Trekking in the Northern Alps is a way to discover grandiose landscapes, majestic peaks and villages with a strong mountain atmosphere.
From the Écrins massif to the Chablais, via the Vanoise, the Beaufortain or the famous Mont Blanc massif, your playground is vast and diverse!
Here, discover 5 treks in the Northern Alps for all desires and for all levels 🙂
Whether you’re in the mood for strolling roaming or alpine thrills, there’s a trekking route in the Alps for you. And because it would be impossible to rank these beautiful routes, we have of course not weeded them out in order of preference 😉
Navigation rapide :
- The Tour des Aiguilles Rouges
- The Tour of Beaufortain
- The Tour of Matterhorn
- The Tour des Écrins
- Chamonix – Zermatt, the Haute Route
1 – The Tour des Aiguilles Rouges, the trek in the Northern Alps that will blow your mind
The Tour des Aiguilles Rouges is a trek in the Northern Alps that takes place … in the Aiguilles Rouges massif (so far, no surprise).
This small massif close to the Mont-Blanc and its famous treks one allows to admire superb views on its illustrious neighbour and its lord culminating at 4810 meters but it is much less frequented!
Classically, the Tour des Aiguilles Rouges is done in three or four stages. Starting from the Montets pass, you will navigate through the different mountain levels, from the pastoral valley to the alpine atmosphere of the crests, passing through forests and stretches of water.
On the itinerary of this short trek in the Northern Alps is the Lac Blanc: certainly one of the best places to photograph the Mont Blanc massif. And along the way, the number of panoramic views you can enjoy is incredible!
Nature lovers will not be outdone as the Aiguilles Rouges massif is home to a rich endemic flora and several animals emblematic of the Northern Alps: marmots, ibex, chamois, birds of prey, etc.
Finally, if you want to add a challenge to this short trek, you can take the opportunity to climb Mont Buet, which reaches 3096 metres and offers a magnificent panorama.
This large-scale hike does however include some technical passages (névés, boulders, steep slopes).
2 – The Beaufortain Tour
The Beaufortain is a mountain range whose inhabitants have remarkably preserved their identity and know-how. For a week’s trek in the Northern Alps combining pastoral atmosphere and mountain landscapes, it is a perfect choice!
Generally, ittakes between 6 and 8 days to complete the Tour du Beaufortain and it is a generally accessible trek.
While walking on its paths, hikers evolve in real postcards. Between the omnipresence of the Mont-Blanc in the distant landscape, striking views of the famous Pierra Menta (2714 meters), numerous villages and vast alpine pastures, you will never tire of it.
The Beaufortain, located between Savoie and Haute-Savoie, offers the opportunity to hikers who cross it during a trek to pass from flowery meadows to panoramas of alpine and chiselled ridges.
As you walk, you can also admire the well-preserved mountain architecture of the Beaufortain. Chalets, large barns, mountain chapels and bell towers convey a special atmosphere of timelessness in the villages.
In this massif of the Northern Alps, human activity is still intense and not only in the villages since pastoralism and mountain agriculture are still very present! So you will have no excuse not to taste a slice of Beaufort, the “Prince of Gruyères” 😉
3 – The Matterhorn Tour, a trek in the Northern Alps to discover Switzerland
If you want to trek in the Northern Alps to discover the landscapes of our Swiss and Italian neighbours, the Matterhorn Tour is for you!
Taking place around … the Matterhorn (still no surprise), this is a trek in the Northern Alps whose itinerary passes through Switzerland and Italy.
The Tour of the Matterhorn is quite a physical trek as it is 220 kilometers long and lasts between 6 and 8 days. The daily elevation gain is often more than 1000 meters.
It is also a trek that it will be preferable to approach with a first experience of hiking over several days and a certain knowledge of the mountain since crossings of glaciers are on the program.
You can therefore consider the option of doing the Matterhorn Tour with a guide.
Mountain lovers are in for a treat! You will be able to contemplate daily breathtaking views of the Swiss “4000” and the monumental Matterhorn, or “Matterhorn” as it is locally called.
Touring the Matterhorn is not just about getting close to the high mountains by crossing the Alpine passes.
It is also to dive into the strong cultures of the Swiss Valais and the Italian Val d’Aoste. Typical mountain villages and picture-postcard mountain pastures line the route.
4 – The Tour des Écrins
The Tour des Écrins, or GR 54, is a trek at the southern end of the Northern Alps (or the northern end of the Southern Alps, depending on who you ask) that allows you to fully immerse yourself in this beautiful alpine massif.
Every day, you will walk with the backdrop of beautiful views of the high peaks of the massif reaching 4000 meters in altitude. The glaciers are sometimes far away, sometimes within reach like at the Arsine lake (2462 meters) where you feel like you can touch the glacier of the same name.
The Tour des Écrins is also a multi-day hike full of paradox. Despite the high altitudes (you will be above 2000 meters most of the time), pastoralism and mountain agriculture are very present.
You will cross very varied sceneries, from the mineral mountain (at the Vallonpierre pass, for example) to the glacial mountain (Glacier Noir, Glacier Blanc, Glacier de la Meije, Glacier d’Arsien) passing by the pastoral mountain (at the Emparis plateau) and the inhabited mountain (in the different villages and resorts of the route).
The full version of the Tour des Écrins is a physical trek since it will take between 11 and 13 days (or even more if you choose to take one or more variants) to climb nearly 13,000 metres of vertical drop!
It is also possible to do the Tour des Écrins in fewer stages thanks to shuttle transfers and/or taxi transfers.
Nature lovers, this trek in the Northern Alps is for you. Indeed, the biological diversity of this massif is striking and there are more than 2500 plant species in the Ecrins National Park!
If you do it at the beginning of the season, you will certainly have to take variations to avoid the snowy places (or take crampons in your hiking bag) but you will evolve in a nature in sharp activity.
5 – The Haute Route Chamonix – Zermatt, from Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn
The Haute Route Chamonix – Zermatt is more than a trek in the Alps. It is a raid between two emblematic places of mountaineering, the Mont-Blanc and the Matterhorn, which takes place in the mountains of the Valais and which is the dream of many mountain lovers.
This itinerary is clearly different from the others in that it is more about easy mountaineering than it is about trekking.
On the Haute Route Chamonix – Zermatt, you will be on glaciers almost every day, there are several technical passages and it is necessary to have the appropriate mountain equipment. So we are talking about a very sportive itinerary!
If you are not an experienced mountaineer, we strongly advise you to undertake this technical mountain route with a guide.
This being said, the Haute Route is an exciting and unforgettable journey in the high mountains. Along the way, many high peaks accompany you, including :
- The Matterhorn (4478 m)
- The Mont Blanc (4810 m)
- The Pigne d’Arolla (3787 m)
- The Grand Combin (4314 m)
- The Dent Blanche (4357 m)
- The Dent d’Hérens (4171 m)
You will cross several glaciers in a unique atmosphere, including those of Trient, Cheilon and Arolla. On arrival in Zermatt, the crossing of the glacier plateau of Mont Miné and Ferpècle will certainly engrave grandiose memories in your mind.
Just imagine: you’re on the glacier and you’ve reached your goal. The 360° view lets you admire a panorama of chiselled and vertiginous ridges and, in front of you, the Matterhorn is holding out its arms.
The atmosphere on the Haute Route between Chamonix and Zermatt is resolutely wild. The only dwellings you will come across are the mountain huts. But what refuges!
For several days, you will sleep in high mountain huts, such as the Cabane des Dix, the Vignettes hut or the Schönbiel hut where the mountain atmosphere is unique.
The Bertol refuge, perched on its rock at 3311 metres, is a perfect example.
Finally, at the end of the seventh day, you arrive in Zermatt, a small village at the foot of the Matterhorn.
If you want to discover the Valais Alps, its magnificent views and unique atmosphere, there are several more accessible variants than the Haute Route.
Here ends the first part of our Top 10 treks in the Northern Alps!