Hiking in Switzerland rightfully makes many traveler’s bucket lists. With its high Alpine lakes, flowering meadows, and glacier-capped peaks Switzerland has plenty to draw in hikers and mountaineers.
Switzerland is one of the most visually stunning countries in Europe and you might be wondering why that is? Picture this – lush meadows, creeks flowing with crystal clear glacial water and native forests backed by snow-capped peaks – that’s Switzerland.
Getting around the backcountry of Switzerland is a lot easier than you think with an endless amount of trails that lead to some pretty incredible summits.
The list I have compiled is a mix of the best hikes in Switzerland, walking trails, and viewpoints to the top of incredible Swiss Peaks. You have some spectacular glacier hikes and everything in between.
The hardest thing you have to do is choose which hike in Switzerland to do! Here are the best mountains for hiking in Switzerland’s Alps.
12 Trails to Hike in Switzerland
1.) The Matterhorn
Location: Valais Region
Time: 9 to 12 hours
The Matterhorn tops the list of best hikes in Switzerland to do and is definitely some of the best hiking in Europe. However don’t be fooled by the views as it’s no walk in the park. This hike also straddles the border in Switzerland and Italy. The Matterhorn is one of the most iconic peaks in the world just behind Mount Everest due to its pointed peak which can be seen from a long distance.
Even though the Matterhorn is classed as a serious peak to climb, it’s more than doable with a bit of training and knowledge of the mountains. With the help from an experienced guide, many with a reasonable amount of fitness choose to summit the mountain.
Climbing the Matterhorn takes 9 to 12 hours and is very steep in sections with hands being required in most sections along with a helmet, attachment to a harness and rope, mountaineering boots (crampons) as well as an experienced guide.
The Matterhorn isn’t for the faint of heart but the experience of being on such a majestic mountain and the views from the top are completely worth the effort!
Location: Jungfrau Region
Length: 6 kilometers
The Jungfrau Region of Switzerland is figuratively heaven on earth, if hiking in heaven can be done on earth! The Jungfrau region is known for attracting some of the world’s best photographers, adventurers, mountaineers, and skier. It also happens to be one of the most popular regions for visitors to Switzerland and all of this is for good reason, it’s stunning.
There are a lot of trails to choose from in Jungfrau that range from easy to difficult but there’s one in particular that stands out from the rest and that’s Bachalpsee. This majestic two-hour hike overlooks a series of rugged, snowy peaks that stretch across a breathtaking alpine valley.
Bachalpsee is only a six-kilometer hike and graded as easy giving you more time at the top of the mountain rather than on the trail. It’s great for those looking to get amazing views without having to leave for a hike at 03:00 in the morning.
A large lake often reflects the peaks that lay across the valley on its surface making it the reason why so many photographers come from across the world to see.
The most popular bases for exploring the Jungfrau region are Interlaken, Grindelwald, and Lauterbrunnen. If we had to take our pick go for the small town of Lauterbrunnen, it’s almost impossible to beat its charm in the summer months.
Time: 2.5 hour train from Interlaken
One of the most expensive and popular mountains to summit in Switzerland is Jungfraujoch. You don’t even have to climb it as a tourist. It’s most well known for the wild train ride that departs from Kleine Scheidegg, possibly Switzerland’s prettiest train station, and takes tourist up to a futuristic building/research station with restaurants, chocolate, and shops.
There are a lot of Swiss peaks to hike on but Jungfraujoch provides the opportunity for the less able bodies to experience standing on a Swiss Alpine summit. It might not be the same feeling as if you were to hike or climb Monch and you’re pretty much guaranteed to run into people at the summit. It’s a spectacular view none the less and an incredible experience year round as it operates in winter and summer.
Not far from Jungfraujoch is the Aletsch Glacier which you should definitely check out. In the summer months, they open up a marked trail on the glacier, but traversing the Glacier in winter months is a grave affair that requires an experienced local guide.
4.) Mount Titlis
Location: Uri Alps
Mount Titlis is one of those hiking trails in Switzerland where it’s recommended hiking in winter. Titlis being a 3,000-metre mountain means there are plenty of routes to take and of all levels of difficulties.
Hikes range from a short half-hour walk to a three-hour hike which during the winter months is even better with gorgeous backdrops of native pine covered from head to toe in the snow while cabins perch themselves amongst the vast ridges of Mount Titlis.
Mount Titlis is a classic peak in the Swiss Alps and the views it offers are some of the best in Switzerland especially during summer and spring.
5.) Mount Pilatus
Difficulty: Medium to Hard
Distance: 4 to 5 kilometres
Mount Pilatus was the first Swiss mountain I had the pleasure of going up; in fact it was the first ever real and sizeable mountain I had set foot on!
Mount Pilatus is your classic Swiss peak with lush green meadows trailing into a rocky alpine zone overlooking the city of Lucerne.
Pilatus can be hiked or if you want to take the easy way up, opt for cogwheel lift which runs a 48 degree angle track making it scarier going up than if you were hiking it by foot!
6.) Edelweissweg (Hoehbalmen)
Location: Valais Region
Distance: 20.5 kilometres
Edelweiss isn’t a mountain, but instead, a famed flower that grows at high elevation in the mountains of Switzerland and the Alps. However, in order to see one of these flowers, you’re going to need to strap on your boots and get your hiking poles ready because it’s one of the most rewarding hikes in Switzerland.
Starting in the town of Zermatt, the loop trail weaves and winds through meadows, alpine zones and stunning ridge lines where views of The Matterhorn can be seen on picture perfect days. The hike also finishes in the town of Zermatt where you can sit back after a long but rewarding day on the trail.
This hike is one of the longest on the list and can be completed in a day even though it takes 7.5 hours to complete and spans over 20.5 kilometres of ups and downs.
The highest point is a staggering 2751 metres meaning that you’re going to be in for some spectacular views no matter which way you look so whatever you do, don’t forget to charge your camera batteries and wipe your SD cards, it’s a true photographers heaven!
Location: Bernese Alps, Jungfrau
Monch is one of the biggest mountains in Switzerland soaring to an impressive 4,107 metres above sea-level. Monch is truly beautiful, nestled among other peaks that should have made this list but I have put in on here for a reason.
Over the past decade, Monch has become a place for ice climbers, rock climbers and avid mountaineers all keen to enjoy themselves in the Swiss Alps.
There are around 5 different routes to the top of Monch but all require some sort of technical mountaineering skill.
Switzerland is known for having pretty awesome huts and cabins all throughout the Alps but the hut at Monch in particular Monchsjoch Hut is a house built on stilts (on the side of a cliff). There are a multitude of huts to bunker down in on Monch if you love that sort of thing.
One of the most breathtaking and older huts on Monch is The Guggi Hut which like Monchsjoch Hut finds itself perched precariously on the edge of a cliff, a typical scene in the Swiss Alps.
Guggi Hut is a place that can be accessed with some mountaineering skills and is opened all year round.
Hiking long days on the trail especially in the mountains can be tiring so always be prepared with extra food and water and carry warm gear for the nights.
If you think you won’t make it back to your start point in time, huts are a great option and they are generally serviced with a fireplace, beds and good company.
Location: Bernese Alps
Distance: 8.5 kilometres
Schwarzhorn is the highest point above the town of Grindelwald (not the Harry Potter character) and is another challenging hikes but fairly straightforward.
Schwarzhorn is guaranteed to give you exceptional 360 degree views if you get good weather at the top.
Schwarzhorn requires a decent level of fitness and proper mountaineering gear but don’t worry, if you don’t have the right equipment as you can hire gear along with a mountain guide in the town of Grindelwald.
Expect to be on the mountain for 6 to 7 hours covering close to 8.5 kilometres. It is also best to check weather forecasts before going up Schwarzhorn as it wouldn’t be great getting to the top to be blanketed in by cloud!
9.) Santis to Altmann
Location: Alpstein Region
Distance: 13.7 kilometres
Santis is a classic Swiss peak again with breathtaking views as you reach a decent 2,502 metres above sea-level.
Like most places in the Swiss Alps, you are completely surrounded by the most breathtaking views, not because of the altitude but the sheer scale and beauty that you get to witness!
Most mountains in Switzerland have multiple routes that can be taken depending on difficulty but most mountains are quite far away from one another or the route getting from one mountain to another is too long or too far.
With Mount Santis, you can hike from one mountain to another with relative ease on a trail called The Lisen Ridge Trail which can only be attempted with perfect weather i.e. no snow or ice.
The main part of the hike is a narrow ridge line that weaves and winds its way along one of the most precariously looking trails you will ever see, but it really isn’t as bad as it looks.
The trail has been modified with steel cables that are attached in some sections so you can grab on when things start getting a bit scary.
The Mount Santis to Altmann is seriously one of the most special hikes in the Alps. It requires a general level of fitness and can be challenging in sections.
The total length of the rail is 13.7 kilometres and takes around 4.5 hours but will take longer as the chances of you just stopping every 3 minutes to take in the views is very likely.
The Lisen Ridge Trail begins at St. Gallen, a few hours’ drive from Zurich.
10.) Pizol’s 5 Lakes Classic
Location: St. Gallen – Glarus Alps
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Distance: depends on how many lakes you decide to visit
Pizol is one of the most laid back places to go hiking in Switzerland with a nice variety of short walks all the way up hikes for the more avid adventurer.
Pizol can be explored during the colder months and the warmer months, it doesn’t really matter what time you hike in Pizol, it’s always amazing with its stunning pristine lakes bordered by meadows, alpine flowers and wildlife.
The best of the best in Pizol is the 5 Lakes Classic, classed as one of the best in the region and for many reasons.
As an avid photographer, a reflection of a mountain on a still, crystal blue lake is just the best and what are even better than that is a series of 5 different lakes with a huge variation of reflections!
The hike begins in a place called Wangs and takes around 4 to 5 hours to complete the stunning hike.
There is more down that up on this particular hike which is strange considering you are high in the mountains of Switzerland which is a hikers dream!
All of the lakes are quite different so don’t expect to see the same thing over and over as the landscape drops in and out of the alpine zone while each corner you take, a new mountain top will appear in the distance.
11.) Aletsch Glacier
Location: Valais Region – Eastern Bernese Alps
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Distance: 14.5 kilometres
Hiking near the Aletsch Glacier is a different change of scenery despite still being in the mountains of Switzerland.
Having lived and worked in at New Zealand’s Franz Josef Glacier, I have always loved the natural wonders of a glacier but there are some glaciers like the Aletsch which are truly incredible natural wonders!
The Aletsch Glacier itself is a staggering 22 kilometres long and like most glaciers today, is retreating due to climate change but don’t let that put you off walking alongside this UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Swiss Glacier Trail is a moderately rated trek spanning a nice 14.5 kilometres and is expected to take 4.5 hours but as usual, take your time in the Swiss Alps, the scenery is majestic.
At the end of the trail lay Lake Marjelen, where the occasional chunk of ice lay bobbing in the melted glacial waters.
It is recommended that the hike be done during the month of spring as flowers pop their petals out of the lush meadows that can be found higher along the edges of the Aletsch glacier.
12) Brienzergrat Ridge
Difficulty: Easy to Medium
Distance: 21 kilometres
I am not sure how many times I have mentioned about so and so hike in Switzerland being the best but the Brienzergrat Ridge takes the win…by a long shot and that’s why I have left it to last.
Officially called the Sorenberg Brienzergrat Loop takes you on a hair-raising hike along one of the most stunning ridge lines in the world complete with your typical Swiss meadows dotted with wildflowers of sorts to rundown farm houses built amongst the mountains.
The Brienzergrat Loop is the equivalent of running a half marathon or 21 kilometres, reaching a maximum altitude of 2,293 metres which means you’ll get stunning elevated views basically from start to finish.
What to know before hiking in Switzerland?
Hiking in the mountains anywhere around the world can potentially be dangerous as mountains have their own climate and tend to change instantly.
One moment it can be sunny, birds chirping away and the next it can be snowing or a blanket of fog or cloud engulfs the mountain. Trekking in Switzerland is no exception at any time of the year.
When is the Best Time to Visit Switzerland?
Hiking season in Switzerland officially begins June in the Alps and lasts until September. This is also peak season and finding accommodation in the most popular destinations such as Lucerne, Interlaken, and Zermatt can be difficult.
Autumn would be the next period at which hiking in the Alps can be wonderful it last from late September to November. Weather is generally cool and dry wonderful for hiking, but you should be prepared to possibly see some of the first signs of snow as it gets later in the season. Read all about the best time to visit Switzerland here.
How to cope with the altitude in the Alps?
The Swiss Alps are not the tallest mountains in the world but that does not mean altitude sickness or attitude related problems won’t exist. When hiking at altitude or anything over 3,500 meters I like to take it easy especially when ascending.
If you ascend too quickly, you don’t give your body enough time to acclimatize to the change in atmospheric pressure and the amount of oxygen that is available so take it easy, sit down every 30 minutes to an hour and drink water to remain hydrated and enjoy the views!
Altitude sickness is hard to pick and can only be diagnosed properly by another person i.e. hiking partner. If you feel funny at any point, let them know immediately.
The only places that altitude might be a problem is The Matterhorn and Monch but if you have an experienced mountain guide, they will ensure that you do not ascend too quickly.
What to wear hiking in Switzerland?
The most basic principle of what to wear hiking is layering. Anyone that has spent time in wilderness or mountains can speak to the fact your temperature can fluctuate a lot on a hike.
The goal of clothing is to help regulate your body temperature, element protection, and moisture management. Temperature management is best done through a layering system. If you want to learn more about what to pack for a day hike or what to wear on a hike you can see ours.
- Thermal underlayers
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Snow gaiters
- Down jacket / wind jacket / rain jacket
- Shell hiking pants
- Wool Socks
- Hiking poles
- A buff and a beanie
- UV Sunglasses
- Emergency blanket/ Bivvy
- Gloves – the warmer the better
- Food Supply (overnight prepared)
- Fire Source/ Camp Stove
- Crampons for ice
- Waterproof hiking boots
- Wind jacket
- Hiking poles
- Emergency bivvy blanket
- Enough food to last longer than the hike is expected to take
- 1 liter water bottle (nothing less)
Best tips for Trekking in Switzerland
From my past experience hiking, there are a few things that I have learnt along the way:
- You can never be too prepared for a hike. Leave a note or tell someone where you are going is the best thing you can do.
- Make sure you are carrying a sufficient amount of water and food with you. In Switzerland, the water is some of the finest in the world so if you need to, refill your bottle from a running creek or waterfall.
- Enjoy! Hiking long distances can be tough but fun and rewarding to do it with a smile!
- Take it all in has to be my best tip. I have hiked through some pretty special places on earth and the worst thing you can do is have headphones plugged in with the music. Immerse yourself with your surrounds and sounds.
How to Travel Around Switzerland
Train travel doesn’t get any easier than in Switzerland. The country has an incredibly efficient rail network that can get you pretty much anywhere – even in the mountain towns. This is the only way we have ever traveled to Switzerland and it’s very enjoyable. Eurail passes work well in Switzerland, as you can purchase a Swiss Rail Pass for extensive travel. Without these passes, you’ll want to book all your train travel in advance or you could pay a premium on the train. Make sure to be on time – punctuality is key in Switzerland!
Where the train can’t go – the bus can. Bus travel is also easy in Switzerland and your Swiss Travel Pass will work on them as well!
If you want freedom and flexibility you’ll need to get you’re own rental car in Switzerland. Some car rental comparison sites are:
- RentalCars.com: Provides comparisons for car rentals in Switzeland.
- AutoEurope: I can often find deals here for car rentals in Europe.
- Discover Car Hire: Searches rental car prices around the globe.
Food in Switzerland
Have we mentioned that Switzerland is expensive? The easiest way to save money on food is by shopping at grocery stores and cooking your own meals. Co-Op and Migros are the main grocery stores, but be forewarned prices even at the grocery store are more than you’re probably used to seeing. I can’t even count on my hand the amount of time PB&J served as my lunch and dinner in Switzerland while I was on a budget.
Will be hard to find in Switzerland. Your average no-frills lunchtime meal from a cafe will run you at least 15 CHF. If you’re in mountain huts while skiing, expect to spend 10 CHF on french fries (we paid 1 CHF more for each ketchup packet).
Fondue and Rosti are two of the main dishes you will find in Switzerland. Expect to pay about 25+ CHF per person for a nice meal out.
For as expensive as Switzerland is, I honestly expected alcohol to cost more money. I was surprised that a glass of local red wine could be had for 5 CHF and a pint of beer ran about 6 CHF.
Other Things to do in Switzerland
There could not be a more fitting place to give fondue a try than in the Swiss Alps. Fondue in Switzerland is a rite of passage and one of the most traditional forms of dining in Switzerland (where it originated). It’s possible to find fondue in the summer season for tourists, but it’s actually a winter tradition and dish.
Get into adventure sports
The Swiss town of Interlaken is dubbed “the adventure capital of the world.” It’s a backpacker’s haven and jumping off point for adventure. A few popular things to do here are canyoneering, rafting, hang gliding, paragliding and more!
Play the Alphorn
The alphorn used to be a way of life in Switzerland and neighboring countries. People would use their powerful voice and alphorn to communicate between mountain villages and valleys. A number of Swiss villages will let you try out the alphorn on a tour. We did this in Nendaz when we visited! There are also annual festivals and people who play to keep the tradition alive.
Check out Jungfraujoch
It’s the top of Europe! Well, at least that’s how Jungfraujoch is advertised. It may not actually be the top of Europe or even the highest point in Switzerland, but it is the highest train you can take in Europe. It’s also the highest point one can easily reach as a tourist with views over an expansive 22km long glacier.
Switzerland is world famous for their ski. Although a ski vacation here doesn’t come at a cheap price, the views are top notch and the ski/snowboard is incredible. Some notable places to get your ski on is Zermatt, Verbier, Grindelwald, Davos-Klosters, Laax, and St. Moritz. They are all arguably some of the best ski destinations in the world!
Photographers with a taste for old-world culture and never-ending descents flock to Zermatt to get an iconic shot of the Matterhorn, ski, and enjoy the charming Swiss village.
Plan and Pack for Switzerland
You’re going to need something to carry your belongings in while you’re traveling around the world. Even if you’re not doing extensive hikes you need at least something small for day trips. My favorite daypacks are from Camelbak. You can see all our other backpack recommendations below:
Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun when you’re traveling. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes.
We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses, but they do make a huge difference from the crappy $10 ones.
If you’re wondering what travel necessities to bring to around the world then good walking shoes should be your top concern.
I ALWAYS have a down jacket with me when I’m traveling in the winter, fall, or even spring. They aren’t just good for hikes, but doing anything outside.
Down jackets pack up light and small so there is no reason NOT to have one in your bag. Seriously it could save your life in a bad situation. We wrote a whole post on our favorites (hint –Feathered Friends, Arc’Teryx Cerium LT Hooded Jacket, Patagonia Down Sweater, REI Coop Down Jacket)
Goretex Rain Jacket
We’re building up a collection of shell jackets. We always carry one in our pack and they’ve come in handy many times. Weather around the world can be iffy in October, so it’s best to be prepared. They are lightweight, durable, packable, waterproof, and windproof and really a great travel rain jacket. We have a bunch of different shell jackets after several years, but my favorite right now is from Arc’teryx.
Any jacket can do the job, but the top dollar ones will hold up and really help in inclement weather.
I love real books, but for traveling it can be easier to carry a lighter and more compact item like a Kindle. Plus, then you can download new books on the go!
Please consider purchasing a travel water bottle before your trip! We hate to see one time use plastic bottles ending up in the ocean. The tap water is so good here – seriously please don’t be one of those tourists that buys plastic water bottles. It’s a waste of money and plastic!
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