Great Cafés of the Alps

Guided By

Giles Ruck

Tour dates 26 July - 2 August, 2020

Summary

If you love trail running, and want to enjoy a café au lait and blueberry tart along the way, we've got the trip for you. We'll explore the trails of Chamonix, France and Zermatt, Switzerland, while taking breaks at the best cafés en route.

Date

July 26 - August 2, 2020

Length

8 days, 7 nights

Tour Category

Village based

Tour Challenge

Learn more

Fees

$3,495 per person. $500 single supplement.

Whats included

Three nights at four-star spa hotel in Chamonix, France; One night at Chamonix's Montenvers mountain hotel above the Mer de Glace; Three nights at four-star spa hotel in Zermatt; Airport transfers at start and end of trip; SBB second-class train transfers between Chamonix and Zermatt; All breakfasts; Snacks for daily runs; All dinners; Run the Alps' certified trail running guide; Run the Alps' Guide to Trail Running in the Alps and other supporting materials. Any snacks, meals or drinks during stops at cafés en route are the responsibility of trip participants.

Description

The Alps have some of the best trail running in the world. They also have some of the best mountain cafés!

This is a trip we’ve wanted to do for years– and now it’s finally here!

A Run the Alps staff meeting… at the home of Chamonix’s best tarts, Refuge du Plan de l’Aiguille. (Photo: Kim Strom.)

Over the years, we’ve enjoyed many stops at these great cafés, sampling the local cuisine. Now, we’ve assembled some of our very favorite mountain cafés into a unique trip that features great trail running– and great food and drink, too! Our trip takes in two of the iconic mountain towns of the Alps: Chamonix, France, and Zermatt, Switzerland. We’ll get a feel for the French culture of this Savoyard region before moving on to the Swiss-German cuisine of Zermatt.

A Swiss rösti – one of the popular dishes in Zermatt. (Photo: PatitucciPhoto).

Run the Alps will reserve tables at mountain cafés along each day’s route, so tables will be waiting for us when we arrive. We’ll also do our best to make sure that the desserts and lunches for which each café is known will be ready for us!

Running beside glaciers in the Mont Blanc massif (Photo: PatitucciPhoto).

The trail running will be equally good, too! Chamonix is the undisputed world capital of trail running, with hundreds of miles of single track that wind through the valley under 4,810-meter high Mont Blanc. In Zermatt, we’ll run flowy single-track on each side of the valley, while the iconic Matterhorn looms 2,870 meters higher above the village. Many days include the option to extend or shorten the day, based on personal interests.

This is our first year offering this special trip. We expect it to sell out quickly. Please contact us for availability.

Day-by-day
Day 1

We’ll arrive in Chamonix, “La Vallée du Trail,” in the afternoon, then meet with the group and your guide for the week. After, we’ll head out to one of many excellent restaurants in town for a big welcome dinner.

  • Refuge des Aiglons
  • Dinner
Day 2

After a hearty breakfast buffet, we’ll take the valley bus up to the village of Le Tour where we start our run up to the Refuge Albert Première with a climbing run to the Swiss border – stopping for café au lait at Col Balme. (Option of chairlift to help with the ascent.) Next, we’ll enjoy a rising traverse above a glacial moraine to reach the refuge, a French Alpine Club hut at 2700m elevation, where we can enjoy lunch on the edge of the glacier under towering 4,000-meter high peaks.

Afterwards, we’ll cruise on downhill single track. There will be time for a stop at one of our favorite cafés en route or when we get down to the valley.

In the evening we’ll head out for a delicious dinner, perhaps trying one of the local Savoyard specialities such as fondue or raclette.

 

  • Refuge des Aiglons
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • 14km; 1600m ascent and descent
Day 3

Today, we’ll take Chamonix’s valley train a couple of stops to the pretty village of Les Praz. From here, we’ll run up through the forest for lunch at La Buvette du Chapeau, a quaint mountain hut and café overlooking the valley. Next, we’ll climb up above treeline to run a traverse underneath the snowy Aiguille Verte. We’ll take in the view of the Argentière glacier when we stop for coffee and hot chocolate at Refuge de Lognan, perched just above the glacier’s ice-fall.

We’ll finish the day by descending to Argentière, then hop a the train or bus back to Chamonix. Dinner will be in town at another excellent Chamonix restaurant.

  • Refuge des Aiglons
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • 14km; 1200m ascent; 1000 descent
Day 4

Ready for more cafés and trail running? Great! We’ll take a short run to Chalet la Floria, one of the most flowery cafés in the Alps, then cross the valley for a run-hike up to the Refuge du Plan de l’Aiguille, where we can have lunch at the beautiful refuge overlooking the Chamonix valley. (Those ready for a break can skip the ascent, with the Aiguille du Midi tram.)

From here, we’ll run the “Grand Balcon Nord” – a high traverse to reach Le Signal, a promontory overlooking the Mer de Glace glacier. Then it’s a short descent to the historic Refuge du Montenvers, where we will have dinner and spend the night at 2,000 meters, high above Chamonix. We’ll enjoy a traditional local mountain dinner and sleep in the recently renovated refuge dormitory.

A small overnight bag for each guest will be transported up the mountain by cog train.

Run the Alps staff take a time out for treats! Location: Moody Coffee Roaster, Chamonix, France. (Photo: Kim Strom.)

  • Refuge du Montenvers
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • 17km; 600m ascent; 800m descent
Day 5

After a traditional French breakfast at our high hotel, we’ll run down through the woods to Chamonix. We’ll stop en-route at Chalet de Caillet for refreshments. This pretty wooden chalet specializes in local organic food and drink.

The menu of the day, at Chalet de Caillet, above Chamonix (Photo: Doug Mayer.)

Back at the hotel it will be time to pick up our bags and leave Chamonix for Zermatt, Switzerland, at the foot of the Matterhorn.

On our way to catch the train, we’ll swing by a boulangerie to pick up some lunch treats for our journey to Zermatt.

  • Hotel Europe
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • 6km; 50m ascent; 1000m descent
Day 6

Today, we’ll head up the southern side of the Zermatt valley and follow a traversing trail high above town, stopping at one of the excellent high altitude restaurants in the region.

On the way down to Zermatt we’ll run past mountain farms and chalets, stopping to enjoy a coffee at Restaurant Zum See with owners Max and Greti.

Tonight, we’ll enjoy the great dinner fare at the Hotel Europe in Zermatt and the pre-Swiss National Day street fair on the Bahnhofstrasse.

  • Hotel Europe
  • Breakfast, lunch, dinner
  • 20km; 800 - 1200m ascent and descent
Day 7

It’s time to venture to the other side of the valley! We’ll start with a fast hike up to Hotel du Trift at 2,337 meters. Here, we can enjoy some of their famous iced tea and tasty snacks before we continue on our run along a rising traverse, with the Matterhorn looming ahead of us.

We’ll run back down to Zermatt via the traditional farming village of Zmutt.

Our last day of running takes us above Zermatt with great views of the Matterhorn. (Photo: PatitucciPhoto.)

Today celebrations will be happening for Swiss National day, especially in the evening. We’ll eat another delicious dinner at our hotel restaurant tonight, then head out to see the town’s parades and firework display.

  • Hotel Europe
  • Breakfast, trail snacks, dinner
  • 20km; 1200m ascent; 800-1200m descent
Day 8

Today we say goodbyes to Zermatt and the group, and take the train to Geneva, Zermatt, or wherever your travels take you next!

  • Breakfast
Arrival

The closest airport is Geneva, Switzerland. Run the Alps will arrange for a shared shuttle from Geneva airport to Chamonix, France, a 90-minute journey.

 

Departure

Plan your departure flight for late afternoon on the day your tour ends, at the earliest. The closest airports to Zermatt are Geneva and Zurich, both of which are a little over three hours away by train – the train ticket for your departure journey is included. If a morning flight is preferable, plan on a night at a hotel in your departure city. Please discuss options with us if you’re unsure about your departure plans.

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Questions

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Additional Information

More options for this tour:

Private: Make it private! Your companions, your dates, your tour – we do the rest.

Extending your stay: We can assist in extending your stay in the Alps either before or after this tour.

Contact us for details.

Run the Alps Stories:

The best cafés in Chamonix