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As a traveller spending a few days in Zermatt, you’ll quickly realise that any dreams of climbing to the peak of the Matterhorn probably aren’t going to be realised.
Unfortunately, the only way you can achieve this is with a spare few thousand euros and a lot of climbing experience. Luckily, there are still some great day hikes that you can do in and around Zermatt. The problem can be that the amount of hikes to do in Zermatt is a little overwhelming… there’s a lot to choose from.
I spent three nights in Zermatt, which gave me the chance to do a couple of full day hikes. I did a lot of research online. I asked around other travellers. I asked staff at hostels and information centres. After all of that, I decided on what seemed to be the two most popular day hikes from Zermatt. The first one was to the Hörnli Hut, which is Matterhorn basecamp. The second was 5 – Seenweg, the famous five lakes trail. This takes you around five lakes that all have great views of the Matterhorn. The research and advice I got was spot on, and they were without doubt two of the best hikes that I’ve done. Read on for a summary of each hike.
Hike 1: Zermatt to the Hörnli Hut
Distance: 17km round trip
Duration: 8-9 hours
Ascent / Descent: 1652m
Difficulty: Prepare to be sore the next day. A fairly tough one
You have two options when hiking to the Hörnli Hut. The first is to just do the entire hike from Zermatt, which is the option I chose. It’s pretty easy to find the trail, and there are generally a few other people about doing the same hike. You can grab a map from the info centre, right by the train station. Make sure to take plenty of water, lunch and snacks, as it’s a full day’s hiking ahead.
From Zermatt, you’ll head up the main street from the train station and just keep climbing up. There are signs on the main street that will start pointing you in the right direction. Follow the signs that point to the Schwarzsee cable car station and Hörnlihutte. Both are really well signed right from Zermatt, so it’s just about impossible to get lost.
It’s 2-3 hours of hiking to get to Schwarzsee cable car station, which is the first checkpoint and around the halfway mark. The climb is relatively steep. But it’s worth it for the views back down over Zermatt that you’ll get while climbing. Once you get to Schwarzsee, it’s worth stopping for a bit to take in the view.
From Schwarzsee, keep on following the signs on the Hörnli Hut. The path becomes a lot steeper from here, and it’s quite exposed, so you do need to take a bit of care. It’s around another 2-3 hours, depending on your fitness levels and how fast you hike. Once you reach the top, you can grab some food or a drink at the Hut, and take in the view of the Matterhorn. This is a close as you can get without doing the actual climb, and it’s pretty spectacular.
If you’re pressed for time or not sure how you’ll go hiking the whole way, option two is to get the cable car from Zermatt to Schwarzsee, and just hike to the Hörnli Hut from there. It’s a lot easier and quicker, but tickets are CHF 50 return, so it’s not exactly cheap. It’s a little more affordable if you have a half price travel card, which I’d recommend if you’re doing lots of travel around Switzerland.
Hike 2: 5 – Seenweg (The Five Lakes Trail)
Duration: 2-3 hours
Highest Elevation: 2578m
Ascent/Descent: 286m / 575m (depending on direction)
Difficulty: fairly easy, most people will manage this one no problems.
The five lakes trail is one of the more famous and popular hikes to do in Zermatt. As the name suggests, it takes you around five lakes, which all have great views of the Matterhorn. If you get a clear, still day, in at least three of the lakes you’ll get to see a great reflection of the Matterhorn.
To do the five lakes trail, you’ll need to get the cable car from Zermatt up to Sunnegga. A return ticket costs CHF 24. If you’re on a budget, it is possible to hike from Zermatt to Sunnegga. But as it’s meant to be a more relaxing walk, I chose to just get the cable car.
From Sunnegga, there are two directions that you can do the trail. The first (and the easiest) is to get straight onto another cable car that takes you from Sunnegga to Blauherd. This costs CHF 15. You only need to buy a one way ticket, as you’ll hike from there back down to Sunnegga. The trail takes a more or less a clockwise direction as you wind your way back down to Sunnegga, passing the five lakes along the way. If you take the trail in this direction then it’s mostly downhill with just a little bit of climbing at the end, making it a much more relaxing walk.
The trail can also be done in the other direction. Starting at Sunnegga, you can head down the hill and then left from the cable car station, make your way to the first lake, and then wind your way up to the top lake and to Blauherd. It’s a little tougher, but if you do it this way you get to save the best lake for last, which is a bonus.
If you’ve only got a couple of days in Zermatt, and you do want to do some hiking, I’d definitely recommend both of these walks. It’ll be an exhausting couple of days, especially if you do the Hörnli Hut hike, but its 100% worth it.
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