Classic Treks: The Haute Route

There is a misconception that all of the great treks of the world involve backpackers roughing it in remote backcountry in a distant third world country. While those treks do hold a certain appeal, there are plenty of other great hikes that don’t require that you give up all of your amenities, and rough it, just so you can enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Take the Haute Route for example. The 110-mile trek runs along a variety of routes from Chamonix, France to Zermatt, Switzerland and generally takes about 12 days to complete. The route runs through some of the most scenic sections of the Alps, beginning in the shadow of Mount Blanc and ending under the Matterhorn, quite possibly the two most famous mountains in all of Europe.

While the Haute Route, which is also known as “the High Route” or “the Mountaineers Route”, is non-technical, it can still be physically demanding. The easy to follow trail climbs through 11 high passes, but reachs heights of nearly 12,500 feet in the process, and even during the summer, the use of crampons and ice axes may be necessary.

While this may seem daunting, and at times it can be, trekkers can look forward to staying in excellent mountain huts at the end of each day. The comfortable huts are found along the trail at intervals equivalent to a day’s hike. When the travelers arrive, they can kick off their boots, gather round the fire and partake in some of the surprisingly good food and local wines before retiring to a warm, comfortable bed for the night.

The Haute Route is often described as “the most beautiful walk in Europe” and that reputation is well founded. It passes through lush meadows and around brilliant glaciers stretching down some of the most impressive peaks in Europe. The trail even finds its way in and out of sleppy little mountain villages, giving trekkers the opportunity to experience Europe from a different perspective, far from the hustle and bustle of the larger cities.

During the summer months, the Haute Route is a popular destination for backpackers, but that doesn’t mean it closes down in the winter. The route is open for cross country skiers, who cover its length in roughly five days, enjoying the same scenery, and staying in the same mountain huts along the way.

No matter if you go in the summer or winter, you can expect a great outdoor adventure, with stunning scenery, and wonderful accomidations at the end of the day. You’ll challenge yourself physically but be rewarded with fine meals and comfortable beds for your efforts, and you’ll get to see parts of Europe that most only dream of.