Haute Route Comparison – Similar U.S. Hikes 

Haute Route comparison

Hikes in the U.S. that give a gauge of a day trekking the Chamonix- Zermatt Haute Route.

“Am I fit enough to hike the Haute Route?” Whether you are thinking about the Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route or the Deluxe Haute Route, this is the most frequently asked question that we receive. Regardless of what version you do, we deem it one of our most strenuous treks here at Alpenwild. There are many factors that contribute to this label, one of them being the differing terrain day by day. But one of the biggest contributing factors of trek difficulty is the consistent string of back to back difficult trekking days.

But how does this kind of hiking compare to hiking in the United States? There is no true side by side comparison of any trek in the states to the Haute Route. However, there are similar hikes that can prepare you for a typical day on the Haute Route. The Swiss Alps are known for their beauty and grandeur, but also for their high elevations. Luckily, on this trail you won’t hike any higher than 10,000 feet. The average elevation that you will stay at each night is about 5,500 feet. This elevation is similar to that of Denver, CO, Lake Tahoe CA&NV, and Albuquerque, NM in the United States. If you live at sea level, don’t worry, there are plenty of opportunities all over the United States to help you get a feel for what a day on the Haute Route may be like. 

Haute Route – Average Day

  • Distance: 8.3 Miles
  • Duration: 7.5 Hours
  • Difficulty: Strenuous – see the terrain
  • Elevation Gain (doesn’t include losses): 2,580 Feet (Losses are approximately 2,600 Feet)
Half Dome
Half Dome, photo by Dan Wechter.

Pacific Region

Half Dome

Yosemite, California

  • Distance: 14.2 miles round trip via Mist Trail
  • Duration: 10-12 Hours
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 4,800 Feet

The Yosemite Half Dome Hike has to be started early in the morning if you hope to complete it by the end of the day. Most days on the Haute Route will not be quite this long, however it is as strenuous. The trail on both have a wide variety of terrain such as dirt and paved paths, as well as boulders. If you can complete this hike, and feel good doing it, then the Haute Route would likely be a good option for you. (note: Although there are cables on the Half Dome hike, there are NO cables, or any other technical type of sections on the Haute Route.)

Bear Lake to Fern Lake loop, Estes Park. Photo by Carlos Fox

West Region

Bear Lake to Fern Lake Loop

Estes Park, Colorado

  • Distance: 9.2 miles
  • Duration: 6-8 Hours
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 1,230 Feet (Highest Elevation: 10,697)

The Rocky Mountains are at comparable elevations to the Alps. The two mountain ranges have often been compared and contrasted with many similarities such as landscape, terrain, and as previously stated elevation. This trail goes past many gorgeous bodies of water and has a large variety of beautiful scenery. This hike is very on par with what you could find on the Haute Route in regards to distance, duration and level of difficulty. 

Black Hills Hike
Black Hills Hike, photo by Stephen Oliver.

Midwest Region

Black Hills National Forest – Top of Harney Peak

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

  • Distance: 7 Miles
  • Duration: 4-6 Hours
  • Level of Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 1,499 Feet 

This hike in the Black Hills National Forest can be compared to the easiest day you will find on the Haute Route. There are 1-2 days of the Haute Route that will be comparable with this hike. Harney Peak is about 7,000 feet, this can prepare you for the elevations you will find in the alps. One of the most important things you can do for yourself is acclimate to higher altitudes so you don’t suffer from Altitude sickness.  

The Appalachian Trail
The Lehigh Furnace Loop on the Appalachian Trail, is excellent to practice trekking through boulder fields. Photo by Scott Longerbeam.

South and North East Region

The Appalachian Trail – Lehigh Furnace Gap

Georgia to Maine 

  • Distance: 9.7 Miles
  • Duration: 6-8 Hours
  • Level of Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Elevation Gain: 2,200 Feet 

The Appalachian trail is known worldwide for its difficulty, spanning over 14 different states and up to 2,000 miles. A comparable experience in Europe would be the Via Alpina, which also spans over many countries and thousands of miles. The full Haute Route is about 100 miles, although this trek can be done over a shorter amount of time, hiking on the Applachaian trail can still prepare you for a day on the Haute Route. The Lehigh Furnace Gap is known for its boulders – not its views, unlike the Haute Route. There are a number of days that you will experience boulder fields on the Haute Route, it is important to be familiar with this type of trail especially if you don’t know how to maneuver and continue on the trail. 

Each of these hikes are very similar to what you will find in a day on the Haute Route. Don’t fear, this trek although strenuous, can be completed and enjoyed with the proper training. We hope to see you on the trail!

Featured Alpenwild Trips

Chamonix to Zermatt Haute Route

Deluxe Haute Route

Via Alpina

Jamie Cheney
Latest posts by Jamie Cheney (see all)

2 Replies to “Haute Route Comparison – Similar U.S. Hikes ”

  1. Usha Malkerneker says:

    Next August I am going on Haute Route, not concerned about different terrains. I am in great shape. Love hiking and hiking and workout daily, but living in Midwest which is as flat as pancake and traveling often to New Orleans which is below sea level, I have no opportunity to get used to higher altitude. How would that affect me; specifically my breathing and my endurance? Do I need to do something that might help me with higher altitude hiking?

    • alpenwild says:

      Hello Usha! We are so glad you’re going to hike the Haute Route. The fact that you hike and workout daily will certainly help you get in shape for this trek. We have many people that come from low elevations in shape and they do well. A few things you could try to acclimate to the high elevation are: 1. A weekend getaway to a high elevation destination and hiking 8 miles during your stay. This will give you a gauge of how difficult the trek feels at the respective elevation and whether you feel you could hike at that level for the duration of the tour. 2. You could also try an oxygen training mask to help your body get used to the thinner air. However, certainly consult with a physician on that one. We want you to be healthy and ready for the Haute Route! The Haute Route is 12 days long and the prolonged trip is one of the most difficult aspects. Based on what you’ve said, though, we are confident that you can do it! Continue to work out and prepare for the trek and you’ll enjoy the journey. 🙂

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