If you plan to visit Switzerland, of course you cannot miss out on a city like Zürich. But in all fairness, a lot more beauty lies in the area around the city. If you want to go for a hike and see more of the country, you can do so pretty easy. Because there are many opportunities for hikes around Zürich. I would love to share some of my favorite spots that I have visited throughout the year. Prepare yourself for stunning far sights and clear blue lakes. Imagine small streams transferring to waterfalls and a lot of cows.
Before you head to the Swiss Alps, you want to be sure that you have the right equipment. Good footwear and protective clothing is necessary for most walks. All the destinations are at maximum 1 hour drive from Zürich. They are also in reach of the Swiss public transport. Thus a trip to the mountains is easy to plan just for one day. Which makes it a perfect addition to a trip to Zürich or as a general holiday activity.
Duration: +/- 2 hours to go up and down
This is the closest hike to Zürich as can be. The 800m high Uetliberg, that surrounds the west side of the city, has some nice hiking trails. In the weekends, you can find a mix of tourists and locals that come up to enjoy the view and the lovely scenery. The walks often lead through the forest and end up on top of the “mountain”. For me this was one of the first places I visited when I just arrived in Zürich and I loved it. There are no physical requirements necessary to enjoy a walk here.
If you just want to enjoy the great view over lake Zürich, you can take a train from the main station. The walk up to the panorama platform is only about 15 minutes. If you like a route that is a bit more challenging, I can recommend you to start all the way down at the ‘Uetlibergstrasse’. From here take the hiking route all the way to the top. This will take you about an hour and is a nice climb. At least enough to give you sore muscles the next day if you aren’t well trained ;-). Like a true Swiss hiking trail, you can find little water fountains with drinking water along the way. If you are lucky you may encounter a dear or a fox while you hike up.
The winter is magical on the Uetliberg
While living in Zürich, I have visited the Uetliberg many times and I can tell you, that winter is my favorite time to go up there. When everything is white and covered with snow, it looks absolutely magical. When I am there, it feels like I am walking through a fairy tale, especially when the sun is out as well. The best part is actually that there is also a route especially for a sledge, that you can take all the way down. Which is a lot of fun!
Mt. Rigi – Rigi Klassiker hike trail
Duration: from 1 hour or more depending on the route
At about a 45 minute drive from Zürich, you can find Mt. Rigi. This is one of the easiest hikes around Zürich that includes a rewarding view. From the top you can overlook several lakes and if you look really well, you can even see Zürich. There are different ways to get up Rigi, the easiest is to drive up to Vitznau and take the train all the way up. Or as an alternative, you can take the aerial cable lift at Küssnacht or Vitznau. The train also makes stops along the way. A nice fact is that it once was the first mountain railway in Europe powered by steam. You can get off at any chosen point and continue on foot and explore. Once you are on the top, there are a couple of restaurants to server your thirst. For a reasonable price, you can even have a simple, yet typical Swiss lunch, like a “Bratwurst” or “Rösti”.
A wonderful mountainscape that is accessible for everybody
The reason why the hike to the top is quite simple, is because the paths are well marked and higher up it is even paved. This also makes it very suited for strollers or unexperienced hikers. When I went to Rigi for the first time, we got off at the ‘Staffelhöhe’ stop and hiked up to the top from there. Along the way there are a lot of houses, cows and dirt roads which absolutely gives you sort of a mountain feeling.
But in all fairness, since the hikes are fairly easy along the common route, there are also a lot of tourists. I love to wander around in the mountains without running in to people every couple of meters. So if that is what you are looking for, don’t expect it at Mt. Rigi. For me, as a semi-local in Switzerland, I like to take foreign guests here, who are not experienced hikers. But if you have more time to explore, there are also some more scenic route that require more hiking experience. This will take you away from the big amount of tourists that just come here for the view.
Relax in the spa resort…
One of the nice things about visting Mt. Rigi, is that you can combine your visit with a trip to the Spa, which you can find halfway up the mountain. Rigi Kaltbadt which, unlike the name suggests, is a spa facility with warm thermal water (‘Kaltbadt’ in German means cold bath). I like to treat myself to a spa treatment every now and then to energize and relax. I must say, that this spa does an excellent job! The outside pool area has a magnificent view over the mountains and is well designed. I enjoyed a nice massage and the Spa also has a couple of sauna’s that complete the wellness experience.
If you combine a walk with some wellness, I’d say you have a pretty nice day in the outdoors!
More information about Mt. Rigi and the Kaltbadt: https://www.rigi.ch/
Stoos berg – “Gradwanderung”: Klingenstock to Fronalpstock
Duration: at least 3 hours or more
Level: Some experience required, sturdy footwear highly recommended
Of all the hikes around Zürich that we did for the past year, this is my absolute favorite! This spectacular ridge walk is not too difficult. Yet you experience the ultimate Swiss outdoor feeling. During the 3 hour walk, the rocky path takes you over a mountain ridge, with stunning views everywhere you look. Imagine, bright green grass with different flowers popping up that color the landscape yellow, purple and pink. When you look a bit further over the mountains, you will discover lake after lake, that all look bright and blue from up there.
Because you walk over the ridge, climbing and descending alternate each other. This helps to make this hike pretty well endurable. I did this hike a couple of times and every time was stunning, no matter the type of weather. But if you want to get the best views, make sure it is sunny!
Picnic in the sky…
Something that makes this hike even better, is to pack yourself some lunch and enjoy it along the way. There is a restaurant at “Fronalpstock, but along the hiking trail there are no restaurants of any kind. So if you want to eat during your hike, the only way is to bring it yourself. You can find two large picnic tables along the way, or you can just sit yourself down in the green grass. My friends call it “the picnic in the sky” which is a great as it sounds!
More information on this hike via: http://www.stoos-muotatal.ch/
Pizol – Fünf seen wanderung
Duration: 2 hours or 5 hours (11 kilometers)
Level: Intermediate, good footwear is required for this hike
Another pretty spectacular hike is the “Fünf Seen wanderung” in Pizol. Which translates as the “five lakes walk”. This panoramic trail takes you in about 5 hours, along 5 stunning mountain lakes with clear, bright blue and ice cold water. But also let’s you walk through rough rocky terrain and pretty alp meadows. All decorated with colorful flowers and home to mountain goats, guinea pigs and eagles. Furthermore you will also be able to see the Pizol glaciers and the 2844m high “Pizolgipfel”. For this hike some experience is a must! As an alternative, you can do the “Zwei seen wanderung” (2 lakes walk). That hike takes only 2 hours and still is pretty spectacular.
I did this hike at the beginning of July and there was still a lot of snow on the trails, I don’t know if that is due to the bad weather we experienced throughout the spring or that it is always like that. Anyway, if you go on a five hour walk, with no stops in between and no shortcuts along the way, bringing an extra layer of clothing is highly recommended of course. The hike takes you to panoramic lookout spots with endless stretched views over the alps.
If you want to do this stunning hike, be sure to be there on time. The lift back to the valley only goes back until 4.30PM. Considering it is a 5 hour walk without breaks, you need to leave in time.
More information on this hike via: http://www.pizol.com/
Mythen Mountains – Grosse Mythen and kleine Mythen
Duration: at least 3 hours or more
The Brunni-Alp valley (at 1.100m), is the starting point for a hike to the impressive looking Grosse Mythen. The 2,4 kilometer long hike starts off in Holzegg or if you like a longer hike you can also start from the Brunni valley. From Holzegg, you will walk through a pleasant looking meadow. Along the way it slowly changes in a more wooded area ending up on the rough and rocky terrain above the three line.
A steep hike
Along the trail you will smell the alp herbs, that grow in the area, making you feel one with nature. The hiking trail is one of the older trails of Switzerland as it exists already since 1864. For this hike you need some experience and good footwear is a must. The steep climb to the top goes over a narrow rocky path and has about 47 turns. Don’t worry though, about halfway you will find a bench in case you desperately need to take a break, like I needed. Once you reach the top, your reward awaits you, a stunning view over 5 different lakes. Among which you can spot the green colored Aegerisee. One advice, if you are afraid of heights skip this hike, the paths are really narrow and you need to hold on to a secured line whilst hiking up the last bit of the trail.
If you find the Grosse Mythen a bit challenging, you can also choose for the smaller Kleine Mythen. That mountain also has a nice hiking trail, but is less steep.
What also makes it nice around Mythen, is that the area is a favorite spot for paragliders to take off. So while taking a break from your active encounter, you can spot the paragliders floating peaceful in the sky.
More information via: http://www.brunnialpthal.ch/
Duration: a whole day
Level: suited for all levels depending on the walk you choose
The 2132 meter high Mount Pilatus parades itself along the beautiful lake of Luzern. You can spot it form miles away. Here you can find some beautiful scenic walks for different levels. But you can also take a tour that brings you al the way to the top and that brings you back on the other side of the mountain. You will go up and down via a cogwheel railway or panoramic cable cart. The tour ends with a boat tour along the lake that brings you right back to the starting point. This trip is called the Golden Round Trip and can be done between May and October. This trip, as you can guess, doesn’t require a lot of hiking experience. But is nice to enjoy the beautiful scenery of Pilatus and the lake of Luzern.
More information via: http://www.pilatus.ch/en/