The mountain yells – Der Berg ruft. And, to be honest, one look at this breathtaking land of skyscraping peaks, glaciers, forests, and piercing blue lakes will make you want to strap on a backpack, zip up to the summits, and hit the trail.
You won’t be alone, for sure. Walking here is the fast way to the nation’s nature-loving soul, as Swiss people are born with one leg up a mountain.
Even the routes leading deep into the country’s wildest, most desolate areas are meticulously waymarked in Switzerland, and practically every inch of the territory is carefully charted.
Switzerland? Little? It isn’t suitable for hikers. The Swiss like to remind you that the country’s 62,500 kilometers of trails are enough to wrap around the world 1.5 times.
Hikers from all over the world go to the high-level paths of the Bernese Oberland and Graubünden, which increase the difficulty while providing breathtaking views.
Lowland locations, such as Valais’ vineyards and Appenzell’s gently undulating hills, are similarly atmospheric and accessible almost all year.
Best Hikes in Switzerland
Picking the best treks in Switzerland is like picking chocolates for a kid, but we’ve selected nine of our favorites to whet your appetite.
In the Bernese Oberland, Mother Nature has pulled out all the stops, and this is the Holy Grail of day walks. This moderately difficult ridge walk will plunge you into the gorgeous deep end.
From Schynige Platte to First, you’ll see the complete sparkling sweep of Lakes Thun and Brienz, as well as huge peaks like the dagger-shaped Wetterhorn and the big three of Eiger (3970m), Mönch (4107m), and Jungfrau (4107m) (4158m).
The trail is simple to follow in terms of navigation. The walk begins pleasantly from Schynige Platte, passing through undulating pastures before abruptly climbing to scree slopes, boulder-strewn passes, and high moors.
Before heading off to the summit of 2681m Faulhorn, you’ll make a steeply climbing traverse along a large ledge between stratified cliffs to the Winteregg ridge. On clear days, you’ll be treated to 360-degree views that stretch across a sea of mountains to the Black Forest in Germany and the Vosges in France.
Keep an eye out for marmots as you descend to the Bachalpsee (2265m), a grassy basin with a steel-blue lake that contrasts sharply with the ice-covered peaks of Wetterhorn (3701m), Schreckhorn (4078m), and Finsteraarhorn (4274m).
Lakes of Macun, Swiss National Park
The nature-gone-wild Swiss National Park in The Engadine in Graubünden, where Switzerland claws its way into Italy, is the best site to see the Swiss Alps before tourism.
This off-the-radar national park, tucked away in a remote part of the country’s southeast, packs a punch on every level and is frequently so quiet that your footsteps are the only sound you hear.
This challenging full-day hike from Lavin to Zernez, snaking up to the glacial cirque of Macun, necklaced with nearly two dozen sapphire, azure, and turquoise blue lakes, has the edge of all the pathways threading through the wilds.
The horizon is dominated by the snow-capped Bernese, Silvretta, and the Ortler Alps. Ibex are at home on these heights, and with luck and patience, you might be able to find them.
Ascending steep slopes to Fuorcletta da Barcli, a break in the range at 2850m with top-of-the-world vistas, the trail gets increasingly difficult, rockier, and exposed.
The descent to Zernez takes you via avalanche grids to an Alpine route that twists through the forest to Zernez, where you can stay the night or take the train down to Lavin.
Getting a head start is critical. Because some sections of the hike are steep and exposed, it demands surefootedness and a good height head. On the upper levels, snowfields can last far into the summer.
If you think hiking the Gemmi Pass is difficult today, consider those brave tourists who climbed it in 1863 as part of Thomas Cook’s initial explorations into the Swiss Alps.
The hike, which connects the Valais spa resort of Leukerbad and the cute-as-a-button Alpine village of Kandersteg in the Bernese Oberland, is readily achievable in a day but yet poses a serious challenge, with 1050 meters of ascent through austere, stony, and at times steep and exposed slopes. The path is safe and well-maintained, but check the weather forecast before going up.
The bleakly beautiful lake Daubensee, at 2205m, and a clifftop lookout platform next to Wildstrubel Restaurant, floating 900m above the valley and affording top-of-the-beanstalk views of the high, perennially snow-frosted mountains of Valais, which hover around the 4000m marks, are your reward for the effort required to reach the pass.
The trail winds through flower-flecked pastures at lower heights. After that, take the train to Leukerbad and bathe your feet in the city’s peak-gazing thermal hot springs.
The Via Alpina is the major one: a 20-stage journey from Liechtenstein’s castle-topped principality in the east to Montreux, dreamily situated on the shores of Lake Geneva in the west.
You’ll need to be surefooted, have a good head for heights, and experience navigating with a map and compass to complete the journey, which will take you through 14 Alpine passes, the highest of which is Hohtürli (2778m) in the Bernese Oberland, which is reached via a steep wooden ladder hacked into the rock face and secured with iron chains.
The descent is as breathtaking, falling over 1000 meters to Lake Oeschinen above Kandersteg, a celestial picture of cerulean blue surrounded by snow-capped mountains and fed by the glacial waters of the Blüemlisalp peaks.
This is a true wilderness adventure, with nights spent sleeping under the stars or in traditional mountain cottages, plenty of opportunities to see wildlife like chamois, ibex, and golden eagles, wild swims, and breathtaking sunrises and sunsets.
The path needs some planning ahead of time and is best hiked between June and September to avoid snow and cloudy or rainy conditions with poor visibility.
Rigi Panorama Trail
Turner was so enamored by Rigi that he painted it in three distinct lights in 1842 to portray its changing moods. The 1797m-high mountain, which rises over the fjord-like Lake Lucerne, nevertheless has a magical touch, especially when seen in the pink flush of sunrise or sunset. On a clear day, Mt. Titlis, the glacier-encrusted Jungfrau Alps, and Lake Zug can all be seen.
This wheelchair- and stroller-accessible ridge walk from Rigi First to Rigi Scheidegg follows a wide path that skirts the ancient Scheidegg Railway and opens up the surrounding lakes, cow-grazed pastures, and mountains, with lots of opportunities to stop for a picnic or BBQ along the way. Some sections of the trail are steep for wheelchairs (strong brakes are required), but there are opportunities to shorten the trail if desired.
Aletsch Glacier Hike, Valais
The Aletsch Glacier, a moraine-streaked, heavily crevassed 23-kilometer-long motorway of ice pushing through some of the highest summits in the Swiss Alps, is one of the few sites that leaves you speechless.
Hiking alongside the Alps’ greatest glacier, you can’t help but gasp in awe, especially on a sunny day when enormous swords of peaks slash 4000m above the ice into a searingly blue sky.
This path, which runs from Fiescheralp to Bettmeralp and offers front-row views of the Aletsch Arena peaks, is without a doubt one of the most breathtaking day hikes. Highlights?
There are numerous. The Fieschergletscher serves as a warm-up for the main event. The second-largest glacier in the Alps, snaking down from the eastern face of Grosses Fiescherhorn, a razor-edge peak at 4049m, this 16-kilometer swirl of perpetual ice is the second largest in the world.
From here, the trail goes around hills and up a rocky ravine, progressively steepening as it negotiates switchbacks up to a lonely valley, its mountain lodge, and Märjelensee, a milky turquoise splash of a lake buttressed by massive rocks and the Aletsch Glacier’s rim.
As the trail borders the badly crevassed ice, the Aletsch Glacier becomes your constant companion. Chamois, ibex, and marmots, as well as virtually likely shaggy-haired black nose sheep, may be seen with luck and good timing.
As you proceed along a ridge to the grassy slopes of Moosfluh, where a strategically placed seat gives stunning glacier vistas, a Swiss stone pine forest, and shimmering tarns soften the Alpine scene. Soon after, you’ll arrive at Blausee’s glassy blue lake. Bettmeralp is only a short distance away from here.
The Matterhorn is the mountain you can’t stop staring at, and this Zermatt circular climb brings you up close to its ferocious fang. Choose a sunny day and get an early start for this full-day hike that encapsulates everything special about the Swiss Alps, taking you into a world of sparkling streams, crevassed glaciers, and 4000-foot summits. From June to October, the Höhenweg Höhbalmen can be hiked, weather permitting.
The track winds through a larch forest on the way up, with extensive switchbacks above the Triftbach Gorge. The journey continues uphill to Berggasthaus Trift (2337m), at the foot of its eponymous glacier, where you can stop overnight to split the hike into two days.
The journey continues through flower-flecked Alpine meadows, zigzagging up grassy slopes to reach Höhbalmenstaffel’s high balcony, where a breathtaking panorama reveals.
To reach Schwarzläger (2741m), the walk’s highest point, the route heads west, passing through narrowing ledges that get astoundingly near to the north face of the Matterhorn.
From here, it’s a continuous drop through Arben’s limited mountain ranges. The path descends to meet a more visible walking path that runs alongside the steep lateral moraine wall left by the retreating Zmutt Glacier. Follow this in zigzags through glacial rubble to the beautiful hamlet of Zmutt and then back to Zermatt.
Kronberg Treasure Hunt Trail
The Appenzell Alps, which ripped across the country’s northeast, is a certain winner with families. You’ll walk through undulating dairyland and flower-flecked fields to the beat of cowbells.
The mountains are easily reachable summits with their timber-framed, prettily muralled dwellings, and the cities look newly minted for a bedtime story.
The trailhead for this fantastic family hike, which skips back down the mountain and presents challenges and clues leading to the treasure,’ is Jakobsbad (near Appenzell), where a cable car swings up to the 1663m summit of Kronberg, the trailhead for this terrific family hike, which skips back down the mountain and presents challenges and clues leading to the treasure.’
If you want to make a day of it, the water park, adventure playground, zipline course, and whizzy bobsleigh run are available in the valley.
Bisse de Clavau
In Valais, which produces some of the country’s most celebrated wines, gentle walking pathways go through staggeringly tall terraced vineyards, with many vignerons (winegrowers) flinging open their cellar doors for tasting and purchasing. With its cinematic twinset of castles and raft of gourmet addresses, Sion is the best place to walk, taste, and appreciate the wine.
Hiking around Sion is about much more than appealing strolls amongst grape-heavy vines. The biases – small canals built in the 13th century to irrigate these vertiginous terraced grapes surrounded by drystone walls – distinguish these pathways in this portion of the Rhône Valley.
The Bisse de Clavau, a 550-year-old irrigation channel that feeds water to the thirsty, sun-drenched vineyards, commanding grandstand views of hilltop chateaux, the twisting River Rhône, and the not-so-distant Alps, make this half-day climb between Sion and St Léonard a pleasure.
Stop for lunch at Le Cube Varone, an antique winegrower’s hut, to sample Valaissian dôle (red) and Fendant (white) wines. The hike is never more beautiful than on a warm fall day when the grape harvest is in full flow, and you may try brisolée, a traditional harvest feast made with chestnuts, cheese, cold meats, and new wine (new wine).
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Also Read: 11 Best Places to Visit in Switzerland
Best Hikes in Switzerland
- Lakes of Macun, Swiss National Park
- Gemmi Pass
- Via Alpina
- Rigi Panorama Trail
- Aletsch Glacier Hike, Valais
- Höhenweg Höhbalmen
- Kronberg Treasure Hunt Trail
- Bisse de Clavau