How to Hike the Haute Route

Getting Started on the Most Scenic Trek in Europe

The Haute Route. You’ve read about the trail. You’ve been dreaming about it for a decade. You’re wrestling with the details. You want to create an experience you’ll be talking about years from now.

The Haute Route is the most revered mountain trek in the Alps. First charted and hiked in 1861 by members of the British Alpine Club, it’s actually a network of trails that connects Mount Blanc with the Matterhorn. There isn’t a hiker alive who doesn’t hunger to walk this historic alpine path, and for good reason. It’s beautiful and challenging.

From our decades of alpine experience, we’ve collected some tips to multiply the magic of your experience along the Haute Route. This is the adventure of a lifetime.

Plan Ahead

The Haute Route is not well suited to a spontaneous adventure. Being prepared, you’ll make the most of the time you have on this historic and awe-inspiring trail. 

Pack Light

You can pack less than you might think—if you plan right. Switzerland is the best supported hiking destination in the world. You’re never far from a comfortable bed and a delicious meal. With Alpenwild trip leaders and Alpenwild luggage transfers, the items you need on the trail are minimal. Check out our packing list for the Haute Route to discover what we recommend. You’ll be grateful for every ounce you leave behind. 

Carefully Choose the Time to Go

Be careful to not head out on the Haute Route too early. Alpenwild Haute Route tours rarely start hiking the Haute Route before July 1. And even then, you may run into patches of unmelted snow. 

Stay in the Moment 

Unless you’re a professional photographer, you may find it more relaxing to take fewer photos and create more memories. Of course, if you spot a majestic ibex or notice some marmots dancing along the trail, you’ll want to stop and get the shot. And so will everyone else.

Notice the Little Things

The massive mountains sometimes capture so much attention you might miss a beautiful blue gentian or small fuzzy edelweiss. Allow every element of the experience to leave its imprint. Never pick the flowers. Leave them for the next group of hikers to enjoy.

Taste Everything

Switzerland is a mountain highway that every culture and community has to march through for supplies and ingredients. It links everyone on the entire continent. As a result, much of the food has elements from all its neighbors and beyond. Of course, you’ll also taste the classic dishes like Rosti, Fondue, and Raclette that belong to Switzerland alone. Try them all.

Learn Some Words

If you can greet your fellow travelers in the language of the region you will get broad smiles from the locals. The equivalent of “howdy” along the trail is a great ice breaker. The French greeting is “Bonjour.” (BOHN-zhoorh) Swiss-German is “Gruezi” (GROOT-zee). Work on your pronunciation and you will be showered with affection. Express appreciation for everything. “Merci” works everywhere.

Prepare to be in the Weather

You may find yourself outside for up to eight hours on some days. Weather can change dramatically in that time. Have some rain gear and a light jacket. You may want to pack light gloves.

Become a Turophile (Cheeselover)

All cheese is not created equal, and when a country as small as Switzerland produces over 400 different cheeses, you can understand why cheese is a big deal. You will rarely eat a meal where cheese of some kind doesn’t take a starring role. You will need to develop a palate for the different tastes and textures to appreciate the dairy delicacies you’ll be served with great pride. 

Consider Health and Comfort

What do you need to stay happy and healthy? Plan accordingly. Ibuprofen is hard to get in Switzerland. If you’re staying in one of the mountain huts, ear plugs can be helpful, and you should always have a pair of dry socks in your daypack.

Alpenwild has two different guided options for the Haute Route from our 9-day Chamonix - Zermatt Haute Route starting in Verbier, to a kinder, gentler Deluxe Haute Route that skips the huts and offers some easier ascents. We also offer self-guided options as well.

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