The Matterhorn, Zermatt
Zermatt is a popular mountain resort in the South of Switzerland, famous for the Matterhorn mountain, one of the top places to visit in Switzerland. Zermatt is most well known as a winter ski resort, however in the late spring, summer and early autumn months, it is also a great place for hiking.
To help you plan your trip, check out my top tips for visiting Zermatt
There are so many hiking routes in Zermatt to choose from, and the Zermatt tourism website is a great place to research the best trail for you, but I'm going to share the two walks which we did in the two days we were in Zermatt.
Both of these walks offer great views of the Matterhorn and both can be completed if you have a reasonable level of fitness.
Two great hikes in Zermatt for moderate fitness levels
Hike 1 - The Kulturweg 'A Short walk in Zermatt with a drink' - (no gondolas!)
For a short walk with mountain views, I recommend following the Kulturweg trail. The full trail leads from Zermatt to Zmutt and takes 1.5 hours one way, however, we did our own version, cutting the walk short and turning it into a circular route with a stop off. This route is great if you don't want to walk far, or you only have one day in Zermatt. Bonus, you don't need to take a gondola or mountain train either, saving you more money for a nice lunch!
To do the shorter route we did, start by following the Kulturweg trail, which begins from the church in Zermatt town centre. You will walk alongside the river a short way, with views of the Matterhorn.
The start of the Kulturweg route, just outside of Zermatt town
From here, the path will start to climb slowly until you reach a fork - you can either take the path leading further up the hill on the right, or the lower path on the left, which shows signs to Zum See.
We took the lower path and followed signs through the forest to Zum See. You will quickly come to another fork, next to a climbing frame, the left sign points to Bergrestaurant Blatten and the right sign points to Zum See. Take the right sign to Zum See (we will loop round to the Bergrestaurant Blatten later in the walk).
Soon you will appear out of the forest and arrive in the little hamlet of Zum See. The focal point of this cute little hamlet is the restaurant Zum See. The buildings are rustic wooden lodges, which reminded me of something from the Hobbit! It really did feel like going back in time.
A small wooden lodge in the hamlet of Zum See in Zermatt
As you exit the hamlet of Zum See, the path will open out onto meadows and rural farmland and towards the hamlet of Blatten. Blatten is the most protected hamlet in Zermatt, and gives a snapshot into how life was lived in this region long before us.
The hamlet of Blatten, Zermatt
From the meadow, you can choose to follow the path towards Zmutt and Furi, or loop back round to Zermatt, which is what we did. But before you head all the way back into town, make sure you stop at Bergrestaurant Blatten. The traditional Swiss mountain restaurant dates back to 1850, when it started as a tea house. It’s now a family run bar and restaurant and is the perfect place to stop for a drink and enjoy the afternoon sun in the meadow, under the shadow of the Matterhorn.
Sitting at the Bergrestaurant Blatten in the hamlet of Blatten (L) and Europe's oldest barn (R)
Leaving the Bergrestaurant Blatten, you will take the path alongside the restaurant, leading away from the building, past more wooden lodges, including the oldest barn in Europe which dates back to 1261.
You will then head back into the forest and you will arrive back at the climbing frame. From here retrace your steps back into Zermatt.
I would really recommend this for a short walk, it's relatively easy and is a nice way to spend a couple of hours and see a different side of Zermatt, which is a great contrast from the town's main busy street.
Hike 2 - The 5 lakes hike (5-Seeweg) 'A popular hike with constant views of the Matterhorn'
This is one of the most popular hiking routes in Zermatt as you don't have to be an experienced hiker to complete it and it offers views of the Matterhorn almost the whole way round.
The official length of this hike is 9.8km, and will take you approximately 2 hours 40 (depending on your speed and number of stops along the way). It is listed as a point to point route, starting at Blauherd and finishing at Sunnegga. To do it this way, you would need to ride a gondola from Sunnegga to Blauherd. However, there is a short hiking trail between Sunnegga and Blauherd, listed as the Marmot Trail. By adding on the Marmot trail, you will turn the 5 lakes hike into a circular route (which is what we did). This section is an extra 3.8km and will add another 1 hour to your total hiking time.
From Zermatt, you will need to catch the funicular mountain train to Sunnegga, which costs 25 CHF per adult for a return journey. At Sunnegga, take in your first glimpses of the Matterhorn from the restaurant terrace.
The view of the Matterhorn from the Sunnegga terrace in Zermatt
From the Sunnegga funicular exit, the sign for the 5 lakes walk (5-seenweg) will take you downhill, following the path in front of the terrace, towards the Matterhorn.
However, if you are adding on the Marmot trail (the straight section between Sunnegga and Blauherd), to complete a full circle as we did, I would recommend walking this section straight up to Blauherd first. This section is a steep climb and you may ask, why do it this way round, but trust me! By doing it this way round, it means that for the rest of the walk you will be facing the Matterhorn, rather than having your back to it. It also means that after the short, steep climb to Blauherd at the start, the rest of the walk is pretty much a descent. (As I mentioned, there is a gondola which runs from Sunnegga to Blauherd to avoid the steep climb, however this was already closed for the season when we were there early October).
Stopping to admire the view of the Matterhorn on the steep climb up to Blauherd
The uphill section between Sunnegga and Blauherd is not very pretty. The trail is quite dusty and the mountainside is quite brown and bare. But it does get better! From Blauherd, the rest of the route is pretty much a gradual descent and gets more colourful., with beautiful views over the mountain range.
The 5 lakes walk will take you past the Stelisee, Grindjsee, Grunsee, Moosjisee and Leisee (you will see them in this order if you start from Blauherd). The first two offer spectacular reflections of the Matterhorn in the lake on a clear day.
The Matterhorn reflecting in Stelisee
From Stelisee, this is where the route starts to become more attractive (in my opinion). You will start to descend further down into the valley and through pine tree forests. We did this walk in early October and the colours were just beautiful. The trees were a mixture of greens, oranges and reds, which looked so vibrant against the bright blue sky and the white-grey of the Matterhorn.
My favourite spot of the entire walk was at Grindjsee, as the Matterhorn is framed by forest pine trees and it just feels much more secluded and peaceful.
(tip: take your photos from low down, by the edge of the water to see the best reflection).
The Matterhorn reflecting in Grindjsee
The other three lakes, whilst not as impressive as the first two are still worth visiting and they are great places to stop and take in the atmosphere and have a rest.
If i'm being honest, though I enjoyed this hike, it was definitely not one of the prettiest hikes I've ever done. Whilst the views of the Matterhorn were really beautiful, there were parts of this trail which were not as pretty as I had anticipated. Perhaps that was because a lot of it was under construction and being prepared for the ski season (in fact, only a couple of days after we left, this trail was closed for the season).
I would rate this walk as moderate, due to the steep section at the beginning, but if you catch the gondola instead of walking that section, then it does make it much easier.
Looking down onto Moosjisee
Tips for hiking in Zermatt
1. The weather can vary in degrees very quickly from morning to afternoon and depending on what altitude you are at, so pack thin layers and take them with you. Even when we went in October, the sun was so strong, and despite the weather being just 5 degrees, we found ourselves peeling off the layers once we got hiking, as the sun made us so warm! You will also need sun cream, even in the winter.
2. Wear good, sturdy, supportive shoes and, depending on what route you take, hiking poles may be needed.
3. Be aware of the condition of the trails before you set off hiking. The tourism office and also the offices at the gondola and railway stations will have information on the conditions of certain routes and also whether there are any route closures or closures of gondolas.
4. Make sure that you check the time of the last gondola back down the mountain to Zermatt to avoid getting stranded up a mountain!
5. Pack plenty of snacks, especially if you are hiking out of season, as a lot of the mountain restaurants will be closed. There are plenty of shops and bakeries in the town to grab supplies before you go and Switzerland has some of the freshest water, meaning that you can drink the tap water. Make sure that you take a reusable water bottle to fill up before your day out, especially if you will be hiking all day.
The great thing about Zermatt is that there are walking and hiking routes suitable for all abilities and fitness levels, meaning that everyone can enjoy the beautiful landscape of Zermatt and of course, the famous Matterhorn. And even if walking is not your thing, there are plenty of viewpoints to soak up the atmosphere and take great photos.
I loved visiting Zermatt, it is a beautiful place and was definitely worth it. I would highly recommend venturing out into the meadows surrounding the main centre of Zermatt for a feel of traditional mountain living.
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