Pristine alpine lakes, stunning mountain vistas, and breathtaking valleys await on the Haute Walkers Route.
Many people take a guide on the route who will carry your gear and lead the way. But what about hiking the Haute Route without a guide?
If you’re an experienced hiker, it’s doable but requires some planning.
In this guide, we’ll show you how to safely hike the Haute Hikers Route without a guide and give you everything you need to plan a successful trip.
Planning a trip to Big Pine Lakes? Check out our complete guide to make the most of this unique experience.
What is the Walkers Haute Route?
- Distance: 213km
- Elevation: 46,000 feet
- Highest point: 9,800 ft
- Number of mountain passes: 11
- Days needed: ~6 – 15
The Walker’s Haute Route is a famous multi-day hiking trail beginning in Chamonix, near the Mont Blanc Massif, and finishing in Zermatt, Switzerland, near the Matterhorn.
Known as the most magnificent hut-to-hut hiking trail in the Alps, it covers over 200 kilometers and has ten different routes to choose from. No matter which path you take, you’ll climb over 11 mountain passes and reach 46,000 feet of elevation gain.
From the alpine lakes to jaw-dropping mountain vistas, it’s easy to see why this is such a popular hiking route and is known around the world in hiking communities.
Why Hike the Haute Route Solo?
You can hire a guide to take you through the Haute Route, but you don’t actually need one. All of the trails are incredibly well-signed and easy to follow. There are red and white stripes to ensure your stay on track, and you’ll likely be sharing the route with other hikers in peak season anyway.
All you need is a good guidebook, a map, and some essentials in your pack – but we’ll cover all of that later.
There are also plenty of warning signs about falling rocks and narrow paths, so you know which sections to take special care in.
Who is The Haute Route For?
When most people hear “mountain hike”, they think it’s just for elite hikers. However, the Haute Route is suitable for a range of skill sets.
It’ll take between six and 15 days to complete the entire Haute Route without a guide; it just depends on your hiking speed and whether you tackle the entire route on foot.
For experienced hikers who go fastpacking or trail running, the route can be completed in as little as six days. This requires hiking 17 miles a day with an elevation change of up to 17,300 feet.
If you consider yourself a fast hiker, but you don’t run parts of the trail, you can get this route finished in around 9-11 days. That’s around 7 hours of hiking a day and an average pace.
For most, the trail will take around 13-15 days to complete, with six hours of hiking a day. This takes into account stops to take in the view and plenty of snack breaks!
Where to Stay
There are various accommodation options all along the Haute Walker’s Route. Camping is the cheapest option, and there are plenty of spots to set up camp.
If you want something a little warmer, there are also mountain huts you can rent. A mountain hut is basic, but it’s a great place to meet other hikers and give you a warm place to sleep after a long day of hiking.
For those looking for creature comforts, you can also book B&Bs along the route, which offer cozy rooms and a hearty breakfast.
And, for those looking for some luxury, there are a few hotels strategically located for a little extra comfort.
All types of accommodation book up fast during busy periods, so book your spot well in advance to avoid disappointment.
How Much Does it Cost?
Hiking the Haute Route without a guide can be extremely cheap as long as you’re happy camping along the way.
Huts, B&Bs, and hotels all add to the cost of the trip, and these can all be quite expensive since they’re in short supply. The huts are around 50 euros each and include breakfast.
The easiest way to save is to travel midweek. The transfers to the Swiss Alps are almost double to price on weekends, so you’ll save a bundle this way.
You also don’t need any permits to hike the Haute Trail, so your only costs will be transfers and accommodation.
What to Pack to Hike the Haute Route Without a Guide
When you take a guided tour, some guides carry your gear for you. Since you’re going it solo, you need to pack light to make it easier to carry everything on your back.
For clothing, go for lightweight, moisture-wicking layers and waterproofs:
- Sturdy hiking shoes
- Waterproof jacket
- Puffy jacket
- 2-3 hiking T-shirts
- 2-3 pairs of lightweight trousers
- 3-4 pairs of hiking pants, shorts, and socks
- Warm hat and gloves
As well as your clothes, you’ll need:
- A black-out tent – if you plan on camping
- A water bottle
- Sunglasses and sunscreen
- Hiking poles
- Travel towel
- Toiletries and a first-aid kit
- Snacks and no-cook dinners
- Sleeping bag and sleep pad
- Maps, compass, and safety equipment
Many people make the mistake of overpacking, but the more you carry, the harder your hike will be. Less is really more!
When is Best to Hike the Haute Route?
Hiking season starts in mid-June and ends in mid-September. In the winter, the route is almost completely covered in snow and too dangerous to trek.
Skiers and mountaineers take on the Classic Haute Route in the winter, which is at a higher altitude and crosses glaciers.
- If you plan to go in June, you’ll still need to be vigilant about ice patches that can cause accidents.
- July is a quiet time to go, but you should be prepared for intermittent storms, especially in the afternoons.
- August is the warmest month, and so attracts the most crowds. Although the route can be a little crowded, you’ll get to see the alpine flowers in bloom, which is spectacular.
- September is quiet once again, but the temperatures at night can drop below freezing.
- October is still possible, but many of the accommodation options will be closed, so you’ll have to rough it in your own tent.
What to Expect on the Haute Route
The official Haute Route starts in Chamonix in France and ends in Zermatt in Switzerland. You can also start in Champex-Lac in Switzerland, and many choose to if they’ve already completed the Tour du Mont Blanc (TMB).
If you’re short on time, you can also start in Arolla, which is about halfway and misses the infamous climb to Pas de Chevres.
The classic direction of the Haute Route without a guide is west to east, from Chamonix to Zermatt. This puts you in the shade for longer when climbing the mountain passes, so it’s a more pleasant hike.
With 11 different mountain passes, it’s a strenuous hike that takes a decent level of fitness. Although the trail is well-marked and well-maintained, the steep inclines can be challenging, even for experienced hikers.
There is so much to see on the Haute Route, but here are a few of our favorite highlights.
The main route from Chamonix leads you past the Arve River and through the greater Chamonix village. You’ll go through the Les Prax golf course and then into a forest along the valley floor.
The Chamonix Valley is beautiful. Filled with trees and stunning views of the hills, it’s a great way to start the hike.
This is a town sitting on a stunning alpine lake. Here, the route branches away from the Tour du Mont Blanc trail, and it’s a great place to rest and explore.
Once you reach the village of Le Chable, you’ll start a climb up to Vervier through a winding, steep pass that goes through some hamlets. Although it’s a challenging part of the trail, it’s also one of the most beautiful, and you’ll get some incredible views near the top.
You’ll want to stock up in Verbier; it’s the last place to grab supplies before heading up through the 4 Vallées ski resort.
The Grande Desert
This is a high-altitude section of the trail, so be prepared for light-headedness if you’re not used to it. You’ll cross the baron plain to Col de Prafleuri before coming back down to the Cabane de Prafleuri outpost.
You’ll need to check the weather at Grand Desert if you’re hiking before mid-July – it often becomes unpassable due to snow.
Cabane de Moiry
This is where you’ll get to sit and relax, meet other hikers, and watch the sunset on the glacier. There’s a cozy dining room where you can get a hot meal and re-fuel with breakfast, and the atmosphere is always great.
Hiking the Haute Route without a guide is a challenge. But if you’re an experienced hiker, you really don’t need an alpine guide on this route. Instead, you can go at your own pace, stop and admire the views whenever you like, and feel the accomplishment of doing the trail solo.
The key is preparation. Check the weather forecasts in advance, and pack strategically. Good luck!