The Haute Route is one of the world’s greatest multi day hiking adventures. Traversing a whopping 125 miles, the Haute route scales several high-mountain passes to journey from Chamonix to the historic mountain town of Zermatt.
If you are up for the adventure you will need to make sure you are fit, well equipped and choose the best time of year to hike the Haute Route. Since the Haute Route crosses several high mountain passes, the hiking season is very short and only runs from July to October.
Why can’t I hike the Haute route in Winter?
In winter most of the Haute Route is entirely covered by snow and the only way to travel is on skis or using mountaineering equipment. Mountaineers and skiers who undertake this journey follow a different route which is higher in altitude and crosses several glaciers. The higher altitude variant is in fact the ‘Classic Haute Route’ which was first completed in the 1860s on foot and later in 1911 on skis. The ‘Walkers Haute Route’ didn’t become popular until much later.
How about the Haute Route in Spring?
Early spring there is simply too much snow on the trails to walk the route safely due to avalanche risk. Later in spring there is still too much snow on the high passes to hike safely without technical mountaineering equipment such as crampons and an ice axe.
Read about avalanche risk when hiking
The problem with snow on the trails is often compounded by the weather conditions in spring. Warm days and cold nights cause the snow to melt and refreeze, leading to icy paths which can be fatal in exposed areas. It’s a sad reality that hikers die every year on the Haute Route and Tour du Mont Blanc due to slipping on steep, icy sections of trail.
What is the best time of year to hike the Haute Route?
Late spring snow patches often remain on the higher passes well into summer, but the route is generally safe enough to travel from July through to October.
Choosing which month to hike between July and October depends on whether you are more concerned about crowds, weather or the optimal time to see wild flowers:
- July – Some significant snow patches will remain on the trail, so you should be prepared to walk on snow. In early July there is always a chance that you will need to re-route on a couple of days. This is because a very snowy winter can make the higher passes unsafe. However, crowds are smaller and alpine meadows are bursting with blooming wild flowers which are at their prime early summer. Afternoon storms are a risk.
Join one of our Haute route trips in July
- August – The warmest month with less snow on the trails. August is busier than July, but the crowds are never significant enough to mar your wilderness experience. Wild flowers are still in bloom. Afternoon storms are a risk.
Join one of our Haute route trips in August
- September – Cooler than July and August but the weather is more stable with less afternoon storms. There are also fewer hikers on the trails and some days you will see no people at all. The down side of hiking in September is that the alpine flowers will have mostly all gone back into hibernation until next spring.
Join one of our Haute route trips in September
- October – Snow doesn’t usually arrive in the Alps until late October/November which means it is possible to hike the Haute Route in October. However, it’s worth noting that in the Alps most hotels, mountain refuges and restaurants close in October and November to take a break before the winter season commences.
Want to hike the Haute Route?
If you want to hike the Haute Route, you may be interested to check out our guided and self guided trips. We run tours between July and early October so you will be able to find the best time of year to suite you.
Check out our guided Haute Route
Check out our self-guided Haute Route
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