In what has become a personal travel theme, I decided to spend nearly two weeks in Switzerland based on descriptions of a famous hiking trek called the Walker’s Haute Route (WHR). The full two-week route starts at Mont Blanc in Chamonix, France and ends at the Matterhorn in Zermatt, CH.
The four-day, 66 km version I planned to do from Zinal ticked all my boxes: spectacular Alps mountain and glacier scenery; days spent hiking in virtual solitude; and overnight stays at mountain huts or village pensions along the way (I like a bed and a hot meal every night).
Although I had my heart set on the four-day traverse, a late spring snow forced a game-time decision and I opted to do day hikes based out of the tiny village of Zinal instead.
This twist of fate elevated my trip to genius level.
What’s so great about it?
Zinal is nestled at the end of the Val d’Anniviers in the Valais canton in southern Switzerland. It is so small that most Swiss people I spoke to had never heard of it. Seated at the bottom of an amphitheatre of towering peaks capped off by the Weisshorn – the fourth highest mountain in Europe, elevation 4,506 m (14,783 ft) – made this a “yes, please” in my book. To top that off, I had the valley nearly to myself.
My lucky duck card also extended to the hotel I stayed at – Hotel de la Poste – where I had a very comfortable single room at a great price and was the only guest on the top floor.
I received lovely hospitality from the hotel manager, Juliette, who cheerily put up with my use of Google translate to compensate for my zero French abilities. She also gave great day hike suggestions and made sure my food sensitivities were accommodated by the chef. Merci, Juliette!
And last but not least, the Alps!
(Did I mention how much I love remote mountains and glaciers?)
These mountains are completely deserving of all the hyperbole heaped upon them. In fact, I’ll go so far to say that had I seen the rest of the WHR, my head would have popped off from sheer overload.
I did two hikes on opposite sides of the valley: the first to Cabane de Moiry from Barrage de Moiry, and a second, longer one from Cabane Bella Tola to Zinal via the Meidpass.
Although I didn’t make it all the way to Cabane de Moiry due to snow, and I nearly had a meltdown/where’s the trail?!? moment below the Meidpass, both places were unbelievably gorgeous. I spent the majority of each day hiking alone, which was good because there was a lot of undignified skipping, a little yodeling, and frequent stopping to smell the flowers.
A final genius credit must go to Kev Reynolds, author of the Chamonix to Zermatt bible of the WHR, Chamonix-Zermatt: The Walker’s Haute Route.
How to get there
Take the train to Sierre, transfer to Poste bus to Zinal.
Recommended by Roxanne Kunz
Roxanne is an avid outdoorswoman and frequent female solo traveller. She is also a trail runner and racer and doesn’t mind getting her feet muddy in order to go the distance. She’s currently planning a trip to Switzerland for more outdoor adventures.