Aletsch Glacier Aletsch Glacier Andreas Gerth/Swiss Images

Swiss hiking trails: around Geneva

From the nature-defying Matterhorn and the shimmering Aletsch Glacier to the Rhône Valley's patchwork vineyards, hiking in Valais reveals Switzerland's real beauty

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.

Valais

The Canton of Valais is the largest wine region in Switzerland, situated in the southwestern part of the country, around the valley of the Rhône from its headwaters to Lake Geneva, separating the Pennine Alps from the Bernese Alps. The canton of Valais is widely known for the Matterhorn mountain, and ski towns such as Saas Fee, Verbier, and Zermatt. In the warmer months, the trails offer cooler air and incredible views, perfect for a half or full day's hike.

Lötschberger Südrampe

Lotschberger-Sudrampe-by-DicconLötschberger Südrampe © Diccon Bewes

This is one of the classic panorama routes in the Alps, especially for people who want the views but not the climbs. It follows the route of the original Lötschberg railway line, which opened in 1913 and is still in use, so is a must-do for train aficionados. Its beauty lies in the fact that it offers both panoramas across the Rhone Valley and the architecture of bridges and tunnels. The whole path runs 26km down to Brig, but this first section from Hohtenn to Ausserberg is the gentlest, making it manageable for beginners. There are plenty of photo stops and picnic stops, and the periodic thrill of watching the train rumble over a towering viaduct. If you want to carry on, the next section from Ausserberg to Eggerberg adds another 5km and 1.5 hours.

Start: Hohtenn, accessible by train
Distance: 10km Total height difference: 420m
Hiking time: 3.5 hours Difficulty: easy
End: Ausserberg, accessible by train

Related: Great Swiss train journeys: The Golden Pass

Aletsch Glacier

Aletsch Glacier HikeAletsch Glacier Hike © Diccon Bewes

Nothing can quite beat walking beside Europe’s longest glacier and marvelling at the 27 billion tonnes of ice moving at, well, a glacial pace. Of the many hikes around the Aletsch Glacier, this is one of the easier ones that still takes you quite close to the ice. From the cable car station at Bettmerhorn the way down is fairly steep and rocky but relatively easy, and the lower you go the better the views. Rock and ice fill the landscape and the only sound is rushing water, most of it under the glacier. At Roti Chumme junction, take the longer but flatter route back to Moosfluh, following the glacier all the way. Picture perfect! 

Start: Bergstation Bettmerhorn, accessible by cable car
Distance: 9km Total height difference: 350m
Hiking time: 3.5 hours Difficulty: moderate
End: Moosfluh, accessible by cable car

1 Aletsch Glacier
2 Lötschberger Südrampe