The Chamonix to Zermatt hike is also known by the name The Walker’s Haute Route.(or in short WHR )
It is a hiking trip of 180 km from France to Switzerland that crosses the two most famous mountains in Europe – Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn.
The two-week hike from the highest mountain in the Alps to the most beautiful mountain in the Alps, passes through a diverse landscape of forests, lakes, glaciers, sloping valleys, an impressive ensemble of 4,000-meter peaks, and even a barren, desert-like area.
The hike, most of which is in Switzerland, is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Europe and although it passes through a number of populated areas, it is not easy and there are a number of remote areas and high mountain passes so it is not advisable as a first trek in the Alps.
Also, note that the first 5 sections overlap the Tour of Mont Blanc route.
Length: 180 km / 288 miles
Cumulative climb: 12,000 m / 39,370 ft
Maximum Altitude: 2,965 m / 9,727 ft
Duration: 12-14 days
Difficulty: moderate – difficult
Season: early July – mid-September
Map from Cicerone guide
The official season begins in early July, when all the huts are opened. However, because of the great variability in the amount of snow that falls from one winter to the next, parts of the trail may be difficult in the early season. This is particularly true for the highest and most challenging part, between Cabane Mont Fort to Arola which, after a hard winter, may be buried under meters of snow until after mid-July. The deep snow makes it hard to find the trail markings and can even make the mountain passes dangerous.
It is advisable to check if the Alps had a particularly hard winter before setting out.
An easy way to do this is with the help of the Visitors’ Center and Tourism Bureau in Verbier, located below Cabane du Mont Fort. You can contact them in order to check the status of the snow in the mountains. You can also check the network cameras located in the surrounding mountains to determine the amount of snow.
You can get a good indication from the camera at the top of Montfort.
Following is a link to the camera and website of Verbier which offers useful information and through which you can contact the local Tourism Bureau regarding weather and the opening date for the huts.
Costs: Switzerland is not cheap and the huts there are more expensive than in neighboring countries. The price for half-board which includes lodging in a dormitory, a fine dinner with appetizer and dessert, and basic breakfast is around 78 Swiss francs, which is about 15% higher than the cost of lodging in huts in France, Italy and Austria. In villages along the way there is a wide variety of lodging options with a range of prices.
Trail start point: Chamonix
Trail end point: Zermatt
Nearest big city to trip start point: Geneva
Nearest big city to trip end point: Geneva or Zurich
Getting there: the easiest way is to get to the city of Geneva which is 83 km away from Chamonix.
The simplest and fastest way to get from Geneva to Chamonix is to take a shuttle that will pick you up at the airport and drop you off in front of the hotel. It will cost between 25-28 euros per person and travel time is about an hour and a half. You have to reserve a spot in advance.
Link to the webpage for the shuttle companies offering this service:
At the end of the trip in Zermatt, you can take a 2.5 hour train ride back to Geneva or a 3 hour train to Zurich. This is actually the only transportation option since no private vehicles are permitted in Zermatt. Train travel costs in Switzerland are not cheap and the cost of a ticket to Zurich is nearly twice that of a ticket to Geneva.
Tips – we recommend allocating an extra day or two to spend in Zermatt and to do a day trip over the city near the Matterhorn itself. There is a wide variety of options for trips ranging from easy to challenging. All of them will provide you with more spectacular and close-up views of what is undoubtedly the most beautiful mountain in all of Europe and even, some argue, the world.
Proposed 9-day route
For someone who would like to shorten the hike because they already did the TMB or simply do not have much time, an excellent option is to begin the hike from Verbier. The section from Chamonix to Verbier is pretty but not one of the highlights of the trip – whoever chooses to skip this section will shorten their trip by 5 days and 55 km / 88 miles and will still fully experience the heart of the hike and its more beautiful parts.
Verbier is a famously gorgeous ski town in the Alps. You can get there by train and bus, straight from the Geneva train station. (You can purchase train and bus tickets at the sales counter for the train at the Geneva airport).
If someone arrives to the village early, they will be able to proceed the same day to Cabane du Mont Fort, which marks the start of the sixth section of the hike.
From Verbier there is a cable car that goes up to Les Ruinettes, at an altitude of 2,200 meters / 7,217 feet, and then there is an easy enough hour hike up to Cabane de Mont Fort at an altitude of 2,457 meters / 8,060 feet. In the summer, the cable car operates between 09:30 (am) – 16:30 (4:30 pm).
Note that there are a number of trails in the area of the upper cable car station and in the event of fog, you would be wise to pay close attention to where you are walking, as the Cabane can easily disappear within a cloud. This is all the more likely for anyone going up in the afternoon hours, when there are typically more clouds among the mountains.
Overall: gorgeous hike that is challenging in parts, along the highest mountains in the Alps. Lodging is in mountain huts and fine hotels, and the trek reaches its perfect ending in the beautiful Zermatt, at the foot of the magnificent Matterhorn – this trip is a European classic at its best.