Introduction to Hiking in Zermatt
You would be hard-pressed to go for a walk anywhere in and around Zermatt and not be met by a spectacular view. Whether you’re looking to stretch your legs with your family, or lacing up your hiking boots in search of a challenge, the Zermatt hiking possibilities are accommodating to everyone, and all incredibly beautiful. Hiking can be enjoyed in both winter and summer, though certain routes may be best suited for specific times of the year.
In our comprehensive guide to the best hikes in Zermatt, we’ll discuss some of the most popular routes in this stunning alpine region, and the important things to remember before setting out onto the trails. Whatever brings you to Zermatt, be it the snowsports, the chalets, or the sightseeing, hiking is sure to have climbed a few spots on your to-do list by the end of this blog.
Top hikes in Zermatt
Below are some treks and trails with varying degrees of difficulty, all close to the iconic Matterhorn.
The Matterhorn presides over Zermatt, legendary and awe-inspiring, and it’s understandable to want to try and get closer to this wonder of nature. The Matterhorn Glacier hike is a well-signposted point-to-point (starting and ending in two different locations, unlike a loop) trail, which leads mainly downhill. This makes it an excellent hike for all abilities, especially if you have children in tow.
The hike is just under 7km in total from start to finish. While it’s estimated that it will take you somewhere in the region of 2-3 hours to complete, you’ll want to add time to that estimate to account for simply taking in the view. Also, to begin your hike down from Trockener Steg, you’ll need to get the cable car up from Zermatt, and then again from Schwarzsee to Zermatt at the other end - so factor public transport into your itinerary as well.
To add a little more to your day’s adventure, once in Trockener Steg you can visit Matterhorn Glacier Paradise and ride up to the highest cable car station in Europe for unmatched panoramic views. Because the recommendation is always to set out early for this hike, riding the gondolas will give you more of a chance to wake up before you begin your descent on foot.
The trail covers an area that was once covered by a glacier, which has since retreated to reveal an incredible landscape of coloured rocks and crystal-clear lakes. The best views can be found earlier in the day from June to September. There is a higher chance of the weather turning in the afternoons, and as this trail is very exposed to the elements you’ll want to avoid getting caught out in bad weather.
Home to 3100 Kulmhotel, the highest altitude hotel in the Alps, Gornergrat can be found a scenic train journey away from Zermatt, and is the focal point for many idyllic hikes. If taking in the sights of Gornergrat is your goal you have several options for how to traverse it. One popular 13.7km loop starts and ends in Riffelalp, passing by the Riffelberg plateau and Riffelsee Lake on the way to Gornergrat and back down again. This route takes you on a moderately challenging trek through the mountains, where you’ll take in over a dozen peaks.
If you’re in need of a rest once you reach Gornergrat there are restaurants to provide you with a good lunch, and an unmissable viewing platform near the hotel, where you can look down on Gorner Glacier. You might also be lucky enough to see wild bird species, or mountain goats such as ibex and chamois. If the idea of making the journey back down to Riffelalp on foot is too daunting, you can simply take the train back to Zermatt and enjoy the views that way instead.
Whether you take public transport to Schwarzee and start there, or set out on foot from Zermatt in the direction of Schwarzee, this route promises beautiful views of the Zmutt Valley, and of course the Matterhorn. Open year-round and a great trail to take if you’re interested in bird-watching, this point-to-point is a reasonable challenge for hikers. In winter you can slip on some snowshoes to help traverse the snow, and in summer mountain bikes and dirt scooters will add some speed to your sight-seeing.
You’ll come across historic traditional alpine buildings in the village of Zmutt, and in the summer the valley meadows are full of wildflowers. Depending on your route this journey can be between 7-10km, and your mode of transport and direction of travel (up to Schwarzee or down to Zermatt) will dictate your speed.
While actually scaling the Matterhorn would be impossible for your average holidaymaker, climbing to Hörnlihütte, the lodge at the mountain’s base, is a goal worth setting. The trail is steep but rewarding, and a must for anyone staying in Zermatt who wants to get up close and personal with the Matterhorn. It’s a roughly 17km round trip with some challenging inclines, but no specific climbing gear other than appropriate attire is needed. When you’re finally stood at basecamp you might find yourself inspired to one day take on the Matterhorn itself.
Start this climb in Schwarzee, after having hiked or taken the gondola there from Zermatt, and make sure you’re prepared to encounter some potentially dizzying heights. Because of the popularity of this trail you’ll want to set out early, and avoid the trek altogether if the weather is bad, as not only could this potentially cloud your views of the Matterhorn, but could also make the trail more treacherous. At the Hörnliütte you can grab a bite to eat and have a rest before making your way back down - or, you can choose to combine this route with the Matterhorn Glacier Trail.
Scenic walks around Zermatt
While the Matterhorn may dominate the skyline, there are other things to be seen from Zermatt’s trails.
Blauherd Marmot Trail
If seeing wildlife is a priority for you when exploring the trails around Zermatt, then you might want to consider taking to the hills between April and June. From April onwards, adorable marmots begin to wake from hibernation and venture out from their burrows. If you’re lucky you’ll hear them whistling to each other, and maybe catch a glimpse of their young.
The Marmot Trail begins in Blauherd and ends in Sunnegga, and is just under 4km in total. While the terrain of the trail isn’t too taxing, there are some steep drops if you veer off of the path - best to stick to the marked route, and enjoy the carved marmot sculptures along the way.
Another walk starting in Blauherd and ending in Sunnegga, this route will take you past the famous five lakes; Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee. While this is a relatively long walk, the roads are wide and flat and the majority of it is downhill - apart from the last leg, from Moosjisee to Leisee.
If the weather conditions are right you can enjoy a swim at Leisee, where the shallow water keeps the temperatures from becoming too frigid. If you’ve accomplished the walk with children in tow they can enjoy the playground while you rest your feet in the picnic area.
Safety precautions while hiking
While the majority of hiking trails are well-signposted, it’s important to remember the possible dangers you can encounter when hiking in the Alps. The weather is changeable and potentially hazardous, phone signal should not be taken as a given, and if you venture too far from the path it could be difficult for people to reach you in an emergency.
Weather plays a big part in hiking safely - always plan your day according to the weather predictions, but be prepared for it to turn on you. Avalanches, lightning strikes and sudden storms are real possibilities, and even in the middle of summer there’s always the chance of snow at high altitudes.
The majority of hiking trails around Zermatt are popular and well-trodden, so it would be rare to find yourself lost unless you purposefully stray from the trails. Even so, it’s important to never hike alone, let people know where you’re going and when you intend to return, and to get back before dark.
Even on the easy trails, it’s important to remember the following:
- Proper footwear that will help with ankle stability on rocky terrain, such as hiking boots
- A windproof/waterproof outer layer - though if hiking in summer you will want this to be as lightweight as possible
- A rescue reflector or transceiver - something that you may already have for skiing and snowboarding in case of avalanches, but that can also lead rescuers to you if you get lost when hiking
- Plenty of water and snacks (but not so much that you weigh yourself down)
Ready to go?
Whether you feel ready to scale the Matterhorn, or would prefer to limber up for a gentle stroll, the hiking in Zermatt is not only beautiful, but accessible. Where possible, try to keep to the principles of Leave No Trace. This will ensure that the trails and the nature surrounding them are able to be enjoyed by both people and wildlife, and well-preserved for years to come.
Get in contact with Steiger&Cie Sotheby’s International Realty to learn about our available properties
If you’re looking for your own base camp in the heart of the mountains, Steiger&Cie Sotheby’s International Realty have properties and land ready and waiting. Get in touch with our team of experienced alpine real estate experts today.
have made some changes to the headers just because there was a lot of overlap with the hiking routes - most of the trails above passed through a lot of the areas originally in this section, so decided to give it a bit of a different focus