- Climb to Switzerland's highest, oldest mountain hotel for mid-hike refreshment in Jungfrau Region
- Marvel at Europe's longest glacier, the Aletsch Glacier, as you hike above the ice flow
- Wander vineyard-clad slopes stopping off for winery tastings on the Chemin du Vignoble
- Spot ibex, chamois, and eagles on the country's best wildlife hike in the Swiss National Park
Switzerland is one of the top countries in Europe for hiking: the diversity of terrain is huge, way-marking is superb, and paths are well-maintained. The eight day hikes here stand out from a very long list because they traverse Switzerland's most beautiful and unique landscapes, and both start and finish in places with good transport connections. Hike the below day hikes, and you will certainly get to experience the very best of Switzerland's outdoors.
Faulhornweg from Schynige Platte to First, Jungfrau Region
If you were to ask for a day hike that ushers you past Switzerland's finest mountain panoramas, this would be it. Running between two of Jungfrau Region's stunningly located mountain transport stations, Schynige Platte (at the end of the mountain railway from Wilderswil) and First (terminus of the cable car down to Grindelwald), the trek promises exquisite views of iconic peaks Eiger (13,015 ft / 3,967 m), Mönch (13,474 ft / 4,107 m) and Jungfrau (13,641 ft / 4,158 m).
From Schynige Platte, the scenery plunging away to the Jungfrau Region's gateway town, Interlaken, and the two vast lakes it sits between, is already remarkable. The path then ascends to Faulhorn (9,386 ft / 2,681 m) where you can take a break at Switzerland's oldest and highest mountain hotel, Berghotel Faulhorn. You next continue down to First via the Alpine lake of Bachalpsee, the waters of which reflect the high peaks around.
For more on hiking in the Jungfrau Region, see this 7-Day hiking traverse of the Bernese Oberland.
|Length||9.9 miles (16 km)|
|Max Elevation||8796 ft (2681 m)|
Aletsch Glacier Trail, Valais
There are many mountain hikes in Switzerland, but only one takes you along the edge of Europe's largest glacier too. The Aletsch Glacier is a mighty 14.25 miles (23 km) and around one mile (1.5 km) wide, and whilst there are a couple of glacier viewpoints reachable by cable car, nothing compares to the drama of hiking alongside this formidable ice flow.
Beginning at Fiescheralp (connected by cable car to the mainline railway at Fiesch), the trail first winds close to the continent's second-largest glacier, Fiescherglacier, before climbing to Gletscherstube Hut and then down to the cobalt tarn of Märjelensee, where you first sight Aletsch Glacier as it hems in the lake. You'll then follow the glacier for several miles around the 7,545 ft (2,300 m) contour. Besides glacier views flanked by a sea of peaks often topping 1,0000 feet (3,048 m), watch for ibex (mountain goats), marmots (ground squirrels), and the region's distinctive shaggy black-nose sheep. Arriving at Moosfluh, you will spot the glacier's southern end. Here the route swings sharply east to Bettmersee lake before arriving at Bettmeralp, where a cable car delivers you down to Betten, on the mainline railway.
|Length||10.5 miles (17 km)|
|Max Elevation||7772 ft (2369 m)|
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Chemin du Vignoble from Sion to Sierre, Valais
The Valais vineyards rise above the Rhone in terraces of golden-green between Martigny and Leuk, making up the nation's largest wine region. The Chemin du Vignoble is a 41 mile (66 km) path running right through Valais wine country, broken into four days of easy-going hiking.
Stage three, from Valais' capital, Sion, to Venthône near Sierre, is the prettiest stage. The first part of the path from Sion follows the Bisse de Clavau, a high-level 15th-century irrigation channel and impressive engineering feat, offering sweeping views of the valley below. After the trail drops down to St Léonard, it passes over Europe's largest subterranean lake navigable by boat, before proceeding through winemaking communities to finish up at medieval heritage village Venthône. The end of the walk is just above Sierre, a great spot to learn more about Valais wine, courtesy of the wine museum inside Chateau de Villa. Its cellar has over 600 Valais wines to try. Despite the time given below, allow the whole day for this walk so as to stop off for at least one wine tour or tasting.
See here for more on exploring Switzerland's wine regions.
|Length||11.8 miles (19 km)|
|Max Elevation||2673 ft (815 m)|
Cardada to Mergoscia via Cimetta, Ticino
The southern flanks of the Ticino region border Northern Italy's lakes, and this hike introduces the sort of scenery you can expect on a trip here: Alpine peaks and views of Lake Maggiore, Lake Vogorno, and forgotten countryside villages. The terrain is gentler than the higher Alps elsewhere and the other big advantage of this route is that you can start it from central Locarno: take the funicular railway to Orselina, pausing to see the church of Madonna del Sasso, then take the cable car up from Orselina to Cardada (you can walk all the way up, but it will take you 2.5 hours on top of the route described).
As you begin the climb from Cardada to the summit of Cimetta and its chairlift station, Lake Maggiore views open up. After Cimetta the landscapes are wilder, and you progress along verdant Alpine meadow slopes to an even better lookout at Cima della Trossa. You then enjoy a long descent down the Valle di Mergoscia along ancient herders' paths and past time-lost hamlets only reachable on foot to Mergoscia, panoramas of Lake Vogorno unfolding as you go. Buses link back to Locarno from Mergoscia.
|Length||6.2 miles (10 km)|
|Max Elevation||6131 ft (1869 m)|
Val Trapchun, Swiss National Park, Graubünden
Switzerland's only national park, the Swiss National Park, got thus designated in 1914 and was the first Alpine area to get this level of protection. As a result, this is one of the most pristine parts of the Alps and a true wilderness, where flora and fauna endangered or extinct elsewhere continues to thrive. The Val Trapchun is the Swiss National Park's poster hike for two reasons: it is an easily doable round-trip day hike for hikers of any ability, and it delivers you to the region's best vantage point for wildlife spotting. The route traverses mountain slopes gorgeously carpeted in forest and along either side of the tumbling Ova de Varusch stream, with the best stops for wildlife viewing at Val Mela and Alp Trapchun, where you can spy ibex, chamois (goat-antelopes), marmots, golden eagles, and more.
|Length||8.7 miles (14 km)|
|Max Elevation||6700 ft (2042 m)|
||Prasüras car park, S-Chanf|
|Difficulty||Easy to Moderate|
Macun Lakes, Swiss National Park, Graubünden
The name of this group of 23 lakes scattered across the plateau in the far-eastern corner of Switzerland means 'ibex' in the local Romansch language, and this indeed is one of the creatures you are likely to spot because of the remoteness of this classic off-the-beaten-track hike in the Swiss National Park. The walk threads through the mountains between and above the towns of Lavin and Zernez, both with mainline railway stations. You climb from Lavin through the Zeznina Valley to the hike highlight: the lakes and tarns speckling the Macun basin below a cirque crowned by 9,500 ft+ peaks. Beginning at Lavin means the long, steep, zig-zagging stretch southwest of the lakes from Munt Baselgia into Zernez is downhill at the end, rather than a punishing uphill at the start.
|Length||13.6 miles (22 km)|
|Max Elevation||9662 ft (2945 m)|
Rütli Meadow to William Tell Chapel on the Swiss Path, Lake Uri, Central Switzerland
Lake Lucerne is the cradle of Switzerland: here is where the oath-taking of the Swiss Confederation occurred in 1291, the picture book scenery that put it on the map as a travel destination in the 19th century and the home of its most famous folk hero, William Tell. Whilst Lucerne and its surrounding mountains get the most attention, it is Lake Lucerne's long southern arm, Lake Uri, that is Switzerland's true heartland.
The Swiss Path curves around the entirety of Lake Uri from Rütli meadow, the site of the oath-taking at the head of the western lakeshore, to Brunnen on the opposite side. Opened to commemorate the 700th anniversary of Switzerland's founding in 1991, the path has 26 themed sections to represent the nation's 26 cantons and 0.19 inches (5mm) of route for every Swiss resident! Excellent ferry services to destinations along the path mean that whilst the full 21.75-mile (35-km) route requires two days of walking, hiking several sections in one day hike is easily achievable. Start at Rütli meadow, connected by boat to Brunnen, you can hike anti-clockwise around the lake in one day, via the settlements of Bauen, Isleten and Flüelen, finishing at the pretty William Tell Chapel, where murals portray scenes from the hero's legends. From here, boats connect back to Brunnen. The path undulates between lakeshore, forest, and hillside meadows, with a background of high mountain scenery. The walk's final stage on to Brunnen is lovely too, and with great views over the lake, if you can allow the extra time to complete it.
|Length||15.5 miles (25 km)|
|Max Elevation||2624 ft (800 m)|
|Start/Finish||Rütli meadow/William Tell Chapel|
The Zwinglipass, Appenzel, Northeast Switzerland
The Zwinglipass, named after Swiss Reformation leader Huldrych Zwingli, lies in Appenzel region. One of the most tradition-steeped areas of Switzerland, Appenzel is known for antiquated customs like Alpine cow parades and its super-strong Appenzeller Alpenbitter, a liqueur made from root and flower essences. It also offers mountain scenery, where karst mountains, pockets of forest, mountain lakes, flower-brightened valleys, and dairy farmland combine to make for picturesque walking.
Some of the best of this can be glimpsed on the Zwinglipass hike. Start at Brülisau, connected by bus to Appenzel. The trail then runs past the two long, wild mountain lakes of Sämtisersee and Fälensee, some thrilling sections where the peaks on either side press very close, and some lovely stretches of Alpine meadows. At 10.8 miles (17.5 km) it is possible to hike the whole route in a day, but well-situated lodgings on the route make it tempting to extend the hike overnight. The walk ends in Wildhaus, where buses connect to the nearest railway station at Nesslau.
|Length||10.8 miles (17.5 km)|
|Max Elevation||6594 ft (2010 m)|