Switzerland is a mountainous country in Central Europe known for picturesque lakes, charming villages, unbelievable chocolate, and of course, the Swiss alps. In this blog post, I am going to share 9 of our favourite hikes in Switzerland and why you need to add them to your travel itinerary, pronto!
World-renowned for its trails and viewpoints, we wanted to experience as many hikes in Switzerland as we possibly could. There are hundreds of options available, so it can feel overwhelming trying to narrow it down.
We spent countless weeks researching and planning out the perfect route through this spectacular country. Get excited, my friend, because I am about to spill ALL of the beans.
All you have to do is sit back, relax, and prepare to be incredibly stoked about your upcoming trip.
Before diving into the details of each hike, there are a few things we need to cover. Trust me, this information is going to make your life 1,000 times easier!
The first thing I need you to understand about Switzerland is that there are no bad views and no bad trail options. Seriously, the entire country is like a painting! So you can travel with ease knowing that any trail you choose will be absolutely stunning.
Secondly, there are many hikes in Switzerland that offer similar views and/or can be combined with each other. I will get into this in more detail below, but here are the key takeaways:
- If you are limited on time in an area, choose the best hike for you based on time, distance, elevation, and starting point. For instance, there are several hikes that look over Brienzersee, a picturesque blue lake near Interlaken. While you could do them all if you had unlimited time, you certainly don’t need to. The views from any of these trails will be similarly jaw-dropping.
- If there are two viewpoints you would like to see that are close together, look for a way to connect them! There are literally thousands of trails weaving in every direction though Switzerland. Check online (we used maps.me) for a trail or a gondola that may connect you to where you want to go. You will likely find one!
The next thing you need to know is that hikes in Switzerland are extremely well-maintained. Before arriving, we held the trails in Canada to a fairly high standard. While many of them are in good shape, Switzerland makes them feel like bushwhacking in the Middle Ages.
Okay, that might be a touch dramatic, but you get the point!
Every hike has sturdy steps, meticulously mowed grass, full cell service, and excellent signage the entire way. It certainly took some getting used to, but it made things easy and convenient.
While we’re on the topic of comparing Canada to Switzerland, let’s talk about the Mountain Huts!
In Canada, if you want to eat, sleep, or enjoy a cold beverage in the backcountry, you need to pack in a tent, a stove, and any food or drinks you may want.
In Switzerland, however, we did not hike a single trail without at least one mountain hut. No matter how far or how high we climbed, we could always find a warm meal, a cold drink, and even a place to sleep in the Swiss Alps. The best part? They all take credit cards!
No need to pack a lunch, ever! The food at the huts was always reasonably priced, delicious, and convenient.
The next item on this list took some getting used to, but it saved us a whack of time in the long run. Trust me on this one, the gondolas are your friends.
Before arriving, we had questions like: “are we going to be spending a fortune on gondolas?” “Are they necessary or optional?” and “why are there so many damn gondolas in Switzerland?!”
I will outline the details of each specific gondola as we go, but here is some basic information to keep in mind:
- Gondolas range in price from around CHF 6- CHF 100 per person.
- In most cases, there is an option to hike below the gondola for free.
- Gondola tickets can be bought return trip or one way. To save money, take the gondola up and hike down.
- Many hikes are considered “one way trails”. It is usually possible to park, take one gondola to the trailhead, complete your hike, and then take a second gondola down to your vehicle.
- There are several ways to get discounts on gondola tickets such as the Swiss Half Fare Card and the Swiss Travel Pass. Most hotels and campgrounds will also give you a discount card for attractions in the area. This typically includes a 20-30% price reduction for popular gondolas.
- All gondolas have set hours (eg. 9AM-5PM). Double check this to ensure you don’t get stranded somewhere. They always have the time of the last gondola posted somewhere on the station, similar to ski hills.
- Make sure to hold onto your ticket. You often need it to enter and exit the gondola stations.
Finally, we would highly recommend renting a vehicle.
I know, I know, every other blog post you’ve read says that the trains and public transportation are fantastic. And they aren’t wrong. The problem is, they can be expensive and limiting. Here’s why:
We rented a car for our 3-week trip through Switzerland for CHF 700 (CHF = Swiss Francs, which are similar in conversion to the Euro). We spent approximately CHF 400 on fuel and parking as we toured the country at our leisure. The roads were all well-maintained, easy to navigate, and full of conscious and courteous drivers.
2 Swiss Travel Passes, which includes unlimited travel via train and bus, for 3 weeks would have been over CHF 1,700! This does not include gondolas and means that you are travelling with far less flexibility.
See what I mean? While it is completely possible to travel through Switzerland via train, we think a vehicle is the best option. Especially if you like to visit places for sunrise, sunset or before the bulk of the crowds arrive, as we do.
Now that you have a better understanding of this key information, we can finally dive into the fun stuff. Without further ado, here are the best hikes in Switzerland!
Aletsch Glacier Trail
8 KM & 500 M elevation
The Great Aletsch Glacier, with a length of 23km, is the largest glacier in the Alps. This massive ice field is quite honestly one of the most impressive things I have ever seen! Covering over 80 square kilometres in the Bernese Alps, standing beside this monumental glacier was a pivotal experience.
There are several different ways to arrive at the Aletsch Glacier, but here is what we would recommend. We drove to the Betten Talstation where parking for the day is around CHF 8 (2022). We purchased a gondola ticket to the Bettmergrat Station for CHF 34 per person (round trip) and took the first gondola up to the town of Bettmeralp.
From there, we walked through the town for about 1 km and got on the next gondola to the Bettmergrat Station. Upon arrival, you only have to walk 500 meters for your first glimpse of the marvellous Aletsch Glacier.
Next, we hiked on the path that runs parallel to the glacier for approximately 4 kilometres each way. You do not need to hike this trail to see the glacier but it does bring you closer to the ice for a fascinating view.
It is possible to make this hike into a one-way loop ending at a different gondola station, but we decided to hike back up to Bettmergrat and take the gondola down. Over the last 1.5 kilometres on the way back, you gain all of your elevation.
NOTE: You can save money and add kilometres to this hike by bypassing some or all of the gondolas. If you would like to do this, I would recommend taking the gondola from Betten to Bettmeralp (over 900m of steep elevation gain through the trees) and hiking from there.
5 km & 570 m elevation
Augstmatthorn is one of the most spectacular summits along the well-known Hardergrat Ridge, which runs parallel to Brienzersee near Interlaken. Famous for magnificent views over the lake and the chance to see Alpine Ibex (AKA Steinbock), this was one of the most impressive hikes we did in Switzerland.
There are multiple ways to reach this viewpoint, but I am going to outline the most popular two. If you don’t have a vehicle, the best option is to begin at Harder Kulm and walk along the ridge to the summit. This starting location can be reached by taking the Harderbahn from Interlaken or hiking to the top. From there, it is approximately 8 KM each way along the ridge.
If you have a vehicle, you may choose to park at Jägerstübli Lombachalp, as we did, and hike up from there. This route is shorter and steeper, but it is free and you do not need to take a funicular. In total, we hiked 5 kilometres with 570 meters of elevation.
Schäfler Ridge & Seealpsee
13.6km & 585m elevation gain (1,250m elevation loss)
Schäfler Ridge was one of our first hikes in Switzerland and remains to this day an all-time favourite. The jagged peaks, narrow ridgeline, and spectacular sunset blew us away completely. We added Seealpsee onto this loop which was, in our eyes, the cherry on top.
We began this journey at the Wasserauen Gondola Station located in northeastern Switzerland. After arriving at 2 PM we paid CHF 22 each for a one-way ticket to Ebenalp. From there, we took off hiking toward Berggasthaus Schäfler, where we had a double room booked for the night. This section of the hike is 2.4 kilometres and 355 m of elevation gain. If you choose to forgo the gondola, you can add at least 1,000 meters to that.
Upon arrival, we had a celebratory beverage and a fantastic dinner on the balcony. I can’t recommend staying here enough. They have excellent food, cozy rooms, and the sunset views are out of this world! Breakfast is included with your stay and it is best to book online in advance.
NOTE: These mountain huts all accept credit cards and cash.
The following morning, we woke up to catch the sunrise and began hiking along Schäfler Ridge. From Berggasthaus Schäfler to another alpine hut, known as Gasthaus Mesmer, we hiked 3.4 kilometres with 230 m of elevation gain. This part of the hike was incredible because we were actually walking along the ridge we had just spent hours admiring!
After a drink at Bergasthaus Mesmer, we hiked 4.8 kilometres to Seealpsee, a striking lake nestled between the mountains. This section of the hike loses 1,000 meters of elevation with views of the lake the entire way. Finally, we tackled the remaining 3 kilometres (250 m elevation loss) to our vehicle at the Wasserauen Gondola Station.
7.4km & 490 M elevation
This lake was a huge highlight for us and is one of the most popular hikes in Switzerland. The vivid blue water with monumental mountains in the background resembled Moraine Lake, reminding us of our beloved Rockies back home.
To get to the trailhead for this hike, park your car in Kandersteg. From there, you can either take the gondola from Kandersteg to Oeschinensee (CHF 30 round trip) or hike underneath the gondola (5 kilometres and 530 meters of elevation).
From there, follow the loop trail that branches off to the left. It will bring you up to stunning viewpoints over the lake and charming alpine huts where you can stop for lunch. Finally, it winds you down along the shore giving you the opportunity to swim or rent a boat. Make sure to bring your bathing suit!
If you take the gondola, this loop is 7.4 kilometres with 490 meters of elevation. If you are looking to save money and/or add more hiking to your day, you can always buy a one-way ticket to the lake and hike down.
Stellisee & Fluhalp Hut
From Blauherd Station to the Hut: 2.3 KM & 100M elevation gain
With Matterhorn views and the opportunity for a killer reflection on a calm day, Stellisee Lake is one of the most popular hikes in Switzerland among photographers. Most people hike up for the day or arrive once the gondola opens, but we would suggest something a little different.
Our experience here stands out as one of the most exceptional mornings we have had not only in Switzerland but anywhere in the world. If you are in Zermatt and the forecast is clear, we would highly recommend staying the night at The Fluhalp Hut. You can thank us when you are revelling in out-of-this-world sunrise views.
Here’s what to do! From Zermatt, we took a funicular to Sunnegga and immediately hopped on a gondola to Blauherd. The total for this journey was CHF 33 per person (one way) and it saved us approximately 8 kilometres and 1,000 m of elevation gain.
From there, we followed signs for the 5-Seen-Wanderung trail to Stellisee Lake. This area is gorgeous at any time of day, boasting incredible Matterhorn views and meadows filled with wildflowers.
Next, we continued to the Fluhalp Hut. The total distance from the Blauherd Station to this alpine hut is only 2.3 kilometres and around 100 meters of elevation gain. Easy peasy! Each stay here includes a 3-4 course dinner and a buffet breakfast. We paid an extra CHF 10 for a “Matterhorn View Room” and would highly recommend you do the same!
In the morning, we woke up at 6 AM and hiked 800 m down to Stellisee Lake. This is where the real magic happened. We sat on the shore and watched the sun illuminate the Matterhorn. The sky was perfectly clear and the reflection was dead still.
Does it get any better than this?!
We combined this hike with the Gorner Glacier to save time and money, but these two hikes in Switzerland can also be done separately. If you would like to go back to Zermatt, you could either go back the way you came or hike the entire way down, approximately 10.3 kilometres.
In the next section, I will outline how to continue on to Gornergrat!
20.6 KM & 1,500 M elevation
The Gorner Glacier is one of the most famous and picturesque glaciers in the country. Accessible from Zermatt, it is over 12 kilometres long and between 1-1.5 kilometres wide. The entire area is full of magic and marvellous mountain views.
There are several ways you can access it, the first being via the Gornergrat Bahn. This was one of the most expensive trains we saw in Switzerland, with a round-trip price of CHF 110 per person (2022) from Zermatt to Gornergrat.
If you want to skip the train, it is possible to hike all the way to the glacier, but it’s no joke. The trail to the top is 10.3 kilometres and 1,500 m of elevation gain. The path runs beside or close to the train tracks most of the way, meeting up with it at each station.
There are 5 train stations between Zermatt and Gornergrat. As you get closer to the top the price decreases, meaning you can hike part of the way and hop on/off the train as you please. This is a great option to save money and get some exercise. Plus, the views are stunning!
The final way to reach this glacier, and the option we chose, is to combine this hike with Stellisee Lake.
After admiring the lake for sunrise, we had breakfast and set off to the Riffleberg Train Station. In total, this trail was 7.4 kilometres with 325 meters of elevation gain. The scenery was mind-blowing and we even ran into a herd of the famous blacknose sheep.
Located only 2 stops away from Gornergrat, the train from Riffelberg was significantly cheaper. We paid CHF 28 per person (one way) to get to the Gorner Glacier.
NOTE: It is not any cheaper to buy a round-trip fare here, so we decided to purchase one-way tickets for more flexibility. This varies for different gondolas and hikes in Switzerland.
Once arriving at Gornergrat, we were overwhelmed by the crowds. This is the blessing and the curse of gondolas in Switzerland… accessibility. We hiked along the ridge for some peace and quiet where we eventually followed a trail that lead us down beside the glacier. If you have any hike left in you, I would highly recommend following this trail. It was practically empty, not terribly difficult, and full of insanely impressive views.
Our plan was to hike down until we got tired, and then hop back on the train en route to Zermatt. From the top of the Gornergrat Station, along the glacier, and back to the Riffelberg Station, we hiked around 5.5 kilometres with 100 meters of elevation gain. Luckily for all of us, this section is mostly downhill!
The price from the Riffelberg Station to Zermatt was CHF 38, making our total Gornergrat experience CHF 66 per person instead of CHF 110. This is a great option if you like to hike and are looking to save a bit of cash!
2.2 KM & 300 M elevation loss
The Via Ferrata from Mürren to Gimmelwald was one of our very favourite hikes in Switzerland! On this route, you will be crossing rope bridges, traversing ladders, and scaling cliffs that are hundreds of meters above the scenic valley below.
In total, this trail is only 2.2 km with an elevation loss of approximately 300 meters. The entire adventure took us around 3 hours to complete. We would highly recommend booking a guide if you have never done a Via Ferrata before. If you feel comfortable and would like to attempt it on your own, here’s what to do.
Take the gondola/ train combination from Lauterbrunnen to Mürren for CHF 22 round trip. Once you have arrived in Mürren, make your way to Intersport. Here, you can rent a harness and helmet for CHF 25 per person (2022). If you need hiking boots, you can also rent them for an additional fee.
They will direct you to the beginning of the course where you will begin hiking down toward the most intimidating part right off the bat. A massive cliff with rebar steps and mind-blowing views of the valley below.
During this section, we took our time to cross the steps, admire the passing paragliders, and freak the heck out!
Once you’ve crossed the cliff, you will make your way down several ladders, across rope bridges, and along less intimidating ledges. The final challenge is to cross a massive suspension bridge that David found more terrifying than the cliff. Me? I kind of liked it.
Once you are finished, you will arrive at the Gimmelwald gondola station. From here, catch a ride back to Mürren for CHF 6 per person. After returning your equipment, grab some ice cream and make your way back down to Lauterbrunnen.
4.7km & 403 m elevation
Gratwanderung Stoos, or Stoos Ridge, was one of the hikes in Switzerland that we found confusing before visiting. Upon arrival, however, we completely fell in love with it! This one-way trail follows a ridgeline that offers magical views over the surrounding mountains and Vierwaldstättersee (AKA Lake Lucerne).
To get to this ridge, you will want to park your vehicle at the Parkplatz Stoosbahn in Schwyz. From here, take the world’s steepest funicular up to the car-free mountain village of Stoos. Purchasing a day pass will allow unlimited access to the funicular and all of the gondolas in the park for CHF 50 per person (2022).
Once you arrive in Stoos, follow signs to the Klingenstock chairlift. This chairlift will take you up to the ridge where the hike begins. It is important to note that you can do this hike in either direction, but we recommend beginning at Klingenstock for a few reasons.
First of all, the views in front of you are more impressive from this direction. You are hiking toward Lake Lucerne and can catch glimpses of it at several points. The final viewpoint at the top of the Fronalpstock gondola offers jaw-dropping scenery.
And finally, the Fronalpstock Station is more developed boasting a hotel, restaurant, and even a goat petting zoo! Here, you can order a well-deserved meal and enjoy a celebratory drink on the patio while you soak in the view. It is even possible to stay overnight at the Fronalpstock Hotel.
Once you have finished, hop on the gondola back to Stoos (or hike down!) and take the funicular back to your vehicle.
Limmernsee & Muttseehütte
11.6 km & 640 m elevation
This was one of the hikes in Switzerland that we were most excited about. The lake is gorgeous and we booked a night at Muttseehütte in hopes of experiencing it for sunset and sunrise. This journey did not unfold as we had hoped due to a mid-September snowstorm, but we still enjoyed it and wanted to share it with you.
We parked at the Tierfehd cable car and hopped on board. This in itself was interesting as it was the first self-serve cable car we had experienced. There are no attendants around, you just buy a ticket (CHF 15, round trip), scan through the gate and hit the big green button when you’re ready to go! They close mid-day from 12-1:30, so be sure to check the hours online HERE.
At the top of the cable car, we put on safety vests from inside a labelled bin. We then hiked 3-kilometres through a massive tunnel that belongs to the hydro plant. This first half of the journey is flat and sheltered until emerging at Limmernsee.
From there, the real work begins. We climbed 640 meters of elevation over the remaining 2.8 kilometres. En route to the Muttseehütte, it began to snow and then hail. The views we had hoped for disappeared and we quickly made our way to the hut, seeking shelter.
The Muttseehütte is in excellent condition equipped with 76 beds and a 60-person restaurant. The rooms range in capacity from 2-14 people and they offer flush toilets, showers, and heat. Each reservation includes a four-course dinner and a buffet breakfast.
As the snow continued relentlessly, we played monopoly with some new friends and enjoyed a drink by the fire. Dinner was fantastic and we went to bed in hopes it might stop snowing overnight.
Unfortunately, that was not the case. We woke up to a foot of snow and very limited visibility for our hike out. Although we didn’t get the views we were after, we still enjoyed our time. If you happen to visit on a nicer day than we did, make sure to stop at the Muttenchopf Viewpoint for a killer photo op above the lake.