Last updated late August 2018 with seven new hikes – and this page will continue be updated as I continue hiking in Switzerland!
First, a disclaimer: I’m just listing places that I have actually hiked: the
22 29 routes and areas which I found to be the most beautiful and remarkable, the most worth it for their relative travel times from Zurich (I’ve tried to include a range of options from near and far). I’m in no way implying that they are better hikes than places I haven’t hiked! There’s more or less infinite trails to explore in this country and oh so many I haven’t gotten to yet. This list is focused primarily on Eastern Switzerland accessible from Zurich, although I couldn’t help from including some of my favorite hikes around Davos from the time I was living there. If you want to find routes in Western Switzerland, you’ll have to look somewhere else.
Lengths and times: I’m including information about length, elevation gain, and trail conditions, but not time estimates for how long hikes would take. For almost all of these places I ran all or part of the route. Make your own estimates based on what you know about your speed.
Travel times: I’m ordering these in groups based on round-trip travel times from Zurich Hauptbahnhof, but note that in some places buses or trains may run infrequently – if you get stuck in between buses, this could add significant time to your outing. Check schedules on SBB when you are planning.
Maps: Besides my descriptions, I’d recommend taking a look at the map on SchweizMobil, which is a fantastic planning resource containing a topographic map of the entire country, all national- and regional-level trails and some local ones, as well as an overlay of public transportation locations. I refer to this as Wanderland, the German-language version of the site. When you load an area on the map, you can also print it and end up with a topo and trail map of your area of interest. If you have a smartphone also download the mobile version, available at the Apple App Store or via Google Play, which uses GPS to situate you on the map (handy!).
Two routes directly from Zurich – when time is at a premium!
1) Zurich to Zug via Uetliberg & Sihlwald. Length: 34 k. Elevation gain: 1,000 m. Trail type: mostly dirt roads, some sections of wide but rocky/rooty trail. My notes: The ridge from Uetliberg along the Sihlwald offers an interesting perspective on the city and lake of Zurich, as well as pretty good views down towards the Alps. If you live in the city, trying a section of this route is a must – don’t just climb Uetliberg and then call it a day! There are multiple restaurants along the way to stop for a beer, lunch, or ice cream. The route I took was maybe not exactly as described on Wanderland, and I continued all the way to Zug rather than stopping in Baar (the trail is well signed along this section if you also wish to do this). Marking: follow signposts for trail 47. Maps: This is described as a two-stage hike called the “Zürich-Zugerland-Panoramaweg” and maps/height profiles can be found on Wanderland here: part 1 / part 2. Alternative routes: As suggested on Wanderland, it is possible to stop at multiple places along the route and return to Zurich by public transport. There’s also no reason not to do this route in the opposite direction.
2) Zurich to Meilen via Pfannenstiel. Starting from the Zurich Zoo. Length: 21 k. Elevation gain: 450 m. Trail type: dirt roads, some trail at the end. My notes: This route goes through forests and meadows on the hills above Zurich and offers views over the lake, down to the Alps, and across Greifensee to the Zurich Oberland. The end of the Pfannensteil trail goes along a lovely stream with waterfalls. There are also several lookout towers along the route which you can climb for even better views. Marking: from the Zoo, follow signs to Loorenkopf, from there to Forch (not all signs will have these markings, but some will); from Forch, follow the “Panoramaweg” signs to Meilen. Maps: To get from the Zoo to Forch, follow the map for the first half of the Forchlauf; from Forch, a map and height profile is posted on Wanderland. Alternative routes: One could do the trail in the opposite direction, but then it is a net elevation gain – so I suggest ending at the lake, not vice versa!
Within 2 hours round trip from Zurich HB
3) Murgsee lakes loop. Length: 28 k loop from Murg. Elevation gain: 1520 m. Trail type: Paved at beginning, turning to dirt road, stone path with steps, and singletrack through alpine areas. My notes: The Murgsee lakes – there are several of them – are nestled in alpine meadows and boulderfields behind the Hochmättli massif. Starting from Murg, follow a path through the forest and then hit a paved road to climb up a lot of steep switchbacks. From Merlen, a dirt road takes you into the alpine area past a last few lonely farms. Eventually you will climb above each small lake in turn, looking at their different colors and morphologies. There is a hut at the topmost lake – styled as a fishing camp – where you can stop for a coffee or lunch. From there it’s a few more hundred meters of climbing to crest a pass, and then the trail winds around the mountain and down back to Merlen, past remnants of historical mining operations and the Gsponbachfall waterfall. Marking: From Murg, follow signage to Unterplatz and Merlen. Then, stay to the left and go towards Mornen and Murgsee. From the lake, there will be an intersection; stay towards Murgseefurggel, and then bend around the mountain to the right following signs to Merlen. Return to Murg the way you came. Blog post and photos. Maps: A map, trail description, and height profile of the “Murgseerund” is on Wanderland. Alternative routes: From Murgsee, it is possible to skip the trip around the mountain and instead leave out over another pass and down a different valley, via the Sardona World Heritage Path to Filzbach (described on Wanderland). The lakes are rather centrally located, so a number of smaller trails could also take you to different endpoints in different parts of Glarus, or even on a multi-day trip towards Sargans or Graubunden. Look at the Schweiz Mobil map for options.
4) Walensee traverse. Length: 21 k from Walenstadt to Weesen. Elevation gain: 840 m. Trail type: dirt roads, paths (wide but uneven). My notes: Walensee is a special and beautiful lake even among all those in Switzerland, and the Eastern shore below the cliffs of the Churfisten also has a particular climate: warm! This tour goes along the side of the lake, sometimes right on the shore amongst houses with palm trees, and other times climbing high through the forest to get above perilous cliffs. A ten-minute spur trail will take you to the Seerenbach falls, a three-stage waterfall with the biggest cumulative height in Switzerland – 585 m. The main trail also passes some farms and vineyards, and goes through some tunnels through the cliffs. Blog post and photos. Marking: well marked on normal yellow signposts; Quinten is roughly the halfway point and will show up on signs as well. Maps: entire route captured from my Strava; between Quinten and Walenstadt, height profile/map on Wanderland. Alternative routes: from Quinten, you could also follow the “WALSA-weg” (map/trail description on Wanderland) up to Amden; the distance is about the same, but this adds 400 m of elevation gain.
5) Walensee high route over Walenstadtberg. Length: 17 k from Quinten to Walenstadt. Elevation gain: 1900 m. Trail type: dirt roads, some singletrack, and some paved roads. My notes: The climb from Quinten up to the heights above the lake is brutal, going up 1000 m in about 3 km. But then, you’re up high with a spectacular view down to the lake, across it, and out into the Alps. The trail turns singletrack and navigates some high alpine meadows with up-close views of the Churfisten cliffs above; you will wonder how the cows got up there. Upon reaching Walenstadtberg, you can drop back down to the city at the end of the lake either via trail or paved road. Marking: From Quinten, look for signs to Laubegg, Walenstadtberg, and Walenstadt. When in doubt, go up. Maps: a mostly-complete capture from my Strava – GPS didn’t work for the first kilometer. Alternative routes: It would be possible to do this route in the opposite direction, but the descent to Quinten would be hard on the knees. In terms of adding views, from Walenstadtberg, there is a great panorama loop of 11 k and 1000 meters of elevation gain below the highest cliffs of the Churfisten. There’s a map and trail description on Wanderland.
6) Zugerberg to Wildspitz. Length: 17 k from Zug Schönegg to Sattel. Elevation gain: 1200 m. Trail type: dirt roads, some singletrack steeply climbing in forest. My notes: The Zugerberg is a lovely area, great for running, and very accessible – instead of taking the funicular at Schönegg, walk up through the forest on dirt roads. You will pop out in a hilly high fen area and can walk the ridge through meadows and farms looking out over the lake of Zug and towards the Alps. After crossing this long area, the trail re-enters the forest and climbs up to the ridge between Gnipen and Wildspitz. You feel deep in the forest at some points, or at least I did, wondering if I was lost! But then walking along the lip of this ridge offers views of Rigi and towards the mountains of central Switzerland, with the wind in your hair. After Wildspitz, where you can stop for a snack, descend across the face of the hill down towards the train station at Sattel. Blog post and photos. Marking: It’s best to follow a map to Gnipen/Wildspitz as there are many small trails and marking may be confusing. From there, however, follow signs to Sattel via trail 63, the Schwyzer Höhenweg. Maps: I’ve uploaded a map of the route I took, as well as a height profile. Alternative routes: There are seemingly infinite roads and trails on the Zugerberg, so you could also simply explore. From the Zugerberg it is also possible to cut over to the Alpine Panorama Trail and follow it to Unterägeri, for a shorter route with no further climbing (described on Wanderland). From Gnipen, one could also follow the Schwyzer Höhenweg in the opposite direction down to Goldau.
23) Schwyzer Hohenweg from Brunni to Einsiedeln. Length: 16 km as I ran it. It is 13.11 km from Furggelen (a spot on the ridge) to Einsiedeln. To get to Furggelen, you can precede this with (a) 3 km up straight from Brunni, which is what I did; (b) either taking the cablecar from Brunni to Holzegg then going 4.6 k along the Höhenweg to Furggelen, or taking the trail instead of the lift for a total of 7.1 k; or (c) hiking from Brunni up towards Haggenegg and taking a left to join the Höhenweg when you meet it, for a 9.8 k route to Furggelen. Elevation: 393 m gain from Furggelen to Einsiedeln, plus 440 m with scenario (a), 338 m with or 1,090 m without the cablecar in scenario (b), or 1,090 m with scenario (c). Trail type: The Höhenweg is primarily two-track dirt road, with some small sections of singletrack. It is described as a great family outing, but remember, these are Swiss families we are talking about. My notes: For a straightforward hike close to Zurich, this is a remarkably beautiful area. We were amazed by the views, and the trail is really pleasant. It can be crowded around Brunni and Holzegg because this is the trail up the Gross Mythen, a popular summit for tourists and others, but heading from Brunni straight up to Furggelen is quiet and peaceful, then the ridge ramble is incredibly lovely. Markings: Take the bus from Einsiedeln to Brunni (about 20 minutes), and use a map to figure out which of two bus stops is best to serve your trailhead/beginning of choice. Once on the Schwyzer Höhenweg, the way is well signed as trail number 63. Maps: Map, height profile, and trail description from Haggenegg to Einsiedeln on Wanderland; screenshot of my route from Strava here. Alternative routes: See above.
24) Innerthal to Ziegelbrucke over Schwarzenegg and Scheidegg.Length: 18.5 k. Elevation: 895 m. Trail type: Dirt road and singletrack, some paved road. My notes: Innerthal is just over an hour from Zurich by bus, but the tiny village on the shore of Wägitalersee is past a narrow gorge and so feels quite disconnected. The beginning of this route is a long, gradual climb with increasingly amazing views over the lake and to the mountains beyond. Then, you enter the mountains, going past farms and ultimately up into the high meadows. After crossing two small passes, cut across the flank of the big ridge, with expansive views across the Hinter- and Vorder-Schwändi valley. A steep drop down into Glarus brings you back to civilization. Markings: Follow the yellow signs: from Innerthal, look for routes to Schwarzenegg (this will initially be on paved roads). From there, follow signs to Scheidegg. At the Scheidegg pass, turn uphill to the left, climbing another 150 m of elevation, before continuing to Winteregg. From there take a gravel road to the left up to Lochegg, then continue straight through following signs for Niederurnen, Ziegelbrucke, and anything with a bahnhof. Maps: Screenshot from the Wanderland map system here. Alternative routes: It’s possible to bail out at Niederurnen and save two kilometers of flat road running at the end. Alternatively, at Scheidegg one could drop down directly into the Schwändital and follow the valley down to Näfels.
Within 2 1/2 hours round trip from Zurich HB
7) Across Liechtenstein over the Three Sisters. Length: 25 k, starting and finishing in Buchs, Switzerland. Elevation gain: 1800 m. Trail type: singletrack with rock scrambling, sometimes with ladders and cables; also some sections of dirt and paved roads. Confidence required, and gloves if it is cold (iron, brr!). My notes: Besides the novelty of crossing a country, the Drei Schwestern massif – which forms the border with Austria at one end of the country – is gorgeous. The climbing through the rocks is technical but does not require better gear than simply good footwear, and it’s a lot of fun. There’s also nice alpine meadows, a hut where you can stop for snacks or a drink, and views in both directions looking into Switzerland, Austria, and toward Malbun, the ski resort in Liechtenstein. Blog post with photos. Marking: Initially, cross the Rhein river and walk to Schaan, then take roads and trails towards Planken, a village up the hill. From Planken, follow signs for trail 66, the Liechtensteiner Panoramaweg and to the Drei Schwestern, and then to Kuegrat. After Kuegrat we dropped down an unmarked side trail (with yellow blazes, however) back to Schaan and and then Switzerland. Maps: our complete route is shown on this Strava capture. Alternative routes: you can actually start in Austria, cross Liechtenstein, and finish in Switzerland, if you don’t mind spending more time on the train. There are plenty of trails in Liechtenstein. One option which adds quite some distance is to follow the high ridge past Kuegrat along the second section of the Liechtenstein Panoramaweg (map and trail description on Wanderland) all the way to Steg, Liechtenstein, and either walk or take the bus down from there.
8) Muotathal to Sisikon over the Riemenstaldnertal. Length: 20 k. Elevation gain: 1200 m. Trail type: singletrack and dirt roads. My notes: The trail begins by climbing and criss-crossing the Helltobel, a stream with a singularly excellent name. From there, you’re up higher and climbing through boggy meadows. There are some interesting and unusual rock formations which I can’t even really describe. After about 8 k, hang a left and you will climb through rock gardens and shrubs up to the Lidernenhütte, a great place to eat your lunch while contemplating the valley below. We next dropped down on some singletrack and then wound down a dirt road through forests of tall pine trees. Soon, you’ll start seeing views of the shockingly blue Urnersee, where you eventually end up in Sisikon and can catch a train. Blog post and photos. Markings: follow the yellow hiking trail signs towards Goldplangg, Riemenstaldnertal, Lidernenhütte, and Sisikon. Maps: There’s a map and height profile captured from my Strava. Alternative routes: This route would be nice in either direction. For a shorter hike, there is a bus route partway up the Riemenstaldnertal valley, so if you can drop down from the hut and take public transportation back. Or for more vertical, you could also, from the hut, continue climbing over Hundstock and crossing Schön Chulm, and then descend to Eggbergen and take the cablecar down. To plan these options, use the Schweiz Mobil map.
9) Schwyz to Einsiedeln point-to-point over the ridge. Length: 21 k. Elevation gain: 1500 m. Trail type: dirt roads and singletrack. My notes: This is a lovely route connecting two spots which are neither too far from the city, and can be a great trail run in shoulder seasons or warm winters because the terrain is high enough to be frozen but not always very snowy. One begins by following streams through the forest up the flank of the Mythen mountains, with interesting and unusual views quite different than those you get of the mountains from the standard “Mythenweg” route. Reaching a saddle next to the mountains, cut instead northwards and up along the ridge separating Einsiedeln from Rothenturm. There are forested sections and also high meadows, with several smaller heights-of-land marked by windblown crosses. After the ridge run, drop down past an old kloster and into Einsiedeln. Markings: From Schwyz to Häggenegg, follow the ViaJacobi, marked as trail number 4. Thereafter, one is just following dirt roads and smaller trails towards Grossbrechenstock, Näbeken First, Höch Tändi, Nüsselstock, Ronenegg, Samstageren, and back to Einsiedeln – all of which is variously marked and not at different points. Maps: I’ve uploaded a map of my favorite route, and a height profile. Alternative routes: This route would also be great in the other direction. And from the ridge between Einsiedeln and Rothenturm, it is possible to drop down in either direction and reach multiple public transportation options; refer to the map on Schweiz Mobil to see these possibilities.
10) Weg der Schweiz point-to-point above Urnersee. Length: 15 k from Brunnen to Flüelen. Elevation gain: 1050 m. Trail type: primarily dirt roads. My notes: This route is not technical but considering its proximity to Zurich and its simplicity, it offers spectacular panoramas of the Alps and the ridiculously blue Urnersee arm of the Vierwaldstättersee. The lake is bordered on both sides by steep, often cliffed hillsides with meadows on top. Starting from Brunnen means climbing through the forest to reach these high meadows, where you will pass plenty of farms and a few chapels. It’s quiet and peaceful up there. Halfway through, the trail drops down to the lake and continues the rest of the way to Flüelen just along the shore, so you get many different perspectives on the lake. Marking: follow signs for trail 99, “Weg der Schweiz.” Maps: There is a map, trail description, and height profile on Wanderland. Alternative routes: to double the length of the day, continue around the other side of the lake via the next section of the trail (description on Wanderland) to Seelisberg and Rütli, the meadow where the first declaration of confederation of Switzerland was made.
Within 3 hours round trip from Zurich HB
11) Muotathal to Burglen over Chinzig Chulm. Length: 14 k, if you take the cablecar down from Biel (the cablecar only takes cash, so be prepared). Elevation gain: 1500 m. Trail type: mostly dirt roads, some non-technical singletrack. My notes: When I did this hike, it’s possible that I misjudged how much climbing it would take to get out of and above Muotathal. But this climbing was actually lovely, following a stream that bounces down from the highlands. The trail passes some high meadow farming areas before climbing up a rockier area to the Chinzig Chulm pass, which has a nice small shelter on top. From there, you drop down towards Bürglen. If you were to walk rather than take the cablecar, it would be several more kilometers and a steep descent to the town, mostly through meadows and a bit of forest. Blog post and photos. Marking: follow signs for trail 55, the Via Suworow. Maps: there is a map, trail description, and height profile on Wanderland. Alternative routes: Walking down from Burglen is possible but very steep. On the main trail before reaching Chinzig Chulm there’s a slight detour, an unmarked trail that goes past Seenalperseeli rather than up the agricultural valley; follow signs and the path will return you to the main trail later. Another option is to follow the Höhenweg Schächental from Biel to Eggbergen (described on Wanderland) and take the cablecar from there down to Fluelen. This would add an additional 7 k and 200 m of elevation gain but net elevation loss.
12) From the Brandnertal (Austria) over Schesaplana to Graubunden. Length: 30 k from Brand Lunerseebahn to Grüsch. Elevation gain: 1500 m. Trail type: Lots of rocky singletrack, including a technical descent for two kilometers down through cliffs; not for those with fears of heights. My notes: This route is overland but also summits Schesaplana, the highest peak in the Rätikon Alps – there are so many ecosystems and landscapes you will cross. Start by taking the train to Bludenz, Austria, and then a bus to the bottom of the Lunerseebahn (bus schedule here, navigate to “Fahrplan Brand”). Most others will take the cablecar but instead you should walk up to the Lunersee, because it is a nice (though steep) trail over rocks and past streams and wildflowers. Lunersee itself is a gorgeous bright blue reservoir – it’s easy to see why it’s a popular destination. Walk partway around the lake on the dirt road, and then cut up on a trail through the scree, passing Totalphütte. The trail then crosses a boulderfield before hitting the scree again, climbing steeply up the side of Schesaplana, and crossing the border to Switzerland just before the summit. On a weekend day, this section of trail is likely to be very crowded. The summit looks out over the Brandner glacier, or what’s left of it (it’s shrinking quickly!). Descend into Switzerland and you will immediately leave the crowds behind – you might not see another person for several kilometers. You will get down to a plateau just below the summit, and then drop down a small alpine trail (marked blue and white) on the left towards Schesaplanahütte. This is technical and takes focus – it traverses cliffs with huge drop-offs and there are a few sections with hardware bolted into the rock to hang onto. Near the hut, you will hit nice meadows, and then follow dirt roads down through the forest – you will feel deep in the valleys and far from anything – to the train station far below. Blog post and photos. Markings: from the start, follow signs to Lunersee, Totalphütte, and Schesaplana – it’s a busy route. From there, look for signs to Schesaplanahütte, but follow the alpine trail rather than the main route. From the hut go straight down a dirt road across from the hut, through meadows and into the forest; this is a shortcut of a few kilometers that crosses straight through one intersection, hangs a right at a T, and then will join the Prättigauer Höhenweg at Cani. From there, follow that trail, marked as number 72, until reaching Seewis, and then simply follow signs for Grüsch. Maps: I’m uploading a map of the suggested route. Alternative routes: Following the Prättigauer Höhenweg (described on Wanderland) directly from Schesaplanahütte adds a few kilometers and more elevation, but also nice views. Meanwhile, if you want to cut a few kilometers, there is an infrequent bus from Seewis to Grüsch. Or: a completely different route starting in the Brandnertal goes around to the other side of Lunersee and crosses into Switzerland through the “Schweizertor” before finishing in St. Antonien; this 28 k route is described on Wanderland.
13) Braunwald. Length: 18 k loop from Linthal Braunwaldbahn. Elevation gain: 1600 m. Trail type: mostly dirt roads. My notes: Braunwald is a car-free family resort, meaning that there are plenty of nice places to stop for a snack or coffee or beer. The trail skirts the sides of the mountains and offers great views – the Glarner Alps are some of the closest “real” mountains to Zurich and there is interesting geology as well as a glacier tucked in the back of the valley. While it’s possible to take the bergbahn up to the resort and then a cablecar up to the panoramaweg, the climb on the trail up through the forest is also very pretty. Blog post with photos. Marking: From the Linthal Braunwaldbahn train station, take the trail uphill and follow markings for trail 1, the Via Alpina. From the top of the bergbahn, follow signs to Grotzenbühl, and then follow signs for the “Panoramaweg”. Maps: a map, trail description, and height profile of the panoramaweg loop is on Wanderland. Alternative routes: There are tons of side trails off of the route and through the Braunwald area. One option is to take the section of the Via Alpina to Urner Boden and return by bus; this route is described on Wanderland.
Within 3 1/2 hours round trip from Zurich HB
14) Weisstannen to Elm over Foopass, on the Via Alpina. Length: 22 k. Elevation gain: 1500 m. Trail type: technical singletrack, some dirt road sections. My notes: The route begins with a long, gradual climb along the Seez river and through the UNESCO World Heritage Site Tectonic Arena Sardona. As you’d expect from such a designation, the geology is amazing! There’s also several impressive waterfalls. After a while the trail gets steep and climbs along the walls of the stream valley, before eventually topping out in beautiful meadows of Rossalp, a wide and flat high-elevation valley around a bend from the river’s headwaters. Atop Foopass, views finally open up into the Glarner Alps. From there it is a descent first on singletrack, but then mainly on dirt roads back down into and through the forest. Marking: Follow markings for trail “1”, the Via Alpina. Maps: There’s a map, trail description, and height profile on Wanderland. Alternative routes: This trail could be done in the opposite direction, but I think ending in Elm is preferable. There are some side trails crossing over into parallel valleys. Most of these would add significant additional length to get back to public transportation and might be better as a multi-day trip, perhaps staying at Sardonnahütte or cutting northwest further towards Glarus.
15) Elm to Linthal on the Via Alpina. Length: 24 k. Elevation gain: 1750 m. Trail type: steep singletrack, some dirt road sections. My notes: There are quite some steep climbs on this route, which goes over Erbser Stock before dropping down into the Wichlenmatt bowl below the Chärpf massif, a sweeping meadow nestled in the mountains that feels much farther than two hours from Zurich. From there, the trail climbs over Richetlipass, offering more fantastic views. You can feel the cold wind blowing off a nearby glacier, across the valley, which is quite a treat in the heat of the summer. Marking: Follow markings for trail “1”, the Via Alpina. Maps: There’s a map, trail description, and height profile on Wanderland. Alternative routes: This trail could be done in the opposite direction.
25) Maderanertal Höhenweg. Length: 16 k. Elevation: 1,450 m. Trail type: Dirt road and singletrack. My notes: I first saw this route on a list of most beautiful hikes in Switzerland soon after I arrived. I only made it out there in my fourth year in Switzerland, but boy am I glad I did! This hike did not disappoint. The Maderanertal valley itself is beautiful, with many views of waterfalls, but it’s once you climb up near the end of the valley and are following a shelf below the cliffy mountains that it is truly spectacular. Alpine meadows and views to mountains all around, nary a ski resort in sight; babbling alpine streams and wildflowers abound. While it is commonly suggested to take the cablecar up and hike down, we did the opposite and it was a great decision. If you choose this direction, then near the end you will drop down towards Golzerensee, which is lovely from above. Markings: Well marked with trail number 590, Maderanertal Höhenweg. Maps: Maps, height profile, and trail description on Wanderland. Alternative routes: Once you are up at Windgällenhütte, you can decide whether to continue on the main trail which leads downhill, or turn left and stay high on the flank of the mountain for a few kilometers longer.
26) Glattgrat on the way from Klewenalp to Urnersee. Length: 24 k. Elevation: 900 m. Trail type: Mostly dirt road and singletrack. One section of singletrack along the Glattgrat has steep drop-offs on either side, but fences to prevent falls. Nevertheless, if you’re really scared of heights, maybe avoid this section (there are many alternative trails in the area). My notes: Start with a cablecar, end with a boat! I devised this route for two reasons: there was an SBB discount on the Klewenalp cablecar, and I wanted to run along the Glattgrat, a grassy almost-knife-edge ridge. That part of the route was super fun and beautiful, as you look out across a wide and fairly undeveloped valley towards some high mountains including the nearly-3000 m Uri Rotstock. From there, we dropped down into a valley, through quiet forests, and followed a river for a ways, before suddenly appearing before the Urnersee, which shocked with its blue color. Taking the boat from Isleten to Brunnen to catch a train home was a very fun end of the day. Markings: From the Klewenalp cablecar, start by following the ViaUrschweiz (trail 599) until Tannibühl. Then take the turn uphill and across to Tannihaus SAC, a mountain hut where you can stop for a snack if needed. There, it’s a left onto alpine trails to Schuenegg, where the Glattgrat leads off to the left over Risetenstock and down to Hinter Jochli where you rejoin the ViaUrschweiz to Oberegg and just keep following it through Isenthal to Isleten. Maps: Screenshot of my route overlaid on a topo map here. There are also maps, height profiles, and descriptions of the ViaUrschweiz sections here and here. Alternative routes: There are many in this area. The most obvious is to follow the ViaUrschweiz all the way, but that skips the Glattgrat and instead replaces it directly with a steep climb up below a cablecar line; I preferred the extra kilometers.
Farther afield (4 to 4 ½ hours round trip from Zurich HB)
16) Creux du Van and Gorges de l’Areuse. Length: 20 k from Noiraigue to Boudry. Elevation gain: 880 m. Trail type: wide dirt paths and dirt roads. My notes: If you only have time to do a few hikes in Switzerland, make this one of them. Creux du Van is a rock cirque a mile wide and 150 meters tall, and it is one of the most breathtaking places I have been. It is not particularly high altitude, and it is not like summiting a mountain, but the feel of the air moving off into nothing and the winds that gather and play is truly magical as you walk along the lip of the clifftops. There are also ibex in the area, which you are likely to see because they have little fear of humans compared to those who live in the actual mountains. An excellent option is to drop down from the cirque through the forest and walk along the Areuse river with its many narrow gorges and some impressive handmade stone archway bridges. Blog post and photos. Marking: From Noiraigue, follow signs first to Les Oeillons, and then to Le Soliat. From there it will be obvious how to follow the curve around the cirque. Drop down on a trail into the cirque instead of going all the way to La Grand Vy, and proceed to Ferme Robert. From there, drop down to the Gorges de l’Areuse and follow signs to Boudry (really, just follow the river). Maps: a map of the route I’m suggesting is here. Alternative routes: It’s possible to start the hike from Travers, or to do a round trip to and from Noiraigue skipping the gorges (this loop is described on Wanderland).
17) Adelboden to Kandersteg over Bunderchrinde. Length: 16 k. Elevation gain: 1450 m. Trail type: technical singletrack and dirt roads. My notes: This is a lovely walk through forests, past babbling brooks, through meadows, and over a rocky pass. Both Adelboden and Kandersteg are the end of the road, so to speak, of their respective valleys, so though you will see some infrastructure from ski areas it is fairly quiet. Blog post and photos. Marking: Follow signs for the trail 1, the Via Alpina. Maps: A map, trail description, and height profile is on Wanderland. Alternative routes: This trail would also be lovely in the other direction. Also, Bundnerspitz is an easy detour 200 meters above the pass itself. From there, it is possible to take smaller trails down to Allmenalp and then either walk or take a cablecar down to Kandersteg. Consult the SchweizMobil map to plan these routes. One could also detour to stay at Lohnerhütte.
18) Seealpsee, Meglisalp, and Marwees. Length: 15 k loop from Wasserauern. Elevation gain: 1600 m. Trail type: mountain paths, in some sections quite technical. Not recommended if you have fear of heights. My notes: Seealpsee is a blue blue lake below the Santis massif in Appenzell, and may seem familiar even if you’ve never been there because it is depicted on the common Quollfrisch beer label. The route I took in this area climbs from the last train station up to the lake, following the shore around to the other end. Instead of heading to Santis proper, we ascended up to Meglisalp, a small farm community perched up on the side of the massif with lots of sheep and cows. You’re not done climbing yet, though – continue past the cows and up to Wildalpsattel. Then, turn and follow an alpine trail (blue and white markings) along the ridge past the peak of Marwees. The ridge is quite narrow in a few places, but besides looking right smack at Santis you can look down to Seealpsee on one side and the lake of Fählensee on the other; farther off is the Rhine and its flat floodplain heading toward Lake Constance. At the end of the ridge, drop down and rejoin a more stable trail, and then return around the side of the mountain to where you started. Marking: Follow signs for Seealpsee, then Meglisalp, Kreuzböhl, and Wildalpsattel. Take the blue and white alpine trail along the ridge; it will rejoin main trails at Bogartenlücke. From there, follow signs back to Wasserauern. It’s best to have a map as none of these are main routes. Maps: Here is a map and height profile captured from my Strava. Alternative routes: There are many trails crisscrossing the Santis Alpstein. The most popular, maybe, go past Wildkirchli on Ebenalp, a restaurant built into some impressive cliffs. But there are really unlimited possible routes, explore the map on Schweiz Mobil if you want more ideas.
27) Glattalpsee, from Bisisthal to Braunwald. Length: 18.2 km without a loop around Glattalpsee/24.8 km with a loop around Glattalpsee. Elevation: 1,400 m. Trail type: Mostly singletrack, some very rocky sections – not exposed, but rough trail. Coming late in the run, this section surprised me and kicked my butt a little bit. My notes: Right away leaving Bisithal, you are presented with remarkable mountain views and several huge waterfalls pouring off the sides of cliffs. The climb up to Glattalpsee goes on and on, with extensive stonework building stairs on one section. By that point, you are very high and looking into the Urnerland mountains and feel like you’re on top of the world for the rest of the run. You can choose to make a loop around Glattalpsee, traipsing through fields of cows along the way, or else continue on straight into the mountains. After crossing over a saddle in the Glattalpfirst, drop down into the Charental, a wide and fertile valley with sheep and horses grazing. There are several kilometers of nice grassy running before ascending into the rock fields past Erigsmatt. Your last height of land will be at Untere Bützi, where the Braunwald resort will open up below you. Descend carefully until you reach the Gumen cablecar, and take that and then the funicular down to the valley and the train in order to save your knees. Markings: From Bisithal, just follow signs for Glattalpsee, a popular destination. From there, take the path to Charetalalphuttli, then the right-most trail along the valley floor towards Erigsmatt. There, it’s the middle path following signs for Untere Bützi, then straight town and take a quick left on the Braunwald Panoramaweg until you reach the cablecar. Maps: Screenshot of my route, including a lap around Glattalpsee, here. Alternative routes: It would also be possible to go straight past Glattalpsee and over the mountain pass at Furggele (between Ortstock and Höch Turm), then drop down into Braunwald further south. I avoided this route because from the map it appears steep and exposed, but it would probably be very beautiful.
28) Glaubenberg to Glaubenbielen and into the Marienthal. Length: 16.5 k. Elevation: 950 m. Trail type: Mostly singletrack, some dirt road. My notes: I have to admit that we did this run on a rainy, foggy day, which is remarkable because I usually bail out in such weather. So we were left to imagine how amazing the views could have been, rather than see them ourselves. But because I have cross-country skied there in the winter, I had some visions in my mind, and indeed the mountains would peek out of the fog every once in a while in spectacular fashion (see the photo by Annie Chalifour here!). This route has some really nice trail running, with lots of gradual ups and downs and some soft and cushiony sections through high-elevation bogs. It is one of the more runnable routes I’ve done, and very rewarding. It’s a big open space with lots of different ecosystems and biodiversity, too. Markings: Start from the Glaubenberg Passhöhe andmost of the route, follow signs for Obwaldner Höhenweg, past Sattel and towards Glaubenbielen. As you are getting very close to Glaubenbielen – you will be back on a paved road briefly – eventually hang a right on the Trans Swiss Trail (trail number 2) towards Sörenberg. You will end at Sörenberg, Post. Maps: Screenshot of my route here. Alternative routes: There are many, any trails in this area, so an almost infinite number of alternative configurations. Type “Sattelpass (OW) – Giswil” into the search box on map.schweizmobil.ch to explore.
Maybe Just Stay in Graubunden for the Weekend
19) The Vereina Triangle and Jöriseen. (a) Davos Fluela to Lavin: Length: 22k. Elevation gain: 1300 m. (b) Klosters to Lavin: Length: 26 k. Elevation gain: 1600 m. (c) Klosters to Davos Fluela: Length: 23 k. Elevation gain: 1800 m. My notes: The Vereina tunnel is the world’s longest meter-gauge train tunnel, clocking in just over 19 kilometers. What this means is that there is a vast area above it with mountains but no roads. It is amazingly empty and beautiful, and one of my very favorite places to go in Graubunden. It is accessible from several directions, but the most convenient are from Fluelapass outside of Davos, from Klosters, and from Lavin in the Lower Engadine. Connecting any two of these three corners will take you over a couple of passes, past gushing rivers and waterfalls and underneath snowy peaks. Going from the Davos side has the additional benefit of going past the Jöriseen, a group of lakes of varying blue and green colors dotting the boulder-filled bowl in the mountains. The lakes are well visited, but the other two corners much less so – in particular, the trip over Vereinapass down to Lavin. This area is truly a treat to explore. Blog post and photos of the Jöriseen loop. Markings: From Davos Wägerhus, follow markings to Jöriseen; there is a loop around the lakes, and I prefer to take the left-hand option when the trail up from the road T’s into this loop. Signage is clear between the lakes and the Vereina Berghaus; if going to Lavin, turn right just before reaching the Berghaus and follow signs for Vereinapass to Lavin. The other direction should be similarly clear, when starting from Lavin look for signs to Vereinapass. Finally, from Klosters, follow signs for Vereinapass and Berghaus. Maps: The Jöriseen rundtour and spur from Davos Wägerhus is described with a map and height profile on Wanderland. For other routes, it is best just to look on Wanderland’s map– here it is zoomed into the area. Alternative routes: Descending all the way to Davos proper instead of catching the bus at Wägerhus adds another 11 k, but with gradual elevation loss, and weaves through the braided streams draining the Fluela basin – it’s lovely if you have the time and energy. Meanwhile, from either the Süsertal or the Jöriseen it’s possible to instead turn and avoid further climbing but drop down the Val Fless and catch the bus just on the other side of Fluelapass at Röven; in the latter case this involves going over Jöriflesspass first, but it’s only perhaps 100 m of extra elevation from the lakes. For all these options, look at the map on Schweiz Mobil.
20) Sertig-Scaletta Loop. Length: 29 k. Elevation gain: 1900 m. Trail type: single track through meadows, rock, scree, whatever you can imagine. My notes: If you’re in Davos, this is a great loop that starts and ends in the Dischma valley but covers oh so much country in between. Begin at the Teufi bus stop; end at Dürrboden, a restaurant where you can wait for the bus down the valley. The Rüedisch Täl above Teufi is a fantastic spot with few hikers. The wide open bowl is impossibly green at some times of year and you can see few human blights on the landscape despite being so close to Davos proper. From Tallifurgga, a saddle in the ridge above this bowl, descend to Sertig before heading up a different valley and watershed. The path will climb very gradually past some farms before hitting the scree of Sertigpass and dropping down the other side to the Ravais lakes. Go between the two lakes, then turn right and try to stay up high cutting across the flank of a ridge. It’s another short climb to get up to the top of Scalettapass, where more spectacular views await. From there it is a straightforward descent to Dürrboden. Blog post and photos. Markings: From Teufi to Sertig is a section of the Walserweg, marked with number 35. From Sertig, simply follow signs to Sertigpass and down the other side. Go between the two Ravais lakes, then turn left, following signs to Scalettapass. Just before the pass you will join the Jakobsweg, and by following signs for trail number 43 will be taken to Dürrboden. Maps: The Walserweg section is well described on Wanderland, where there are also maps and descriptions of the Jakobsweg section. I’ve also uploaded a map of the whole route, as well as a height profile. Alternative routes: This could also be done in the opposite direction. To add length but no elevation, run down the Dischma valley to Davos at the end of the day; to add terrain, climb from Dürrboden to the Grialetsch hut, passing a few more lakes on the way. From Sertigpass one can also take the valley down to Chants – however, from here it will be a very long bus ride back around to Davos. Check on Schweiz Mobil for these routing possibilities.
21) Maienfelder Furgga. (a) From Davos Glaris to Davos: Length: 23 k. Elevation gain: 1650 m. (b) As a loop from Davos Platz: Length: 24 k. Elevation gain: 1550 m. (b) From Arosa to Davos: Length: 16 k. Elevation gain: 950 m. My notes: Maienfelder Furgga is another one of my favorite passes – I went there several times by different routes when I was living in Davos, and was very happy to return more recently by hiking in from Arosa. The pass seems desolate, except that you might see some paragliders as the nearby ridge is a favorite jumping-off point. A small refuge in the meadow somehow adds to the atmosphere and puts the mountains in perspective. The pass is a perfect place to stop for lunch. In my mind, the route from Arosa is the least interesting, although the last several kilometers of climbing up to the pass are quite beautiful. But you can also experience this part of the trail if you take a bus from Davos to to Davos Glaris and begin there. First you must climb up through some steep forests, but you will soon come to high alpine areas and ridges to scale. Cross the Alteiner Furgga pass and drop down to the Altein lake below; you will be able to see Arosa and the resort will seem ugly after so much nature, but take a right and you are soon navigating between mountains and back in a more pristine viewscape. This trail will eventually T into the trail up from Arosa and you have to climb some more elevation to get to Maienfelder Furgga. Alternatively, you could start in Davos proper and climb up past Schatzalp, there leaving the crowds behind and ascending on nice trails around Wannengrat to the Chörbsch Horn (where I did fieldwork for my masters!). From here it is rolling through alpine meadows past the Chörbschhornhütte, Schwifurgga, and then climbing a rockier pass to go between the Schwarzhorn and Tiejer Flue mountains. Then just follow the streams down to Maienfelder Furgga. No matter how you get there, one can follow trails and dirt roads through cow-filled meadows and sections of forest until you reach Davos Platz. Markings: From Arosa to Davos, this path is the Walserweg, so follow trail sign 35; from Maienfelder Furgga to Davos Platz this is the marking regardless. From Davos Glaris, start on the “Alpentour Davos Klosters” towards Barentaler Alp, but there take a left and follow signs for Alteiner Furggli. From the pass follow signs towards Arosa but at the lakes turn right on the “Alteinsee Schiesshorn” until you meet with the Walserweg. From Davos Platz, follow the “Mittelbünden Panoramaweg” with its signs 54 to Wannengrat. There turn left and follow signs for Chörbschhornhütte. The directions to Schwifurgga and Tiejer Furgga may not be marked, I am sorry to admit… best to have a map, perhaps. Maienfelder Furgga should begin appearing on signposts, however, as should Arosa as a general direction. Maps: The section from Arosa to Davos Platz is described, mapped, and has a height profile on Wanderland. Otherwise, it is best to look at the Schweiz Mobil map; here it is centered on the area. Alternative routes: There are some more, but I think these are the best ones!
22) Macun Lakes hike from Lavin to Zernez. Length: 22 k. Elevation gain: 1650 m. Trail type: singletrack and dirt roads. My notes: The Macun lakes are a high-elevation group sitting around 2600 m above the Lower Engadine valley – there are big ones and small ones scattered throughout a huge bowl and reflecting the images of the mountains that surround them. It’s very worth a trip! The walk from Lavin is a nice uphill through forests and farm country and then into the alpine zone. After passing the lakes – there is a loop trail that detours around several of them for more exploring – climb up to a ridge for an interesting view down on the lakes and off towards some really big mountains. Then, it’s just dropping down to Zernez. You will immediately notice a shift in climate as this side of the divide is much hotter and drier, making for some interesting ecological changes as well. Markings: follow markings for Lais da Macun and then for Zernez; fairly straightforward. Maps: The route is described, with a map and height profile, on Wanderland. Alternative routes: This could also be done in the opposite direction.
And One In Ticino
29) Trans Swiss Trail from Lugano to Morcote. Length: 13 k. Elevation: 860 m. Trail type: Primarily dirt roads, some singletrack, short sections of pavement. My notes: Lugano is a leisurely city, so get some exercise with this hike. And get ready to sweat. The climb up Monte San Salvatore is steep and grueling, especially on a sunny day, but the views down over the lake are very special. From there, it’s a fun and easy jaunt rolling along the ridge. The descent down to Morcote follows hundreds of perfectly-crafted stone steps, and ends in a piecturesque lakeside village where you can get a pizza and a beer. Markings: Well marked with several trail names: Trans Swiss Trail (trail number 2), ViaGottardo (trail number 7), or Sentiero Lago di Lugano (trail number 52). Maps: Map, height profile, and trail description on Wanderland.