The Monte Rosa may not be the most well known mountain in the Alps but it is actually Switzerland’s highest peak. Situated on the border between Switzerland and Italy and sharing the village of Zermatt with the towering Matterhorn, this rugged peak has an extensive web of trails, panoramic views, and flower filled alpine meadows surrounding it. We visit this region many times throughout the summer, but this itinerary following the high passes around the Monte Rosa rivals many of the world’s great hikes with a quieter but no less picturesque experience. Get off the beaten path to experience one of the hidden gems of the Alps!
On this tour, we’ll escape the crowds on a high level route of the Swiss and Italian valleys surrounding the Monte Rosa beginning in Saas Fee and ending in Zermatt. Starting with a night in our favorite 4-star Saas Fee hotel, our adventure takes off as we head to the end of the Saas Valley, staying in remote inns and hotels in the picturesque valleys on the Italian side of the mountains. Each day will bring stunning mountain views and many surprises.
This is a rugged tour, with high passes to cross and two nights in fairly simple mountain huts. Our luggage will be moved from Saas Fee to Zermatt, so we’ll carry what we need for the 5 nights in Italy. Hand-washing hiking clothes in the evening will be a key to keeping your pack size down. Then, at the end of the trip, a mountain guide will lead us – roped up – over the easy but adventurous Theodul Glacier on our way to Zermatt. This is truly a unique tour of one of the Alp’s most beautiful and quietest mountain regions.
Our typical day starts with a continental buffet breakfast at our hotel. Our village hotels will feature delicious fresh baked bread and croissants, local meats and cheeses, cereal, fruit, coffee and juice, while the huts and inns will feature simpler fare, but still with a hearty selection giving us the energy needed for day’s hike. Soon we’ll be out on the trail, where each morning, you’ll be handed a lunch to carry, and at a mid-point along the way we’ll choose a beautiful spot to stop and enjoy our picnic. We get a lot of compliments on our imaginative lunches – making them something to look forward to as well!
We should finish our hike and reach our next destination around 4 pm, giving you time to wash up, relax, and enjoy the accomplishment. After that, we’ll enjoy dinner together at our hotel or rifugio. These are multi-course feasts, featuring both local and international specialties like chicken, fish, or cheese fondue. Our hotels enjoy excellent reputations for their fine cuisine.
Saas Fee – Arrive in Switzerland, and transfer by train and bus to our meeting point in the car-free village of Saas Fee. Saas Fee is tucked against a cirque of attractive mountains with plenty of trails and high mountain lifts to explore for anyone who arrives early.
There is a train station in both the Zurich and Geneva airports, and traveling to our meeting point will be easy and scenic. In Saas Fee, we stay near the center of town in a beautiful and friendly 4-star hotel. Enjoy your first views in the Valais region of Switzerland before we start our hiking into Italy tomorrow. Tonight our group will meet for dinner and discuss the tour to come.
Macugnaga – Our first hike of the tour takes us along the Mattmark reservoir to the Monte Moro pass, where we cross from Switzerland into Italy with sweeping views of the Monte Rosa massif.
After a short transfer from Saas Fee we find ourselves atop a remote mountain reservoir at the back of the Saastal Valley where we begin our hike with views of cascading waterfalls coming off the glaciers to the West. As we begin climbing through the stream fed meadows those with a keen eye can make out the statue of the Golden Madonna della Nevi watching over the region from her perch at the pass above. From the pass we’ll begin our descent to Macugnaga over rocky slabs and through flowery meadows. Once back in the shade of the larch trees we’ll have the option to be whisked to the valley floor below by cable car or continue our descent on foot.
Rifugio Pastore – Hiking past small alpine hamlets and across glacially fed streams with a craggy skyline above, we’ll reach the rustic Rifugio Pastore, a simple mountain inn with fantastic food and 5-star views of the Monte Rosa.
After passing through several small settlements we’ll trade quaint trails for meticulously built stone “roads” once used to transport goods during medieval times. Once on the other side of the Colle de Turlo, we’ll take a series of meandering switchbacks down to our rifugio for the evening, where we’ll have small shared dorms with separate bathroom/shower.
Stafal – Taking a quiet trail down past a roaring waterfall and meandering through the forest from Rifugio Pastore we’ll stroll through the nearby village of Alagna before beginning our ascent for the day.
Today we’ll walk through the Valle d’Otro and its quaint Walser stone buildings. Following switchbacks through the shade of larch pines and past the hamlets of Scarpia and Pianmisura as we climb through the high alpine meadows leading to Passo Foric and the Col d’Olen. Here we’ll enjoy sweeping views of the valleys below before beginning our descent towards Lago Gabiet and a welcome gondola ride into Stafal where we’ll sleep in a comfortable and friendly hotel for the night.
Rifugio Ferraro – Nestled just on the slopes just above the villages of Resy and St. Jacques is tonight’s mountain inn.
We’ll take a scenic and enjoyable route from Stafal through a small, local ski area up past a series of small lakes and hanging meadows towards the Passo del Rothorn. Once here we’ll enjoy our lunch before following the trail through a maze of boulders above an open and grassy trail below. Once we’re back on trail we’ll contour around a series of small slopes towards our destination for the evening with a fantastic view of our hike for tomorrow as a backdrop.
Cervinia – Leaving Rifugio Ferraro, we’ll stroll through past bubbling streams and rocky overlooks towards the Ventina Valley.
Following a wide and softly trodden path through this lush and grassy valley, we’ll gradually gain altitude until we’re rewarded with views of the Grand Lake. This hanging glacially fed lake has a deep emerald color from the water draining off of the high peaks of the Monte Roisetta and Grand Tournalin above. After following a set of steep switchbacks above the lake we’ll reach the Col Sud des Cimes Bianches and get our first view of the Matterhorn perched above the town of Cervinia. Taking a rocky trail down towards the Lago Cime Bianche we’ll hop on the gondola and be whisked down to our hotel for this evening.
Hotel Europe – Our last day of hiking is full of breathtaking views and new modes of travel as we hike up and over the Theodul Pass crossing from Italy back into Switzerland.
Starting with another gondola ride back up to the Lago Cime Bianche we’ll work our way up through the slopes to the historic Theodul Pass. Once here we’ll take a welcome break to soak in views of the Klein Matterhorn and the Theodul Glacier below. We’ll meet up with our glacial crossing guides for the afternoon and gear up to cross over the glacier getting an ever changing view of the Matterhorn just off our left shoulders as we descend towards Zermatt. Once back in town we’ll be greeted with the bustling life of this historic mountain town and enjoy our last delicious dinner together.
depart – After breakfast at our hotel, we’ll say our good-byes and leave for our post-trip destinations.
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