Visit traditional Swiss villages, explore high-elevation alpine lakes, and cross high rocky passes as you trek through the Alps on this 10-day itinerary from Chamonix to Zermatt. Head east across the mountain range as you traverse mountainsides, hike along glacier foothills and look for wildlife (like ibex and marmots). Spend your nights in lakeside mountain huts and cozy towns, falling asleep to the sound of the wind and water. 

Highlights

  • Explore Chamonix, the 'French Capital of Alpinism'
  • Hike through thick pine forests
  • Stay the night in lakeside mountain huts
  • Trek along the base of the Matterhorn
  • Breathe in the fresh Alpine air

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Geneva & Transfer to Chamonix Chamonix
Day 2 Chamonix - Col de Balme Pass - Trient Trient
Day 3 Trient - Bovine/Fenêtre d’Arpette - Champex Champex
Day 4 Champex - Thyon 2000 - Prafleuri Hut Brunet hut
Day 5 Prafleuri Hut - Col des Roux & Col de Riedmatten Pass - Arolla Arolla
Day 6 Arolla - Col Torrent Pass & Lake Moiry - Zinal Zinal
Day 7 Zinal - Col de la Forcletta Pass - Grüben Grüben
Day 8 Grüben - Augstborg Pass - St. Niklaus - Zermatt Zermatt
Day 9 Roundtrip Day Hike from Zermatt to Zmutt Zermatt
Day 10 Depart Zermatt  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Geneva & Transfer to Chamonix

Aiguille du Dru in the Mont Blanc massif
Aiguille du Dru in the Mont Blanc massif

Welcome to France! You'll arrive in Chamonix to check in to your hotel and receive your travel details. The closest airport is Geneva, with shuttles regularly making the 1-hour trip from the airport to the Chamonix city center.

The town of Chamonix sits at the foot of some of France's highest mountains, giving it its nickname of the "French Capital of Alpinism". If you've got time to explore, take a ride on the Aiguille du Midi, France's highest gondola, to take in the peaks. You can also head to the Mer de Glace, riding a red cog train up to a glacier and its ice cave.

Wander the city center in the evening to shop and find a cozy restaurant for a traditional mountain dinner.

Day 2: Chamonix - Col de Balme Pass - Trient

Hikers enjoying the view at Col de Balme
Hikers enjoying the view at Col de Balme

Hop the bus from Chamonix to Tré-Le-Champ to start your hike up the flank of the Posettes Ridge, an ascent positioned between the gneiss spires of the Aiguilles Rouges and glacier-covered terrain of the Mont Blanc Range. Descend from the ridge to the Col des Posettes Pass, followed by a short ascent to the French-Swiss border at Col de Balme Pass. You'll pause at the pass to look west toward Chamonix, taking in views across the entire valley.

Once you've got your photo session in, head off the popular Tour du Mont Blanc path and onto the less-traveled Catogne Trail. Pass the summit of Croix de Fer through Tseppes, where the trail heads through the forest and down into the quaint Swiss village of Trient.

Hiking time: 2.5 hours
Elevation change: +3,609 feet (1,100 m), -3,937 ft (1,200 m)

Day 3: Trient - Bovine/Fenêtre d’Arpette - Champex

The famed Alpine bovine, namesake of the eponymous town
The famed Alpine bovine, namesake of the eponymous town

You have two options to get you to Champex today,  so choose based on your feelings and the weather.

Option one is the classic Tour du Mont-Blanc Trail via Col de la Forclaz Pass. You'll head through forests and meadows past Bovine, then switch to a scenic mountain road through small hamlets and Swiss chalets all the way into Champex.

Elevation change: +2,953 feet (900 m), -2,461 feet (750 m)
Hiking time: 5 hours

If you'd prefer the more strenuous route, take an alpine hike over Fenêtre d’Arpette, a high-mountain notch that offers a passage from one side of the granite-spire ridgeline to the other. Follow Bisse Creek out of Trient, then ascend the steep, narrow trail up to the Fenêtre d’Arpette notch. Take in the views from your high perch, then descend through scree followed by lush alpine meadows of the Arpette Valley. This trail should only be attempted during dry weather when the notch is free of snow.

Elevation change: +4,593 feet (1,400 m), -3,937 feet (1,200 m)
Hiking time: 6.5 hours

Day 4: Champex - Thyon 2000 - Prafleuri Hut

Mountain aster
Mountain aster

Start your morning on the bus from Champex to Orsières, then transfer to another bus to Thyon 2000 (a small ski resort) where your hiking begins. As you're already at high altitude, your hike today will stay on a balcony alongside the mountain range as you cross Val d'Hérémence's alpine meadows. You're heading for Lac de Dix to the south, but take a right at the last uphill ascent to reach Prafleuri Hut

Elevation change:  +2,297 ft (700 m), -656 ft (200 m) 
Hiking time: 5 hrs 30

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Day 5: Prafleuri Hut - Col des Roux & Col de Riedmatten Pass - Arolla

Arolla pine forest
Arolla pine forest

Get an early start to ascend to Col des Roux Pass this morning. You'll follow a balcony trail above Lac des Dix (a 745 ft (227 m) deep lake formed by the Grande Dixence Dam) to reach the foot of your next ascent, this time up to Col de Riedmatten Pass. The pass ends in a gully, with hand cables installed alongside the trail for safety.

Once you've gotten over the pass you'll hike down to Arolla in the Herens Valley, a picturesque village that gets its name from the Arolla pine. You'll spend the night here, surrounded by flower-decorated Swiss chalets and Herens cows.  

Elevation change:
+2,461 feet (750 m), -4,331 feet (1,320 m)
Hiking time: 7 hours

Day 6: Arolla - Col Torrent Pass & Lake Moiry - Zinal

Lake Autannes in the morning
Lake Autannes in the morning

Start off with a transfer to Les Haudères and Villa. Leaving Villa, you'll hike through flower-covered alpine meadows to the Col de Torrent Pass. Pass Lake Autannes and continue all the way to Lac de Moiry (another dammed lake). Once you reach the lake, you can choose whether you want to continue on foot via Corne de Sorebois or take a bus from the Moiry Dam to your evening accommodations in Zinal.

If you choose to take the bus it's worth stopping in the village of Grimentz, considered to be one of the Swiss Alps' nicest villages with dark wooden houses and hand-carved ornamentation.

Elevation change: +3,937 feet  (1,200 m), -2,198 feet (670 m)
Hiking time: 5.5 hours

Day 7: Zinal - Col de la Forcletta Pass - Grüben

Pennine Alps near Val 'd Anniviers
Pennine Alps near Val 'd Anniviers

Leave the Anniviers Valley today as you hike toward the Forcletta Ridgeline and Col de la Forcletta Pass. This scenic vantage point sits high above the pastures of Turtmanntal and the Grüben Valley, while still down the valley from the Turtmann and Brunegghorn Glaciers, giving you views of some of the area's 13,123-foot (4,000 m) peaks.

The Turtmann Valley is the most remote in the Valais/ Wallis region, and less frequented by hikers. At the south end of the Valais sits one of the most famous and easy to summit peaks—Bishorn.

Stay the night in Grüben in the valley, a tiny town with only one accommodation option for trekkers. 

Elevation change: +3,937 feet (1,200 m), -3,445 feet (1,050 m)
Hiking time: 7 hours

Day 8: Grüben - Augstborg Pass - St. Niklaus - Zermatt

Old wooden barns in Zermatt valley
Old wooden barns in Zermatt valley

Start the day with a hike up to the mountainside chalets above Grüben. Then hit Augstbord Pass, an easy, high perch that marks your trip's last section at altitude. Once you're downhill, you'll find yourself in Jungu, a remote village that can only be reached by foot of aerial tram. It's a traditional Swiss village, surrounded by expansive pastures and aging wooden barns, with views of the Dom de Mischabel range (the third-highest summit in the Alps). 

Take the aerial tram from Jungu to St. Niklaus, the first village in the valley toward Zermatt. Spend some time exploring, then take the half-hour train to Zermatt in time for dinner. Spend the night in Zermatt. 

Elevation change: +3,773 feet (1,150 m), -2,953 feet (900 m)
Hiking time: 5 hours

Day 9: Roundtrip Day Hike from Zermatt to Zmutt

Hillsides surrounding the Matterhorn
Hillsides surrounding the Matterhorn

Head out on a day hike today to the hamlet of Zmutt, home to charming chalets nestled at the foot of the Matterhorn. You'll start your hike from the city center, walking through the small hamlets of Herbrigg and Hubel. From here, follow a south-facing balcony trail across the valley towards the north face of the Matterhorn. From this point, it's a short descent into the small hamlet of Zmutt, one of the region's most postcard-worthy towns.

Eat lunch here, then return to Zermatt on a loop trail. Along the way, you'll stop at Zum See, another typical Swiss hamlet. In each of the towns you'll pass through today, you'll see raccards—little houses dedicated to grain storage, which sit on stone foundations to elevate them from the ground. 

Continue to Zermatt, arriving in time for dinner. 

Elevation change: +1,388 feet (420 m), -1,312 feet (400 m)
Hiking time: 3.5 hours

Day 10: Depart Zermatt

Electric delivery car in Zermatt, a combustion-engine car-free zone
Electric delivery car in Zermatt, a combustion-engine car-free zone

Enjoy one last alpine breakfast before you catch your transfer to the airport (or onward to your next adventure).

Map

Map of Chamonix to Zermatt Walker's Haute Route - 10 Days
Map of Chamonix to Zermatt Walker's Haute Route - 10 Days