How to Prepare for Trekking the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt

How to Prepare for Trekking the Walker’s Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt

By Kelsey KrahnDestinations

Trekking the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt requires preparation in advance—such as getting physically ready, understanding your route, and everything typically needed for travelling abroad. By "typical travel," we mean documents, vaccinations, and travel insurance, to name a few. The route preparation boils down to knowing your route and booking your accommodations in advance. While, the physical preparation, which you have probably guessed, prompts some fitness training. You are traversing the backcountry, after all!

This article details how to prepare for trekking the Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.

How to train for the Walker’s Haute Route

You don't want to moan, groan, and drag your feet up stark elevation gains, punishing you from enjoying the breathtaking alpine scenery. Having a lower fitness level will threaten your hiking schedule too, possibly forcing you to miss out on pre-booked accommodations, which wouldn't be ideal during the busy months. Therefore, the best way to ensure a chance to revel in the mountainous setting is to do some training beforehand.

If you live near mountains, aim to go on some day hikes lasting longer than 15.0 km a day, with over 1,000 m in elevation gain. Most days on the Walker's Haute Route will mirror these numbers! However, you will also encounter some technical sections, such as exposed areas, loose rock, ladders, and chains. Seek out some local hikes to introduce you to some of these challenging sections. After a few tries, pack your trekking backpack and hike with it to get a feel for it!

Fear not if you are relatively fit with hiking experience, you should be okay! One thing to consider would be how long you think you'll need to complete the trek. People who are more fit may be able to hit the finish line quicker, while new trekkers might want to allow for a couple more days or opt to take public transportation along some sections. Most people take 10-12 days to finish the route. We discuss the Walker’s Haute route with a sample itinerary more in-depth here!

Having a lower fitness level will threaten your hiking schedule

Having a lower fitness level will threaten your hiking schedule

Book your accommodations in advance

Once you know your route and how long you would ideally want to take, you must book your accommodations at least three to six months in advance. If you plan on staying in mountain huts, do yourself a favour and book as soon as you know. You might run into some luck if you're booking for June and September midweek, but beds fill up fast in July and August.

Guest houses also require booking well in advance! Meanwhile, hotels may give you a little more freedom to book later. If all else fails, you can book whatever is available, but be open to transportation options along the trail.

Another option is to go camping, which allows for more spontaneity. Our article on Walker's Haute Route accommodations dives a bit deeper into all of these different options.

Book your accommodations at least three to six months in advance

2011-07-25 by Guillaume Baviere, CC-BY 2.0

Know the best time to trek

The Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt has a short hiking season, as the snowy landscapes are best reserved for ski tours during the chillier months. So the best time to trek this unreal trail is from June to September.

Snow may blanket the land until early July, so if you're new to trekking or have never traversed snow at a high elevation before, this is definitely something to keep in mind.

You can expect wildflowers to add a colourful contrast to the already stunning scenery in July and August. More crowds will populate the trail during these months.

However, we recommend hiking in September, when crowds dissipate and a golden bliss kisses larch trees and fall colours paint the trees. You might not find as many open restaurants in the more popular areas en route, but the available places will happily welcome you!

Check out our detailed packing list of what you need to bring along on your trek

Check out our detailed packing list of what you need to bring along on your trek

Plan your packing list

If only we could pay someone to pack for us, right? Before pulling out your hair due to frustration, please take a moment, step back, and check out our detailed packing list for a solid idea of what you need to bring along on your Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix Zermatt trek. It's helpful to do your research and create a list beforehand. Some important things to consider when packing are:

  • Do I have supportive hiking gear, such as good boots and poles?
  • Do I have lightweight, moisture-wicking hiking clothes? What about a change of clothes for the evenings? What about rain gear? Extra socks?
  • What toiletries do I need? What toiletries will my accommodation provide?
  • Do I have an adapter to charge my phone (if from another continent)? What about a portable charger?
  • Is my passport up to date? Do I have everything I need in my wallet?
  • Do I have a hard copy of all of my essential travel documents? We recommend carrying them in a ziplock bag to keep them separate and somewhat safe from potential rain.
Have a hard copy of all of my essential travel documents

Have a hard copy of all of my essential travel documents

Get travel insurance

You might scoff at the idea of getting travel insurance, which is a silly thing to do! It's never fun to spend time in a hospital in a foreign country while the bills rack up. Sure, incidents abroad might seem rare, but when they do happen it can be detrimental – both financially and physically – if you don't have the proper protection. Please be honest with your travel insurance provider and let them know about the route you're doing, the elevation gains you'll conquer, the approximate kilometres you'll hike each day, and anything and everything you can think of. You want to make sure you're fully covered!

Research necessary documentation

Some nationalities might only need a passport for necessary documentation, but it all boils down to where you're from and where you're going. Be sure to research if you need to prepare anything beforehand, such as apply for a visa to enter the country you're flying into!

Get the right vaccines

The Walker's Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt travels through France and Switzerland, so you'll need to research the proper vaccinations for these destinations. In general, the World Health Organization recommends having your Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Measles, and Typhoid vaccinations for European travel. But check each country's rules and regulations before hopping on a plane as they can suddenly change. Worried about COVID-19? Check this link for updated information on travelling during the pandemic.

See if eating and drinking along the trail will fit into your budget

See if eating and drinking along the trail will fit into your budget

Consider food and drink

After preparing your budget, see if eating and drinking at the villages and stops along the trail will fit into your budget. Those with extra cash on their hands will likely want to eat at some mountain huts, hotels, and gites along the way. Be sure to book dinner in advance if so. Most will allow you to drop in for a tasty lunch! If not, you might want to consider packing cooking equipment to concoct meals. You'll also pass by several places with potable water along the way. It may be tempting to fill up when passing a clean-looking stream, but it's 100% recommended to filter your water first!

Walker's Haute Route Tour

Planning your own trekking tour can be a lot of work, often leading people to ditch the thought of completing any long-distance trek altogether. So before you spend your own time figuring out all the logistics, luggage transfers, and accommodation, check out the Haute Route to Zermatt Highlights Tour. Sit back, relax and enjoy what you love most, knowing that 10Adventures will take care of all the trip planning hassles for you!

Let us know if you have any questions!