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Haute Route - France, Switzerland

Haute Route, in French, literally means "high route." While there are many high walks now dubbed an Haute Route, the original is the Alpine path connecting Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland. Passing ten of the twelve loftiest peaks in the Alps, it is no surprise that it is skied extensively during the winter and well-hiked during the summer. Most hikers choose to travel from Chamonix to Zermatt for a dramatic finish at the base of the majestic Matterhorn, but you can go in either direction. Shorter options are plentiful, ranging from very accessible day hikes to multi-day excursions.

As you hike by meadows filled with abundant wildflowers, shimmering tarns and glaciers, you climb up ten alpine passes known as cols. You will be humbled by the scale of the valleys spilling in front of you. Similar to other treks in the Alps, it is crowded without many usable campsites and reservations for the gites & auberges (huts) are recommended. Planning your trek requires great flexibility due to the ever-changing mountain weather and you are sure to encounter inclement weather. There is a choice to take a higher route requiring some technical skill and crampons. We traveled the lower level option that does not require crossing glaciers that can collapse rendering the trail impassable. While the lower route does have the risk of rock slides, avalanche areas are well marked. Traveling through two French speaking countries, it is helpful if you can speak a little French and any effort is appreciated. At huts enough English is spoken to get by, but in some of the very small, rural mountain communities only French is understood. Whatever your language skills, you are sure to take in unrivaled views as you travel through the birthplace of European mountaineering in the 1900’s.


Days Trekking: 12-14 days
Distance: 184 km / 114 miles
Max Elevation: 2,965m / 9,728’
Starting Elevation: 1,000m / 3,281’
Approximate Elevation Change: 1,965m , 6,447’
Price Range Independent: Like the Tour de Mont Blanc it is highly variable depending on where you stay and what you eat. You can easily do it for less than $100 per day.
Price Range Outfitter: $2,250 - $3,500
Challenge Level: Moderate



  • True high Alpine experience
  • Multitudes of wildflowers


When to Go

Like the Tour de Mont Blanc, the season is short. Therefore, do not leave before mid July and plan to be off trail by mid September. If you leave too early, you run the risk of not making it over the high passes. Note that the days get shorter the longer you wait. It’s a balance between less snow and amount of daylight.


Guided vs Independent Treks

The difference in price between independent and guided walking along the Haute Route can be considerable. However, the trail is easy to lose and with many high passes it's easy to get in trouble if you are not experienced. Therefore, if you having hiked at altitude consider a guided trip carefully before embarking on and independent walk.


Haute Route Trek Map
Click to Enlarge


Access / Local Information

Fly into Geneva and then take a bus to Chamonix where you start the trek. However, given the point-to-point nature of the Haute Route, if you want to have something other than what’s left in your pack when you complete the trek, you’ll need to arrange the shipping of your belongings to Zermatt. Another option is to do what we did and hop on a roundtrip train leaving our luggage at a hostel in Zermatt. A final choice is to fly into Zermatt and then take the train to Chamonix.



A point-to-point trek from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland, the Haute Route traverses along the northwest section of the Pennine Alps.



Weather changes quickly in the high Alps and it is easy to underestimate the effort required to complete this trek. While not climbing above 3,000m / 10,000’ in altitude, going through three high passes in one day can be a challenge.


Day to Day Account - Jeff Salvage - Haute Route - France, Switzerland

After a few days break from concluding the Tour de Mont Blanc (TMB) in July, I embarked alone for the start of the Haute Route. With all my travels this was the first time I backpacked without a companion. Given the toll of the TMB and Jennifer’s concussion, we agreed it was best for her to take an extra two days off, since the first day was practically a repeat of the TMB in the opposite direction along a slightly different trail. In addition, the second day’s walk was one of the hardest of the trail and had the potential for a lot of snow. Jennifer planned to take a bus and meet me in Champex, a stop along the TMB, where we would journey together to Zermatt. The story continues...