Hiking in Switzerland: A Guide

Samuel Clennett

Introduction

Switzerland is one of the most popular hiking destinations in Europe, and it’s not hard to see why. The entire country of Switzerland is nestled in one of Europe’s biggest and most beautiful mountain ranges, the Alps. More than any other country that includes part of the famous mountain range, Switzerland is synonymous with the Alps. The Alps cover 65% of the surface area of Switzerland, and most of the tallest peaks in the mountain range are in Switzerland or just south of it¹.

This article will cover the different types of hiking in Switzerland, the best hikes the country has to offer, information on guided tours, and some pointers to keep in mind when hiking.

Types of Hiking In Switzerland

Hikes in Switzerland are divided into the following types: self-guided, tour-guided, single-day, and multi-day. That means that as a hiker the big decisions you need to make are whether you are going to hike solo and be responsible for your own planning and safety, or hike with a guide and likely a group of people, and whether your hike is going to take less than a day or longer than a day and require camping or lodging along the route.

Best Hiking Trails In Switzerland

Mont Blanc: One special hike in which Switzerland only plays a supporting role is the multi-day Mont Blanc hike. At 15,781, Mont Blanc is the tallest peak in the Alps, Swiss or anywhere else. The Mont Blanc massif is so large (it contains 11 independent summits), it straddles the borders of Switzerland, Italy, and France. The summit of Mont Blanc is actually in Italy, not Switzerland. You can hike around the summit of Mont Blanc and pass through each of those countries in a classic long-distance hike. The “Tour du Mont Blanc,” as it’s known, covers a distance of 170 kilometers (110 miles), includes 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) of ascent and descent, and takes around 11 days².

First Summit to Lake Bachalpsee: This hike begins at the First summit. By itself, it’s not much to speak of, but it is the first cable car station above the village of Grindelwald. From there, you can hike for about an hour to reach the picturesque Lake Bachalpsee and see the peaks of Eiger, Monch and Jungfrau. This is an ideal hike for novice hikers, with a lot of visual bang for not too much effort³.

Saas Fee Hohenweg: For a more intense hike, try this day-long journey in Valais. You embark from the resort of Grachen, hop on a gondola, which takes you to the village of Hannigalp, where you hike the Rhone Valley and cane take in the Bernese Alps. This adventurous journey even requires the hiker to scramble over a rockslide near Bockwang. The hike is about 17 km (10.8 miles), with an elevation that bounces mostly between 7,000 to 7,800. The hike ends at the village of Saas Fee⁴.

Uina Gorge: Another lovely moderate hike is the Uina Gorge in the Engadine Alps. One neat aspect of this hike is it includes a section where the trail runs through the carved rock of the gorge itself. It’s a tight space but a cool way to get to know the mountains themselves⁵.

Mount Rigi: This hike offers an opportunity to see some spectacular mountain views while traveling just outside one of Switzerland’s most popular tourist destinations: the medieval hamlet of Lucerne. Rigi itself is a minor peak in the Alps, but it’s accessible from Lucerne, and the 3-4 hour hike affords wonderful views of both the mountains Lucerne from above.

Oeschinensee: Another great moderate hike is this one, in the Interlaken region, where you hike in a loop around the Oeschinensee lake, which is surrounded by soaring glacial cirque peaks that reach 3,000 meters into the sky. The 5.2-mile loop begins in the village of Kandersteg. The lucky hiker will walk through sunny meadows and pine forests, then hit the small alp of Ober Bergli and hike the perimeter of the lake. Hikers are treated to gorgeous views, including the Bluemlisalp glacier. This hike has an elevation gain of 1,395 feet, so it’s not too strenuous for novice and intermediate hikers⁶.

Charles Kounen Suspension Bridge (Europaweg): Just outside the village of Randa is the longest suspension bridge in the world. It runs nearly 500m, and at its highest point is suspended 85m and runs over the Grabengufer of the Lärchberg on the Höüschbiel. If travelers want to check it out, they can hike the Europaweg trail, a moderate, two-day hike between the villages of Grächen and Zermatt. The hike takes around 16 hours, covers 39.3 km, and provides the hiker with a gorgeous panorama of snow-capped peaks, including the famous Matterhorn⁷.

Things To Look Out For

Hiking is fun but carries risks, and any aspiring hike should take the proper precautions to stay safe⁸.

  • If you are hiking alone, make sure you notify a friend or loved one where you will be hiking and at what times.
  • Pay attention to the weather on the day of the hike and ensure you aren’t walking into a thunderstorm.
  • Wear proper footwear, wear suntan lotion, bring plenty of water and a snack.
  • Keep a respectful distance from any local wildlife you encounter.
  • In addition to wildlife like marmots, you’ll likely spot cattle grazing. Give them a lot of space and don’t bother them. Cattle can be aggressive when their space is invaded. Carry a map of your area and trail so you don’t get lost, and don’t venture off the marked route of the trail.
  • As much as you can, leave nature undisturbed. Don’t throw rocks down slopes and don’t step into mountain brooks, they can have a stronger current than they seem.
  • Don’t litter.

Guided Tours

If a hearty hike in the mountains is attractive but intimidating to you, consider a guided tour. They’re available all over the Swiss Alp region, and range from around $100-$350 USD. If you are interested in a guided hike, make sure you book ahead to ensure you have a slot on the hiking day⁹.

Switzerland is a playground for outdoors enthusiasts, especially hikers. It has numerous excursions and endless amounts of gorgeous views for travelers.Hopefully this article helped you find the hike that was right for you, and equipped you with the proper knowledge to have a safe and fun time.

Sources:

  1. Hiking in Switzerland
  2. Mont Blanc
  3. First Summit to Lake Bachalpsee
  4. Saas Fee Hohenweg
  5. Uina Gorge
  6. Mount Rigi and Oeschinensee
  7. Charles Kounen Suspension Bridge (Europaweg)
  8. Hiking Etiquette
  9. Guided Tours

All sources accurate as of 22 February 2020


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