With ten peaks reaching higher than 4,000 meters, the Monte Rosa massif if one of the most impressive in the Alps. It is fair to say that the 9 day Tour de Monte Rosa trek, around the massif, is one of the best hiking routes in the Alps.
The hike provides an epic mixture of awesome mountain-scapes across two great European states.
From hushed mountain passes to green valleys dotted with wooden Swiss Chalets during the first half of the hike, to the tranquility of remote Italian mountain villages during the latter stages of the trek, the Tour de Monte Rosa provides a great alternative to the Tour du Mont Blanc.
But do be aware, despite being one of the most scenic treks in the Alps, the route is strenuous, particularly the 3,295m high crossing of the Theodul Pass!
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The Tour de Monte Rosa is a long, multi-day hiking trail covering a total distance of 162 kilometers and gains more than 13,000 meters of altitude over 8 to 10 stages.
The highest point reached on the hike is 3,295 meters.
Most people start their hike in Täsh, Switzerland going in an anti-clockwise direction. Resting just to the east of the Matterhorn, the stunningly beautiful Monte Rosa is situated at the border between Switzerland and Italy.
The Tour de Monte Rosa provides a perfect opportunity to experience the different valleys in both countries.
On the circular hike you will pass some heavily glaciated areas, be afforded many scenic views of the highest peaks in Switzerland and take on some of the highest mountain passes in the Alps. The route will bring you to famous towns such as Zermatt, Aosta and Saas Fee, while crossing the notorious Europaweg.
This map illustrates the Tour de Monte Rosa.
Most people start their hike in Täsh or the Saas Fee.
The route is normally done in an anti-clockwise pattern but if you want to make the route a little easier then a clockwise plan is better as the ascents are more gradual.
You will need to cross Theodul Pass (3,295m), which is one of the highest passes in the Alps.
For an excellent guidebook and map we recommend Hilary Sharp's The Tour of Monte Rosa: A Trekker's Guide.
In the chart below you can see the altitude profile of the full hike. It is quite clear there is a lot of altitude to be gained over the stages. The heighest point is 3,295 meters. You can see that there are a few strenuous stages reaching high mountain passes that will require great effort.
Below we have laid out the most popular version of the Tour de Monte Rosa route – 9 days, starting and finishing in Saas Grund. The itinerary includes approx. distances, hiking times and elevation changes.
Hiking time: 6-8hrs
The Monto Moro pass sitting at 2,853m is your first major col of the journey. Soon after you will reach the Italian part of the trip. Cameras will be much used since you will have great views of the Monte Rosa massif and an impressive look onto the Macugnaga wall.
Hiking time: 7-8hrs
A great route over the Colle del Turlo while you reach the valley of Alagna. The Monte Rosa will be out of view, but not for long.
Hiking time: 7-8hrs
A lot of altitude gain today, since you will need to reach Bocetta delle Pisse before descending to Alpe Pianlunga. You can spend the night at a rifugio close to lake Gabiet.
Hiking time: 6-8hrs
When you reach the Gressoney valley you will truly feel yourself in the Italian Alps. Enjoy an Italian coffee while admiring the impressive Monte Rosa. But don’t depart too late, since there still is an ascent to complete before reaching the refuge at Resy, which is a stunning location.
Hiking time: 6-8hrs
This is one of the highlights of the trek as you begin with a wonderful traverse towards the meadows of Alpe Varda and Alpe Mase. Soon you will gain views of the Breithorn while you’re climbing towards the Colle Superieur delle Cimes Blanches 2982m. From the top of the pass you gain first views of the Matterhorn, 4478m. After a short descent, your ascent continues to Theodul Pass at 3295m, where you spend the night.
Hiking time: 5hrs
An easy day since all you need to do is descend. Your day starts with the crossing of the glacier before passing Gandegg and on towards the Mattertal.
Hiking time: 6hrs
A pleasant start to the day since you head down the Mattertal before climbing steadily alongside the Europweg, a high mountain route. Be careful of rockfall, since this is unstable terrain. Spend the night in the Europa hut.
Hiking time: 6-7hrs
Your hike along the Europaweg continues by crossing boulder fields with stunning views.
Hiking time: 6-7hrs
Even though it’s the last day of the Tour de Monte Rosa, you will finish in style, since this is one of the most stunning paths in the Alps.
A beautiful video overview of the Tour de Monte Rosa by valsesiaincoming1.
The video is 04.50 long – enjoy!
The best time to tackle this high-level trek around the Monte Rosa massif depends on the amount and timing of the previous winter’s snowfall and the onset of cold weather in the autumn.
Since the route crosses high passes (Theodul at 3295m), snow can create dangerous conditions. Therefore in a normal year it is not advisable to set out before early July.
In the summer months, July and August, the trail is busiest, temperatures can rise to 25 degrees, but thunderstorms or a dump of snow is possible as well.
By the end of September huts will close and it might get a lot harder to complete the trek.
Guided trekking tours of the Tour de Monte Rosa will cost in the region of $1,500-$2,000.
This will include mountain hut accomodation, food throughout the trek and luggage transfers between each stage, which will allow you to enjoy the hike with just a small backpack. You will also be accompanied by an experienced guide.
The trek can however be done unsupported. The cost would be in the region of $1,000. A DIY trek would mean carrying more weight in your backpack and some planning of logistics in the weeks / months before.
Hiking the Tour de Monte Rosa is strenuous and demanding. Make sure your are physically and mentally fit for the trek. There are many steep, uphill sections to conquer, with over 13,000m of altitiude gained throughout the circuit. You need to ensure you are in shape for the physical demands of this route. Mental fitness is as important and often go hand in hand.
The Tour de Monte Rosa is doable for any fit mountain walkers who are able to hike between 5h and 8 hrs per day for several days in a row.
Please note: there are a few sections where you can use public transport to shorten your hike if you are struggling.
No permits are required to the Monte Rosa circuit trek.
No, you will not cross passes any higher than 3,300 meter, and since you’re hiking slowly to this altitude, you have more than sufficient time to acclimatize.
Most people don’t feel any symptoms of altitude sickness before reaching 3000-3500 meter. But this is when they haven’t spent enough time acclimatizing.
Some comfortable lightweight trekking boots are a must to enjoy this trek, while good waterproofs are essential, not only to protect you against rain or snowfall but to double as windproofs. Since you’ll be crossing passes of more than 3000 meters, gloves and several base / second layers may prove useful. Trekking poles are a good way to not overload your knees and ankles.
If you are hiking unsupported you will need to carry a 50-60L backpack, however, if you plan to join an organised tour then many organisations will often include luggage transfer to your next accommodation in the valley, so you only need to carry a small backpack with some lunch, snacks and clothes.
A good three season, preferably four season sleeping bag is a must!
To help you plan and prepare for your trek we recommend reading our gear section.
Trekking insurance is important when going into the mountains. See our article on insurance for more information.
Make sure you have insurance that covers you for any travel related risks, like lost, stolen, damaged or delayed baggage; interruptions and flight delays and tour operators default.
About the author
Dempsey Cappelle is Mountain IQ's resident adventure-junkie! Dempsey has climbed 3 of the 7 summits - Mount Kilimanjaro, Aconcagua and Mount Elbrus, as well summited Mont Blanc. He has also completed the Great Glen Canoe Trail and the West Highland Way. In 2014 Dempsey completed the Walker's Haute Route. You can find out more about Dempsey on his travel blog: www.anadventurersjournal.com