Trekking the Alps: Is a guided trek right for me?

Alps Photo

Dean and Robin Paschall in the Alps with the Matterhorn in the background

Many of our clients for the Alps wonder if a guided trek is right for them. For many travelers a guided trek is a wonderful way to explore the beautiful mountains that are home to the Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn, but a guided trek isn’t the right choice for everyone. Here are some common questions that you might have before signing up for a group trek:

  • Do I need a guide?
  • What are the advantages of joining a group?
  • Can I plan a trek on my own?
  • Will a group slow me down?
  • What extra experiences can a guide offer?
  • What is the difference between a trekking guide (mountain leader) and a mountain guide?

We’ll attempt to answer the questions below. If you are still unsure, please give us a call or send us an email and we’ll be happy to help you!

Do I need a guide?

Unlike the Inca Trail or Kilimanjaro, you do not need a guide in the Alps. Almost all trails, climbs and mountains are open to the public without restriction. So a better question is: Do I want a guide? If you are not comfortable hiking above tree line or reading a map, a guide is a great idea. A guide can also be a wonderful leader and companion to help you get the most out of a trek since they know the landscape, fauna and flora and the local cultures of the region. A guide is also recommended for technical terrain: glaciers, rock climbing, mountain climbing, and backcountry skiing. A certified guide will watch out for your safety and allow you to discover mountainous areas that you wouldn’t be able to explore safely or confidently on your own.

What are the advantages of joining a group?

Joining a group gives you the best value without compromising the overall experience of your trek. Guides in the Alps are paid much more than in Peru or Tanzania, so if you are alone or with only a friend or two, a group is a great value in comparison to hiring a private guide. Hiking treks, which are non-technical and almost exclusively on trails, run in groups of 6 to 12 people with one guide. The Tour du Mont Blanc is an exceptional value of $1350 per person (2013 pricing, double occupancy and bunk lodging) for an 8-day itinerary including two hotel nights in Chamonix – no more expensive than an Inca Trail trek in Peru!

Many treks, including the Tour du Mont Blanc, have a support vehicle, so your extra luggage travels around the mountain and you hike only with a day pack. This support vehicle gives you the same comfort of a trek with porters in more remote areas. Logistics are also an important advantage – joining a group is an excellent value because you are freed from having to plan the hike, reserve lodging, and worry about food including the excellent picnics provided on the Tour du Mont Blanc.

A group also provides you with travel companions to discover the amazing landscapes and to enjoy evenings in the huts and simple inns. Our past travelers have enjoyed the people from many nationalities that they have met on the expertly led treks organized by our partners in Chamonix!

Finally,  we must stress the quality of the guides.  Hiking treks are led by state-certified trek leaders; more challenging treks, like the Haute Route Glacier Trek or the Mont Blanc Climb, are led by expert French high mountain guides, all of whom have IFMGA (International Federation of Mountain Guide Associations) certification.

Can I plan a trek on my own?

Yes! If you feel that a group trek isn’t for you, then you can easily plan a trek on your own. There are several books that we recommend on our website:

If you would like to trek some on your own and experience some guided services, a good value for groups of 4 or more, we’d be delighted to help you book a short glacier trek or climbing experience.

Will a group slow me down?

This is a very hard question to answer. If you join a group, whether a 6 to 12 people hiking trek or a 4 to 6 person glacier trek, then you must stick with the pace of your group. We advise you to consider the advantages of joining a group. If you aren’t open to going with the flow, then you might consider getting together enough friends to book a private guided trek.

What extra experiences can a guide offer?

A guide can offer the following:

  • Expert knowledge of the region, explaining the history of different villages, the names of mountains, and the area’s geology
  • Help identifying trees, flowers, birds and mammals
  • Instruction on technique and map reading (if you want individual instruction, consider hiring a private guide)
  • Moral support when you are challenged/ help if you need it!
  • New and challenging experiences in technical terrain, for example traversing a glacier and using crampons and an ice axe

What is the difference between a trekking guide (mountain leader) and a mountain guide?

A trekking guide (known in French as an Accompagnateur de Moyenne Montagne) is certified in leading clients on non-techinical terrain: on mountain terrain that does not require a rope or any safety equipment. They are similar in many respects to trekking guides for Kilimanjaro or the Inca Trail, however with very high European standards. These guides will lead you on the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Haute Route for hikers.

A mountain guide is certified in leading clients on all types of mountain terrain, from easy glaciers to the summit of the highest mountains. These guides will lead you on the Haute Route Ski Tour, the Haute Route Glacier Trek or to the summit of the Mont Blanc. Whatever your alpine endeavor, from the Mont Blanc to the Matterhorn, these guides can lead you.


If you are still unsure if you need a guide feel free to contact us. We’d be happy to help you consider the different options!

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