Whether you’re looking to see towering peaks and massive glaciers or emerald blue lakes and charming valleys, the number of possibilities for hiking in Switzerland are endless. In fact, the main reason why I moved here over 3 years ago from the states was not because of the cheese or chocolate, but because the mountains were so accessible and a major part of the lifestyle here in Switzerland. Within just an hour or two by train, you can be hiking in the mountains with hundreds of kilometers of well-maintained trails to explore.
With so many great options, you can’t really go wrong with any hike that you choose. However, based on my own personal experiences, I’ve to put together a list of “the 10 best hikes in Switzerland” to help you plan the perfect hiking trip while visiting including helpful tips and information about the hikes. I’ve tried to cover a wide range of locations ranging from the North to the South and the West to the East to show you some of the most amazing scenery this country has to offer.
WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE HIKING IN SWITZERLAND?
Like anywhere in the world, hiking in the mountains can be potentially dangerous since the weather in the mountains can change in an instant. I’ve had days where I’ve started my hike with blue skies and it’s ended in a full-blown snowstorm in the middle of August. So it’s important to always be prepared whenever you’re venturing into the mountains. Make sure you always keep additional warm clothing and supplies if you know you’ll be out on the trail for more than a few hours.
WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?
In Switzerland, hiking season usually begins in June after the snow has melted enough and lasts until late September or sometimes even October depending on the weather. It’s important to keep in mind that this is also peak tourism season in Switzerland so it’s best to plan things like accommodation ahead of time, especially in places like Lucerne, Interlaken, or Zermatt. The fall season is also particularly nice for hiking here since there are usually fewer tourists and the leaves begin to change. However, you should be prepared for all types of weather, especially snow and colder temps during this season.
WHAT TO WEAR HIKING?
The best advice I can give when it comes to choosing what hiking clothing to wear is to layer! If you’ve ever spent time in the mountains, you know that the temperatures can fluctuate drastically, which is why it’s always important to be prepared. You should have clothing that will protect you from the elements and help you regulate your body temperature.
1. PIZOL LAKE (5 LAKE HIKE)
Just over an hour from Zurich, the Pizol 5 Lake Hike is a great option for hikers that can easily be done in a day. This hike features some of the bluest alpine lakes and spectacular views of the Alps of Eastern Switzerland.
How to get there: Start at the Pizol Gondola in Wangs and take it to the Pizolhütte at the top. From here, the hike begins, climbing for about an hour to the first lake, Wildsee. After that, you can continue on to see the other 4 lakes as the trail ascends and descends before returning to Station Gaffia. For more information read here.
Hike Time: 4 Hours
Altitude Gain/Loss: 750m/1100m
Start/End Point: Pizolhütte/Graffia
Nestled away in the Bernese Alps, high above the charming town of Kandersteg is the crystal clear waters of Oeschenin Lake. There are miles of trails that loop around the lake and into the mountains, but of course, you can also relax at the waterfront restaurant or rent a boat and paddle around the lake.
My favorite hiking loop you can do here is from Oeschinensee – Oberbärgli – Heuberg, which takes about 3.5 hours without stops. I love this hike because you can wander high above the lake and see it from so many different perspectives while being surrounded by the alps. This hike does have some steep sections and the trail does narrow a bit along the cliffsides, so I would only suggest this hike if you have aren’t afraid of heights.
How to get there: You can either hike from the town of Kandersteg (this is very steep though) or take the cable car to the top of the mountain. From the cable car, it is only a 30-minute walk to reach the edge of the lake. For more information read here.
Hike Time: 3.5 Hours (depending on route you take)
Elevation Gain: 480m
Starting point: Kandersteg Cable Car
3. SEEALPSEE (ALPSTEIN)
Seealpsee is one of the most popular lakes in Switzerland and is an easy day trip from Zurich. The lake itself is located in one of my favorite regions known as Alpstein, which is home to one of the densest networks of hiking trails in all of Switzerland. If you’re not a very experienced hiker, then the hike to Seealpsee is a great option for you since it can be reached by simply walking up a service road. Or if walking uphill isn’t for you, then I suggest taking the cable car up to Ebenalp, where you can add on a visit to the Äscher Restaurant as you make your way down to the lake.
The Äscher Restaurant is probably one of the most famous and most photographed places in Switzerland because it’s literally built into the side of a cliff. I highly recommend checking it out and grabbing a bite to eat here, although I suggest going as early as you can since it gets incredibly busy and it can be hard to get a table.
How to get there: There are two ways to reach the lake. The first option is to walk up the service road from Wasserauen. The second option is to take the Ebenalp cable car to the top of the mountain then walk down to the lake, stopping by Ascher hut on the way down. For more hiking information, read here.
Hike Time: 1 hour from Wasserauen or 1.5 hours from Ebenalp
Distance: 2.5km from Wasserauen or 2.6km from Ebenalp
Elevation Gain: 266m from Wasserauen
Starting point: Wasserauen
4. ALETSCH GLACIER PANORAMA TRAIL
Switzerland is home to many amazing glaciers, but I highly recommend checking out Aletsch Glacier, the largest glacier in Switzerland. The Aletsch Glacier is located in the southern region of Switzerland, in Wallis, and is a great place to stop off at if you’re on your way to Zermatt.
The size and scale of the glacier is pretty remarkable, running over 23 km (14 mi) all the way to Jungfraujoch and almost 900m (2950 ft) deep. There are a few hikes you can do here, but I recommend the Aletsch Glacier Panorama Trail which runs alongside the lower part of the glacier. The whole trail offers remarkable views of not only the glacier but also the 32 4,000m peaks that flank its entire length.
How to get here: Start in the town of Riederalp and take the Musfluh Cable Car to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, you’ll find the trail which meanders along the side of the glacier for most of the hike until you reach Märjelenseen, where you can either stop for a bite to eat at the hut or continue on to the Fiescheralp cable car station. For more information, read here.
Hike Time: 3.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 510m
Starting Point/End Point: Musfluh Cable Car Station/Fiescheralp Cable Car Station.
If you’re staying near the Interlaken area, then it’s definitely worth checking out the nearby town of Grindelwald. From here, there are plenty of great hikes that offer panoramic views of the Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau mountains, which each stand over 4000m high. However, my favorite hike here is from First Gondola to Bachalpsee, which is a perfect trail for novice hikers looking for stunning views.
The trail itself is easily accessible and you can reach the lake in less than an hour’s walk. Once at the lake, you’ll be able to see the sharp jagged peaks of the Wetterhorn, Schreckhorn and Finsteraarhorn reflecting in the emerald blue waters. There’s plenty of benches here that are perfect for resting on and enjoying a picnic before heading back down. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, you can also continue another hour onto the Berghotel Faulhorn located at the top of the mountain.
How to get here: Start in the town of Grindelwald and go to the Grindelwald First Cable Car Station. From here, take the cable car to the top, where you can start the hike just by following the signs once you exit the station. For more information, read here.
Hike Time: 1.45 hours return
Distance: 5.88km return
Elevation Gain/Loss: 188m/188m
Starting Point/End Point: Grindelwald First Gondola
6. ZERMATT 5 LAKES HIKE
If you happen to be staying in Zermatt, the 5 lakes hike, also known as the 5 Seenweg Hike, is one of the best and most popular hikes you can do in the area. The hike offers incredible views of snowcapped mountains, emerald blue lakes, green hills, and of course the mighty Matterhorn in the distance. As the name suggests, during this hike you’ll pass by 5 lakes (Stellisee, Grindjisee, Grünsee, Moosjisee and Leisee), 3 of which offer reflections of the Matterhorn. Each of the lakes features their own unique characteristics and landscapes, and you can even stop to swim in a few of them after working up a sweat while hiking. There’s also plenty of places to grab a bite to eat along the way, including the wonderful Chez Vrony hut.
How to get here: Take the cable car from Zermatt Village to the top of the Blauherd Cable Car Station. From here, you can start the hike by following the signs after exiting the station. After passing by the lakes, your final destination will be the Sunnegga Upper Cable Car Station. For more information, read here.
Hike Time: 2.5 hours
Distance: 9 km
Elevation Gain: 241m
Starting Point/End Point: Blauherd/Sunnegga
7. RIGI PANORAMIC TRAIL
Visiting Mount Rigi is a great option if you’re staying in Lucerne or want to take a short day trip from Zurich (40mins.). Once at the top, you can enjoy panoramic views of Lake Lucerne and north towards Zurich. There are plenty of hikes you can do here, depending on how long you wish to make it. You can either take the cog-railway from Vitznau or Arth Goldau to Rigi Kulm at the top or get off at any stop along the way. Once at the top you can admire the view and then walk down to Rigi First, where you can join the Rigi Panoramic Trail. The whole trail itself is 7.5km and takes over 2 hours to complete, but there are shorter versions as well. This hike is a great option if you have kids or if you’re looking for an easy and accessible hike since the trail is wide and well-groomed. I also recommend combining this trip with a ferry ride from Luzern, which is a great way to see the lake on your way to or from Rigi.
How to get here: Take the cog-railway from either Vitznau or Arth Goldau all the way to the top at the Rigi Kulm station. From here hike down to the Rigi First station where the trail joins up with the Rigi Panoramic Trail. Follow the trail all the way to the Rigi Scheideg station, where you can take the cog-railway down. For more information, read here.
Hike Time: 2 hr 10 minutes from Rigi First
Elevation Gain: 245m
Starting Point/End Point: Rigi First/Rigi Scheidegg
8. THE HARDERGRAT TRAIL
Arguably one of the most beautiful alpine ridges, the Hardergrat trail is the perfect trail for hikers looking to challenge themselves. Along the way, you can witness incredible views of Lake Brienz below you and the towering Bernese Alps in the distance. The trail is steep and is not recommended for those with fear of heights or for those who are inexperienced, as it runs directly along the ridgeline with drops on both sides for 18km of the 27km long trail. Maybe that’s why they call it one of the most dangerous hikes in Switzerland.
Hiking Tip: If you choose to do this hike, I highly suggest taking hiking poles with you, having proper footwear, and to not attempt this trail if conditions are wet or muddy on the trail. You should also start the hike early enough to allow for enough time to reach Brienzer Rothorn before the last cable car goes down.
How to get here: Take the funicular to Harder Kulm from the valley all the way to the top where the trail begins. Follow the trail for 27km along the ridgeline until you reach Brienzer Rothorn. You can also do this trail the opposite way, starting at Brienzer Rothorn and ending at Harder Kulm.
Hike Time: 10 hours
Elevation Gain: 3000m
Starting Point/End Point: Harder Kulm/Brienzer Rothorn Station
If you’re looking for something a bit more adventurous, then how does walking on a suspension bridge that is 170m long and 100m high surrounded by mountains, waterfalls and a glacier sound?
The Trift Bridge, located in the Bernese Oberland, is one of the longest and highest suspension bridges in the Alps. The hike takes you through grassy meadows and alongside glacial rivers and waterfalls until you eventually reach the suspension bridge. Here you can cross the turquoise blue glacier lake fed by the glacier tongue at its end. Witnessing this place in person is a bold reminder of just how fast our glaciers are melting due to global warming. Only just a few years ago, the Trift Hut further down the trail could be reached on foot via the glacier tongue. Since it has receded so much, the suspension bridge was built to maintain access for hikers.
How to get here: Take the Triftbahn from Nessental (Bus Stop) which will take you from the Gamden Valley to the Trift Valley. This cable car can only hold 8 people and runs every 12 minutes. So be sure to book your ticket ahead of time online here to reserve a spot because it can get very busy, especially on weekends. You’ll also be asked to reserve a time that you would like to return on the cable car so make sure to allow for ample time to enjoy the scenery and for getting back down. For additional information, you can read here.
Hike Time: 1.5 hours
Elevation Gain: 695m
Starting Point/End Point: Trift Gondola Upper Station
10. TOUR DU LAC DE MOIRY
Located in the Valais region of Switzerland, the Lac de Moiry circuit loops around the stunning turquoise waters of the lake at a height of 2500m. Once at the far end of the lake, you’ll cross the river La Gourga, which feeds the reservoir below. You’ll also pass another lake, Lac de Châteaupré, before having the chance to scale the massive glacial moraine. This is great hiking option if you’re visiting the nearby Zermatt region and offers plenty of spectacular mountain views throughout the hike.
How to get there: Start at the bus stop/car park at the crest of the dam, near the restaurant. This hike can be done in either direction since the starting point and ending point is the same. For more information, read here.
Hike Time: 4:45m
Elevation Gain: 567m
Starting Point/End Point: Moiry Dam
NOW IT’S TIME TO BOOK YOUR TRIP TO SWITZERLAND!
I hope you can find my Swiss hiking list and hiking tips of use when you plan your very own trip to Switzerland. If you’ve ever been hiking in Switzerland and have any tips or fun hikes you’ve done that you’d like to share, let me know in the comments below!