Switzerland really is a hiking paradise. Not only is the landscape impossibly beautiful but it’s also amazingly accessible, thanks to the Swiss network of well-maintained hiking paths. With over 68,000km of paths in Switzerland (ie greater than the road network), you can reach places you might otherwise never see. And every path is perfectly signposted so you’ll never get lost.
With so many hikes to choose from, the biggest dilemma is where to start. Many routes won’t take you up into the Alps, while others are only for experienced hikers, so we’ve picked six of the best short Alpine hikes for beginners. Each offers superb mountain scenery without you having to be a mountaineer to enjoy it, and all can be reached by public transport.
But this is Switzerland, so none of these walks is flat. Some are easier than others – we show the distance, time and total height difference involved – but all require good footwear and a small degree of fitness. And a camera!
So get your boots on and put your best foot forward, this week: Lake Lucerne.
With its lakeside luxe, soaring peaks and cool, fresh air, the city of Lucerne, just 50km south of Zürich, is fast becoming a hikers paradise. One of the prettiest places in Switzerland, the city is full of gothic medieval architecture, pastel coloured houses and waterfront promenades. Historic and highbrow, it offers the perfect place to wind down in after a lengthy day on the surrounding trails.
Rutil with Lake Lucerne in the background
When it came to celebrating its 700th birthday, Switzerland decided to do it in style, Swiss style, which meant building a new footpath. This Swiss Path runs for 35km around the southern end of Lake Lucerne, with all the cantons marked in the order they joined the confederation; not only that but every 5mm of path represents one inhabitant of Switzerland. It’s too long to do in a day so we’ve chosen the best part, starting at Rütli, the traditional birthplace of Switzerland. First comes a steep climb (850 steps) through the woods up to Seelisberg (you can skip this part if you want by getting off the boat at Treib taking the funicular up instead). Then it’s a gentle walk with wonderful views of the lake, but what goes up must come down, so the last section is a reverse of the first - 350 metres down to Bauen and the boat home.
Start: Rütli, accessible by boat
Distance: 9km Total height difference: 700m
Hiking time: 3.5 hours Difficulty: easy-moderate
End: Bauen, accessible by boat
Related: Great Swiss hikes: around Geneva
View from Fronalpstock
The Gratweg, literally ‘ridge way’, is a spectacular panorama route above Lake Lucerne, offering almost aerial views of the lake and the peaks beyond. It runs between Fronalpstock and Klingenstock, both above the town of Stoos in Canton Schwyz, and you can walk in either direction as there is a cable car at each end. The path itself is narrow in places with some steep drop-offs, so isn’t really one for vertigo-sufferers or young children. Although you end up at much the same altitude as where you started, there is one big hill in the middle so you will need a bit of puff to get over that. But it’s worth it for the views!
Start: Fronalpstock, accessible by cable car from Stoos
Distance: 5km Total height difference: 400m
Hiking time: 2.5 hours Difficulty: moderate
End: Klingenstock, accessible by cable car from Stoos