This year, we’re pleased to offer a fall trail running tour in the Alps that covers two of our favorite regions, the Berner Oberland and the Valais Alps. Fall is a favorite time of year: the villages are quieter and the weather is more reliable. The air is crisp and nights are cool. It’s a great time for trail running! Together with Doug Mayer from Run the Alps, we’ve put together this unforgettable itinerary to Grindelwald, Zermatt, and Champéry. This is a non-fussy tour, with 6 nights in cozy inns (you’ll have private room every night with bathroom/shower down the hall) capped by 4 nights in the lovely 3-star Beau-Sejour hotel.
Our trip will start in the world-renowned mountain town of Grindelwald, at the foot of the Eiger. This 10,000 ft wall is just one of the highlights of an area filled with fairy-tale alpine scenery. Our timing will allow us to catch the thousands of finishers in the internationally-known Jungfrau Marathon, which annually attracts some of the world’s best mountain runners. If you want to participate in this race, we can assist you in exploring options. The course is mostly paved or dirt road, with about a quarter of the distance being on well-traveled trails. Our home here is a beautiful, friendly inn above town with small private rooms and million-dollar views from their patio.
After 3 days in Grindelwald, we’ll hop aboard one of the famously efficient Swiss trains and head through the deep Lötschberg tunnel under the Alps, emerging in the sunny canton of Valais. We’ll settle in for 3 days in the car-free village of Zermatt, at the base of the Matterhorn, one of the most powerful and magnetic mountains in the Alps. Always a thriving, bustling stop, mid-September is a great time of year to enjoy this world-famous alp resort. Summer’s crowds have passed, and you can delight in the laid-back atmosphere and miles and miles of quiet trails. We’ll spend 2 days exploring the region from a hiker’s hotel in the center of town, with dinner left free one night for you to explore. On our 3rd day, we’ll run up to the classic mountain inn at Fluhalp for an unforgettable night high in the mountains.
Leaving Zermatt, we’ll travel through the Rhône valley, in the heart of wine-growing region of the Valais, and switch to the local cog railway, known locally as “Les Petits Train”, for the ride up the quiet Val D’Illiez to Champéry. Champéry is Doug’s adopted home-town in Switzerland. It’s a bit off the beaten path, and a favorite vacation destination for Swiss residents. Located on the border with France, this small village is ringed by the wild Dents du Midi and the Dents Blanches ranges. We’ve coordinated our time in Champéry with what we think is one of the most enjoyable trail ultras in all of Switzerland, the Trail Dents du Midi (or Trail DM). Check out Doug’s excellent blog post on the Trail DM and start planning! Our evenings here will be spent with our friends Philippe and Sophie, at the Hotel Beau-Sejour, one of the most highly regarded small hotels in all of Switzerland. The Beau-Sejour will be the epicenter for our activities, and we anticipate being joined by several elite trail runners participating in the Trail Dents du Midi.
Temperatures should be ideal for running on this September tour, when the weather often settles into a predictable pattern of sunny days and cool evenings. The Jungfrau Marathon is known around the world, and Trail DM event is a classic local Swiss trail race, featuring a warm, inviting spirit on the part of all the volunteers. Look forward to raising a glass of wine after the run with the local vintner. We hope you can join us for this unique tour!
Our typical day starts with a continental buffet breakfast at our inn – delicious fresh baked bread, local cheeses, cereal, fruit, coffee and juice – which gives us the energy needed for a full day of inn-to-inn hiking. Soon we’ll be out on the trail, perhaps 6 miles for those who want a more casual day, or an all-day outing of 20 miles for the more ambitious runners. Except for travel days, you’ll get to choose between an easier or more ambitious run. Each morning, we’ll bring out a variety of trail snacks for you to choose from, and many of our runs will include stops at mountain huts or alp farms where we can tank up with a hot soup or fruit torte.
Most of these stages can be hiked in a full day or run in half a day, and we should finish each day with plenty of time to wash up and relax. You will have your own bedroom and private bathroom every night. In the evening we’ll enjoy dinner together at our inn. These are multi-course feasts, often featuring local French and Swiss specialties, and will definitely be hearty, filling, well-earned and very delicious. Note: When you sign up, we can assist you in registering for the Trail Dents du Midi run. You can also register right up to day before the event, as well.
Grindelwald – Arrive in Europe and transfer by train to our meeting point in Grindelwald. Tucked at the base of the incredible Eiger North Face, Grindelwald impresses from the moment you arrive. We’ll meet for dinner the first day and talk about the trip to come.
Each day will feature a longer-run and a shorter-run option. Along the way, we’ll enjoy lunches at Swiss mountain huts and cafes, often while catching dramatic views of the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau.
Grindelwald – Once we settle in, one favorite run starts with a high-elevation section of the Eiger Ultra course, from First, a high ridge above Grindelwald, through pastures and wending our way along alpine ridges, to the century-old mountaintop hotel at Schynige Platte.
From there, we can take the cog railway down to the valley, and back to town.
Grindelwald – Our next full day run will be along the base of the Eiger’s North Face, and up to Kleine Scheidegg, with its dramatic views of the Eigerwand, where we can catch the finish of the Jungfrau Marathon at Kleine Scheidegg.
There’s no shortage of options in this area, and our excursions may take us to the mountain villages of Murren, Griesalp, and Gimmelwald, or perhaps the quiet end of Lauterbrunnen valley and the little hamlet of Stechelberg.
Zermatt – After a morning transfer to Zermatt, we’ll see first-hand why this village at the end of a long valley is so famous (hint… it deserves to be). We’ll stretch our running legs with a favorite run leading into the Zmutt valley, past sun-blackened hamlets hundreds of years old, with the Matterhorn spurring us on.
Strong runners can go all the way up to the remote Schonbiel hut, where we reward ourselves with a drink on their sunny terrace before taking alternate trails over the Hohbalmen ridge and back to town.
Zermatt – Another day takes us through soft pine-larch forests that surround Zermatt, where we’ll take quiet trails up to the ridge of Gornergrat, finishing point for the Zermatt ultra marathon and also one of the most stunning viewpoints in the Alps.
There are many options for these first 2 days in Zermatt.
Zermatt – On our 3rd day we might head down valley to the quiet village of Gasenried, and run back to Zermatt via the high Europaweg trail, final stage of the famous Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.
The view is first dominated by the glaciers spilling off of Dom (the highest mountain within Switzerland), then by the mighty Weisshorn across the valley, and before finally bringing us back on a rolling traverse past numerous small alpine lakes, the Matterhorn reflected in the distance, to the mountain inn and restaurant at Fluhalp. This rustic inn serves gourmet meals in a peaceful location high above the valley.
Champéry – Another morning transfer takes us the quiet Illiez valley to Champéry, arriving just in time for the festivities leading up to the Trail DM ultra.
Our days prior to the race will be spent enjoying this lovely area, and getting to know the valley and mountain ranges nearby.
Champéry – We have many options for runs, from easier routes meandering by local farms, to more ambitious outings stopping at Swiss Alpine Club huts and passing over high mountain passes.
Champéry – Each day will include the choice of an easier run or a more challenging route. During the weekend of the trail race, Champéry is planning other events as well, in which we can take part.
Contact Doug at doug (at) runthealps.com, if you would like more on the specifics as they develop.
Champéry – Our time here will end with the Trail DM ultra, and it’s your choice if you would prefer to watch runners from a great vantage point in the mountains, run half the course as part of a relay team, or go the full distance!
Before heading home, there’ll be time to soak in the hot waters of the nearby Val D’Illiez Thermes Parc.
Depart – Today we say adieu, and hop on the train to either Geneva or Zurich for departure.