liters. If you’re purchasing a new one, most good outdoors stores have experienced staff that will help you find the right fit and style for your needs.

Don’t forget to bring a pack cover (included with many newer backpacks) to protect against rain. This is an absolute must-have.

Backpacking backpack

The type of pack you’ll need for the Haute Route will depend on your individual itinerary.

 

Battery Backup

If you plan on using your phone as a GPS to navigate along the Walker’s Haute Route (which we highly recommend!), it’s imperative that it stays charged. Many campgrounds will allow you to charge electronics, but this isn’t a guarantee everywhere. Carrying a small battery backup or one of these nifty portable solar panels will give you a little more freedom and peace of mind. In our guide, we’ve noted the availability of electronics charging along every stage.

A few other MVG honorable mentions…

Puffy down jacket: Lightweight, warm, packable and all you need (it’s not necessary to bring a heavy fleece, too).

Kev Reynolds’ Ciccerone Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route: An excellent resource. It’s also available as an e-book, which is a great way to keep your pack weight down!

Don’t forget to check out our complete packing list for the Walker’s Haute Route here.  Additionally, if you’re on a tight budget, be sure to take a look at this article for backpacking gear hacks to save you money.

Electronics

Charging

Many campgrounds and other accommodation along the route will allow you to charge your devices for free, although there is some variation in terms of availability from place to place. See our stage-by-stage guide for specific information on each stage. We recommend using a multi-port USB adapter, as outlets can be in high demand. If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll need a travel adapter. Thankfully, you’ll use the same adapter in all three countries along the route.

Cell Service

Cell phone service is pretty widespread along the Walker’s Haute Route, but it isn’t always reliable or predictable. Expect to get service in all of the larger towns, but less so as you go further from civilization. You might be able to pick up a few bars at high points and unobstructed areas (like the top of a mountain pass), but definitely don’t count on it.

Wifi

For better or worse, many of the campgrounds along the WHR now offer Wifi. It’s typically free to use, although some places may require an additional fee. You’ll usually have to move close to the reception building in order to connect to it. The mountain refuges (and most gites) along the Haute Route do not offer wifi, but it is commonplace at all hotels.

 

A view of the high alpine scenery near Pas des Chevres

Don’t expect to find any cell phone service in places like this (just outstanding views).

 

Reservations

Advance bookings are not necessary for any of the campgrounds along the Haute Route. If you’re worried about getting a good pitch, try to get to the campground before 5:00pm and you should be just fine. On the other hand, it is a very good idea to reserve beds at mountain refuges, gites, and hotels ahead of time.

A hotel with flowerboxes in Arolla, Switzerland.

You don’t need to make advance bookings for camping, but you’ll definitely want to reserve your bed at places like this!

 

Wild Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

Wild camping along the Haute Route is complicated and discouraged (and often illegal). The trail passes through two countries and several local municipalities, each with their own specific rules and regulations. Generally speaking, wild camping may be allowed in France at high altitudes between sunset and sunrise, but it is strictly forbidden in Switzerland. This website has helpful information on the specific legal codes for each country.

The good news is that there are many official campsites that are easily accessible along the Walker’s Haute Route. While not entirely cheap, we feel it is important to use these facilities whenever they are available in order to give respect to the local communities and the fragile natural environment. As you’ll see in our guide, we opted to camp wild at just one stage along the Haute Route, as there were few alternatives. If you choose to wild camp outside of sanctioned areas, set up after dusk, pack up at dawn, and utilize leave no trace practices.

 

A Stage-by-Stage Guide for Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

The Matterhorn near Zermatt.

The Matterhorn, your final destination on the Haute Route.

 

Everything you need to to plan your Haute Route camping adventure – all in one place.

Our downloadable Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route is ultimate resource to help you plan your perfect trip.

Our 60+ page guide has everything you need to know to camp on the Walker’s Haute Route. From campground locations to detailed maps, our guide is the quintessential handbook for Haute Route campers. Each section provides in-depth information and resources, including:

  • Stage-by-stage hiking and accommodation descriptions
  • Detailed maps for every stop
  • Complete 10-day, 12-day, and 13-day Haute Route itineraries for campers
  • Custom GPS data for the entire route
  • Detailed instructions on using your phone as a GPS device
  • Lodging recommendations
  • Getting to/from the Haute Route
  • The ultimate camping packing list
  • A 15-week training plan

BUY NOW
 

Stages One and Two: Chamonix to Le Peuty

Camping Availability: Le Peuty Campsite

While many walkers choose to stay in nearby Trient, Le Peuty lies more directly on the WHR trail and offers a simple, pretty option for camping. This campground is located next to a small Gite and consists of a grassy field with basic facilities. It’s easy to miss if there aren’t any tents set up yet. There is no registration; instead someone will stop by in the evening to collect payment. You can pay in either Swiss Francs (CHF) or Euros.

Services: Potable water (cold), Toilets (no TP or soap), sinks, sheltered cooking area with picnic tables, trash and recycling, one outlet, portable showers (hot water wasn’t working when we were there), clothesline.

Nearby: There is a restaurant at the Gite next to the campsite, as well as a few other restaurant offerings in Trient. There are no grocery stores or ATM’s in the area, so stock up before leaving Chamonix or Argentiere.

Price: 6 CHF per person (cash only)

Tent at the Le Peuty campsite on the Haute Route.

Nice views from the tent at Le Peuty.

 

Alternative Option #1: Chamonix to Argentiere

Camping Availability: Camping du Glaciers

We combined the first two stages of the Haute Route into one longer day. If you don’t want to do that, you could stop at the end of Stage One and camp in Argentiere.

Services: Toilets, hot showers, potable water, laundry, wifi, a restaurant (which serves breakfast), and a place to purchase snacks and stove fuel.

Nearby: Grocery store, ATM, restaurants, a Tourist Office, and bus services.

Price: 6.10€ per person + 3.10€ per tent + 0,20 € per person tourist tax (includes transit card)

Alternative Option #2: Chamonix (or Argentiere) to Hotel de la Forclaz

Camping Availability: Hotel de la Forclaz

If you decide to opt out of the challenging  Fenêtre d’Arpette route for Stage Three and instead choose to take the Bovine Route, you could get a head start by continuing past Le Peuty for about 45 minutes uphill to Hotel de la Forclaz (and along the Bovine Route). If you’re completing the  Fenêtre d’Arpette, you would not want to do this, as it would add an unnecessary detour. Camping at Hotel de la Forclaz is a bit more luxurious than at Le Peuty, as you’ll have access to hot meals, a small shop, and real showers.

Services: Toilets, showers, potable water, option to purchase breakfast and/or dinner from the hotel restaurant, and a small shop selling snacks and ice cream.

Nearby: There are no other shops or services near the hotel.

Price: 8 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent

 

Stage Three: Le Peuty to Champex

Camping Availability: Camping Les Rocailles

Camping Les Rocailles is one of the first things you’ll pass as you enter Champex, about a 10-minute walk from the town center.  This lovely little campground offers three terraces with mostly flat spots to pitch your tent, but not much shade to be found.   Check in at the registration office before setting up camp.

Services: Toilets, sinks (with potable water), hot showers, a dishwashing/laundry room (3 CHF for wash, 1 CHF per 10 minutes for the dryer), outlets, microwave, electric kettle, covered cooking areas, and an area for drying wet clothes.  The office sells beer, wine, soda, and chips.

Nearby: Champex has a grocery store, cafes, bars, restaurants, outdoor retailers, and an ATM. The lake offers several tranquil spots along its shore for relaxing after a long day on your feet.

Price: 16 CHF per person (cash or most credit cards accepted)

The Trient Glacier.

Fantastic views await those who hike the Fenêtre d’Arpette

 

Stage Four: Champex to Le Châble

Camping Availability: Camping Champsec

While there isn’t a campground in Le Châble (the official stop of this stage of the WHR), there is a campground a short bus ride away (or a one-hour walk) in the small town of Champsec. To get to the campground, catch the #253 Postbus from outside of the convenience store at the gondola station in Le Châble. The ride takes about 10 minutes and costs 3.50 CHF per person. From the bus stop in Champsec, follow the signs and walk about 10 minutes to the campground. The campground is located in a lovely pastoral setting next to the river.

Tip: the tourist tax you’ll pay at the campground will make you eligible for a free transit card for the following day. The next morning when you take the bus back to Le Châble to continue your hike, simply tell the driver that you stayed at the campground and you shouldn’t have to pay the bus fare (you can then obtain your actual transit card from the tourist office in Le Châble if you also want to access the gondola for free).

Services: Toilets (TP but no hand soap), covered sinks for washing up, warm shower, indoor space with tables and chairs, outdoor seating, and outlets inside the reception and in the bathrooms.

Nearby: There aren’t any services in Champsec, but there is a grocery store (closed on Sundays), bakery, restaurants, bus/train/gondola connections, and an ATM in Le Châble. You could also use your transit card and ride the gondola or bus up to Verbier for more grocery stores, outdoors shops, and restaurants.

Price: 8 CHF per person+ 6 CHF per tent + 1.5 CHF tourist tax per person (includes transit card access) (cash only)

Stage Five: Le Châble to Cabane du Mont Fort

Camping Availability: None

On stage five, the traditional Walker’s Haute Route route climbs steadily upwards to the mountain hut at Cabane du Mont Fort and stays at high elevation throughout stage six. You won’t find any official camping areas again until you’re back down at lower elevations in Arolla, at the end of stage seven. If the weather conditions are really good, you could conceivably wild camp between stages five and seven. Our plan was to stay at the Cabane du Mont Fort at the end of stage five, then hike past the typical end of stage six the following day and reach the Refuge de La Barma, which is unmanned on weekdays. However, bad weather forced us to reroute after spending the night at Cabane du Mont Fort. We ended up taking the train and bus to reach Arolla, then hiking up to Pas de Chèvres from the Arolla the following day. Below we’ve provided an overview of Cabane du Mont Fort, plus other alternative options for these stages.

Cabane du Mont Fort

We camped nearly every night on the Haute Route, but we made exceptions on three occasions. Two of these exceptions were to stay at mountain huts (the other was to stay in a cozy Airbnb on our rest day). We reserved beds ahead of time at Cabane du Mont Fort and Cabane du Moiry, due to the difficulty of camping on these stages and the rave reviews about these huts. If you can, we recommend staying in at least one good mountain hut (known as cabanes) along your hike. It is a unique experience in which you’ll meet fellow hikers and enjoy a fun evening in an incredibly atmospheric setting. Tip #1: Both of the huts that we stayed at along the Walker’s Haute Route allowed us to opt out of purchasing meals and self-cater instead. We paid half as much with this option, while still enjoying all the ambiance and coziness of the hut. Tip #2: Get there early. Some rooms at Mont Fort only have two or four beds. If you’re lucky, you may end up with a private room.

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), drinking water, public wifi access, a la carte food and drinks available for purchase, hot showers (5 CHF for 5 minutes), kitchenette with stove, sink, and cookware, and a classic, cozy hut with great views.

Nearby: The Les Ruinettes gondola station is about an hour’s hike back down the trail. You can present your confirmation email from Cabane du Mont Fort at the Le Châble tourist office and receive a transit card which will allow you to ride the gondola for free down to Verbier and Le Châble. If you need to detour to Arolla due to bad weather or hazardous conditions, this is a great option. There are no other shops or services available along the trail until Arolla (with the exception of a few mountain huts which serve meals).

Price: 37 CHF (dorm only) or 75 CHF (half pension)

View from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Looking out from Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

Alternative Option: Le Châble to Cabane de Prafleuri

If you want to eliminate a day that doesn’t have easy camping options, you could take the gondola up from Le Châble to Les Ruinettes, then walk all the way to Cabane de Prafleuri. The next day you would descend to Arolla, where you’d have access again to a campground. We wouldn’t recommend this option for a few reasons. First, this would set you up for two very long and challenging days of walking in potentially hazardous conditions. Second, everyone we’ve talked has given poor reviews of Cabane de Prafleuri (it was actually closed for a bed bug infestation while we were hiking the WHR). If you’re going to spend the money on a hut, Mont Fort or Cabane des Dix are better options. Cabane des Dix is a further walk from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stage Six: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Camping Availability: Not available

Unfortunately, this section of the Haute Route does not have any options for camping. Here, the trail stays in the high mountains and does not encounter any towns, and thus does not encounter any campsites. The traditional Haute Route has walkers stop at Cabane du Prafleuri after Cabane du Mont Fort, although you can continue on to La Barma or Cabane des Dix as described above or head down to the Hotel du Barrage.

Services: Toilets, sinks (NO drinking water), showers, restaurant, outlets.

Nearby: No services nearby.

Price: Contact the Cabane for current prices.

 

Stage Seven: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla

Camping Availability: Camping Arolla

After a couple of days of crossing rocky, barren, snow-covered high mountain landscapes, the sunny, green valley and the village of Arolla are bound to look very inviting. As you descend into the small town, you’ll pass a couple of shops and hotels. To reach the campground, you’ll need to hike about 15-20 minutes further downhill. There’s a nice trail leading to the campground which can be accessed behind the Hotel du Glacier. You can’t miss the hotel, as it takes Alpine flower boxes to a whole new level. Camping Arolla is a nice, large campground with decent facilities and grassy terraces for tents. The reception has limited hours in the morning and evening, so pitch your tent and check back in later if they’re closed when you arrive. Tip: there are only a couple of showers for a whole bunch of campers, so try to get in there early if you want to avoid a long wait.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), sinks for washing up (hot and cold potable water), showers (1 CHF for 4 minutes), shop at the reception (limited hours) which sells snacks, beer/wine/soda, camper meals, toiletries, but no stove fuel, morning bread available for order, outlets in the bathrooms, wifi near the reception building, recycling (need to purchase bag for trash items), tent and camping gear rentals.

Nearby: The campground reception has a small shop and there is a pizza restaurant in the hotel next door to camping Arolla. There’s also a bus stop (Arolla, La Monta) just down the road from the campground. For all other services, you’ll need to walk back up to Arolla proper. There, you’ll find two small grocery stores, a few restaurants, and a tourist office.

Price: 8.70 CHF per person + 7.50 CHF per tent (cash or credit cards accepted)

Tents at Camping Arolla on the Haute Route.

A lovely evening at Camping Arolla.

 

Stage Eight: Arolla to La Sage

Camping Availability: Camping Molignon (Les Haudères)

The typical endpoint for this stage of the Haute Route is the town of La Sage, but those wanting to camp should stop instead in the town of Les Haudères, where there is a large campground with good facilities. Bear in mind that Les Haudères is at the bottom of the valley, while La Sage is further up the hillside. This means that you’ll have about 45 minutes of additional climbing to do at the beginning of the next day’s stage. We think this is a worthwhile trade-off, since Les Haudères is a charming village and also has way more services than La Sage. Camping Molignon is a big, busy campground on the edge of town. It’s located on a grassy area next to the river with nice views and easy proximity to the grocery store and bus stop. You’ll be in the minority with your tent, as most of the campground is occupied by camper vans. Though it is very large and crowded, you’ll find the facilities are quite nice and the location is ideal.

Services: Toilets (TP and hand soap), several covered sinks for washing up, potable water (hot and cold), showers, outlets, restaurant, small shop selling snacks and essential items, pool, hot tub, ping pong, playground, recycling, and trash (bag purchase required).

Nearby: Les Haudères has a grocery store, restaurants, cafes, outdoor shop, post office, and bus stop. You won’t find much in La Sage except for a few hotels and restaurants, so stock up in Les Haudères regardless of where you decide to spend the night.

Price: 7.50 CHF per person + 10 CHF per tent + 1.10 per person tourist tax

Campground near Les Hauderes, Switzerland.

Not a bad place to pitch a tent at Camping Molignon.

 

Stage Nine: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry (or Grimentz)

Camping Availability: Camping Ilôt Bosquet (Grimentz)

According to many Haute Route hikers, an overnight stay at Cabane de Moiry is a “can’t miss” experience. We opted to spend the night at Moiry instead of camping and found it to be a worthwhile splurge. The mountain hut is situated remarkably close to a truly stunning glacier, and the modern renovations (glass-walled dining room and spacious terrace) make for an atmospheric and wonderful space in which to study the glacier and soak up the views. However, by taking a variant to Grimentz, you have the option to camp instead, if you prefer.  Additionally, if you want to stay on the Moiry variant of the trail but still want to camp, we did see many people wild camping in the area between the upper reservoirs and Lac de Moiry.

Cabane de Moiry:

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), drying room, complimentary tea and coffee served in the afternoon and complimentary fruit tea in the morning, option for self-catering, restaurant/bar, sleep sheets available for rent (5 CHF), showers (5 CHF for 5 minutes), foosball, picnic tables, sinks but NO potable water (we recommend bringing a lightweight filter instead of buying the overpriced plastic bottles at the hut).

Nearby: There is a drinking water fountain located about an hour down the trail past Cabane de Moiry. There are also bathrooms at the parking lot next to Lac de Moiry.

Price: 40.50 CHF (dorm only) or 86.50 CHF (half board) (cash or credit cards accepted)

View of the Moiry Glacier.

The terrace at Cabane de Moiry gets you up close and personal to the incredible Moiry Glacier.

 

Alternative Option: Camping Ilôt Bosquet

If you would prefer to (legally) camp on this stage, your best bet is to continue hiking past the Barrage de Moiry and onwards for about two more hours to the town of Grimentz. If you plan on spending the following night at the Hotel Weisshorn, you’ll head straight there the next day, effectively cutting out a stage of the WHR. Alternatively, if you still wanted to complete the typical stage ten segment, you could take the bus back to Barrage de Moiry the next day and the complete the hike to Zinal. Another option (which would also cut out stage ten) would be to hike directly from Grimentz to Zinal (about 2.5 hours) and then continue on to complete stage eleven to Gruben all in the same day (which would be quite a long day of walking). Regardless of the option you choose, here’s a bit about the Camping Ilôt Bosquet:

Services: Basic toilets

Nearby: Bus stop, tourist office, restaurants, bank, post office, shops.

Price: 5 CHF per person + 4 CHF tourist tax per person

Stage Ten: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

Camping Availability: Camping Relais de la Tzoucdana

As you begin your long descent towards Zinal, you’ll be able to see the campground far below. It sits next to river on the far edge of town (about 20 minutes’ walk to the town center). If you arrive in the afternoon, don’t be surprised to find the campground’s restaurant positively buzzing with families and hikers stopping by for a drink or some ice cream. Don’t worry, the crowds disperse as the evening sets in. At first glance, the campground is a little strange; there are various animals housed on site, people recreating everywhere you turn, and the area for tents is a bit cramped. However, it grew on us as we spent more time there. The showers are hot and clean, the staff is super friendly, the pitches are flat and grassy. Tip: There are two options for your descent from the gondola station into Zinal. If you choose the less steep variant (which follows a gravel road), the trail ends immediately next to the campground. If you take the steeper option, you’ll have to walk through town for a bit to reach the campground. The reception is located at the restaurant.

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), hot showers, water tap with cold, potable water in the camping field, sink with hot and cold potable water in the main building, porta potties in the camping field, restaurant/bar, picnic table, outlets, and a playground.

Nearby: Grocery store, shops, ATM, bakery, restaurants, bus stop, gondola station, tourist office, post office.

Price: 7 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 4 CHF per person tourist tax (includes transit card) (cash and credit cards accepted).

Stage Eleven: Zinal to Gruben

Camping Availability: Wild camping only

The typical route for this stage brings hikers into the lovely, quiet Turtmanntal Valley and to the little hamlet of Gruben. Gruben is a quaint town situated along the river. However, for what it provides in rural, small-town charm, it lacks in camping options. If you want to camp along this stage, your only option is to camp wild. If you choose to do this, keep in mind that it is not technically legal, and you should therefore make every effort to minimize your impact. Upon arriving in Gruben, most campers continue uphill past the Hotel Schwarzhorn, following the trail towards the next stage. If you continue up past Gruben, you can scout for potential camping spots tucked within the trees. There are few flat spots, but they do exist. Once you find a workable spot, you can head back into Gruben, grab a beer at the hotel, fill up on drinking water at the tap in front of the church, and wait for the sun to set before setting up camp. In the morning, make sure to get packed up early. Bonus: you’ll have a head start on the next day’s walk! Tip: We chose to cook and eat our dinner on a bench next to the water tap. This allowed us to minimize our impact at our campsite and gave us easy access to water for cooking and washing up.

Services: Drinking water is available in town in front of the church. If you purchase something at the hotel and ask for the password, you can get wifi access there.

Nearby: Besides the hotel and restaurant, there’s not much in Gruben. Be sure to stock up at the shop in Zinal unless you want to buy some very expensive meals at the Hotel Schwarzhorn.

Price: Free

Big mountain view on the Haute Route.

Fantastic vistas on the descent to Gruben.

 

Stages Twelve through Fourteen: Gruben to St. Niklaus to Zermatt

Camping Availability: Camping Attermenzen (Randa) or Camping Alphubel (Täsch )

The final days of the Haute Route present hikers with a lot of choices. You can choose to complete all, some, or none of the high-level Europaweg trail, you can complete the stages in two or three days, and you can use various forms of transit to shorten some sections. If you want to complete the entire Europaweg section, you won’t have many convenient options for camping. We’ve laid out all of your options for the final stages below:

Alternative Option #1: Gruben to St.Niklaus/Gasenried/Grächen, then  St.Niklaus/Gasenried/Grächen to the Europa Hut, then Europa Hut to Zermatt.

Camping Availability: None

If you want to complete the entire Europaweg section of the Walker’s Haute Route, your options for camping will be quite limited. You can choose to finish stage twelve either in St. Niklaus, Gasenried, or Grächen. Unfortunately, you won’t find campsites in any of these towns. Upon finishing stage twelve, you’ll first pass through St. Niklaus, which has a budget hotel, a grocery store and bus connections to Gasenried and Grächen. If you keep walking for about two hours uphill (or take the bus from the St. Niklaus train station), you’ll reach Gasenried next. This is the most convenient location from which to start the long and challenging Europaweg section the following day, but there is only one hotel in the town. Alternatively, you could detour to Grächen (2 more hours or bus) where you’ll find a shop, restaurants, and a few budget accommodation options. From our observations, it appeared to be quite difficult to wild camp near St. Niklaus, as it was quite populated. We didn’t pass through the other towns, so we can’t say how possible it would be.

Europa Hut:

Services: Toilets (TP), sinks, dining room, terrace, restaurant.

Nearby: No services nearby.

Price: 30 CHF per person (dorm only) or 65 CHF (half board)

Alternative Option #2: Gruben to Randa or Täsch, then Randa /Täsch  to Zermatt.

If you’d rather stick with camping instead of having to stay at the Europa Hut, or you want to cut out the sketchier parts of the Europaweg Trail, or if you just need to shorten your hike by a day this option is for you. After reaching St. Niklaus at the end of stage twelve, you’ll have a choice between two campgrounds. If you want to take the valley trail the following day, we’d recommend staying at the Randa Campground (it’s actually a bit past Randa towards Täsch). This campground will be closer to get to after a long day of hiking from Gruben and balance the remainder of the hike so your next day isn’t ridiculously short. If you want to hike on the Europaweg trail for the final day (highly recommended in good weather), we suggest camping in Täsch. You can hike directly up from the campground in  Täsch to meet up with the Europaweg Trail (about 1.5-2 hours) and take that all the way to Zermatt. By choosing this option, you’ll still get the incredible Matterhorn views that the Europaweg trail has to offer, while avoiding most of the exposed areas and the suspension bridge (of course some hikers will see this as a disappointment while others will rejoice). If you decide to stay in Täsch, you’ll likely want to shorten your hike there by either taking the gondola down from Jungen to St. Niklaus or taking the train from St. Niklaus to Täsch. If you want to walk all the way from Gruben to Täsch, prepare for a 10-12-hour day and a lot of downhill and uninteresting valley walking.

Camping Attermenzen (Randa):

Services: Toilets (TP), sinks for washing up, hot and cold potable water, washer/dryer, shop selling food, drinks, and camping equipment, and outlets.

Nearby: Keep in mind that this campground is about a 15-20 minutes’ walk past the town of Randa. To get to the grocery store, restaurants, bank, post office, or train station, you’ll have to walk back to town.

Price: 7 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 3 CHF tourist tax per person + 1 CHF waste fee per person

Camping Alphubel (Täsch):

This van-packed campground is located conveniently next to the train station and grocery store. However, you’ll pay for that convenient location in the form of frequent noise from the road and railroad tracks. Ear plugs are a total game changer here, so make sure you pack them! The area for tents is small and cramped, but the facilities are decent and the proximity to the trail can’t be beat.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), potable water, covered sinks for washing up (hot and cold water), wifi (2 CHF), laundry room, outlets in the bathrooms, bread available for order, recycling and trash, picnic tables, and ping pong.

Nearby: Grocery store, ATM, train station, shops, tourist office, restaurants, post office.

Price: 9 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 4 CHF per person tourist tax + 1 CHF garbage tax (cash only).

View of the Matterhorn and Zermatt.

First glimpse of Zermatt from the Europaweg.

 

Zermatt

Camping Availability: Camping Matterhorn

Upon completing a challenge like the Haute Route, many hikers consider rewarding themselves with a night or two in a hotel in Zermatt. However, once they start looking at the prices of hotels in Zermatt, many of those hikers decide that one more night of camping doesn’t sound so bad after all. Lucky for them, there is a decent campground located near the center of town. While it is quite noisy, a bit cramped, and the showers aren’t the warmest, this campground has a lot of redeeming qualities, too. The wifi is excellent, there are plenty of chairs and tables that can be moved around to suit your campsite, and the proximity to the grocery store and train station are quite convenient. This campground is a great budget option if you’re just staying one night in Zermatt before traveling onwards.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), covered area with sinks for washing up, potable water (hot and cold), “free stuff” exchange shelf, tables and chairs, warm showers, wifi (get password from the reception), and outlets in the bathrooms.

Price: 17 CHF per person (cash only).

Conclusion

We think that camping is the best way to do the Haute Route, not only for the money-saving aspects, but because it allows you to more fully immerse yourself in the natural surroundings you’re there to experience and to meet some really cool fellow campers along the way. Hopefully this guide helps to pave the way for your own Haute Route camping adventure. Happy trails!

Like this post? Pin it for later!

Camping on the Haute Route the complete 2020 guide

What’s Next?

If you’ve read our Guide above, you’re well on your way to having an incredible experience camping on the Walker’s Haute Route Trail. However, you still have lots of preparation before you’re truly ready! Be sure to read our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

 

2 Comments on Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search