Ask the average person which pursuit they would most commonly associate with the Alps and the answer is unlikely to surprise you. Spanning 1,200km across eight European nations, the Alps plays host to over a third of the world’s ski resorts, with skiing, and to a lesser extent, snowboarding, attracting the vast majority of the 120 million tourists who visit the region each year.
While resorts at the very highest altitudes can remain open year-round, for most, the height of the ski season lasts just five short months – from December to April. Far from shutting down for the summer, tourism in the Alps thrives year round, with the infrastructure that supports the region’s winter sports – from ski lifts to luxury ski chalets – making it the worlds premiere hiking destination. Picking up where the ski season leaves off, the alpine walking season lasts from May to October. We’ve highlighted our three favourite trails in the region below for you to best enjoy your summer holiday in the Alps.
1. The Summer Haute Route
Beginning in Chamonix and ending in Zermatt, the Summer Haute Route links two of the Alps’ best known hiking and mountaineering centres, and will take you on a journey from lush meadow to towering glacier via ten of the twelve highest peaks in the Alps.
Pass through the stunning village of Verbier, one of the finest Alpine destinations, which offers snow-covered regions for most of the year. Featured as one of National Geographic’s top ten worldwide treks, this hiking trail is not one for the feint of heart; fitness, not technical ability is paramount, as the trek takes you as high as 2,964 metres over ten to twelve days.
2. The Tour du Mont Blanc
Beginning and ending in Chamonix, the Tour du Mont Blanc is a seven-day journey across France, Italy and Switzerland that provides stunning views of Western Europe’s highest peak, Mont Blanc – the 4,087 metre ‘Monarch of the Alps’.
Mont Blanc is not the only iconic feature you’ll see on your journey, however: your week-long trek will also take you across the Col de la Croix du Bonhomme; you’ll sleep under the shadow of the famous pass after your first day of trekking.
3. Höhenweg Höhbalmen
If your time in the Alps is limited, the Höhenweg Höhbalmen trail is a one day hike that will take you from Bahnhofstrasse in Zermatt – one of the most exclusive shopping destinations in the world – to Höhbalmen, a high alpine meadow above the tree line, offering views of Switzerland’s highest peaks within a matter of hours.
As you continue on your journey you will come face-to-face with the Matterhorn, one of Europe’s most famous peaks, before beginning your descent to Zermatt through the Zmutt Valley. The hike will offer a rare glimpse of edelweiss growing in the wild.