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Hiking in Switzerland
A True Walkers Paradise

Trekking routes through the Swiss Alps have been used as trade and smuggle tracks for centuries. The variety of trails for hiking in Switzerland is endless. From easy footpaths to difficult climbs - you are spoilt for choice.

hiking in switzerland, Lenk
Lenk. On the way to the Schatthorn

Switzerland is a walkers, hikers and climbers paradise. After all, this is the country where mountaineering was invented. Hiking is practically our national sport and a way of life.

There is no other country better prepared for its wandering guests. A dense network of hiking trails for all levels of fitness, an excellent public transport system and hiking accommodations make it relatively easy to explore this country on hiking vacations.

Maybe we can't agree on politics (each canton and municipality have their own rules and regulations), but when it comes to hiking, Switzerland is united and managed to use the same system throughout the country.

The fact that there are almost as many marked hiking trails as there are roads for motorized traffic shows how serious we are about our national sport. More than 60'000 km (37,284 miles) uniformly marked trails criss-cross Switzerland which is barely the size of Nova Scotia. This is quite extraordinary compared to the entire road network of approx. 72'000 km (44,740 miles).

The Swiss Hiking Foundation is the umbrella organization and responsible for organizing and maintaining the signalization throughout Switzerland; a large group of volunteers make sure the 42'000 signs for the 7 national, 60 regional and 228 local routes are intact and at the right place.

Practical Tips for Hiking | Trail Signalization | Accommodation | Hiking Etiquette
Emergency Numbers | Recourses | Guided & Self-guided Tours

Practical Tips for Hiking in Switzerland

Best time to go

The hiking season depends on where you hike. In general, the best time for high Alpine trekking is July and August, and for mountain hiking between July and September. In lower areas and in the foothills the season extends from May to October, and in the southern part, the Ticino, and Swiss Riviera for example, one can start as early as March. Here's a list with average temperatures throughout the year.

Keep in mind that it doesn't get all too hot in very high altitudes, even in July and August. Snow and blizzards are always a possibility, so keep an eye on the weather forecast. Fog can creep in and make the trails invisible, especially during spring and fall.

Hiking in and around cities, towns, and villages is - of course - possible year-round, although it can be quite rainy and cold during early spring and late fall.

Not that snow stops us from our beloved pastime. Throughout winter, you can find groomed winter hiking trails for shorter walks and day trips as well as numerous trails for snowshoeing.

best time for hiking in Switzerland
A burst of winter in mid May!

Good to know


Most of the tourist offices organize guided tours for their guests for a fee, some even for free. Ask when you pick up your Guest-Card.

Know thyself. Are you an avid hiker and used to hike in remote areas and difficult terrain? A long-distance hiker or a "Sunday walker", meaning you don't mind the occasional hike but prefer easier terrain and shorter distances?

Make yourself familiar with the route you want to take. Is there public transportation (train, postbus, cable-cars etc.) and where? Are there mountain huts and restaurants along the way? How difficult will the trail be? How much time will you need for a particular hike? Can you easy go back to your destination and how much time will you need? The better you are prepared, the smoother the hike will be.

If you plan an extensive hike or trek, acclimate yourself when you arrive for a day or two. Don't start immediately at a high altitude.

Allow enough time for your hike; avoid trekking in high altitude when the weather forecast is iffy. Be prepared to adjust your plans accordingly.

Once you arrive, use the local tourist office for the latest update on the route you have chosen. Depending on the size of the office, you also can buy maps or get pamphlets for free. Also, don't forget to ask for the "Guest-Card" if you stay for a couple of nights or longer. You can get great discounts with this card (even for mountain transportation), and certain things are even free. Be aware of opening hours: Tourist offices in smaller towns are often closed Saturday afternoon and Sunday. The hotel you are staying at should be able to provide you with the "Guest-Card" and information as well.


Most cities, towns and villages offer a "Guest-Card" if you stay a couple of nights or longer. You receive great discounts with this card, and some things are even for free.

Mountain-rides can be costly, especially in typical sightseeing destinations such as Pilatus, Matterhorn and Jungfraujoch, just to name a few.

Lots of areas offer discounts during the summer months, particularly where the cable cars and lifts where built for winter activities. For example, the Ski resort of Davos and Klosters.

Depending on how many trips you plan to take during your holiday, you might want to look into purchasing a half-fare or Swiss card to get discounts on your train trips and certain mountain rides.

Some regions offer discounted "Mehrfahrtkarten" - tickets for more than one ride - for a few days or a week that also can be valid for different mountain rides in the same area. Ask at the tourist office or train station (and/or in your hotel).

Break in your hiking shoes before you leave home.

Can I hike alone?

The fact that 91% of hikers do it on their own shows how excellent the infrastructure and information about hiking in Switzerland are. It's no doubt the best-supported hiking destination in the world. And yes, of course you can do it alone.

However, doing it in organized groups can save you time and the trouble of detailed planning. At the end of the day, your luggage, a warm meal and a bed are always waiting for you. The guide not only can tell you more about the area, hopefully even a bit of local lore and mythology, he also takes care of emergencies. And of course, if you don't like to hike alone, the company of fellow hikers is definitely a plus.

Another option would be booking a self-guided tour: you receive a detailed itinerary and maps; accommodation is booked, and luggage transfer arranged from Inn-to-Inn.

What to pack


To prevent blisters, massage your feet with a heavy cream (not a lotion) and wear woolen socks or one of the seamless walking socks that are now available.

  • Weather conditions can change quickly while hiking in the Alps, and rainproof clothing is a must. A small lightweight foldable umbrella is great for walkers. Dress in layers. Long trousers protect you from sun, bad weather, horse flies and prickly brushes along mountain trails.
  • Good walking, hiking or climbing shoes (according to the route you chose).
  • Maps, Compass, GPs as you wish, but especially if you go on remote and alpine hikes.
  • Mobile phone, binoculars if you wish.
  • A well-supported small Rucksack for day trips; a bigger one for long distance hikes.
  • A whistle to alarm people if you are in distress: 6 signals per minute, then break for a minute. Repeat until help arrives.
  • First aid kit, pocket-knife and a rescue blanket for remote and alpine hikes, but also valuable for emergency situations to keep your body warm.
  • Sun protection: lotion and glasses with UV filter. A hat. The sun at higher altitudes is stronger than in the valleys, even if it doesn't feel this way.
  • Pack food depending on where you hike. Inform yourself about restaurants and alpine huts that serve food along the way. A water bottle. You can refill it along the way. The drinking water at fountains is excellent (otherwise it will be marked), even in streams.
  • For emergencies: Grape sugar candies and an assortment of nuts and raisins, called "Studentenfutter" ("food for students", meaning trail mix); hiking is an excellent excuse for munching on chocolate - you'll burn it off in no time. Come to think of it: we are world record holders in eating chocolate, so maybe our love for hiking is just an excuse to keep that record?
  • If you stay in huts, you might want to pack a lightweight (silk) sleeping bag, a small flashlight, ear plugs and a small towel.
  • Nordic hiking poles: I can't walk with these things, but admittedly, they are very useful and can make a big difference. They are foldable and easy to carry in your backpack when you don't need them. Hiking downhill can make you "weak in the knees", and poles are an additional support in case you slip.
  • For mountaineering, take adequate equipment with you (ice pick, cords etc.)
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Trail Signalization for Hiking in Switzerland

All hiking trails are well marked. If you stick to the marked trails, you can't get lost even without a map or guidebook.

Signposts (Wegweiser) provide information on where you are, the elevation you are at, the estimated time you need to reach the next destination (often more than one - resting time not included), gives you directions, and tells you the difficulty of the trail. They are divided into hiking trails, mountain trails and Alpine routes of different grades.

Signs, Grade Demands, Terrain Hiking Examples

Hiking Trail (Wanderweg)

Swiss Alpine Club: T1

signs for hiking in Switzerland
signs for Hiking in Switzerland


  • No special equipment required. No map necessary.
  • Not challenging.
  • Recreational walking trail.
  • Usually away from motorized roads, leading through valleys, from town to town and along high plateaus.

  • Along the way you find yellow rhombic signs or arrows that lead you to the next signpost. Approx. every 10 minutes.
  • Grüschaweg Vaduz-Triesenberg (LI)
  • Appenzeller Alpenweg (AI)
  • Barefeet Trail Jakobsbad-Gontenbad (AI)
  • Amdener Höhenweg (SG)

Mountain Trail (Bergwanderweg)
Yellow with white-red-white pointers.

Swiss Alpine Club: T2 and T3

hiking in Switzerland
Trails signs for Hiking in Switzerland


  • Solid hiking boots. All-weather clothing. A Map can be useful.
  • Able to move through exposed sections without fear (surefootedness).
  • Leading up to higher altitudes with partly steep, narrow and exposed sections (slipping, sliding, rock fall possible).
  • Most aren't difficult to negotiate if you are physically fit.
  • Difficult sections are secured with ropes and chains.
  • Be aware of sudden weather changes.

  • T2 is less challenging than T3 marked trails.

  • Along the way white-red-white signs in regular intervals.
  • Lenk-Schattenhorn-Birchlounene-Matten (BE)
  • Gafiel-Fürstensteig-Bargella-Gafiel (GR)
  • Ridge Hike Stoss (Klingenstock-Fronalpstock) (SZ)
  • Grosser Mythen (SZ)

Alpine Route (Alpinwanderweg)
Blue with white-blue-white pointers.

Swiss Alpine Club: T4, T5, T6
hiking in the swiss alps


  • Alpine hiking gear/clothing/boots. Map, compass.
  • Challenging mountain trails for experienced and very fit hikers only.
  • Rugged areas, steep drop-offs and climbing sections with and without ropes in place.
  • Can lead across glaciers, rock fall areas and climbing sections (rope and pick axe necessary).
  • Not always possible to return in time if caught in bad weather.

  • If marked between signposts, then white-blue-white.

  • The challenge rises with the "T" number; form demanding to challenging to difficult.
  • Niesenkette (BE)
  • Erbithorn and Männliflue (BE)
  • Diavolezza "Senda dal Diavel" (GR)
  • Via Alta della Verzasca (TI)

Winter Trails (Winterwanderweg)

hiking the swiss alps
  • No special requirements.
  • Groomed Trails.
  • Not challenging.
  • Panorama Trail Pizol (SG)
  • Zugerberg Winter Trail (ZG)
  • Wildhus (SG)
  • Fiescheralp-Bettmeralp-Riederalp (VS)

Regional and National Routes
Green Logo on yellow signs

Requirements according to the normal Hiking, Mountain Trail and Alpine route signs. In addition, the 60 Regional and 7 National Routes are marked with green logos on the yellow hiking signs.

  • Regional Routes: Each route is marked by a two-digit number.
  • National Routes: Are marked with a one-digit number.
  • Culture Trek Appenzell (regional)
  • Klettgau Rhine Trail (regional)
  • Via Jacobi/Way of St. James (national)
  • Via Alpina (national)
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Guided and Self-guided Alpine Hiking Tours

What better way to explore Switzerland than on foot. I am working with an Alpine hiking tour operator who organizes hiking tours for over thirty years.

He offers small guided tours, including the famous Haute Route from Chamonix to Zermatt.

If you rather like to hike in your own company you can book the same tours as a self-guided package. This way you don't have to worry about your luggage - it will be transported from hotel to hotel so you hike light with only a day back.

Check out the tours on offer.


Additional off-site information on hiking in Switzerland

  • SwissMobility provides in-depth information and route material for hiking in Switzerland. Get detailed specifics about your hike such as distance, restaurants and accommodations along the way, public transportation and so on. You can even print out a detailed map for your hike. Unfortunately, they only show one grocery store chain, and one that is not in every town and village (far from it). But almost all villages have grocery stores where you can buy food to take on your hike.
  • You find a better list of grocery stores at SearchSwtizerland as well as restaurants, public buildings, phone directory and more. Info is printable.
  • The Federal Office of Topography (SwissTopo) offers the most accurate geographical reference maps (sections printable free of charge) for Switzerland and Liechtenstein, trip calculation service, geology data, GPS downloads, a selection of maps scale 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 and more.
  • MeteoSchweiz is the official weather channel for Switzerland.
  • You can stay at a Swiss Alpine Club hut even if you are not a member.
  • Meeting the locals while walking in moonlight? Wandernacht (wander night) lists all the organized moonlight walks (near full moon nights). The site is in German and French; use the Google translation tool, and although it's not optimal, at least you will understand most of it and can guess the rest.
  • To reach the remotest area possible without your own car, AlpenTaxi (Swiss Alpine Taxi) provides a list of local bus organizations and private cable car providers. You will have to make reservations.
  • Officially maintained barbecue spots throughout Switzerland and interesting things to do with the whole family. Often with children playgrounds. Unfortunately, it's not in English, but it's pretty much self-explanatory.
  • The Network of Swiss Parks (National, Regional and Discovery Parks)

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You have the choice between hotels, Alpine huts and inns, Naturfreundehäuser (Nature Friend's homes), B&Bs, hostels, holiday apartments, sleeping in hay or in campgrounds.

Wild camping is not uniformly regulated and can cause problems (albeit I never experienced one). Some communities allow it, others don't.

More about Hiking Accommodation here.

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Hiking Etiquette

  • You are hard pressed to find a no trespassing sign, but for safety reason, don't stray from marked trails, especially if you don't know the area.
  • When you open fence gates to pass through close them again.
  • Drink regularly, even if you don't feel thirsty.
  • Don't try to beat the record, rest regularly.
  • If you get caught in bad weather return immediately if you can or look for shelter in farm huts or protected areas. Wait until the weather clears up.
  • Nature is there for all to enjoy. The ecosystem is very sensitive in high altitudes. Animals and flora rely on this habitat (and so do we). Don't leave the path in protected nature reserves.
  • Bring home memories and photos but leave everything else where it is.
  • Don't make fire when the weather is dry for a long period of time.
  • If you take dogs with you, put them on a leash when you cross pastures with grazing cattle.
  • Cows are curious creatures and most of them harmless. More and more farmers though hold Mother-cows, and they are very protective of their little ones and can get quite aggressive if you approach the calves. Best keep your distance.
  • Some hiking routes are shared with mountain bikers - don't strangle them ;)
  • Don't go alone on long-distance walks without leavening detailed information about your hike with someone, and don't forget to let them know when you are back.
  • Take your trash back with you.
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Emergency Numbers

Taking a mobile phone on your hike can come in handy in emergency situations, though there's not always a connection.

  • Dial 144 for ambulance or 117 for the police.
  • Helicopter Rescue: 1414 for Rega (Swiss-wide 24-hours). If your cell phone doesn't operate with a Swiss sim card, dial +41 333 333 333.
  • Air Glacier 1415 and
    Air Zermatt 027-966-8686.

Rescue does not come for free. It's very important that you take out travel insurance with worldwide coverage for rescue costs, helicopter included, if you plan hiking vacations, or any other vacation for that matter.

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