Category: Walker’s Haute Route

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’ll 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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Guide to Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

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

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

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

Chamonix Train Station, the start of the Haute Route.

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

 

What’s in This Guide?

About the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

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

 

How long is the Walker’s Haute Route?

Distance: 225 kilometers (140 miles)

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

When to hike

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

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

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

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

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

A large patch of snow below Refuge Col de Balme.

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

 

How difficult is the Walker’s Haute Route?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Which direction?

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

Weather

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

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

Dark clouds gathering above the Moiry Glacier.

 

Food and Drink

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

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

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

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

Dietary Restrictions

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

Water

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

Pastries on a balcony in Les Houches, France.

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

 

Getting to and From the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

Wayfinding

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

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

Trail signs and markers are plentiful along the Haute Route.

 

Budgeting and Money

Cash or Credit?

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

Currency

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

Typical Costs

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

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

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

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

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

Zermatt Campground, Walker's Haute Route

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

 

What to Pack for the Walker’s Haute Route

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

For a complete packing list, check out this article.

How much should my pack weigh?

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

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

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

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

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

Hiking boots

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

Walker’s Haute Route MVG (Most Valuable Gear)

Footwear on the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

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

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

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

Trekking Poles

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

Hiker with trekking poles on the Walker's Haute Route

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

 

Backpack

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

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

Backpacking backpack

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

 

Battery Backup

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

A few other MVG honorable mentions…

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

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

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

Electronics

Charging

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

Cell Service

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

Wifi

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

 

A view of the high alpine scenery near Pas des Chevres

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

 

Reservations

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

A hotel with flowerboxes in Arolla, Switzerland.

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

 

Wild Camping on the Walker’s Haute Route

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

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

 

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

The Matterhorn near Zermatt.

The Matterhorn, your final destination on the Haute Route.

Stages One and Two: Chamonix to Le Peuty

Camping Availability: Le Peuty Campsite

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

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

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

Price: 6 CHF per person (cash only)

Tent at the Le Peuty campsite on the Haute Route.

Nice views from the tent at Le Peuty.

 

Alternative Option #1: Chamonix to Argentiere

Camping Availability: Camping du Glaciers

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

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

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

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

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

Camping Availability: Hotel de la Forclaz

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

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

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

Price: 8 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent

 

Stage Three: Le Peuty to Champex

Camping Availability: Camping Les Rocailles

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

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

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

Price: 16 CHF per person (cash or most credit cards accepted)

The Trient Glacier.

Fantastic views await those who hike the Fenêtre d’Arpette

 

Stage Four: Champex to Le Châble

Camping Availability: Camping Champsec

While there isn’t a campground in Le Châble (the official stop of this stage of the WHR), there is a campground a short bus ride away (or a one-hour walk) in the small town of Champsec. To get to the campground, catch the #253 Postbus from outside of the convenience store at the gondola station in Le Châble. The ride takes about 10 minutes and costs 3.50 CHF per person. From the bus stop in Champsec, follow the signs and walk about 10 minutes to the campground. The campground is located in a lovely pastoral setting next to the river.

Tip: the tourist tax you’ll pay at the campground will make you eligible for a free transit card for the following day. The next morning when you take the bus back to Le Châble to continue your hike, simply tell the driver that you stayed at the campground and you shouldn’t have to pay the bus fare (you can then obtain your actual transit card from the tourist office in Le Châble if you also want to access the gondola for free).

Services: Toilets (TP but no hand soap), covered sinks for washing up, warm shower, indoor space with tables and chairs, outdoor seating, and outlets inside the reception and in the bathrooms.

Nearby: There aren’t any services in Champsec, but there is a grocery store (closed on Sundays), bakery, restaurants, bus/train/gondola connections, and an ATM in Le Châble. You could also use your transit card and ride the gondola or bus up to Verbier for more grocery stores, outdoors shops, and restaurants.

Price: 8 CHF per person+ 6 CHF per tent + 1.5 CHF tourist tax per person (includes transit card access) (cash only)

Stage Five: Le Châble to Cabane du Mont Fort

Camping Availability: None

On stage five, the traditional Walker’s Haute Route route climbs steadily upwards to the mountain hut at Cabane du Mont Fort and stays at high elevation throughout stage six. You won’t find any official camping areas again until you’re back down at lower elevations in Arolla, at the end of stage seven. If the weather conditions are really good, you could conceivably wild camp between stages five and seven. Our plan was to stay at the Cabane du Mont Fort at the end of stage five, then hike past the typical end of stage six the following day and reach the Refuge de La Barma, which is unmanned on weekdays. However, bad weather forced us to reroute after spending the night at Cabane du Mont Fort. We ended up taking the train and bus to reach Arolla, then hiking up to Pas de Chèvres from the Arolla the following day. Below we’ve provided an overview of Cabane du Mont Fort, plus other alternative options for these stages.

Cabane du Mont Fort

We camped nearly every night on the Haute Route, but we made exceptions on three occasions. Two of these exceptions were to stay at mountain huts (the other was to stay in a cozy Airbnb on our rest day). We reserved beds ahead of time at Cabane du Mont Fort and Cabane du Moiry, due to the difficulty of camping on these stages and the rave reviews about these huts. If you can, we recommend staying in at least one good mountain hut (known as cabanes) along your hike. It is a unique experience in which you’ll meet fellow hikers and enjoy a fun evening in an incredibly atmospheric setting. Tip #1: Both of the huts that we stayed at along the Walker’s Haute Route allowed us to opt out of purchasing meals and self-cater instead. We paid half as much with this option, while still enjoying all the ambiance and coziness of the hut. Tip #2: Get there early. Some rooms at Mont Fort only have two or four beds. If you’re lucky, you may end up with a private room.

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), drinking water, public wifi access, a la carte food and drinks available for purchase, hot showers (5 CHF for 5 minutes), kitchenette with stove, sink, and cookware, and a classic, cozy hut with great views.

Nearby: The Les Ruinettes gondola station is about an hour’s hike back down the trail. You can present your confirmation email from Cabane du Mont Fort at the Le Châble tourist office and receive a transit card which will allow you to ride the gondola for free down to Verbier and Le Châble. If you need to detour to Arolla due to bad weather or hazardous conditions, this is a great option. There are no other shops or services available along the trail until Arolla (with the exception of a few mountain huts which serve meals).

Price: 37 CHF (dorm only) or 75 CHF (half pension)

View from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Looking out from Cabane du Mont Fort.

 

Alternative Option: Le Châble to Cabane de Prafleuri

If you want to eliminate a day that doesn’t have easy camping options, you could take the gondola up from Le Châble to Les Ruinettes, then walk all the way to Cabane de Prafleuri. The next day you would descend to Arolla, where you’d have access again to a campground. We wouldn’t recommend this option for a few reasons. First, this would set you up for two very long and challenging days of walking in potentially hazardous conditions. Second, everyone we’ve talked has given poor reviews of Cabane de Prafleuri (it was actually closed for a bed bug infestation while we were hiking the WHR). If you’re going to spend the money on a hut, Mont Fort or Cabane des Dix are better options. Cabane des Dix is a further walk from Cabane du Mont Fort.

Stage Six: Cabane du Mont Fort to Cabane de Prafleuri

Camping Availability: Not available

Unfortunately, this section of the Haute Route does not have any options for camping. Here, the trail stays in the high mountains and does not encounter any towns, and thus does not encounter any campsites. The traditional Haute Route has walkers stop at Cabane du Prafleuri after Cabane du Mont Fort, although you can continue on to La Barma or Cabane des Dix as described above or head down to the Hotel du Barrage.

Services: Toilets, sinks (NO drinking water), showers, restaurant, outlets.

Nearby: No services nearby.

Price: Contact the Cabane for current prices.

 

Stage Seven: Cabane de Prafleuri to Arolla

Camping Availability: Camping Arolla

After a couple of days of crossing rocky, barren, snow-covered high mountain landscapes, the sunny, green valley and the village of Arolla are bound to look very inviting. As you descend into the small town, you’ll pass a couple of shops and hotels. To reach the campground, you’ll need to hike about 15-20 minutes further downhill. There’s a nice trail leading to the campground which can be accessed behind the Hotel du Glacier. You can’t miss the hotel, as it takes Alpine flower boxes to a whole new level. Camping Arolla is a nice, large campground with decent facilities and grassy terraces for tents. The reception has limited hours in the morning and evening, so pitch your tent and check back in later if they’re closed when you arrive. Tip: there are only a couple of showers for a whole bunch of campers, so try to get in there early if you want to avoid a long wait.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), sinks for washing up (hot and cold potable water), showers (1 CHF for 4 minutes), shop at the reception (limited hours) which sells snacks, beer/wine/soda, camper meals, toiletries, but no stove fuel, morning bread available for order, outlets in the bathrooms, wifi near the reception building, recycling (need to purchase bag for trash items), tent and camping gear rentals.

Nearby: The campground reception has a small shop and there is a pizza restaurant in the hotel next door to camping Arolla. There’s also a bus stop (Arolla, La Monta) just down the road from the campground. For all other services, you’ll need to walk back up to Arolla proper. There, you’ll find two small grocery stores, a few restaurants, and a tourist office.

Price: 8.70 CHF per person + 7.50 CHF per tent (cash or credit cards accepted)

Tents at Camping Arolla on the Haute Route.

A lovely evening at Camping Arolla.

 

Stage Eight: Arolla to La Sage

Camping Availability: Camping Molignon (Les Haudères)

The typical endpoint for this stage of the Haute Route is the town of La Sage, but those wanting to camp should stop instead in the town of Les Haudères, where there is a large campground with good facilities. Bear in mind that Les Haudères is at the bottom of the valley, while La Sage is further up the hillside. This means that you’ll have about 45 minutes of additional climbing to do at the beginning of the next day’s stage. We think this is a worthwhile trade-off, since Les Haudères is a charming village and also has way more services than La Sage. Camping Molignon is a big, busy campground on the edge of town. It’s located on a grassy area next to the river with nice views and easy proximity to the grocery store and bus stop. You’ll be in the minority with your tent, as most of the campground is occupied by camper vans. Though it is very large and crowded, you’ll find the facilities are quite nice and the location is ideal.

Services: Toilets (TP and hand soap), several covered sinks for washing up, potable water (hot and cold), showers, outlets, restaurant, small shop selling snacks and essential items, pool, hot tub, ping pong, playground, recycling, and trash (bag purchase required).

Nearby: Les Haudères has a grocery store, restaurants, cafes, outdoor shop, post office, and bus stop. You won’t find much in La Sage except for a few hotels and restaurants, so stock up in Les Haudères regardless of where you decide to spend the night.

Price: 7.50 CHF per person + 10 CHF per tent + 1.10 per person tourist tax

Campground near Les Hauderes, Switzerland.

Not a bad place to pitch a tent at Camping Molignon.

 

Stage Nine: La Sage to Cabane de Moiry (or Grimentz)

Camping Availability: Camping Ilôt Bosquet (Grimentz)

According to many Haute Route hikers, an overnight stay at Cabane de Moiry is a “can’t miss” experience. We opted to spend the night at Moiry instead of camping and found it to be a worthwhile splurge. The mountain hut is situated remarkably close to a truly stunning glacier, and the modern renovations (glass-walled dining room and spacious terrace) make for an atmospheric and wonderful space in which to study the glacier and soak up the views. However, by taking a variant to Grimentz, you have the option to camp instead, if you prefer.  Additionally, if you want to stay along the Moiry variant of the trail but still want to camp, we did see many people wild camping in the area between the upper reservoirs and Lac de Moiry.

Cabane de Moiry:

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), drying room, complimentary tea and coffee served in the afternoon and complimentary fruit tea in the morning, option for self-catering, restaurant/bar, sleep sheets available for rent (5 CHF), showers (5 CHF for 5 minutes), foosball, picnic tables, sinks but NO potable water (we recommend bringing a lightweight filter instead of buying the overpriced plastic bottles at the hut).

Nearby: There is a drinking water fountain located about an hour down the trail past Cabane de Moiry. There are also bathrooms at the parking lot next to Lac de Moiry.

Price: 40.50 CHF (dorm only) or 86.50 CHF (half board) (cash or credit cards accepted)

View of the Moiry Glacier.

The terrace at Cabane de Moiry gets you up close and personal to the incredible Moiry Glacier.

 

Alternative Option: Camping Ilôt Bosquet

If you would prefer to (legally) camp on this stage, your best bet is to continue hiking past the Barrage de Moiry and onwards for about two more hours to the town of Grimentz. If you plan on spending the following night at the Hotel Weisshorn, you’ll head straight there the next day, effectively cutting out a stage of the WHR. Alternatively, if you still wanted to complete the typical stage ten segment, you could take the bus back to Barrage de Moiry the next day and the complete the hike to Zinal. Another option (which would also cut out stage ten) would be to hike directly from Grimentz to Zinal (about 2.5 hours) and then continue on to complete stage eleven to Gruben all in the same day (which would be quite a long day of walking). Regardless of the option you choose, here’s a bit about the Camping Ilôt Bosquet:

Services: Toilets, potable water, picnic tables.

Nearby: Bus stop, tourist office, restaurants, bank, post office, shops.

Price: 5 CHF per person + 4 CHF tourist tax per person

Stage Ten: Cabane de Moiry to Zinal

Camping Availability: Camping Relais de la Tzoucdana

As you begin your long descent towards Zinal, you’ll be able to see the campground far below. It sits next to river on the far edge of town (about 20 minutes’ walk to the town center). If you arrive in the afternoon, don’t be surprised to find the campground’s restaurant positively buzzing with families and hikers stopping by for a drink or some ice cream. Don’t worry, the crowds disperse as the evening sets in. At first glance, the campground is a little strange; there are various animals housed on site, people recreating everywhere you turn, and the area for tents is a bit cramped. However, it grew on us as we spent more time there. The showers are hot and clean, the staff is super friendly, the pitches are flat and grassy. Tip: There are two options for your descent from the gondola station into Zinal. If you choose the less steep variant (which follows a gravel road), the trail ends immediately next to the campground. If you take the steeper option, you’ll have to walk through town for a bit to reach the campground. The reception is located at the restaurant.

Services: Toilets (TP and soap), hot showers, water tap with cold, potable water in the camping field, sink with hot and cold potable water in the main building, porta potties in the camping field, restaurant/bar, picnic table, outlets, and a playground.

Nearby: Grocery store, shops, ATM, bakery, restaurants, bus stop, gondola station, tourist office, post office.

Price: 7 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 4 CHF per person tourist tax (includes transit card) (cash and credit cards accepted).

Stage Eleven: Zinal to Gruben

Camping Availability: Wild camping only

The typical route for this stage brings hikers into the lovely, quiet Turtmanntal Valley and to the little hamlet of Gruben. Gruben is a quaint town situated along the river. However, for what it provides in rural, small-town charm, it lacks in camping options. If you want to camp along this stage, your only option is to camp wild. If you choose to do this, keep in mind that it is not technically legal, and you should therefore make every effort to minimize your impact. Upon arriving in Gruben, most campers continue uphill past the Hotel Schwarzhorn, following the trail towards the next stage. If you continue up past Gruben, you can scout for potential camping spots tucked within the trees. There are few flat spots, but they do exist. Once you find a workable spot, you can head back into Gruben, grab a beer at the hotel, fill up on drinking water at the tap in front of the church, and wait for the sun to set before setting up camp. In the morning, make sure to get packed up early. Bonus: you’ll have a head start on the next day’s walk! Tip: We chose to cook and eat our dinner on a bench next to the water tap. This allowed us to minimize our impact at our campsite and gave us easy access to water for cooking and washing up.

Services: Drinking water is available in town in front of the church. If you purchase something at the hotel and ask for the password, you can get wifi access there.

Nearby: Besides the hotel and restaurant, there’s not much in Gruben. Be sure to stock up at the shop in Zinal unless you want to buy some very expensive meals at the Hotel Schwarzhorn.

Price: Free

Big mountain view on the Haute Route.

Fantastic vistas on the descent to Gruben.

 

Stages Twelve through Fourteen: Gruben to St. Niklaus to Zermatt

Camping Availability: Camping Attermenzen (Randa) or Camping Alphubel (Täsch )

The final days of the Haute Route present hikers with a lot of choices. You can choose to complete all, some, or none of the high-level Europaweg trail, you can complete the stages in two or three days, and you can use various forms of transit to shorten some sections. If you want to complete the entire Europaweg section, you won’t have many convenient options for camping. We’ve laid out all of your options for the final stages below:

Alternative Option #1: Gruben to St.Niklaus/Gasenried/Grächen, then  St.Niklaus/Gasenried/Grächen to the Europa Hut, then Europa Hut to Zermatt.

Camping Availability: None

If you want to complete the entire Europaweg section of the Walker’s Haute Route, your options for camping will be quite limited. You can choose to finish stage twelve either in St. Niklaus, Gasenried, or Grächen. Unfortunately, you won’t find campsites in any of these towns. Upon finishing stage twelve, you’ll first pass through St. Niklaus, which has a budget hotel, a grocery store and bus connections to Gasenried and Grächen. If you keep walking for about two hours uphill (or take the bus from the St. Niklaus train station), you’ll reach Gasenried next. This is the most convenient location from which to start the long and challenging Europaweg section the following day, but there is only one hotel in the town. Alternatively, you could detour to Grächen (2 more hours or bus) where you’ll find a shop, restaurants, and a few budget accommodation options. From our observations, it appeared to be quite difficult to wild camp near St. Niklaus, as it was quite populated. We didn’t pass through the other towns, so we can’t say how possible it would be.

Europa Hut:

Services: Toilets (TP), sinks, dining room, terrace, restaurant.

Nearby: No services nearby.

Price: 30 CHF per person (dorm only) or 65 CHF (half board)

Alternative Option #2: Gruben to Randa or Täsch, then Randa /Täsch  to Zermatt.

If you’d rather stick with camping instead of having to stay at the Europa Hut, or you want to cut out the sketchier parts of the Europaweg Trail, or if you just need to shorten your hike by a day this option is for you. After reaching St. Niklaus at the end of stage twelve, you’ll have a choice between two campgrounds. If you want to take the valley trail the following day, we’d recommend staying at the Randa Campground (it’s actually a bit past Randa towards Täsch). This campground will be closer to get to after a long day of hiking from Gruben and balance the remainder of the hike so your next day isn’t ridiculously short. If you want to hike on the Europaweg trail for the final day (highly recommended in good weather), we suggest camping in Täsch. You can hike directly up from the campground in  Täsch to meet up with the Europaweg Trail (about 1.5-2 hours) and take that all the way to Zermatt. By choosing this option, you’ll still get the incredible Matterhorn views that the Europaweg trail has to offer, while avoiding most of the exposed areas and the suspension bridge (of course some hikers will see this as a disappointment while others will rejoice). If you decide to stay in Täsch, you’ll likely want to shorten your hike there by either taking the gondola down from Jungen to St. Niklaus or taking the train from St. Niklaus to Täsch. If you want to walk all the way from Gruben to Täsch, prepare for a 10-12-hour day and a lot of downhill and uninteresting valley walking.

Camping Attermenzen (Randa):

Services: Toilets (TP), sinks for washing up, hot and cold potable water, washer/dryer, shop selling food, drinks, and camping equipment, and outlets.

Nearby: Keep in mind that this campground is about a 15-20 minutes’ walk past the town of Randa. To get to the grocery store, restaurants, bank, post office, or train station, you’ll have to walk back to town.

Price: 7 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 3 CHF tourist tax per person + 1 CHF waste fee per person

Camping Alphubel (Täsch):

This van-packed campground is located conveniently next to the train station and grocery store. However, you’ll pay for that convenient location in the form of frequent noise from the road and railroad tracks. Ear plugs are a total game changer here, so make sure you pack them! The area for tents is small and cramped, but the facilities are decent and the proximity to the trail can’t be beat.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), potable water, covered sinks for washing up (hot and cold water), wifi (2 CHF), laundry room, outlets in the bathrooms, bread available for order, recycling and trash, picnic tables, and ping pong.

Nearby: Grocery store, ATM, train station, shops, tourist office, restaurants, post office.

Price: 9 CHF per person + 6 CHF per tent + 4 CHF per person tourist tax + 1 CHF garbage tax (cash only).

View of the Matterhorn and Zermatt.

First glimpse of Zermatt from the Europaweg.

 

Zermatt

Camping Availability: Camping Matterhorn

Upon completing a challenge like the Haute Route, many hikers consider rewarding themselves with a night or two in a hotel in Zermatt. However, once they start looking at the prices of hotels in Zermatt, many of those hikers decide that one more night of camping doesn’t sound so bad after all. Lucky for them, there is a decent campground located near the center of town. While it is quite noisy, a bit cramped, and the showers aren’t the warmest, this campground has a lot of redeeming qualities, too. The wifi is excellent, there are plenty of chairs and tables that can be moved around to suit your campsite, and the proximity to the grocery store and train station are quite convenient. This campground is a great budget option if you’re just staying one night in Zermatt before traveling onwards.

Services: Toilets (TP, no soap), covered area with sinks for washing up, potable water (hot and cold), “free stuff” exchange shelf, tables and chairs, warm showers, wifi (get password from the reception), and outlets in the bathrooms.

Price: 17 CHF per person (cash only).

Conclusion

We think that camping is the best way to do the Haute Route, not only for the money-saving aspects, but because it allows you to more fully immerse yourself in the natural surroundings you’re there to experience and to meet some really cool fellow campers along the way. Hopefully this guide helps to pave the way for your own Haute Route camping adventure. Happy trails!

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Camping on the Haute Route the complete 2020 guide

What’s Next?

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

 

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