We love the Alps and we love Zermatt! I’ve written about great hikes near Chamonix, and now I’ll share my five favorite hikes above Zermatt. These are great hikes for independent hikers and could be considered the top-five or best hikes in Zermatt! I’d recommend them to anyone finishing our Summer Haute Route Hiking or our Summer Haute Route Glacier Trek itineraries. They would also be great hikes for folks looking for a change of scenery after completing the Tour du Mont Blanc!
Most of these great hikes stop in little hamlets above Zermatt. Read below to learn about these hikes and tips such as where to find the best cinnamon ice cream in the Zermatt valley!
1) Schwarzsee to the Hörnli Hut (base of the Matterhorn)
This hike takes you to the base of the Matterhorn’s most famous climbing route and the hut where climbers spend the night before heading to the summit. It is a must-do hike weather permitting. Make sure to inquire in town about conditions, as the trail can be dangerous if covered with ice.
Take the gondola up to the Schwarzsee station. As an ambitious day hike you can also start from town by heading through either Furi or Zmutt. Upon returning to Schwarzee you can decide whether to take the gondola back to town.
It is possible to spend the night at the Hörnli hut, but I recommend it only as a day hike. Of course you can relax at the hut in the late morning to watch for climbers returning from a summit attempt! If you want to try to reach the summit, contact us about hiring a guide.
Hiking time roundtrip from Schwarzee: 4 to 5 hours
2) Zermatt to the Gornergrat via the Riffelsee
This hike takes you through the beautiful larch forests above Zermatt, past tree-line and all the way to the Gornergrat above the scenic Gorner glacier. The Gornergrat is the site of the end of a mountain train line and the site of a hotel, so it is easy to take the train one-way back to Zermatt (40 chf one-way, 20 chf with the half tariff card or a SwissCard). The view from the top offers some of the best vantage points of the Monte Rosa, the Lyskamm, Castor, Pollux and the Breithorn. All of Zermatt’s 4000 meter peaks in full splendor!
There are several ways to reach the Gornergrat. I recommend starting in Winkelmatten or taking the train up to Riffelalp – note: the hike up to Riffelalp is a wonderful stroll through the forest! From Riffelalp, take the trail furthest to the south above the Gorner valley. Once you arrive at the Riffelsee under the Riffelhorn there is one main trail leading to the Gornergrat.
If you want to hike back down to Zermatt I recommend taking the trail that descends across the ski slopes and leads to Findeln. Note that hiking down will likely take about 3.5 hours.
Hiking time one-way: approximately 4.5 to 5 hours with stops.
Food tip: If you take the train down from Gornergrat consider stopping off for dinner at Riffelalp. The restaurant across from the 5-star hotel has delicious Rösti with Bratwurt. You can then hike down into town before dusk (about 45 minutes) or get back on the train.
3) Zermatt to Trift and back to Zermatt
I’ve done this hike several times. I’ll describe heading up on the northern most trail through avalanche barriers, but note that the hike is also great in reverse.
Start across the train tracks and angle northwest above the northern edge of town. The trail wanders up through avalanche barriers to a high point before descending to the splendid Trift Valley and the Hôtel du Trift. The hike back to town descends the Triftbach (a Bach is a stream), by the Edelweiss hut and then into town near the church. You can extend the hike by exploring above the Hôtel du Trift. Ambitious hikers can make it all the way to the Platthorn and the Mettelhorn.
Hiking time roundtrip without Mettelhorn: 4.5 hours
Food tip: Be sure to stop off at Edelweiss (or Alterhaupt) for a Rösti or a piece of pie! A quick hike up to Edelweiss for lunch is also great if you are short on time or are looking for a mellow hike on a rainy day.
Overnight: You can spend a night at the Hôtel du Trift to split the hike up into two days and explore the trails higher up the valley, for example to the Mettelhorn. If you are lucky Hugo Biner, the hut warden, might play his Alpenhorn! You can also sleep at Edelweiss, a hut that has hosted famous climbers including the great Edward Whymper!
4) Zermatt to the Oberrothorn and return via Findeln
To complete this hike in a relaxed day, first take the tram up to the Unterrothorn, then descend the ski slope to the Oberrothorn trail. This trail is an out and back to the summit. When you return to the start of this trail, descend the ski slopes to the south, eventually ending at Fluealp. From Fluealp return to Blauherd by the beautiful Stellisee. From Blauherd you can continue hiking down to either Sunnegga or to town or take the gondola and the Sunnegga train back to town. It is also possible to hike all the way from town to the summit and then take the lift back down, but note that hiking from town to the summit is almost 6000 vertical feet! So it would be an very ambitious hike!
Hiking time from Unterrothorn to the summit and back to Blauherd: 4.5 hours
Be sure to stop at the Stellisee for a picturesque lake with views of the Matterhorn. On a calm day you can get a picture of the Matterhorn’s reflection into the lake! Should you have any leftover bread from a picnic, throw a few crumbs into the water… you’ll be surprised by what lives in this alpine lake! (hint: big trout)
Food tip: On your way back to town stop off in Findeln for a drink or an amazing piece of Apfelstrudel at Chez Vrony. If you opt to ride back into town on the train, I recommend a stop for apricot pie at Fluealp where you can also spend the night.
5) Zermatt to Chalbermatten and return via Zmutt and Zumsee
This hike is an out and back hike under the north face of the Matterhorn. It’s a classic and takes you through the picturesque hamlet of Zmutt. You can turn it into a loop of sorts by starting via Eldelweiss and taking the high contour through Hubel. I highly recommend this option!
Hiking time roundtrip: 4 to 5 hours
Food tip: Just before the final stretch of trail back into Zermatt, be sure to make the 15 minute detour up to Zumsee. Stop off at Max und Greti’s for Zermatt’s best cinnamon ice cream! They also have a full menu if you are hungry or didn’t stop for food in Zmutt.
There are many great hikes above Zermatt, and these are some of my favorites!