Monte Rosa Circuit
Key information: Monte Rosa Circuit
- A relatively new alpine walk around the vast Monte Rosa Massif, crossing and re-crossing the Italian/Swiss border.
- Trek through high meadows, wooded valleys and charming, traditional alpine villages.
- Enjoy spectacular views (some consider them the best in the Alps) from the high ridges and passes, including of the distinctive Matterhorn, on this tough but rewarding walk.
- Equipped huts in the mountains and hotels in the many villages mean that you do not need to carry tents and sleeping bags.
- This is a tough walk in high mountains, on which you will have to be self-sufficient. Come prepared.
- Walkopedia rating89
- Natural interest16
- Human interest6
- Negative points1
- Total rating89
- Length: 8-13 days
- Maximum Altitude: 3,290m (Highest peak is 4,634m)
- Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
The Tour of Monte Rosa is a fabulous trek in the area of the Alpine watershed, on Switzerland's border with Italy. Walk from alpine villages up past low pastures with their grazing animals, gradually entering wilder mountainous landscape and vegetation before crossing passes (some snowy), each time descending again into the next valley and another opportunity to soak in the culture of these secluded communities.
Although Monte Rosa cannot claim the height of the more famous Mont Blanc, its ten peaks of more than 4,000m into the skyline give it an impact and grandeur all of its own: Leonardo da Vinci claimed that it seemed almost to overtake the clouds'.
This tough mountain, with its deep snow, glaciers and crevasses, is a challenging prospect; the Tour offers a demanding trek around it, taking in the unique blend of cultures around the border and the comparatively isolated feel of the area, whilst still allowing walkers to face the glaciated Theodul Pass (3,290m). Some of the trails you will follow are ancient, and it is surprisinging that they should still feel it, given the amount of development common in the Alps.
You will stay in mountain huts and/or small village hotels.
Other accounts: share your experiences
Your comments on this walk, your experiences and suggestions, and your photos are very welcome. Where appropriate, you will be credited for your contribution.
The Tour of Monte Rosa – Cicerone: excellent.
There are various books available (generally for high prices) from the second half of the nineteenth century concerning the Alps and Monte Rosa in particular. If you are interested in history, these might be worth checking out.
There is one map which can be used for the whole walk, the IG IVRN 1:50,000 Tour Monte Rosa, alternatively you can use the IGC Cervino Matterhorn and Monte Rosa combined with the Carte Nationale de la Suisse 5006 Matterhorn Mischabel (both 1:50,000). For smaller scale maps, there are a selection which are 1:25,000, though you need a few to cover the area.
Stanfords: www.stanfords.co.uk. An excellent (and user-friendly) online specialist source of worldwide maps (it is also good for guidebooks).
Best times to walk/weather
Best times to walk
There can be a lot of snow remaining well into June (but the wild flowers are at their best then); the lifts are open from early July through to early September, which is the best time for trekking in the area. July and August are busiest, and huts can get full, so booking is essential.
Generally fine in season, but come prepared for unpredictable mountain weather and cold nights.
Bus, drive or train to your chosen start point. The most common starting point is Zermatt (which can only be accessed by train). If you are in an organised group, they are likely to provide transport to and from the start.
No permits are needed to do this walk. However, to use the mountain huts, you should be a member of the Austrian Alpine Club (AAC); if you are a member of another alpine club then check whether this is sufficient.
The Monte Rosa Circuit can begin from various points, and follow slightly varying routes to whichever end point you wish. We have chosen to put in here the route which comes up most frequently, beginning and ending in the well-known alpine town of Zermatt.
From here, you follow the dramatic Europaweg to Saas Fee before dropping south into the Piedmont region of Italy. Staying in Italy, it passes through the previously French-owned Savoy area before going back up into Switzerland, where many people walk the Theodule glacier with the help of a local guide. This is the final stage before arriving back in Zermatt.
Possible problems, health, other warnings
- Altitude: can affect some. Acclimatize appropriately, come prepared to cope.
- Mountain weather: snow, rain, severe cold and wind are possible at any time of year.
- Heat and strong sun. Carry enough water and protect yourself.
- Heights: can be dangerous; not for those who have difficulties with heights.
See also the websites in our useful links page for more detailed, and up-to-date, information.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk. Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
Make sure you have suitable insurance.
Guided or independent?
You can do this walk independently, but you will need to be self-sufficient, so come fully prepared. Note that it involves crossing a glacier. This can be done unguided, but make sure you have the necessary equipment and are fully prepared.
While this walk can be done independently, many people form or join organised/supported expeditions. Expedition organisers include:
There are alpine huts with wonderful views throughout this area.
It is possible to do this circuit without using the huts, as the trail drops into the villages so frequently, there are plenty of places with hotels to stay in. The towns of Zermatt, Schwarzsee, Cervinia/Breuil, Champoluc-St-Jacques, Gressoney La Trinite, Alagna Valsesia, Macugnaga Borca, Macugnaga Staffa, Saas Almagell, Saas Fee, Grächen, Gasenreid and Täsch all have hotels. Some hotels, however, are only open in the main season. This will enable you to carry a lighter pack (a day pack even, if on a supported expedition).
Other information and tips
Useful websites and information
There are many websites with relevant information. Here are some that we think are useful or have been recommended to us.
- The websites for the companies offering guided tours (listed above) are very helpful.
- The Cicerone website has lots of very useful information.
Other things to do in the area
Skiing in winter.
Rock climbing and the gamut of other mountain sports.
Safety and problems: All walks have inherent risks and potential problems, and many of the walks featured on this website involve significant risks, dangers and problems. Problems of any sort can arise on any walk. This website does not purport to identify any (or all) actual or potential risks, dangers and problems that may relate to any particular walk.
Any person who is considering undertaking this walk should do careful research and make their own assessment of the risks, dangers and possible problems involved. They should also go to “Important information” for further important information.
share your experiences
Add your experiences, suggestions and photos. We would be delighted to receive your writing and ideas (which will be attributed appropriately where published).
Anyone planning an expedition to this place should see further important information about this walk.
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