Postcards from Italy

Day Hikes in the Swiss Alps

Switzerland is one of the world’s most popular hiking destinations, and after just a glimpse of its stunning Alpine scenery, you’ll understand why. But it isn’t just the gorgeous mountain vistas that draws hiking and walking enthusiasts from across the globe: it’s also the ease of its user-friendly trails: well-marked, lined with a system of mountain lodges with excellent food, and impeccably maintained. You could walk for days without needing much more than a light day pack to keep you going.

Hiking sign at Höhbalmen

(Photo by Björn S… via Flickr)

That said, not everyone wants to spend their entire holiday on the trails. Luckily, there are a fantastic day hikes in the Swiss Alps, as well, letting you set out for a few hours to enjoy the mountain views with their rushing waterfalls, dramatic glaciers, local wildlife, and flower-filled meadows during the day but be back in town ( with glass of wine in hand by sunset.

IMG_4684-4686 - Gimmelwald - View from Wylern-Gehren

(Photo by thisisboss via Flickr)

Here are a few magnificent day hikes along easy-to-follow trails that can be hiked in either direction; many also have a fun funicular, gondola, or cogwheel railway to whisk hikers up to a scenic elevation to set off. You can bring a bag lunch if you like, but these routes are lined with Alpine lodges serving filling meals and snacks to keep you going for hours.

Riffelsee to Sunnegga

Matterhorn reflection in the Rifflesee

(Photo by Dave H via Flickr)

Where: Zermatt
Length: 8 miles/13 kilometers
Duration: 3 to 5 hours
Take the cog-wheeled Gornergrat train to Riffelsee, where you’ll want to stop and take pictures of the towering Matterhorn reflected in the crystalline glacial lakes. Descend to Rifflealp, where you can dine at the elegant five-star Rifflealp Resort before continuing down to cross the Findelbach Canyon past more placid lakes and postcard-perfect flowering meadows. You can opt to take the Sunnegga funicular back down to Zermatt, or the trail through the thick woods to the mountain village of Findeln for a more charming return trip.

Höhenweg Höhbalmen

Matterhorn from the Hohbalmer

(Photo by Paul Stephenson via Flickr)

Where: Zermatt
Length: 11 miles/18 kilometers
Duration: 5 to 7 hours
The serene Alpine countryside seems a world away from the bustling city of Zermatt, but within just minutes of leaving the center of town, you find yourself ascending through lush flowering meadows and thick larch forests along a steep trail with breathtaking views across the city below. Once you emerge past the treeline, you can rest in the Höhbalmen plateau and take in the 360° panorama over Switzerland’s highest peaks. On the way down, the views the Matterhorn to the right and the Zmutt glacier below are unforgettable.


2007 07 21 - 4861 - Stechelberg

(Photo by thisisboss via Flickr)

Where: Lauterbrunnen (Jungfrau)
Length: 6 miles/10 kilometers
Duration: 3 to 4 hours
Lauterbrunnental is the world’s largest glacial valley, with 72 picturesque waterfalls lining the loop route that begins from the town of Lauterbrunnen. Take the tram or hike the steep trail up to Grütshchalp and continue along the less-challenging forest path across a dozen or so rushing streams to the village of Mürren perched on the hillside. Be sure to stop for pictures as you descend to pretty Gimmelwald; from this village, you can walk or take the tram back down to Stechelberg and then to Lauterbrunnen by bus. If you haven’t run out of steam, you can also follow the trail from Stechelberg to Lauterbrunnen that follows the banks of the river past the meadows, farmland, and waterfalls on the valley floor.

The Faulhornweg


(Photo by Ruther Tuller via Flickr)

Where: Grindelwald (Jungfrau)
Length: 9 miles/15 kilometers
Duration: 6 to 8 hours
This trail is beloved for its stunning high-altitude views across Jungfrau. Take the gondola from Grindelwald to First and follow the popular trail to the Bachalpsee lake with the snow-covered peaks of Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau in the distance. As you continue along the route, the views to the north open up and you can admire the lakes and town of Interlaken. The trail ends at Schynige Platte, known for one of the most spectacular views in the Alps and rich local flora and fauna. The historic rail line dating from 1893 takes you back down to the village of Wilderswil, and from here you can continue on to Interlaken or head back to Grindelwald.

Lac de Louvie


(Photo by donchilli via Flickr)

Where: Verbier
Length: 9 miles/15 kilometers
Duration: 6 to 8 hours
From the bustling of the resort town of Verbier, take the gondola to Les Ruinettes and continue by foot to Cabane du Mont Fort to take in the views over the iconic Mont Blac massif. Pick up the Chamois Trail (Sentier de Chamois) here, and try to spot ibex and chamois nimbly hopping along the rocky slopes above. The vista stretches across the Val de Bagnes below as you cross the Termin Pass and continue to Lac de Louvie, a gorgeous lake ringed with 200-year old stone barns. Walk along the lakeshore while enjoying views of the Grand Combin massif and descend through the thick Alpine forest to Fionnay, where you can take the bus from the village center back to Verbier.

Travel Specialists

Maria Landers

Brian Dore