10 treks in the Alps to inspire your summer holiday planning

If you are toying with the idea of giving long distance hiking in the Alps a go it will ultimately be difficult to decide where exactly to go and what trek to do. To help you ease into this I have collated 10 treks of different difficulty in this post. I hope it will be a useful starting point. The list includes some of Alps classic treks as well as some less frequented but by no means less interesting routes.

1. The Walker’s Haute Route

Cabane des Dix surrounded by the Glacier de Cheillon

Cabane des Dix surrounded by the Glacier de Cheillon

This is the classic trek to do in the Alps. It is based on a mountaineering expedition from the early days of Alpine exploration running from the foot of the Mont Blanc in French Chamonix across most of the Swiss Valais to Zermatt in the Mattertal. Though don’t worry the walkers Haute Route avoids glaciated cols and can therefore be tackled without extensive mountaineering experience.

Basic facts:

  • Where: France/ Switzerland
  • Distance: 200 km
  • Elevation gain: 15,200 m
  • Duration: 12-14 days
  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult

Find out more:

2. The tour of Mont Blanc

The Mont Blanc massif as seen from the Tour du Mont Blanc

The Mont Blanc from the TMB trail

Many a hiker will be upset at this point, for whatever order you arrange the Haute Route and the Tour du Mont Blanc in you are bound to upset half of the hiking world. The TMB circling around Alps’ highest mountain the Mont Blanc (4, 809 m) is another Alpine classic. It offers spectacular views of Europe’s highest peak and its surrounding valleys, but also enjoys an annual influx of about 10,000 hikers.

Basic facts:

  • Where: France/ Italy/ Switzerland
  • Distance: 170 km
  • Elevation gain: 10,000 m
  • Duration: 10 – 11 days
  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult

Find out more:

3. Alta Via 1

On Alpe di Lagazuoi

Alpe di Lagazuoi: one of many photo opportunities on the Alta Via 1

While the Haute Route and the Tour du Mont Blanc are the classic treks of the Western Alps, the Alta Via 1 is the trek of the Dolomites. It is even sometimes referred to as Alta Via Classico. In comparison to the previous trips it is somewhat easier going, but definitely no less spectacular.

The route traverses the Italian Dolomites from North to South and offers impressive views of some of its most famous rock formations including the Cinque Torri, Tofana di Rozes or Pelmo.

Basic facts:

  • Where: Italy
  • Distance: 150 km
  • Elevation gain: 6, 700 m
  • Duration: 9 – 12 days
  • Difficulty: moderate

Find out more:

4. Tour des Combins

Along the TDC

August snow on the Tour des Combins

While the three treks above belong to the book of Alpine classics, the Tour des Combins is slightly less well known. However, it still provides spectacular views of a substantial Alpine massive – the Grand Combin as well as an opportunity to enjoy some less trodden routes on a shorter trek. I walked it in summer 2011 and can more than recommend it.

Basic facts:

  • Where: Swizerland / Italy
  • Distance: 80 km
  • Elevation gain: 4,500 m
  • Duration: 6-7 days
  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult

Find out more:

5. Alta Via 2

Mountain flanks covered by patches of snow

July snow on the Alta Via 2 close to the Mulaz hut

You guessed it, this trek is also in the Dolomites. It is a less frequented and more difficult sister of the alta via 1. It offers great views of the Marmolada and includes technical stages on Dolomites’ famous via ferrata.

Basic facts:

  • Where: Italy
  • Distance: 160 km
  • Elevation gain: 12, 800 m
  • Duration: 12 days
  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult

Find out more:

6. The Venediger Höhenweg

2048px-foto_grosvenediger

The Großvenediger (3, 657 m) in the Hohe Tauern. Image by J11 at the German language Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons

After a whole host of treks in Switzerland, France and Italy it is time to mix in a slightly off the beaten track trip in Austria. The Venediger Höhenweg is an S shaped route around the Grossvenediger in the Hohe Tauern. The trek stays overwhelmingly above 2,000 m and provides views of its namesake as well as Austria’s highest mountain the Groß Glockner.

Basic facts:

  • Where: Austria
  • Distance: 50 km
  • Elevation gain: 3, 600 m
  • Duration: 6 – 7 days
  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult

Find out more:

7. Tour du Saint-Bernard

Trail towards St. Bernard Pass

Descending from the Col du Grand Saint-Bernard into Aosta

This trek centers around the historical St. Bernard Pass the birthplace of the St. Bernard mountain rescue dog. It covers Valais’s two most westerly valleys Val Ferret and Val d’Entrement. Similar to the Tour de Combins it is shorter and somewhat easier than the first two treks.

Basic facts:

  • Where: Switzerland / Italy
  • Distance: 86 km
  • Elevation gain: 5,600 m
  • Duration: 6-7 days
  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult

Find out more:

8. Tour of Monte Rosa

Monte Rosa seen from the Gornergrat

Monte Rosa seen from the Gornergrat. By Ximonic (Simo Räsänen) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39453031

This trek circles around Switzerland’s highest mountain Monte Rosa or Dufourspitze (4, 634 m). It starts and ends in Zermatt (or any other of the villages it passes through, if you like) and takes in the Mattertal and the Saastal.In contrast to the Haute Route this trek requires some mountaineering skills, as it crosses the crevassed Theodul glacier where crampons, an ice axe and a rope are required.

Basic facts:

  • Where: Switzerland
  • Distance: 163 km
  • Elevation gain: 13,000 m
  • Duration: 9 – 12 days
  • Difficulty: difficult

Find out more:

9. Tour of the Matterhorn

The Tour of the Matterhorn promises spectacular views of Switzerland’s most iconic mountain from every angle. As the Tour of Monte Rosa it starts and ends in Zermatt, but takes in the Turtmantal, Val d’Annivier and Val d’Herens. It includes two glacier crossings; the Theodul glacier and the Arolla glacier and therefore also requires appropriate mountaineering experience.

Basic facts:

  • Where: Switzerland
  • Distance: 150 km
  • Elevation gain: 12,000 m
  • Duration: 9 – 10 days
  • Difficulty: difficult

Find out more:

10. Tour of the Vanoise

1200px-la_grande_casse_massif_vanoise

The Grand Casse (3, 855 m), the highest summit in the Vanoise national park towering over the Pralognan valley. Image by Cevenol2 in fr.wikipedia Commons., CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2557201

The Vanoise national park is France’s oldest national park and together with the neigbouring Gran Paradiso in Italy constitutes the largest national reserve in Western Europe. The circular trek through the park escapes the nearly industrial ski resorts of Tignes and Val d’Isère for pristine nature in the heart of the park.

Basic facts:

  • Where: France
  • Distance: 150 km
  • Elevation gain: 7, 100 m
  • Duration: 10 – 12 days
  • Difficulty: moderate to difficult

Find out more:

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2 comments

  1. A nice to-do list. 🙂 Reminds me to try to make time for a few hiking trips to the French Alps while my knees still allow such behavior.

    1. Hehe. Indeed. Thanks for stopping by!

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