This post is all about the Matterhorn Glacier Trail and why you need to add it to your list of things to do in Zermatt, Switzerland.
It will be the closest you will get to the beautiful Matterhorn mountain out of all the Zermatt hikes. So close that you will feel you can almost touch it.
You can easily combine it with a visit to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise for an amazing day in the Swiss Alps. This is exactly what we did this summer during our 4-night holiday in Zermatt and I’m going to tell you all about our experience here. Plus I’ll give you some hiking tips so you can make your best out of this experience.
PRO TIP #1: I would only recommend hiking the Matterhorn Glacier Trail if you have at least 2 days to spend in Zermatt. If not, the best hike you can do is the Gornergrat to Riffleber hike.
Matterhorn Glacier Trail – Quick Facts
The Matterhorn Glacier trail, just like the Matterhorn glacier Paradise is a perfect summer activity for couples but also for families with kids.
Let’s first have a look at some quick facts about the hike so you know what to expect:
- DISTANCE: 6,6km (4 miles)
- START: Trockener Steg (2.939m / 9.642 ft)
- END: Schwarzsee (2.583m / 8.747 ft)
- HIKING TIME: 2.5 -3 hours downhill hiking, from Trockener Steg. You can choose to hike the other way around, in which case you need to add at least another 30 minutes.
- DIFFICULTY: moderate
- SEASON: June to September
- EQUIPMENT: good hiking boots and (optional) hiking poles
- FACILITIES: at each of the cable car stops you can find bathrooms and restaurants.
PRO TIP #2: make use of the facilities before starting this hike. It is a long one – it took us at least 3 hours and there is nothing else until you reach Schwarzsee. 😉
How To Get To The Matterhorn Glacier Trail
Getting to the Matterhorn Glacier Trail is pretty easy.
You need to take the cable car that goes to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, located uphill from the Zermatt train station, at around a 15-20 minute walk.
Or you can take the bus there. But since you’re into hiking, I’m going to go ahead and assume a 15-minute walk won’t be a big deal ;). See it as a warm-up for this hike.
For us, getting there was extremely convenient, as we were staying next door at the amazing boutique hotel with the best view in Zermatt – the Matterhorn Focus Design Hotel (check out my complete review here).
PRO TIP #3: start your day with a visit to the Matterhorn Glacier Paradise, (especially if the weather is good) and then stop on the way down at Trockener Steg to start your hike.
You can buy your tickets at the cable car station but I highly recommend purchasing the Zermatt Peak Pass.
It is the ideal 2-day or 3-day ticket which gives you access to the 3 main peaks: Gornergrat, Rothorn, and The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise.
Zermatt Peak Pass Cost:
- 1-day ticket: 167 CHF/ person
- 2 days ticket: 186 CHF/ person
- 3-days ticket: 210 CHF/ person
- Kids up to 9 years old – free. From 9-15: 50% discount.
I know it is a little bit pricey, but it is SO worth it, even if you have only one day to spend in Zermatt! You can visit the most beautiful sights from the comfort of cable cars.
Ok, so let’s come back to the Matterhorn Glacier trail and start our hike.
Starting the Matterhorn Trail at Trockener Steg
As you walk out of the Trockener Steg cable car you will see an open rocky landscape with a beautiful glacier lake.
If you are lucky enough to have good weather, the majestic Matterhorn will be right there to welcome you with the most impressive and imposing sight you will ever see.
Keep in mind the mountain looks slightly different depending on which angle you are seeing it from. So on this trail, it is a little different than what you are probably used to.
(If you’d like to see the famous “Toblerone” look, then the Sunnega hike is the best one for you. You can read all about the 7 best hikes to do in Zermatt right here, and choose the one you like most.)
You will definitely love this trail too because most of the time you will be walking toward the Matterhorn so the views will be incredible. Just make sure to watch your step as you admire this gorgeous mountain. 😉
PRO TIP #4: start your hike as early in the morning as possible. This is when you have the best chance for good weather and clear skies during the summer months.
The trail is clearly marked with yellow signs that indicate the direction and the time to your destination. Along the way, you will spot white and red signs on rocks which you need to follow to make sure you stay on the right path.
In the first section of the hike, you will be walking on a dirt road that starts to climb up as you advance.
It isn’t particularly challenging, yet I did stop a few times to “admire the view” (*catch my breath*). (I need to work on my cardio strength for next year’s hiking trips hehe. 😉 )
As you advance, the landscape becomes rockier, with bigger stones along the trail.
The scenery is absolutely outstanding! You are surrounded by snowy, high mountain peaks while walking on a site of a former glacier.
Picnic Stop with a Gorgeous Matterhorn View on the Trail
Make sure to stop along the trail for a short picnic break with the most incredible view of the Matterhorn.
Then continue further on the rocky path, next to the icy, glacier lakes and rivers.
The trail will lead you to a massive valley at the bottom of the Matterhorn, a sight you would not be able to see from anywhere else (or even know existed) unless you hiked this trail.
From here you will start your descent on what is probably the most challenging section of the hike. You need to follow the white and red signs carefully and watch your step. The rocks are massive in this area and potentially slippery.
It’s nothing too scary as it’s not a steep descent, but the rocky terrain makes it challenging. This is where you will use the hiking poles. We didn’t have any but I’m sure it would’ve helped.
This rocky path will take you all the way down inside the valley, next to the glacier river that flows all the way down to the Zermatt village.
I’m telling you, it is a truly spectacular hike, with sights you never thought you’d see.
PRO TIP #5: This is no hike for strollers, young kids, or if you are not in relatively good physical shape. Make sure to wear good hiking boots.
Now that we’ve reached the lowest point of the trail, it’s time to climb back up and get out of the valley.
It might look like a scary uphill climb, especially if you are slightly afraid of heights like me, but trust me it’s not that bad at all. It is not steep at all and just requires a little push uphill. (Again, a great cardio workout if we choose to look on the positive side. 😉 )
Continuing the Trail From The Base of the Matterhorn to Schwarzsee
Great, you’ve made it out of the valley and you’re ready to continue the hike to Schwarzsee.
The scenery is completely different now, with the trail turning into a dirt path with smaller rocks along the way.
The views are breathtaking as you hike down toward the Zermatt valley, with green fields and the snow-covered Swiss Alps in front of you.
There are a few challenging sections here too, but with the help of Marius holding my hand here and there, it was completely doable.
The views open up and you will be able to spot the Schwarzsee lake and cable car stop from up here.
The hike down will only take 30 more minutes and you’ll arrive at the endpoint.
Ending the Matterhorn Galcier Trail at Schwarzsee Lake
Once you’ve reached Schwarzsee, you have completed the Matterhorn Glacier Trail and can now relax and admire the stunning views all around.
From here you will have the chance to admire the majestic mountain from yet another angle, this one just as beautiful as the other.
And of course, don’t miss the opportunity to take a selfie at Schwarzsee Lake with the Zermatt sign.
We had another picnic up here, but the weather changed quickly and the wind chased us away towards the cable car and down to our cozy hotel room in Zermatt.
What To Pack for Hiking the Matterhorn Glacier Trail
Whether you are hiking the Matterhorn Glacier Trail or somewhere else in Zermatt, these are the clothing and travel essentials you need to pack for a summer hike in Switzerland:
- Base layer: a top or t-shirt from a moisture-wicking fabric (check out The North Face for some great options)
- a breathable mid-layer (love this one from Mammut)
- Leggins and waterproof hiking pants (I used them both at higher altitudes visiting The Matterhorn Glacier Paradise. The temperature was 2C / 35 F)
- Light windproof and waterproof jacket
- Warmer windproof and waterproof jacket (I used them both at higher altitudes)
- Good hiking shoes – THE most important hiking gear element. If you only buy one thing, make it this one
- Sun hat – super important to protect your head from the sun, do not forget about it!
- Backpack with: a big water bottle (thermos), SPF for face & body, sunglasses, and snacks for the hike
I hope you’ve enjoyed my hiking guide to the Matterhorn Glacier Trail and that you found these tips useful. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out in the comments!
Some more Switzerland and Zermatt resources and travel inspiration you might enjoy:
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