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Mountain Walking in Zermatt

Updated on February 19, 2015

Rothorn above Zermatt: Alpine Walks in a Summer Paradise

For me, walking in the mountains around Zermatt was like taking a shortcut to paradise. If you have spent time in the Swiss Alps - or anywhere in the Alps - you know it will be lovely, but you really can't imagine just how breathtaking until you are there, standing on a flower-covered mountain side, gazing in awe at the panorama around you.

Zermatt is a high-altitude Swiss alpine town, which lies close to Switzerland's border with Italy. Although not the easiest place to reach, it has been a magnet for climbers and tourists for well over 150 years. Not least because it is home to the famous Matterhorn mountain which has fascinated mountain climbers since Victorian times.

Although the little farming village has grown into a sizeable (but car-free) resort packed with hotels and accommodation, shops, supermarkets and eating places, it still has some of its original charm. More importantly, this development has had only a small impact on the magnificent mountain scenery, which remains largely unspoiled even with the railways and cable cars that will whisk you up to the heights.

Walk for just a few minutes away from the mountain restaurant, and you can find yourself in perfect piece, surrounded by all the wonders of alpine nature.

Even if Zermatt is not on your itinerary for next Summer, I hope you will join me on a virtual nature walk through some of the loveliest Alpine scenery.

All photos copyright of the author.

Walking in the Rothorn area

Walking in the Rothorn area
Walking in the Rothorn area

Zermatt - Sunnegga - Blauherd - Unterrothorn


Zermatt itself is situated at 1 mile (1605m) above sea level - just like Denver, Colorado. So even when lying in your hotel bed, you will be pretty high up! And from here, for as long as you are in the Zermatt area, you can only go higher.

The easiest way to get straight up into the mountain scenery is by funicular. The station is close to the river at the northern (lower) side of the town. The funicular is ideal if you prefer to walk down rather than up, or just want to do some mountain walking higher up above the tree line.

The first stop is Sunnegga (2288m or approx 1.4 miles above sea level). There is a mountain restaurant here with lovely views, and the surrounding terrain is long grass with lots of pretty Alpine flowers.

From Sunnegga, you can take the cable car to Blauherd (2578m / 1.6 miles), and either stop there or continue by cable car to Unterrothorn. If you get out at Blauherd, you'll find it a little more barren than Sunnegga with a lot of rocky ground.

Unterrothorn is 3103m (almost 2 miles!) high. Although we were there in the hottest summer on record, even then there were still pockets of snow to be seen in shaded spots. This tends to be as high as tourists generally go, although serious hikers could be seen setting out for Oberrothorn at 3415m (2.12 miles). Even in Summer you will need the proper equipment and know-how to tackle this route, which can only be tackled on foot.

Zermatt Valley

Zermatt Valley
Zermatt Valley

Sunnegga to Zermatt

Sunnegga above Zermatt
Sunnegga above Zermatt


This can either be the first or the final leg of your walk, or it could simply be an introductory walk while you get used to the altitude. (If you are not used to it, you may find the air thin and tire easily at first.)

I did this route downhill, on the way back to Zermatt, so just reverse it if you need to.

From sunny Sunnegga, the path takes you alongside meadows grazed by cows (you'll hear their cowbells even if you don't see them!) and through little Findeln at 2051m with its traditional rustic chalets.

As you continue your descent, you will reach the treeline. From this point, the walk is in woodland, which is particularly pleasant on a hot day as it will give you some shade. However, be sure to take your photos before this point.

Woodcarving near Sunnegga

Woodcarving near Sunnegga
Woodcarving near Sunnegga

Blauherd to Sunnegga

Zermatt view while walking
Zermatt view while walking


This was a route that we did on our final day - the day we saw a marmot!

Rather than going direct from Blauherd to Sunnegga, we first went uphill and then looped back around. The highlight of this walk, apart from meeting a marmot of course, was the wonderful view down to the Mosjesee (pictured).

We saw many pretty flowers too, and walked alongside a mountain stream for a while. I think it was somewhere around here that I found the rock that looked just like a mini Matterhorn.

Blauherd was also the spot from which I took a shortcut down to Zermatt on another day - by tandem paraglide! This involved being strapped to a Swiss man and a large piece of fabric, and running off the mountainside. An unforgettable experience.

Zermatt panorama at Unterrothorn
Zermatt panorama at Unterrothorn

Unterrothorn


Unterrothorn is a wonderful spot but it is one that almost defies description. Here you will have a panoramic view of many of the great peaks of the Alps of over 4000m (almost 2.5 miles) in height. This includes the Matterhorn (4478m), the Dom (4545m), the Weisshorn (4505m) and many, many more. No matter where you turn, you will see snow-capped peaks on every side.

On the day we visited, there were only a handful of tourists enjoying this awe-inspiring view as the distant bells of Zermatt carried on the pure mountain air.

The silence was suddenly broken by a strange noise. At first we were mystified by this odd sound, but soon all became clear as a party of mountain sheep came into view. This odd little hiking party had been driven upwards by the unusual heat, to seek out the coolest spots of the peak. As they climbed in their thick woolly coats, their leader bleated like a Sergeant-Major to keep them all in line!

Sometimes words are not enough.... - The beauty of the Zermatt-Rothorn trip in a video

Words and static images can only go so far. Which is why I was thrilled to find this incredible video from StuartDutchman. If you have 5 minutes to spare you will be well rewarded - it shows just about everything I've described on this page.

Have you visited Zermatt or been walking in the Swiss Alps? Or is it on your list of places to visit? I'd love to hear from you.

Please share your thoughts on lovely Zermatt - Have you slept in the shadow of the Matterhorn?

Submit a Comment

  • indigoj profile imageAUTHOR

    Indigo Janson 

    5 years ago from UK

    @Michey LM: You're welcome... thanks for stopping by Michey.

  • Michey LM profile image

    Michey LM 

    5 years ago

    If I miss a mountain vacation from Europe... this will be in Swiss Mountains. Thanks for giving me back the Zermatt, and that great view with Matterhorn from the terrace.

    Blessings

  • indigoj profile imageAUTHOR

    Indigo Janson 

    6 years ago from UK

    @StuartDutchman: Thanks again Stuart, now updated. Your videos are fantastic. Thank you for sharing them.

  • profile image

    StuartDutchman 

    6 years ago

    Please note that the link to the video is now http://youtu.be/POOnBYUtg5E. I've re-uploaded the video in HD, that's why the link has changed. My YouTube channel link is http://www.youtube.com/StuartDutchmanHQ.

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    6 years ago

    Wow, what a beautiful place Zermatt is. I would love to walk around and take it all in. The air must be totally clean there. Very nice article and photos. :)

  • squid-janices7 profile image

    squid-janices7 

    7 years ago

    As a matter of fact, I have slept in the shadow of the Matterhorn and loved every minute of it. You've done a great job capturing the essence of the area in this lens. Great photos and I love your little mini Matterhorn rock :)

  • TheLittleCardShop profile image

    Malu Couttolenc 

    7 years ago

    Zermatt is so pretty, beautiful images that makes us travel around this lovely area of Switzerland. As you said traveling around Zermat is a shortcut to paradise :)

  • LadyFlashman profile image

    LadyFlashman 

    7 years ago from United Kingdom

    I haven't slept in the shadow of the Matterhorn! I can almost smell the alpine air after reading this, I love Switzerland!

  • profile image

    huvalbd 

    7 years ago

    I have not been to the Zermatt area yet, only to Basel and Geneva. This is beautiful. Makes me want to see it myself!

  • ChrisDay LM profile image

    ChrisDay LM 

    7 years ago

    A really great lens and gorgeous photography - well worthy of that Purple Star

  • indigoj profile imageAUTHOR

    Indigo Janson 

    7 years ago from UK

    @jolou: Oh yes, Zermatt is lovely indeed.

  • jolou profile image

    jolou 

    7 years ago

    What a beautiful place. Love your photos. I'd love to see it one day.

  • indigoj profile imageAUTHOR

    Indigo Janson 

    7 years ago from UK

    @Paula Atwell: You're welcome, Paula. It is every bit as lovely as this and more when you see it 'for real' :)

  • profile image

    SantaClaws1 

    7 years ago

    I have not visited Zermatt or Swiss Alps but live in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and love every minute of it. Great lens

    Experience New York

  • Paula Atwell profile image

    Paula Atwell 

    7 years ago from Cleveland, OH

    Really gorgeous. I have yet to visit this area of the world, but I am definitely going to add it to the must do list. Thanks for the lovely introduction.

  • indigoj profile imageAUTHOR

    Indigo Janson 

    7 years ago from UK

    @LouiseKirkpatrick: Thank you! So glad this brought back the lovely memories, it is such a beautiful place. I am delighted that this lens now has an angel blessing as it is one of my own favourites.

  • LouiseKirkpatrick profile image

    LouiseKirkpatrick 

    7 years ago from Berkshire, United Kingdom

    I went on hoilday to Switzerland a couple of times when I was a child and we stayed near Zermatt - this lovely lens has brought back some very happy memories and the scenery is as breathtaking as I remember it! Blessed by a SquidAngel :)

  • profile image

    StuartDutchman 

    8 years ago

    The link to the Rothorn VIDEO is now

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dg5Qmjj2qA

  • profile image

    HappySeasons LM 

    8 years ago

    Just wow! I love the pictures... too bad I live so far away. Matt :)

  • profile image

    anonymous 

    8 years ago

    Thank you for this beautiful virtual hike in the Swiss Alps. Truly breathtaking scenery.

  • ZenandChic profile image

    Patricia 

    8 years ago

    Sounds so cool! The pictures are awesome!

  • HorseAndPony LM profile image

    HorseAndPony LM 

    8 years ago

    This is a great lens and I love your photos. I have not visited Zermatt or Swiss Alps but live in the Colorado Rocky Mountains and love every minute of it.

  • profile image

    kimmanleyort 

    8 years ago

    No, but having walked along with you, I want to go now. This is wonderfully written! 5*

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