The Matterhorn Glacier Trail hike in Zermatt is a great walking trail that winds underneath the Matterhorn. It is one of the best day hikes in Zermatt and one of the top places to see the Matterhorn from a very close distance without having to do any crazy incline or hiking. For an epic view of the Matterhorn with lots of lake reflection shots, this is my top recommendation for a hiking trail in Zermatt.
MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL
If you’re looking for an unforgettable hiking experience, the Matterhorn Glacier Trail in Zermatt is a must. Set against the stunning backdrop of the Swiss Alps, this high-altitude trail offers breathtaking views of the iconic Matterhorn peak and its surrounding glaciers. Along the way, hikers will encounter pristine glacial landscapes, vibrant alpine flora, and traces of mountain culture dating back centuries. And with the constant echo of distant avalanches in the background, it’s an adventure that’s sure to leave a lasting impression.
MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL DETAILS
- Hike Distance: 6.4km from Trockener Steg to Schwarzsee
- Hike Duration: 2-3 hours
- Hike Difficulty: Very low. The total incline is 150m and the decline was 500m. Sometimes there was a rocky trail but never any dangerous or exposed trail.
- Hike Incline: 150m total climb with 500m of decline.
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MATTERHORN GLACIER PARADISE CABLE CAR
The Matterhorn Glacier Trail starts just beneath the Trockener Steg cable car station. You will begin the cable car journey on the Matter Glacier Paradise Cable Car, which leaves from the Zermatt Bergbahnen Station. You can skip the line if you book online here in advance.
The cable cars are open every day from 8:30 to 4:30 but you can check here on the website to double-check the updated timings.
The map below shows the pin for your starting and finishing point, the Zermatt Bergbahnen AG. You can purchase your tickets for the cable car here but do be warned there are some long lines for the first few cable cars of the day so arriving half an hour early is not a bad idea if you want to be among the first up on the trails.
COMBO HIKING TICKET
The combo hiking ticket is a great initiative that allows you to catch the cable car from Zermatt to Furi to Trockener Steg. You then follow the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, which finishes at Schwarzsee station. Your combo hiking ticket then includes the cable car down from Schwarzsee to Furi to Zermatt and the loop is completed.
The cost of the Combo Hiking Ticket is $70.50 for an adult or 50% off that fee if you have a Swiss Travel Pass or the Swiss Half Card. I have used both and still have my Swiss Half Card and highly suggest purchasing it if you are in Switzerland for any more than 3 days. It will save you money even with just 3 days of travel in Switzerland even though it is a yearly pass!
MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL HIKING MAP
The trail is pretty simple to find and begins at the Trockener Steg cable car station. The sign was comically small for Swiss standards but it was there. Just head down the hill from the station to the first lake and continue following the red and white paint markers from that point on.
At the end of the trail, you will find yourself at Schwarzsee station. I have hiked all the way down from Hornlihutte to Schwarzsee and to Zermatt before and it’s a nice hike with lots of switchbacks if you are up for some downhill action otherwise you finish up at Schwarzsee and catch the cable car to Furi and then to Zermatt Station.
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MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL: MY EXPERIENCE
We set out pretty early to the Zermatt Bergbahnen Station and managed to be on one of the first cable cars of the day. There was no chance of any golden-hour light with the first cable car leaving at 8:30 am but it’s always good to get out there early and skip some of the crowds. If you do want to be on this trail for sunrise it is possible, you can hike up to Schwarzsee from Zermatt and it would take a couple of hours and begin the trail in reverse. It would be a mission but the alpenglow and lighting on Matterhorn would be epic.
Once at Trockener Steg Station we jumped off and had a little trouble finding the start at first but we located the tiny sign pictured above and off we went. It’s easy to follow as you skip from one lake to the next, always staying underneath the Matterhorn… right where you want to be.
The trail begins with a lake after just a few hundred meters and while it is small, you can get some great reflection shots of Matterhorn here. Don’t wear out your battery yey though, because there are many reflection lake shot opportunities to follow. If you are keen for a good lake-reflection photo opportunity of the Matterhorn make sure you check out the Riffelsee hike and the Five Lakes hike in Zermatt, which also have good photo spots.
The trail quickly skips down to another glacial lake, this time much bigger, and during the time we visited, it was quite murky and grey. There really isn’t a part of this trail where you can’t see the Matterhorn so you get to appreciate it from a lot of angles and take it in. It’s great to be in its presence for the entirety of the hike. Often the clouds will cover it but they move quickly, so if you have a shot in mind, take a seat and be patient as they often clear within 15 minutes, and the Matterhorn re-appears.
To get across this lake, the trail sends you over a small bridge. I thought the trail, for the most part, was very simple and there were lots of families on the route due to the very small amount of incline and the Matterhorn featuring throughout. It’s a perfect way for families and those not wanting a crazy ascent to get the full Zermatt/Matterhorn experience. If you are up for a bit more adventure and want to get a closer look at the Matterhorn, I suggest hiking to Hornlihutte as it was one of my favorite hikes in Zermatt.
The lakes continued to appear after each little stretch and over every hill. Red rocks contrast against the blue sky as clouds roll in around the Matterhorn. Small rock avalanches are heard in the distance and we are in Zermatt heaven as we slowly make our way through this beautiful train on a great summer day.
After the final lake, you pass underneath the ridge that leads to the Hornlihutte, which is the jump-off point for the actual Matterhorn climb. You can actually head up there but it will be about a 2-hour return trip minimum if you add that onto your hike. This section of the trail is quite rocky and the path is easy to lose but just keep heading towards the next red and white marker until you reach a metal bridge that takes you over the river.
At this point, you do have a bit of an incline up the hill and this is where most of the ascent happens on this trail. Once you reach the top of the hill you are at the intersection of either heading down to Schwarzsee or making a detour up to Hornlihutte. I’ve done both and can recommend the Hornlihutte hike but it will depend on how tired you are from the trail so far.
The trail now takes you down a steep hill towards Schwarzsee. Look out for the Valais sheep who hang out on the hills here during the summer. They love to chill with you and will come up for a pat.
When you reach the view of Schwarzsee you are almost at the finish point of the trail. It’s a beautiful lake right next to Schwarzsee Station and there is a restaurant here and toilet facilities if you want to rest for a little bit with views of the Matterhorn before catching the cable car back down to Zermatt.
I think this hike around the Matterhorn is a great way to experience Zermatt and definitely, the best way to see the Matterhorn up close and personal without too much extreme hiking. It’s a great way for the family to get out and enjoy one of the best views of the Matterhorn, enjoy a beautiful walk along the lakes, and experience Zermatt!
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE MATTERHORN GLACIER TRAIL
- The Matterhorn Glacier Trail stands at an altitude of approximately 2,900 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest hiking trails in Switzerland. The trail takes you through the remnants of the once mighty Furgg Glacier, a journey that tells a poignant tale of the effects of global warming.
- Interestingly, along the trail, hikers will encounter several sculptures created by local artists, part of the annual Zermatt Glacier Art Project. These sculptures, carved from ice and snow, transform the trail into an open-air art gallery, marrying the natural beauty of the area with human creativity.
- The trail offers a unique perspective of the iconic Matterhorn. Often referred to as the “Mountain of Mountains”, the Matterhorn is one of the most photographed peaks in the world. On the Matterhorn Glacier Trail, hikers can observe its North and East faces, viewpoints that are relatively less captured, giving the hiker a more exclusive interaction with this iconic natural wonder.
SWISS TRAVEL PASS or HALF-FARE CARD
OPTION 1: Buy the Swiss Half Fare Card: Switzerland trains, buses, and cable cars are EXPENSIVE! I found the best way to get around cheaply was to buy the Swiss Half-Fare Card before I arrived. It gives you 50% off every regular train, bus, and even many cable cars. It only costs $150 USD but pays itself off in just a few days with many train tickets in Switzerland costing close to $100 alone. If you are staying for more than 5 days, I suggest buying the Swiss Half-Fare Card.
OPTION 2: Buy the Swiss Travel Pass: The second option is to get the Swiss Travel Pass, which gives you unlimited train, bus, and (many) cable car rides but it’s pretty expensive at around $100 USD per day so if you don’t travel each day it isn’t worth it.
OPTION 3: Buy the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass: The final (BEST) option is to get the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass, which allows you to buy 8 days’ worth of transit but you can choose the night before if you want to activate the next day. That way you don’t need to travel every day to get your money’s worth, you can just activate the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass on the days when you are doing sizeable transits. My advice is to book the Swiss Half-Fare Card or the FLEXI Swiss Travel Pass in advance before your trip so it’s ready to go when you arrive.
MY SWITZERLAND HIKING GUIDES
I spent 100 days hiking in Switzerland and created a guide for different regions around the country. You can click on one of my Switzerland hiking guides below to help you plan your trip.
- The Complete Guide: 50 AWESOME HIKES IN IN SWITZERLAND
- The Via Ferrata Guide: 4 EPIC SWITZERLAND VIA FERRATA COURSES
- Lauterbrunnen Guide: 10 AWESOME HIKES NEAR LAUTERBRUNNEN
- Interlaken Guide: 15 AWESOME HIKES IN INTERLAKEN
- Grindelwald Guide: 12 AWESOME HIKES NEAR GRINDELWALD:
- Mürren Guide: 7 AWESOME HIKES IN MURREN
- Appenzell Guide: 9 AWESOME HIKES NEAR APPENZELL
- Chur Guide: 7 AWESOME HIKES NEAR CHUR