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Stage 11 of the Walker’s Haute Route is another challenging mountain climb and descent. Yet, it is a great and rewarding hike with beautiful views over the Turtmanntal valley, the glacier-capped mountains of Weisshorn and Bishorn to the south, and the Rhone Valley and Bernese Alps to the north.

This is one of the most beautiful days on the Haute Route. With jaw-dropping views of the mountains and valleys, low crowds on the trail, and a few cows along the way just to keep things interesting, this is one of our favorite days on the Walker’s Haute Route.

Tonight, you will stay in Gruben, which is a small village tucked away in the Turtmanntal valley.

Walker’s Haute Route Stage 11 Hiking Stats

Distance: 16.6 km (10.3 miles)
Difficulty: Strenuous
Total Ascent: 1,255 m (4,120 feet)
Total Descent: 1,090 m (3,580 feet)
Lowest Elevation: 1,700 m (5,575 feet)
Highest Elevation: 2,870 m (9,415 feet)
Elevation in Zinal: 1,700 m (5,575 feet)
Elevation in Gruben: 1,855 m (6,085 feet)
Average Time: 6 hours; Our Time: 5.5 hours (including stops)

Haute Route Stage 11 Elevation Profile

Haute Route Stage 11 Elevation Profile

 

Haute Route Stage 11 Zinal to Gruben Map

Haute Route Stage 11 Zinal to Gruben map

 

Please practice the seven principles of Leave No Trace: plan ahead, stay on the trail, pack out what you bring to the hiking trail, properly dispose of waste, leave areas as you found them, minimize campfire impacts, be considerate of other hikers, and do not approach or feed wildlife.

 

Walker’s Haute Route Stage 11: Overview of the Trail

To hike the Haute Route, we highly recommend following the trail descriptions in the book Trekking Chamonix to Zermatt, The Classic Walker’s Haute Route by Kev Reynolds. Below we list an overview of the day, so you know what to expect along the way. We also provide advice on where to eat and where to stay. Later in this guide, we list a few tips and trail clarifications to be used with the Trekking Chamonix to Zermatt book.

Zinal to Forcletta

From Zinal, the trail immediately starts its ascent up to Forcletta.

The trail begins with a very steep upwards climb along a wide dirt path through the forest. This lasts for about 2 kilometers, and with a 300 meter (1,000ft) ascent in this short distance, this section is one of the toughest parts of the day.

Eventually you will reach a small house at a trail split. This is the end to the first strenuous ascent of the day. From here, the trail will level out and stay at a gradual incline for the next several kilometers. This part of the hike is easy to do quickly, and yet you will still knock off a fair amount of elevation.

Haute Route Stage 11 Woods Trail

 

During this gradual section, you will be hiking along the side of the mountain. Behind are snow-covered mountains and ahead is the Bernese Oberland. To the left you can see the trail you descended down in Stage 10.

Cow in Switzerland

Haute Route Stage 11 Farm

Zinal Valley

The view looking back towards Zinal.

 

Haute Route Stage 11 Trail

Beyond the farm, the trail gets very rocky for a little bit.

 

Walkers Haute Route Photo

Looking back along the trail.

 Hiking to Forcletta Pass

The trail rounds a bend and then the Forcletta pass comes into view.

 

How to Do the Walkers Haute Route

This was our picnic spot along the trail. This bridge comes just before the trail split mentioned next.

The gradual section will end at a trail split. Continue following signs to Forcletta. You are approaching the final hard ascent for the day. 

Steep Trail

The trail gets steeper again.

 

To Forcletta Pass

View of the trail just beyond a small farm. Forcletta is at the top of the rocky ridgeline.

 

Trail to Forcletta

 

From the farm, you can see Forcletta pass far above you. The climb ahead is daunting and looks incredibly steep. And it is a challenging ascent. But if you head up at a slow and steady pace, it is not anything harder than what you have already done during the Haute Route. On the way up you will hike along switchbacks, some being steep while others are more gradual.

Trail to Forcletta Pass

Forcletta Pass View

The trail just before reaching Forcletta.

The view from Forcletta is beautiful, as you are surrounded by huge mountains and green valleys. Enjoy the view and take a rest at the top of the pass.

Forcletta

Forcletta

 

Another View from Forcletta

Another view from Forcletta

 

Earth Trekkers Haute Route

This is a great spot for a family photo.

Forcletta Pass to Gruben

Today’s descent is a big one, however it is not as steep as the descent in Stage 10. To begin, you will descend between two higher mountain peaks. Look out for herds of chamois or ibex climbing the rocky slopes above you.

Down the Other Side

Walkers Haute Route Stage 11 Photo

On the Walkers Haute Route

 

Soon you will pass through more cow pastures. At this point, Mount Bishorn will come into view.

Haute Route Stage 11 Cow

Swiss Cow

Kara on the Bridge

 

Once you pass through the cow pastures, you will pass a small cluster of homes and barns (Chalte Berg).

Chalte Berg

Chalte Berg

 

Bishorn

Bishorn

Shortly after this you will reach a gravel road and Gruben will come into view in the valley far below. From this point on, you will hike downhill on a combination of gravel roads and narrow trails through the forest. Look carefully for hiking signs to follow down the mountain.

Trail to Gruben

Once you emerge from the forest, it is a short, easy walk through a meadow to Gruben. From here, Gruben is just over a kilometer away.

Important Note: There are no restaurants or huts between Zinal and Gruben. We recommend having your hotel in Zinal prepare a picnic lunch to eat along the hike.

Walking to Gruben

Entering Gruben

Hotel Schwarzhorn

Hotel Schwarzhorn

Where We Stayed

In Gruben we stayed at Hotel Schwarzhorn, the only hotel in town. This is a nice hotel with small but comfortable rooms. There is one bathroom in each hall and it is shared between 5 rooms. The bathroom has 4 stalls, 2 of which are showers and 2 are toilets.

We had two double rooms, each with two twin beds, a desk, and a sink. Some rooms have a TV and some exit onto a balcony. There is Wi-Fi but the signal is weak. However, it was enough to check emails or send some text messages.

The hotel serves a set 4-course dinner from 6-8 pm. The hotel also has a la carte menu and you can have lunch here if you make it to Gruben early and want to grab something to eat after a long day of hiking.

Breakfast starts at 6:30 and is a typical Swiss buffet. You can also purchase a picnic lunch for an additional fee.

Gruben Switzerland

The view of Gruben from our hotel room.

Clarifications for the Walkers Haute Route Book

We were able to follow the Walker’s Haute Book by Kev Reynolds (2019 Edition) without ever needing to backtrack. But there were a few times during this stage we felt a little more clarification would have helped so we are providing that clarification here based on our experience. These notes were taken related to following Stage 11; Zinal to Forcletta to Gruben.

Tunnel: Shortly after passing through the tunnel the trail joins another track coming from the right and we came out into an open area. We kept going in the direction we had been going. Then we came to a junction with a signpost, which we followed in the direction of Hotel Weisshorn. I assume one of these must have been the left branch mentioned in the book.

Low building signed to Lirec: There is a water trough here and a signpost. The “turn sharply left” mentioned in the book is in the direction of Hotel Weisshorn & Lirec, which you want to follow.

Minor path junction: The book mentions “come out of the trees to a minor path junction”. There is a signpost here which you follow in the direction of Hotel Weisshorn.

Chalte Berg: Before reaching the farm buildings (they will be visible up ahead) the path will split. Both paths rejoin near the buildings where there is also a signpost. Follow this signpost in the direction of Gruben. Soon after, follow another signpost indicating “Wanderweg”.

Unmade farm road: The book states that after about 150 metres along the unmade farm road bear right on a footpath. There were a few trails here but just look for a signpost and follow it in the direction of Gruben.

Gruben: There is a water trough in Gruben. We saw it after we crossed the bridge into Gruben village and walked towards Hotel Schwarzhorn.

More Information about the Haute Route

Stages of the Haute Route: Below are our guides to each stage of the Haute Route.

For an overview of all 14 stages of the Walker’s Haute Route, with overall hiking stats, map, elevation profile, and lists of the most difficult stages, easiest stages, and our personal favorites, check out our Guide to the Walker’s Haute Route Stages.


If you have any questions about how to hike the Haute Route Stage 11, or if you want to share your experience, let us know in the comment section below.

 

Walkers Haute Route Stage 11 Zinal Gruben

 

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