Category: Walker’s Haute Route

How to Navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route | GPS Maps

We often get asked what is the best way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route? Given that the route spans multiple countries, crosses 11 mountain passes, and covers over…

We often get asked what is the best way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route? Given that the route spans multiple countries, crosses 11 mountain passes, and covers over 207 kilometers it’s no wonder that trekkers aren’t sure what maps to carry or the best way to be sure they are on the correct trail.

In this post we’ll explain exactly how we navigated during our own Walker’s Haute Route adventure utilizing offline GPS maps, and even provide some custom resources for your own trek! Let’s get started.

Overview map of the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.
The Walker’s Haute Route winds its way from Chamonix to Zermatt.

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Should I bring a map on the Walker’s Haute Route?

In order to fully cover the Walker’s Haute Route at a decent scale you’d need to bring no less than five Swiss Topo maps along your trek. For many, this is simply too much weight and hassle to pack. When we hiked the Walker’s Haute Route we did not rely heavily on these maps, instead choosing to utilize offline GPS maps on our phone for navigation. However, we always recommend that you bring some form of paper navigation. If you drop that handy phone in a puddle, you’ll be glad you did. The full list of Swiss Topo maps you’ll need for the route is below:

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

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

Be sure to check out our Walker’s Haute Route Packing List for a complete guide on what to bring!

Once you’ve got your maps for the Haute Route safely tucked away you can start to focus on our favorite way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route: GPS maps on your smartphone. No cell service required!

You’ll be glad you brought your handy maps when you encounter a trail section like this!

 

Offline GPS Maps for the Walker’s Haute Route

Offline GPS maps are quickly becoming the standard for backcountry navigation given their ease of use, accessibility, and the multitude of excellent smartphone apps available. Whether taking advantage of these maps on the Walker’s Haute Route or any other trek, you simply open your chosen GPS app (see our recommended apps below) and you’ll be able to view your location along the trail, see alternate routes, and all the stopping points on your trek.

We think this is far and away the most convenient way to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route and want to help you successfully utilize offline mobile maps on your hike.

Keep reading below to learn more about how your phone can work as a GPS and how we can help you feel confident using this navigation method.

Using your phone as a GPS

Modern smartphones are incredible machines. You can send email, video chat with someone halfway around the world, and check your bank account all with a swipe of your finger. Another great feature of smartphones is their ability to act as a GPS device. You regularly use this feature when navigating with Google Maps, Apple Maps, or other mapping software that comes standard on most phones these days.

The problem is your phone relies on having an internet connection in order to download the background mapping data that needs to be displayed for you to know where you are. You see, the GPS in your phone only provides a location point, but the really valuable data is the background map that shows the various streets, businesses and even traffic conditions around you.  Without an internet connection to show the background map, your Google Maps app will look something like this: 

Blank TMB map

Not a very effective way to navigate.

Solving the background map problem

When you’re using your cell phone is a city, town, or anywhere with cell phone service getting the background map to download is no problem. Your phone simply displays the background map via the internet connection. However, once you’re out of cell phone service and without WiFi, your phone will not be able to display any of the critical background map information. This can be a huge issue when you’re standing on top of a high mountain pass on the Walker’s Haute Route and unsure which way to proceed.

The solution?

GPS navigation apps that allow for downloadable background maps.

These excellent apps allow you to access the map data without a cell phone connection and still know exactly where you are! Even though your phone is not connected to cell service or internet, the GPS will still work without incurring any “roaming” charges. 

Pretty cool, huh? I’ll show you exactly how we did this for the Walker’s Haute Route below.

 

Walker’s Haute Route Maps – What we provide

For those looking for Walker’s Haute Route GPS resources, we offer a complete GPS digital download for just $4.99. Included you’ll get access to both .gpx and .kml files for the entire Walker’s Haute Route along with common alternate routes and waypoints of all of the stops along the traditional, 13-day itinerary.

BUY NOW BUY NOW

These custom maps can be used on Android and Apple devices and works with both paid and free GPS navigation apps.

Which app should I use?

There are two main offline GPS navigation apps that we recommend for the Walker’s Haute Route:

Maps.me and Gaia GPS. The main difference between the two apps is that Maps.me is free to download and use, but has limited base maps. On the other hand, Gaia GPS requires a $19.99 annual subscription to use but has superior offline base maps and more robust navigational tools. Check out the comparison below to see how a specific section of the Walker’s Haute Route displays in each of the apps.

Comparison of Maps.me and Gaia GPS for the Walker's Haute Route

Comparison of Maps.me and Gaia GPS for the Walker’s Haute Route.

As shown above, Maps.me is great for displaying the route as well as the stopping points along the trek. However, when you look at the same section of trail displayed in Gaia GPS you can see much more information including adjacent trails, elevation shading, and a more detailed view of your surroundings. 

For this reason, we highly recommend you invest the $20 to use Gaia GPS. Of course, we certainly understand that many readers will prefer to use the free option of Maps.me instead. Given this, we’ve included instructions for downloading and accessing the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data for both Maps.me and Gaia GPS below. 

Gaia GPS for the Walker’s Haute Route

The instructions below provide a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Walker’s Haute Route GPS data we’ve created in Gaia GPS.

Step One – Download the Walker’s Haute Route GPS file

When you purchase our Walker’s Haute Route GPS download, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .GPX file directly onto your phone (as opposed to on another device) to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Gaia GPS, which you should do.

Gaia GPS will then import the data and you should see the Walker’s Haute Route and waypoints displayed on the map.

Success! You’ve imported the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data in Gaia GPS.

Step Two – Choose your map source

Next, you’ll want to select your base map. This will be the background map that you will eventually download and use to navigate while hiking, even without cell phone service. There are tons of background maps available for download, but we highly recommend the “Outdoor” layer for those hiking the Walker’s Haute Route. To choose this map source, simply select the layers icon in the top right corner and then select ‘Outdoors’.

Step Three – Navigate to the Walker’s Haute Route and download your background map

Once you have selected the “Outdoor” base map, you’ll need to download the entire area of the Walker’s Haute Route. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know your exact location on the trail when you don’t have cell phone service. To download the background map data, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the Walker’s Haute Route in Gaia GPS
  2. Select the ‘Create’ button (circle with a plus sign in the upper right hand corner)
  3. Select ‘Download Map’
  4. Draw a rectangle with your finger that encompasses the entire trek
  5. Set the ‘Max Zoom’ to 17
  6. Name your map ‘Walker’s Haute Route’ and select ‘Save’
  7. Allow the download to complete and you’re done! (you’ll want to be connected to WiFi for this)

 

That’s it! Now you’re all set to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route like a pro with an offline GPS map in Gaia GPS. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the stops along the route!

Using the Gaia GPS app on the trail

The final step to successfully navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route is to know how to utilize the Gaia GPS app when you are out on the trail. To view your current location, simply select the location button on the top menu. At this point your phone will activate its GPS, and (providing you have a fairly clear view of the sky) in a few moments it will show you exactly where you are by displaying a yellow arrow.

Use this feature whenever you want to see how far you’ve gone, how much further you have left until your next stop, or if a fork in the trail has you questioning the correct way.  

NOTE: The yellow arrow shows you where you are, but will not necessarily point towards the direction you are actually facing. This is important to remember when you are orienting yourself!

 

Maps.me for the Walker’s Haute Route

The instructions below show a step-by-step guide for downloading and accessing the custom Walker’s Haute Route GPS data we’ve created in Maps.me.

Maps.me is an excellent free navigation app that allows you to download offline background data. As we noted above, downloading background data is the the key to successfully utilizing GPS to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route. The primary shortcoming of  using Maps.me for navigation while trekking is the limited base map data. You won’t find detailed topographic lines, terrain shading, or other helpful features. However, we know that many trekkers will be just fine with Maps.me and you can’t beat the price!

Here is your step-by-step guide to utilizing our Walker’s Haute Route GPS data with Maps.me:

Step One – Download the Walker’s Haute Route GPS file

When you purchase our Walker’s Haute Route GPS data, you’ll get a link for the GPS file included in your order confirmation email. You’ll want to be sure to open the email and download the .KML file directly onto your phone to simplify the process. After completing the download you’ll be prompted to open the file in Maps.me, which you’ll want to go ahead and do.

 

After opening the GPS file with Maps.me, the app will navigate to your current location and will also display a message stating that your bookmarks have successfully been loaded. You’ll need to move the map from your current location to the Walker’s Haute Route and verify that you see the track and waypoints displayed.

 

 

Step Two – Download the Walker’s Haute Route background maps

Once you have successfully loaded the Walker’s Haute Route GPS data, you’ll need to download the entire area surrounding the trek as a base map in Maps.me. Remember, without downloading this data you’ll have no way to know where exactly you are on the trail. To download the background map data in Maps.me, follow the steps below:

  1. Navigate to the area of the Walker’s Haute Route in Maps.me
  2. Zoom in on the trail until the app prompts you to download a map region
  3. You’ll need to download two distinct regions in Maps.me to cover the entire Haute Route. They are:
    1. Haute-Savoie
    2. Lake Geneva Region
  4. Continue to zoom in on different segments of the trail until you have downloaded both of these regions
  5. Verify that you’ve downloaded all of the required base maps by navigating to the ‘Download Maps’ menu.
  6. Once you’ve checked that both regions have been successfully downloaded you’re all done!

 

To verify that you’ve successfully downloaded both of the required base map regions in Maps.me follow these steps:

  1. Select the ‘Menu’ in the bottom right hand corner of the screen
  2. Select ‘Download Maps’
  3. Verify that you have downloads in France and Switzerland
  4. Select each country and verify that you have the following maps downloaded:
    1. Haute-Savoie (France)
    2. Lake Geneva Region (Switzerland)

That’s it! You’re all set to navigate on the Walker’s Haute Route like a pro with an offline GPS map utilizing Maps.me. You can now zoom in on specific sections, view trail segments, and see all of the stops along the route!

 

A note on battery life

One of the easiest ways for the app-navigation method to go awry is for your phone battery to die. I recommend two strategies to help prevent an unexpected dead battery from sabotaging your trip. The first is to ensure that you always exit the app before locking your phone. This will prevent the app from continually locating you, and thus draining your battery. You can also keep your phone on “airplane mode” to prevent it from wasting battery life while searching for cell service.

The second way to prevent a dead battery from causing problems is to carry a backup battery system. These are relatively inexpensive and are worth their weight in gold when you find yourself with a dying battery. I like the Anker PowerCore 20100, but any decent option should do.

Keep Reading

Be sure to check out all of our Walker’s Haute Route posts here.

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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!

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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.

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.

n 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

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!

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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?

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:

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How to Train for the Walker’s Haute Route

So you’ve decided to trek the Walker’s Haute Route. Congratulations! You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started planning your itinerary, putting together a packing list,…

So you’ve decided to trek the Walker’s Haute Route. Congratulations! You are in for the adventure of a lifetime. Perhaps you’ve started planning your itinerary, putting together a packing list, and booking your accommodation, but have you thought about your physical preparation? Obviously, you’ve at least taken the first steps since you’ve found your way to this post, and for that your future self will thank you. That’s because being physically prepared for a tough trek like the Haute Route is the single most impactful action you can take to ensure your trip will be as enjoyable as possible. 

 

Looking down into the Matteral Valley on the Walker's Haute Route.

Looking waaay down into the Mattertal Valley. You’ll want strong legs to tackle ascents and descents like these!

 

Training for the Haute Route will make your experience exponentially more rewarding for a number of reasons, including…

  • You’ll be able to focus on the beauty of your surroundings instead of the pain and fatigue in your body.
  • You’ll eliminate the unnecessary stress of falling behind schedule due to spending longer-than-anticipated days on the trail.
  • By taking the time to prepare in advance, you’ll enjoy the anticipation of your upcoming trip and completing your trek will be immensely rewarding.
  • You’ll improve your fitness and health by working towards a goal that is exciting and meaningful.

Keeping reading to learn what you need to do to feel strong and prepared to conquer your very own Walker’s Haute Route adventure.

What’s in this post?

Hiker climbs a ladder to reach Pas des Chevres on the Walker's Haute Route

The ladders may look intimidating, but they’re actually not the most challenging part of the Haute Route.

 

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 approach it with a solid fittness base 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.

The Walker’s Haute Route in numbers:

Total distance: 225 kilometers (140 miles)

Total elevation gain: 14,000 meters (45,932 feet- that’s about the same as climbing to the top of Mt. Everest from base camp four times!)

Average Daily distance*: 19 kilometers (11.5 miles)

Average daily elevation gain*: 1,166 meters (3,827 feet)

*Averages are based on a traditional 12-day itinerary

 

Beautiful wildflowers along the trail near Arolla on the Haute Route.

Beautiful wildflowers along the trail near Arolla.

 

I don’t live near mountains…Will I be able to get fit enough?

Okay, so hopefully the first section of this post convinced you that yes you CAN complete the Walker’s Haute Route, but also that you really, really should take our advice and train ahead of time. However, if you’re like a great many people who aspire to trek the WHR, you don’t have trails in your backyard on which to complete said training. If that’s your situation, don’t despair. We’ve known plenty of people who’ve become incredibly strong hikers without the benefit of mountain training. Here’s some ideas for flatlanders:

  • Use the stairclimber machine at your local gym. Go slow, as this torture device machine definitely induces greater perceived exertion than most sections of the Haute Route.
  • Walk or run up and down the stairs at a nearby high school stadium or similar venue.
  • Get on a treadmill and walk at a brisk pace. Play around with setting the incline to a variety of levels, ranging from 5-12%.
  • Many bridges make excellent artificial hills. Make sure the one you choose has a safe pedestrian area and then walk back and forth across that sucker a bunch of times. Sure, it’s not the most exciting option, but consider it an opportunity to build both physical strength and mental fortitude.

As much as possible, complete the above activities while wearing a weighted pack similar to the one you plan on hiking with. Commit to one or more of these moves and you might be shocked at the high level of hiking fitness you can build without ever leaving sea level.

 

Basic Training Plan for the Walker’s Haute Route

Top of a mountain pass on the Walker's Haute Route

You’ll be glad you used this training plan when you’re climbing up steep mountain passes like this one!

 

Six Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Endurance Base

As we alluded to earlier, you can expect to spend long days on the trail while hiking the Haute Route. Most walkers complete their trek in 12-14 days, meaning they’ll need to average around 15 kilometers (10 miles) per day. To prepare for extended periods of hiking, you should try to build a solid foundation of aerobic endurance. So what does that actually mean? Simply put, your body needs to be accustomed to sustaining low(ish)-intensity exercise for longer than an hour.

Like a lot of training, the best way to get your body used to moving for a long time is to-you guessed it- regularly move for extended periods of time. You can achieve this a lot of different ways, but the important factor is that you’re frequently and consistently doing cardio exercise. Aerobic activity (AKA “cardio”) includes things like jogging, cycling, walking, swimming, using the elliptical machine, or anything else that requires moderate, sustained exertion (your heart rate should be elevated, but you should be able to maintain a conversation and keep up the activity for at least 30 minutes).

Starting six months prior to your trek, aim to complete 30-60 minutes of aerobic activity 3-5 times per week. If your fitness regimen already includes this kind of thing, just keep on keeping on!

 

Three Months Before Your Trek: Build Your Strength

In order to feel great throughout your trip and avoid injury and burnout, you’ll need the endurance base you started building in the previous training phase, plus ample leg strength. Ideally, at this point in your training you should begin to increase the frequency and intensity of your hiking. Your main goal is to continue to build your aerobic endurance while also training your leg muscles for long-distance hiking. If you can’t hit the trails, you can achieve similar results by doing anything that involves incline; bike uphill, set a treadmill to high incline (4-12% grade), or spend some time on the step machine at your gym.  Heck, you could even walk the stairs at the local high school stadium if you wanted to.

Additionally, now is the time to start incorporating a leg strengthening routine into your weekly training. Many hikers neglect strength training for any number of reasons; they don’t think they need it, they don’t know how, they don’t have time, or they just find it boring (this last one is the favorite excuse of yours truly!) However, strength training plays a huge role in giving you the power needed to tackle hard climbs, build stability, stay light on your feet, and prevent injury. You don’t need to spend a ton of time in the gym to get results, either. Even just a few minutes a week in the comfort of your home can make a world of difference.

Everyone’s fitness goals are different, but we generally recommend completing the following short workout 2-3 times per week to build Haute Route-ready legs:

  • 10 goblet squats (with medium weight)
  • 10 lunges on each leg (add weight or jumps to increase the challenge)
  • 10 step-ups on each leg (weights optional)

Complete three sets of each exercise.

 

Hiker with large blue backpack walks on a trail surrounded by wildflowers.

As your trek draws nearer, it’s a good idea to start hiking with a weighted pack to simulate what you’ll carry on the WHR.

 

Two Months Before Your Trip: Put on Your Pack

Remember all of that brand new gear sitting in your closet? Now is the time to break it in! In the eight weeks or so before your trip, try get in as many longer hikes (or walks) with your gear as possible.  Think of it as a “dress rehearsal” for your trek. The benefits of breaking in your gear at this point are twofold. First, you’ll be able to test your boots, backpack, socks, and so on to ensure that they fit well during longer hikes. Second, you’ll begin training your body to hike while wearing a heavy backpack.  If you’re new to backpacking, you’ll be surprised by how much more challenging it is to hike with the extra weight.

Even if you’ve been strength training, chances are you’ll be using new muscles when hiking with a backpack. The best way to condition your body? Hiking as much as possible with that heavy backpack! In the two months before your Haute Route trek, try to complete at least one challenging hike at least once a week while wearing your pack. Your backpack should mirror the weight you intend to carry on your Haute Route hike, including food and water. Ideally, you should work up to hikes that are 15-18 kilometers (5-10 miles) long with 500 meters (1,500 feet) of elevation gain. If that’s not possible, try to complete a weekly long walk (5-10 miles) while wearing your pack and with as many hills as possible (see the previous section for more ideas on this). As an added bonus, these hikes/walks are a great opportunity to start breaking in new hiking boots and other gear.

Reminder: During this training phase, you should keep up your aerobic and strength training from the previous sections, simply replacing one of your weekly aerobic workouts with a long hike. 

 

One Month Before Your Trip: Time for a Test Run (Hike)

This stage in your training is awesome because it requires you to take a vacation (you’re welcome). If at all possible, try to take a 1-2 night backpacking trip in your local woods.  If you aren’t planning on camping along the Haute Route, you don’t need to take an overnight trip, but you should still try to fit in two back-to-back days of long, hard hiking.

This important step allows you to try out different ways of packing your backpack for maximum fit and comfort, practice setting up camp, and get your body used to hiking consecutive days in a row. It will also give you the chance to see what items you packed that you don’t need, and what you may have forgotten.

Keep up your established aerobic and strength training until 10 days to one week before the hike. In the last week before your trip, continue doing some light cardio and strength, but take extra rest days and don’t do any big, challenging hikes so your body is fresh for your upcoming adventure. Finally, pat yourself on the back and take pride in showing up to your Haute Route trek fit, prepared, and the best version of yourself!

Hiker walks uphill on the Walker's Haute Route.

Ultimately, walking long distances on hilly terrain is the best way to prepare for the Haute Route.

 

Adapting the Hike for Varying Ability Levels

Unfortunately, the Haute Route is not the friendliest trek in terms of accessibility and adaptations.  There are sections that don’t allow for shortcuts, and some of the detours can be less than perfect.  That being said, it is still possible to complete significant portions of the hike, even if you’re not able to do the whole thing. If your training doesn’t go as planned due to injury, illness, or the realities of life that inevitably creep in from time to time, there are ways to reduce the level of challenge on the trek. Here are a few suggestions:

    • If possible, consider adding an extra day or cutting out a segment to reduce the average distance you’ll need to cover each day.
    • Use a luggage transfer service to eliminate the extra demands of carrying your heavy pack (note that these do not service all stops along the Haute Route)
    • Use public transportation to avoid the more challenging stages of the hike.
    • Plan for a rest day midway through your hike. Les Haudères and Zinal make great options.  See our Haute Route Logistics article for more information about luggage transfers, rest days, and detour options.
    • Enlist a few friends or family members to come with you and rent a car. You can alternate between hiking and driving the support vehicle to customize the amount of time spent on your feet.  Plus, you’ll still be able to enjoy much of the same spectacular Alpine scenery from the road.

Clouds parting to reveal stunning views on the way to Cabane du Mont Fort.

Clouds parting to reveal stunning views on the way to Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

The Bottom Line

Move, preferably uphill and with weight on your back, as much as possible. Do this and you will be able to enjoy every moment of your incredible trip so much more. Plus, the time and effort you spend working towards your goal will make the real thing that much sweeter. I can’t stress enough how glad we were that we’d prepared for the challenge of a thru-hike like the Walker’s Haute Route, and I hope our experience can help you have your best possible trip.

 

But wait…there’s more!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Haute Route, we can help! Learn more about our personalized coaching services. 

Be sure to check out our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

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10 Essentials for the Walker’s Haute Route

The Walker’s Haute Route (WHR) promises to be an unforgettable adventure for anyone willing to tackle the challenge. This spectacular hike begins at majestic Mont Blanc and ends at the…

The Walker’s Haute Route (WHR) promises to be an unforgettable adventure for anyone willing to tackle the challenge. This spectacular hike begins at majestic Mont Blanc and ends at the iconic Matterhorn, but what lies between the two peaks is the best part. The Walker’s Haute Route winds its way through some of the most stunning scenery, quaint villages, and rugged trails that the Alps have to offer.

Looking way down towards the valley from Jungen on the Walker's Haute Route

Looking way down towards the valley from Jungen.

 

While the rewards are undoubtedly worth it, completing a Haute Route trek is no small feat. In addition to the very real physical challenges that exist, this hike requires a good deal of planning and logistics to ensure a smooth, successful, and enjoyable experience. No need to stress through-we’ve got you covered.

In this post we’ll share our most valuable advice for those hiking the Haute Route. These are the things we wished we knew before completing our own trek, as well as the brilliant insider tips we picked up from other hikers we met along the way. This post  will help you to make sure you’ve thought of everything before setting off on your own Haute Route adventure. And if you’re looking for more in depth content, don’t forget to check out our Camping Guide, Trip Report, and more!

 

Views back towards Arolla as you make your way to La Sage on the Walker's Haute Route

Views back towards Arolla as you make your way to La Sage.

 

1. Be Flexible

The Walker’s Haute Route traverses rugged paths and high mountain passes, which are challenging enough in good weather, but can quickly become dangerous in adverse conditions. At higher elevations, storms can roll in quickly, and can be especially hazardous when you’re in highly exposed areas.

Additionally, large patches of snow can remain on the trail well into the summer hiking season. While some of these snowy sections are easy to cross, others can be very difficult, slow, and potentially unsafe to try to negotiate without the proper gear and experience. In particular, the sections between Cabane du Mont Fort and Arolla tend to present the biggest issues with late-season snow.

A hiker crosses a large snow field on stage 9 of the Walker's Haute Route

Plenty of snow in mid-July en route to Cabane du Moiry.

 

Finally, there are some sketchy sections of the trek that require extreme caution, such as the approach to Pas des Chevres (which has loose rocks and requires scrambling).

So why are we telling you all of this? Because if there’s only one rule you follow on the Haute Route it should be this: give the mountains the respect they deserve. The Haute Route is unique in the sense that there are virtually endless route options, variants, and detours available. In situations where the weather forecast is ominous, the trail conditions are sketchy, or your gut is telling you that something is out of your league, you have options. Use them!

It’s not the end of the world if you have to detour or adjust your plans to stay safe. In our opinion, it doesn’t make you an less of a badass hiker. In fact, it illustrates your experience and wisdom when it comes to trekking. Be open to whatever unique challenges the trail throws at you, after all that’s part of the journey!

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!

 

2. Get in shape

With a route that traverses more than 180km and over 12,000m of elevation gain, it’s imperative that you are physically prepared for the Haute Route. Sure, every year there are more than a few untrained couch potatoes that manage to slog their way through this trek, but we are absolutely certain that you will have an immensely better experience if you are in good trekking shape. Nobody wants to approach each and every mountain pass with a sense of dread and exhaustion.

We recommend following a regimen of cardio and strength exercises at least twice a week in the months leading up to your trip. Additionally, do as much hiking with a weighted pack as possible ahead of time.It’s a good idea routinely do strength training exercises to build leg and core muscles in order to protect against injuries and give you more stability on steep trails. Ideally, you should be able to comfortably complete hikes of 20km with 1,000m of elevation gain on consecutive days.

Keep reading: How to Train for the Walker’s Haute Route

A rocky, high mountain view from the trail on Stage 10 of the Walker's Haute Route

Expect to climb up, up, and more up, and then go all the way back down- every day of the trek!

 

3. Think ahead when it comes to logistics

Even though we encourage you to be flexible throughout your Haute Route adventure, it’s still a good idea to do some advance planning. There are several logistical issues you’ll need to consider when preparing for your journey, including getting to and from the trail, luggage storage and transfer, detours, rest days, and money.

The point-to-point nature of the Haute Route means that you’ll finish your trek somewhere different from where you started (unless you’re crazy enough to do the whole thing again in reverse!) Most hikers will end in Zermatt, and many will need to make their way back to Geneva to catch a flight home. Although Zermatt is a car-free town, it is well connected by transit links. The easiest way to get from Zermatt to Geneva is by train. We recommend booking your onward travel in advance to ensure you get a seat and to score the best prices. Furthermore, if you have extra luggage that you don’t want to carry while hiking, you’ll need to decide if you want to store it in Chamonix or have it sent ahead to Zermatt. If you need to detour from the trail, we strongly suggest downloading the SBB and Postbus apps, which are great tools for helping you figure out how to get from point A to point B.

Be sure to check out this in-depth logistics article, where we cover everything you need to know to have a smooth and stress-free trek.

The PostBus provides easy and convenient access between many points along the Walker's Haute Route.

The PostBus provides easy and convenient access between many points along the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

4. Pack light

Carrying an unnecessarily bulky/heavy pack is a surefire way to make your Walker’s Haute Route trek abundantly less fun. The more weight you haul on your back, the greater effort you’ll need to exert on an already arduous trek. Additionally, there are some technical and exposed sections of the hike that require surefootedness and a compact center of gravity, neither of which is aided by a large backpack throwing off your balance. In all honesty, you don’t need to carry that much for this trek.

Many hikers choose to stay in huts, but even those camping will only need to bring food supplies to last a couple of days. Think about it this way: you can either wear slightly dirty shirts and cruise up those mountain passes comfortably, or you can opt for clean shirts and slow schlepping. For more about what to pack (and what to leave behind), be sure to check out our comprehensive Walker’s Haute Route Packing List.

A hiker walks through pink and yellow wildflowers on the Walker's Haute Route

Gorgeous wildflowers AND a not-too-heavy backpack? You truly can have it all on the Walker’s Haute Route!

 

5. Make new friends

One of the best parts about long-distance hiking is the people you meet along the way. Since many hikers stop at the same places each night, you’ll end up seeing familiar faces and forming meaningful connections.  The mountain huts simply ooze with camaraderie, and you’ll undoubtedly enjoy some incredibly memorable meals with awesome people from all over the world who share your love of the mountains. Even if you opt to stay in a tent, the campgrounds are  wonderful places to share a drink and a chat with your fellow trekkers.  However you do it, make sure to strike up conversations with as many hikers as you can along the way. Connecting with others will significantly enrich your experience and make it so much more meaningful.

Picnic tables at the campground in Zinal along the Walker's Haute Route.

There are so many places to hang out with new friends along the Haute Route!

 

6. Have a food strategy

While it’s true that with the abundance of services along the way you’re unlikely to starve on the Haute Route, it is still paramount that you approach your fueling with a bit of foresight. Switzerland is expensive, and if you are forced to rely on purchasing all of your meals at the mountain huts and restaurants you pass along the way, you’re going to end up spending a king’s ransom. If you’re aware of that reality and factor it into your budget, that’s great, but if you’re caught unprepared you’ll be in for an unpleasant surprise.

So how do you avoid paying 30 CHF for a plate of pasta every time you need to eat? We recommend stocking up on provisions in the towns you pass through along the route, packing your camp stove, and self-catering most meals. This will ensure you’re getting healthy fuel and plenty of snacks throughout the day, and it will save you a lot of money.  But there’s a catch. Grocery stores are nonexistent in many of the smaller hamlets, so you’ll need to do a little research to figure out your next refueling stop and carry enough food to last you until that point.

Additionally, keep in mind that many shops close for a midday lunch break and nearly everything is closed on Sundays. With a little upfront planning, you can eat well and have plenty of room in your budget for little splurges, like a homemade blueberry tart or post-hike beer (or both!)

Cooking on a camp stove outside Cabane du Moiry

Self-catering at the mountain huts gives you a chance to eat outside and enjoy the views!

 

7. Bring a map

In all honesty, we didn’t use our paper map at all during our Haute Route trek. Instead, we used our smartphone as a GPS device, which allowed us to see our exact location on the route, as well as topographic information and all of our campsites. On the whole, the Walker’s Haute Route is very well marked and pretty straightforward to follow. That being said, there are numerous variants and trail junctions that make it surprisingly easy to wander off course.

A good map can save you hours of frustration and, more importantly, save your life in an emergency. Even though we relied primarily on a digital map, we still strongly encourage everyone to carry a paper map. You never know when your battery could die,  your phone could fall into in a puddle, or any number of undesirable flukes could occur. We recommend bringing the following two Swiss Topo maps: Swiss Topo #5003 Mont Blanc-Grand Combin and Swiss Topo #5006 Matterhorn – Mischabel. Both can be purchased here.

A screenshot of using a smartphone GPS app to navigate on the Walker's Haute Route

This is what our GPS navigation looked like on our phones while hiking on the WHR.

 

8. Consider taking a rest day

If you’ve got the time, we highly recommend adding a rest day into your itinerary. Rest days are wonderful for a number of reasons. Perhaps most obviously, they give your body a chance to recover from a succession of physically demanding days on the trail. This can be a game-changer when it comes to preventing injuries and/or burnout. Additionally, rest days can be a great opportunity to spend time in one of the many charming villages along the route. When you’re hiking all day, there can be limited time to actually explore and immerse yourself in the places you pass through, but a rest day gives you the chance to slow down and absorb all of the delightful culture and history that these places have to offer. We enjoyed spending a day off in Les Haudères (which you can read more about in our trip report), but Le Châble, Arolla, and Zinal would also make great options.

Laundry drying in a window in Les Hauderes along the Walker's Haute Route

Another great rest day perk? Clean laundry!

 

9. Take care of your knees

We’ve completed a lot of tough hikes, but the Haute Route takes the cake for toughest on our knees. Expect very long, very steep descents on nearly every stage of the trek. These can be brutal on your joints, particularly knees and hips. By the end of our trip, our bodies were feeling pretty battered.  Fortunately, we took a few preventive measures that kept us feeling strong enough to finish with smiles on our faces.

One of the most important things you can do to minimize the effects of 1,000+ meters of daily descent is to make your pack as light as possible. This can be a little tricky when you’re camping, but every ounce you can shave off really does make a difference. Our trekking poles were also invaluable when it came to keeping us stable on steep, loose sections and taking some of the impact off of our joints. We can’t say enough about how helpful it is to use trekking poles!

Finally, if you’ve got knee issues, there’s no shame in using the cable car when the opportunity presents itself. There are several stages where hikers have the option to ride down and avoid a long slog.  This can be a great way to minimize the impacts of tough trekking.

Hiker with trekking poles on stage 12 of the Walker's Haute Route

All smiles (and grateful for my trekking poles) on our final day of the WHR!

 

10. Leave no trace

The environment in the Alps is incredibly beautiful and even more fragile. Many thousands of people recreate in this region each year, and even small things can add up to have major impacts. It doesn’t take much time spent on the Haute Route to see the negative effects of human activity, from rapidly diminishing glaciers to braided and eroding trails, to litter left behind by careless walkers.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Your choices can make a real difference in keeping the Alps healthy and protected for future generations. Stay on marked trails, minimize wild camping, carry out all of your trash, and respect the flora and fauna. Taking these simple measures will help you enjoy and appreciate the stunning beauty of the Haute Route so much more.

Glacier views on the way up to Fenetre d'Arpette

The stunningly beautiful (and rapidly receding) Trient Glacier on the way up to Fenêtre d’Arpette.

 

Conclusion

Heed these ten little nuggets of wisdom and you are well on your way to a successful Walker’s Haute Route adventure. While there will certainly be plenty of surprises throughout your journey, even a small amount of intentional preparation will go a long way to ensure your trek is smoother and more enjoyable. Is there anything you think should be included on this list? Let us know in the comments below. Wishing you an unforgettable Haute Route experience!

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Want more? Be sure to check out all of our great Haute Route posts:

 

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Walker’s Haute Route Photo Gallery

Take a visual tour along the Haute Route in anticipation of your upcoming adventure! The Haute Route traverses 112 miles of the French and Swiss Alps and takes you through…

Take a visual tour along the Haute Route in anticipation of your upcoming adventure! The Haute Route traverses 112 miles of the French and Swiss Alps and takes you through a stunning array of landscapes. Walking from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn brings an endless array of unforgettable sights and vistas.

Be sure to check out the rest of our Haute Route posts below:

 

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How Much it Cost Us to Hike the Haute Route

At first glance, the Haute Route might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing two very expensive and staying in the many “quaint” (read:…

At first glance, the Haute Route might seem physically daunting, but many might find it even more financially intimidating. Traversing two very expensive and staying in the many “quaint” (read: pricey) resort towns along the way? Buying enough food to fuel yourself through day after day of long miles on the trail? Doesn’t seem cheap, does it? The beautiful thing about the Walker’s Haute Route, however, is that it’s pretty much up to you how expensive you want to make it. There are hikers who choose to spend more to take guided tours, stay in private rooms at upscale hotels and huts, and buy all of their meals at restaurants along the way. Others take the extremely frugal route, camping as much as possible, cooking their own meals, and minimizing expenses wherever they can.

We tend to travel on the frugal side, as we enjoy the simplicity and authentic experiences that go hand in hand with this type of travel. That being said, we’re not claiming the most hardcore budget travelers out there; we certainly allow ourselves to indulge in things that bring value to our experience, such as a post-hike beer or an Airbnb on our rest day. Below we’ve outlined what we spent on our 2019 Walker’s Haute Route adventure, as well as some tips for keeping your expenses down . We hope that by sharing this information, our fellow hikers will be able to plan and budget more accurately for their own trip. Additionally, you might find that an experience like the Haute Route is more within reach than you originally thought, if you just make a few intentional decisions when planning your travel. So grab your tent and get out there!

Note: We’ve listed most prices in Swiss Francs, since that’s the currency you’ll use for the majority of the trek. When applicable, we’ve listed prices in Euros and U.S. dollars as well.

You’ll need to bring a bigger pack if you want to camp, but the freedom and money-saving perks of packing your tent are pretty unbeatable!

 

Accommodation

We chose to camp as much as possible along the Walker’s Haute Route and we highly recommend it to others for a number of reasons. First, many of the campgrounds are quite luxurious, with amenities such as hot showers and wifi. We also preferred the privacy of our tent versus the dorm-style sleeping arrangements of the huts. Sleeping outdoors in such spectacular alpine surroundings became a highlight of our trip. And of course, the price of camping can’t be beat! There are a few places along the Haute Route where there are no official campgrounds. For those situations, we opted to either stay in the mountain huts, which offered amazing ambiance for a reasonable price, or to wild camp along the trail. In general, wild camping is discouraged (and sometimes illegal) along the Haute Route, so if you choose this option make sure to ask permission before camping on private land, use leave no trace principles, and be as discrete as possible.  We also stayed in an Airbnb for our rest day in Les Hauderes, which proved to be a wonderful treat after roughing it for so many days. Here’s a breakdown of our accommodation spending:

  • Average Hut Price:  40 CHF (dorm only) or 80 CHF (half pension)
  • Average Campsite Price: 15 CHF (per person)
  • Hotel in Chamonix for before the hike: €85 (per night)
  • Airbnb in Les Hauderes for our rest day: 70 CHF (per night)
  • Average Price of dorm bed in a dortoir: 35 CHF (per person)
  • Mid-range hotel in Zermatt for after the hike: 150 CHF (per night)
  • Shower at a mountain hut: 5 CHF for 5 minutes

Staying at Cabane du Mont Fort isn’t the cheapest option out there, but the views from the terrace are worth every penny!

 

Transit

  • Bus from Geneva to Chamonix: €20 (per person, one-way)
  • Train from Zermatt to Geneva Airport: 55 CHF (per person, one-way)
  • Local ride between towns on the Postbus: 3-8 CHF (per person, one-way)
  • SBB train (if detour is needed): 15-20 CHF (per person, one-way)
  • Average cable-car ride (if you want to avoid a downhill section): 15 CHF (per person)

Be sure to check out our Walker’s Haute Route Logistics article for more information about transportation before, during, and after your trek.

The train station in Chamonix, where the Haute Route begins.

 

Flights:

We strategically used credit card points and miles in order to fly on IcelandAir from Chicago to Geneva, with a free week-long stopover in Iceland (where we hiked the Laugavegur Trail). Check out our entire Travel for Free series to learn more.

Airline Taxes and Fees: $150.00 + 27,500 Alaska Airlines miles* (per person)

*Alaska Airlines is a partner with IcelandAir, thus allowing us to use their miles to purchase our tickets. Unfortunately, the amount of miles required for this trip has increased since the time we booked our flights.

 

Food and Drink

You may be backpacking through rugged mountains, but that doesn’t necessitate spending a small fortune on fancy freeze-dried meals. We preferred to stock up on lightweight, nutritious, and tasty dry goods from the local grocery stores to fuel us along the Walker’s Haute Route. We tended to eat ramen noodles or local cheese, sausage, and bread for most dinners. For lunches, we snacked on a trail mix blend that we made from salted peanuts and raisins, which we purchased copious amounts of whenever we found them at reasonable prices along the route. For breakfast, we ate muesli and instant coffee. As much as possible, we’d pick up some fresh fruit and veggies from a local shop. These foods kept us feeling full throughout long days of hiking, and we found them to be more enjoyable than those space-age style backpacker meals. Plus, they were a fraction of the price!

On average, we spent about 8-12 CHF per person, per day on our food and drink.

Of course, we allowed ourselves a few treats along the way, too. Here’s what you can expect to pay, on average, for the following items and indulgences:

At a restaurant or mountain hut:

  • Beer: 5 CHF
  • Bottle of wine: 30 CHF
  • Meal: 20-30 CHF (per person)
  • Coffee: 4 CHF
  • Pastry: 6 CHF
  • Packed lunch from mountain hut: 10 CHF

At a grocery store:

  • Ramen/Instant Meal: 2-3 CHF
  • Loaf of bread: 2 CHF
  • Cheap Beer: 1 CHF
  • Cheap bottle of wine: 3 CHF
  • Block of local cheese: 3 CHF
  • 1 kg bag of Muesli: 3 CHF
  • Bag of peanuts: 2-4 CHF
  • Pre-packaged sandwich: 5 CHF

Money saving tip: If you choose to stay at the mountain huts, be sure to ask them if you can self-cater instead of paying for half-board. At most huts, the price is double if you want meals included. Sure, they typically serve pretty tasty food, but for half the cost we were happy to cook our own food. Plus, some huts (like Cabane du Mont Fort) even have a small kitchen area that you can use.

Self-catering at the mountain huts gives you a chance to eat outside and enjoy the views!

 

Miscellaneous

  • Stove Fuel: 7 CHF
  • Laundry: 8 CHF for both wash and dry
  • Guidebook (we recommend the Cicerone version)
  • Luggage transport from Chamonix to Zermatt (via the post-see our logistics article for more on this): €46
  • Average Tourist Tax (paid at every accommodation): 1.5-4 CHF (per person)

A sink and a clothesline offer a budget-friendly alternative for getting those stinky hiking clothes clean(er)!

 

As you can see, we happily teetered between dirtbag and deluxe on our Walker’s Haute Route trek. While there’s no escaping the high costs of some essentials, in general, one can experience the Haute Route on a modest budget (and enjoy some excellent wine and cheese while doing so). Obviously, you’ll also want to factor in the cost of hiking gear that you’ll need to purchase prior to setting off on your trek. Check out our packing list to get an idea of what you might need to purchase ahead of time. Also, our Backpacking Gear on a Budget article has some helpful ideas for keeping your costs low when putting together your backpacking kit. Whether you choose to splurge or keep it simple, we feel confident you’ll have the adventure of a lifetime.

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

 

 

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Haute Route Trip Report

After an exhilarating week in Iceland, where we explored Reykjavik and hiked the Laugavegur trail, we set off for our second country of many on our extended travel adventure. While…

After an exhilarating week in Iceland, where we explored Reykjavik and hiked the Laugavegur trail, we set off for our second country of many on our extended travel adventure. While visiting new places is obviously one of our favorite things in life, there is something incredibly wonderful about returning to a well-loved and familiar spot. For us, it was all happy memories and good vibes as we made our way towards the Chamonix Valley in France, where we’d spend a couple days before hiking the Haute Route. This was our first “repeat” travel destination together, and we made an effort to revisit special experiences while also creating opportunities for new ones. Instead of staying in Chamonix this time, we spent a few nights in nearby Les Houches. We enjoyed the low key atmosphere of this smaller town as opposed to the hustle and bustle of Chamonix. Our days in Les Houches were largely spent fueling up for the Haute Route with fresh pastries and 3 euro wine, stocking up on various hiking items, and making several trips to multiple post offices in order to figure out how to ship some items to Zermatt (and thereby lighten our packs for this challenging trek). Finally, we dropped our parcel off with a “here goes nothing!” kind of mentality, packed up our backpacks, and got ready to hit the trail.

Breakfast of champions at our Airbnb in Les Houches.

 

Ever since hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2017, we knew we wanted to get back to these mountains. If asked, neither of us would be able to choose which one of the five treks we’d planned for the summer that we were most excited about, but the Haute Route was definitely a strong contender for both of us. I’d imagine this is how parents feel when asked to choose their favorite child; of course they don’t actually have a favorite, but there is always one they sort of like better… Anyways, suffice it to say we were pretty darn excited. Words (at least my novice words) can’t begin to capture the feeling of taking in the panorama of snowy peaks on a high mountain pass, crossing a narrow section of trail with hundreds of feet of open air below you, or simply taking your boots off after eight hours of trekking, but I’m going to give it a shot anyways. In the following trip report, I’ve attempted to sum up this most incredible adventure to my best ability, but trust me when I say there aren’t enough superlatives in the world to do it justice.

Day One: Chamonix to Le Peuty

Since we stayed in Les Houches, we needed to hop on the train to get to the Chamonix Station and the official start of the Haute Route. After a lovely train ride accompanied by chocolate croissants, we were ready to hit the trail. Despite the cool morning air, the sun was already warm as we wound our way out of town. If you plan on starting the Haute Route in Chamonix, be warned that the beginning of the trail is a bit hard to follow. The route takes you along busy roads, through a golf course, and past many confusing trail junctions. Keep your map handy! After passing through a festive market in the town of Argentiere, we began to climb up our first col. We felt strong and the conversation flowed as we worked our way up the many switchbacks to Col de Balme. At the top, we tucked out of the wind, pulled out the gallon bag full of peanuts that we call “lunch,” and savored the views. Our fresh legs handled the descent like champs (shocking foreshadowing: they wouldn’t feel as great ten days from now), and we made it to camp early enough to enjoy a relaxing afternoon. After setting up our tent at the Le Peuty camping area, we strolled over to the nearby town of Trient. We enjoyed a nutritious dinner of ramen and cookies in the company of some other campers (most were TMB hikers) and got to bed early in anticipation of a big day tomorrow.

Nice views from the tent at Le Peuty.

 

Day Two: Le Peuty to Champex

We got an early start on Day Two, as we were excited to tackle the infamous Fenêtre d’Arpette. Literally translating to “window to Arpette,” this stage involves a long, steep climb (with some scrambling) up to a keyhole-like pass that looks down into the Val d’Arpette. The ascent to the pass was nothing short of spectacular. As we gained height, the Glacier du Trient came more clearly into view, until we felt like we were right next to it. Studying the blues and grays, the cracks and contours, and the overall dynamic nature of the glacier was an unforgettable experience. It was bittersweet, as the glacier is receding rapidly due to a changing climate. It was a privilege to get to experience the glacier before it’s gone and a sobering reminder of the impacts of our human choices, both collectively and as individuals. That’s the beauty of travel and trekking; you never know when you’ll be struck with a moment that changes your perspective and increases empathy. Anyways, after mostly-fun scramble over large boulders to reach the pass, we began our descent down. I don’t have as many sentimental or poetic things to say about the descent. Basically, it started with falling on our butts on loose scree, then transitioned to falling on our butts on steep snow crossings, then to slowing picking our way through large boulders, and finally to a long, rocky descent towards Champex. With enough snacks and some well-timed jokes, we managed to keep our spirits high. Upon reaching Champex, we set up camp and then feasted on bananas, baguettes, and local cheese by the lake. It was a long and challenging day, but so beautiful and rewarding. Afterwards, we felt strong, happy, and ready to take on the rest of the Haute Route.

Getting up close and personal to the magnificent Trient Glacier.

 

Day Three: Champex to Champsec (Le Chable)

When you think of camping, you probably picture a solitary tent peacefully nestled in a remote, wilderness setting. Most of the camping we’ve been doing on this trip is not like that at all. Picture instead a large campground with the tents close enough to hear the Frenchmen next you sawing them off in vivid clarity, and perhaps some noise from trucks barreling down a nearby road. Experience has taught us a few things about how to enjoy these types of campgrounds, and arguably the most important wisdom we’ve gained is that earplugs are truly a game-changer. Which is how we found ourselves sleeping ever-so-soundly through our alarm on the morning of Day Three. We are not sponsored by any earplug manufacturers, but we can tell you firsthand that those things really do work! Fortunately, the walk to Le Chable, our destination for the day, was relatively quick and easy. We passed so many quaint villages! We had planned on restocking on food at the grocery store in Le Chable, but it was a Sunday and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an open grocery store on a Sunday in this part of the world. We ended up deciding to combine a fun day-trip detour to see the uber posh ski area of Verbier with a visit to its grocery store (which was miraculously open on Sundays). After a shockingly expensive bus ride and a trip to the very well-appointed CoOp store, we struggled to define “worth it” for this particular context. After heading back down to the valley, we made our way to the little town on Champsec, where our campground was located. Although it was a funky place, it was well-appointed and the friendly host welcomed us with fresh local apricots and strawberry wine. After reading the cloud patterns (okay, actually after checking the weather.com app) we tightened our rain fly and prepared for a soggy night.

Passing through the lovely town of Sembrancher on our way to Le Chable.

 

Day Four: Champsec to Cabane du Mont Fort

We awoke on Day Four to a very wet and rainy morning. We were so focused on keeping everything as dry as possible while packing up camp that it wasn’t until we were nearly finished with our coffee that we took a good look up at the surrounding mountains. Peaks that had been clear and rocky the previous day were now totally blanketed with a fresh layer of pillowy, white snow. All that rain we’d gotten down in the valley transpired to make for a heck of a July snowstorm at the higher elevations! Better yet, it was those very same high elevations that we were set to hike across for the next three days. Feeling mildly daunted but still optimistic, we caught the bus to Le Chable, where we phoned the Cabane du Mont Fort hut. The warden assured us that it would still be possible to hike up to the hut, but traversing the trail beyond that point would be “very difficult.” We were already booked to spend the night at Mont Fort, so we decided to continue the hike as planned and figure out our next move once we got there. This was one of our favorite days of hiking along the Haute Route. The trail wound up and up through picturesque meadows, misty, enchanting pine forests, and finally to the high alpine world. Best of all, the day involved nearly five hours of uphill walking and absolutely no long descents to speak of! Our knees were so happy. Upon arriving at the insanely cozy Cabane du Mont Fort, we were met with the wonderful surprise of receiving a private room. We spent the afternoon deliberating (first over coffee, then over beers) about tomorrow’s hike. We had originally planned to continue past the typical stopping point at Cabane de Prafleuri and wild camp near Refuge de La Barma. With the weather and trail conditions as they were, a very long day on sketchy, snowy trails followed by a night in our tent at high elevation sounded irresponsible at best. Even though we knew that the safest, best choice was to detour from the trail, the decision was still somewhat agonizing. Our sense of adventure beckoned us to take on the challenge, while a little voice in our heads warned that we’d be “cheating” if we didn’t do the whole thing. Ultimately, however, our sensible sides won out and we made a plan to detour around the unsafe sections. We have enough hiking experience to know that it’s always better to give mother nature the respect she deserves, rather than put ourselves in a situation that isn’t safe and certainly isn’t fun. After some great conversation with some cool hikers we met at the hut, we finally tucked into our first real beds in few days.

Cabane du Mont Fort is a classic mountain hut, well worth a visit!

 

Day Five: Mont Fort to Arolla

The section of trail between Cabane du Mont Fort and Pas de Chèvres stays at high elevations and is frequently impassable due to snow, rockfalls, or adverse weather conditions. Unfortunately, there are no lower-elevation trail options for connecting these two points, so it’s kind of a whole thing if you need to avoid these sections. If you can’t get as far as Prafleuri, your best bet is to go back to Le Chable and then use transit to get to Arolla (the next town the Haute Route passes through). This is what we ended up doing. It was a long day of riding gondolas, trains, and buses, but it was relatively easy to navigate and fun to see some different parts of the region. When we finally arrived at the campground in Arolla, we were delighted to learn that there were showers available (it had been a few days since we’d had one). The showers promised four minutes of hot water for 1 Euro, but as we waited in the shower line, word spread amongst campers that the hot water in the men’s room wasn’t working. Rather than risk squandering a euro on a disappointing four minutes or tepid showering, Ian decided instead to just take a fully cold shower. His report: “It was good…Kind of. It was kind of good.” What a champ.

Beautiful wildflowers on the trail near Arolla.

 

Day Six: Arolla to Pas de Chèvres

Although we weren’t able to cross the Pas de Chèvres (the pass leading into the valley towards Arolla), we decided we could still cover as much of the trail as possible from the other direction. On Day Six, we enjoyed the ultimate luxury of leaving our tent set up (we would camp another night at Arolla before continuing along our hike) and our heavy bags behind as we set off for our day on the trail. The hike up to the pass felt effortless without a 25-pound pack on! Pas de Chèvres is infamous for its series of long ladders and catwalks that traverse the steep rock wall up to the pass. In reality, the ladders are the easy part. They are sturdily secured to the mountain and quite easy to navigate. If you get a little antsy around heights (like I sometimes do), just take your time, maintain three points of contact, and they really aren’t so bad. The scramble through the boulderfield on the approach to the pass is another story, though. It is steep, difficult, and there have been several close calls recently with falling rocks. We didn’t have to cross this section since we approached the pass from the other direction, but we got a good look and can confirm that it is challenging. Definitely use caution when completing this part of the trail. Since we had the freedom of light loads and lots of time, we diverted from the Haute Route to check out some other trails in the surrounding area before descending back towards Arolla. After picking up some fresh apricots and dinner items at the shop in town, we made our way back to camp. We spent the evening enjoying some beers and some people watching, but decided to skip the cold showers this time.

Emily conquering the ladders at Pas des Chevres- thankfully without a heavy pack!

 

Day Seven: Arolla to Les Haudères

Day Seven promised to be a short, easy day of walking so we allowed ourselves a nice slow morning. After a lazy breakfast and an hour of drying out the tent in the sun, we made our way towards Les Haudères . We were excited to get there since this is where we’d scheduled our rest day and had splurged on an Airbnb for the occasion. The trail was a little less straightforward than we’d expected, as it undulated through dense forest and crossed narrow, exposed sections. However, it wasn’t too demanding, and we reached Lac Bleu before lunchtime. While this lake is a bit overrun by visitors, the vivid color is stunning(as implied by the name). Upon our arrival in Les Haudères , Emily’s high school French was put to the test when we needed to phone our Airbnb hosts to figure out how to get to our place. It’s one thing to fumble through speaking a foreign language in person (at least you can pantomime), but it’s a whole new world of challenge to do it over the phone without any context clues! Somehow, after some really pathetic French communication, we found ourselves getting into the car of a nice elderly man who claimed to be our host. This sounds like it could be the beginning of a cheesy horror movie, but fortunately it all worked out. The hosts and our flat were both downright lovely. For days, we’d been wanting to try a rosti, a regional dish that is essentially a giant hash brown pancake, and Ian cooked one up for dinner. It was a delicious start to our days off in Les Haudères.

The aptly-named Lac Bleu.

 

Day Eight: Les Haudères Rest Day

Today consisted of all of our favorite rest day pastimes: sink laundry, eating pastries, sitting at sunny cafes, strolling through quaint streets, and lots of, well, rest. We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the town of Les Haudères , practicing our French, and soaking up the local culture. We went to bed ready and excited to get back on the trail for the second half of our Haute Route adventure.

Soaking up the village charm in Les Hauderes.

 

Day Nine: Les Haudères to Cabane de Moiry

We rose early on Day Nine and enjoyed a relaxing breakfast before beginning the steady climb through pretty alpine meadows towards Col du Tsaté. We enjoyed winding our way up through the lovely town of La Sage, and we didn’t see any other hikers on the trail until we were over the pass. It was pretty awesome to have the top to ourselves and we soaked in the breathtakingly rugged mountain views for a good while. It was one of our biggest days in terms of elevation gain (over 6,000 feet), but we both felt great after our rest day and made it to the hut before the forecasted afternoon rain moved in. Cabane de Moiry is a fantastic mountain hut that is perched impossibly high on a mountain ledge and jaw-droppingly close to the Moiry Glacier. The final ascent to the hut is quite steep and definitely presents a final challenge before reaching the beautifully renovated Cabane de Moiry. Upon reaching the hut, we shared an excellent blueberry tart and complimentary afternoon coffee in the all-glass dining room while studying the glacier for hours. This was our second and final stay in a mountain hut of our entire trip, so we decided to make the most of it! We still opted to self-cater on our camp stove outside instead of paying for the exorbitantly expensive dinner though, and we were rewarded with having the entire terrace to ourselves for most of the sunset hours. We were even lucky enough to see some Ibex poking around below the hut. We stayed up later than usual, enjoying good conversations with fellow hikers and playing board games well into the evening. We’ve noticed that the Haute Route definitely attracts a more experienced set of hikers, and it was cool to hear about people’s various treks and adventures. If you’re considering a stay at Cabane de Moiry, we highly recommend it! It’s an unforgettable experience.

Enjoying a wonderful stay at Cabane de Moiry!

 

Day Ten: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

Cabane de Moiry really does have a spectacular location high on the mountainside, but those views come with a cost. While the hike up to the hut on the previous day was tiring but manageable, the steep hike down from it the next morning definitely felt a lot tougher. Maybe it was our cold legs or maybe it’s because there wasn’t a homemade blueberry tart waiting at the end this time, but whatever it was it made Emily very cranky. As the trail started to veer upwards again, so did our moods, and we enjoyed the lovely long traverse of the green hillside on a stunning balcony trail. The hike over Col de Sorebois was relatively easy (as far as Haute Route passes go at least), and we found ourselves making our way down towards Zinal in no time. We stopped for lunch at the gondola station where we found some very comfy lawn chairs to kick back in for awhile. After consuming way too many peanuts, we began the seemingly endless (yet thankfully mellow) switchbacks to get down to the valley floor. When we arrived at our campground, the adjacent restaurant was positively swarming with day-trippers eating ice cream and drinking beer. Despite the crowds and the strangeness of the place (think petting zoo meets mini-golf course meets campground), we happily settled in and enjoyed a lovely evening watching the sunset over the beautiful surrounding mountains.

Breathtaking views from the Col de Sorebois.

 

Day Eleven: Zinal to Gruben

Today’s destination, the tiny hamlet of Gruben, was slated to be our first wild camping of the trip. Since we wouldn’t be able to pitch our tent until after dark, we figured there was no point in rushing to leave our campsite and get on the trail early. It was nice to sleep in and take our time, but by the time we started the long ascent towards the Forcletta Pass it was very, very hot. Although we were spared the worst of the heat wave that was currently plaguing much of the rest of the continent (temps were reaching over 100 degrees in Paris!), the sun was still beating mercilessly down on us as we trudged uphill. After a difficult start, we found our rhythm, and enjoyed some beautiful scenery at the top of the pass (which we had to ourselves once again). In reading about today’s hike and the linguistic regions of Switzerland, we learned that we’d be crossing into the German-speaking side of Switzerland once we got across the pass. In fact, many people refer to this divide as the “rosti line,” as the potato dish is more commonly eaten in the German parts of the country. As we climbed our way up to the pass, we imagined a rosti stand at the top, serving up hot, salty rostis to all of the weary hikers who reached it. Alas, all we found at the top were a couple of cairns, some baby marmots, and some pretty incredible views. Oh well, maybe that’s better anyways. After a long and tiring descent, we finally reached Gruben in the early evening. The idea of another hour of hiking with our heavy packs in search of a suitable camping spot was totally daunting. We decided to take our shoes off and kick back for awhile in the shade of the town’s church before making any big moves. Feeling restored, we began by scouting along the river for a good campsite. We found a few spots that would work if they had to, but nothing great. Then we headed uphill along the trail, where we found a spot we were happy with. It was still too early to pitch our tent, so we hiked back down to Gruben and ordered some large beers at the hotel. This seems to be the thing to do; campers hang out at the hotel, drink a beer, wash up in the bathroom, and then head up the trail as inconspicuously as possible. It’s hard to tell if the hotel loves it or hates it, but at least they tolerated us and served us cold beers. At the hotel, we saw another group of hikers with the same plans as us. When they started putting their boots on after dinner, it became obvious to us that they must be wild camping. Who puts their stinky boots back on after a long day of hiking and a relaxing dinner unless they absolutely have to? Anyhow, after cooking our ramen on a bench in front of the church (we felt like total weirdos, but one local gentleman was very amused and bid us a hearty “Bon Appetit”) we made our way up the hillside. We set up camp quickly as the last of the light receded behind the high peaks and were asleep in no time.

Alpine lakes and glaciers made for a beautiful hike to Gruben.

 

Day Twelve: Gruben to Täsch

Wanting to be as discreet as possible, we woke up very early and packed up camp as the sun came up. We hiked up the trail for a bit before finding a pretty spot to have breakfast and make some coffee. It was nice to have a head start on the trail and enjoy the cool, fresh early morning air. I know I’ve said something along the lines of “amazing views” in nearly every post of this trip report, but believe me when I say that today’s views were really, really good. The trail climbed through a peaceful meadow, crossed the majestic Augustabord Pass, and wound its way through a large boulder field before rounding a shoulder to reveal the final valley of the hike. The snowy peaks, huge glaciers, and the deep, narrow green valley so far below came together to truly take our breath away. We were feeling good and savoring every moment until about halfway through the looooong descent into St. Niklaus. We had the option to take a gondola from Jungen to St. Niklaus to cut out a lot of the downhill slog, but we knew we needed to get several miles further along the valley to the town of Täsch (in order to camp and to be well-positioned to rejoin the Europaweg trail tomorrow), so we decided to use our “cheat” transportation to take a train from St. Niklaus to Täsch and cut out a couple hours of road walking in the valley instead. By the time we made it down to St. Niklaus, we were pretty wrecked. We were dehydrated (it was another very hot day), and each of us had a cacophony of aches and pains from so much steep downhill with a big pack. We finally stumbled into the campground in Täsch feeling totally spent. However, after some lukewarm beers, a loaf of bread, and copious amounts of hummus and bananas, we started to feel like ourselves again. Even though we were exhausted, it was more than a little sad and totally hard to believe that tomorrow was our final day on the Haute Route.

Peeking into the Mattertal Valley from Jungen…and realizing we still had a long downhill hike to get there!

 

Day Thirteen: Täsch to Zermatt

We awoke in Täsch feeling better than expected. We packed up camp and began an uphill hike through the trees towards the Europaweg trail. Originally, we thought we would need to do the entire valley trail in order to avoid staying at the Europa Hut, but after a little research we realized we could still hike the second half of the Europaweg Trail, the infamous high-level traverse at the finish of the Walker’s Haute Route. We were so glad we chose this option! For the first hour or so we hiked on switchbacks through dense forest until suddenly the Matterhorn revealed itself through the trees. Wow! What a stunning mountain! From there, the views only got better. Once we joined the Europaweg, we were spoiled with wide open views of the Matterhorn and the surrounding peaks, and then down towards Zermatt, tucked in at the edge of the valley. The hiking was pretty easy, which was very appreciated on our tired bodies and allowed us to really take our time and savor the scenery. When we finally made our way into Zermatt, it was a bit of a shock to the system. There were more people and shops just in the town center than we’d seen on the rest of the hike combined! Also, for claiming to be a “car-free” town, there are a heck of a lot of electric taxis whizzing through the crowded pedestrian streets, making the whole atmosphere a bit chaotic. We struggled to find someplace casual enough to permit two very dirty backpackers to grab a celebratory finish beer, and eventually ended up on the patio of a surprisingly upscale Italian restaurant. We continued to struggle by accidentally ordering some sort of fancy syrup beer, which was not exactly the refreshing beverage we’d hoped for, but made for a funny experience nonetheless. After some showers and strolling around the town, we settled into the Zermatt campground with a bottle of wine and a picnic and reflected on our trip. The Haute Route was a unique and beautiful hike. We loved the variability of the landscape, as well as the many options for routes and variants along the way. It was a rewarding and unforgettable challenge, one that left us feeling like stronger, more experienced hikers and even more in love with these mountains than before.

All smiles heading into Zermatt!

Keep Reading

Be sure to read our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

 

 

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Walker’s Haute Route Logistics

Many of the small details of planning for the Walker´s Haute Route (WHR) can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing Fenêtre d’Arpette will be difficult,…

Many of the small details of planning for the Walker´s Haute Route (WHR) can end up being the biggest challenges. You probably know that crossing Fenêtre d’Arpette will be difficult, but you might not be thinking as much about how you’ll get from the airport in Geneva to your hotel in Chamonix. We’ve put together the following post to help you tackle all of those tricky logistical items that are sure to arise when you’re planning your own Walker’s Haute Route adventure.

The official start of the Walker’s Haute Route.

 

What’s in this post?

 

Starting the Walker’s Haute Route: Getting to Chamonix from the Geneva Airport

The vast majority of hikers choose to walk the WHR in the traditional direction from Chamonix to Zermatt, and therefore most international travelers will get to the start of their hike by first flying into the Geneva Airport (GVA). There are frequent flights to Geneva from the rest of Europe as well as a good number of flights from the U.S. Most U.S. flights arrive early in the morning, leaving you with ample time to get to Chamonix that same day. Once you’ve landed in Geneva, you’ll have several options for getting to Chamonix, outlined below:

  • OuiBus – We found this to be the cheapest option and would highly recommend OuiBus. The service departs directly from the Geneva Airport and will take you to the Chamonix Sud bus station, in the heart of Chamonix.
  • AlpyBus – AlpyBus runs a door to door transfer service from the Geneva Airport to hotels in the Chamonix Valley. It is more costly than OuiBus, but also more convenient since they’ll drop you directly at your hotel (or campground!).
  • Mountain Drop-offs – Similar to AlpyBus, Mountain Drop-offs runs a door to door transfer service for walkers arriving in Geneva. Very highly rated.

If you plan on returning to Chamomix upon finishing the Haute Route, you can purchase a return ticket. Most transport services offer discounts for booking a round-trip ticket.

Ending the Walker’s Haute Route: Zermatt to Geneva or  Zermatt to Zurich

Being a point-to-point hike (versus a loop), the Walker’s Haute Route presents hikers with slightly trickier travel logistics.  Fortunately, upon finishing your hike in Zermatt, you’ll have many options continuing onward to your next destination. Although Zermatt is a car-free town, it is well connected by train to many other cities and transit centers. Most international hikers will either return to the Geneva airport or travel on to Zurich to catch their flight home.

Getting from Zermatt to the Geneva Airport

By far the best way to get to GVA is to take the SBB train. There are private taxi services that will pick you up from the town of Täsch (the closest place to Zermatt that permits vehicles), but you’ll still need to take the train from Zermatt to Täsch and these services are extremely expensive. In general, the Swiss train service, SBB, is excellent, timely, and easy to navigate.  You can take the train all the way from Zermatt to GVA, although you’ll need to transfer in Visp. Trains run hourly from Visp to GVA and even more frequently from Zermatt to Visp. The whole journey typically takes around 3-4 hours and costs 40-60 CHF per person (depending on the time and type of ticket). By booking in advance, you might be eligible to purchase a supersaver discounted ticket.

Getting from Zermatt to Zurich

After finishing the Walker’s Haute Route, many hikers choose to travel out of Zurich because of its proximity to Zermatt and/or to experience another great Swiss city before heading home. Just like if you’re traveling to Geneva, the SBB train is the best way to go. You’ll need to transfer in Visp, and the entire journey takes between 3-4 hours and typically costs 50-60 CHF. Trains run hourly from Zermatt, and supersaver tickets may be available if you book in advance.

It’s a lot easier to travel by train out of Zermatt than it is to hike into it!

 

Where to Stay Before and After the Walker’s Haute Route

If you’re using our Guide to Camping on the Haute Route, you’ve surely got your tent packed up and ready to go. While you’ll be doing plenty of camping during your hike, you may enjoy sleeping in a real bed both before and after the WHR. 

Before Your Hike:

Many hikers choose to stay in Chamonix before setting off on the Walker’s Haute Route, but Les Houches is a great option, too. Below are some of the best accommodation options in the Chamonix Valley for getting some good rest before beginning the WHR:

Chamonix

Hotel Le Morgaine – We have stayed multiple times at this lovely hotel before and after various trekking adventures. We found the rooms to be spacious, the staff very friendly, and the location excellent. Room rates are also quite reasonable.

Auberge du Manoir – Known for their friendly staff, beautiful rooms, and great location, the Auberge du Manoir is another great option in Chamonix.

Hôtel Le Refuge des Aiglons – The Hotel Le Refuge des Aiglons is located adjacent to the Chamonix Sud bus station, making it an ideal location for the night you arrive in Chamonix.

AirBnB: There are many different accommodation options available in the Chamonix Valley on Airbnb. You’ll find everything from luxurious chalets to rooms in a shared house, depending on your needs and your budget. You can get $40 off your first Airbnb stay by registering here.

View from our Airbnb in Les Houches.

 

Les Houches

The smaller, quieter (and often less pricey) town of Les Houches is also a great place to stay before starting the WHR. There are frequent bus and train connections between Les Houches and Chamonix, and both transit options are free with the tourist card provided by your accommodation. We chose to stay in Les Houches before hiking the WHR and enjoyed the low key atmosphere.

Hotel Les Campanules – Located just across the river from the town center of Les Houches, Hotel Les Campanules gets great reviews for its tremendous views and excellent food. It’s also a great budget option.

Rocky Pop Hotel – Located just outside of Les Houches, the Rocky Pop hotel has stellar reviews for its funky style and friendly staff.

Camping Bellevue – Of course we’d be remiss to not include the well-located campground in Les Houches, Camping Bellevue.

You can check out all the options for hotels in the Chamonix Valley here:

 

Booking.com

After Your Hike:

Zermatt

There is nothing quite like a soft mattress and hot shower after nearly two weeks of trekking! Below we’ve provided a range of accommodation options in Zermatt to suit a variety of tastes and budgets:

Hotel Walliserhof Zermatt 1896: This hotel boasts a convenient central location and traditional Alpine charm. The beautiful sauna and hot tub are welcome indulgences for sore muscles!

Hotel Bellerive: This hotel is also close to the city center, has great views, a spa area with steam and sauna, and a fantastic breakfast.  

Zermatt Youth Hostel: For budget accommodation that isn’t a tent, this hostel is an excellent option. Dorms and private rooms are available, and your rate includes a very good breakfast buffet. As an added bonus, there is laundry available on-site.

Camping Matterhorn: For the hardcore campers, this is a good option and it’s centrally located near the train station. Since Zermatt is car-free, this tent-only campground is mellower than many on the WHR.

You can check out all Zermatt accommodation options below:



Booking.com

The mighty Matterhorn outside Zermatt.

 

Luggage Storage and Transfer

The Walker’s Haute Route is a very challenging trek, with several technical and exposed sections along the trail. Therefore, we can’t stress enough the importance of carrying as light a pack as possible. We’ve heard too many stories of hikers who had to end their walk early due to injuries and ailments from too much time on steep, snowy trails with too heavy a pack. Of course, if you choose to camp you’ll need to carry a significantly larger load than other hikers, but it’s very possible to keep it below 25 lbs (12 kilos). Check out our packing list for specific recommendations. Obviously, the best way to minimize your pack size is to simply leave all of your extra stuff at home (trust us, you really don’t need that extra pair of pants!) However, those who are traveling for an extended period of time or for work might be forced to bring some extra items.  If that’s the case for you, you may want to consider storing or transferring your unneeded luggage. Unfortunately, there aren’t many cheap or easy options for luggage storage and transfer on the Haute Route, due to the remote nature of the trail and its point-to-point route. Here are your best options for extra luggage:

Luggage Storage in Geneva

If you are flying in and out of the Geneva Airport, you can store your luggage in Geneva for the duration of your hike. Unfortunately, the public lockers provided by the airport and train station are only available for short-term rentals, so you’ll need to use a private luggage storage service. Eelway is a service that partners with local hotels to store your items. Expect to pay at least 150€ per bag for two weeks of storage. You’ll also need to get to and from the luggage storage location to drop off and pick up your bag(s). BAGBNB is another good resource that provides a list of luggage storage options throughout the city.  You can find rates as low as 75€ per bag for two weeks. Advance online booking is required for both of these options. Additionally, if you’ll be staying at the same hotel in Geneva (or Chamonix) before and after your hike, you can ask the hotel to hold your bags for you. Many hotels will provide this service if you have multiple reservations with them. 

You’ll be happy to be carrying a lighter load on your way up to Pas de Chevres!

 

Luggage Transfer From Geneva/Chamonix to Zermatt

If you are not returning to Geneva or Chamonix after completing the WHR, you’ll need to find a way to get your luggage from Geneva/Chamonix to Zermatt. Depending on your needs, bag size, and budget, you have a few options: 

Transfer Service: There are several companies that will transport your luggage directly from Chamonix to Zermatt and hold it for you until you finish your hike. This is a very expensive option, but it is quite convenient and secure. Taxi services like Taxi Follonier and tour services like Alpenwild provide the option of transferring luggage to most stages along the WHR. Expect to pay upwards of 400€ per person for this convenience. 

Train: The SBB Rail Service offers a good option for transporting your bags to Zermatt. Since the SBB services runs exclusively in Switzerland, you’ll need to travel from Chamonix (France) into Switzerland to send your bags. Martigny is the closest and most convenient option from Chamonix. From Martigny, you can ship your bag(s) to Zermatt. You’ll need to buy a train ticket to Martigny (and back to Chamonix), plus you’ll need to pay 12€ per bag. It typically takes two days for bags to arrive at their destination.  The train station in Zermatt will hold your bag(s) for free for the first five days, then you’ll need to pay 5€ per day after that. 

Post: If you have a few smaller unneeded items (such as an extra pair of shoes, clothes, laptop, etc), the cheapest and easiest option is to mail your luggage from Chamonix to Zermatt. If you need to purchase a box at the post office, you’ll buy a Colissimo box. For 46€, you’ll be able to send up to 5kg (box dimensions: 290x210x150mm) or for 56€ you can send up to 7kg (box dimensions: 400x275x195mm) directly to Zermatt. You’ll receive a tracking number that will allow you to check on your package (most arrive in a couple of days). If you have your own box, you may be able to ship your items for a lower cost. Upon arriving in Zermatt, the post office will hold your package for up to four weeks free of charge. To have your package sent to the post office and held for you until pickup, you’ll need to address it to the Zermatt post office and indicate in the address that you want “Post Restante.” Detailed instructions and examples are available on the Swiss Post website

Detours and Transit

Regardless of the time of year you choose to hike the Walker’s Haute Route, there’s a decent chance you’ll need to adjust your plans due to weather, trail conditions, or other issues. The WHR is a very demanding hike that traverses some rugged places. In the nearly two weeks you’ll be on the trail, it is likely that you may need to reroute or skip a section. Fortunately, despite the remote regions it traverses, the Walker’s Haute Route is actually quite well connected via trains, buses, and gondolas. Here are a few good services to familiarize yourself with in order to make getting around as efficient as possible. 

SBB Rail: If you have access to a mobile device, we strongly recommend downloading the SBB app. This app allows you to plan out routes, view timetables and prices, and purchase mobile tickets for all Swiss trains. The SBB trains pass through a few of the towns visited along the Haute Route, including St. Niklaus and Zermatt. They can also be key connections if you need to detour from certain sections of the trail. 

Postbus: Nearly all of the towns along the Walker’s Haute Route are serviced by the Postbus.  While this app is a little less reliable in terms of providing accurate prices, it is still very useful for planning routes and finding timetables. Tickets can be purchased in the app or directly from the bus driver. 

Tourist Cards: Every valley you’ll pass through on the Haute Route offers its own version of a “tourist card.” You’ll quickly notice that you’re required to pay a tourism tax at each place you stay (it varies from valley to valley, but ranges from 1.50CHF to 4 CHF per person). In exchange for the added tax, most accommodations (including campgrounds) will provide you with a card that is valid for your stay. Most cards are valid for the day you arrive as well as the day you check out. These tourist cards vary in the types of offers and discounts they provide, but most will give you access to free travel within the valley on the Postbus and free rides on any gondolas in the valley. These gondolas can be a great option for avoiding long, steep descents with tired knees! 

The Postbus is a convenient way to get around on the Haute Route.

 

Rest Day Options

Many hikers power through the entire Walker’s Haute Route without taking a day off, but if you have room in your itinerary you may want to consider building in a rest day. Rest days give you the chance to get to know an area in a deeper way, and they give your mind and body a welcome reprieve from walking to prevent injury and/or burnout. The WHR route doesn’t present one clear and obvious place for a rest day location, but there are definitely a few great options, depending on when and where you want to fit it in. Here are our top picks: 

Les Haudères: This quaint town has everything you might want on a rest day: cute cafes, an excellent bakery, a well-stocked grocery store, a post office, a bus stop, and an outdoors store. There are a range of accommodation options available, including nice hotels, airbnbs, and even a campground. Most hikers will reach Les Haudères around the halfway point of their trek, so it works well in terms of breaking up the hike.  In terms places to stay, L’hôtel – Gîte des Alpes and  Hotel Dents de Veisivie come highly recommended. 

Zinal: If you want to schedule your rest day for a bit further along in your hike, Zinal is probably your best option. This small ski resort town also offers a variety of services (bus stop, post office, gondola) as well as a variety of grocery stores, outdoor retailers, bakeries, and restaurants. There are many choices for accommodation, ranging from upscale hotels to the campground. We’ve heard good things about Hotel le Trift and Hotel Europe

Les Hauderes is a charming place to spend a rest day.

 

Money

Many grocery stores, mountain huts, and campgrounds along the Haute Route accept credit cards, but ultimately cash is king in this part of the world. It’s best to assume that you’ll need to pay for everything in cash and plan accordingly. Only the larger towns along the route have ATMs (see our Camping Guide for more details), so you’ll need to take out enough money to cover all of your expenses until you reach the next big town. Also, keep in mind that you’ll need Euros for the first two stages of the Haute Route, but you’ll use Swiss Francs from Champex onward. Check out our post on how much it cost us to hike the Haute Route to get an idea of what kinds of prices to expect. 

But wait…there’s more!

If you’re looking for one-on-one support in preparing for the Haute Route, we can help! Learn more about our personalized coaching services. 

Be sure to check out our entire series on the Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for this incredible adventure!

 

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Walker’s Haute Route Packing List

If you’re planning to trek the Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt (or the other way around) and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Haute Route,…

If you’re planning to trek the Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt (or the other way around) and have been utilizing our Guide to Camping on the Haute Route, you’re well on your way to having your best possible adventure. By now, you’ve likely realized that the Haute Route is a tough hike that requires thoughtful preparation and efficient packing. So how do you make sure you’ve got everything you need without carrying a backpack that’s as big as you are?  Our Walker’s Haute Route Packing List is here to help!

Hiker with trekking poles on stage 12 of the Walker's Haute Route

All smiles (and grateful for my trekking poles) on our final day of the WHR!

 

Below you’ll find a detailed Walker’s Haute Route packing list that will provide you with great, trail-tested gear that won’t weigh down your backpack too much. This list reflects our personal packing list which will vary for each individual’s specific needs. However, this should serve as a great starting point for planning your own Walker’s Haute Route adventure! We’ve organized it into the following categories to make it easy to customize for your own travel style and itinerary:

 

Haute Route Packing Basics

There are limitless ways to hike the Haute Route; you can customize the length of your trek, your accommodation preferences, your meal options, and so much more. Your Walker’s Haute Route packing list will need to be tailored to your individual itinerary and needs. Someone who is using a luggage transfer service and staying in refuges will have a significantly different kit than someone who is carrying all of their own camping gear and cooking their own meals. Despite all of this variability, there are a few basic truths about packing for the Haute Route that apply to everyone. These include:

  1. Keep your backpack as light as possible! (see the next section for more on this)
  2. Bring shoes/boots that you know from experience will be comfortable and problem-free.
  3. Bring hiking poles and learn how to use them prior to your WHR trek.

A trail in the foreground with snowy mountains and the Mattertal valley in the distance on the Walker's Haute Route.

Don’t forget to bring some sort of camera (or smartphone) to capture amazing views like these!

 

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? 
  • Are you injury-prone or do you have any chronic knee, hip, or back issues? 

A hiker climbs a ladder up to Pas des Chevres on the Walker's Haute Route

You’ll be glad to have a lightweight pack on sections like this one at Pas des Chevres!

 

As a very general rule, campers should keep their pack weight below 13kg, including food and water. Those staying in refuges should carry no more than 9kg. If having your luggage transferred along the trail, most transfer services will limit you to 18kg, and your daypack shouldn’t exceed 4kg. If you are backpacking for the first time or have a chronic injury, the weight of your pack should be significantly less than these guidelines.

Generally speaking, less is more. Here’s a few tips for lightening your load:

  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. 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.

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!

A woman stands on a log that juts into turquoise water. Footwear on the Walker's Haute Route.

Your trusty boots are one of the most important pieces of gear!

 

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

We’ve completed a lot of tough treks all over the world, but the Walker’s Haute Route was the toughest on our knees. There are long steep ascents, and even longer and steeper descents on nearly every stage of this roughly two-week hike. I honestly don’t think we would have been able to complete this trek without our trusty trekking poles. These help so much with taking some of the strain off of your lower body and providing traction and stability on loose sections. We consider trekking poles to be an absolute game-changer for the Walker’s Haute Route, and this is especially true for campers who are carrying heavier loads.

A trekker seen from behind heads towards snow capped mountains on the Walker's Haute Route

Charging up the trail thanks to my trekking poles and comfortable backpack!

 

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.

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 Camping Guide, we’ve noted the availability of electronics charging along every stage.

Cooking on a camp stove outside Cabane du Moiry

We were glad to have our cozy jackets when cooking dinner outdoors!

 

Puffy down jacket

We’ve found this to be a perfect piece of gear for the Walker’s Haute Route. It can be quite chilly in the Alps in the early morning and evenings, but a heavy fleece or bulky jacket can really sabotage a lightweight pack. Down jackets are warm, super packable, and very lightweight. Besides a light waterproof rain jacket, this is the only outer layer you should need.

Guidebook

Ciccerone’s Chamonix to Zermatt: The Classic Walker’s Haute Route by far the best guidebook out there for the Haute Route. This thorough guide covers everything from the history of the hike to interesting sights you’ll see along the way, and of course provides a comprehensive breakdown of every stage. It offers helpful advice on how to tailor the length of the trek to work for your time parameters, as well as descriptions of optional variants and side-trips. It is also available as an e-book, meaning you can download it to your phone to really optimize your packing! Make sure to get the 2019 version for the most up-to-date information.

Camping Gear

If you plan on camping along the Walker’s Haute Route, there’s a lot more gear you need to think about than just your hiking basics. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered!

Use this camping gear list in conjunction with the personal items list, miscellaneous list, and men’s or women’s clothing list to put together your perfect Walker’s Haute Route packing list.

Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route is definitely worth carrying the bigger backpack. We loved the flexibility and independence it gave us, and many of the campgrounds are downright luxurious. With the right gear and a manageable pack size, you are guaranteed to have an amazing experience conquering the Haute Route with your own tent.

A sign attached to a tree points towards a camping area on the Walker's Haute Route

Take shortcuts to get to your campground, but not when it comes to your gear!

 

Our favorite piece of camping gear: Marmot Trestles 15 Sleeping Bag

When the sun goes down, it can get very cold in the Alps, even in the summertime! Spending night after night shivering in your tent will surely make your Haute Route adventure much less enjoyable. This sleeping bag is designed for backpacking, meaning it is lightweight and packs down small, while still being cozy and warm. It is thoughtfully designed; we love the practical features like the double zippers and convenient stash pocket. Sure it’s not as fancy as a down version, but it’s the best synthetic option on the market and way more affordable than down.


ItemOur recommended gear 
TentSierra Designs - Clip Flashlight 2
or
MSR Hubba Hubba Tent
This is the best budget tent on the market and the best overall tent on the market!
Sleeping bagMarmot Trestle 15Nights can get cold on the Haute Route, so a good sleeping bag is a must!
Sleeping padNemo Astro Sleeping Pad If you are a side sleeper this is a must!
PillowTherm-a-Rest pillowIf you're camping more than a few nights you will be glad you packed this!
HeadlampBlack Diamond Storm headlamp
StoveMSR Pocket Rocket StoveIan has used this stove for nearly a decade and highly recommends it!
Backpacking potGSI Halulite
UtensilsHumangear Spork Best $4 you will ever spend!
Plate/Bowl/MugMSR Deep Dish plate , MSR Stainless Steel mug

Refuge-Specific Gear

If you’re planning on sleeping in mountain refuges and hotels along the Walker’s Haute Route, you can enjoy the benefit of a shorter packing list! This list has a few items you’ll need specifically for sleeping in gites and refuges. While you don’t need much, there are some essentials that you’ll be glad to have for these communal accommodation situations. Use this list in conjunction with the other lists (except for the camping gear list) to ensure that you’re well prepared for your Haute Route adventure.

Note: there are some repeats on this list that we’ve also included on the other lists. However, we wanted to highlight items on this list that are especially important for anyone who is staying primarily in refuges.

A view of the outside of Cabane du Mont Fort on the Walker's Haute Route

Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

Our favorite piece of refuge-specific gear: Vumos Sleep Sheet

Many mountain refuges along the Walker’s Haute Route require the use of sleep sheets for hygienic reasons. Even if it’s not mandated, a sleep sheet is a good idea. The bedding at most refuges consists of just a mattress cover and a duvet that isn’t typically washed between every use. Plus, it can get quite warm at night in those crowded dorm rooms, and you may prefer something lighter than the blanket provided. The Vumos sleep sheet is great for a number of reasons. It’s super soft, thoughtfully-designed, and easily packable in a compact stuff sack. This can be a huge difference-maker when it comes to getting quality sleep on your trek.


ItemOur recommended gear 
EarplugsMack's EarplugsThe best defense for that snorer next door!
Sleeping maskAlaska Bear Sleeping MaskPerfect to block out light while sleeping in refuges.
Sleep sheetVumos Sleep SheetRequired in most of the refuges along the Haute Route.
Sandals/SlippersCrocsWhile not the most stylish, Crocs make the perfect refuge shoes! Most refuges provide slippers, but many hikers prefer to use their own.

Personal Gear

Whether you’re camping or staying indoors, these items are must-haves for the Walker’s Haute Route. While we’ve included some toiletries that are absolutely essential for this hike, we’ve left it up to you to determine your personal list of additional self care items (comb, toothbrush, prescription medication, etc).

Use this list in conjunction with the camping gear list OR refuge list, and the miscellaneous and clothing lists to build your perfect kit.

Our favorite personal gear: Kahtoola Microspikes

Depending on when you hike the Walker’s Haute Route, these will either be absolutely essential or at the very least super helpful. It is very common for large patches of snow remain on the trail through mid-July or later. Some of these sections are easy to navigate with just your hiking boots, but others are extremely steep and slick. This can create a slow, tiring situation at best and a dangerous one at worst. These Microspikes can be quickly attached to your shoes or boots, and they provide immensely better traction to help you grip icy and snowy surfaces. They are small and easily pack away when you don’t need them.


ItemOur recommended gear 
Multi-toolGerber Suspension Multi-PlierA handy, must-have on the trail.
First-aid kitAdventure Medical Kits
Hydration BladderPlatypus 3 Liter Hydration BladderWay easier than a water bottle!
Small day-packCotopaxi Luzon 18LGreat for short day hikes and excursions in Chamonix or Zermatt!
Pack-coverSea to Summit Pack coverThis is a truly essential piece of gear given how much it can rain on the Haute Route!
Men's backpackOsprey Atmos 65The most comfortable backpack on the market!
Women's backpackOsprey Ariel 65
Trekking polesBlack Diamond Trail Back Trekking polesEssential for long downhills!
Micro-spikesKahtoola MicrospikesYou'll almost certainly encounter snow at some point on the Haute Route and micro-spikes can be essential to safely navigating it.
Travel towelSea to Summit DryLite TowelGreat to have for campsite showers.
Dry bagsSea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry SackKeeps your clothes and other items dry in a downpour!
Hiking GaitersOutdoor Research Rocky Mountain High GaitersThese will help keep your boots dry when walking on snow covered trails.
Warm, waterproof glovesSeirus Waterproof Gloves
Buff or BandanaOriginal Buff
Sleeping MaskAlaska Bear Sleeping Mask
Blister padsBand-Aid Blister Pads
Lip BalmJack Black Lip Balm

Miscellaneous Gear

These odds and ends are the unsung heros of the Walker’s Haute Route packing list. From getting your stinky shirt clean to keeping your phone charged, these items help your trek run smoothly. Make sure to use this list in addition to the other categories to complete your personal Haute Route packing list.

Our favorite miscellaneous gear: Mack’s Earplugs

Whether you are camping or sleeping indoors, we can almost guarantee there will be some noisy nights on your Haute Route trek. From people inexplicably setting up camp at 11:00pm to international snoring contests in the mountain refuges, there’s an endless array of things that can sabotage your much-needed sleep. That’s why these earplugs are one of the most essential items to take along on a trip like the Haute Route. Mack’s makes good quality silicone earplugs that are more comfortable and effective than the standard foam kind. Trust us, you’ll be glad you packed them!


ItemOur recommended gear 
GuidebookThe Walker's Haute Route (Cicerone Trekking Guide)This is the best guidebook available and a truly essential item to bring.
JournalMoleskin Journal
Ear plugsMack's ear plugsEssential for the more crowded campsites!
CameraSony a5100 mirrorless cameraIan loves his Sony mirrorless camera!
TripodJoby GorillaPodThe perfect travel tripod.
Unlocked phoneMoto G PlayA simple, budget-friendly phone to use for navigation and local calls with a SIM.
Battery backupAnker PowerCore 20100There are many long sections without access to outlets on the Haute Route.
Laundry Soap SheetsSea to Summit Trek and Travel Pocket SoapThese are the greatest travel hack ever! The best way to clean your clothes on-the-go.
Travel adapterJoomfeen All-in-one adapterGreat for all of your travels.
Plastic Bags- quart, gallon, and garbage bags. We used these constantly for everything from storing trail mix to keeping our sleeping bags dry. A must-have for backpacking.

No need to pack a  bunch of clothes- simply rinse them in the sink and rig a clothesline wherever you find yourself!

 

Women’s Clothing

When you’re wearing the same clothes for roughly two weeks in various weather conditions and while doing some serious trekking, it is imperative that those clothes are comfortable and high quality.  Although your individual preferences may look a little different, this list is an excellent starting point to ensure you’ve got all the essentials. Plus, if you’re anything like us, you have no idea how many pairs of socks to bring. This list is also a handy (and experience-backed) guideline for quantities of items such as shirts and socks.

Emily’s favorite piece of women’s clothing: Smartwool Baselayer Top

This shirt was absolutely perfect for layering under my down jacket on frosty mornings on the trail, as well as nice and cozy for hanging out at camp and sleeping in. It’s light enough that I could wear it for added sun protection on hot days, too. Since it’s merino wool, I could wear it for days without it getting stinky at all. When it did need washing, I simply washed it out at the campground and it was dry in no time. This is the ideal clothing item for the demands of the Haute Route.


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (3-4 pairs)ExOfficio Women's Sport UnderwearVery packable and easy to wash on the go!
Socks (3-4 pairs)Darn Tough Micro Crew SocksIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Sports Bra (1)Brooks Rebound Racer Sports BraThis is the most versatile, comfortable, and high-quality sports bra that Emily has found on the market.
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Women's NTS Mid 250 Crew
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Mountain Hardwear Wicked shirt
Leggings (1 pair)Nike Power Essential Running Tight
Running shorts (1 pair)Lululemon Run Speed ShortsThese shorts are so comfortable, packable, and quick-drying, that Emily didn't even feel the need to buy hiking-specific shorts.
Down jacketPatagonia Down SweaterLightweight, super warm, and packs down small. This jacket was perfect for this kind of trip!
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II JacketA high-quality all-weather jacket that packs up small.
Rain pantsColumbia Storm Surge pantsFor those heavy downpours!
Hiking bootsKeen Targhee II Mid Hiking BootEmily has had these boots for five years and hundreds of muddy, snowy hikes, and they are still going strong!
SunglassesSuncloud Loveseat Polarized SunglassesGood quality sunglasses are essential when you're in the mountains all day. And these are stylish too!
Underwire bra
HatA hat with a wide brim provides valuable protection for sun and rain.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1The perfect camp sandals!

Men’s Clothing

Ian’s favorite men’s clothing item: Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks

Part of what makes the Walker’s Haute Route so incredible is the variety of terrains and conditions it allows you to experience. From climbing steeply up to a wet and windy mountain pass to walking through a flat and sunny valley,  you’re unlikely to get bored on this hike. Unfortunately, while the dynamic nature of the Haute Route can be great for the senses, it can wreak havoc on your feet, causing blisters and other nasty ailments.  A good pair of socks can greatly reduce your chances of suffering from foot issues. This is one of those times where you really do get what you pay for. We love Darn Tough socks because they keep our feet dry and comfortable in a variety of conditions. They have just the right amount of cushion without being too bulky in boots. Plus, the Merino wool keeps them smelling fresh for days. Check them out here:


ItemOur recommended gear 
Underwear (3-4 pairs)Exofficio Give-N-Go boxerHighly recommended! You can bring 4-5 pairs and wash them easily in sinks or showers. A must!
Socks (3-4 pairs)Darn Tough Hiker Micro CrewIn our opinion, these are the best hiking socks available. Your feet will thank you!
Long sleeve base layer (1)Smartwool Men's NTS Mid 250 CrewVery versatile mid-weight base layer
Short sleeve hiking shirt (1)Columbia Tech Shirt
Hiking pants (1)Prana Brion pantsThese are great for hiking and also look great walking around town!
Hiking shorts (1)Prana Brion shortsAwesome shorts that are great for hiking.
Running shorts (1)La Sportiva Aelous shorts
Down jacketPatagonia Down Seater HoodieSuper warm and super packable
Rain jacketOutdoor Research Helium II jacketA good rain jacket is a must!
Rain pantsMarmot Precip Pants
HatOutdoor Research Performance Trucker hatA hat with a wide brim provides valuable protection for sun and rain.
Sandals/Camp shoesChaco Z1 sandals
Hiking bootsSalomon X-Ultra 3 MidSuper comfortable and super waterproof!
Digital watchCasio Classic Sports watchAll you'll ever need
SunglassesSuncloud Mayor Polarized sunglasses

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what to pack for the Walker's Haute Route

What’s Next?

Be sure to read our entire series on the Walker’s Haute Route to learn everything you’ll need to know to prepare for your trip!

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