Hiking with alpine vistas in mountains around Zermatt
by Jane Jeffries
I’ve just been to Switzerland as a guest of Switzerland Tourism and had a magnificent experience hiking in Zermatt. The problem with some hiking holidays is you need to climb mountains to get the magnificent views.
But this is not the case in the picturesque, car free town of Zermatt.
It’s a great skiing resort so there’s no shortage of underground funiculars, gondolas and chairlifts. But the really good news is they operate 365 days of the year so when they’re not ferrying skiers up the mountains in the winter, they’re carrying hikers to the elevated plateaus in the summer. It is the ease of accessing the mountains that makes Zermatt such an appealing place to hike with the most breathtaking alpine vistas.
With over 400km of hiking trails the opportunities are never ending. Some walks can take as little as an hour while others can take several days. The terrain is varied and caters for all levels of fitness from a walk in the meadows to the testing Matterhorn.
All the trails are well marked and some stipulate you need a mountain guide or, if you’re wanting a challenge but not confident to go it alone, get assistance from one of the 70 mountain guides in Zermatt
Four of the magnificent peaks, the Gornergrat, Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, Rothorn and Schwarzsee are all accessible by mountain transport from Zermatt so you can arrive at the top of the mountain refreshed for your hiking. There’s also an abundance of mountain restaurants open for the summer hikers so you’re never far from refreshments.
I ascended the Rothorn and Gornergrat, both with spectacular views and a myriad of hiking trails.
I reached the Rothorn at an altitude of 3,103 metres in approximately 20 minutes but if I’d walked it would have taken four hours. An underground funicular goes as far as Sunnegga, with a further two gondolas to reach Rothorn. While it’s possible to get off at any station and hike down, get to the top first because the view overlooking the valleys, glaciers and the north face of the Matterhorn is not to be missed.
It’s possible to go even higher up the Rothorn with a 90-minute hike to an altitude of 3,415 metres, the highest peak in Europe reachable without a mountain guide. At the summit, a magnificent 360º panoramic view of the Alps, with 38, four thousand-metre peaks makes the journey all the more worth while.
The next day, I headed up the Gornergrat, accessible from Zermatt by the cog railway, the second highest railway in Europe. The 45-minute trip reaches an altitude of 3,089 metres where many of the great hiking trails start but the weather was unseasonably poor so we had a long progressive lunch at the Gornergrat Hotel, then the Riffelberg Hotel, finishing at the Riffelalp Resort for desert before hiking the last section of the mountain.
The view from the top of the Gornergrat encompasses 29 snowy mountain peaks and seven glaciers feeding into the mighty Gornergrat Glacier, the second longest in the Swiss Alps. There are also magnificent views of the Matterhorn.
The town of Zermatt is sophisticated and buzzy, with great restaurants and an après-hiking scene so start training to enjoy some of the world’s best alpine hiking and scenery.
Before heading to Switzerland visit www.myswitzerland.com
As an aside, the best way to get around Switzerland is with a Swiss Pass.
Switzerland has the densest public transport network in the world and a Swiss Pass covers the lot - all travel by rail, road and waterways throughout the whole country. There is no need to ever buy a ticket and reservations are only required on panoramic trips like the Glacier and Bernina Express.
For more information on Swiss Rail visit www.myswitzerland.com/rail
A Swiss Pass will give you
- Unlimited travel by rail, road and waterway
- Free travel on most panoramic trips including the Glacier Express and Bernina Express and 8 others
- Free travel on public transport in 75 towns and cities
- Free admission to more than 480 museums
- 50% discount off most mountain railways
- Children under age 16 travel free of charge when accompanied by at least one parent holding a Swiss Family Card